If you thought the weekend was enough time for reporters to give the White House a pass about the not-so-robust May jobs numbers, you were wrong. The direction of the economy all but consumed the agenda in the briefing room in the wake of Friday’s employment picture and recent comments from the president linking some of the economy’s struggles to the global economic crisis.
Unemployment rose to 8.2 percent in May, renewing calls from the Obama administration for Congress to enact all of the provisions of the American Jobs Act, including efforts to boost infrastructure construction projects and hire more teachers, police officers and other public sector workers.
But reporters wanted to know: Are the president’s initiatives bold enough?
White House spokesman Jay Carney threw the hot potato at Capitol Hill, saying, “Had Congress done the right thing and passed the American Jobs Act in its entirety, we’d be in a better employment picture than we are today. Our work is never done. The number-one task is to do the things necessary to help the economy create jobs.”
The news wasn’t all bad last week. The month of May did represent the 20th straight month of job-sector growth since the president took office, an area many African-Americans rely on for employment.
“There has been substantial private-sector job creation even as local and state jobs are shed," Carney said. "It’s bad for the economy, so Congress should take action to return teachers to the classroom, and they refuse to do it.”
What are the political implications if the economy takes a downward turn? The White House downplayed any potential fallout. As the re-election campaign progresses, the stress has been more on how the president is less focused on his job than the jobs of the American people.
Carney said, “There are a number of things that congress could do right now to put police, teachers, firefighters and construction workers back to work. There are at least 10 different things they can do that are already on the table to help grow jobs. The president will discuss different options to be pursued to help the economy grow.”
Carney hinted at a potential speech in the coming weeks addressing some of the concerns the White House has been hearing about the economy. While no specific details were given, Carney said, “What the American people will hear is [the president's] vision for moving the economy forward. In the proposals he’ll put forward, there will be a clear choice, and it will be extremely clear to the American people.”
While pundits are focusing on the November election, the White House prefers to focus on what the president can do and is doing for the economy right now instead of waiting to see who will win or lose in the upcoming election.
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