Senator Obama delivered a major economic policy address to lay out his economic rescue plan for the middle class in Toledo, Ohio this afternoon.
He unveiled his Economic Rescue Plan for The Middle Class. This is a comprehensive four-part plan to deal with the immediate crisis that builds on proposals he has previously announced and includes several major new ideas.
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.
We’ve already lost three-quarters of a million jobs this year, and some experts say that unemployment may rise to 8% by the end of next year. We can’t wait until then to start creating new jobs. That’s why I’m proposing to give our businesses a new American jobs tax credit for each new employee they hire here in the United States over the next two years.
We will also save one million jobs by creating a Jobs and Growth Fund that will provide money to states and local communities so that they can move forward with projects to rebuild and repair our roads, our bridges, and our schools. A lot of these projects and these jobs are at risk right now because of budget shortfalls, but this fund will make sure they continue.
...At a time when the ups and downs of the stock market have rarely been so unpredictable and dramatic, we also need to give families and retirees more flexibility and security when it comes to their retirement savings. ...Since so many Americans will be struggling to pay the bills over the next year, I propose that we allow every family to withdraw up to 15% from their IRA or 401(k) – up to a maximum of $10,000 – without any fine or penalty throughout 2009. This will help families get through this crisis without being forced to make painful choices like selling their homes or not sending their kids to college.
...For those Americans in danger of losing their homes, today I’m also proposing a three-month moratorium on foreclosures. If you are a bank or lender that is getting money from the rescue plan that passed Congress, and your customers are making a good-faith effort to make their mortgage payments and re-negotiate their mortgages, you will not be able to foreclose on their home for three months. We need to give people the breathing room they need to get back on their feet.
...It also means promoting a new ethic of responsibility. Part of the reason this crisis occurred is that everyone was living beyond their means – from Wall Street to Washington to even some on Main Street. CEOs got greedy. Politicians spent money they didn’t have. Lenders tricked people into buying home they couldn’t afford and some folks knew they couldn’t afford them and bought them anyway.
We’ve lived through an era of easy money, in which we were allowed and even encouraged to spend without limits; to borrow instead of save.
Now, I know that in an age of declining wages and skyrocketing costs, for many folks this was not a choice but a necessity. People have been forced to turn to credit cards and home equity loans to keep up, just like our government has borrowed from China and other creditors to help pay its bills.
But we now know how dangerous that can be. Once we get past the present emergency, which requires immediate new investments, we have to break that cycle of debt. Our long-term future requires that we do what’s necessary to scale down our deficits, grow wages and encourage personal savings again.
It’s a serious challenge. But we can do it if we act now, and if we act as one nation. We can bring a new era of responsibility and accountability to Wall Street and to Washington. We can put in place common-sense regulations to prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again. We can make investments in the technology and innovation that will restore prosperity and lead to new jobs and a new economy for the 21st century. We can restore a sense of fairness and balance that will give ever American a fair shot at the American dream. And above all, we can restore confidence – confidence in America, confidence in our economy, and confidence in ourselves.
Read Barack's full remarks, as prepared for delivery...
Obama's plan includes four new major ideas about job creation, relief to families, relief to homeowners and responding to the financial crisis:
Job Creation: A New American Jobs Tax Credit. Obama is calling for a temporary tax credit for firms that create new jobs in the United States over the next two years.
Relief to Families: Penalty-Free Withdrawals from IRAs and 401(k)s in 2008 and 2009. Obama is calling for new legislation to allow families to withdraw 15% of their retirement savings – up to a maximum of $10,000 – without facing a tax-penalty this year (including retroactively) and next year.
Relief to Homeowners: 90 day foreclosure moratorium for homeowners that are acting in good faith. Financial institutions that participate in the Treasury’s financial rescue plan should be required to adhere to a homeowners code of conduct, including a 90-day foreclosure moratorium for any homeowners living in their homes that are making good faith efforts pay their mortgages.
Responding to the Financial Crisis: A Lending Facility to Address the Credit Crisis for States and Localities. Obama is calling on the Federal Reserve and the Treasury to work to establish a facility to lend to state and municipal governments, similar to the steps the Fed recently took to provide liquidity to the commercial paper market.
Obama’s plan also calls for temporarily eliminating taxes on unemployment insurance benefits; keeping all options on the table to help our automakers weather the financial crisis; having the Fed and Treasury prepare for guaranteeing a broader range of liabilities of the banking system; and instructing Treasury to help unfreeze markets for individual mortgages, student loans, car loans, loans for multi-family dwellings and credit card loans.
Read Obama's full Economic Rescue Plan.