Though there are signs that the economy is on the uptick, President Obama is keeping pressure on Congress to pass a jobs bill, traveling to Austin, Texas, this week as part of a new jobs tour to bring attention to the struggles of middle class families and build support for his economic policies.
Though the fight over gun control and immigration reform has drawn headlines of late, the White House wants to remind the public that the economy is still a top priority of the president. In Austin, Obama is scheduled to meet students at a technology charter school, meet with technology entrepreneurs, visit an Austin tech company and have a discussion with middle-class workers.
Austin saw a jump of 9 percentage points in employment during Obama’s first term, according to the Austin American-Statesman, and companies like Apple, Visa and General Motors are developing new facilities in the area.
“The president’s trip will be similar to previous ‘White House to Main Street’ events that directly engage the American people and effectively pushed Congress to act,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement. “Things are getting better, but our economic recovery is not as strong as it could be and far too many middle class families are still struggling. The question is, will Congress will join with the president to make sure the middle class is strong and secure?”
The national unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent last month, the lowest level since Obama took office—but the rate for African-Americans remained high, falling from 13.3 percent in March to 13.2 percent in April. Since last November, the U.S. economy has created an average of 208,000 jobs a month.
The president has had some economic victories in Congress, including the extension of the payroll tax cut and lower rates on student loans. He also struck this year’s “fiscal cliff” deal after a series of public appeals. But his ambitious job-creation plans have stalled.
Obama wants Congress to invest in manufacturing “hubs” around the country, spend $50 billion on roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects, and raise the minimum wage to $9 per hour from the current $7.25.
“There’s a lot on Congress’ plate,” a White House aide told The Hill on Sunday, noting upcoming debates over immigration reform and presidential nominations. “We also want to make sure part of the discussion includes a conversation about the economy, including a focus on some of the ideas that the president rolled out in his State of the Union address.”
According to the White House, the president planned “a series of these [day trips]… every several weeks or so,” with the goal of “trying to assemble this common-sense caucus” to pass some of the president’s priorities.
Republicans tend not to be pleased with Obama’s campaign-style trips. During the president’s appeals for a student loan fix, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called one visit “pathetic” and “beneath the dignity of the White House.”
But in his statement, Earnest said that “even though some in Congress are determined to create more self-inflicted economic wounds, there are things Washington could be doing right now to help American businesses, schools and workers.”
“We need to build on the progress we’ve made over the last four years, and that means investing in things that are already creating good paying, stable jobs that can support a middle class family,” Earnest said.