In an effort to give voters confidence in a Democrat-led Congress, President Barack Obama drove home his party's support of the middle class and small business Wednesday, September 8 in a speech about the future of the American economy, job growth, and tax cuts for small businesses.
With the November 2 elections coming up, Obama has focused in the last week on the nation's sickly jobs market in an effort to win favor with voters, especially those who are unemployed. On September 3, the Labor Department reported that the U.S. unemployment rate rose to 9.6% in August from 9.5% in July. From May through August, the jobless rate has remained in the range of 9.5% to 9.7%.
"The middle class is still treading water" despite the nation's modest economic recovery and growing market stability, Obama said in a speech during a visit to Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio. "For years, our tax code has actually given billions of dollars in tax breaks that encourage companies to create jobs and profits in other countries. I want to change that."
Obama said he wanted to let the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush -- in 2001 and 2003 -- to expire at the end of 2010, but just for individuals earning more than $200,000 annually or couples earning more than $250,000. Keeping those cuts in place would benefit 97-98% of Americans, Obama said. The changes would affect dividend and capital gains rates as well.
In a speech that was as much about electioneering as public policy, Obama lambasted Republican House Leader John Boehner and his party numerous times.
"So let me be clear to Mr. Boehner and everybody else: We should not hold middle-class tax cuts hostage any longer," Obama said. "We are ready, this week, if they want, to give tax cuts to every American making $250,000 or less. Now, for any income over this amount, the tax rates would just go back to what they were under President Clinton."
Obama accused the Republicans of blocking legislation that they themselves had proposed during the Bush administration because Obama was now for it.
"When these same Republicans including Mr. Boehner were in charge, the number of earmarks and pet projects went up, not down. They turned a record surplus into a record deficit. When I walked in, wrapped in a nice bow was a $1.3 trillion deficit sitting right there on my doorstep," Obama said.
Obama urged the Republicans to pass the small-business job bill now in the Senate, saying it would cut taxes and make loans available to small business. "It is fully paid for, won't add to the deficit, written by Republicans and Democrats, and supported by the Chamber of Commerce. And yet, the other party continues to block this jobs bill -- a delay that small business owners have said is actually leading them to put off hiring," Obama said. "The only reason they're holding this up is politics, pure and simple. If I fail, they win. It may get them to win in November, but it won't get our country going where we need to go."
Also in his speech, Obama said he supported write-offs in 2011 for all companies that do business in America at the same time that he would close tax loopholes that give companies an incentive to send jobs overseas.
Boehner has called for a two-year freeze on all current U.S. tax rates and has proposed that the government cut 2011 spending to 2008 levels, before the controversial federal bailouts and Obama's $814 billion stimulus plan.
Obama's visit to Ohio comes as six House seats there are in play along with strongly contested U.S. Senate seat and governor's seats. And in Labor Day in Milwaukee, Obama announced a $50 billion in job-creating transportation infrastructure investments that would take place over six years.