BBC News

Obama takes gamble with jobs plan

Mark Mardell
North America editor
@BBCMarkMardellon Twitter

image copyrightAFP

US President Barack Obama has made a fiercely clever, even somewhat sly, speech.

He passionately scorned those playing at partisan politics while positioning himself in a very political way.

He stressed that his American Jobs Act was acting on proposals Republicans should like, while making a clear appeal to his own Democratic base and its values.

This was not of course a new President Obama, but it was a style of speech I have never heard him make before.

Fired up, yes, but using plain language. The call, if not the response, of a preacher.

The chorus line: "You should pass this jobs plan right away."

There was a fair amount of hefty, meaty detail and this speech was shorn of some of the soaring rhetoric of the past.

But it was still fiery and feisty.

What he is suggesting is pretty big. More than $450bn according to White House sources.

It is designed to put him in a situation where any outcome is a win.

In the unlikely event the Republicans go for this, he has the policy he wants.

If they don't, he campaigns against them, portraying them as against job creation, against the American people.

'Simple math'

Mr Obama kept on stressing that many of the ideas he proposed were from Republicans in the first place and that these plans would be paid for by deeper cuts elsewhere.

But he was somewhat scornful of their values: "So for everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for 'job creators' this plan is for you," he said.

"I know some of you have sworn oaths to never raise any taxes on anyone for as long as you live. Now is not the time to carve out an exception and raise middle-class taxes."

Obama believes that the majority of Americans will be on his side.

He said: "Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs? Right now, we can't afford to do both.

"This isn't political grandstanding. This isn't class warfare. This is simple math.

"These are real choices that we have to make. And I'm pretty sure I know what most Americans would choose. It's not even close."

That is the gamble he is taking.

If he's wrong, if the majority of Americans think more stimulus money is a waste, that government spending and red tape are the real problem, then a smart speech and a well thought out strategy won't save him.

More on this story

  • Transcript: Obama presents crucial job plan