Obama expands on economic plan, emphasizes J-O-B-S

OBAMA EXPANDS ON ECONOMIC PLAN, EMPHASIZES J-O-B-S…. There were reports this morning that Obama was scheduled to give a “major” speech on the economy, but there have been plenty of “major” speeches, and it’s hard to know when and if an address will include new information.

As it turns out, today’s “Rescue Plan for the Middle Class” speech, delivered in Toledo, Ohio, really was a “major” speech.

Video excerpts aren’t yet available online, but I’d encourage folks to check out the transcript. It included a healthy dose of both rhetoric and policy specifics.

“Right now, we face an immediate economic emergency that requires urgent action. We can’t wait to help workers and families and communities who are struggling right now — who don’t know if their job or their retirement will be there tomorrow; who don’t know if next week’s paycheck will cover this month’s bills. We need to pass an economic rescue plan for the middle-class and we need to do it now. Today I’m proposing a number of steps that we should take immediately to stabilize our financial system, provide relief to families and communities, and help struggling homeowners. It’s a plan that begins with one word that’s on everyone’s mind, and it’s spelled J-O-B-S.”

It was a rather lengthy policy proposal, but the speech emphasized a new jobs tax credit, eliminating all capital gains taxes on investments in small businesses and start-up companies, fast tracked loan guarantees for the auto industry, infrastructure projects, an extension (and expansion) of unemployment benefits, reforming unfair bankruptcy laws, and a three-month moratorium on foreclosures. Obama also endorsed McCain’s proposal on waiving rules that force seniors to withdraw from their 401(k)s even when the market is bad, and took it a step further, making it easier for all Americans to withdraw up to 15% from their IRA or 401(k) through the end of next year without penalty.

The notion that Obama doesn’t back up his rhetoric with specifics certainly doesn’t apply today.

As for the rhetoric, Obama threaded the needle a bit, striking a tone that was optimistic and pragmatic.

“This country and the dream it represents are being tested in a way that we haven’t seen in nearly a century. And future generations will judge ours by how we respond to this test. Will they say that this was a time when America lost its way and its purpose? When we allowed our own petty differences and broken politics to plunge this country into a dark and painful recession?

“Or will they say that this was another one of those moments when America overcame? When we battled back from adversity by recognizing that common stake that we have in each other’s success?

“This is one of those moments. I realize you’re cynical and fed up with politics. I understand that you’re disappointed and even angry with your leaders. You have every right to be. But despite all of this, I ask of you what’s been asked of the American people in times of trial and turmoil throughout our history. I ask you to believe — to believe in yourselves, in each other, and in the future we can build together. Together, we cannot fail. Not now.”

It sounded like a deal-closer to me.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.