President Obama’s plan to deliver a speech laying out a new jobs proposal shortly after Labor Day represents a direct answer to critics in both political parties who say he has not taken bold enough actions to boost the economy.
Obama has been faulted by Republican adversaries and his own base for failing to lay out specifics on how his administration intends to lead the nation out of high unemployment and anemic growth. His vague pledges to focus on job creation has been met with exasperation from those who say the White House has made the same promises countless times over the past 2 1/2 years.
On Wednesday, Obama used the final day of his Midwest bus tour to foreshadow his intent to take the offensive in a second showdown with House Republicans this fall in the bitter ideological debate that nearly pushed the country into financial default this summer.
Appearing at a corn plant in Atkinson, Ill., Obama told a crowd of farmers that his speech next month would include proposals to raise taxes, so that the country could reduce the deficit and invest in programs, such as infrastructure development, that would put Americans back to work. House Republicans have repeatedly vowed to block any tax hike measures, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) reiterated that vow Wednesday. Obama’s prospects for getting his plan passed by Congress seem uncertain.
As he has over the past two weeks, Obama cast the debate as one between a White House that has been willing to compromise and an obstinate Congress. He called on the public to join his side of the battle and tell their Congressional representatives to negotiate in good faith.
Several of Obama’s Republican presidential rivals have signed pledges vowing to not raise taxes. In Atkinson, Obama raised his right hand and said he had taken a different oath.
“My pledge is to make sure every day I wake up I’m looking out for you, the American people. I don’t go around signing pledges,” Obama said. “I want to make sure every single day, whatever it is, what’s best for the American people, that’s what I’m focused on. That how every representative you send to Washington should act, not signing pledges for special interests and lobbyists.”
The stakes will be high for Obama to include new ideas that go beyond his calls to extend a payroll tax cut, ratify three international trade deals and create an infrastructure job bank.
Whether the president is able to convincingly lay out detailed plans could go a long way in determining whether can regain some of the political standing he lost during the first round of the debt debate. Polls show that the president’s approval ratings have plummeted to record lows of around 40 percent.
“When Congress gets back in September, my argument to them is that we should not choose between getting our fiscal house in order and jobs growth. Let’s do both,” Obama told the crowd. “What’s best for debt and deficit is to grow the economy. ... The best way for us to do this is look at some of our long-term obligations and costs and figure out long-term savings that are gradually phased in. In the short-term, there are things we can do that are paid for by the long-term savings to get the economy rolling.”