AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011 | 7:13 p.m.
“Pass this jobs bill” became President Barack Obama’s refrain tonight as he used a congressional podium to attempt to answer his Republican opponents and alleviate the country’s economic insecurity with a $450 billion job-generating plan.
His proposal, which was more sweeping than anticipated, is heavy on tax cuts and investments in infrastructure, including a payroll tax holiday; spending on roads, bridges and schools; and hiring incentives to give returning veterans and the long-term employed a leg up in the job market.
“It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for the long-term unemployed…it will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire, there will be customers for their products and services,” Obama said. “So for everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for 'job creators,' this plan is for you.”
With 14 percent unemployment, Las Vegas is in dire need of an economic shot in the arm, and many of the infrastructure spending initiatives in Obama’s plan focus on the local workforce’s most job-hungry.
Republican leaders, however, are pointing to continued hardships in areas like Las Vegas, and the similarity of Obama’s current proposals to the stimulus, and calling it more of the same.
“He merely dusted off a tired agenda of old ideas wrapped in freshly partisan rhetoric,” said Arizona Sen. John Kyl, one of several Republican leaders to offer a response. “I had hoped that President Obama, by now, would understand that even more government spending doesn’t create jobs.”
The Republican position on job creation is that the tax structure hampers entrepreneurship and job creation, especially by small businesses. On Tuesday, presidential contender Mitt Romney made that assumption the unifying thread of his economic recovery plan, which he unveiled at a trucking company in North Las Vegas.
Obama attempted to use the Republicans’ favored rhetoric against them, especially when it comes to taxes.
“I know some of you have sworn oaths to never raise any taxes on anyone for as long as you live,” Obama said to lawmakers. “Now is not the time to carve out an exception and raise middle-class taxes, which is why you should pass this bill right away.”
But tax proposals do come with a price tag.
The Obama administration has long jockeyed for ending the Bush tax cuts on the highest wage earners, arguing that doing so would save $700 billion over 10 years.
The president’s proposal to extend and amplify the payroll tax cut to benefit the middle class and job-makers – this year, employees are enjoying a 2 percent break, but if his proposal is adopted, next year both employees and employers will enjoy a 3.1 percent break on the first $5 million of payroll – will cost $245 billion.
That has some Democrats who support the president’s other ideas a little nervous.
“I don’t think people realize what the payroll tax is, is a payment into Social Security,” former Nevada congresswoman and current candidate Dina Titus, a Democrat, said. “That money might be better spent on infrastructure…if you extend the payroll tax now, that’s a cost.”
It’s a cost that will be paid for, somehow: Obama asked the 12-member congressional "super committee," which had its opening session earlier today, to add the $450 billion he’s proposing in infrastructure and tax cuts to the of $1.5 trillion in cuts they’re seeking elsewhere to reduce the country’s deficit.
But other Democrats say it’s a brave and necessary step.
“President Barack Obama laid out a set of bipartisan ideas to create jobs whose size and scope reflects the urgent need to put Americans back to work,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement after Obama’s speech. “This package of common-sense, bipartisan proposals will present a litmus test to Republicans.”
If it’s a litmus test, Nevada’s Republicans are still neutral on temperament – though they seem to be stumping for alternate solutions.
“It is time for both Democrats and Republicans to come together, put our differences aside, solve our nation’s problems, and deliver the solutions the American people are looking for,” said Sen. Dean Heller. “Taking action on tax reform that closes special interest loop holes, passing a balance budget amendment to get government spending under control, and reining in excessive job-killing regulations would be a good start to moving our economy in the right direction and getting Nevadans back to work.”
“Despite differences between the parties, there are many ideas that both sides already agree on,” said Rep. Joe Heck, who has already endorsed Romney and helped introduce his jobs plan. “We must not give into the temptation of passing laws that are nothing more than window dressing…it’s time for Washington to provide some substance, not just pretense.”
House Republican Leader Eric Cantor and Speaker John Boehner have said that some of Obama’s ideas “merit consideration” and will be voted on – but not all.
Nevada’s special election congressional contenders had their opinions as well on Obama’s jobs plan; whoever is elected Tuesday to represent the 2nd Congressional District will likely get to vote on whatever parts of the proposals come before Congress.
“Unfortunately it sounds like more of the same: the devil’s in the details – and so far, we don’t have them,” said Republican candidate Mark Amodei. “Nevada needs jobs and I’m disappointed that President Obama continues to believe that raising taxes and increasing federal spending will solve anything…the President’s proposal won’t do anything to reduce Nevada’s 13 percent unemployment rate.”
Democratic candidate Kate Marshall didn’t endorse Obama’s proposals, but seemed to disagree with her competitor. “The president and Congress must work together, putting partisan politics aside, to get the American economy moving again,” she said. “Nevadans cannot afford Mark Amodei's lack of a jobs plan and job-killing policies.”
But even if all of Obama’s recommendations were adopted, it might still not be enough for Nevada, which isn’t just crumbling under the job market. The drag from Nevada’s housing sector and failing education system is equally crippling.
“A place like Nevada and Las Vegas is as hard a hit place as you’ll see in the country,” Robert Gibbs, Obama’s former press secretary and current campaign adviser, told the Las Vegas Sun this week. “In certain places in this country we’re going to have to do more. If we’re not building houses we ought to be building our public infrastructure.”
Apparently, more is coming: Obama said he’d release a “more ambitious deficit plan” a week from Monday that would include a bid to help underwater mortgage owners refinance at historically low interest rates – though there was no mention of any initiative to push banks to reduce principal, a more pressing concern and viable solution in a hard-hit state like Nevada.
Local Democrats who have disagreed with Obama on points of his housing policy thought his priorities in first rolling out a jobs bill were in the right place.
“We need to make job creation the number one priority,” said Rep. and Senate candidate Shelley Berkley. “I hope tonight's speech will be a new beginning for Democrats and Republicans to work together to get people back to work.”