In broad strokes, President Obama tonight 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.
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.”
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.