President en route to tour Westside manufacturing plant

Obama expected to tout benefits of his economic stimulus program

President Obama boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base just before 10:45 a.m. Friday
President Obama boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base just before 10:45 a.m. Friday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – President Barack Obama is heading to Jacksonville to tout the benefits of the massive economic stimulus bill he signed shortly after taking office seven years ago.

Obama pumped more than $760 billion into a then-slumping economy beginning in early 2009 in a frantic effort to halt the worst economic downturn in generations. It was an unsettling period for many Americans as hundreds of thousands of jobs disappeared, unemployment climbed into double digits and home values plummeted.

Obama will argue during a stop at Saft American on Jacksonville's Westside that the country is on a more solid footing because of this and other "tough choices" he made early in his first term.

Saft America, which makes lithium-ion batteries, received a $95.5 million federal grant in 2009. The factory no employs about 300 people in the Jacksonville area, including veterans, according to the administration.

Just a few Republican senators voted for the Recovery Act. Most GOP lawmakers opposed the measure and argue that taxpayers got too little in return on such a sizable investment. They would often taunt the administration by repeatedly asking, "Where are the jobs?"

Money from the Recovery Act was spent on transportation infrastructure, clean energy and other public investments. Obama also used the money to cut taxes for middle-class and working families, provide businesses with tax relief and provide assistance to financially strapped states.

Despite some high-profile failures on the clean energy front, the administration sees spending on the industry as a bright spot of the stimulus.

"I think by all measures ... there's no denying that the American people and our nation are in much better condition than it was seven years ago," said Obama's spokesman, Josh Earnest.

“I think the long-term future for companies like Saft in this sector of our economy is actually really bright because of some of the investments we made in some of the Recovery Act seven years ago. The Recovery Act actually constituted the largest ever investment in renewable energy. And that's paying off both in terms of jobs and economic growth,” Earnest said.

The president is expected to talk about the tough decisions he made during his first term to help get America out of a financial crisis. At the start of this year, the U.S. economy has completed the best two years of job growth since the 1990s and the fastest two-year drop in unemployment in three decades.

But News4Jax political analyst Jennifer Carroll said another agenda is in the works. She said Obama plans on pushing another stimulus package before he leaves office, which will be met with opposition.

“The president will receive major opposition from the Republicans because the Republicans are receiving opposition from their constituents across the board, and that's why you're seeing Donald Trump rise so high in the polls,” Carroll said. "The constituents who said they did not like the federal money picking and choosing winners and losers as to who will get their tax dollars to keep their businesses or to fail, that the Republicans didn't push back hard enough to get unilaterally what he did. So the Republicans' wanting to save their seats in the upcoming election will push back harder to not have a stimulus package go through."

News4Jax will present live coverage of the president's visit to Jacksonville, on air and online.  You can watch Air Force One land just before 12:30 p.m. We will also carry the president's remarks at Saft, and you can see Air Force One depart later in the afternoon as well.

Tune into Channel 4 or watch the live stream on News4Jax.com or the News4Jax mobile app.

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