House Republican Leader John Boehner today laid out a series of proposals he said would jumpstart the economy, previewing the agenda of a possible Republican-led Congress. He also called on President Obama to make sweeping changes -- starting with firing his own economic team.
The entire White House staff has proven to be deaf to the needs of small business owners and employers, Boehner said today in a speech at the City Club of Cleveland in Cleveland, Ohio. It is in part because of their "lack of real-world, hands-on experience," he said. The Republican leader noted that Mr. Obama's first Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag has already left the White House and said "the writing on the wall" for the rest of the president's team.
"President Obama should ask for - and accept - the resignations of the remaining members of his economic team, starting with Secretary Geithner and Larry Summers, the head of the National Economic Council," Boehner said. "We do not have the luxury of waiting months for the president to pick scapegoats for his failing 'stimulus' policies."
Boehner also called on Mr. Obama to extend all of the, set to expire at the end of the year. The president has proposed extending all of them except for individuals making over $200,000 or families making over $250,000. Boehner said that proposal puts the government "in the position of picking winners and losers and pitting taxpayer against taxpayer."
"Raising taxes on families and small businesses during a recession is a recipe for disaster - both for our economy and for the deficit," he said.
Additionally, as soon as Congress returns to work from its August recess, lawmakers should cut non-defense discretionary spending to 2008 levels, Boehner said.
"President Obama says we should wait and talk about a deficit reduction plan next year," he said. "I say, let's talk about it right now."
The White House was prepared this morning with a response to Boehner's speech, blasting his proposals as "an argument for a return to the economic policies that turned a surplus into record deficits and helped create the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression."
Extending the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans is a "tired approach" to economic recovery, wrote White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer, and "the poorest way to support our economy," adding more than $700 billion to the nation's deficits.
The Obama administration, Pfeiffer argued, has enabled private sector job creation for seven months in a row and has a plan to reduce the deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years.
While there may be signs of limited economic growth the White House can point to, Boehner in his speech hammered the administration for the continuing high levels of unemployment. He used the term "job-killing" in his speech 11 times while making two other references to policies that make it harder to create jobs.
"Jobs is the issue," he said, "and 'where are the jobs?' is the question I hear about everywhere I go."
Boehner said that if he were Speaker of the House, he would "run the House differently... differently than it's been run in the past under Democrats or Republicans."
He laid out a plan for spending cuts and tax reform, calling for "an honest conversation with the American people about the scope of our fiscal challenges," including a review of short-term and long-term commitments. He called for a review of both government programs as well as tax cuts that could be "just poorly disguised spending programs."
Boehner praised Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) for identifying $1.3 trillion in specific spending cuts that could be implemented immediately. He also promoted what he called "common-sense steps" like canceling unspent stimulus money. Republicans have proposed stimulus "alternatives," Boehner said, such as Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.)'s plan to give businesses with fewer than 500 employees a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income.
"Instead of growing big-government, let's focus on growing small businesses," Boehner said.
The Republican leader called on Washington leaders to pass pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. He also challenged Mr. Obama to veto any "job-killing" bills passed by the lame-duck Congress after this November's midterm elections -- he specifically cited the union-backed "card-check" bill (the Employee Free Choice Act) and a "national energy tax," referencing the climate change legislation passed in the House last year.