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CEOs want at least $300B stimulus from Obama

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[November 19, 2008]  WASHINGTON (AP) -- A group of business executives on Tuesday urged President-elect Barack Obama to "quickly implement" a large stimulus package soon after taking office.

The stimulus package should be more than $300 billion, said the group, which included Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, Time Warner Inc. CEO Jeffrey Bewkes, and Wachovia Corp. CEO Robert Steel.

"This really was far and away" the top priority, said Roger Ferguson, chief executive of financial services firm TIAA-CREF.

The recommendation follows similar comments made by a top Obama adviser late Monday to the conference sponsored by The Wall Street Journal. About 100 CEOs divided into four groups to formulate recommendations for Obama in different areas, including energy, health care, the international economy and the U.S. economy.

A stimulus of more than $300 billion is roughly double the size of the package being called for by many Democrats in Congress.

In a speech to the conference Monday, Larry Summers cited a report by Goldman Sachs that suggested the stimulus should be in the range of $500 billion to $700 billion. Summers, a former Treasury Secretary under President Clinton, is widely considered a top candidate for the same job in the Obama administration.

Days after winning the election, Obama said if a second stimulus package does not get done in the current lame-duck session of Congress, "it will be the first thing I get done as president of the United States."


President George W. Bush in February signed bipartisan legislation enacting a $168 billion economic recovery package that sent rebate checks of $600 to $1,200 to most individuals and couples, and awarded tax breaks to businesses investing in new plants and equipment.

A second stimulus package should "emphasize investment in infrastructure," such as roads, bridges and other construction, as well as alternative energy projects, the CEOs said.

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The stimulus also should include permanent tax cuts rather than one-time tax rebates, Ferguson said, because permanent cuts are more likely to be spent and to boost the economy.

Steel also urged Obama to quickly name the top officials of his economic team and to lay out a vision to boost market confidence about the impending change in administrations.

"Let's get the economic leaders working together, outlining the issues and ... laying out the plans they'll hit the ground running with," Steel said.

Executives also said Obama should push other countries to enact economic stimulus packages, to counter slower growth overseas.

"The group felt the United States could not recover unless there (is) a global recovery," said Fred Smith, chief executive of FedEx Corp.

[Associated Press; By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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