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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Obama's Chief of Staff Says to Prepare for Major Reforms in Energy, Health Care, Economy

Cross-posted from the Breakthrough Institute

President-elect Barack Obama's incoming Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, called for major reforms to our nation's health care, financial, and energy systems at the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council today, challenging CEOs to embrace an ambitious reform agenda.

"When it gets rough out there, a lot of business leaders get out of the car and say, 'We're OK with minor reform.' I'm challenging you today, we're going to have to do big, serious things," Rahm Emanuel said, speaking at a forum convened to elicit corporate opinion on the challenges facing the new president.

The soon-to-be White House Chief of Staff said the Obama Administration saw the economic crisis as an opportunity to advance a suite of bold solutions that would put America back on track. "You never want a crisis to go to waste," Mr Emanuel said, before continuing, "and what I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before."

Mr Emanuel said the incoming administration would "throw long and deep," taking advantage of the economic crisis to advance wholesale changes in health care, taxes, financial re-regulation and energy. "The American people in two successive elections have voted for change, and change cannot be allowed to die on the doorsteps of Washington," he said.

Watch this excerpt from Emanuel's talk at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council; More below the fold...

Clean, Efficient Energy Infrastructure Will Be At Heart of Stimulus, Emanuel Says

As would be expected, Mr. Emanuel promised that a major economic stimulus package would be "the first order of business" for Mr. Obama after he takes office January 20th.

Unlike the Bush Administration's stimulus package passed this Spring, which focused heavily on personal rebate checks and business tax cuts, Emanuel said the focus of spending under the Obama Administration will be on infrastructure.

Mr. Emanuel said the spending would center specifically on "green infrastructure" investments, which he said would include mass transit, upgraded electricity transmission lines, "smart" electrical meters that allow consumers to save money by using electricity at off-peak hours, and universal broadband Internet access, which he said would encourage telecommuting.

Emanuel also stressed Obama's commitment to addressing climate change, citing his meeting with his former Republican rival, Senator John McCain on Monday. Emanuel reported that Senators Obama and McCain met in Chicago on Monday and discussed making a market-based system to control global warming "a top priority" of the new administration. Obama delivered a taped video address to a summit of global climate leaders in Los Angeles yesterday voicing a similar commitment to capping greenhouse gas emissions and investing in a new, clean and efficient energy system.

Emanuel Challenges Business Community to Support Health Reforms, Labor

Emanuel also used the opportunity to call on the business community to join the new administration in a push for universal health care, saying incremental increases in coverage won't be acceptable.

Mr. Emanuel also characterized a renewed effort to expand union membership as an understandable effort to address the concerns of a middle class that's seen wages stagnate over the last eight years. He said business leaders should help the Obama Administration find solutions to the middle-class squeeze or face a revolt. "We need a strategy as a country to make sure they have an opportunity to move up that ladder," Emanuel told the assembled CEOs and business leaders.

Mr. Emanuel gave up his seat as a Chicago Congressman to accept the top position among President-elect Obama's staff. The tough-minded Democrat will be the main point person between the White House and Capitol Hill.

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