Obama asks deeper payroll tax cut to spur economy

(AP) - Confronting an economy in peril, PresidentBarack Obama unveiled a $450 billion plan Thursday night to boostjobs and put cash in the pockets of dispirited Americans,challenging Republican skeptics to embrace an approach heavy on thetax cuts they traditionally love. With millions of voters watchingand ever skeptical of Washington, Obama told Congress, "Let's meetthe moment."

The newest and boldest element of Obama's plan would slash theSocial Security payroll tax both for tens of millions of workersand for employers, too. For individuals, that tax has been shavedfrom 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent for this year but is to go back upagain without action by Congress. Obama wants to keep it and deepenthe cut to 3.1 percent for workers.

"This plan is the right thing to do right now," Obama saidafter a divided body rose in warm unison to greet him. "You shouldpass it. And I intend to take that message to every corner of thiscountry."

In his televised address to Congress, Obama sought to provide ajolt for the economy, still staggering on his watch, and for hisown standing at one of the lowest marks of his presidency. He putforth a jobs plan that he hopes can get bipartisan support and spurhiring in a nation where 14 million people remain out of work andthe jobless rate is stuck at 9.1 percent. Public confidence in hisstewardship of the economy is eroding.

Obama did not venture an estimate as to how many jobs his planwould create. He promised repeatedly that his plan would be paidfor, but never said how, pledging to release those details soon.

Under soaring expectations for results, Obama sought to puthimself on the side of voters who he said could not care less aboutthe political consequences of his speech.

"The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing nationalcrisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do somethingto help the economy," Obama said.

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