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A whole year after taking office, Obama touts bipartisan job effort

Aretha Franklin

Has it been an entire year already since Barack Obama and Aretha Franklin's hat stood on the chilled stone steps of the Capitol and he took the presidential oath of office so full of hope and promising believable change?

Well, no, actually it's been less than 11 months since Jan. 20. It just seems like a year to the beleaguered president -- and some others too perhaps -- confronting rising Afghan war casualties, double-digit unemployment and about half the country already having fallen out of love with his job performance, faster than with any rookie president in about 60 years.

(Today's tracking poll shows Obama's job disapproval has stabilized at 52% with 48% nodding, while the favorable rating of an unemployed Alaskan author has closed in on him. Meanwhile, despite the holiday season, a new ABC News poll shows consumer confidence stuck at minus-47 on a scale of +100 to -100.)

So it's perhaps understandable that today after an attempted bipartisan meeting on stimulating more of those expensive new jobs, a tardy Obama made a public statement and accidentally referred to having taken office in 2008. (Good thing it wasn't that dumb brush-cutter from Texas mentally gaffing the date he took office or we'd have to make a lot of fun about it.)

See video below.

Obama was, as has become his mantra, pointing out what an awful economic situation his administration inherited after eight years of you-know-whose failed policies. Internal polls are telling his strategists that Americans are a whole lot more concerned about the economy and jobs and the ones they see their friends losing today than they are about happy Harry Reid's alleged healthcare deal.

So after months of hardly anything but healthcare, we're going to be hearing a whole lot more about jobs now (days after a jobs summit, Obama announced a plan to swap bank bailout money for job creation). At least until the beachfront White House opens in Hawaii for the holidays. After returning to Scandinavia briefly.

Here's what the president had to say inside the White House a short time ago. (In 2009.)

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Statement by President Obama on jobs, as provided by the White House

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  Sorry I'm a little late. I have just concluded an informative and constructive discussion with Republican and Democratic leaders about job creation and ...

...our economic future.  We spoke about the challenges facing our families, our businesses, and our country as a whole, and what we can do to overcome them. Today’s meeting built on some of the ideas that I offered in the economic speech that I gave yesterday and on some of the ideas discussed at the Job Forum that we held at the White House last week.

Looking at the situation we face today, what's clear is that our economy is in a very different place than it was when I took office last year. Our economy at that time was on the brink of collapse. The credit and the housing markets were in deep trouble and we were losing 700,000 jobs a month. Economists of every stripe were concerned that we might be slipping into a second depression.

That's not what happened.  Because of the Recovery Act and a number of other measures, and because of distasteful but necessary steps to help our auto industry recover and stabilize our banks, we've pulled our economy back from the abyss.  And while there's a lot of work left to do, our economy is now growing for the first time in over a year and we just received the best jobs report in over two years.

Of course, it's a sign of how tough times are that ...

... the best job report in two years still shows a loss of 11,000 jobs. And I'm not going to rest until every American who’s looking for work can find a job; until we put America back to work.

It's no secret that there's been less than full bipartisan support for the Recovery Act and some of the steps that have broken the freefall of our economy. But my hope is that as we move forward, we can do so together, recognizing that we have a shared responsibility to meet our economic challenges on behalf of all Americans -- those who elected us to make sure that we're doing the people's business.

Small businesses, for example, are the engines that drive much of the hiring in our economy. So we should be able to forge a consensus around a series of steps to help small businesses grow and hire new employees. These steps include elimination of the capital gains taxes on small business investment along with an extension of write-offs to encourage expansion in the coming year. And I've urged congressional leaders to create a tax incentive to create -- to encourage small businesses to add and keep workers.

I’ve proposed making an additional investment in the nation’s infrastructure beyond what was included in the Recovery Act, to continue modernizing our transportation and communications networks. We've already begun to do so. In the first six months of 2010, Recovery Act outlays on projects related to infrastructure will actually double what was done over the previous six months. This is not only going to put more Americans back to work, but this is also work that America needs done and will help fortify our economy for years to come.

I’ve called on Congress to provide temporary incentives for consumers to buy the materials needed to retrofit their homes for greater energy efficiency. This program will spur hiring and spending, promote energy conservation, and help Americans put more money in their pockets by saving on their energy bills. I’ve also proposed that we extend proven initiatives that promote energy efficiency and clean energy jobs. And to help Americans weather this economic storm, I’ve called for an extension of emergency relief to states, seniors, and citizens who need it most.

Finally, to support these efforts, we're going to wind down the Troubled Asset Relief Program, what’s known as TARP -- the emergency fund created to stabilize the banking system. This program has served its original purpose and the cost has been much lower than we expected, giving us a chance to pay down the deficit faster than we thought at the time and also allowing us to invest in job creation on Main Street rather than on Wall Street. 

More will need to be done to put our nation on a firm fiscal footing, and I’m looking forward to working with the group of leaders that I just met today about how we can structure a plausible scenario to get to medium- and long-term deficit reduction. 

Now, it's appropriate that I met with leaders of both parties. Spurring hiring and economic growth are not Democratic or Republican issues. They are American issues that affect every single one of our constituents.  I am absolutely committed to working with anybody who is willing to do the job to make sure that we can rebuild our economy and make sure that Americans all across the country, regardless of political persuasion, are seeing the kinds of opportunities that we expect here in the United States of America. 

I'm confident we can do so. I'm confident we can put our economic troubles behind us. But it's going to require some work and cooperation and a seriousness of purpose here in Washington. And I hope that as we enter into the holiday season the leaders that I just met with will feel the same way. Thank you very much.    ###

[Updated at 2:38 p.m.: Here is a quote from House Republican leader John Boehner after his White House meeting that would seem to indicate a bipartisan spirit did not reign at the session: 

We were at the White House today to have a meeting with the president about jobs, and how to get the economy going, and how to put the American people back to work. Because you know, the American people are the ones asking, "Where are the jobs?"

And I think the first thing that we have to do is to stop the job-killing policies coming out of this Congress and this administration. And so, when we were making this point over and over at the meeting today at the White House, the president said, listen, it’s not my agenda, it’s you Republicans who are out there scaring the American people. It was breathtaking.]

Photo credit: Ron Edmonds / Associated Press

 
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To Repugs everywhere....
Yes you really screwed up the economy but good and it will take time to undo the mess you made. Keep belly-aching about the slow recovery, it is a testimony to how thoroughly you loused things up. As for bi-partisan politics, the term did not even exist for the previous eight years.

That Obama! Do his teleprompter loaders actually CHECK what they put on the thing? He didn't take office last year -- it was THIS year you do-do head. No wonder he can't do anything to improve the economy.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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