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Friday, August 3, 2012 - 13:07

Obama, Romney Spar Over Jobs; Glass Half-Full Or Half Empty?

WASHINGTON (MNI) - President Barack Obama Friday highlighted the postive aspects of a better-than-expected July employment report, while his challenger Mitt Romney pointed to the slight rise in the unemployment rate as continued proof of the admnistration's failed policies.

Speaking from the White House following the report that the U.S. economy added 163,000 jobs in July, Obama said the 172,000 increase in private payrolls means the U.S. economy has now created 4.5 million new jobs over the last 29 months and 1.1 million so far in 2012.

However, "We've still got too many folks out there who are looking for work," Obama acknowledged. "We've got more work to do on their behalf."

He said this work involves not just reclaiming the jobs lost during the 2008 to 2009 recession, but restoring the sort of financial security that "too many Americans have felt was slipping away from them for too long."

Romney, on the other hand, called the increase in the unemployment rate from 8.2% to 8.3% "a hammer blow to struggling middle-class families."

In a statement after the report's release, the GOP presidential candidate declared that his proposals to boost job growth, unveiled Thursday under the umbrella of the campaign-themed 'Plan for a Stronger Middle Class', "will turn things around and bring the economy roaring back, with 12 million new jobs created by the end of my first term."

Obama does not have a plan, Romney said, noting that the country has now gone 42 consecutive months with the unemployment rate above 8%.

"Middle class Americans deserve better, and I believe America can do better," he said.

Obama urged patience, arguing that, "We knew when I started in this job that this was going to take some time" with the country working its way out of a crisis on a scale not seen since the 1930s.

Senior economic officials within the administration shared Obama's cautious optimism, with Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Alan Krueger saying in a separate statement: "While there is more work that remains to be done, today's employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression."

Jan Eberly, the Treasury Department's chief economist, told reporters during briefing that the labor market appears to be continuing on the path of gradual improvement, but stressed that despite some positive developments, many Americans confront ongoing challenges.

The main focus of the president's remarks was on the need for Congress to pass an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for Americans making less than $250,000 a year.

"Rebuilding a strong economy begins with rebuilding our middle class," Obama said. "When families have the security of knowing that their taxes won't go up, they are more likely to spend and more likely to grow the economy."

Obama described the actions of House GOP in particular as "disappointing," and accused them of holding the middle class tax cuts hostage.

Wednesday, the House voted to approve Republican legislation to renew all the Bush-era tax cuts for another year on a 255-to-171 vote. Earlier in the day, the House rejected a Democratic plan -- passed by the Senate -- to extend the tax cuts only for those families making $250,000 or less. The Democratic plan was defeated on an 170-to-257 vote.

** MNI Washington Bureau: 202-371-2121 **

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