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Obama Works To Set Agenda On Jobs, Deficit

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Obama Works To Set Agenda On Jobs, Deficit


Obama Works To Set Agenda On Jobs, Deficit

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MICHELE NORRIS, host: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

In a Rose Garden ceremony surrounded by teachers, construction workers and police officers, President Obama presented his jobs bill to Congress. He says the package of tax cuts and infrastructure spending will not only boost the economy and create new jobs, it will also be paid for. Mr. Obama promises to campaign hard for the bill, traveling to Ohio tomorrow and North Carolina the day after that. NPR's Mara Liasson reports.

MARA LIASSON: In the past, President Obama has preferred to send broad outlines for legislation up to Capitol Hill, leaving the details to Congress, but not anymore.

President BARACK OBAMA: On Thursday, I told Congress that I'll be sending them a bill called the American Jobs Act. Well, here it is. This is...

LIASSON: President Obama is challenging Congress to pass his bill or else be blamed for continued unemployment and a tax hike since the payroll tax cut he wants to extend and expand expires at the end of the year.

OBAMA: If Congress does not act, just about every family in America will pay more taxes next year, and that would be a self-inflicted wound that our economy just can't afford right now. So let's pass this bill and give the typical working family a $1,500 tax cut instead.

LIASSON: The White House says the lion's share of the $450 billion jobs bill can be offset by limiting itemized deductions for the rich, even though that idea has been rejected in the past by Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

In addition to this short-term stimulus, the president will also lay out next week specific recommendations for long-term deficit reduction. He'll tell the new deficit reduction supercommittee that everybody, including the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations, should pay their fair share.

OBAMA: Do we keep tax loopholes for oil companies or do we put teachers back to work? Do we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires or should we invest in education and technology and infrastructure, all the things that are going to help us out-innovate and out-educate and out-build other countries in the future?

LIASSON: The supercommittee is supposed to find a minimum of $1.2 trillion in savings, but there are calls for the committee to go further. Today, the chairs of the president's fiscal commission released a letter urging the committee to go big. Co-chairman Erskine Bowles says $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction is not enough.

ERSKINE BOWLES: We need to act and we need to act now.�We need to do this to reassure the markets. And we also need to do it to restore public trust, the trust that was lost during the whole debt default debacle.

LIASSON: Going big means total deficit reduction of about $4 trillion over 10 years, and that means taking yet another stab at the grand bargain, raising some tax revenue while making changes in Medicare and Social Security. But since taxes and entitlements are so politically polarizing, budget expert Stan Collender thinks this latest try at a grand bargain will face the same challenges as all the previous attempts.

STAN COLLENDER: First of all, we have to stop thinking of the supercommittee as a superhero. It doesn't have unbelievable powers to jump over, you know, politics. So it is going to - the supercommittee is going to have enough trouble just doing the basic job of trying to come up with 1.2 trillion in deficit reductions. And the idea that we're going to suddenly ask it to do more, maybe a lot more, is a little ludicrous.

LIASSON: But, says Collender, sooner or later, the deficit will have to be brought down and the solution will be some mix of spending cuts, tax reforms and entitlement reforms, because that's where every group that's tried has ended up, whether it's the Gang of Six, the speaker and the president, or umpteen deficit commissions.

COLLENDER: It doesn't make any difference whether it's a bipartisan group or a largely Republican or largely Democratic group or, you know, something inside or outside government. Essentially, you're going to look at the same things and come to the same conclusions if the goal is actually to reduce the deficit.

LIASSON: President Obama says he wants the special committee to go beyond the minimum $1.2 trillion in savings, but by how much? For now, the White House will only say the president will put forward his plans for the tax code and entitlements next week, the two big reforms that put the grand in any grand bargain.

Mara Liasson, NPR News, the White House.

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