President Barack Obama has spent much of his term, from the stimulus bill pushed through shortly after he took office, up to this morning’s speech on jobs at the Brookings Institution, trying to show the public that he is serious about reducing the unemployment rate. Today, with 15.4 million Americans looking for work and tens of millions more joining the ranks of the long-term unemployed, the president announced a series of small business tax cuts, infrastructure investments, and aid measures to build on the Recovery Act, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates has already saved or created some 1.6 million jobs. The speech, which a senior administrative official said was primarily intended to “get ideas out there,” was encouraging but left many questions unanswered.
The components of Obama’s new jobs plan that were apparently intended to appeal to his Democratic base were the green building and aid measures. In a statement issued shortly after the speech, Lawrence Mishel, the president of the progressive Economic Policy Institute, noted that he was “particularly enthusiastic about the president’s proposals for infrastructure investments and assistance to state and local governments.” The speech also included support for a much–discussed “cash for caulkers” program modeled on the popular cash for clunkers scheme. There are questions about how Congress would motivate homeowners to take part. After all, consumers are more accustomed to purchasing cars than insulation. But Dean Baker, the director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said he was still “fairly certain” cash for caulkers would stimulate job growth. The public’s response will largely “depend on how generous we’re prepared to make [the subsidies],” Baker added.
The lack of specifics in Obama’s speech was troubling…
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