Obama turns to Main St. on jobs creation
Pa. is first stop to gather ideas
ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Even as he heralded the first unemployment drop in months, President Obama began putting the finishing touches yesterday on a fresh job-creation proposal he’s planning to send to Congress next week.
In a speech from Washington on Tuesday, Obama plans to send Congress an initial list of ideas he supports for a new jobs bill. Among the ideas he will probably endorse is the expansion of a program that gives people cash incentives to fix up their homes with energy-saving materials, two senior administration officials said.
Obama also is leaning toward new incentives, either through the tax code or some other means, for small businesses that hire new workers, plus new spending for the construction of roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the package, and Obama’s speech, are still being crafted and could change.
The president is also open to a federal infusion of money to cash-strapped state and local governments, considered among the quickest and most effective - though expensive - ways to stem layoffs. But officials stressed the president probably won’t mention in his speech every job-stimulating idea he will eventually support.
“We need to grow jobs and get America back to work as quickly as we can,’’ Obama said yesterday at an event at Lehigh Carbon Community College, part of his first stop on a “listening tour’’ to gather job-creation ideas from Main Street.
Democrats on Capitol Hill have been pushing for a jobs bill for weeks and are pleased that Obama is getting on the same page. Under pressure from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the White House and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are now signaling that tapping unused Wall Street bailout funds to pay for a jobs measure is OK.
Because of growing anxiety about federal deficits, Obama has been stressing that government spending shouldn’t be increased too much. But using the bailout money to pay for a jobs bill would require issuing billions of dollars in new federal debt.
Jobs-related legislation will probably have to wait until next year given the press of business on Capitol Hill. But legislation to extend benefits for the long-term unemployed and subsidies to help them retain their health insurance is more likely to pass this year.
Job losses have been the worst since the 1930s, but new statistics out yesterday showed a relatively moderate shedding of 11,000 jobs last month, the smallest monthly total since the recession began in December 2007. The unemployment rate dipped from 10.2 percent in October to 10 percent in November.
During a campaign-style swing through Allentown, Obama was upbeat about the new numbers, calling them “good news just in time for the season of hope.’’ But he said the situation is still dire and in need of urgent attention.
“I still consider one job lost one job too many,’’ he said. “Good trends don’t pay the rent.’’ Making his pitch - and Americans’ pain - personal, Obama said his own family had members who were looking for work.
Before returning to Washington, Obama made an unannounced stop at a jobs center in Allentown, where he talked with job seekers about their résumés and the help they’ve gotten in their search for new employment. He accepted a letter from one woman, promising to read it in private.