In a rare joint session of the United States Congress, President Barack Obama on Thursday outlined his crucial jobs plan in an effort to boost the flagging U.S. economy, proposing a $447 billion jobs package composed of tax cuts, aid to states and infrastructure spending.
With unemployment stalled at 9.1 percent, Obama challenged Congress to shut down the "political circus" and pass what he dubbed the American Jobs Act "right away," according to news reports.
The proposal would according to USA Today, would see the government "slash payroll taxes in half next year for employees and small businesses, extend unemployment benefits, and create or save jobs for teachers, police and firefighters, and construction workers."
Main elements of the plan reportedly include:
- Eliminating payroll taxes for companies that add workers or increase the wages of their current workers, though with a $50 million expenditure cutoff;
- A $4,000 tax credit for employers who hired long-term unemployed workers;
- A "returning heroes" tax credit of $5,600 to $9,600 for companies that hire veterans;
- A $140 billion outlay to save the jobs of state and local teachers and first responders, repair deteriorating schools and rebuild roads, railways and airports.
- Regulatory reforms to help entrepreneurs and small businesses gain access to capital; and
- The modernization at least 35,000 public schools nationwide, providing new science labs, Internet-ready classrooms and renovations.
Employment is expected to dominate the 2012 presidential election campaign, and according to Fox News, Obama "is gambling that since Congress has an approval rating of only 10 percent, Republicans will feel election pressure to work with him."
However, a question mark still hangs over how Obama president plans to pay for the bill, which is more than half the size of Obama's $825 billion economic stimulus plan passed in February 2009.
The president told the joint session that all the proposals were paid for with spending cuts which he would detail next week, the BBC reports.
"There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been supported by both Democrats and Republicans — including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything."
Republicans, meanwhile, have described the bill — which the president wants to submit to Congress next week — as Obama's re-election plan, not a jobs proposal.
USA Today quoted Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as saying:
"This isn't a jobs plan. It's a re-election plan. It's time the president start thinking less about how to describe his policies differently and more time thinking about devising new policies."