President Obama, reeling from record-low political ratings and a tsunami of discontent from both his enemies and the electorate on the lack of progress on the economy, appeared before Congress with a level of forcefulness and resolve rarely witnessed as he repeatedly demanded that Congress “pass the jobs bill now.”
It was, for all intents and purposes, the kickoff to Obama’s re-election of 2012 as well as an opportunity to lash out at the legislature.
The president forwarded a $450 billion bill that he said multiple times in his 45-minute speech has received enough support from both sides of the political aisle to prevent long-term squabbling that has ground Washington to a halt on previous occasions, most particularly the infamous debt ceiling crisis.
“There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation,” he said as he put the GOP Congress on blast for purposefully hindering any programs that would bolster both the economy and his presidency. “The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy,”
Obama’s plea spoke to a wide swath of the American populace who, despite the great intrigue and interest generated by the beginning of the 2011 National Football League season, tuned in to watch the speech in large numbers.
Obama’s American Jobs Act bill spoke to small businesses: “Pass this jobs bill, and starting tomorrow, small businesses will get a tax cut if they hire new workers or raise workers’ wages,” Obama said. The bill also includes a $4,000 tax credit for all employers that specifically hire the long-term unemployed who have been out of work for more than six months.
Obama’s bill also addressed struggling workers: “Pass this jobs bill, and the typical working family will get a $1,500 tax cut next year,” he said, pushing an expansion of the payroll tax that he passed last year. Doubling down on that move, he’s now calling for cutting payroll taxes in half, which would provide an extra $1,500 for a family earning $50,000 a year.
Obama told Congress how he plans to rebuild America: “Pass this jobs bill, and we can put people to work rebuilding America,” he said, about a $50 billion investment on roads, rail and airport projects. Another $50 million would be appropriated for transportation-related job training for minorities, women and low-income workers.
Most pressing, Obama addressed the millions of long-term unemployed, calling for the extension of unemployment insurance but also funding for programs that allow the long-term unemployed to take temporary work to build their skills while mining the marketplace for long-term careers.
“Democrats and Republicans in this chamber have supported unemployment insurance plenty of times in the past,” the president said of the now divisive issue of extending such benefits, which expire next year. “At this time of prolonged hardship, you should pass it again, right away.”
How will the president pay for his ambition plan? Obama said they will find $450 billion more in savings to make room for this bill.
“A week from Monday, I’ll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan — a plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill but stabilize our debt in the long run,” Obama said.
And then, one final time, Obama said he had both Democratic and Republican support. We will soon find out just how true that is. –terry shropshire