Sunday, October 4, 2009

As the unemployment rate continues to climb, President Obama is trying to make the case that his health care overhaul would create jobs by making small business startups more affordable.

Dismissive Republicans blamed the continuing job losses on Democratic policies and said the president’s health proposals won’t help.

In his weekly radio and Internet video address Saturday, Mr. Obama linked one of his biggest challenges - joblessness - with passage of far-reaching changes to the nation’s health care system.

If aspiring entrepreneurs are able to stay insured while switching jobs, Mr. Obama said, they will start new businesses and hire workers.

The unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent in September, the highest since June 1983, as employers cut far more jobs than expected. The government reported Friday that the economy lost a net total of 263,000 jobs last month, from a downwardly revised 201,000 in August.

All told, 15.1 million people are now out of work, the Labor Department said, and 7.2 million jobs have been eliminated since the recession began in December 2007.

Mr. Obama said he has met people “who’ve got a good idea and the expertise and determination to build it into a thriving business.

“But many can’t take that leap because they can’t afford to lose the health insurance they have at their current job,” he said.

Small businesses create many of the nation’s jobs, Mr. Obama said, and some have the potential to become big companies.

Mr. Obama praised the Senate Finance Committee for crafting a health care bill that includes many of his priorities. Small businesses could buy health insurance through an exchange, he said, “where they can compare the price, quality and services of a wide variety of plans.”

The government would subsidize health insurance for many businesses and individuals, the president said.

Mr. Obama acknowledged that a health care bill is far from final passage in the Democrat-led Congress.

The Senate Finance Committee bill will be merged with another committee’s version and sent to the full Senate, where scores of amendments might be offered and Republicans could mount a filibuster. The House is advancing a more liberal bill that includes a public option to compete with private health insurers. The Senate Finance Committee rejected that idea.

Mr. Obama said “reforming our health insurance system will be a critical step in rebuilding our economy so that our entrepreneurs can pursue the American dream again and our small businesses can grow and expand and create new jobs again.”

In the weekly Republican address, Rep. Candice S. Miller of Michigan said the Obama-backed $787 billion economic stimulus package fell far short of its goals. She criticized a House-passed energy bill that would set limits and costs on greenhouse-gas emissions. The plan, which the Senate has not taken up, “would increase electricity bills, raise gasoline prices and ship more American jobs overseas,” Mrs. Miller said.

She called for deeper tax cuts for small businesses so the economy can get back on track.

“Washington Democrats’ job-killing agenda makes me think they’re living on a different planet from the families living in America’s suffering heartland,” Mrs. Miller said.

As for health care, Mrs. Miller said, “Washington Democrats intend to fund their government-run health care plan with cuts to Medicare benefits” and with new taxes on businesses.

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