Coming off of last week's Jobs Forum, and the White House continues to be informed by Community Jobs Forums being held by citizens and public officials across the country, it seems a good time to take stock of the economy and look towards some next steps in the President overall approach.
It was in that vein that the President gave an address at the Brookings Institute this morning. As the President said, "we're in a very different place today than we were a year ago," with the latest jobs report being the best since 2007, in no small part because of the actions taken by his Administration. There was the Recovery Act, which has saved or created over a million jobs so far through countless investments in infrastructure, green jobs, and elsewhere. There was TARP – "there has rarely been a less loved or more necessary emergency program than TARP” he said, but added that it has “indisputably helped prevent a collapse of the entire financial system."
Looking forward, he focused on a few specific areas for next steps:
1. Helping Small Businesses Expand Investment, Hire Workers and Access Credit
First, we're proposing a series of steps to help small businesses grow and hire new staff. Over the past 15 years, small businesses have created roughly 65 percent of all new jobs in America. These are companies formed around kitchen tables in family meetings, formed when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, formed when a worker decides it's time she became her own boss. These are also companies that drive innovation, producing 13 times more patents per employee than large companies. And it's worth remembering, every once in a while a small business becomes a big business -- and changes the world.
2. Investing in America’s Roads, Bridges and Infrastructure
Second, we're proposing a boost in investment in the nation's infrastructure beyond what was included in the Recovery Act, to continue modernizing our transportation and communications networks. These are needed public works that engage private sector companies, spurring hiring all across the country. Already, more than 10,000 of these projects have been funded through the Recovery Act. And by design, Recovery Act work on roads, bridges, water systems, Superfund sites, broadband networks, and clean energy projects will all be ramping up in the months ahead. It was planned this way for two reasons: so the impact would be felt over a two-year period; and, more importantly, because we wanted to do this right.
3. Creating Jobs Through Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy Investments
Third, I'm calling on Congress to consider a new program to provide incentives for consumers who retrofit their homes to become more energy-efficient, which we know creates jobs, saves money for families, and reduces the pollution that threatens our environment. And I'm proposing that we expand select Recovery Act initiatives to promote energy efficiency and clean energy jobs which have been proven to be particularly popular and effective. It's a positive sign that many of these programs drew so many applicants for funding that a lot of strong proposals -- proposals that will leverage private capital and create jobs quickly -- did not make the cut. With additional resources, in areas like advanced manufacturing of wind turbines and solar panels, for instance, we can help turn good ideas into good private sector jobs.
Recognizing that many people continue to struggle in the same ways they were when the Recovery Act was enacted, he also called for extending the relief passed as part of that package, and which will also help the economy in general:
Finally, as we are moving forward in these areas, we should also extend the relief in the Recovery Act, including emergency assistance to seniors, unemployment insurance benefits, COBRA, and relief to states and localities to prevent layoffs. This will help folks weathering these storms, while boosting consumer spending and promoting job growth.
Read more specifics on all of the points in the White House fact sheet. The President closed with broad, and hopeful strokes: "These have been a tough two years. And there will no doubt be difficult months ahead. But the storms of the past are receding. The skies are brightening. And the horizon is beckoning once more."