Obama cites income gap to push stalled jobs bill
Washington • President Barack Obama is banking on a new report detailing the income disparity in the country as further evidence of the need for his $447 billion jobs bill.
A report this past week by the Congressional Budget Office found that average after-tax income for the top 1 percent of U.S. households had increased by 275 percent over the past three decades. Middle-income households saw just a 40 percent rise. For those at the bottom of the economic scale, the jump was 18 percent.
Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday that he would pay for his jobs plan with an added tax on people who make at least $1 million a year.
Senate Republicans have blocked action on the bill, which mixes tax breaks for businesses and public works spending, because they oppose much of the increased spending and the tax on millionaires.
"These are the same folks who have seen their incomes go up so much, and I believe this is a contribution they're willing to make," Obama said. "Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress aren't paying attention. They're not getting the message."
Obama is now trying to get Congress to pass the individual components of the bill. But Senate Republicans also stalled progress on the first of those measures, $35 billion to help local governments keep teachers on the job and pay the salaries of police officers, firefighters and other emergency services workers.
Saying the country cannot wait for Congress, Obama has begun bypassing Congress and taking steps on his own that he says will encourage economic growth.
On Friday, Obama directed government agencies to shorten the time it takes for federal research to turn into commercial products in the marketplace. The goal is to help startup companies and small businesses create jobs and expand their operations more quickly.
The president also called for creating a centralized online site for companies to easily find information about federal services. He previously had announced help for people who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth and for the repayment of student loans. The White House also challenged community health centers to hire veterans.
"We can no longer wait for Congress to do its job," Obama said. "So where Congress won't act, I will."
The congressional report, based on Internal Revenue Service and Census Bureau data, was released as the Occupy Wall Street movement spreading across the country protests bailouts for corporations and the income gap.
In the weekly GOP message, Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling urged Obama to support bills that Republicans say would help create jobs by blocking various energy and environmental regulations and streamlining administrative procedures. The bills, passed by the Republican-controlled House, await action in the Democratic-run Senate.
Shilling said the bills give the White House and Congress an opportunity to build on the common ground created by the passage of recent free-trade agreements, and a measure to void a law requiring federal, state and many local governments to withhold 3 percent of their payments to contractors until their taxes are paid. Obama included repealing that tax in his jobs plan.
"Republicans have a jobs plan, one with some bipartisan support, but it's stuck in the Senate," said Schilling, owner of a pizza parlor in Moline, Ill. "We're asking President Obama to work with us and call on the Senate to pass the 'forgotten 15' to help the private sector create jobs, American jobs desperately needed."
Online: Hear the president's address
O To watch the president's address and the Republican response:
Obama address • whitehouse.gov
GOP address • youtube.com/HouseConference
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