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Obama Lays Out Plan To Spur Jobs


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

President Obama has announced a series of steps he wants the government to take to speed recovery in the market that matters the most to the most people: the job market. Mr. Obama said the millions of Americans who are out of work aren't looking for a handout, but they are looking to Washington to take their problems seriously, as NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: President Obama says the nation's economy is far better off than it was a year ago. The banking system has stabilized, outputs growing again and the national economy is no longer hemorrhaging hundreds of thousands of jobs every month. But unemployment still hovers around 10 percent and millions of Americans are looking for work. Speaking at a Washington think tank today, Mr. Obama briefly departed from his prepared text and talked about meeting with nervous job seekers in Pennsylvania.

President BARACK OBAMA: They're putting a brave face on it, confident that eventually things would work out, but you can also see the sense of anxiety, the fear that perhaps this time it was different. And sometimes it's hard to break out of the bubble here in Washington and remind ourselves that behind these statistics are people's lives, their capacity do right by their families.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama endorsed several proposals aimed at helping to put people to work, including a tax break for small businesses that hire additional workers, rebates for homeowners who invest in energy efficiency and increased governments spending on highways, water systems and other public infrastructure. He also called for extending some of the provisions in the stimulus program enacted earlier this year. Still he said�

Pres. OBAMA: Job creation will ultimately depend on the real job creators: businesses across America.

HORSLEY: The president's jobs message today was more of an outline than a fully fleshed out proposal. Details of the tax break, for example, remain to be worked out with Congress. The White House refused to put even a ballpark price tag on the proposals. Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said while the ideas are good, he wonders if the president is going far enough.

Mr. DEAN BAKER (Co-director, Center for Economic and Policy Research): Are we talking a few billion or few tens of billions? It could easily be over 100 billion given the size of the shortfalls that they're facing. So, we are left sort of in the dark on that. I'm inclined to think it's not going to be all that much for the simple reason that I think he wants to get something through Congress quickly, and if we were to put a big price tag on it, he would face some real opposition.

HORSLEY: House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer said today lawmakers are weighing between $75 billion and $150 billion in a new bill to boost jobs. The administration has been wary of spending too freely on jobs measures for fear of worsening the federal deficit. But Mr. Obama said the government can afford to do somewhat more because last year's unpopular bank bailout cost about $200 billion less than had been expected.

Pres. OBAMA: So this gives us a chance to pay down the deficit faster than we thought possible and to shift funds that would have gone to help the banks on Wall Street to help create jobs on Main Street.

HORSLEY: Republicans insist all unspent bailout funds should go to deficit reduction and not be re-purposed to help pay for jobs programs. In his speech today, Mr. Obama was unusually tough on Republicans. He said GOP lawmakers have been little help so far in efforts to mend the economy, and complained they have failed to take their share of responsibility for the recession.

Scott Horsley NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.