Progressives who fretted whether President Obama would “go big” with his jobs speech Thursday night apparently needn’t have worried.
Many on the left, including organized labor, warmly embraced the $447 billion in job-creation proposals that the president outlined in his televised address to a joint session of Congress.
Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers union, called Obama’s American Jobs Act a “bold jobs plan.”
“President Obama has made it clear to us that job creation is his top priority – now it needs to become one for this Congress. Unemployment is stuck near double-digits and the economy stagnant. We need action now. Inaction is unacceptable,” the union leader says. “Calling Congress into a joint session signals that this isn’t business as usual. Quick and decisive action is necessary to begin to restore our economy by rebuilding our manufacturing capacity through important investments in our country and our people as proposed by the President. The billons of infrastructure investments announced by the President will drive new jobs in manufacturing. He is right in saying that the next generation of manufacturing must be Made in America.
“The American Jobs Act is a promising tool to restore confidence that our government will act to ignite economic growth, reduce our unemployment rate and provide sustainable good jobs,” Gerard adds. “It will put money in the pockets of working Americans, grow manufacturing, return teachers to classrooms hit by budget cuts, and cut taxes for small business.
Gerard and others pushed hard to get recalcitrant Republicans to go along and support the legislation.
“Congress must pass President Obama’s plan now,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa says. “The jobs crisis is an American problem. It isn’t President Obama’s problem and it isn’t a Republican or Democratic problem. All Americans need to come together to create good jobs for the good of our economy and the good of our country.”
“This plan will immediately increase economic activity and generate more tax revenue,” Hoffa adds. “That’s how you fix the deficit. Good jobs are good for the economy.”
Hoffa says the Teamsters will study the specific details of the plan as they are released in the coming days.
“I’m especially pleased that President Obama wants to invest in infrastructure improvements and in jobs for our military veterans,” Hoffa says. “I’m also pleased he recognizes the need to put money in the pockets of working people.”
Applause From Bernie Sanders
Obama also won applause from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, one of the Senate’s most prominent liberals who had earlier proposed many of the same policies the president spelled out Thursday night.
“With real unemployment at 16 percent and 25 million Americans without a full-time job, it is imperative that Congress pass a strong jobs bill that puts our people back to work — and that we do it immediately,” Sanders says.
“The president is right when he talks about rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, modernizing our schools, rehiring teachers and emergency responders who have been laid off, and making sure that veterans can find jobs when they return home from war,” he adds. “He is also right that the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations have got to begin paying their fair share of taxes.”
Still, Sanders says some questions remain to be answered.
“The question that I will be studying in the coming days is whether the president’s plan goes far enough to address the jobs crisis, and whether there is too much emphasis on tax breaks as opposed to direct investment,” the senator says. “I also want to take a hard look at what the president means when he talks about ‘reforming’ Medicare and Medicaid and what those ‘reforms’ mean to senior citizens and working families.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.