Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
UPDATED WITH COMPLETE REMARKS (at end of post) Waving a thick blue-and-white document, President Barack Obama formally introduced the American Jobs Act, the much-touted jobs bill he announced last week at a joint session of Congress.
Surrounded by construction workers, teachers, small business owner, veterans, and others he said would benefit from the bill at a brief Rose Garden ceremony, the President said :
"Well, here it is, this is a bill that will put people back to work all across the country. This is the bill the congress needs to pass, no games, no politics, no delays. I’m sending it to congress today and they ought to pass it immediately."
Citing "highways that are backed up with traffic" and "airports that are clogged," the President said the bill would help construction workers all over the country.
In last week's outline of the bill, the White House said it would include $50 billion in expedited spending on roads, bridges, and other transportation, and $10 bill launch a National Infrastructure Bank to funnel private capital into U.S. transportation construction and to nationalize the decision-making process about what get's built and what doesn't.
Complete remarks follow. We'll have full analysis later.
THE PRESIDENT: Please, everybody, have a seat, on this beautiful morning. It's wonderful to see all of you here.
On Thursday, I told Congress that I’ll be sending them a bill called the American Jobs Act. Well, here it is. (Applause.) This is a bill that will put people back to work all across the country. This is the bill that will help our economy in a moment of national crisis. This is a bill that is based on ideas from both Democrats and Republicans. And this is the bill that Congress needs to pass. No games. No politics. No delays. I’m sending this bill to Congress today, and they ought to pass it immediately. (Applause.)
Standing with me this morning are men and women who will be helped by the American Jobs Act. I’m standing with teachers. All across America, teachers are being laid off in droves -- which is unfair to our kids, it undermines our future, and it is exactly what we shouldn’t be doing if we want our kids to be college-ready and then prepared for the jobs of the 21st century. We've got to get our teachers back to work. (Applause.) Let's pass this bill and put them in the classroom where they belong. (Applause.)
I’m standing here with veterans. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of brave, skilled Americans who fought for this country. The last thing they should have to do is to fight for a job when they come home. So let’s pass this bill and put the men and women who served this nation back to work. (Applause.)
We're standing here with cops and firefighters whose jobs are threatened because states and communities are cutting back. This bill will keep cops on the beat, and firefighters on call. So let’s pass this bill so that these men and women can continue protecting our neighborhoods like they do every single day. (Applause.)
I’m standing with construction workers. We've got roads that need work all over the country. Our highways are backed up with traffic. Our airports are clogged. And there are millions of unemployed construction workers who could rebuild them. So let’s pass this bill so road crews and diggers and pavers and workers -- they can all head back to the jobsite. There's plenty of work to do. This job -- this jobs bill will help them do it. Let’s put them back to work. Let's pass this bill rebuilding America. (Applause.)
And there are schools throughout the country that desperately need renovating. (Applause.) We cannot -- got an "Amen" over there. (Laughter and applause.) We can't expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart. This is America. Every kid deserves a great school -- and we can give it to them. Pass this bill and we put construction crews back to work across the country repairing and modernizing at least 35,000 schools.
I’m standing here with small business owners. They know that while corporate profits have come roaring back, a lot of small businesses haven’t. They're still struggling -- getting the capital they need, getting the support they need in order to grow. So this bill cuts taxes for small businesses that hire new employees and for small businesses that raise salaries for current employees. It cuts your payroll tax in half. And all businesses can write off investments they make this year and next year. (Applause.) Instead of just talking about America’s job creators, let’s actually do something for America’s job creators. We can do that by passing this bill. (Applause.)
Now, there are a lot of other ways that this jobs bill, the American Jobs Act, will help this economy. It’s got a $4,000 tax credit for companies that hire anybody who spent more than six months looking for a job. We’ve got to do more for folks who've been hitting the pavement every single day looking for work, but haven’t found employment yet. That’s why we need to extend unemployment insurance and connect people to temporary work to help upgrade their skills.
This bill will help hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people find summer jobs next year -- jobs that will help set the direction for their entire lives. And the American Jobs Act would prevent taxes from going up for middle-class families. If Congress does not act, just about every family in America will pay more taxes next year. And that would be a self-inflicted wound that our economy just can’t afford right now. So let’s pass this bill and give the typical working family a $1,500 tax cut instead. (Applause.)
And the American Jobs Act is not going to add to the debt -- it’s fully paid for. I want to repeat that. It is fully paid for. (Laughter.) It’s not going to add a dime to the deficit. Next week, I’m laying out my plan not only to pay for this jobs bill but also to bring down the deficit further. It’s a plan that lives by the same rules that families do: We’ve got to cut out things that we can’t afford to do in order to afford the things that we really need. It’s a plan that says everybody -- including the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations -- have to pay their fair share. (Applause.)
The bottom line is, when it comes to strengthening the economy and balancing our books, we’ve got to decide what our priorities are. Do we keep tax loopholes for oil companies -- or do we put teachers back to work? Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires -- or should we invest in education and technology and infrastructure, all the things that are going to help us out-innovate and out-educate and out-build other countries in the future?
We know what’s right. We know what will help businesses start right here and stay here and hire here. We know that if we take the steps outlined in this jobs plan, that there's no reason why we can’t be selling more goods all around the world that are stamped with those three words: “Made in America.” That’s what we need to do to create jobs right now. (Applause.)
I have to repeat something I said in my speech on Thursday. There are some in Washington who’d rather settle our differences through politics and the elections than try to resolve them now. In fact, Joe and I, as we were walking out here, we were looking at one of the Washington newspapers and it was quoting a Republican aide saying, “I don't know we’d want to cooperate with Obama right now. It’s not good for our politics.” That was very explicit.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It was.
THE PRESIDENT: I mean, that’s the attitude in this town -- "yeah, we’ve been through these things before, but I don't know why we’d be for them right now." The fact of the matter is the next election is 14 months away. And the American people don’t have the luxury of waiting 14 months for Congress to take action. (Applause.) Folks are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck. They need action. And the notion that there are folks who would say, we’re not going to try to do what’s right for the American people because we don't think it’s convenient for our politics -- we’ve been seeing that too much around here. And that’s exactly what folks are tired of.
And that’s okay, when things are going well, you play politics. It’s not okay at a time of great urgency and need all across the country. These aren’t games we’re playing out here. Folks are out of work. Businesses are having trouble staying open. You’ve got a world economy that is full of uncertainty right now -- in Europe, in the Middle East. Some events may be beyond our control, but this is something we can control. Whether we not -- whether or not we pass this bill, whether or not we get this done, that’s something that we can control. That’s in our hands.
You hear a lot of folks talking about uncertainty in the economy. This is a bit of uncertainty that we could avoid by going ahead and taking action to make sure that we’re helping the American people.
So if you agree with me, if you want Congress to take action, then I’m going to need everybody here and everybody watching -- you’ve got to make sure that your voices are heard. Help make the case. There's no reason not to pass this bill. Its ideas are bipartisan. Its ideas are common sense. It will make a difference. That’s not just my opinion; independent economists and validators have said this could add a significant amount to our Gross Domestic Product, and could put people back to work all across the country. (Applause.) So the only thing that’s stopping it is politics. (Applause.) And we can’t afford these same political games. Not now.
So I want you to pick up the phone. I want you to send an email. Use one of those airplane skywriters. (Laughter.) Dust off the fax machine. (Laughter.) Or you can just, like, write a letter. (Laughter.) So long as you get the message to Congress: Send me the American Jobs Act so I can sign it into law. Let’s get something done. Let’s put this country back to work.
Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. (Applause.)