Obama calls for 'veterans job corps' during Minn. visitby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — President Barack Obama spent much of today in Minnesota, where he called on Congress to act on his plan to create jobs.
But the president's visit to a Honeywell plant in Golden Valley came on the same day the Labor Department released disappointing job numbers for May and the nation's unemployment rate ticked up. Within moments of taking the podium, Obama responded to the news that the nation's economy added only 69,000 jobs in May.
"We're still fighting our way back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," the president said. "The economy is growing again, but it's not growing as fast as we want it to grow. Our businesses have created almost 4.3 million new jobs over the last 27 months, but, as we learned in today's jobs report, we're still not creating them as fast as we want."
The number of jobs created in May job were about half what most analysts were expecting, and the unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent. Obama said the economy faces some serious headwinds, notably the situation in Europe. He pressed Congress to pass his job creation proposals.
"We can't fully control everything that happens in other parts of the world, disturbances in the Middle East, what's going on in Europe, but there are plenty of things we can control here at home," Obama said. "There are plenty of steps we can take right now to help create jobs and grow this economy."
Obama rattled off his job creation "to do" list for Congress, which includes tax credits for small businesses that add jobs, and eliminating tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas. He also wants Congress to make it easier for some homeowners to refinance their mortgages and to again approve renewable energy tax credits.
For his Minnesota visit Obama focused on the final item on his list: the creation of a "Veterans Jobs Corps," which would find jobs for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in law enforcement, fire departments and other civilian occupations.
"I believe that no one who fights for this country should ever have to fight for a job when they come home," the president said.
Obama suggested his proposals amount to common sense, given what's going on with the economy. But he said Congress refuses to act on them.
"And there's no excuse for it, not when there are so many people out there still looking for work, not when there are still folks out there struggling to pay their bills," Obama said.
Likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called the poor job numbers devastating news for American workers and families. He called the jobs report a harsh indictment of Obama's handling of the economy.
In a conference call with reporters before the president's speech, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a surrogate for the Romney campaign, said the latest jobs numbers highlight the failures of the Obama administration.
"Of course we welcome him to Minnesota," said Pawlenty, who ended his own presidential bid last summer. "But it's also an opportunity to talk about the abysmal impact that his policies have had on the American job market and free enterprise."
While Republicans were harshly critical, some of the workers who listened to Obama's speech were willing to give the president a break.
Ann Lemire, who has worked at Honeywell's Golden Valley plant for 30 years, was delighted her name was chosen in a company lottery to attend the Obama speech. Lemire, of Champlin, Minn., said she voted for Obama in 2008 and will vote for him again this fall.
"I think he's been doing a good job and I think he's been trying real hard and I think he's been fairly successful doing so," she said.
But Lemire acknowledged it could be a difficult reelection for the president.
"Well, I'm concerned," she said. "That's for sure."
Also in the audience was Bruce Lindell, who works at Honeywell's facility in Coon Rapids designing aircraft controls. Lindell didn't vote for Obama, but he doesn't blame the president for the job climate. As for Obama's current job proposals, Lindell wasn't impressed.
"That's just little Band-Aid stuff," Lindell said. "It helps the publicity. It may help the public mood. It may help in the jaw-boning aspect to improve morale. But in the end of the day I don't think it's going to make much difference in how our economy's moving."
While Obama may be unlikely to convince Congress to pass his jobs plan, at Honeywell he announced something he's doing on his own to help veterans find good jobs.
"I'm proud to announce new partnerships between the military and manufacturing groups that will make it easier for companies to hire returning service members who've proved they've earned the skills our country needs," the president said.
Obama's initiative aims to allow for veterans to more quickly obtain licenses and credentials they need in civilian life based on skills they've already mastered in the military.
The president cited a conversation he had with a veteran on one of his previous visits to Minnesota who despite his work as a combat medic could not get hired as an ambulance driver back home.
After the Honeywell speech, President Obama held three fundraisers in Minneapolis, and raised as much as $1.8 million, according to a pool report.
Obama held the events at the Bachelor Farmer restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, which is owned by Gov. Dayton's two sons.
The pool report says roughly 100 people paid $5,000 each to attend a fundraiser that was open to the press. Twenty people paid $40,000 each to attend a roundtable with the president where the media were not allowed. Ten people paid $50,000 each to attend another separate roundtable that was also closed press.
That would put the total take at $1.8 million if everyone in attendance paid the asking price. The money will be split between the Obama campaign, the Democratic National Committee and several state parties.
(MPR's Tom Scheck contributed to this report)
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