But many parts of his plan are controversial.
Obama, who has tangled with the oil and gas industry, reiterated that he supports opening up 75 percent of the nation’s potential offshore oil and gas reserves for exploration, but he also proposed ending “taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable.” Despite criticism of Energy Department loan guarantees, he said he wants to “double down” on clean energy.
He proposed to tax the vast pools of overseas corporate profits to try to persuade companies to move manufacturing jobs to the United States. But that would arouse the ire of many of the nation’s biggest and most influential corporations, which have been looking for tax breaks before bringing that money home. A handful of the biggest technology companies, for example, have well more than $100 billion parked overseas.
The president wants to put half the savings from the end of war spending into infrastructure, although many lawmakers want to devote all those savings to deficit reduction.
Obama also said he would ask Congress to approve a program that would allow homeowners who are current on their payments to refinance mortgages at the prevailing low interest rates. He said some of the administration’s proposed bank fees would cover the cost of the program. It’s another step for an administration that many housing experts say has not adequately addressed the deep and stubborn housing slump.
“I think it’s a good move,” said John Taylor, president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. “I think he’s getting it, that we have to save the property owner if we’re going to save the economy.”
Some of Obama’s supporters are daring to think that the economy might grow enough to convince voters that the nation is at least heading in the right direction. And on Tuesday night, the president claimed credit for a revived auto industry and for more private jobs being created in 2011 than in any year since 2005.
“American manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s,” Obama said.
Said Goolsbee: “If things continue like the last three months, that would be significant progress. The economy is almost certainly not going to be a big plus, but if it moves from one of the toughest things for the president to deal with to something not great but clearly improving, the implication for the president would be nothing but positive.”