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Obama touts jobs package at LinkedIn town hall gathering

(Xinhua)

10:58, September 27, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday joined a town hall gathering hosted by social network site LinkedIn here, advocating his jobs and economy plans.

Obama addressed a group of LinkedIn employees and users on the topic of jobs, and the steps that would need to be taken to boost an economy with an unemployment rate that is currently hovering at 9.1 percent. These are the highest U.S. unemployment rates that have been observed in almost 30 years.

"The way we stay connected to friends, families and colleagues and of course, share knowledge, ideas and opinions is changing," said LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner in his opening remarks. LinkedIn, a professional social network with the goal of connecting employers with job seekers, has a user base that has more than doubled in the past 18 months to over 120 million users globally.

While Obama recognized the long-term needs that existed in creating a stronger education system and infrastructure, he acknowledged the short-term needs of easing unemployment rates. " The most important thing we can do now to jump-start the economy is by putting people back to work," said the president, emphasizing the immediate need of passing the American Jobs Act he introduced earlier this month.

The Jobs Act focuses on providing tax cuts targeted specifically at small businesses, including a proposal to cut payroll tax in half for 98 percent of small businesses. To address the growing issue of chronic employment, the Jobs Act also proposes added incentives for businesses to hire long-term unemployed workers, including a 4,000-dollar tax credit.

Although California currently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at 12.1 percent, Silicon Valley in northern California, home to some of the largest technology companies in the world, is also home to some of the richest Americans, who want to play a greater role in revitalizing the U.S. economy, particularly in education.

"Would you please raise my taxes? I would very much like the country to invest in programs like Pell Grants and job training classes that enabled me to where I am," asked a former Google employee in the room, who is now unemployed and retired by choice.

Obama responded to a room full of chuckles that America's success has been prefaced on the spirit of individual entrepreneurs who are willing to take that initial risk in engineering a solution, and recognized that education remained a key component of that equation.

"We're successful because somebody invested in our education, somebody built schools... we all benefited from somebody, somewhere making an investment," he said, noting that he himself was able to go to school on full scholarships.

Responding to Republican calls for lower taxes, the president noted that taxes are currently at the lowest levels they have been since the 1950s. Accepting proposals set by the GOP, said Obama, would take the U.S. back to the same level of taxation as the country was at in the 1920s, as measured as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP).

Going forward, he also acknowledged that services like LinkedIn, which provide informal systems of networking and job referrals, would play a critical role in tying talent with economic opportunities. For traditionally underrepresented groups such as veterans, he indicated this would be coupled with government- initiated programs, including a promise made by companies in the private sector to hire 100,000 veterans in the next several years.

Obama concluded the town hall by pushing for the American Jobs Act as a means of alleviating unemployment woes in the short term, and providing the necessary groundwork for investments in the education system and the U.S. infrastructure. "If we're not invested in research and science, if we're not doing all the things that made us great in the past, we're going to fall behind, " he said.

According to White House senior advisor David Plouffe, the American Jobs Act could reach the Senate floor and pass as early as October.

The LinkedIn town hall gathering, which could be watched via a live video stream on LinkedIn and the White House web site, was part of Obama's three-day fundraising trip in the country's West. On Sunday, he had four fund-raising activities in the Seattle area in the State of Washington and Silicon Valley in northern California. He is scheduled to continue the journey in San Diego and Los Angeles in southern California, and would end his trip in Denver of Colorado on Tuesday.

Local media reports estimated that Obama could have raised between 3.5 million U.S. dollars to 5.5 million dollars at two San Francisco Bay Area fundraising functions Sunday night. Besides tech elites, the fundraising also attracted big names, such as pop singer Lady Gaga as paying guests.

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