Obama touts tax deal as vehicle for economic growth in new year

President Obama predicted the tax package passed recently by Congress would help drive down unemployment and grow the economy faster than previously expected.

“I fought for that package because, while we are recovering, we plainly still have a lot of work to do,” he said in his weekly address. “The recession rocked the foundations of our economy, and left a lot of destruction and doubt in its wake.”

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The bill passed during the lame-duck session of Congress in December extended the Bush-era tax cuts, expanded unemployment insurance benefits, cut payroll taxes by 2 percent during 2011 and allowed businesses to write off all their capital investments between Sept. 9, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2011.

“Independent experts have concluded that, taken together, this package of tax cuts will significantly accelerate the pace of our economic recovery, spurring additional jobs and growth,” Obama said. “And that is our mission.”

The president’s comments came as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told the Senate Budget Committee on Friday that it could take four or five more years for the job market to normalize. Unemployment dropped to 9.4 percent in December, which Obama said means "the pace of hiring is picking up."

“Last month, our economy added more than 100,000 private-sector jobs and the unemployment rate fell sharply,” he said. “This follows encouraging economic news from increased auto sales to continued expansion of our manufacturing sector.”

Obama called the $858 billion tax bill an “admirable example” of bipartisan legislating. But with a battle over repealing the Democrats’ healthcare reform bill looming, the president warned Congress not to “refight the battles of the last two years.”

“That [will] distract us from the hard work of moving our economy forward,” he said. “What we can’t do is engage in the kinds of symbolic battles that so often consume Washington while the rest of America waits for us to solve problems.”