President Barack Obama said the United States faces a "national crisis" and pressed Congress to urgently pass a jobs package of tax cuts and government spending he is proposing to revive the stalled economy.
The cost of Obama's plan is $US447 billion ($420 billion), with proposed tax cuts amounting to $US245 billion, or just over half of that total.
The immediate reaction for Australian investors to the jobs package was moderate. The Australian dollar edged up to about $US1.062 from $US1.06 just prior to the start of Obama's address before dropping back to $US1.059.
Advertisement: Story continues belowAustralian investors reacted cautiously to the President’s jobs package, with the local sharemarket posting a flat start to the day’s trade. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index rose 5.2 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4193.2 and the All Ordinaries gained 4.4 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4274.2 after the market opened.
Pulling no punches
A combative and feisty Obama said the initiative, called the American Jobs Act, would put people back to work and more money into the pockets of those who had jobs.
"It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for the long-term unemployed," he said.
"It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire, there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away. You should pass it and I intend to take that message to every corner of this country."
The US unemployment rate of 9.1 per cent will be a key political challenge for President Obama as he prepares to seek re-election next year. The tally compares with Australia's jobless rate of 5.3 per cent in August, and about 10 per cent for the euro zone countries.
Of the tax cuts, the bulk of Obama's proposal is made up by halving the payroll taxes for employees next year and trimming other employer payroll taxes.
The additionl spending includes unemployment insurance at a cost of $US49 billion, modernising schools for $US30 billion and investing in transportation infrastructure projects for $US50 billion.
With his poll numbers at new lows amid voter frustration with high unemployment, Obama is using the high-stakes address to Congress to pitch a sweeping economic plan that is critical to his re-election chances but he faces an uphill battle with Republicans.
"It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away," Obama said in excerpts of a televised speech he is now delivering.
Taking aim at Republicans who have consistently opposed his initiatives, Obama said it was time to "stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy."
Obama, who pushed through an $US800 billion economic stimulus package in 2009, said his jobs plan would cut taxes for workers and businesses and put more construction workers and teachers on the job through infrastructure projects.
"It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business," he said.
Obama is seeking to seize the initiative in his bitter ideological fight with Republicans, ease mounting doubts about his economic leadership and turn around his presidency just 14 months before voters decide whether to give him a second term.
Republican road block
How much of the jobs package is viable remains in question. Almost all of it ultimately depends on winning support from Republicans who control the House of Representatives and have consistently opposed Obama's spending initiatives.
Bipartisan cooperation could be hard to come by in Washington's climate of political dysfunction where a bruising debt feud this summer brought the country to the brink of default and led to an unprecedented US credit downgrade.
But Obama will insist that "everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been supported by both Democrats and Republicans - including many who sit here tonight, and everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything.".
Obama said it is time to "clear the way" for trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea.
"Now it's time to clear the way for a series of trade agreements that would make it easier for American companies to sell their products in Panama, Colombia and South Korea - while also helping the workers whose jobs have been affected by global competition," he said.
"If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers. I want to see more products sold around the world stamped with three proud words: 'Made in America'," Obama said.
Alongside the jobs plan, Obama announced he would propose a deficit-reduction plan on September 19 that will cover the cost of his jobs bill and include "modest adjustments" to Medicare and Medicaid and more taxes for the rich and corporations.
"A week from Monday, I'll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan - a plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill, but stabilize our debt in the long run," he told Congress.
Obama said the plan would feature additional spending cuts and make "modest adjustments" to the government's Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs for the elderly and disabled and for the poor.
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