Obama proposes American Jobs Act

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Last night, President Obama spoke before a joint session of Congress to outline his approach to creating jobs. The video here is enhanced by the White House with data to illustrate the President's discussion.

A few reactions. Ron Wyden:

“As we heard from the President tonight, there is no silver bullet for economic recovery. It is a fight to be fought on several fronts and to be successful we must make strides toward putting Americans back to work rebuilding crumbling transportation infrastructure, improving our manufacturing by getting tough on trade cheats and making the tax code simpler and fairer for American businesses and families. I believe that this bill is a step toward those goals and I look forward to working with the President and my Congressional colleagues to improve on it.”

Jeff Merkley:

“Everyone in Washington should be focused on creating jobs, and I applaud President Obama for laying out a bold plan to tackle unemployment. We need aggressive action to put people back to work. “There is a lot to like in the President’s plan. Improving our transportation sector and other infrastructure can be an engine for job creation now, with over a million unemployed construction workers looking to get back to work, while at the same time making investments we will need to make for the long term. Updating our nation’s crumbling public schools is another common-sense way to improve safety while putting our hardest-hit workers back on the job. “I am also glad to see the President recognize that foreclosures and a weak housing market are hurting our families and our economic recovery. This recession started with collapse of the housing market and won’t end in earnest until we address the foreclosure crisis.
“Tonight the President put the focus where it should have been all along: Jobs. Congress must act quickly and boldly. American families are counting on us.”

Kurt Schrader:

“Tonight we heard President Obama renew his commitment to working with Congress, Democrats and Republicans, to turn our economy around, put Americans back to work and rebuild our country. I applaud the President on bringing the issue of job creation back to the center of Congress’ work schedule. I am pleased that the President continues to push in the direction of a grand bargain to reduce our nation’s deficit and restore confidence in investors to jump start hiring. I believe the reauthorization of a robust transportation package is an excellent starting point and was pleased to see the President acknowledge that early. His plan to ‘Make It in America’ dovetails perfectly with investing millions in our small businesses and putting Americans and Oregonians back to work now. I also agree with the President with his reiteration of the necessity to out innovate, out educate, and out build the rest of the world. Now it is time for Congress to put these plans into action.”

Peter DeFazio:

“We needed a bold vision and a new direction, unfortunately the President’s proposal is an eerie echo of his first stimulus bill which I opposed. The first stimulus failed because it was more than 40% tax cuts and less than 7% in critical infrastructure investment with the balance spread across assistance to states and a mishmash of federal programs. Public investment overall accounted for only 22% of spending in the stimulus, but generated 42% of the jobs.

“This bill has the same misplaced priorities and the same scattershot approach. More than 50% of the spending will be for tax cuts and less than 12% will be investment in infrastructure to put people back to work and make our nation more competitive.

“The President’s speech tonight does include the prospect for some short-term jobs. However, it’s not a long-term vision for getting the economy back on track, putting people to work, making us more productive, and benefitting future generations.

“More than half the cost of the bill is to pay for yet more tax cuts that haven’t worked. These tax cuts haven’t created jobs and they are too expensive. And while working families could use an extra $20 a week, it will not help the 20 million unemployed who are not getting a paycheck.

“We need real investment. We need a massive investment program in the future of this country to make us more competitive in the world economy. And this bill falls short in the same way the stimulus did.”

Earl Blumenauer:

“The President was sincere and emphatic. He talked about simple, commonsense things that we can do at a time when Americans and particularly Oregonians are desperately concerned about jobs and employment.

“It’s modest, doable and bipartisan with a number of proposals that should not be controversial. If we can do much of this, it is a great signal that Congress will start working together again.

“If we can’t, it’s a signal that politics is trumping economic recovery and we’ll continue to have rough sledding, not just in the next twelve weeks as the Super Committee meets but for the next 14 months and beyond.

“I don’t believe that tax cuts will create as many jobs as investing in infrastructure but I look forward to reading the President’s plan and to more details. We must guard against people just taking the easy political step of cutting taxes and not the heavy lifting of tax reform and funding our failing infrastructure.”

Suzanne Bonamici:

“Jobs must be our top priority, and I am glad that President Obama has challenged Congress to take concrete steps toward putting people back to work. What is desperately needed now is less political posturing and more action to help those who are willing and waiting for work.

“The recent partisan divisiveness in Congress has made things worse, not better, and it sends the wrong message to investors, business and families. Those who ultimately suffer the consequences are the people who have lost their jobs and those who are still struggling to find work. Families simply cannot afford another prolonged ideological battle in Congress.

“I am especially glad to see the President call for creating jobs through investments in infrastructure, which I have long supported. There are crumbling bridges, roads and schools all across the country – and millions of skilled people out of work. We can create jobs and rebuild the foundation of our economy, but that will take action.

“America needs jobs. Congress needs to stop bickering and do theirs."

Brad Avakian:

I commend the President for putting a jobs agenda at the center of the public discussion. The President’s plan includes good ideas like the extension of unemployment benefits for those struggling to find work and investment in our schools and transportation infrastructure.

But if we are going to help the 14 million Americans and the nearly 200,000 Oregonians unemployed today we need to go farther. We need a bolder plan to get people back to work and strengthen our economy for the long term. That means a real commitment to repairing our roads, rails, ports and bridges. We must rebuild our schools to bring them up to code and make them energy efficient. And it is vital that we better prepare our workforce to find good jobs by keeping teachers on the job and investing in career education. We can foster job growth here at home and help pay for these efforts by closing the tax loopholes for outsourcing jobs and keeping profits overseas and by cutting the tax subsidies for the oil and gas industry.

Brad Witt:

The President’s jobs agenda at the center of a major initiative and this speech reflected a very focused goal of putting America back to work.

I have long advocated and have been on record to put our unemployed and under-employed back to work by rebuilding our public infrastructure. Our schools, roads and bridges are in serious need of repair and safety updates as do our air and seaports.

We need a power grid for the 21st century, and we can begin building it today if we are willing to move forward. Our nation's energy needs are vast and we need to continue to develop green energy resources. We can become the world leader in green energy and end our dependence on foreign oil.

But in addition to the Presidents job plan, we need to let the Bush Tax Cuts expire, end outsourcing our manufacturing jobs and giving corporations tax breaks that take our jobs overseas.

What the President proposes is bi-partisan, sensible and realistic, and it is my sincere hope that the partisan factionalism is minimal as this initiative is worked out and passed. 


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    I have to agree with DiFazio. The Payroll Tax, for example, funds Social Security. Giving a temporary break so that we get more people putting into it, is okay, but right now we are just shuffling debt around.

    A simple tariff system would do immense things to get companies to hire Americans to make American goods for the American people. Of course, getting a tariff system in place is about as likely to happen as my other solution: 1% cut to the military budget, freeing up over 70 billion.

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      You're behind, Jason.

      In January, Secretary Gates proposed a $78 billion cut to Pentagon spending.

      In April, President Obama put his team to work finding over $400 billion in additional cuts.

      Source: Bloomberg

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        Kari, Thanks for adding Earl's comment. He lies halfway between our senators, who are most tactful (understandably) and DeFazio, who details the shortcomings. Nevertheless, Earl makes the necesssary point about the limitations of tax cuts and offers hope for improvement. As usual I'm pleased with the work of my rep.

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    DeFazio's comment is obviously the most relevant. Continuing to eliminate the payroll contributions to Social Security is not exactly forward looking, even though SS is probably the world's only program that is good for another 25 years at least. (Unless it's the occupation of Afghanistan.) Tax breaks have just not been especially productive for creating jobs. These tax cuts are already a concession to the tea party. Under pressure, Obama has given up on a long-term plan.

    Our senators also pick out some strengths of the proposal and are tactfully silent on the shortcomings, as befits two out of 100 senators, who will have to do some close infighting in the coming weeks.

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    I've updated this post with a statement from Congressman Blumenauer.

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    The problem with infrastructure investments is that we end up funding boondoggles like the Columbia River Crossing instead of more needed projects.

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    Obama should get up there and quote the very low unemployment rates of the '50s & '60s and then quote the growth rates during those years (very high, of course) and then mention the progressive taxation and corporate taxation that existed during that time. And quote the rates of private sector unionization during those years. A time when wealth disparity was actually decreasing. And, with the wealth more equitably spread, of course the US capitalist economy did well, as only demand will drive a capitalist economy (whether that demand is provided by private citizens or government procurement).

    So, that's how it's done. Just not sure Planet Earth can stand much more successful capitalism, though.

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      Amy, I agree with your two paragraphs. In the 50s-60s both my wife and I were lucky to transition from working class to lower middle class with the help of low-cost state U, big grad fellowships, and expanding job market. All gone now. BUT--the dark side was Vietnam, which squandered so many lives (on both sides) and so much treasure, and left us with the drug-abuse epidemic (remember where that came from). The ruling class that led us into that criminal war is still in power--just look around at our present condition.

      And yes, capitalism has only so many more boom-bust cycles until it tanks, bringing the global enviromment down with it. Before that happens we must move to European-style social democracy. There will still be capitalist enterprise, but actually regulated, and with workers self-represented on every corporate decision-making board, for openers--

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        Patrick: my concern about successful, demand-driven capitalism stems from the fact that we'd need about four Planet Earths, in order to provide the level of consumption for all 7 billion as Americans enjoy (even in a relatively slow US economy). Europe is not quite so resource-insatiable, but is still way beyond sustainability in terms of their usage, too.

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    I've updated this post with Brad Witt's statement.

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    How is depriving SS or $240 - $250 billion next calendar year going to help? Seriously, the small amount saved (<3,000/individual and <$150,000/business) is nothing that will created a surge in demand for consumable products or large scale expenditures like homes. It further deteriorates SS funding and hastens the day that there is nothing left to pay promised benefits. If this is the best our President can come up with, so be it. Wise people would take the savings and put it directly into their 401(k), 403(b), 457 or and IRA.

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    I've updated this post with a longer statement from Suzanne Bonamici, provided via email.


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