President Obama Sharpens Focus on Jobs, Relief for the Unemployed

Calling the current jobs crisis affecting millions of Americans a “continuing human tragedy,” President Obama this week outlined a series of steps intended to boost job growth and continue relief for the unemployed.

The plan includes expanding tax breaks and incentives to small businesses, increasing spending on infrastructure, and a new program of tax rebates for retrofitting homes for energy efficiency. The president also called for the extension of emergency benefits for the unemployed and support for local governments facing budget shortfalls and layoffs.

“We avoided the depression many feared,” Obama said in a speech at the Brookings Institution. But, he stressed, “Our work is far from done.” 

To pay for the programs, Obama said that an unexpected $200 billion in savings from the bank rescue program has created room for new spending aimed at creating jobs. 

“[A]ssistance to banks, once thought to cost taxpayers untold billions, is on track to actually reap billions in profits for the taxpaying public,” said Obama.  “So this gives us a chance to pay down the deficit faster than we thought possible and to shift funds that would have gone to help the banks on Wall Street to help create jobs on Main Street.”

More than 15 million Americans are unable to find employment and millions more are only able to find part-time employment, according to the Economic Policy Institute. And while the overall unemployment rate was 10 percent in November, the rate for Black workers was 15.6 percent and the rate for Hispanic workers was 12.7 percent.

The “Half in Ten” campaign —a collaborative effort of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the Coalition on Human Needs, and the Center for American Progress Action Fund — is calling attention to the urgent need to address the current jobs crisis.

LCCR President Wade Henderson has called the jobs crisis “the civil rights issue of the moment.”