President Obama addressed the unemployment crisis today in moral terms that once again offered a progressive and positive vision for the United States - a start contrast to the Tea Party mentality. I've just finished a conference call with senior White House officials who have offered more specific information on the president's proposed American Jobs Act.
Here's the basic outline, as offered by Think Progress:
President Obama tonight laid out a $450 billion job creation plan before a joint session of Congress, challenging lawmakers to repeatedly to “pass this jobs bill.” “Regardless of the arguments we’ve had in the past, regardless of the arguments we’ll have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it. And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country,” he said.
Obama called for a reduction in the payroll tax, investments in infrastructure, a plan to modernize up to 35,000 schools, as well as tax breaks for new hires and a plan to reform the corporate tax code that currently “stands as a monument to special interest influence in Washington.” Obama emphasized that many of these ideas have, in the past, garnered bipartisan support and he threw in some Republican favorites, such as approving pending free trade agreements.
However, despite drawing cheers from the Republicans in the crowd when he mentioned eliminating or streamlining regulations, Obama said that he would not use the economic crisis as an excuse to engage in a regulatory race to the bottom...
Many of these items are the ones anti-poverty advocates recommended to the president in advance of his speech.
The White House explains the American Jobs Act in these terms:
First, it provides a tax cut for small businesses, not big corporations, to help them hire and expand now, and provides an additional tax cut to any business that hires or increases wages. Second, it puts more people back to work, including up to 280,000 teachers laid off by state-budget cuts, first responders and veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and construction workers repairing crumbling bridges, roads and more than 35,000 public schools, with projects chosen by need and impact, not earmarks and politics. And, it expands job opportunities for hundreds of thousands of low-income youth and adults through a new Pathways Back to Work Fund that supports summer and year round jobs for youth; innovative new job training programs to connect low-income workers to jobs quickly; and successful programs to encourage employers to bring on disadvantaged workers. Third, it helps out-of-work Americans by extending unemployment benefits to help them support their families while looking for work and reforming the system with training programs that build real skills, connect to real jobs and help the long-term unemployed. It bans employers from discriminating against the unemployed when hiring, and provides a new tax credit to employers hiring workers who have been out of a job for over 6 months. Fourth, it puts more money in the pockets of working and middle class Americans by cutting in half the payroll tax that comes out of every worker's paycheck, saving families an average of $1,500 a year’ and taking executive action to remove the barriers that exist in the current federal refinancing program (HARP) to help more Americans refinance their mortgages at historically low rates, save money and stay in their homes. Last, the plan won’t add a dime to the deficit and is fully paid for through a balanced deficit reduction plan that includes closing corporate tax loopholes and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.
Asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share has been a demand of many U.S. religious leaders to Congress and so I deeply appreciated it when President Obama said tonight:
We have to ask ourselves, “What’s the best way to grow the economy and create jobs?”
Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can’t afford to do both. Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs? Right now, we can’t afford to do both.
This isn’t political grandstanding. This isn’t class warfare. This is simple math. These are real choices that we have to make. And I’m pretty sure I know what most Americans would choose. It’s not even close. And it’s time for us to do what’s right for our future.
We'll hear more in the coming days. But I believe that President Obama is setting the right course.
Photo Credit: WhiteHouse.gov