WASHINGTON (RNN) - On the heels of disappointing job numbers in which employers added zero net jobs in the month of August, President Barack Obama will put forth his plan for putting Americans back to work in a televised speech Thursday.
Private sector employers added 17,000 jobs in August, but those gains were negated by a loss of 17,000 government jobs. The national unemployment rate remained steady at 9.1 percent.
That translates in 14 million people without work - a sobering statistic for a nation weary of a seemingly endless economic slump.
"There's a perception that his presidency is adrift, he doesn't get it," said Dr. Martin Edwards, assistant professor in the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University. "One of the reasons people are concerned is, he's been a little quiet on this.
"The first message [he needs to give] is, 'I'm aware of the situation and I'm going to handle it.' Kind of calm people down a little bit. Then there are specifics. That's the harder question. He could propose anything under the sun, but whether it can get passed by this Congress is [questionable]."
While the White House hasn't released details of the plan, Obama hinted at a Labor Day stop in Detroit that a push to repair much of the nation's infrastructure will be part of his pitch.
"We've got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding. We've got private companies with the equipment and the manpower to do the building. We've got more than one million unemployed construction workers ready to get dirty right now," he told a crowd gathered at an AFL-CIO sponsored event. "There is work to be done, and there are workers ready to do it."
But will repairing a crumbling infrastructure be enough to boost a sagging economy?
"If you work in construction, it's great, but the students I have who go out in the job market, their degrees are in international affairs, not construction," Edwards said.
Edwards recommends an extension of unemployment insurance as well as a payroll tax that creates incentives for businesses to hire.
A leading economist says an infrastructure pitch is an old fashioned approach straight out of the FDR playbook.
"It's amazing we're going back 80 years to something that he tried back then," said Keivan Deravi, professor of economics at Auburn University Montgomery.
"It's an old cliché that if the economy isn't creating jobs, the government can create jobs by digging a hole and filling the hole back in. If it's anything short of an aggressive, all-out job plan, it's not going to work."
Deravi says a jobs plan ambitious enough to put make a difference would likely cost more than a divided Congress is willing to pay. He sees the plan as more a political move to score points with voters than a viable jobs plan.
"I think this is more an election year ploy. He's going to come up with a plan Congress won't deliver on and he can blame Congress. It's too late, too political. We just don't have the money and don't have the Congress on his side," Deravi said. "He's going to come up with a plan that he can't pay for and the Congress isn't going to have the appetite to pay for it."
What kind of boost the plan will give the economy or Obama's approval numbers remains to be seen.
But finding a way to put Americans in jobs may be the piece of the puzzle Obama needs to keep his.
"While the President doesn't have a whole lot going for him, he does have the ability to set an agenda. He needs to talk directly to the public to reassure them not only that he has an agenda to address the jobs crisis, but also to ensure that voters know where to attribute blame should his proposals not make it through Congress," Edwards said.
"Without some sort of action, voters are going to take their anger out on the White House and Congress next year."
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