WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, under pressure to bolster the U.S. economy, said on Monday he and his economic advisers are discussing additional steps to generate job growth such as more tax cuts for businesses.
Obama, just back from a 10-day vacation, appeared in the White House Rose Garden to show his concern about the economy, which some experts believe is in danger of slipping into a double-dip recession.
“My economic team is hard at work in identifying additional measures that could make a difference in both promoting growth and hiring in the short term and increasing our economy’s competitiveness in the long term,” Obama said.
His comments amounted to an acknowledgment that, while the economy has made some improvements, the lingering impact of the worst recession since the Great Depression is proving particularly difficult to overcome.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama will in the coming days and weeks outline “targeted initiatives” to help spur the recovery and hopes Congress will approve them before stopping work to focus on November 2 elections.
Pressed on whether Obama should take a bolder approach to stimulating growth, Gibbs said that “there’s only so much that can be done, not having to do with politics.”
Obama cited possible steps such as extending tax cuts for the middle class that are set to expire this year, increasing government support for clean energy development, and rebuilding more U.S. infrastructure.
He also said he was considering “further tax cuts to encourage businesses to put their capital to work creating jobs here in the United States.” He provided no details.
Obama is under strong election-year pressure to increase U.S. job growth after an $814 billion stimulus plan he and his Democrats pushed through Congress in February 2009 has failed to inspire much confidence from Americans.
Experts say a Labor Department report due on Friday could show an uptick in the U.S. jobless rate in August to 9.6 percent from 9.5 percent in July, which would add to Obama’s dilemma ahead of the November congressional elections.
“The fact is that too many businesses are still struggling, too many Americans are still looking for work, and too many communities are far from being whole again,” Obama said.
The president expressed his frustration that a $30 billion plan to make credit more easily available for small businesses has been held up by Senate Republicans, who have expressed doubts as to whether the plan would work.
“Simply put, holding this bill hostage is directly detrimental to our economic growth, so I ask Senate Republicans to drop the blockade,” Obama said.
Republicans, sensing they stand to pick up seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in November, are in no mood to join with Obama.
“We need real change to give the American people real hope, and that should start with changing the ‘exhausted’ authors of the president’s unsuccessful economic strategy. We need to stop the spending spree, stop Washington Democrats’ tax hikes, and create jobs,” said Representative John Boehner, the House Republican leader.
Representative Paul Ryan, the senior Republican on the House Budget Committee, told reporters the economy is not growing as quickly as it should because businesses are worried about possible tax increases.
Uncertainty over tax rates, climate-change legislation and the impact on businesses of healthcare legislation are preventing many of them from expanding as well, he said.
“The American employer is worried about the cost of government,” Ryan said on a conference call.
Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Matt Spetalnick, Ross Colvin and Andy Sullivan; Editing by Jerry Norton and Eric Walsh