Obama jobs plan badly needed, but tardy: Motown

DETROIT Fri Sep 9, 2011 5:11pm EDT

Members of the audience listen to U.S. President Barack Obama speak at a Labor Day event in front of General Motors Headquarters in Detroit, Michigan, September 5, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Members of the audience listen to U.S. President Barack Obama speak at a Labor Day event in front of General Motors Headquarters in Detroit, Michigan, September 5, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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DETROIT (Reuters) - Residents of Detroit, one of the most economically depressed cities in America, reacted to President Barack Obama's proposal of a $447 billion package to create jobs with impatience.

"If he can make it happen, it needs to happen today," said 53-year-old Internet technician Ed Render, a father of two, who was laid off from Ford Motor Co two years ago. "I get my last unemployment check this week. I'm freaking out."

That check is almost enough to cover Render's $979 mortgage payment, but he doubts that Washington shares his urgency.

"The next step is losing my house," said Render, who sends off four resumes a day to try to get himself another job.

His reaction to Obama's speech on Thursday appealing to the Congress to pass legislation to stimulate job growth in the face of a 9.1 percent nationwide unemployment rate, reflects Detroit's fears about its worsening economic plight.

The area's automotive industry is recovering, but its housing market is in a shambles and its schools are considered among the worst in the United States.

Detroit's recorded unemployment rate in July was 24.4 percent, nearly three times the national average and only slightly improved from 27.4 percent in mid-2009 when two major U.S. automakers filed for bankruptcy protection.

Kenneth Brewer, who works for the city, said Obama hit several points important to job creation, but "businesses here need more reason to hire."

The president's plan to reduce payroll taxes for employees "will definitely help," but "we can't have just another round of arguing" in Congress.

"I like the fact that he (Obama) said that if he doesn't get support from Republicans he will go state by state to gather support from the actual people," Brewer said.

Paul Green, who owns a firm in Birmingham, Michigan promoting study abroad, said Obama should have acted sooner. "If this plan is so great," he said, "why didn't we do this two-and-a-half years ago?"

What small businesses need is easier and quicker access to lower-cost funding, said Green.

Bennie Hall, a retired General Motors employee in Detroit, refused to watch Obama's televised speech because it came late.

"Why wasn't he giving this speech a year ago?" Hall asked. "This is priority number one and we're too busy spending billions in Iraq to take the problem at home seriously."

Tim Powell fits into two categories that Obama aims to help: he is a military veteran and is unemployed.

Powell, who served in the U.S. Navy, moved his family to Rochester Hills, Michigan, a Detroit suburb, 14 months ago from California and has been seeking a full-time job ever since.

He had been hopeful that Obama would deliver on the promises of change that swept him into office. But Thursday's speech, Powell said, was divisive and relied on rhetoric that "didn't encourage me or convince me things will get better."

(Additional reporting by Ned Randolph in Ann Arbor; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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