Talking to Tom Brokaw on NBC's 'Meet the Press,' Obama said that the current economic crisis looks nothing like the Great Depression. "This is a big problem, and it's going to get worse," the New York Times quoted him, as saying. Obama said the survival of the domestic automobile industry is important; but added that any bailout should be tied to a reinvention and streamlining by Detroit to create an industry 'that really works.'
Obama said the auto industry had made "repeated, strategic mistakes," but he didn't think it's an option to simply allow it to collapse. "I think Congress is doing exactly the right thing by asking for a conditions-based assistance package that holds the auto industry's feet to the fire," he said.
Asked whether the automakers' top executives should lose their jobs if they fail to perform, Obama took a tough position.
"If this management team that's currently in place doesn't understand the urgency of the situation and is not willing to make tough choices and adapt to new circumstances," he said, "then they should go."
Obama promised far tougher regulation of the financial sector.
"As part of our economic recovery package, what you will see coming out of my administration right at the center, is a strong set of new financial regulations, in which banks, ratings agencies, mortgage brokers, a whole bunch of folks start having to be much more accountable and behave much more responsibly," he said.
He also said that he was disappointed that the current administration had not moved more decisively to ease the plight of troubled homeowners, and said he would make it a top priority to help them.
The president-elect reiterated his pledge to give tax cuts to 95 percent of Americans, and he said that the days of the rich benefiting disproportionately while the middle class loses ground were a "real aberration."
His address followed a report on Friday indicating that the country lost 533,000 jobs in November alone, bringing the total number of jobs lost over the past year to nearly two million.
"I am absolutely confident," he said during his afternoon news conference on Sunday, "that if we take the right steps over the coming months, that not only can we get the economy back on track, but we can emerge leaner, meaner and ultimately more competitive and more prosperous."