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Various Reactions To The President’s Jobs Speech

The responses to the President’s unveiling of a job creation strategy are rolling in. On the Democratic side, they’re all basically positive. I’ll excerpt a few of them:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

“The President’s speech today is another important step in our continuous effort to boost job growth. As President Obama has said on several occasions, there isn’t a silver bullet that will solve our troubles and bring unemployment down. But today’s speech helped outline some of the broad steps that we should take to accelerate job creation.

“I look forward to working with the President, his administration and the House to put these promising initiatives into action.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

“President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress share a strong commitment to our top priority: putting Americans back to work.

“Today, President Obama set forth a wide range of ideas aimed at addressing our short-term challenges and laying the foundation for long-term growth. Congress and the White House are working together on a jobs package that achieves these goals and keeps our recovery on track — putting Americans to work building a 21st century infrastructure and making our homes more energy efficient, ensuring that small business owners gain easier access to capital and credit, and helping to keep teachers, police, and firefighters on the job in our communities.

Notice that Pelosi specifically foregrounded federal aid to state and local governments – that’s the meaning of “helping to keep teachers, police, and firefighters on the job in our communities.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

I am encouraged that Pres. Obama and his team are proposing many of the same steps that we see as the most promising, efficient routes to job creation. The AFL-CIO has proposed a 5-point plan that includes putting TARP funds to work for Main Street by making it available to provide credit to small business; extending the lifeline of unemployment benefits, food assistance and COBRA benefits for jobless workers; rebuilding America’s schools, roads and energy systems; increasing aid to state and local governments to maintain vital services and prevent the layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police and putting people to work doing work that needs to be done.

As the AFL-CIO works with Congress and the administration to implement our five point plan we do not believe that tax credits are the most effective way to create jobs and should not be the main priority for spending public funds.

So labor isn’t all that enthused about the tax breaks for small business. I think there’s a rule in Washington now that every bill must include tax breaks for small business (do they pay any tax at this point?), so I don’t know how they get around that one.

Larry Mishel, Economic Policy Institute:

“It is important and welcome news that President Obama has outlined new proposals to create jobs. The jobs crisis is clearly the nation’s top economic priority. I’m particularly enthusiastic about the President’s proposals for infrastructure investments and assistance to state and local governments. These proposals hold the greatest potential for job creation.

“The constellation of tax cuts aimed at small businesses seems to be a roundabout way of addressing the very real problem of credit availability for small and medium size firms. I would prefer a new loan program that gives small business access to the credit they need
to meet their specific needs, rather than less-targeted tax breaks. Moreover, while a jobs creation tax credit holds promise for generating more jobs, it doesn’t make sense to limit its impact by aiming it only at small firms.

Again, lukewarm on the tax credits.

Keep in mind that this is the pre-sausage grinder version of these proposals. They don’t get much better from here.

UPDATE: Here’s a feisty response from Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change:

“The magnitude of this crisis is so severe and the prospect of the private sector creating enough jobs quickly enough is so slim that we really have no choice but to jump-start job creation through a direct hire, community jobs program.

“It’s simply not enough for government to take action by helping the private sector. For decades we’ve seen how this tactic has failed to meet the needs of every day Americans who need work to feed their families. We need a strong public sector in order to really come out of this economic crisis.

“By investing in a large scale community jobs program, we can reduce unemployment faster than any proposals put forth thus far. This investment would put 2.5 million people to work in jobs in our communities, earning livable wages.”

There’s clearly disappointment from the lack of a direct employment program similar to the WPA.

UPDATE II: Robert Reich gets to the nub of this:

No president in modern times walks a tightrope as exquisitely as this one. His balance is a thing of beauty. But when it comes to this economy right now — an economy fundamentally out of balance — we need a federal government that moves boldly and swiftly to counter-balance the huge recessionary forces still at large […]

We don’t know exactly how much the President is proposing to spend, but sources tell me it’s in the range of $70 billion, redirected from the $200 billion in TARP savings. The President’s small, calibrated attempt to balance a stimulus with deficit reduction will in fact make the deficit worse over the long haul. It postpones the day when we’re back to near full employment, when almost all Americans who need a job get paychecks on which they pay taxes. This isn’t really balance at all. It prolongs the economic imbalance.

If we’re really talking about $70 billion, you might as well not do it at all.

UPDATE III: Shorter verbatim Paul Krugman:

So show me the money, and I’ll tell you what I think about the plan.

Until we see the total cost, we really have no good way to assess it.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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