Obama: ‘This Is Gut Check Time’

by Andrew Stiles

Speaking to an audience in Pittsburgh today, President Obama said tonight’s vote on the American Jobs Act is “a moment of truth for the U.S. Senate.”

He urged voters to hold lawmakers who vote against the bill accountable. “This is gut check time,” he said. “Any senator that votes no will have to look you in the eye and tell you what they’re opposed to.”

In other words, the president said, senators who oppose his $450 billion package will have to explain why didn’t vote to put teachers and construction workers back to work, to invest the infrastructure the need to compete in the 21st century, to keep our veterans off the streets, and so on. Because another massive round of economic stimulus will definitely work this time.

“Our economy needs a jolt right now,” he said. “Today the Senate has a chance to do something by voting for the American Jobs Act…In front of them is a jobs bill that independent economists have said will take the economy and put people back to work.”

In fact, “independent economists” predicted that the legislation would “keep or add” about 288,000 jobs over the next two years, at a rate of $1.6 million per job.

The Senate will vote on the president’s jobs bill shortly (Over/under: 50 votes).

UPDATE: In Pittsburgh, Obama repeated a claim that his bill would prevent up to 280,000 teachers from losing their jobs. This AP Fact Check obliterates that claim:

OBAMA: “Now, this bill will prevent up to 280,000 teachers from losing their jobs. This bill will support almost 40,000 jobs right here in the great state of Texas. So here’s what I need you to do: Tell Congress to pass this bill and put teachers back in the classroom where they belong,” Obama said Oct. 4 at Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas.

THE FACTS: There’s no doubt that public schools, which rely heavily on state dollars, are hurting. Since 2008, when the economy collapsed, about 294,000 education jobs have been lost, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure includes not only public school teachers, but also administrative and support personnel and employees of colleges and universities. In desperation, school districts have not only laid off teachers and aides but taken measures such as eliminating pre-K programs, going to a four-day school week and cutting bus routes.

Obama is predicting that without his legislation, nearly as many jobs will be lost this school year as in the past three school years combined. In a report released this month titled “Teacher Jobs at Risk,” the White House says “as many as” 280,000 teacher jobs are at risk in the coming year. But to get to that number, the White House makes a lot of assumptions.

The administration says it started with projected state budget shortfalls in a report from the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It then made a series of assumptions, including that spending cuts in each state would be applied proportionally across major budget categories, and that school salaries would be cut in proportion to their share of total spending for K-12 education. The spending cuts were then converted into numbers of jobs based on teacher pay in each state.

Even the group the White House relied on for its data says you can’t do that. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said in another report that “it is not possible to calculate directly the additional loss of jobs resulting from state education budget cuts.”

More here.

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