Will the American Jobs Act Work?
by Wayne Hodges
Fresh off his post-Labor Day speech in which he revealed preliminary details of the American Jobs Act, President Barack Obama’s disapproval rating escalated to a new high of 55% while his approval rating sunk to a new low of 48%, according to a CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday.
Obama’s approval numbers are even more dismal in the areas of unemployment and economic growth, where he received diminutive ratings of 39% and 36% respectively. A few months ago, in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s death, public support for President Obama couldn’t have been higher. Now, amid heightened concerns stemming from the infamous debt ceiling debates, the S&P credit downgrade and a stalled economy, Obama may have to sweat out re-election.
Given the fact eight out of ten Americans are completely dissatisfied with the economy, inquiring minds would like to know one thing: If approved through congress, will the $447 billion American Jobs Act work?
Obama says it’s imperative Congress take immediate action. “We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless and a political crisis that has made things worse,” said Obama during his national address on employment. “We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake and everybody pays their fair share. And I believe the vast majority of wealthy Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order.”
Here’s the details of the American Jobs Act:
• The payroll tax would be cut in half on the first $5 million of businesses’ payrolls. The measure would cover 98 percent of U.S. businesses.
• Payroll taxes for businesses firms that increase their payrolls by adding new workers or increasing average wages would be eliminated. (The benefit would be capped at the first $50 million in payroll increases.)
• Payroll taxes would be cut in half for 160 million workers.
• New tax credits of $5,600 to $9,600 to encourage the hiring of unemployed veterans.
• Renovation of 35,000 public schools with new science labs, Internet-ready classrooms and other upgrades.
• Increased spending on roads, rail, airports and waterways.
• A “Project Rebuild” program to people to work rehabilitating homes, businesses and communities.
• An extension of unemployment insurance for 5 million more Americans.
• A $4,000 tax credit for companies that hire long-term unemployed workers.
• A new government fund to expand job opportunities for low-income youth and adults.
On paper, the plan looks absolutely scrumptious.
Tax credits to employers in exchange for hiring new employees? Sounds pretty good. Grants and government funding geared towards putting our nation’s teens back to work? Not too shabby. Renovation projects designed to upgrade functionally obsolete schools? A little pricey, but necessary nonetheless.
Like I said, everything looks delicious.
However, skeptics are quick to point out discrepancies in Obama’s $787 economic stimulus package in 2009 as a precursor for what to expect with his new conception. Some have even labeled it a ‘bust.’ As of now, even the most optimistic of Obama supporters would concur it makes little sense to confute the critics. Why?
The U.S. unemployment rate sits at 9.2 percent, a figure that would be significantly higher if both the underemployed and those who have conceded rejection were included. By underemployed, we’re talking former full-time workers who have been inflicted with part-time hours and zero benefits. Also, a U.S. record 44.2 million Americans are currently receiving food stamps; a figure that’s expected to grow as new job creation remains stagnant, and has been for months.
The economic numbers are even more grim for African-Americans.
The black unemployment rate continues to marinate at a depression-like 16.1 percent, including 17 percent for black men, 13.8 percent for black women, and (gulp)… 39.9 percent for black teens. Just a few weeks ago, an estimated 5,000 unemployed souls braved the excessive dirty south heat to attend a job fair in Atlanta. Ninety companies were reportedly present as hundreds, perhaps thousands, camped out over night; wearing their best business suits and office heels.
Most of the job hopefuls spent hours waiting in line. And dozens more received medical treatment for heat exhaustion. To prevent a repeat occurrence, the expectation here is that the American Jobs Act will actually spur job growth. Then there’s the sensitive issue of education.
College graduates return home equipped with diplomas and high hopes. But, in reality, most are saddled with large student loan debt accompanied by rapidly shrinking job prospects. State budget cuts in the areas of public education continue to decimate urban communities nationwide where most school closings, mergers and scholastic extractions take place.
For instance, in Kansas City last year, former Superintendent John Covington contracted a U.S. record 26 public schools (most in the urban core) to help the district slice $68 million from its dwindling budget. As a byproduct, hundreds of teachers were either fired, laid off or reassigned.
Twelve months later, after Covington divorces Kansas City to serve in a similar role in Detroit, we learn his “right-sizing” project hasn’t fulfilled the academic goals many had anticipated. Today, the district’s accreditation remains in serious jeopardy of a state takeover.
Again, will the American Jobs Act work? Will the proposal protect education and keep teachers tenured as Obama profoundly announced on national television? Will college graduates receive a fair shake? Because, as of now, the aforementioned group is feeling nothing but melancholy, heartache and contempt. To say that a confidence boost is needed would be a vast understatement.
No excuses. The American Jobs Act simply has to work. “We want them [Congress] to act now on this package,” said campaign strategist David Axelrod to ABC. “We are not in negotiation to break up the package. And it’s not an a la carte menu.” That’s right. An a la carte menu won’t do. For the economy to survive, a full entree and two sides are mandatory.
Wayne Hodges is the Editor-in-Chief of Mass Appeal News