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Obama warns economy will worsen

President-elect Barack Obama warned that the United States needed to take immediate action to avoid a worsening economy as he kicked off his three-state "whistle stop tour" yesterday to the inauguration.

The tour mirrored Abraham Lincoln's historic 1861 journey by train from Philadelphia to Washington.

In a speech to a crowd gathered in a flag-draped waiting room at Philadelphia's 30th St train station, Obama talked of the heavy challenges facing people now, including a staggering economy and global warming.

He said people must recognize that there will be "false starts and setbacks, frustrations and disappointments," but argued that this is not the time to get discouraged.

Obama said the American Revolution "was - and remains - an ongoing struggle in the hearts and minds of the people to live up to our freedom."

Preparing to board a train for his ride to the US capital, Obama said that "what's required is a new declaration of independence - from ideology and small thinking."

Capacity crowds are expected at the inauguration celebration in Washington and the 217-kilometer trip, with various stops along the way, is aimed at allowing as many people as possible to participate in the celebrations.

On Friday, Obama made a pitch for his massive economic stimulus plan at a mid-western factory that manufactures wind turbine parts, saying his proposal would help create solid jobs in new industries.

"Renewable energy isn't something pie in the sky. It's not part of a far-off future. It's happening all across America right now," Obama said in a Cleveland suburb. "It can create millions of additional jobs and entire new industries if we act right now."

Just days before taking the oath of office as the 44th president, Obama used the factory as a backdrop as he sought to generate support from the public - constituents of skeptical Republicans and Democrats in Congress - for his pricey plan to pull the country out of recession.

Obama held the campaign-style event a day after the Senate agreed to give him access to the second half of last year's US$700 billion financial industry bailout and House Democrats unveiled an US$825 billion stimulus package.

One of the largest bills ever to make its way through Congress, it calls for federal spending of roughly US$550 billion and tax cuts of US$275 billion over the next two years to revive the sickly economy. It also focuses heavily on energy, education, health care and jobs-producing highway construction.

Seeking to counter critics' claims of excessive spending and too few tax cuts, Obama cast the package as necessary to create long-lasting, well-paying jobs in industries such as alternative energy, and help hard-hit industrial states such as Ohio.

"It's not too late to change course - but only if we take dramatic action as soon as possible," Obama said. He pledged: "The first job of my administration is to put people back to work and get our economy moving again."

Between 1 million and 2 million people are expected to go to Washington for the inaugural parade.


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