SCOTT SIMON, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
And President Obama's on the road campaigning for his new jobs proposal. By trying to drum up public support, Mr. Obama hopes to conduce Congress to pass his plan. It includes nearly $450 billion in tax cuts and new government spending. Yesterday, the president made his case in Virginia before a crowd of 8,000 at the University of Richmond. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
SCOTT HORSLEY: President Obama is selling his jobs plan as a much-needed shot in the arm for a still struggling economy. The plan includes new public works projects, help for local school districts, training opportunities for those who've been out of work a long time, and more than $200 billion in tax cuts for workers and the companies that hire them.
President BARACK OBAMA: It will lead to new jobs for construction workers, teachers, veterans, young people, the long-term unemployed, provide tax credits for businesses and workers. And it will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for.
HORSLEY: The president says he will spell out his plan to pay for the jobs act and cut the deficit, but not for another week. Mr. Obama says Americans are understandably frustrated with the state of the economy. Unemployment is stuck above 9 percent, and a divided federal government seems unable to reach agreement on how to fix it.
But calling himself an eternal optimist, Mr. Obama said he still believes Congress can come together around a jobs plan like the one he's proposed. He insists there's nothing radical in his plan, and that Republicans and Democrats have both supported similar measures in the past.
OBAMA: I believe that if you just stay at it long enough, eventually, after they've exhausted all the options, folks do the right thing.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HORSLEY: The president's campaign-style event was in the home district of Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor, the leader of House Republicans. Cantor, along with House Speaker John Boehner, say they're willing to consider some of what the President proposed, though Cantor told Fox News he does not support Mr. Obama's plans for rehabbing roads, airports and schools, or the other parts of the bill that would require new government spending.
Representative ERIC CANTOR: I mean, more stimulus spending is not something that we believe is effective in terms of job creation. I think the nation has seen that. But there are some ideas in the president's speech that are geared toward small businesspeople, creating incentives for people to invest money and to hire folks. Those are the kind of things I believe we ought to work on right now and get moving.
HORSLEY: Last year, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office ranked different ways of boosting the economy, and found money spent on unemployment insurance offers the most bang for the buck, partly because the unemployed aren't likely to sit on their cash.
The CBO found infrastructure spending can also provide a big payoff, though it tends to come slowly. Cutting payroll taxes, especially for workers, ranks as a somewhat less efficient way of pumping money into the economy, but it's relatively straightforward and it may be the part of the president's plan that's most likely to win Republican support.
Mr. Obama hopes to boost his odds by taking his jobs message on the road.
OBAMA: The reason I'm here in Richmond, because to make it happen, every one of your voices can make a difference. Every one of your voices will have an impact.
HORSLEY: The president urged supporters to back up his call for speedy passage of the jobs act any way they can.
OBAMA: I want you to call. I want you to email. I want you to tweet. I want you to fax. I want you to visit. I want to you to Facebook. Send a carrier pigeon.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
OBAMA: I want you to tell your Congressperson the time for gridlock and games is over. The time for action is now. The time to create jobs is now. Pass this bill.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE AND CHEERING)
HORSLEY: Mr. Obama continues his road trip on behalf of the jobs bill this coming week, when he visits the important battleground states of Ohio and North Carolina.
Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.
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