Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Well, Folks,Obama must have woke up and smelled the coffee... JOBS, JOBS, JOBS... let's see what he will be talking about ... and another WSJ/NBC Poll

Obama to Tout Jobs Push
Tax Cuts for Small Business;
Poll Shows Americans Want Eyes on Economy.


WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama intends to use Wednesday's State of the Union address to put a new focus on his jobs agenda as he tries to regain the confidence of a disheartened electorate. He will make small-business hiring the centerpiece of that message, pressing Congress to act on a slate of tax cuts that have languished for months, administration officials said Tuesday.

Mr. Obama will call for eliminating capital-gains taxes on investments in small businesses. He will redouble efforts to give small employers a tax credit for new hires. And he will call for extending bigger tax breaks to those that purchase new facilities and equipment.

Many of the proposals date back to his campaign but have drawn little notice in a Congress preoccupied with other matters, such as overhauling health care.

According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, Americans think the president has paid too much attention to health care and not enough to the economy. At the same time, the number of people who approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing on the economy has ticked up to 47%, five points higher than in the December survey.

Only 27% of registered voters said their decision on whom to support in the November congressional elections would be "a vote to send a signal of opposition" to the president.

White House officials hope to harness that slight improvement, as the president and his cabinet fan out across the country to press the White House's jobs agenda. The president and vice president will make a campaign-style appearance in the pivotal swing state of Florida Thursday, and Mr. Obama will fly to Nashua, N.H., on Tuesday.

The point people for the small-business initiatives will be embattled Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Small Business Administrator Karen Mills, administration officials say. Thursday, Mr. Geithner will travel to Minneapolis to tour a Honeywell factory and have a roundtable discussion with local business leaders.

In the poll, just 11% of Americans feel positively about the Treasury chief. Nearly one in five have negative feelings about him, while more than half said they didn't know his name or weren't sure.

The speech will also promise a list of other initiatives for 2010.

Mr. Obama will announce a salary freeze for senior White House officials and eliminate bonuses for all political appointees. He will touch on the politically difficult subject of allowing gays to serve openly in the military and call for a broad rewriting of the nation's immigration laws.

On defense, he will talk up counterterrorism efforts in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He will also announce an initiative to respond more quickly and more effectively to public-health threats, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Even as he shifts some of his focus, White House officials say the president will continue to press hard for the ambitious agenda he laid out a year ago, much of which has encountered significant hurdles in Congress: an overhaul of health care and financial regulations, a new energy strategy that includes combating climate change, and a push for broader access to higher education, paid for by eliminating subsidies to private student lenders.

Business leaders, including many who advise the White House, say the administration has waited too long to address long-term economic growth and job creation, in part because it's been preoccupied with health care.

They also want to see more measures to spur trade, infrastructure development and lending to small and midsize businesses. In addition, the tax credits to be promoted by the president Wednesday have been too long in the pipeline, they say.

Many of the small-business proposals have been rejected by Congress already. The House passed a job-creation package that didn't mention Mr. Obama's proposed hiring tax credit.

In the Senate, the small-business hiring credit has some momentum. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) and Charles E. Schumer (D., N.Y.) proposed a narrow version Tuesday that would suspend payroll tax payments for any new hire that had been unemployed for 60 days.

Melissa Sharp, a spokeswoman for the National Federation of Independent Business, the small-business lobby, said the Hatch-Schumer proposal may be a step in the right direction. The organization, though, would like to see a broader measure—one that doesn't just apply to the longterm unemployed.

Hiring tax credits have been controversial. Some economists worry businesses could fire then rehire workers to claim the credit, or divide a full-time job into two part-time jobs.

An administration official said Tuesday Mr. Obama will offer more specifics on the hiring tax credit, making clear it will be a top priority and the anchor of his jobs package.

The president faces a tough prime-time audience—both on Capitol Hill and in the nation at large. A year ago, in his first address to a joint session of Congress, Democrats were triumphant, Republicans were on the mat, and the nation was behind him. Now, Mr. Obama and his party are toiling in a less favorable environment.

"It is just an angry public," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff.

The number of Americans who feel that the country is headed in the wrong direction has risen to 58%, the highest number since before Mr. Obama's inauguration.

Moreover, Mr. Obama's overall approval rating of 50% might look better than recent polls, but given the survey's margin of error, the new rating is statistically similar to his 47% approval in December. Forty-four percent say they disapprove of the job he is doing.

Write to Jonathan Weisman at jonathan. weisman@wsj.com and Peter Wallsten at peter.wallsten@wsj.com

Let's read more about that Poll:

American public fed up with Washington
70% say government isn't working well; Obama approval back at 50%

NBC poll: ‘Too much partisan fighting’
58 percent of Americans believing the country is on the wrong track

Mark Murray
Deputy political director

WASHINGTON - As President Barack Obama prepares to deliver his first State of the Union address Wednesday night, he will be speaking to an American public that’s fed up with Congress, the country’s two main political parties, and the federal government, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Only 28 percent believe the federal government is “working well” or even works “okay,” versus seven in 10 who think it’s “unhealthy,” “stagnant” or needs large reforms.

By comparison, in December of 2000 — during the height of the disputed Bush-Gore presidential election — 55 percent said the government was working well or okay.

What’s more, a whopping 93 percent believe there’s too much partisan infighting; 84 percent think the special interests have too much influence over legislation; nearly three-quarters say that not enough has been done to regulate Wall Street and the banking industry; and an equal 61 percent complain that both Democrats and Republicans in Congress aren’t willing to compromise.

And the percentage who believe the country is headed in the wrong direction now stands at 58 percent, the highest level of Obama’s presidency.

“The message is a big one,” said Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “The message is, ‘We hate what’s going in Washington.’”

Public’s anger isn’t directed at Obama
Indeed, the NBC/Journal survey finds that nearly half of the country (48 percent) said last week’s stunning election in Massachusetts, in which Republican candidate Scott Brown won a Senate contest in one of the nation’s most Democratic-leaning states, was aimed at sending a message to Washington. Only 15 percent disagreed.

But if the public is fed up with Washington, its anger isn’t necessarily directed at President Obama.

Only 27 percent say they blame him for not being able to find solutions to the country’s problems. By contrast, 48 percent blame Republicans in Congress and 41 percent blame congressional Democrats.

“The president has problems,” Hart adds, “but the Congress has much bigger problems.”

Obama’s numbers, in fact, are virtually unchanged from last week’s poll, which was released on the day of the Massachusetts election.

The president’s approval rating inched up two points to 50 percent, while the number believing his health care plan is a good idea declined two points to 31 percent.

“This data set reminds us that the Scott Brown election has been a huge event in Washington, D.C.,” said McInturff, the Republican pollster. “But around the country, I think this polling would suggest that it had a modest effect.”

Focus more on the economy, less on health care
However, the poll also suggests the public wants Obama to refocus his priorities: 44 percent say he has given too much attention to health care, 16 percent say he’s given it too little attention and 38 percent say he’s given it the right amount.

On the other hand, 51 percent maintain he’s given the economy too little attention, compared with only 5 percent who say he’s given it too much attention and 42 percent who say he’s given it the right amount of attention.

Still, a majority of Americans continue to have high hopes for Obama. A combined 54 percent either say that he’s facing a short-term setback from which he’ll rebound or that he’s not facing a setback at all.

That’s compared with 42 percent who say he’s facing a long-term setback from which he’ll unlikely recover.

GOP’s enthusiasm edge
Looking ahead to this year’s midterm elections, 44 percent of registered voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 42 percent who want a GOP-controlled one. Last week’s survey showed a 41-41 percent tie on this question.

But Republicans continue to enjoy a significant enthusiasm advantage. Voters who are most interested in November’s midterms prefer a Republican-controlled Congress by a 49-41 percent margin.

Yet the poll also provides evidence that Obama might be more of an asset than a liability in November. Thirty-seven percent say their vote will be a signal of support for the president, while 27 percent say it will be a signal of opposition; 35 percent said it won’t signal anything about Obama.

The poll (click here to read the whole thing) was conducted of 800 adults from Jan. 23-25, and it has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.5 percentage points.

Mark Murray covers politics for NBC News.

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