Obama proposes $1,000 energy rebates for consumers | AspenTimes.com

Obama proposes $1,000 energy rebates for consumers

Mike Glover
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, asks hecklers to ask questions when he is finished with his speech, Friday, Aug. 1, 2008, during a town hall meeting in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida ” Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Friday called for a $1,000 “emergency” rebate to consumers to offset soaring energy costs amid fresh signs of a struggling U.S. economy and an unemployment rate that has climbed to a four-year high.

Obama told a town-hall meeting the rebate would be financed with a windfall profits tax on the oil industry.

“This rebate will be enough to offset the increased cost of gas for a working family over the next four months,” Obama said in the crucial battleground state of Florida.

Obama had earlier said the rebates should be part of a larger tax relief package. But now he says the slumping economy demands they be put in place immediately.

Obama’s remarks coincide with news that the unemployment rate climbed to a four-year high of 5.7 percent in July as employers cut 51,000 jobs, dashing the hopes of an influx of young people looking for summer work. Payroll cuts weren’t as deep as the 72,000 predicted by economists, however. And, job losses for both May and June were smaller than previously reported.

July’s reductions marked the seventh straight month in which employers eliminated jobs. The economy has lost a total of 463,00 jobs so far this year.

“We can either choose a new direction for our economy, or we can keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Obama said.

During his speech, Obama was interrupted by three men who stood up with a banner asking, “What about the black community, Obama?” Many in the crowd began chanting, “Yes, we can,” the Obama campaign mantra to counter the criticism.

Obama told the three that they would have a chance to ask questions after he had his opportunity to speak. A town-hall organizer later took the banner from the three.

During the question-and-answer period, Obama called on one of the men who held the banner, who chastised the candidate for not speaking out more about predatory lending and its impact on the black community, Hurricane Katrina’s destruction and the fatal shooting of an unarmed man on his wedding day in New York.

Obama defended his record, saying he had spoken out on all those issues. “I may not have spoken out the way you want me to speak out,” he said. And as the crowd stood and applauded, Obama stressed the need to be respectful, saying, “the only way to solve the problems in this country is if we all come together ” black and white …”

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