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Obama to Congress: Pass New Jobs Bill

President urges tax breaks, jobless benefits

President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress about jobs in Washington, September 8, 2011.

President Obama urges Congress to pass his jobs bill now. — Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

En español | Americans suffering through a job drought can't wait until the next election for the nation to solve their problems, President Obama told Congress Thursday night.

"The people who sent us here — the people who hired us to work for them — they don't have the luxury of waiting 14 months," Obama said in urging Congress to act quickly. "Some of them are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck, even day to day. They need help, and they need it now."

See also: Restoring fiscal sanity.

Obama's $447 billion jobs plan includes tax relief for workers and their employers, funds for school and road rebuilding, and extended unemployment benefits. He will lay out specifics of how to pay for the plan a week from Monday. But he said Thursday that part of the tab will be paid by "making modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid."

The jobless problem has hit older workers as well as younger.

"The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy; whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning," Obama said.

The national unemployment rate of 9.1 percent compares with a rate of 6.8 percent for workers 50 and older, according to Terry McMenamin of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But older people tend to be out of work longer. According to the BLS, 55 percent of the workers who have been searching for jobs for six months or more are 55 or older.

And many older workers are underemployed or have quit looking and aren't included in the unemployment statistics, said Barry Lott and Timothy Hamre, who codirect program operations at the National Council on Aging, which runs a Senior Community Service Employment Program for low-income job seekers 55 and older.

"It's bad for everybody out there, which makes it worse on seniors, because organizations are looking for someone who can give them longevity without having to pay much," Lott said.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said after the speech that both sides need to listen to the other and find common ground.

"The proposals the president outlined tonight merit consideration," Boehner said. "We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well. It's my hope that we can work together to end the uncertainty facing families and small businesses, and create a better environment for long-term economic growth and private-sector job creation."

Next: Main proposals from Democrats and Republicans. >>

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