President-elect Obama said Friday that the country is facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime and "we're going to have to act swiftly to resolve it."
However in his first news conference since winning the presidency Tuesday, Obama deferred to President Bush and his economic team, noting that the country has only one government and one president at a time.
He said the Congress needs to pass an economic stimulus measure either before or just after he takes office in January.
But, he said, "immediately after I become president I will confront this economic crisis head-on by taking all necessary steps to ease the credit crisis, help hardworking families, and restore growth and prosperity."
"I'm confident a new president can have an enormous impact," he added. (See the full text of Obama's prepared remarks.)
Obama also stressed the need for a "rescue plan for the middle class that invests in immediate efforts to create jobs and provides relief to families that are watching their paychecks shrink and their life savings disappear. "
On a day when GM announced it had lost $2.5 billion in the third quarter and warned that it could run out of cash in 2009, Obama said his team was also working on a plan to rescue the auto industry.
"The news coming out of the auto industry this week reminds us of the hardship it faces – hardship that goes far beyond individual auto companies to the countless suppliers, small businesses and communities throughout our nation who depend on a vibrant American auto industry," Obama said, according to his prepared remarks. "The auto industry is the backbone of American manufacturing and a critical part of our attempt to reduce our dependence on foreign oil."
The president-elect spoke after he and Vice President-elect Joe Biden met privately with economic experts to discuss ways to stabilize the troubled economy.
More evidence of a recession came Friday when the government reported that the unemployment rate had jumped from 6.1 percent in September to 6.5 percent in October. Despite dour third-quarter reports from Ford and General Motors, stocks rose some after two days of heavy losses.
Obama's transition to power and early days in office, if not the entire first year of his presidency, almost certainly will be devoted to finding ways to remedy dismal economic conditions. The economy was the top concern of voters demanding a new direction as they ushered into office the Democrat who promised change after eight years of Bush's policies.
On other topics:
He said he will review a letter from Iran's leader but refrained from directly responding to it. It's not something "that we should simply do in a knee-jerk fashion," he said, adding that he wants to be careful to send the signal to the world that "I'm not the president and I won't be until Jan. 20."