WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Tuesday there were a range of policy options available that could create up to a million new U.S. jobs, in remarks ahead of a major economic speech that he will deliver next week.
Obama must boost growth and bring down unemployment to be confident of winning another White House term in the November 2012 general election. Economists are skeptical he will get Congress to agree to significant new spending on jobs.
“We don’t have magic bullets, but what we do have, I think, is the capacity to do some things right now that would make a big difference,” Obama said in a interview with popular radio talkshow host Tom Joyner.
The White House says details of the job creation proposals Obama will unveil next week are still being worked out and it has yet to announce an exact date or location for his speech, although Obama hinted at some of the ideas he would put forth.
“There is no doubt that we can take steps that would mean the economy was growing a percent or a percentage and a half faster. That could mean half a million to a million additional jobs,” Obama said.
U.S. GDP output expanded at a tepid 1.3 percent annual rate in the second quarter of this year and unemployment remained at a painfully high 9.1 percent in July.
“This is a situation where the economy essentially had a heart attack and the patient lived, and the patient is getting better, but it’s getting better very slowly,” Obama told Joyner, who draws a large African-American audience, a key part of the president’s political base.
The White House blames the sluggish economic performance on fallout from the worst recession since the Great Depression that Democrat Obama inherited when he took office. His Republican opponents reject this as a lame excuse.
Asked what his speech could touch upon, Obama cited a number of measures that he has talked about in recent weeks, including infrastructure spending to upgrade the country’s roads, bridges and schools, as well as extending a payroll tax cut and jobless aid.
“All these ideas are ones that have been presented to Congress. We’ll be putting out several other additional ideas. We’ve got to do it, unfortunately, at a time when money is tight. George Bush left us (a) $1 trillion deficit,” he said, referring to the former Republican president.
Obama said in remarks earlier on Tuesday in Minneapolis that his speech next week would address both job creation and deficit reduction.
Asked how he planned to get his jobs strategy past Republicans who control the House of Representatives, Obama said he expected continued resistance from his opponents, but insisted that “they’re speaking only to a very narrow segment of the population, their base.”
“My attitude is that my job is to present the best plans possible. Congress needs to act,” Obama said. “If Congress does not act, then I‘m going to be going on the road and talking to folks, and this next election very well may end up being a referendum on whose vision of America is better.”
Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Alister Bull; editing by Anthony Boadle