Finally, U.S. President Barack Obama is wearing his job, acting and talking with a plan and swagger becoming of his office. After unveiling a massive jobs initiative to get America out of its nine percent unemployment and flat growth doldrums late last week, Obama is now pushing Congress to get it done or get out of the way, so America can get moving again.
Obama is sending the $447 billion jobs bill, which he unveiled last week, to Congress on Monday with a strong message.
The only thing that's stopping it is politics, Obama said, addressing journalists from the White House Rose Garden on Monday. We can't afford these same political games... Let's get something done. Let's put this country back to work.
More than two years after the official end to the Great Recession, unemployment remains above nine percent and America's economy is barely growing at all. The national budget deficit has grown to more than $14.5 trillion as lawmakers have yet to find something that will result in sustainable economic progress.
But Obama's plan, though costly, was delivered with his commitment to make necessary budget cuts in the future so that the combination has a chance to yield winning results -- a growing economy and salve from unemployment's deep wound.
Called the American Jobs Act, the Democratic president's proposed legislation was unveiled before a rare joint session of Congress in a prime-time national television appearance. The legislation is both large, bold and reaching, attempting to give tax cuts for working Americans and small businesses -- among those ailing most in the slow-growth economy -- and spending initiatives in infrastructure, a time-tested winning federal formula.
Also, the legislation includes aid for cash-strapped states and local governments in the effort to keep public workers inclduing teachers and firefighters on the job -- and out of the way of what otherwise will be more public-sector job cuts. The plan, which is even hailed by some Republicans as solid, is a political throwing down of the gauntlet by Obama.
Seeking re-election for a second term amid America's economic shakiness, he's been attacked by presidential race contenders and many in Congress for failing the nation in his leadership role. Historically, also, sitting presidents have a hard time getting re-elected when national unemployment is above eight percent.
But where Obama gets credit beyond his plan is approaching the legislation above the partisan political fray. For perhaps the first time since he took office two-and-a-half years ago, Obama has talked with the bold language and conviction necessary to break through the political quagmire that so often develops in Washington.
This is a bill that will put people back to work all across the country, Obama said today. Let's pass this bill, he repeatedly appealed to Congress, asking for no games, no politics, no delays.
His challenge will be getting the legislation by some Republicans who might be bound to stand in the way, no matter what -- thinking that giving Obama a political inch might be giving him a mile toward re-election. Yet Obama is effectively battling that stance, pushing the responsibility to lawmakers by saying America cannot afford to wait.
The nation will always have political differences, he notes, but Americans need to get back to work and get the economy moving now.
The notion there are folks who would say we're not going to (support these economic initiatives) because it's not convenient for our politics... that's exactly what folks are tired of, he said. It's not okay in a time of great urgency and need across the country.
The challenge will be getting enough in Congress to agree that the legislation's price tag will not simply add more to the deficit so that if the plan doesn't work, the federal government will be in even worse shape. Many economists, however, suggest the plan is strong, and Obama argued that his bill is fully paid for.
Obama says that next week he will lay out a plan to reduce the deficit that he says will cover the cost of his jobs bill and further reduce America's $14.5 trillion deficit. On Monday, however, the White House gave an overview of that plan, saying Obama will pay for his $447 billion jobs plan by ending a series of tax breaks for oil and gas companies, hedge-fund managers and individuals making more than $200,000 annually, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Time will tell how Obama's bill manages in Congress, but one thing is clear already.
The President, who at times seemed unsure of himself and at risk to political follies in his first two years in office, seems to have found a stance and a voice on something America desperately needs -- a solid plan and a strong voice to get the country moving again.