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Obama Says Report Shows Need to Pass Economic Aid Bill

The U.S. economy shrank by 3.8 percent in the last three months of 2008, the most since 1982. The stimulus bill, passed by the House with no Republican votes, moves to the Senate. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

This week, Democrats in Congress gave Barack Obama an important victory a week into his presidency. The House of Representatives approved his economic recovery plan. But not one Republican voted for it. Eleven Democrats also opposed the plan.

The price: eight hundred nineteen billion dollars. About one-third is tax cuts for individuals and businesses and two-thirds is government spending.

Republicans said the plan contained too much wasteful spending and too few tax cuts. They say tax cuts are a faster way to fight the recession.

They pointed to a report this week from the Congressional Budget Office. It estimated that about sixty-five percent of the proposed spending would be injected into the economy over nineteen months. The administration's estimate is seventy-five percent.

The Senate will debate the measure next week. Its version adds more tax cuts. Mister Obama has asked Congress for a final bill by the middle of February.

He says his plan will save or create more than three million jobs over the next few years, and serve the economy for years to come. It offers money for traditional projects like rebuilding roads. It would also invest in areas like education, renewable energy and computerizing medical records.

A Texas Republican in the House, John Culberson, said liberals aim to increase government power. He said the legislation contains proposals to expand federal programs unrelated to stimulating the economy.

Job cuts are spreading throughout the economy as the year-long recession deepens.

Friday brought news that the economy shrank three and eight-tenths percent in the final three months of last year. That was the most since nineteen eighty-two. But the good news: economists had predicted worse.

Mister Obama said the "continuing disaster" for working families was more reason for his economic plan.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: "I'm pleased that the House has acted with the urgency necessary in passing this plan. I hope we can strengthen it further in the Senate. What we can't do is drag our feet or delay much longer."

He spoke before signing an order to create the Task Force on Middle-Class Working Families. Top government officials, led by Vice President Joe Biden, will work on policies to help the middle class. They will seek ideas through a Web site,

Earlier, the president noted a report which showed that Wall Street bankers got more than eighteen billion dollars in bonuses last year. He called it "the height of irresponsibility" at a time when they were asking taxpayers for help.

The Federal Reserve suggested again that short-term interest rates are likely to remain near zero for some time. Central bank policymakers said they expect a slow recovery in economic activity to begin later this year. But they warned of the risk of deflation.

And in Davos, Switzerland, political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum warned against protectionism. The downturn could lead to trade wars if countries raise barriers to foreign competition.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.