Obama Hinting at Stimulus Before Jobs Address

Speaking in Detroit, the president talks about building infrastructure

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In a Labor Day speech in Detroit, President Barack Obama hinted strongly that his Thursday address to the Congress on jobs will feature some Keynesian calls to rebuild public infrastructure.

Obama noted that there are "numerous roads and bridges that need rebuilding in the U.S., and over 1 million unemployed construction workers who are available to build them," the Associated Press reported, after Obama's appearance at a rally sponsored by the local branch of the AFL-CIO.

Lawmakers must stop dithering, Obama declared, but added that it might not matter.

"But we're not going wait for them," he said at an annual event sponsored by the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO. "We're going to see if we've got some straight shooters in Congress. We're going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party."
The president also talked trash to Republicans on the subject of tax cuts, or at least the payroll tax cut he has supported extending. "You say you're the party of tax cuts," Obama said. "Well, then prove you'll fight just as hard for tax cuts for middle class families as you do oil companies and the most affluent Americans. Show us what you've got."
If Obama is serious about funding infrastructure building as a way to stimulate new hiring, he'll offer a rare moment of cheer to some of those on his left (see Krugman, Paul) who believe one of the administration's biggest mistakes so far was the failure to make its initial stimulus package big enough to drive consumer spending.
The Daily Beast has a run-down of economists' ideas for what Obama could and should say on Thursday. Number Two on the list will look familiar:
2. Infrastructure. Obama spoke last week about America’s crumbling infrastructure and is likely to reprise the argument for more investment in roads, bridges, and schools. An analysis by Moody’s Analytics found that infrastructure could be the quickest way to boost payrolls. An EPI study noted that a $200 billion payment in 2012 and then again in 2013 could add 2 million jobs and get the unemployment rate close to 8.0 percent by the 2012 election.
Presidential hints aside, Obama's potential Republican opponents are not waiting for Thursday to pick apart the message they anticipate he'll deliver, or to say what he should be talking about instead.
“If the President’s gonna give a jobs speech, he needs to stand up and say, ‘We’re going to repeal Obamacare, we’re gonna repeal Dodd-Frank, we’re gonna stop the EPA from moving forward with any of these regulations they’ve got,’” Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a town hall meeting in South Carolina, where Politico reported he also took shots at former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
The stakes this week could not be higher for Obama, said Jim O'Sullivan in the National Journal. And what he calls for will not matter as much as how the call strikes his listeners.
His remarks will be notable less for the policies he proposes—which face circumscribed chances of passing in the Republican-controlled House—than for how they register on the public’s diminishing confidence meter. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the last president to win reelection when the Election Day jobless rate was above 7.2 percent, a number that must look awfully good to the White House right now.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.