Washington (CNSNews.com) – While demanding bipartisan support for a $447-billion jobs bill, President Barack Obama questioned whether Republicans want a “race to the bottom” and would allow children to be exposed to mercury.
“The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities. The question tonight is whether we’ll meet ours. The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy,” Obama said in his speech to a joint session of Congress.
“The question is -- the question is whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning.”
Sagging in the polls, Obama spoke to an even more unpopular Congress about his plans for reviving the economy. His so-called American Jobs Act – a second stimulus of sorts -- comes more than two years after Democrats passed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The current Obama plan includes extending the payroll tax cut agreed to last year, providing tax incentives for hiring, and providing funding for construction and infrastructure improvements.
Obama also had a response to Republicans’ calls to reduce job-killing regulations.
“What we can’t do -- what I will not do -- is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades,” Obama said. “I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients. I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy.”
“We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top and I believe we can win that race,” the president said.
Obama said the plan would be paid for, but specifics on that would be forthcoming. He said he would ask the recently appointed congressional “super-committee” to find ways of offsetting the bill’s price tag.
He called the plan “balanced,” saying it would “reduce the deficit by making additional spending cuts, by making modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and by reforming our tax code in a way that asks the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share.”
The president said he thinks Americans are with him on the issue of raising taxes on the rich.
“While most people in this country struggle to make ends meet, a few of the most affluent citizens and most profitable corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else gets,” Obama said. “Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary -- an outrage he has asked us to fix. We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake and where everybody pays their fair share, and by the way, 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.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the best thing the government can do is remove barriers to private sector job growth.
"The proposals the President outlined tonight merit consideration," Boehner said in a statement Thursday night. "We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well. It’s my hope that we can work together to end the uncertainty facing families and small businesses, and create a better environment for long-term economic growth and private-sector job creation.”