Sputtering Recovery Prompts More Tinkering

Job growth this past spring had the Obama administration hopeful that the recovery would be more stable by Labor Day. Not so. And so Obama Friday renewed his call for the Senate to act on legislation to reduce taxes for small business. He promised more initiatives would be unveiled next week.

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President Obama plans to offer new proposals next week to help the economy along following more discouraging economic statistics. NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro reports it might have a tough time getting through Congress.

ARI SHAPIRO: The list of economic boosters President Obama could propose is long. The list of things Congress might pass is considerably shorter. As a case study, Mr. Obama talked yesterday about a small business bill that's been sitting on the Senate's to-do list for months.

President BARACK OBAMA: This piece of legislation is good for workers, it's good for small business people, it's good for our economy. And yet Republicans in the Senate have blocked this bill, a needless delay that has led small business owners across this country to put off hiring, put off expanding and put off plans that will make our economy stronger.

SHAPIRO: The White House is picking fights with Senate Republicans because the last few months have not fulfilled the administration's promise of a Recovery Summer.

President OBAMA: The evidence that we've seen during the course of this summer and over the course of the last 18 months indicate that we're moving in the right direction. We just have to speed it up.

SHAPIRO: Speaking with reporters in the White House Rose Garden yesterday, the president said he has some ideas for ways to speed it up.

President OBAMA: We need to take further steps to create jobs and keep the economy growing, including extending tax cuts for the middle class and investing in the areas of our economy where the potential for job growth is greatest. In the weeks ahead, I'll be discussing some of these ideas in more detail.

SHAPIRO: Unemployment numbers out yesterday show that the private sector gained 67,000 jobs in August. But 114,000 Census workers lost their temporary jobs, and overall unemployment grew from 9.5 to 9.6 percent. That news came on Christina Romer's last day on the job. She has been chair of the president's Council of Economic Advisers.

Ms. CHRISTINA ROMER (Council of Economic Advisers): You know, we had known there were going to be a number of headwinds. This is not a normal recession and it's not a normal recovery. And so that meant that, you know, consumers who have been through this searing crisis, have seen trillions of dollars of wealth destroyed, probably aren't going to go back to their free spending ways. So that was always going to be a headwind we had to be operating against.

SHAPIRO: In the next two months, midterm elections will dominate Washington. That means there's more pressure than ever on Democrats to show results on their effort to fix the economy. And there's more pressure than ever on Republicans not to let the Obama administration trumpet any political victories.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

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