News / USA

President Obama Set to Deliver Major Economic Address

President Barack Obama speaks at a Labor Day event at General Motors Headquarters in Detroit, Michigan, September 5, 2011.
President Barack Obama speaks at a Labor Day event at General Motors Headquarters in Detroit, Michigan, September 5, 2011.

President Barack Obama is set to give a nationally-televised speech on his plan to try to help the 14 million Americans who are currently out of work.

The president will deliver his much-anticipated address to a joint session of Congress, which is bitterly divided between Republican and Democratic lawmakers as to what course of action the country should take to spark economic growth and reverse the downward spiral.

President Obama has raised the political stakes of his speech on his plan to create jobs and prevent a potential second recession by choosing the high-profile venue of the chamber of the House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by a strong Republican majority.  

Political analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia said the president's address to a joint session of Congress is likely to be viewed as a partisan political speech, laying the foundation for his 2012 re-election campaign.

"It is pretty obvious that this is going to be treated as a partisan speech,"  said Sabato. "The Democrats will treat it that way, and the Republicans will treat it that way. The Democrats will cheer almost every sentence, and the Republicans, for the most part I think, are going to sit on their hands.  Some have even said they were not going to attend.  So, this is being given in a partisan climate, we are very polarized, we had the disaster of the debt debate in August and there is a lot of hangover from that," he said.

The White House says the president is reaching out to Congress to put politics aside and to take action to reduce the high national unemployment rate that has been stuck at over nine percent.  

The president's program is expected to include $300-billion in tax cuts and new government spending aimed at creating conditions for faster job growth.  Mr. Obama will likely call on Congress to extend expiring payroll tax cuts, propose infrastructure improvement projects, and take steps to help cash-strapped local and state governments.

But the president is likely to face skepticism from Republican lawmakers.  Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina said speeches will not create jobs.

"People are tired of the president's lofty words, with actions that destroy jobs, Wilson said. "Americans want a change in course from the failed stimulus plans of borrow and wastefully spend."

On the other end of the political spectrum, progressive Democrats have called for the president to be "bold" and to propose large infrastructure spending projects to put thousands of Americans back to work.

But analyst Larry Sabato is doubtful that anything the president proposes can pass the Republican-controlled House.

"Whether the president plays big ball or small ball, he is not going to get these things passed," Sabato said. "Almost nothing is going to be passed.  His program will be dead on arrival in the Republican House."

Lawmakers have just returned to work this week from a one-month recess, which followed a bitter battle over raising the debt ceiling that created economic turmoil and shook stock markets around the world.

Representative John Dingell of Michigan, currently the longest-serving member of Congress, said his constituents told him that they are disappointed in members Congress for failing to work together to address the country's economic crisis.

"Is there anyone amongst us here that are proud that we could not produce a budget? That we caused a downgrading of U.S government securities?  That we caused appalling disorder and confusion in the market, stifling economic growth and job creation, and contributing to the hopelessness and misfortune of millions of Americans," Dingell said.

Republicans are not delivering a formal response to the president's jobs speech, but Republican Representative Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, is planning to hold a news conference after the speech.

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