Obama sees US crisis, pushes $447 bln jobs plan

Obama addresses Congress, says US is in "national crisis," calls for urgent action on sweeping proposals to revive stalled economy.

By REUTERS
September 9, 2011 03:20
2 minute read.
Obama addresses a joint session of Congress

Obama addresses a joint session of Congress 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Bourg)

 
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WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama laid out a $447 billion jobs package of tax cuts and government spending on Thursday that will be critical to his re-election chances but he faces an uphill fight with Republicans.

With his poll numbers at new lows amid voter frustration with 9.1 percent unemployment, Obama said in a high-stakes address to Congress that the United States is in a "national crisis" and called for urgent action on sweeping proposals to revive the stalled economy and avert another recession.

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"Those of us here tonight can't solve all of our nation's woes," Obama said in a nationally televised prime-time speech. "But we can help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take right now to improve people's lives."

Taking aim at Republicans who have consistently opposed his initiatives, Obama said it was time to "stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy."

Obama, who pushed through an $800 billion economic stimulus package in 2009, said his jobs plan would cut taxes for workers and businesses and put more construction workers and teachers on the job through infrastructure projects.

"It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business," he said.

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Obama said his proposed plan would "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."

"You should pass this jobs plan right away," he said in a speech interrupted by applause from his fellow Democrats while Republicans sat mostly in silence.

Obama proposed extending unemployment insurance at a cost of $49 billion, modernizing schools for $30 billion and investing in transportation infrastructure projects for $50 billion.

But the bulk of his proposal was made up of $240 billion in tax relief by cutting payroll taxes for employees in half next year and trimming employer payroll taxes as well.

Obama also said he was seeking to broaden US homeowners' access to mortgage refinancing in a plan to help the ailing housing market and put money back in the pockets of borrowers needing help locking into record low interest rates.

Obama insisted that "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."

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