By Philip Elliott
Washington — President Barack Obama outlined major new government stimulus and jobs proposals on Tuesday, saying the nation must continue to “spend our way out of this recession.”
Without giving a price tag, Obama proposed a package of new spending for highway, bridge and other infrastructure projects, deeper tax breaks for small businesses and tax incentives to encourage people to make their homes more energy efficient.
“We avoided the depression many feared,” Obama said in a speech at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. But, he added, “Our work is far from done.”
For the third time in a week, Obama sought to focus on job creation, noting that the jobless rate continues in double digits and that “a staggering” 7 million Americans have lost jobs since the recession began in December 2007.
While his proposal did not include the kind of direct federal public works jobs that were created in the 1930s, he said government could set the stage for more job creation by private businesses.
Obama did not characterize his proposals as another stimulus program, like the $787 billion version passed earlier this year, but Republican critics have called it just that and have said it will increase a federal deficit that is already at a record level.
Obama included sharp criticism for Republicans in his speech, accusing them of opposing economic stimulus efforts and his health care overhaul while supporting tax cuts and spending that have ballooned the deficit.
He said that soon after taking office, he and congressional Democrats took “a series of difficult steps” to try to stabilize the financial system and pull the economy out of a deep recession.
“And we were forced to take those steps largely without the help of an opposition party which, unfortunately, after having presided over the decision-making that led to the crisis, decided to hand it to others to solve.”
Obama did not say how much his proposals would cost, although congressional Democrats are eyeing a $70 billion package to help create jobs and to provide aid to hard-pressed state and local governments. Administration aides suggested that the part of the package dealing with roads, bridges and other infrastructure could total about $50 billion.
While acknowledging increasing concerns in Congress and among the public over the nation’s growing debt, Obama said critics present a “false choice” between paying down deficits and investing in job creation and economic growth.
To pay for the new programs, administration officials are citing the Treasury Department’s report on Monday that department officials expect to get back $200 billion in taxpayer-approved bank bailout money faster than expected.
Obama suggested this windfall would both help the government spend money on job creation while also paying down the nation’s $12 trillion debt.