By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Local political sides are divided over the president’s modest plan announced Tuesday to create jobs.
There wasn’t much to the plan, mostly just small steps, including small business tax cuts and energy efficiency rebates for consumers. President Obama also suggested more money for roads, bridges and other infrastructure, but he did not release an actual price tag.
Administration officials, however, have told reporters that the White House is considering another $50 billion for such infrastructure — on top of money already earmarked for infrastructure projects through the president’s $787 billion economic stimulus package, signed last February in Denver.
The president also called for an extension of unemployment and health insurance benefits for the more than 15 million out-of-work Americans.
“There are those who claim we have to choose between paying down our deficits on the one hand, and investing in job creation and economic growth on the other,” said the president. “But this is a false choice.”
Many Democrats are calling for Obama to push for using some money from the $700 billion bank rescue fund that has been returned to taxpayers. Obama appears to be more interested in using the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP money — which has cost about $200 billion less than anticipated — to pay down the record U.S. budget deficit, rather than for initiatives to spur job growth.
Pat Waak, chairwoman of the Colorado Democratic Party, said Tuesday that TARP money should be used to spur job growth and help working families.
“The biggest way that we’re going to get the deficit down is to get the economy back on track, and when I say the economy back on track, it’s not just Wall Street, it’s Main Street too,” she said. “So, from my point of view, we use whatever we can to get the average person earning and get them jobs and able to take care of their families.”
Republicans viewed Obama’s speech Tuesday as little more than a political move — a necessary step to prove to Americans that the president still cares about them and the economy as he tackles foreign issues, including an unpopular military surge in Afghanistan. The White House jobs forum and visit to America’s industrial heartland last week was viewed the same way.
It’s no secret that double-digit unemployment has eroded the president’s popularity, with his approval rating slipping to around 47 percent, according to recent polling — a drop of around 7 percentage points from surveys last month.
Dick Wadhams, chair of the Colorado Republican Party, believes Americans don’t believe the stimulus package or the president’s domestic moves are working out.
“The first stimulus was absolutely a bust, it did nothing,” he said. “They can claim to save millions of jobs, but it didn’t create a job, and they can spend another $50 billion, or $500 billion, or whatever they want to try to throw into allegedly creating jobs — it’s just going to be another failure.”
Wadhams, like many of his Republican friends, believes the best way to save the economy right now is to defeat Democrats’ attempts at passing health reform and a cap-and-trade system to cut back on climate change. He said those bills would increase taxes and kill jobs.
“This is all for show, he’s trying to convince Americans he cares about them,” Wadhams said of the presidents’ speech Tuesday. “The public is against cap-and-trade, it’s against these health care proposals, and if he really wants to create jobs and he really wants the public to support him, then do the right thing and kill these job-killing machines running through Congress.”
Waak, however, believes the president’s speech Tuesday points to a positive strategy to get the economy back on track.
“There’s no silver bullet, there’s no one plan, there’s no one thing — I think that he’s kind of outlining those priorities that he has for investment, mostly for small businesses to grow, investments in infrastructure — which driving my roads I know we need — and then providing rebates to consumers for creating efficiency,” said Waak. “At least these are a few things that are really targeted to the individual consumer and not to Wall Street. That’s what needs to be done right now.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters