Facing an economy that is creating far fewer jobs than hoped, President Barack Obama called on Congress to do more to stimulate hiring.
Speaking at a forum in Minnesota on Friday, Obama said there is no excuse for Congress not to act on proposals to boost the economy.
"I'll give them a little bit of credit: Congress has passed a few parts of [my] jobs bill, like a tax cut that's allowing working Americans to keep more of your paychecks every week," Obama said. "That was important. I appreciated it. But Congress has not acted on enough of the other ideas in that bill that would make a difference and help create jobs right now."
He added, "There's no excuse for it. Not when there are so many people out there still looking for work. … It's not lost on anybody that it's an election year -- I understand that; I've noticed."
Obama said that elected officials have a greater responsibility to the people than to their party or the outcome of the next election.
"The American people expect their leaders to work hard no matter what year it is," he said. "The economy still isn't where it needs to be. There are steps that could make a difference right now -- steps that can also serve as a buffer in case the situation in Europe gets any worse."
Specifically, Obama called on Congress to enact measures to support state and local governments and reverse layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police officers - a "chronic problem" for the recovery, he said.
"Congress should have passed a bill a long time ago to put thousands of construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our runways," he said. "Since the housing bubble burst, no sector has been hit harder than the construction industry, and we've got all this stuff that needs [to be] fixed."
He added, "So this is a problem we can fix. Let's do it right away."
Obama also rejected GOP proposals to cut taxes for the wealthy and instead urged the passage of a bill supporting small businesses.
"Instead of just talking about job creators, Congress should give small business owners a tax break for hiring more workers and paying them higher wages," he said. "We can get it done right now. Let's not wait."
Furthermore, Obama said, Congress should do more to provide incentives for companies who hire veterans as the nation winds down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We just observed Memorial Day, which makes us think about the extraordinary sacrifices so many make," he said. "But we've got to make sure we translate words into action."
He added, "We can't just be in a parade, can't just march. We also have to deliver for our veterans."
Obama said it remains unfortunate that the skills learned on the battlefield do not translate into the civilian certifications and licenses many employers are looking for.
"At the same time, I hear from business leaders all the time who say they can't find enough workers with the skills necessary to fill open positions," he said. "We [have] got all these openings and all these skilled veterans looking for work, and somehow they're missing each other."
He added, "That doesn't make any sense. … That's where we're going to fix it."
The government, Obama said, would work with civilian employers to try to find new opportunities for returning veterans to find jobs and to translate their military work into civilian certifications.
"Standing up for our veterans, this is not a Democratic responsibility, it's not a Republican responsibility -- it's an American responsibility," he said. "It's an obligation of every citizen who enjoys the freedom that these heroes defended."
He added, "Just like you fought for us, we'll keep fighting for you -- for more jobs, more security, for the opportunity to keep your families strong -- because you'll help us keep America on top in the 21st century."
by RTT Staff Writer
For comments and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org