WEEK ONE HUNDRED & THIRTY-EIGHT

September 5, 2011     For the third consecutive year, President Obama celebrated the holiday that honors workers with union members and their families in a political swing state:

  • Obama promised job creation measures to reduce a nine percent unemployment rate and called on his Republican opposition to "put country before party"--speaking to a riverfront crowd estimated by police to number 13,000, the president said that he would propose "a new way forward on jobs" in his speech to a joint session of Congress on September 8th, and while he did not provide details, he said that millions of unemployed construction workers would be able "to get dirty" building roads, bridges, and other public works under his infra-structure proposals.

September 6, 2011     A Democrat-led Senate panel dramatically increased federal disaster aid in the wake of Hurricane Irene, setting up an almost-certain showdown with the GOP-controlled House, whose leaders have sought to limit disaster help unless it can be offset with spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget:

  • A subcommittee increased the disaster account to $6 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins October 1st, almost double the amount approved earlier this year by the Republican-led House and well above the White House request for $1.8 billion--the Senate version is likely to pass the chamber later this month or in October.

September 7, 2011

1.     In his speech before a joint session of Congress on September 9th, and with the U.S. jobless rate mired at 9.1%, President Obama is expected to call for extending a payroll tax cut for workers, more help for the unemployed, and special tax breaks for those who hire them, as well as creating jobs to repair roads and bridges:

  • The speech carries huge import for Obama since it comes a week after a dismal August jobs report showed zero job growth and reignited fears that the U.S. economy may be heading for another dive, and it also comes as national polls show Obama with the lowest job ratings of his presidency as the 2012 election campaign heats up--but polls show abysmally low numbers for Congress and especially for Republicans there, and White House officials said that Obama plans to show a frustrated electorate that he has a plan and is pressing Congress to act on it quickly.

2.     In July, companies advertised the most jobs in three years, and layoffs declined, a bit of hope for a weak economy--still, many employers are in no rush to fill openings:

  • The Labor Department said that employers increased their postings to 3.23 million from 3.17 million in June, the largest number of openings since August 2008--but more openings do not guarantee more jobs, and last week, the government said that employers failed to add any new jobs in August, the worst month for hiring since September 2010.

3.     World Economic Forum said that the U.S. has tumbled further down a global ranking of the world's most competitive economies, landing at fifth place because of its huge deficits and declining public faith in government:

  • The announcement by the global economic group was the latest bad news for the Obama administration, which has been struggling to boost the sinking U.S. economy and lower an unemployment rate of more than nine percent--Switzerland held onto the top spot for the third consecutive year in the annual ranking by the Geneva-based forum, Singapore moved up to second place, bumping Sweden down to third, and Finland moved from seventh place last year into fourth place this year.

September 8, 2011

1.     A record level of exports and a drop in oil prices narrowed the U.S. trade deficit in July to its lowest point in three months, and the jump in exports could give the economy a lift at a time when it's at risk of another recession:

  • The trade deficit fell to $44.8 billion in July, down 13.1% from June, the Commerce Department reported--imports dipped 0.2%, with most of the decline coming from a drop in oil imports, which fell six percent, mostly because oil prices fell.

2.     Mixing politically moderate proposals with a punchy tone, President Obama challenged lawmakers to "pass this jobs bill"--a blunt call on Congress to enact his $447 billion package of tax cuts and new government spending designed to revive a stalled economy as well as his own political standing:

  • Speaking to a joint session of Congress, Obama ticked off a list of measures that he emphasized had been supported by both Republicans and Democrats in the past, and to keep the proposals from adding to the swelling federal deficit, Obama said that he would also set his sights on a more ambitious target for long-term reduction of the deficit.
  • 3.     President Obama's jobs plan would:
    • Cut employee payroll taxes in half in 2012, a provision that carries a $175 billion price tag--administration officials said that would give $1,500 to an average American family;
    • Provide $35 billion in aid to cities and towns to keep teachers, firefighters, and police officers on the job;
    • Furnish $30 billion to modernize 35,000 public schools across the country;
    • Supply $50 billion for immediate road, rail, and airport construction;
    • Provide $10 billion for a private/public infrastructure bank;
    • Furnish $15 billion to put construction workers to work rehabilitating vacant and foreclosed homes and businesses--the administration said that the rehab project would bring in capital from the private sector and could help stabilize housing prices;
    • Expand high-speed wireless to remote areas, a proposal Obama said would cost $10 billion but could result in a net deficit of $18 billion through auctioning off spectrum rights;
    • Supply $70 billion in three tax cuts for employers, including cutting the payroll tax in half for employers on the first $5 million in wages and temporarily eliminating the employer payroll tax on wages for firms that add new workers or give existing employees pay raises;
    • Extend a tax break allowing all companies, big and small, to take an immediate deduction on investments in new plants and equipment;
    • Provide $62 billion in programs to help the long-term unemployed.

    4.     The number of people newly seeking unemployment benefits ticked up slightly last week, evidence that the job market is not improving:

    • Weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose by 2,000, the Labor Department said--the report suggests companies are not significantly increasing layoffs, despite weak economic growth, but it also signals that little hiring is taking place.

     

     

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