Obama speaks about American Jobs Act in Columbus

Caitlin Restelli

An audience of about 1,000 crowded around a stage in Columbus Tuesday, basking in 80 degree weather to hear President Barack Obama’s words about his newly proposed bill— the $447 billion American Jobs Act.

The act was proposed to Congress Sept. 8 and sent to congress Sept. 12.

“This is a plan that does two things: It puts people back to work, and it puts more money in the pockets of working Americans,” Obama said.

Obama is looking for people to tell Congress to push this bill through quickly. Fort Hayes Art and Academic High School—a school undergoing a modernization project since 2006—was his second stop on his mission to raise awareness.

Fort Hayes was originally built during the Civil War, which is why it underwent renovation several years ago, making it more adequate for the 21st century. Obama said the school is doing exactly what he wants this bill to do—create more jobs.

Due to the school renovation, it created over 250 jobs for masons, concrete workers, carpenters, plumbers and electricians.

“There are schools all throughout Ohio that need this kind of renovation,” Obama said.

The bill also calls for construction projects to fix highways, bridges, etc.

“There are construction projects…all across the country just waiting to get started and there are millions of unemployed construction workers who are looking for a job,” said Obama.  “So my question to Congress is:  What on Earth are we waiting for?”

The crowd responded to Obama’s words throughout the speech by chanting “pass this bill! pass this bill!”

The act proposes $30 billion to be used for school infrastructure and modernization. The $30 billion will also allow schools to hire and retain teachers.

If this bill is passed, there will be funding to save jobs of up to 14,000 Ohio teachers, police and firefighters.

Lori McKenzie, assistant director of training and development at Columbus State University said the act is the best plan she has heard so far, in fact the only plan.

“It will help us be able to allow our students to get the education they need and to secure their jobs,” McKenzie said.

The goal of the American Jobs Act is to ultimately grow the economy. It will lead to new jobs for construction workers, teachers, veterans, young people and the unemployed.

“Think about it. There are places like South Korea that are adding teachers to prepare their kids for the global economy,” Obama said. “At the same time as we’re laying off our teachers left and right; while we’ve got school districts that have eliminated all extraciricular activities—art, sports, you name it.”

Budget cuts in Ohio are forcing schools to make layoffs and cut programs that should not be cut.

“It is unfair to our kids, it undermines our future, and it has to stop,” Obama said. “Tell Congress to pass the American Jobs Act so we can put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong.”

The bill cuts taxes for small businesses that hire new employees, it cuts taxes for small businesses that raise salaries for current employees, and it cuts small business payroll taxes in half. 

“It will help hundreds of thousands of young people find summer jobs next year,” Obama said.

Also, if the bill is passed, the typical working family will get $1,500 in tax cuts next year. If Congress does not act, the middle-class families will get hit with a tax increase.

Darlene Szuhay-Zigmont, dance teacher at Fort Hayes, said the school could have used this act a couple years ago when they were actually re-doing the school.

However, Szuhay-Zigmont said she thinks “it will help with just refurnishing some of the old buildings…to be able to make the campus more expansive.”

Obama’s next stop for his rally tour is a small manufacturing business in Apex, NC, as well as North Carolina State University Wednesday, Sept. 14.

“There is work to be done, there are workers ready to do it; so let’s tell Congress ‘pass this bill right away,’” Obama said.

Caitlin Restelli is a city reporter for the Daily Kent Stater.