How will President Obama create 600,000 jobs this summer?
Monday morning, June 8th, 2009, President Obama delivered a much anticipated promise. Obama, who has been in office for just five months, has finally outlined his plan to create more than 600,000 new jobs this summer. How is he doing it?
If you can think all the way back to late January, a still quite wet behind the ears Obama urged Congress to approve an “accelerated spending plan”. By gaining access to this money at an “accelerated rate”, some of the $787 billion from the economic stimulus package that Congress approved earlier this year would be instantly available for job creation.
Before Rush Limbaugh weighs in with his opinion, let’s point out some facts about this plan. Obama does not believe that this small boost in employment will offset the job losses of recent months. There have been more than 1.6 million jobs lost since Congress approved Obama’s stimulus plan this past February. Unemployment last month reached 9.4%, the highest rate since 1983. It would be ridiculous to assume that a job increase of 600,000 could even put a dent in the rising unemployment problem.
But the president, who will be meeting with his economic advisors and Cabinet at the White House today, will deliver hundreds of thousands of new jobs through an increase in spending on various projects — as many as 1,600 roadway and airport projects, a hiring boost of around 135,000 for public education, maintenance projects at various military bases, and 125,000 summer jobs for youth. All of these new jobs would be supervised by the Department of Labor. Pundits are looking at this boost in jobs not as a stopgap but as a first step on the road to recovery for the American economy.
In a statement issued by the Executive Branch, Obama said “We have a long way to go on our road to recovery, but we are going the right way.”
At today’s Cabinet meeting, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden (remember him?) will present what they’re calling a “Roadmap to Recovery” — an outline for accelerating spending. This acceleration is being conducted under the umbrella of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was approved in February. This “Roadmap”identifies 10 government projects set to begin work during the next three months. The direct result of this increase in government activity will be the creation of somewhere around 600,000 jobs. It is important to note that this boost in jobs will take place during the President’s “Second 100 Days” — perhaps to offset complaints from his opponents about meager job creation in his first 100. In fact, if the “Roadmap to Recovery” really does create the number of jobs it promises, the final tally would be over four times the number of jobs (new jobs or “saved” jobs) achieved during those crucial first days in office.
Obama’s statement this morning went on to say that “Our measure of progress is the progress the American people see in their own lives. And until that progress is steady and solid, we’re going to keep moving forward. We will not grow complacent or rest. Surely and steadily, we will turn this economy around.”
The White House claims to have built “a good foundation” in their first 100 days, but many believe the next 100 days must really blow the American people away in terms of economic progress in order to win over the boting public. Many pundits speak of a “Change hangover”, whereby Obama has to start delivering on his campaign promises or he will fall out of the favor of the people. Republicans and other opponents of the Obama administration are still quite critical of the stimulus spending plan, though that plan has long since passed a Democrat-dominated House and Senate with just three votes from the Right — that’s three votes out of 239 potential Republican tallies.
Among all this negativity, what do Republicans think will save the economy? Not much. According to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the economy is going to “recover on its own”, and can be heard driving this point home in front of any television camera he can find. Calling the “Roadmay to Recovery” nothing more than a “spending binge”, McConnell has no other alternative than to pretend that the economy will somehow “right itself” before Obama’s economic policies have any chance of making an impact.
Obama’s plan is much bigger than just 600,000 jobs — that number is for this summer only. When his economic package passed, Obama promised that as many as 3.5 million jobs could be “created or saved” in the next three years. Without the ability to get that plan on its feet (or to get “shovels in the ground”, pick your own metaphor) unemployment will continue to climb, as it has climbed month after month. At the current rate, unemployment will easily be in the double digits by the start of the summer.
The American people are looking to Obama for an answer. The President’s approval rating on the economy has slid as unemployment has skyrocketed — Obama is now down from an economic approval rating of 59% in February to around 55% in the latest poll. Even scarier for the President is his “disapproval rating” on the economy, which jumped from 30% to 42%. Comparing the two numbers (a drop in “approval” of just 4 points and a burst of “disapproval” of 12 points) suggests that more people who were sitting on the fence on Obama’s economic policies are now willing to say they “disapprove”. On a positive note for Obama and his staff, Gallup’s “consumer mood” index has continued to grown positive since the beginning of March.
So what are the specific areas where jobs are likely to be developed? The targeted projects for accelerated spending, according to the White House, are in these areas:
A total of 125,000 ‘summer youth jobs’ created in partnership with the Department of Labor
2,300 new construction or rehabilitation projects at 400 military bases, undertaken with the Department of Defense
200 new waste and water systems in rural parts of America, this project in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture
Environmental cleanup work at 20 sites high on the national priority list, a project of the Environmental Protection Agency
A project of the Department of Health and Human Services to expand service of around 1,100 health centers in all 50 states to provide health care for about 300,000 new patients
Begin new projects at 107 national parks along with the Department of the Interior
The Department of Veterans Affairs will begin improvements to 90 veterans medical centers.
Hire or “save” about 5,000 law enforcement jobs
Rehabilitation and improvement projects at 98 airports, as well as improvement on over 1,500 highways, a project of the Department of Transportation
135,000 education jobs (including teachers, principals and support staff), through the Department of Education