Wed, Dec 09, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Obama to lay out plan for jobs creation in speech

AFP , WASHINGTON

US President Barack Obama was to sketch new ideas for creating jobs in the unemployment-scarred economy, amid signs of tempered optimism in the White House after a brutal economic year.

Obama was to give a major speech on the economy at the Brookings Institution in Washington yesterday, encouraged by data showing growth returning and the rise in job losses slowing to a crawl.

“Our biggest challenge now is making sure that job growth matches up with economic growth,” Obama said on Monday, hinting he could support diverting some unused taxpayer funds originally earmarked for the financial sector to help create jobs.

“We have had a very tough year, and we’ve lost millions of jobs,” Obama said, noting that his first job on taking office in the teeth of the crippling financial crisis had been to stave off a Great Depression-style slump.

“At least now, we are moving in the right direction,” he said.

But saddled with a huge budget deficit, Obama is also warning that those hoping for a second stimulus-style plan, or costly government spending to create jobs, will be disappointed.

Obama made clear at a White House jobs summit last week that the private sector would have to be the engine for job creation, though he promised a set of limited government measures to aid job growth.

On Monday, the president raised the prospect of using a portion of the financial industry bailout, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), to create jobs programs and trim the massive budget deficit.

The program was launched in October last year by former US president George W. Bush to rescue teetering finance firms and banks that appeared on the verge of a massive default, which could have endangered the wider economy.

“TARP has turned out to be much cheaper than we had expected although not cheap,” Obama told reporters at the White House. “Some of that money can be devoted to deficit reduction.”

“The question is, are there selective approaches that are consistent with the original goals of TARP — for example making sure that small businesses are still getting lending that would be appropriate in accelerating job growth?” he said.

Using TARP funds could be an elegant way of defusing some of the popular outrage over finance firms bailed out by the government that now appear set to award top executives huge bonuses, while ordinary Americans suffer.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Monday that Obama wanted to send a clear sign that he cared about high unemployment and wanted to reduce joblessness.

“What message does that send to Main Street? Help is on the way — it sends the message that your economic vitality is just as important as anybody that lives or works or breathes on Wall Street,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs said that spending TARP money to “create an environment for increased hiring for jobs” would help stabilize the economy.

The Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, supports spending TARP money to help fund job-creation measures.

“Creating jobs reduces the deficit,” she said.

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