The economy is a mess, and a fast recovery has become little more than a pipe dream. President-elect Barack Obama says his brain trust is working on a recovery plan, but warns that there are no easy solutions.

Like a train that's been derailed, the weak state of the U.S. economy has created its fair share of pain and wreckage. Homeowners are grappling with imminent foreclosures, investors have watched their wealth disappear, and workers are in fear of losing their livelihoods. At this point, everyone's hoping the Obama administration has a solid plan to pick up the pieces and put the economic train back on the track.

All things economy are ailing

Since January 1 of this year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen more than 30 percent, pulling retirement accounts and college savings plans down with it. Several major retailers have liquidated or entered into reorganization bankruptcy, including Linens 'n Things and Circuit City. Established companies in a variety of industries have announced massive layoffs as they attempt to resize their operations to match declining demand. Unemployment is on the upswing, and about 750,000 homes have been lost to foreclosure.

Economically speaking, there's room for enormous improvement when Barack Obama takes office in January.

Fueling job growth with infrastructure projects

The President-elect has already let the nation know that righting the economy is a top priority. He's picked an experienced team to back him, and he's outlined a vision for economic repair. That vision for recovery incorporates five key pieces:

  • Improving the energy-efficiency of public buildings nationwide
  • Investing heavily in the national transportation system to update roads and freeway systems
  • Modernizing school buildings
  • Supporting broadband deployment throughout the country
  • Renewing the healthcare system with updated technologies and record-keeping systems

An underlying objective of these key recovery initiatives is job growth. Design and completion of infrastructure development programs requires human resources of various skill levels, and Obama estimates that these initiatives can save or create at least 2 million jobs. In addition to job growth, these efforts are also expected to update the quality of our systems, lower the federal government's energy bill, and reduce America's dependency on foreign oil.

Recovery won't be cheap or quick

President-elect Obama has declined to put a price tag on his plan just yet, although economists and lawmakers have thrown some numbers around. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has mentioned an estimated cost of about $600 billion, while others have pegged the number closer to $700 billion.

Congress is expected to approve the recovery plan and have it ready for signature when the new President takes office on January 20. From there, federal and state decision makers will be pressured to get these projects running quickly. Obama himself has said that his recovery plan isn't a quick fix for the economy, explaining to NBC's Meet the Press that things will get worse before they get better. Train wrecks, after all, can be pretty messy-and this one's no exception.

Published on January 7, 2009