“To put Americans to work, we’ll create millions of new green jobs and invest in rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure,” Obama proclaimed in March 2008. “It’s an agenda that starts with providing a stimulus that will reach the most vulnerable Americans, including immediate relief to areas hardest hit by the housing crisis and a significant extension of unemployment insurance for those who are out of work.”
While Obama pursued those measures early in his administration, his emphasis later shifted. But the president is once again preparing to use a dramatic platform to call for immediate spending to drive economic growth.
Top White House officials have long thought that significant action to bolster the economic recovery was necessary, but concluded that there was no political appetite for new spending. The significant deterioration in the economy — which is in far worse shape than the president anticipated — has made them revisit that calculation.
“The President has never stopped pushing for stronger investments in areas like infrastructure and housing,” said Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council. “What has changed in recent months, is that as economic projections have worsened, more and more policymakers and experts are seeing the importance of these policies for jumpstarting growth and job creation.”
In his speech Thursday, Obama’s prescriptions will be in the same mold as they were in 2008 — infrastructure spending; housing aid, including an expanded refinance program and new measures to assist the unemployed, administration officials say. They will also include tax cuts to give extra cash to workers and spur hiring, as well as aid for states and localities. The cost of the programs is likely to be at least $200 billion, and a reluctant Congress would have to approve many of the ideas.
The clearest indication yet that the nation’s economic recovery has basically stalled came last week when the government reported that the economy added no jobs in August. And in an ominous sign for his political prospects, Obama’s economists also projected that the unemployment rate would remain around 9 percent through the end of 2012, far higher than they had said when he took office.
In his defense, Obama’s advisers like to point out — as the White House did last week — that 2.4 million private sector jobs have been created in the past 18 months.
But that ignores the portion of the economy where Obama has the most influence: government jobs, which have seen significant losses. When those are taken into account, the economy has added far fewer jobs — 1.7 million — over the past 18 months.