Obama calls on Congress to pass emergency jobs measure

09 September 2011 01:06  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--President Barack Obama on Thursday called on Congress to pass emergency legislation he is proposing in hopes of spurring job creation across the country.

Called the “American Jobs Act”, the measures proposed by Obama would, among other things, cut payroll taxes by half for both US employers and their employees, provide tax incentives for companies that hire new workers, funnel federal funds to state governments to save teacher, police and fire-fighter jobs that are in jeopardy because of state budget cutbacks.

Addressing a special joint session of Congress, Obama said the jobs bill also would provide funding for new school construction and repairs, another area where state-level governments have had to make cuts because of revenue shortfalls.

Federal benefits for the long-term unemployed also would be extended for another year.

In addition, the proposal would give tax breaks to small businesses, many of which have been hard hit by the recession, and provide employment incentives for US military veterans returning from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Among other provisions, the Obama plan would establish a special infrastructure bank that would provide loans and grants to local highway, bridges, airports and shipping facilities.

Obama also promised that the programme ­– which White House sources earlier on Thursday suggested would cost $400bn (€284bn) ­– would be paid for, meaning that other federal spending would have to be cut so that the president’s proposals ­– if approved as-is by Congress ­– would not add to the already huge US federal debt load.

“I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away,” Obama said, urging the federal legislators to act quickly on the measures.

He emphasised that the principal elements of his American Jobs Act have earlier been supported by both Republican and Democrat members of Congress.

Obama said that his bill “will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire, there will be customers for their products and services”.

“You should pass this jobs plan right away,” he said.

Although there was no immediate reaction from members of the Republican-majority US House of Representatives, many of them have already expressed opposition to elements of the Obama plan.

The president said that the jobs bill would be paid for by expanding federal spending cuts that a special bipartisan committee is supposed to craft by late November.

That committee, made up of six Republican and six Democrat members drawn from both the Senate and House, was set up by the debt-ceiling-increase bill that was approved by Congress in August. 

Under terms of the debt ceiling increase bill, that committee is supposed to find some $1.5bn in additional spending cuts. 

If the president’s $400bn jobs bill were added to that goal, the panel would have to find nearly $2bn in spending reductions ­– perhaps a tall order to be achieved within the ten weeks available for the special committee’s work.

Obama’s emergency jobs proposal comes in the wake of zero jobs growth reported for the month of August, the first time since 1945 that the nation’s economy has failed to generate net jobs in a month.

The US unemployment rate has held steady at more than 9% since early this year, and recent federal reports have shown that US gross domestic product (GDP) has expanded at less than 1% during the first half of this year and is not expected to reach more than 1.5% for full year of 2011.

($1 = €0.71)

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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