In a joint session to congress last night, President Obama gave his much anticipated speechon his prescription to resuscitate the ailing American economy.
The president’s plan is an ambitious $447 billion stimulus package that would include small business payroll tax cuts, tax credits for businesses that hire new workers, and new construction jobs to repair bridges, build public schools, roads and highways.
If there was a theme in the presidents’ address last night it was the urgency of getting his bill passed “right away,” which he repeated eight times.
“I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It’s called the American Jobs Act. 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 Republican — including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything,” said Obama.
It was obvious from the start; the president had two audiences he wanted to address. The American people and congress, and it would be congress that would get the president’s wrath for their inaction and partisanship over the past 24 months.
“Some of you have decided that [our] differences are so great that we can only resolve them at the ballot box. 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,” said Obama.
The American Jobs Act has tax credit provisions laden with incentives for small businesses. For example, the plan would give a tax credit of $4000 to small businesses when they hire new workers or raise current worker’s salaries. The president also wants to cut payroll taxes in half for small businesses.
“It’s not just Democrats who have supported this kind of proposal. Fifty House Republicans have proposed the same payroll tax cut that’s in this plan. You should pass it right away,” said Obama.
The president plans to pay for his jobs package with an additional $1.5 trillion in spending cuts on top of the cuts the bipartisan Deficit Reduction Commission is expected to review.
“The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about a trillion dollars over the next ten years. It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas,” said Obama.
However, while the president lost the battle over raising taxes on the top 1 percent to raise revenue during the debt talks last month. He seems to have every intention to revisit the issue. He reminded Congress “Warren Buffet pays a lower tax rate than his secretary — an outrage he has asked us to fix. We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake, and where everybody pays their fair share.”
While the president made the case that his proposals are in fact, proposals Republican and Democrats have worked together to support in the past. He concluded his speech by firmly defending consumer and environmental protections, and the social safety net that his rivals have opposed.
“I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections [regulations] that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules [regulations] that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients,” said Obama.
C Stone Brown is the former Washington Bureau Chief of DiversityInc and Contributing Editor of Crisis Magazine. He currently lives in Washington D.C. He can be reached at email@example.com