President Obama tonight urged Congress to act “right away” on a $447 billion package of tax incentives, aid to the states and public works projects to jumpstart the economy and address one of the worst unemployment crises in modern U.S. history.
In a nationally televised address to a joint session of Congress, the politically beleaguered president gave a rousing speech warning that Americans were running out of patience with Washington’s partisan warfare, and vowing to take his plan to “every corner of the country.” And in a direct appeal to his Republican foes who have warned the president would try to spend his way out of the recession by adding to the deficit, Obama stressed that “everything in this bill will be paid for—everything.”
“The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities,” Obama said in the chamber of the House of Representatives. “The question tonight is whether we’ll meet ours. 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; whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning. “
Much of Obama’s plan, called “The American Jobs Act,” has been widely reported in the past few days, and the speech offered few real surprises, except for the $447 billion price tag that was substantially higher than the $200 billion to $300 billion previously reported, and more than half the size of the $825 billion stimulus package enacted in late 2009. The heart of the plan calls for new highway, bridge and mass-transit spending, housing aid, including an expanded program for refinancing properties; and new programs to help retrain the unemployed and assist them in finding work.
Obama also urged Congress to extend a 2 percentage point payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, as well as approve other tax cuts and incentives to put cash in Americans’ pockets and spur business to hire more workers. He also called for a direct cash infusion to state and local governments to help avert the layoff of teachers, police and other public employees.
Obama said he will ask a new congressional “super committee” that began meeting today and is charged with seeking up to $1.5 trillion of additional deficit reduction to “increase that amount so that it covers the full cost” of his jobs package. He pledged to unveil a long term deficit reduction plan Sept. 19 that would underwrite the cost of his jobs initiatives while stabilizing the long term debt.
The president’s proposed legislation, called “The American Jobs Act,” would do the following:
1) Extend the payroll tax cut. The measure would extend the 2 percentage point payroll tax cut for workers, which will add up to about $1,500 for the typical working family. (cost -- $175 billion)
2) Tax cuts and incentives for businesses to hire. This would cut small businesses payroll taxes in half (to 3.1 percent) in 2012, and give businesses a $4,000 tax credit to hire anyone unemployed for more than six months. (cost -- $70 billion)
3) Aid for the long-term unemployed. The bill would extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed for one year. (cost -- $49 billion) It would also create a worker retraining initiative that will allow jobless workers to obtain temporary jobs and training while collecting unemployment insurance. (cost -- $5 billion). It would also create a new tax credit to give the long-term unemployed. (cost -- $8 billion)
4) Invest in infrastructure and construction. The measure would create an infrastructure bank that will meld public and private funds together to disburse loans to states and localities to fund new highway, bridge, and mass transit projects. This plan would renovate at least $35,000 schools, reconstruct or repurpose vacant buildings, rehire laid-off teachers and police officers, and invest billions in added funding to surface transportation. (cost -- $140 billion)