Local residents give mixed reactions to president's speech

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:06 AM

Unlike her terms on City Council, where “we all worked together,” Hierholzer said she fears political posturing may pose problems for Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill package that would cut small business taxes, create tax credits for businesses that raise wages or hire new employees, and create jobs through infrastructure projects.

The president said the American Jobs Act would be paid for in part by tax increases on the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

“I like the thought that all of these programs and things he wants, he wants them to be paid for,” said Hierholzer, who has lived in the same Grand Haven home for 73 years. “I like the idea that he wants to have more manufacturing in this country and have the foreign countries buy our stuff for a change. I certainly wish him well, but I’m so afraid it’s so much all politics that nothing is going to happen again.”

Hierholzer said it’s important for Americans to earn their money, instead of being handed welfare checks.

“I still think the way Roosevelt started out with jobs was a good way,” Hierholzer said. “You should give the people money, but I think they have to work for it.

Roosevelt had people out planting trees and working on roads. The money was there, but they had to work for it. If that would happen nowadays, maybe that would help.”

Grand Haven resident Deb Snyder — who works as manager of the Zeeland Manpower office — said from her experience, the problem isn’t a lack of jobs. The problem is the lack of ambitious and dedicated people to fill them, she said.

Snyder said her temporary employment office spends several hours screening and interviewing potential employees before matching them with a position. The problem, according to Snyder, is many of the candidates never show up for the job. Or, if they do, they never return for a second day of work.

“There are more jobs than candidates,” Snyder said. “It’s challenging finding candidates who have the motivation and the drive. You would think, with the economy the way it is, people would be knocking down our doors looking for jobs. It’s tough to compete with unemployment.”

Snyder said top unemployment pay equates to $9.68 per hour. Some entry-level jobs pay just $8.50 to 10.50 per hour. She said many job seekers work only to be eligible for continued unemployment benefits.

Snyder said her company recently found five candidates for a manufacturing company opening, but none of the five ever showed up for work.

Snyder said perhaps Obama’s job bill plan of offering companies tax incentives for paying higher wages would help the situation. She also suggests employment coaching — and teaching not only job skills, but motivation and other skills necessary to be a reliable employee.

“I hear, ‘Oh, we need jobs, we need jobs.’ We have jobs,” Snyder said. “I don’t know if we’re unique in Ottawa County versus the nation, but we have lots of jobs here in Ottawa and Muskegon County. Our challenge is finding the right people to put in those roles.”

Margaret Bart, 77, said she thought Obama’s jobs bill sounded reasonable. The Spring Lake woman said she also liked his mention of gradually reforming Medicare, which she believes needs work to survive in the long run.

“We all hope the president can turn things around, but there needs to be cooperation from a lot of different people,” Bart said. “Like so many of us, I am sick and tired of the bickering. We don’t get anywhere with the way things have been going.

“We didn’t get into this mess just out of the blue sky,” she continued. “It’s going to take time to come out of this.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, said after the president’s speech that it is easy to agree with broad proposals, but he’s not sure if he would support the details when it turns into legislation.

“The facts are: America needs jobs now,” Huizenga said. “Spending got us into this mess. We need to create jobs now without spending more. That’s what I want to see in the president’s bill. The House and I have passed 12 bills that do this and are waiting for action from the Senate and president.”

Tribune Multimedia Editor Mark Brooky contributed to this report.

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