President Barack Obama had much to reflect on prior to unveiling his final budget plan for Fiscal Year 2017, but one theme remained consistent in every part of his speech to Congress and the U.S. today—economic strength is the key to America's future.
When the president took office back in 2008, the nation was in the "worst recession since the Great Depression," the economy was losing nearly a million jobs per month, and many families were struggling financially. Since then, 14 million jobs have been created and the unemployment rate is below 5 percent for the first time in almost eight years, according to the fact sheet released by the The White House Office of the Press Secretary.
The labor market was the strong point of the U.S. economy in the last quarter of 2015, with an average of 284,000 jobs added in the last three months of the year.
The January 2016 Employment Summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated a bit of a slowdown, however, with 151,000 jobs added in the first month of the year—close to half of the previous three-month average.
"Yet while it is important to take stock of our progress, this Budget is not about looking back at the road we have traveled. It is about looking forward and making sure our economy works for everybody, not just those at the top. It is about choosing investments that not only make us stronger today, but also reflect the kind of country we aspire to be–the kind of country we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren." -Office of the Press Secretary
The president’s budget plan, which will go into effect October 1, 2016, talks about several reforms, including a tax reform plan that would "modernize the business tax code to make it fairer and more efficient, and to create jobs," the fact sheet said. In addition, two bipartisan agreements were passed to prevent the return of "harmful sequestration funding levels in 2018 and beyond, replacing the savings by closing tax loopholes and reforming tax expenditures, and with smart spending reforms."
The budget also includes a historic proposal regarding housing. According to an announcement from HUD, the president’s budget request for $11 billion to end family homelessness in the budget.
"This significant investment is based on recent rigorous research that found that families who utilized vouchers–compared to alternative forms of assistance to the homeless–had fewer incidents of homelessness, child separations, intimate partner violence and school moves, less food insecurity, and generally less economic stress," the Office of the Press Secretary stated.
The Opening Doors program, which was the first-ever federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, was launched by President Obama nearly six years ago. While that program has made strides, there is more work to be done, according to HUD. In January 2010, there were 54,000 homeless families nationwide, including 123,000 children; the Opening Doors program has reduced that number by 19 percent in the last six years. In some pockets of the country, however, the rental affordability crisis has resulted in an increase in homelessness among families, according to HUD.
“Today, we can celebrate historic successes in reducing homelessness in all its forms—but we need to reach more families with the proven, cost-effective strategies that have driven that success,” HUD stated in its announcement.
The president concluded his budget plan by noting that "the Budget is a roadmap to a future that embodies America’s values and aspirations: a future of opportunity and security for all of our families; a rising standard of living; and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids. This future is within our reach. But just as it took the collective efforts of the American people to rise from the recession and rebuild an even stronger economy, so will it take all of us working together to meet the challenges that lie ahead."
Click here to read the budget message of the president.