WASHINGTON - Clearly, the economic recovery that we all hoped was under way in 2009 and 2010 has slowed, and with it, job creation has stalled. With the hopes of millions of American families at stake, the time is now to act on initiatives that would create jobs and re-energize the economic recovery.
That's why I was so encouraged by the jobs plan that President Obama outlined in his Sept. 8 speech to a joint session of Congress. The president proposed legislation called the American Jobs Act. I support his efforts to create jobs and to do so in ways that do not add to the budget deficit.
The president's speech was a rousing, patriotic call to action. And the argument for his plan is simple: We need to act now, and we need to do so with ideas that members of all political parties have supported in the past.
Sen. Carl Levin
Now some in Washington have criticized the president's plan by comparing it negatively to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the stimulus bill. They claim the Recovery Act was a failure. What these critics fail to acknowledge is what economists across the ideological spectrum say: that the Recovery Act helped us avoid a second Great Depression.
Experts at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and at private forecasting firms - firms that are paid for the quality of their analysis - say the Recovery Act saved or created millions of jobs and boosted economic growth. In fact, as the amount of stimulus from the Recovery Act has dwindled in recent months, so has the growth of our economy.
But important as the Recovery Act was, job growth is still not good enough. The president's plan will help by doing a number of things:
It would cut taxes for small businesses that create jobs. It would cut payroll taxes in half for 98 percent of American businesses, and it would eliminate all payroll taxes for companies when they hire new workers or increase the pay of current employees.
It would support state and local governments that otherwise will have to lay off police, firefighters and teachers, preserving those jobs and the public service those employees provide.
It would give tax credits to businesses that hire veterans returning from overseas.
It would give tax credits to companies that hire unemployed workers.
It would modernize schools, roads and bridges across the country, providing new jobs while improving public infrastructure that in too many cases is overdue for rehabilitation.
It would expand a payroll tax cut for workers that we already have in place, cutting payroll taxes in half for 160 million Americans.
The plan would have an immediate impact in Michigan. It would save the jobs of an estimated 11,900 Michigan teachers and public safety workers; create more than 20,000 jobs rebuilding Michigan schools, roads and bridges; and give the typical Michigan family a tax cut of about $1,430.
All these ideas have had support in the past from members of Congress across the ideological spectrum. There is no reason these members should not support the American Jobs Act today especially because the president has also proposed ways to pay for the plan so that it doesn't add to the budget deficit.
Among the steps he proposes is to eliminate big tax breaks for profitable oil companies; ending a tax subsidy for the sky-high paychecks of hedge fund managers; and asking the wealthiest Americans, who have continued to do well even as middle-class families have struggled, to give up some tax breaks.
Those who reject the idea of shared sacrifice and oppose the president's plan and the jobs it would create most often do so at the same time they protect tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy individuals.
The president laid out a path to support job creation, using ideas with broad support, and without adding to the deficit. How can we not seize that opportunity? I support the American Jobs Act, and in the coming weeks I'll be working hard to encourage its passage.
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Carl Levin is the senior U.S. senator from Michigan.