- The Washington Times - Monday, September 12, 2011

President Obama warned Americans on Monday that politics was “stopping” his $447 billion jobs plan, saying so hours before he even sent the legislation laden with tax increases to Congress.

“I told Congress I’ll be sending them a bill called the American Jobs Act. Well, here it is,” Mr. Obama said in the White House Rose Garden, brandishing a sheaf of papers that appeared to be about 3 inches thick. “This is the bill that will help our economy in a moment of national crisis. The only thing that’s stopping it is politics.”

Mr. Obama, who announced the package of spending and tax cuts to a joint session of Congress on Thursday, again said the proposal is “fully paid for.”

He left to Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob J. Lew the job of explaining how the White House intends to pay for the plan — exclusively with tax increases, most of which would come by limiting itemized deductions on families earning more than $250,000 per year.

Mr. Lew said the plan would raise $400 billion over 10 years by clamping down on popular deductions, such as charitable donations and mortgage interest payments. Another $40 billion would be raised from oil and gas companies by closing tax loopholes; $18 billion would come from changing the taxation of carried interest from capital gains to ordinary income, a reform that would affect money managers on Wall Street.

For middle-class families, the jobs bill would extend payroll tax cuts of about $1,500.

“We have choices to make,” Mr. Lew told reporters at the White House. “To invest in jobs and growth, we’re going to have to pay for it.”

Many of these proposed tax hikes have been considered and rejected by Congress in recent years, including by many Democrats. A spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, expressed concern that the proposals are not realistic.

“It would be fair to say this tax increase on job creators is the kind of proposal both parties have opposed in the past,” said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck. “We remain eager to work together on ways to support job growth, but this proposal doesn’t appear to have been offered in that bipartisan spirit.”

The president and his team say they have Republicans on the run as they try to force a choice between raising taxes on the wealthy or raising taxes on the middle class. After the contentious debt-reduction talks of the summer that led to a downgrade of the nation’s credit rating, Mr. Obama thinks conservative lawmakers felt the heat from constituents at town-hall meetings during their August recess.

“I know he believes, because I’ve talked to him about it, that members of Congress and the House and Senate went back to their districts and states over the August recess and got an earful from their constituents,” said presidential spokesman Jay Carney, who added that the public is “fed up with what they’re witnessing in Washington.”

Mr. Carney said there is evidence that GOP leaders came back to Washington chastened.

“We certainly have seen, as you have, some conciliatory messaging, if you will, from some members of Congress,” Mr. Carney said in an apparent reference to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican. “We have seen some indication that the message of the American people is being heard by members of Congress.”

Asked why the president is holding five events in one week to urge passage of the bill if he has the upper hand against Republicans, Mr. Carney said it was a reflection of the modern diversified media.

“We do not — this president, any president — does not command the nation’s attention in the sheer numbers that a president used to, because of the way our media works,” Mr. Carney said. “So we have to keep focusing everyone’s attention on this.”

Mr. Obama lobbied for his jobs bill last week in Mr. Cantor’s district. He will promote the plan Wednesday in the swing state of North Carolina.

In concert with the president’s efforts, the Democratic National Committee is launching an ad campaign in key states to rally support for the bill. The ad urges viewers, “Read it. Fight for it. … Pass the President’s jobs plan.” The message will air in Denver; Tampa and Orlando, Fla.; Des Moines, Iowa; Las Vegas; Manchester, N.H.; Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C.; Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio; and Norfolk, Richmond and Roanoke, Va.; as well as in Washington, D.C.

The president said he will go into more detail next week about his ideas for further deficit reduction by a supercommittee of Congress, beyond the panel’s target of $1.5 trillion. Mr. Obama said the committee’s work could include paying for the cost of the jobs bill if lawmakers choose that option.

“Next week I’m laying out my plan, not only to pay for this jobs bill, but also to bring down the deficit further,” he said.

“We’ve got to decide what our priorities are,” Mr. Obama said. “Do we keep tax loopholes for oil companies, or do we put teachers back to work?”

The president was flanked by teachers, police officers, construction workers and small-business owners who he said his proposal would help.

Republican congressional leaders have said they are open to many of Mr. Obama’s suggestions, such as payroll tax cuts for employees and employers, tax credits for companies that hire the unemployed and tax write-offs for capital investments. The president also proposes extending unemployment insurance benefits and funding summer jobs for disadvantaged youths next year.

“It will make a difference,” the president said. “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.”

He derided Republicans for “playing politics,” saying he and Vice President Joseph R. Biden were discussing a news article Monday morning that quoted a GOP congressional aide as not wanting to help Mr. Obama’s plan succeed.

“That was very explicit,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s the attitude in this town. We’ve been seeing that too much around here. That’s OK when things are going well, you play politics. It’s not OK 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.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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