The One pontificates. As can be expected, he doesn’t miss any opportunities to take credit for things he believes are going right, and to assign blame “to the other side” for things that went wrong. He criticizes TARP, which makes you wonder why he voted for it himself. Of course, some questions are better left unasked.
Facing the political peril of double-digit unemployment rates, President Obama today urged a series of tax cuts, infrastructure projects, and small business loans to help employers hire more people.
Some loans would involve unspent federal bailout funds, a step already under fire from Republicans. GOP members such as party chairman Michael Steele said the biggest threats to job creation are Obama’s big spending programs, including health care.
Here’s some play-by-play on Obama’s jobs speech this morning at The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
11:26 a.m. — Obama opens with an anecdote about meeting with his economic team during the transition a year ago, as they discussed the financial crisis that had frozen credit markets. “The fear among economists across the political spectrum was that we were rapidly plummeting towards a second Great Depression,” Obama said.
11:30 a.m. — Obama discusses the “difficult steps” needed to meet the crisis, including the big stimulus package. Also takes a poke at Republican opponents: “We were forced to take those steps largely without the help of an opposition party which, unfortunately, after having presided over the decision-making that led to the crisis, decided to hand it over to others to solve.”
11:33 a.m. — After extolling the stimulus plan, Obama notes “we are in a very different place than we were a year ago” — fears of another depression are gone and the economy is growing again. Also stresses that the unemployment rate actually fell last month, from 10.2 percent to 10 percent.
He adds, however, “our work is far from done.”
11:37 a.m. — Obama gets to the heart of the matter, discussing “broader steps” that can help job growth, starting with help for small businesses. The president pitches an elimination of capital gains taxes on investments by small businesses, as well as more generous write-offs.
Then the biggest headline: Juicing small business loans through bailout money available in the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
11:39 p.m. — The second step involves more road, bridge, and other infrastructure projects, including a speed-up of those already approved under the stimulus package.
The third step is more jobs for clean energy — including rebates for property owners “who retrofit their homes to become more energy efficient, which we know creates jobs, saves money for families, and reduces the pollution that threatens our environment.”
11:42 p.m. — Obama returns to the TARP program, which he wants to wind down in favor of more support for job creation and deficit reduction.
This time he pokes banks who received assistance: “There has rarely been a less loved or more necessary emergency program than TARP, which — as galling as the assistance to banks may have been — indisputably helped prevent a collapse of the entire financial system.”
And, again, Republicans and the Bush administration: “Launched hastily under the last administration, the TARP program was flawed, and we have worked hard to correct those flaws and manage it properly.”
11:45 a.m. — Obama ties the search for more jobs to his domestic agenda — says all employers will be helped by an improved health care system, a better educated work force, new sources of clean energy, and fairly regulated markets.
11:48 a.m. — The budget deficit issue: Obama says he’s working to cut it, even amid needed investments for economic recovery: “Even as we have had to spend our way out of this recession in the near term, we have begun to make the hard choices necessary to get our country on a more stable fiscal footing in the long run.”
Another dig at the GOP: “These budget busting tax cuts and spending programs were approved by many of the same people who are now waxing political about fiscal responsibility while opposing our efforts to reduce deficits by getting health care costs under control. It’s a sight to see.”
11:50 a.m. — The problems of jobs and deficits are rooted in failures of the political system, Obama says: “We have seen the consequences of this failure of responsibility. The American people have paid a heavy price.”
11:52 a.m. — Obama wraps up by urging lawmakers to remember people looking for work: “These folks aren’t looking for a hand out. They’re not looking for a bail out. They’re hoping for a chance to make their own way, to work, to succeed using their talents and skills.”
He does close on a note of optimism: “These have been a tough two years. And there will no doubt be difficult months ahead. But the storms of the past are receding. The skies are brightening. And the horizon is beckoning once more.”