If you were looking for the President to devise an intelligent plan to create immediate jobs and deliver it with coherent, powerful rhetoric and a dogged defense of liberal ideals, Obama hit a home run. The oration of his Sept. 8 Joint Session on jobs creation was on point. The urgent message to Congress was clear and repetitive – and it wasn’t so much a request as an expertly articulated demand:
Pass. This. Jobs. Bill… You should pass this jobs plan right away… For everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for jobs creators, this plan’s for you…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.
He’s forcing Republicans to choose between supporting a bipartisan bill to create jobs (which, if it works, will boost Obama’s re-election chances) or sticking to their “let’s just cut taxes for the wealthy” guns and “killing the hostage” – which is our economy. The bill will be a test of the President’s political capital in the face of a deeply divided Congress.
Obama’s proposal is called the American Jobs Act, a patchwork of previous Republican and Democratic proposals that have been carefully selected for maximum immediate impact on job creation and economic relief.
- A payroll tax holiday for businesses that hire new employees or increase workers’ wages.
- Tax credits for hiring veterans ($5,600 per person, or $9,600 for hiring a veteran with a service-related disability). That one got a standing ovation from the whole chamber, including Speaker John Boehner.
- A $4,000 tax credit for hiring anyone who has been unemployed six months or longer.
- $35 billion to prevent layoffs of up to 280,000 teachers.
- Extending and expanding the payroll tax cut in 2012, cutting it in half to 3% for every working American and every small business. This translates to a $1,500 tax cut for typical family and a $80,000 tax cut for small businesses with 50 employees earning average wages.
- A total of $65 billion for transportation infrastructure projects and construction worker jobs and an additional $10 billion to start a public-private cooperative infrastructure bank.
- Hiring people to rebuild and modernize 35,000 schools to the tune of $25 billion.
- Extension of unemployment insurance for another year.
- Outreach through local housing agencies to help people refinance their mortgages at historically low rates (near 4%), which translates to $2,000 per year in average interest savings.
To pay for the Jobs Act investments, Obama will introduce a “more ambitious deficit plan” on Sept. 19 that will add to the $2.3 trillion in cuts already established in the August deficit deal. He says the plan “will make modest adjustments” to Medicare to “strengthen it” (it sounds less hollow from Obama than from Boehner) and also reform the tax code to ask the “wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share.”
As Obama talks about tax reform, a slide appears on the video stating that 25 of the 100 top-paid CEOs earned more compensation than their company paid in taxes in 2009. And then another slide that says 1,470 millionaires and billionaires paid $0 in taxes in 2009.
Then the President got to the really, really good rhetoric:
“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…we need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake and everyone pays their fair share.”
The corporate tax code “stands as a monument to special interest influence in Washington.” We should not favor companies with “the best connected lobbyists” but “companies that invest in jobs right here in the United States of America.”
“I reject that we should strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy.” We don’t want to be in a “race to bottom for the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards.”
“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 is not the story of America.”
Obama resonated with his base because his earnest optimism shone through, as did the unabashed idealism he got from his mother. He again proved himself as a great orator, as a leader with the power to reason and to inspire, as a strong President. A President who is urging Congress to “stop the political circus” (which has the chief aim of undermining his Presidency) and take the right course by passing this jobs recovery bill.
Obama ended with a reminder to Republicans of the principles he will continually revisit over the next year. He posed the alternatives:
- Should we choose keeping tax loopholes for oil companies…or give tax credits to business for hiring?
- Should we give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires…or put teachers back to work?
His delivery left no doubt as to the right answer to these questions:
“Right now, we can’t afford to do both…This isn’t political grandstanding, this isn’t class warfare, this is SIMPLE. MATH. This is simple math. These are REAL. CHOICES. These are real choices that we’ve got to make. And I am 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.
Watch the video. There are great slides on right hand side of screen.