On television this evening at 6 PM Central Time, viewers heard President Barack Obama address a joint session of Congress in the U.S. House of Representatives. The speech was not a state of the union address, but rather an urgent dealing with a stagnant economy in a time of severe partisan disagreement, a “political circus,” to use Mr. Obama’s words. The first such speech, in the past, was about health care. The purpose of tonight’s speech was stated by Mr. Obama to be “Put people back to work; put money in their pockets.” He also stated that our economic recovery will be “driven by business and workers.” He asked, “Can we actually do something to help the economy?” His plan is titled American Jobs Act.
Unfolding the specifics of the American Jobs Act legislation tonight, and it incudes writing by Republicans, the president said he will give a tax cut to small businesses if they hire, and also if they give raises to employees. A comment by a political analyst after the speech put a damper on that– reminding that businesses hire based on business rather than tax relief; i.e., if businesses get more business, they hire. However, Representative Eric Cantor, R, VA, Majority Leader, stated to CBS’s Bob Schieffer that he could agree with the president on small business tax relief.
Other specifics Mr. Obama mentioned were getting teachers back to work and hiring veterans. Also, that young people need the hope and dignity of a summer job. Middle-class taxpayers will again receive a $1,500 tax cut, if Congress passes this legislation right away, which they should do, Mr. Obama repeated many times. He stated that he will release a debt plan one week from Monday September 12th, saying, “We have to reform Medicare/Medicaid to strengthen it.”
The anecdote about Warren Buffet added interest, in that he asked the government to fix the unfairness of his paying taxes at a lower level than his secretary, attributable to tax breaks and loopholes. Mr. Obama stated that government should not give an advantage to big corporations who can afford lobbyists. Instead, give an advantage to companies who put people to work. “Keep loopholes for the wealthiest? he asked, “or help the middle class? We can’t afford to do both.”
Talk of returning manufacturing to the United States had the sound of the ring of truth, an idea whose time has come (back). The president wants to speed up the patent process for inventors. He wants South Koreans to drive Fords, Chevys, and Chryslers. He has brought together a Jobs Council for developing ideas, such as training ten thousand engineers per year so that we are competitive with China and Europe for the long haul. Just as Abraham Lincoln, in the middle of the Civil War, initiated construction of transcontinental railroads, created the National Academy of Science, and thought up land-grant colleges, so must we now let go of a rigid idea of government and look farther down the road.
Mr. Obama closed with the assurance to big business that although he will allow deregulation if the regulation does not pass a common sense test, he will not wipe out basic protections Americans have counted on for decades. He is a definite “NO,” to stripping away collective bargaining rights. It was an effective half-hour speech wherein the president said what needed to be said. Some of his closing words were “Let’s meet the moment!”, and “Let’s get to work!” Bob Schieffer’s last comment was that in regard to President Obama’s tone, Mr. Obama believes the people are with him.