Congressional Democrats' Advice For Obama's Jobs Speech

[ Posted Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 – 15:10 UTC ]

The nation is waiting to hear what President Obama is going to say tomorrow night, when he gives an address to a joint session of Congress on the subject of jobs. Plenty of people have already been offering advice to the White House, but instead we thought it'd be interesting to ask some of the people who are going to be sitting in the audience tomorrow what they'd advise the president to include in his speech.

So we called up Washington and asked around. Below are the responses we got. We specifically did not contact House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, because we were more interested in the responses from individual Democrats rather than statements about the goals of the party as a whole. We contacted a number of Congress members who were unable to provide quotes; due to being out of the country, or due to various disasters happening across the United States in the past few weeks (the day we started calling, a hurricane was on its way towards Washington, for instance). And we did not contact every Democrat, so you shouldn't read too much into who responded and who could not. The responses are arranged in no particular order.

Here are the questions we asked to each of them:

What advice would you give to President Obama as he prepares his post-Labor Day speech on job creation? What specific programs or policies would you suggest the president include in his speech? Do you think Obama should lay out big and ambitious ideas, or focus more on what he might be able to get through a divided Congress?


Representative Raúl Grijalva

The co-chair of the Progressive Caucus strongly called the speech a "make or break" opportunity for Obama. Grijalva also called for help for the unemployed "99-week" people who have lost (or are about to lose) their unemployment benefits if Congress does not act. The Progressive Caucus published its own letter to the president on the subject, as well.

It has to be a bold initiative, a bold vision -- I don't think the American people want to hear about a "bold bargain." It's got to involve public works, it has to involve job creation where the federal government is a direct intervener, to make sure that it happens. It should also require businesses that benefit from any part of the package prove that they have actually created jobs.

We have to do something for the 99ers. The free trade bits I don't agree with.

It has to be bold, it has to be challenging. I think President Obama should ignore the House and speak directly to the American people -- they want to hear it and they expect it.

He can't play along the edges. This has to be make or break.

After we spoke with him, Grijalva was further quoted today on MSNBC (after hearing some details from the speech which have leaked to the press):

The Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus and Progressive Caucus sent a letter to the president saying let's meet before this speech. We feel this package is being outlined in the press. $300 billion is not big enough. The severity of unemployment and the downturn requires a lot more government intervention. It requires a bigger package to revive this economy and bring unemployment down, especially in areas hardest hit by poverty. We just feel this is a time for boldness. This is a time to take this argument to the American people. The Republican leadership is not going to cooperate. It's in their best interest that the president appear ineffective and not get anything done. He's got to take this fight to the American public, and that's what we want to urge him to do.


Representative Jerry Nadler

In his upcoming speech on jobs, I sincerely hope that the president announces a profound shift in federal policy that will finally put Americans back to work and extricate this nation from a truly debilitating recession. We cannot afford any less. Our approach to date has been far too timid, far too conservative, and not nearly robust enough to create employment, to increase aggregate demand, and to get dollars flowing once again through the economy. I would like the president to propose vast transportation and infrastructure investments -- the likes of which saved the nation from the Great Depression 70 years ago. We desperately need improvements to our roads, bridges, tunnels, mass transit, rail, broadband, and so forth. And we desperately need the jobs to get those improvements done. It is now up to President Obama to lead us back toward prosperity.


Senator Al Franken

Job creation needs to be our number one priority right now and I'm pleased the president agrees. I believe the federal government needs to invest in infrastructure projects and research and development to get our economic engine moving again, and maintain funding for education so that our children's skills meet the future demands of our economy.


Representative Kathy Hochul

The message I heard, loud and clear, during my seven "Congress On Your Corner" meetings this month, is that our constituents expect us to work towards real job proposals that will help get our people back to work. We need to focus on creating the right opportunities for hard-working, middle-class American families.

Investing in critical infrastructure for our country will not only help our local governments build roads, bridges and airports, but will also get our economy moving once again.

In light of our current economic situation, the American people expect bold, yet pragmatic initiatives. I'd like to see the president focus on both job creation and retaining current jobs. The F.A.A. Reauthorization and Surface Transportation Bill, both up for renewal later this month, will keep nearly one million employees working, while ensuring our nation's infrastructure continues to run properly. Additionally, a hiring tax credit and an extension of the Payroll Tax Holiday will help our small businesses put people back to work.


Representative Barbara Lee

I believe that any jobs proposal should be progressive and bold. Our nation's jobs crisis is a national emergency and requires a significant investment in the programs and projects that not only better our country, but put Americans to work. This investment could and should take many forms: expanding national service programs, allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, funding infrastructure projects, investing in state and local governments, training workers, and providing targeted tax credits such as an extension of the Earned Income Tax credit. I have specifically requested that the president include my bill H.R. 589, which would extend unemployment compensation to all jobless workers by adding an additional 14 weeks of benefits, to his jobs package. I will continue to work with the various caucuses of which I am a member (Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus, Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Congressional Black Caucus) to reach out to the president with specific proposals that will invest in workers, provide targeted relief to the most vulnerable struggling to get by and give the economy the jolt it needs.


Senator Bernie Sanders

Everyone in Vermont and across the country understands that we can put millions of Americans back to work rebuilding the nation's bridges, roads, schools, dams, culverts, rail systems and public transportation, among other vital needs. We must also transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy. A significant number of jobs can be created through weatherization, and the manufacturing of American-made wind turbines, solar panels, and heat pumps. Also, we must make fundamental changes in our trade policy so that we rebuild our manufacturing sector. Corporate America must invest in the United States and stop the outsourcing of jobs to China, Vietnam, and other low-wage countries.


Representative John Sarbanes

I believe the manufacturing sector can be the leading edge of our economic recovery. The president must outline a national manufacturing strategy that ensures "Made in America" is a source of pride for our country.

The president should also get serious about investing in our nation's critical infrastructure, which is in a state of dire need. The unemployment rate in the construction industry remains extremely high at 13.6 percent. We can put these individuals back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges, public transportation, and water and sewer systems.


Representative Dennis Kucinich

President Obama defers to Congress on everything except war. There is a battle going on in this country for economic survival. The time to get America working again is now. Fourteen million Americans are unemployed, and more than eight million more are underemployed. Our fellow Americans cannot wait any longer. Unfortunately, the president's only recent push has been for the passage of free trade agreements.

On Labor Day, we should celebrate labor and honor it by making real investments in jobs and ending policies that do away with jobs.

First, we need the president to summon the same enthusiasm for change which F.D.R. brought forth. America is ready for a second NEW DEAL where the government spends money into circulation for the purposes of rebuilding America's infrastructure. The government can use the same mechanism which the Fed uses. If the Fed can create money and give it to the banks, the Administration can spend money into circulation to rebuild America. It is time for a Works Green Administration where all the green technology potential of America is harnessed to create millions of new jobs. For example, N.A.S.A., which is already heavily involved in developing green technology, should receive a major investment for purposes of conceptual development, design and engineering of wind and solar microtechnologies which can be licensed or sold to the private sector. The private sector would then be involved in the manufacture, distribution, installation and maintenance of the wind and solar microtechnologies for purposes of placing them in millions of homes and businesses. This would create millions of jobs, lower energy costs and clean up the environment. These are just a few of the ideas which are available to put into action. We need to see the Administration demonstrate the determination to act!

Second, end the wars in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan and spend just a fraction of the saved funds on the estimated $2.2 trillion in infrastructure repairs that are so desperately needed in this country.

Third, cancel the proposed "free" trade agreements pending with South Korea, Columbia and Panama, as these will only add to the 5.3 million manufacturing jobs that the U.S. has lost since 2001.

Fourth, direct Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, the Federal Housing Administration, and the Department of Veterans' Affairs (the Government Sponsored Entities, GSEs) to assist borrowers of the roughly 37 million mortgages these GSEs hold in refinancing those loans at the extremely low mortgage rates currently available. A large-scale refinancing program could reduce mortgage payments by $50 billion. If enacted, a truly bold initiative like this would benefit many middle class Americans, including the borrowers of the estimated one million who will receive foreclosure notices this year, instead of just boosting the bottom lines of large financial institutions.


Senator Mark Begich

Expand broadband access to rural communities to improve opportunities for education, medicine and commerce for rural Americans.

Expand the New Markets Tax Credit to encourage small businesses to expand, especially in rural America and Native-owned businesses.

Streamline permitting for resource development on Native American lands where there is potentially a trillion dollars in untapped revenue and jobs.

Expand the international visa waiver program so international visitors and business people can more easily visit America for tourism and to purchase American products.

Create a national infrastructure bank with dedicated funding to rebuild America's crumbling roads, bridges, ports, energy generation and transmission networks and water and sewer systems which are so vital to commerce and basic transportation.

Expand and make permanent the Research and Development Tax Credit to encourage more innovation and investment by American companies.

Expand the clean-up of formerly used defense sites and bases around the country.

Encourage greater investment in green energy initiatives at U.S. military bases.

Continue or expand weatherization initiatives to create jobs, conserve fossil fuels and reduce energy costs.

Expand grants to states and local education agencies to improve science, technology, education and math which are so vital for the 21st century workforce.

Provide construction bonds for states and local entities for house for teachers and medical providers working in the most remote parts of America.

Expand national seafood marketing to increase domestic sale of American seafood.

Maintain basic fisheries research such as stock assessments which is vital for the nation's seafood industry jobs.

Make low interest loans to hard-hit cities and states to prevent the layoff of teachers, police officers and firefighters.


-- Chris Weigant

Cross-posted at Business Insider
Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


28 Comments on “Congressional Democrats' Advice For Obama's Jobs Speech”

  1. [1] 
    akadjian wrote:

    That's some fine advice. Especially the comments about the effort not being nearly enough. Another reason that the proposal should be bold is that we likely to get about 1/10 of whatever is in the proposal due to Republicans unwillingness to do anything other than cut corporate taxes and ax government programs which benefit ordinary Americans.

    I wish more Congressmen were thinking the same and our corporate media were willing to cover something other than "what corporate America wants".


  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    the president needs to use his full power as executive. he's spent enough time trying to negotiate with words. the time has come to call congress into session and not let them leave for a single day until they've done two things. first, direct federal money to accomplish real work, not pointless pork. second, get rid of the incentive for companies and individuals to sit on their cash and not invest it in US jobs.

    no words, no threats, just every day call them back into session, and let it be known you'll hang a veto on any policy that doesn't accomplish the goal of creating real jobs right here.

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    OK, in my standard role as "wet blanket".... :D

    It seems to me that everyone agrees..

    Obama has to go "big"... It can't be the same old "pep talk" style speech. Americans are tired of "shiny beads and shallow flattery"...

    This country NEEDS something big...

    Anyone wanna lay quatloos down on whether we see something "big" or just the same old same old nice words and no action???


  4. [4] 
    tinsldr2 wrote:

    Senator Bernie Sanders

    Everyone in Vermont and across the country understand­s that we can put millions of Americans back to work rebuilding the nation's bridges, roads, schools, dams, culverts, rail systems and public transporta­tion, among other vital needs.


    Yes!! because my unemployed 50 year old sister with a computer programmin­g degree is going to go pick up a pick and shovel or a drive a steam roller down the road. I can see her right now driving spikes on the railroad or building a dam.

    My sister likes another word for "levee's" (starts with dy) in her personal life but that doesn't mean she wants to go out and build what Websters defines as: "a bank usually of earth constructed to control or confine water" :)

    Didnt we hear the same thing with the last Porkulus, I mean Stimulus? How much of that money went to actually building roads dams and other "infrastru­cture" projects and how much went to things like:

    Grant Explaining the African Vote $233,825 La Jolla CA Jobs created 0

    Grant Career: Survival of the Privileged­: Exploring the Conditions that Allow Supermassi­ve Black Holes and Minority Physicists to Thrive $1,075,873 Nashville TN Jobs created 0

    Grant Weatheriza­tion Assistance Program $394,686,5­13 Albany NY Jobs created 43 (do the math per job!!)

  5. [5] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Anyone wanna lay quatloos down on whether we see something "big" or just the same old same old nice words and no action???

    I'm with you, Michale, that I don't think we'll see something big enough. *sigh*

    You might be interested in Joseph Stiglitz's book "Freefall". He talks about how he and other economists argued for an even bigger stimulus after the 2008 collapse but it wasn't politically expedient.

    I think you'd enjoy it as he also talks a lot about the causes of the crisis. It's a great read for anyone interested in economics.


  6. [6] 
    akadjian wrote:


    You forgot something- the 3.2 to 4 trillion dollars we spent on our wars.

    And that doesn't include the $450 billion Pentagon budget for this year just for the wars.


  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:

    You forgot something- the 3.2 to 4 trillion dollars we spent on our wars.

    Afghanistan is free of the Taliban..

    Iraq is free of Hussein..

    Libya is free of Daffy..

    Surely you don't begrudge those people their freedom, eh??

    And I will always do my duty, no matter what the price,
    I've counted up the cost, I know the sacrafice,
    Oh, and I don't want to die for you,
    But if dyin's asked of me,
    I'll bear that cross with an honor,
    'Cause freedom don't come free.



  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:


    I'm with you, Michale, that I don't think we'll see something big enough. *sigh*

    There are "big" ways to go that won't bankrupt this country..

    Of course, I don't have a clue what they are, but...... :D


  9. [9] 
    tommymccarthy wrote:

    To: #4 Tinseldr2

    So: 394 MILLION DOLLARS went to Albany N.Y. for weatherization programs, did it?
    I must tell you no one in Albany has heard the happy news yet.

    I can only guess what you mean by: "Grant explaining the African vote"

    Aside from being incoherent......your post reads like a press release from "The Department Of Making
    Sh*t Up."

    Very tiresome

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:


    Anyone think it was big enough???


  11. [11] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Afghanistan is free of the Taliban.

    Really? According to the reports I've seen, it's not.

    Iraq is free of Hussein.

    True, but is Iraq better off. Maybe we should ask the Iraqis. They seem to want us out of there.

    Libya is free of Daffy.

    Yup. Done right. Multilaterally. Through NATO. In control of Libyan people. At little relative cost. Compare with above.


  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    Really? According to the reports I've seen, it's not.

    Afghanistan is free of Taliban control..

    True, but is Iraq better off.

    Ask the women who have been brutally raped and murdered by Hussein if Iraq is better off..

    Oh wait. You can't ask the ones that have been murdered. Because they are dead...

    Maybe we should ask the Iraqis. They seem to want us out of there.

    And yet, from all reports, even the Iraqis are a quite worried about Obama's bonehead "Only 3K troops in Iraq by years end." political maneuver.. The troops on the ground, the ones that SHOULD be calling the shots, are "livid"...

    Yup. Done right. Multilaterally. Through NATO. In control of Libyan people. At little relative cost. Compare with above.

    Actually, if you compare the cost and extrapolated to be comparable to the time in TOP for the Afghanistan and Iraqi TOP, then the costs are also comparable..

    I will also point out that Libya is likely to go the way of Iran and Egypt precisely BECAUSE Obama led from behind..

    If we have a major responsibility in the war, we also have a seat at the table after the war..

    We don't in Libya and likely never will, the wisdom of our host notwithstanding...

    But, this might be a revelation.. Are you saying you don't mind going to war, as long as it doesn't cost much??


  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    I am also constrained to point out that the LFB Doctrine would NEVER have worked either in Afghanistan or Iraq....

    Iraq because of the way Bush (H.W.) screwed over the Iraqi opposition in the aftermath of Desert Storm..

    Afghanistan because it WAS the US that was attacked. Leading from behind is about the most cowardly and irresponsible form of leadership...

    Obama and his LFB Doctrine simply got lucky in Libya.

    Pure and simple..


  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    David (and anyone else who wants to chime in..)

    Here are three points for you to consider..

    1. The United States is now governed by a permanent political class,” drawn from both parties, that is increasingly cut off from the concerns of regular people.

    2. These Republicans and Democrats have allied with big business to mutual advantage.

    3. The real political divide in the United States may no longer be between friends and foes of Big Government, but between friends and foes of vast, remote, unaccountable institutions (both public and private).

    Would you agree with these 3 points??


  15. [15] 
    akadjian wrote:

    But, this might be a revelation.. Are you saying you don't mind going to war, as long as it doesn't cost much?

    Nope. If you look at the objectives and look at the approaches taken, I'm saying that there are better ways than unilateral war.

    This is what I've always argued when it comes to national security.

    In the case of 9/11, we should have treated this as an act committed by criminals, not invaded countries. We should have gone after the people who committed the crime.


  16. [16] 
    akadjian wrote:

    p.s. I'd agree with points 1 & 2 that you listed.

  17. [17] 
    akadjian wrote:

    And yes, I know that Sarah Palin said them.

  18. [18] 
    Michale wrote:

    In the case of 9/11, we should have treated this as an act committed by criminals, not invaded countries. We should have gone after the people who committed the crime.

    We did...

    But first, we had to go thru the country/state that was giving the "criminals" safe haven..

    Terrorism is a military problem, not a Law Enforcement one.


    Because Law Enforcement is, for the most part, predicated on reaction. It's a reactionary after-the-fact action..

    Military action, by necessity, is a pro-active force..

    I am sure you would agree that we simply cannot be reactionary with regards to terrorism... We must be pro-active..

    Hence, military action...

    p.s. I'd agree with points 1 & 2 that you listed.

    Pretty smart lady, that Sarah Palin, eh?? :D


  19. [19] 
    akadjian wrote:

    The trouble I have with Ms. Palin is that she's stoking populist sentiment but many of her solutions are the ideas put forth by organizations like the Cato Institute, etc.

  20. [20] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Pretty smart lady, that Sarah Palin, eh?? :D

    I have nothing against her personally. But let's hear her ideas to solve the issues she raises.

    Given her statements, what's her position on Citizens' United, for example.

    Heck, if Republicans (or anyone for that matter) is willing to put forward ideas I believe would work, I'd be for them.

    Even if it were Sarah ...

  21. [21] 
    akadjian wrote:

    From the NY Times:

    "Ms. Palin’s third point was more striking still: in contrast to the sweeping paeans to capitalism and the free market delivered by the Republican presidential candidates whose ranks she has yet to join, she sought to make a distinction between good capitalists and bad ones. The good ones, in her telling, are those small businesses that take risks and sink and swim in the churning market; the bad ones are well-connected megacorporations that live off bailouts, dodge taxes and profit terrifically while creating no jobs."

    Very interesting.

    Still processing this development but thanks for pointing this out, Michale!

  22. [22] 
    Michale wrote:

    And yes, I know that Sarah Palin said them.

    Party pooper! :D

    Very interesting.

    Even more interesting is that it came from the NY TIMES...

    Still processing this development but thanks for pointing this out, Michale!

    de nada... :D


  23. [23] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Even more interesting is that it came from the NY TIMES...

    If you do a Google news search, you'll see that the Times is about the only mainstream media outlet that covered this. Though I saw it show up on Drudge too. Something the Times remarks on in the full article:

    Here's a comment from one of my liberal friends I thought you'd enjoy:

    "I found this article to be fascinating. I've often been baffled by the Tea Party's critique of 'big government' while simultaneously defending the wealthy and corporations.

    This is the first time that Sarah Palin actually has me thinking..."

    Look at the trouble you've caused :)


  24. [24] 
    Michale wrote:

    Look at the trouble you've caused :)

    Hi, nice ta meetcha. I'm Michale. Arrogant prick..



  25. [25] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Hi, nice ta meetcha. I'm Michale. Arrogant prick.. :D

    Bahahahahahahahahahhahahahah. I just about choked on some soup laughing.

    Soup ... that liquidity substance that's almost impossible to choke on ...

    Damn you! :)

  26. [26] 
    Michale wrote:


    It's all in the timing...


  27. [27] 
    Michale wrote:


    In the case of 9/11, we should have treated this as an act committed by criminals, not invaded countries.

    Keep in mind that successful prosecutions of WTC terrorists in 1993 did not prevent more terrorist attacks on NY and DC eight years later...

    On the other hand, kicking ass and taking names, militarily, has prevented terrorist attacks on US proper for the last decade...

    It's clear that the US military is better equipped to respond to terrorist attacks than local Law Enforcement...


  28. [28] 
    Michale wrote:


    From The Reckoner...

    As Schneier argues: “The only effective way to deal with terrorists is through old-fashioned police and intelligence work - discovering plans before they’re implemented and then going after the plotters themselves. Every arrest of an al Qaeda member weakens the organization. Every country that’s unwilling to harbor such individuals interferes with its operation.”

    It all depends what the goal is...

    If the goal is successful prosecutions of terrorists AFTER they kill hundreds or thousands of innocent people then, Yes...

    Treating terrorism as an Law Enforcement problem IS the correct way to go...


    If the goal is to PREVENT terrorist attacks and save innocent lives then the ONLY way to do so is with the military and thru military ROEs....

    The job of counter terrorism is not, nor will ever be, to bring terrorists to justice after the fact...

    The job of counter terrorism is to prevent terrorists from ever accomplishing terrorist attacks..

    One successful terrorist attacks means that CT operatives have failed.

    "..... nature of the beast"
    -Colonel Hadley, THE FINAL OPTION


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