Obama unveils task force to help families


US president-elect Barack Obama unveiled a new task force today charged with helping struggling working families, as an aide said Mr Obama's economic recovery plan would be expanded to try to save three million jobs.

The White House Task Force on Working Families, to be headed by vice president-elect Joe Biden, would aim to boost education and training and protect incomes and retirement security of middle-class and working families whose plight Mr Obama had made a central issue of his campaign.

Mr Biden's panel of top-level officials and labor, business, and activist representatives would help keep working families "front and center every day in our work," Mr Obama said in a statement released by his transition office.

Mr Biden said the economy was in worse shape than he and Obama had thought it was.

"President-elect Obama and I know the economic health of working families has eroded, and we intend to turn that around," Mr Biden told ABC's This Week.

"We've got to begin to stem this bleeding here and begin to stop the loss of jobs in the creation of jobs," he said.

An transition aide said grim forecasts for the economy Obama will inherit when he takes office on January 20th prompted him to raise the job-creation target of his economic recovery plan to 3 million jobs created or saved in the next two years.

Last month, Mr Obama's stated goal had been to protect 2.5 million jobs with a combination of middle-class tax cuts, money for public works programs like the building of roads and mass transit as well as money to bolster health and other social programs.

"There is going to be real significant investment, whether it's $600 billion or more, or $700 billion," Mr Biden said. "It's a number no one thought about a year ago."

The Obama administration could not afford to worry initially about the ballooning national deficit in the face of the most severe recession in the post-war era, he said.

"There is no short run other than keeping the economy from absolutely tanking. That's the only short run."

Some Democrats are pressing for a package in the $1 trillion range, though other lawmakers are wary of the discussion of price tags upward of $600 billion.