President Obama is seeking to grow the economy and create employment through a combination of tax cuts, government incentives and reforms to entitlement programs. Obama’s jobs plan is modeled on bipartisan initiatives that include transit projects that will help to build a 21st century transportation infrastructure. Specifically Obama called for faster trains, fuel-efficient cars and advanced biofuels. The President indicated that he will not forgo regulations that compromise the health, safety and security of the American people. The plan will help to build energy infrastructure such as power transmission, and it will support energy efficiency overhauls for public and commercial buildings. The President also called for improvements in water infrastructure and eliminating tax loopholes for oil companies. See excerpts of the Obama speech below:
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, and fellow Americans, tonight we meet at an urgent time for our country. We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless and a political crisis that’s made things worse.
This past week, reporters have been asking, “What will this speech mean for the president? What will it mean for Congress? How will it affect their polls and the next election?” But the millions of Americans who are watching right now, they don’t care about politics.
The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities. 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.
Those of us here tonight can’t solve all our nation’s woes. Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers. But we can help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take right now to improve people’s lives.
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 Republicans, including many who sit here tonight, and everything in this bill will be paid for, everything.
The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for long-term unemployed.
It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business. It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled and give companies confidence that, if they invest and if they hire, there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away.
Everyone here knows that small businesses are where most new jobs begin. And you know that while corporate profits have come roaring back, smaller companies haven’t. So for everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for “job-creators,” this plan’s for you. Pass this jobs bill.
Pass this jobs bill, and starting tomorrow, small businesses will get a tax cut if they hire new workers or if they raise workers’ wages. Pass this jobs bill, and all small-business owners will also see their payroll taxes cut in half next year. If you have 50 employees making an average salary, that’s an $80,000 tax cut. And all businesses will be able to continue writing off the investments they make in 2012.
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.
Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower. And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads, at a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America?
I know that some of you have sworn oaths to never raise any taxes on anyone for as long as you live. Now is not the time to carve out an exception and raise middle-class taxes, which is why you should pass this bill right away.
And here’s the other thing I want the American people to know: The American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for. And here’s how. The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next 10 years. 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.
This approach is basically the one I’ve been advocating for months. In addition to the trillion dollars of spending cuts I’ve already signed into law, it’s a balanced plan that would reduce the deficit by making additional spending cuts, by making modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and by reforming our tax code in a way that asks the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share.
What’s more, the spending cuts wouldn’t happen so abruptly that they’d be a drag on our economy or prevent us from helping small businesses and middle-class families get back on their feet right away.
But with an aging population and rising health care costs, we are spending too fast to sustain the program [Medicare]. And if we don’t gradually reform the system, while protecting current beneficiaries, it won’t be there when future retirees need it. We have to reform Medicare to strengthen it.
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. But here’s what every American knows: While most people in this country struggle to make ends meet, a few of the most affluent citizens and most profitable 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. We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake and where everybody pays their fair share.
Our tax code should not give an advantage to companies that can afford the best-connected lobbyists. It should give an advantage to companies that invest and create jobs right here in the United States of America.
So we can reduce this deficit, pay down our debt, and pay for this jobs plan in the process. But in order to do this, we have to decide what our priorities are. We have to ask ourselves, “What’s the best way to grow the economy and create jobs?”
Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies, or should we use that money to give small-business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can’t afford to do both.
Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs?
Right now, we can’t afford to do both. This isn’t political grandstanding. This isn’t class warfare. This is simple math. These are real choices. These are real choices that we’ve got to make. And I’m pretty sure I know what most Americans would choose. It’s not even close. And it’s time for us to do what’s right for our future.
Now, the American Jobs Act answers the urgent need to create jobs right away. But we can’t stop there. As I’ve argued since I ran for this office, we have to look beyond the immediate crisis and start building an economy that lasts into the future, an economy that creates good, middle-class jobs that pay well and offer security.
We now live in a world where technology has made it possible for companies to take their business anywhere. If we want them to start here and stay here and hire here, we have to be able to out-build, and out-educate, and out-innovate every other country on Earth.
This task, of making America more competitive for the long haul, that’s a job for all of us, for government and for private companies, for states and for local communities, and for every American citizen. All of us will have to up our game. All of us will have to change the way we do business.
My administration can and will take some steps to improve our competitiveness on our own. For example, if you’re a small-business owner who has a contract with the federal government, we’re going to make sure you get paid a lot faster than you do right now.
We’re also planning to cut away the red tape that prevents too many rapidly growing start-up companies from raising capital and going public.
And to help responsible homeowners, we’re going to work with federal housing agencies to help more people refinance their mortgages at interest rates that are now near 4 percent. I know you guys must be for this, because that’s 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.
So some things we can do on our own. Other steps will require congressional action.
Today, you passed reform that will speed up the outdated patent process so that entrepreneurs can turn a new idea into a new business as quickly as possible. That’s the kind of action we need.
Now it’s time to clear the way for a series of trade agreements that would make it easier for American companies to sell their products in Panama, and Colombia, and South Korea, while also helping the workers whose jobs have been affected by global competition.
If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers.
And on all of our efforts to strengthen competitiveness, we need to look for ways to work side by side with America’s businesses. That’s why I’ve brought together a jobs council of leaders from different industries who are developing a wide range of new ideas to help companies grow and create jobs.
And we’re going to make sure the next generation of manufacturing takes root not in China or Europe, but right here in the United States of America.
If we provide the right incentives, the right support, and if we make sure our trading partners play by the rules, we can be the ones to build everything from fuel-efficient cars to advanced biofuels to semiconductors that we sell all around the world. That’s how America can be number-one again. And that’s how America will be number-one again.
Now, I realize that some of you have a different theory on how to grow the economy. Some of you sincerely believe that the only solution to our economic challenges is to simply cut most government spending and eliminate most government regulations.
And — well, I agree that we can’t afford wasteful spending, and I’ll work with you, with Congress, to root it out. And I agree that there are some rules and regulations that do put an unnecessary burden on businesses at a time when they can least afford it.
That’s why I ordered a review of all government regulations. So far, we’ve identified over 500 reforms, which will save billions of dollars over the next few years. We should have no more regulation than the health, safety and security of the American people require. Every rule should meet that commonsense test.
But what we can’t do — what I will not do — is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades.
I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says, for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients.
I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy.
We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top, and I believe we can win that race.
In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody’s money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own, that’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America.
Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and self- reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and the envy of the world.
But there’s always been another thread running throughout our history, a belief that we’re all connected, and that there are some things we can only do together as a nation.
We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our union, founder of the Republican Party. But in the middle of a Civil War, he was also a leader who looked to the future, a Republican president who mobilized government to build the transcontinental railroad, launch the National Academy of Sciences, set up the first land grant colleges. And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.
Ask yourselves: Where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways, not to build our bridges, our dams, our airports?
How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip? What kind of country would this be if this chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do? How many Americans would have suffered as a result?
No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been — and always will be — one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another.
And, members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our responsibilities.
Every proposal I’ve laid out tonight is the kind that’s been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past. Every proposal I’ve laid out tonight will be paid for. And every proposal is designed to meet the urgent needs of our people and our communities.
The next election is 14 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 14 months.
Regardless of the arguments we’ve had in the past, regardless of the arguments we’ll have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it. And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country.
And I ask — I ask every American who agrees to lift your voice, tell the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action now. Tell Washington that doing nothing is not an option. Remind us that, if we act as one nation and one people, we have it within our power to meet this challenge.
President Kennedy once said, “Our problems are manmade; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.”
These are difficult years for our country, but we are Americans. We are tougher than the times that we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been. So let’s meet the moment, let’s get to work, and let’s show the world once again why the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth.
© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.