Monday, December 9, 2013
Ben Feller / The Associated Press
POLAND, Ohio — President Barack Obama says private sector job growth is a "step in the right direction," but the economy must grow faster following a modest monthly job report.
Obama spoke on the second day of a bus tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania as the government reported that only 80,000 jobs were created in June. That leaving the jobless rate unchanged at 8.2 percent.
Campaigning in New Hampshire, Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney called that rate "unacceptably high" and Obama must take responsibility for failed policies.
Obama says the nation has created 4.4 million private sector jobs during the past 28 months but says "it's still tough out there." He says voters need to help break a "stalemate" in Congress that he says is preventing stronger job growth.
Obama began the day going after votes over a little eggs and grits, taking up a stool at Ann's Place, a local restaurant. He was to address the news jobs numbers later in the morning at a school event in Ohio. Romney also planned to comment on the numbers this morning.
Romney remained at his New Hampshire vacation home amid growing anxiety among conservatives that he was not being aggressive enough and was squandering his opportunity to win in November. Republicans worry that Obama's attacks against Romney are taking their toll on the challenger and right-leaning leaders in business and the media is presenting a muddled case for his presidency despite a weak economy.
On his tour, Obama was promoting policies that he says have helped states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, particularly the government bailout of Chrysler and General Motors.
"We saved an auto industry. That saved hundreds of thousands of jobs here in Ohio," Obama said in an interview with NBC affiliate WLWT in Cincinnati that was aired today. "We passed a health care law that's going to mean security for Ohioans."
Obama questioned Romney's motives on health care in the same interview, accusing his rival of caving under pressure from conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh for saying that requiring all Americans to buy health insurance amounts to a tax.
Romney said Wednesday the Supreme Court ruled the requirement to buy health insurance was a tax, which amounted to a shift in his position. Earlier in the week, senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said Romney viewed the mandate as a penalty, a fee or a fine — not a tax.
"So the question becomes, are you doing that because of politics?" Obama said. "Are you abandoning a principle that you fought for, for six years simply because you're getting pressure for two days from Rush Limbaugh or some critics in Washington?"
The jobless numbers promised to command attention today and determine the nature of the political debate. The unemployment and hiring figures provide monthly milestones with which to measure the human toll of the weak economic recovery.
Republicans were quick to pounce on the report, declaring that Obama's policies had failed.
"The president bet on a failed 'stimulus' spending binge that led to 41 months of unemployment above 8 percent," House Speaker John Boehner said today. "He bet on a government takeover of health care that's driving up costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire."
Democrats sought to capitalize on the jobs created, which at 80,000 is not enough to keep up with population growth but sustains a string of months where the private sector has increased hiring.
"With the private sector continuing to create jobs for the twenty-eighth consecutive month, our economic recovery continues to push forward," Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second ranking Democrat in the House, said in a statement.
(Continued on page 2)