NEW YORK (
) -- President Barack Obama was blunt about his expectations for bipartisan support of his ambitious $447 billion job creation plan on Thursday, saying to Congress: "You should pass this right away."
Repeatedly intoning, "pass this jobs bill," the president outlined a number of the proposal's details, saying companies would get a $4000 tax credit for hiring a person who has been out of work for more than six months, that unemployment benefits would be extended for another year, that the typical American family will get a $1500 tax cut next year, and that at least 35,000 schools would be repaired and modernized, among other provisions. The plan provides for $194 billion in spending and $253 billion in tax cuts, according to analysis from
"It's called the American Jobs Act," he said. "There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been supported by both Democrats and Republicans - including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything."
President Barack Obama speaks to Congress Thursday about the American Jobs Act.
The plan's reported scope has swelled by 50% from expectations earlier this week of a $300 billion package. Obama said his plan will be paid for but provided little concrete detail beyond finding more savings.
"The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next ten years," he said. "It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas. Tonight, I'm asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act. And 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. "
Taxes are always a major area of contention between Democrats and Republicans, as evidenced by the debt ceiling fiasco earlier this summer, and Obama again called for wealthy Americans and corporations to pay more.
"I'm also well aware that there are many Republicans who don't believe we should raise taxes on those who are most fortunate and can best afford it," he said. "But here is what every American knows. While most people in this country struggle to make ends meet, a few of the most affluent citizens and corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else gets. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary - an outrage he has asked us to fix."
Obama also addressed the future of Medicare, saying "we have to reform Medicare to strengthen it," and promised to reform the corporate tax code, which he referred to as "a monument to special interest influence in Washington."
On the subject of the still struggling housing market, which has many Americans underwater on their mortgages, the president said his plan would "help more people refinance their mortgages at interest rates that are now near 4% -- a step that can put more than $2,000 a year in a family's pocket, and give a lift to an economy still burdened by the drop in housing prices."
Obama also announced a review of all government regulations, saying more than 500 reforms have already been identified that he expects will save billions over the next few years, but the president added that he believed certain standards have to be upheld.
"But what we can't do - what I won't do - is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades," he said. "I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety."
The president's speech was heavily layered with patriotic rhetoric as it built toward conclusion, urging Congress to put aside political differences and put the American people first.
"I know there's been a lot of skepticism about whether the politics of the moment will allow us to pass this jobs plan - or any jobs plan," he said. "Already, we're seeing the same old press releases and tweets flying back and forth. Already, the media has proclaimed that it's impossible to bridge our differences. And maybe some of you have decided that those differences are so great that we can only resolve them at the ballot box."
He continued: "But know this: the next election is fourteen months away. And the people who sent us here - the people who hired us to work for them - they don't have the luxury of waiting fourteen months. Some of them are living week to week; paycheck to paycheck; even day to day. They need help, and they need it now."
Volatility has spiked in the stock market in past five weeks on fears of a double-dip recession in the United States and sovereign debt contagion in Europe. The U.S. economy never really got much of a lift from the
$600 billion bond-buying program, known as QE2, which ended in June, and recent economic data showing job growth was non-existent in August and the unemployment rate still stuck above 9% has increased the pressure on politicians to come up with a policy-driven solution, as the monetary stimulus options open to the central bank are limited.
Written by Michael Baron in New York.
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