- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Congress and the administration in the past three years already have used many of the standard moves in the playbook for spurring job growth, but President Obama rolled out a couple of new and untried ideas in his State of the Union address Tuesday with hopes of attracting lawmakers from both parties.

In a move to the center, he appealed for increased trade through a newly minted agreement with South Korea — emphasizing his theme of job growth and economic renewal through exports. At the same time, Mr. Obama threw his support behind plans to pare corporate tax rates in an effort to make job creation in the U.S. more attractive to corporations that wander abroad because of lower tax rates and labor costs.

Although the president’s plans in those areas likely will strike a bipartisan chord and build on the rapprochement with Republicans that emerged before Christmas with a deal to cut taxes and extend unemployment benefits, other parts of Mr. Obama’s job-creating agenda are expected to land with a hollow thud in the halls of Congress and are given little chance of enactment.

In particular, the president’s plan to increase spending on highways, bridges and other infrastructure — even though such public works projects have been a tried and true way to create jobs for thousands of unemployed construction workers since the Great Depression — will run headlong into Republican plans to slash transportation funding and other parts of the domestic budget by as much as 40 percent in coming years.

Likewise, any further plans for showering money on education, health care and green energy in an effort to create jobs likely will fall into a black hole in the Republican-led House.

**FILE** President Obama (Associated Press)
**FILE** President Obama (Associated Press) more >

“There is no money,” said Charles Krueger, an analyst at MF Global Washington Research group. “Obama’s $50 billion infrastructure plan faces long odds” despite well-documented needs for repairing bridges and roads, he said. “Congress still has the power of the purse and is loath to cut a check for any program, even if Obama labels it ‘investments in our future.’”

Indeed, Republican leaders have been warning Mr. Obama not to ask for more spending but rather to help them lead the charge in downsizing the government. At the same time, they are encouraging him to take the more centrist tack on trade and corporate taxes that the White House is promising.

“I’m hopeful that the president has listened to the American people,” House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said Tuesday in anticipation of the president’s call for expanding “investments” in selected areas. “I’m hopeful that the word ‘investment’ really isn’t more stimulus spending and a bigger government here in Washington.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told “Fox News Sunday” that the “investments” in Mr. Obama’s $800 billion stimulus bill, enacted two years ago, tried to generate jobs through increased spending on green-energy projects, infrastructure, health care and education, to little effect.

After losing more than 8 million jobs during the recession, the economy in the past year added 1.1 million jobs — not enough to satisfy the 14 million people looking for work or dramatically lower an unemployment rate stuck at about 9.4 percent.

But Mr. McConnell praised the idea of lowering corporate tax rates and pushing free trade.

“To the extent he actually wants to do some of these things, our answer is going to be yes,” the Kentucky Republican said. “We have the second highest corporate tax rate in the world right now. It’s not competitive. It doesn’t help us create American jobs.”

Mr. McConnell added that Republicans are eager to take up a trade agreement with South Korea as well as deals negotiated with Panama and Colombia by the George W. Bush administration. The White House estimates that the South Korean trade agreement would generate 70,000 jobs.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, Michigan Republican, on Tuesday called for enacting all three pending trade agreements within the next six months as “a sure-fire way to create American jobs by growing U.S. exports.”

On the trade front, Mr. Obama faces a fight with the left wing of his party.

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