Eager to jumpstart the economy ahead of crucial midterm elections, President Barack Obama said Friday he intends to unveil a new package of proposals, including tax cuts and targeted spending, to spark job growth.
Obama spoke in the Rose Garden after the August jobs report came out better than expected, showing the private sector adding 67,000 new jobs last month and revising upward the numbers from June and July. But unemployment ticked upward to 9.6 percent as more people entered the job market, and the president said it wasn't good enough.
"That's why we need to take further steps to create jobs and keep the economy growing, including extending tax cuts for the middle class and investing in the areas of our economy where the potential for job growth is greatest," Obama said.
"We are confident that we are moving in the right direction, but we want to keep this recovery moving stronger and accelerate the job growth that's needed so desperately."
Administration officials say a big new stimulus bill like last year's $862 billion measure is not in the offing nervous lawmakers looking to November's balloting would not be expected to approve an expensive new measure. But Obama said he'd be proposing a new set of ideas next week. He's likely to detail them during a speech on the economy Wednesday in Cleveland, midway through an economy-focused week capped by a rare White House news conference.
Obama's package could include a number of provisions that have languished in Congress for much of the year, including infrastructure bonds for municipalities and extensions for a series of tax breaks for businesses and individuals that expired at the end of 2009. Democratic leaders are considering making one of the tax breaks permanent, for businesses that invest in research and development.
They are also considering extending a law passed in March that exempts companies that hire unemployed workers from paying Social Security taxes on those workers through December. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has proposed extending the exemption an additional six months.
Obama is continuing to prod the Senate to pass a bill that calls for about $12 billion in tax breaks for small businesses and a $30 billion fund to help unfreeze small business lending. Republicans have likened the bill to the unpopular bailout of the financial industry. And the president wants to make permanent the portion of George W. Bush's tax cuts affecting the middle class.
The House has already passed many of the provisions, but they have stalled in the Senate because Republicans and Democrats could not agree on how to pay for them.
Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Reid hoped to be able to get the small business measure through once the Senate goes back in session later this month but the prospect for other ideas was cloudier. Moreover, some of the ideas are relatively small bore, so even if they did pass in the next month or two it's unlikely they'd make a real dent in the economy before the elections.
Departing White House economist Christina Romer told The Associated Press that the new proposals would be "targeted measures aimed at particular problems or incentivizing a particular area of the economy." Romer is leaving her post as chair of the president's Council of Economic Advisers on Friday to return to the University of California, Berkley.