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The return of stimulus

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Kai Ryssdal: You can pencil this one in your calendars right now: Next Wednesday night, 8 o’clock Washington time. The president’s going to clue us on on his plan to get people back to work and reducing the deficit at the same time. He’s asked Congress for permission to address a joint session of Congress that evening. But House Speaker John Boehner said late this afternoon maybe another day would be better; there’s a big GOP presidential debate set for that night out here in California.

But whatever the politics of it, the policy goes something like this: Simultaneously spending money to generate jobs in the short run, while cutting spending and reforming the tax code over the long haul.

On a more immediate note — as in, today — the president called on Congress to pass a spending bill before it expires at the end of September to fund transportation. Because — wait for it — there are jobs on the line.

Our Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale has more on job creation as Washington’s Job One.

John Dimsdale: President Obama said he wants to avoid another political impasse like the one last month that interrupted airport rebuilding projects and caused 74,000 temporary layoffs. Obama brought a small group of construction workers to a press conference in the Rose Garden.

Barack Obama: If we don’t extend this bill by the end of September, all of them will be out of a job — just because of politics in Washington.

Leaders from the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO were there, too, as if to show Congress there’s broad support for the transportation bill. Both groups unveiled separate job creation recommendations today. Different plans to be sure, but there was some overlap. It seems government stimulus is no longer a dirty word in Washington.

Martin Regalia: Perhaps the stimulus bill, the much-maligned stimulus bill, actually might have had a little bit more impact than people had thought.

That’s the Chamber of Commerce’s chief economist Martin Regalia. He says back in 2009, President Obama’s $800 billion stimulus package helped the economy grow.

Regalia: And then as the stimulus package waned and expired, you saw the economy drift down a little bit.

The Chamber wants more government spending on infrastructure. The AFL-CIO does too — even with huge deficits, says President Richard Trumka.

Richard Trumka: The United States doesn’t have a short-term debt crisis. It has a short-term jobs crisis.

Unions and the Chamber of Commerce are still divided over most policies: trade, taxes and regulations among them. But for now, both want the government to be a sugar daddy for the economy once more.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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