See update below.
In broad strokes, President Obama last night outlined a $447 billion plan to bolster the economy and create new jobs.
Over half the cost comes from tax cuts for workers and small businesses. The balance is in spending on infrastructure repairs and improvements, especially to schools; at least 35,000 of them, the President said to a joint session of Congress. (The full text of his speech is here.)
He proposed a $4,000 tax credit for hiring long-term unemployed workers, and other credits for hiring veterans. He called for extending unemployment benefits and providing money to states to pay teachers, rather than lay them off.
A call for Congress to act quicky
If adopted, businesses would have the payroll tax breaks adopted in 2010 extended and even expanded to cover not only new hires, but salary increases, too. He also promised that companies doing business with the federal government would get paid faster for their work.
Homeowners will get help refinancing their mortgage to take advantage of low rates that, Obama said, could save them $2,000 a year.
Paying for the cuts and spending, Obama said, will come from adjustments to Medicare and Medicaid spending, elimination of tax loopholes for the richest Americans and the richest companies, as well as reforms to the tax code.
Often in his 32-minute speech, Obama called on Congress to act quickly to adopt the most urgent provisions of what is now called the American Jobs Act. About the payroll tax cuts, teacher funding aid, the unemployment benefits extension, and, indeed, the entire proposal, Obama said, “You should pass it right away.”
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“Tepid enthusiasm” for the plan
Despite the frequent applause that came from Republicans as well as Democrats, getting the Act through Congress as he outlined it isn’t likely. The Wall Street Journal in its first report on the speech said economists “offered tepid enthusiasm” for the plan because of its small size and emphasis on temporary payroll tax cuts. The paper also noted that even the White House doesn’t expect the plan to survive as presented.
In an unscientific poll coinciding with the President’s appearance, online Journal readers split almost almost exactly between an A and F when asked to grade the speech. A third of the voters were scattered among B,C, and D.
UPDATE: The reviews of President Obama’s jobs speech are starting to roll in, but here’s one from unemployed workers, courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. And not surprisingly, the unemployed in St. Louis weren’t very impressed.
Mary Ann Downs hoped to hear something new, something creative.
Most of all, Downs wanted a signal from President Barack Obama that the end to her unemployment nightmare might actually be on the horizon.
As the president’s speech to a joint session of Congress on job creation drew to a close, Downs was still waiting.
“He talked about helping construction workers and teachers and veterans, his core supporters,” said Downs, a displaced small-business management professional who resides in south St. Louis County. “And that’s fine. But the long-term unemployed, the backbone of this, were at the bottom of the list.”