U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday continued to urge Congress to pass legislation he said would add more jobs for teachers as Republicans and Democrats bickered over whether expanding the public sector would strengthen the economy.
In a weekly video address, Obama said education is critical to producing talented workers and American success. Careful to avoid mentioning the private sector -- after coming under fire from Republicans for claiming the private sector is doing fine -- he reiterated the message from a Friday press conference that creating more federal jobs is key to cushioning the blow from headwinds in Europe that are affecting finances at home.
When states struggle, it's up to Congress to step in and help out ... That's why a critical part of the jobs bill that I sent to Congress back in September was to help states prevent even more layoffs and rehire even more teachers who had lost their jobs, Obama said in the video address. But, months later, we're still waiting on Congress to act.
Obama added that he understands every governor is dealing with limited resources, but that was no excuse for inaction and that some things are bigger than an election year.
Congress -- or, more specifically, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives -- was the topic of discussion Friday when Obama assailed lawmakers for letting the $447 billion American Jobs Act he proposed last year collect dust on the shelf.
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Congress refused to pass the jobs plan in full, Obama said Friday. They left most of the plan just sitting there. In light of the headwinds facing us now, I urge them to reconsider.
That message was largely overshadowed by a gaffe the president made, saying the private sector is doing fine and that the weakness in our economy ha[s] to do with state and local government not getting enough federal money.
Republicans pounded on the quote, which Obama later walked back, parading it as evidence that the president was unaware of the true state of the economy. The GOP's presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his supporters have made the economy the focal point of their campaign, using the unemployment rate and slow recovery to argue against a second term for Obama.
Is he really that out of touch? I think he's defining what it means to be detached and out of touch with the American people, Romney told supporters in Council Bluffs, Iowa, according to the Boston Herald. Has there ever been an American president who is so far from reality?
Romney cited 23 million Americans who are unemployed, are underemployed, or had dropped out of the labor force; record home foreclosures, the median income dropping 10 percent over the past four years; and a slow-growing economy.
For the president of the United States to stand up and say that the private sector is doing fine is going to go down in history as an extraordinary miscalculation and misunderstanding by a president is out of touch, and we're going to take back this country and get America working again, Romney said.
Republicans don't support Obama's American Jobs Act because they said there aren't enough funds, claiming it would raise taxes on the wealthy -- and job creators -- and hurt the economy rather than help it.
Obama's private-sector gaffe provided the perfect opportunity to further pin on the president a dismal jobs report that came out last week, when it was noted the unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent and fewer new jobs were created than had been expected. Republicans have also criticized the president for often blaming the poor state of the country's finances on headwinds, or factors beyond his control.
After four years of blaming 'headwinds,' maybe it's time for Obama to look in the mirror, said a Republican National Committee web ad released this week.
But the rhetoric also highlights the fundamental differences between what Republicans and Democrats think would best aid the struggling economy.
Obama cited the decreasing number of teachers in his weekly address, including 9,000 fewer educators in Pennsylvania and 7,000 fewer teachers in Ohio now than there were a year ago.
The point is: teachers matter, Obama said Saturday. One study found that a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. A great teacher can change the course of a child's life. The last thing our country needs is to have fewer teachers in our schools.
The same thing can sound like music to the ears of one group -- and like a godawful racket to the ears of another group. In Iowa, Romney said Obama's plan to hire more public-sector workers makes big government bigger and takes more money away from the American taxpayer.
He wants to hire more government workers. He says he wants more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message in Wisconsin? Romney said, referring to Republican Gov. Scott Walker's easy win in a recall election last week. People did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.