Obama warns automobile CEOs

Last Updated: Mon, Dec 08, 2008 08:37 hrs

Chicago: US President-elect Barack Obama has warned top executives of the Big Three auto companies to either agree to drastic reforms or be sacked.

“If this management team that’s currently in place doesn’t understand the urgency of the situation and is not willing to make the tough choices and adapt to these new circumstances, then they should go,” Politico quoted Obama as saying at a brief Sunday afternoon news conference here.

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“If on the other hand they are willing, able and show themselves committed to making those important changes then that raises a different situation,” he said of the auto company executives.

He also charged the Bush administration with dragging its feet on the home mortgage crisis, and pledged that he would act immediately upon being sworn in next month.

“We have not seen the kind of aggressive steps in the housing market [from the administration] to stem foreclosures that I would like to see,” he said.

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Without going into details, he said his transition team had had conversations with Bush officials on the mortgage issue and is preparing plans.

Obama also warned that the economic news "is going to get worse before [it] gets better."

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Citing his plans to spend money on energy efficiency, school construction, broadband and medical information technology, he explained why he was proposing infrastructure investment beyond the typical fare of roads and bridges.

“All of these things are designed to have long-term payoffs for taxpayers, not just for individual businesses,” Obama said.

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Obama spoke for just under 20 minutes, taking three questions from reporters.

The purpose of the session was to officially announce that retired Army General Eric Shinseki would serve as Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the new administration.

Shinseki, a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran and former chief of staff of the Army who famously clashed with the Pentagon’s civilian leadership over Iraq war policy, also singled out the unique needs of those who have served there and in Afghanistan.

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