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Obama promises a brighter future

UNITED States President Barack Obama, in his first speech to a joint session of Congress, promised Americans fearful about the deepening economic crisis that he would lead the country from its dire "day of reckoning" to a brighter future.

Addressing a nationwide television audience on Tuesday night, Obama balanced a somber assessment of US economic woes with a revival of the words of hope that were the trademark of his presidential campaign.

"While our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before," Obama said.

To deal with the deepening recession, Obama said that more money will be needed to rescue troubled banks beyond the US$700 billion already committed last year. He said he knows that bank bailouts are unpopular, but insisted that was the only way to get credit moving again to households and businesses, the lifeblood of the American economy.

Along with aid for banks, he also called on Congress to move quickly on legislation to overhaul regulations on US financial markets.

"I ask this Congress to join me in doing whatever proves necessary," Obama said.

With US auto makers struggling for survival, Obama also said that he would allow neither their demise nor "their own bad practices" to be rewarded.

Obama said that both political parties must give up programs while uniting behind his promises to help the millions without health insurance, build better schools and move to more efficient fuel use.

Obama urged law makers to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by creating a cap-and-trade system.

He said the budget he is sending to Congress today will call for US$15 billion a year in federal spending to spur development of environmentally friendly but so far cost-ineffective energy sources such as wind and solar, biofuels and clean coal.

"We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century," he said.

But even as Washington pours money into the economic recovery, Obama also said that the budget deficit, at US$1.3 trillion and ballooning, must be brought under control.


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