OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
- July 30, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 30, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 21, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 16, 2014
Source: WH, 7-12-14
WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President recapped his visits with folks who have written him letters about their own American stories — their successes and struggles. While Congressional Republicans are blocking meaningful measures that would strengthen the middle class, the President continues looking for ways to grow the economy and expand opportunity for more hardworking Americans. The President again urged Congress to join him, as they were elected to do, in working on behalf of everyday Americans – including those the President spent time with this week – by investing in our infrastructure to support American jobs, and ensuring that the Highway Trust Fund does not expire.
The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, July 12, 2014.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
The White House
July 12, 2014
Hi, everybody. This week, I spent some time in Colorado and Texas, talking with people about what’s going on in their lives.
One of them was Elizabeth Cooper, who’ll be a college junior this fall. She wrote to tell me something I hear often: how hard it is for middle-class families like hers to afford college. And she shared something I know many of you feel when you wonder what’s going on in Washington. She said she feels “not significant enough to be addressed, not poor enough for people to worry [about], and not rich enough to be cared about.”
I ran for President to fight for Americans just like Elizabeth – people who work hard, do everything right, and just want a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their families.
And after the worst economic crisis in generations, our businesses have now created nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months. The unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest point since 2008. By almost every measure, our economy is better off than it was five years ago.
But while we’ve created more jobs at this point of the year than any year since 1999, too many families barely earn what they did in 1999. It’s harder to pay for college, save, or retire, because people’s wages and incomes have not gone up. Nearly all the gains of the recovery are going to the very top – and aren’t making a difference in your lives.
And I believe America does better when the middle class does better. And I’ve laid out an opportunity agenda to create jobs, train workers, educate our kids, and make sure hard work actually pays off.
These are the things we should be doing to grow the middle class and help folks work their way into the middle class. And it’s pretty uncontroversial stuff. I hope we can work together on it. And I’m always willing to compromise if folks have other ideas or if it advances generally the interests of working Americans.
But so far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked every serious idea to strengthen the middle class. Lifting the minimum wage, fair pay, student loan reform – they’ve said no to all of it. And that’s when I’ve acted this year to help working Americans on my own– when Congress won’t act.
I’ve taken actions to attract new jobs, lift workers’ wages, help students pay off their loans, and more. And the Republican plan right now is not to do some of this work with me – instead, it’s to sue me. That’s actually what they’re spending their time on. It’s a political stunt that’s going to waste months of America’s time. And by the way, they’re going to pay for it using your hard-earned tax dollars.
I have a better idea: do something, Congress. Do anything to help working Americans. Join the rest of the country. Join me, I’m looking forward to working with you.
You know, on Tuesday, I met with Carolyn Reed and her husband David, who own six Silver Mine Sub shops in Colorado. Two days later, they announced they’re giving their hourly employees a raise to ten dollars and ten cents an hour.
They’re not waiting for Congress. Carolyn said, “We are happy to be a part of what I hope will be a growing voluntary trend in increased wages.”
Carolyn and Americans like her all across the country are happy to do their part. Congress now needs to step up and do its part. And next week, I’ll travel to a couple of job sites to talk about how Democrats and Republicans can work together to grow the economy and protect nearly 700,000 jobs by passing a highway bill by the end of the summer.
I’m here because hardworking Americans like Elizabeth and Carolyn. That’s something I’ll never forget – it’s something I’ll never stop fighting for. Thanks, and have a great weekend.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 12, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 11, 2014
Source: WH, 7-10-14
12:48 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Austin! (Applause.) Hey! Hello, Austin! (Applause.) All right, everybody have a seat, have a seat.
It’s good to be in Austin, Texas. (Applause.) Can everybody please give Kinsey a big round of applause for the great introduction? (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: That’s because I love you. (Applause.) Everybody knows I love Austin, Texas. (Applause.) Every time I come here I tell you how much I love you. I love Austin. I love the people. I love the barbecue — which I will get right after this. (Laughter.) I like the music. (Applause.) I’ve got good memories here, I’ve got good friends.
I was telling somebody the last time I walked a real walk where I was kind of left alone was in Austin, Texas. (Applause.) Right before the debate here during the primary in 2007? 2008? It must have been 2008. And I was walking along the river and nobody noticed me, and I felt great. (Laughter.) And then on the way back somebody did notice me and Secret Service started coming around and — (laughter) — but that first walk was really good. So let’s face it, I just love Austin. (Applause.) Love the people of Austin.
I want to thank a proud Texan, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, for being here today. We appreciate her. (Applause.)
It is great to play at the Paramount. I think I finally made it. I finally arrived. (Applause.) I’ve enjoyed the last couple of days, just getting out of Washington. And we started in Colorado, in Denver, and then went to Dallas and then came down here. And at each stop I’ve been able to just meet people and talk about people’s lives — their hopes, their dreams.
I just had some coffee, as Kinsey may have mentioned, at the Magnolia Café, which is very nice. (Applause.) It was fun, too, because I had a chance to — there were a bunch of folks there and some EMT folks were there on their break after the shift, and there were a group of high school kids who were getting together — they were about to go on a two-weeklong service trip to Peru — which, by the way, reminds you, you should be optimistic whenever you meet young people because they’re full of energy and idealism. And so they were going to do this service trip and they were going to go for two days, then, to Machu Picchu — the old Inca ruins in Peru. And I said, I always wanted to go there. And they said, well, you can come with us if you want. (Laughter.) And I said, I’m really tempted, but I think there are some things I’ve got to do. (Laughter.)
But I got them — in exchange for a selfie with them, they promised that they would send me a picture of them when they get there. So I’m going to hold them to it. We got their email and if I don’t get it I’ll be upset. (Laughter.)
Anyway, so I was talking to Kinsey because she wrote me a letter and I wanted to reply in person. Because, as some of you may know, every day, we get tens of thousands of letters or correspondence, emails at the White House. And ever since the first day I was in office, what I’ve asked our Correspondence Office to do is to select 10 of them for me to read every night. And in these letters, people tell me their stories. They talk about losing a job, or finding a job. They talk about trying to finance a college education. They talk about challenges because maybe they’re the children of immigrants and they’re worried about their status. They talk about the hardships they’re going through, successes they’ve had, things they hope for, things that they’re afraid of when it comes to the future and their lives.
Sometimes people say thank you for something I’ve done or a position I’ve taken, and some people say, “You’re an idiot.” (Laughter.) And that’s how I know that I’m getting a good representative sampling because — (laughter) — half the letters are less than impressed with me.
So Kinsey wrote me to tell me about her family. Her mom was a preschool teacher, her dad was an engineer. Together, obviously, they worked really hard, raised a family. They were responsible, did all the right things, were able to put their kids through college. Then they lost their jobs. And because they lost their jobs as mid-career persons, a lot of their resumes didn’t get answered. And their savings started to dwindle. And Kinsey works to pay for school, but it’s not enough.
And she told me that she’s always been passionate about politics and the issues of the day, but after last year’s government shutdown, all this stuff that’s happened with her family, it doesn’t seem like anybody in Washington is thinking about them. She wrote, “I became a disgruntled citizen. I felt as if my government, my beloved government that’s supposed to look out for the needs of all Americans had failed me. My parents have always supported my siblings and me,” she wrote, “now it’s my turn to help them. I want to be involved. President Obama, what can I do?”
So I wanted to meet with Kinsey to let her know that I had heard her, that I listened to what was happening with her family, and I was thinking about her parents and I was thinking about her and her sisters. And I’m here today because of Kinsey. And I’m here today because of every American who is working their tail off and does everything right and who believes in the American Dream and just wants a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their families.
And you and folks like Kinsey are the reason I ran for President in the first place — (applause) — because your lives are the lives that I lived. When I listen to Kinsey I think about me and Michelle trying to finance our college education. When I think about somebody who didn’t have health care, I think about my mom when she had cancer that would ultimately end her life at about the age I am now. When I think about equal pay, I think about my grandmother working her way up at a bank with nothing but a high school education and becoming the vice president of the bank, but always being kind of passed over for the next stage by men who were less qualified than she was.
So the stories that I hear in these letters, they’re my story, and they’re Michelle’s story, and they’re the story that we had before I became senator — worrying about child care, trying to figure out how to have a balanced life so that if Malia or Sasha got sick we could take time off, and how do you manage all that.
So that’s why these letters are so important to me. And that’s why whenever I’m out of Washington, part of what I want to do is just to remember and to connect with your stories so that you know that what I’m trying to do every single day is based on that experience.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: And when you see the trajectory of Kinsey’s family, in some ways, it’s a little bit a story of what’s happened to America.
The crisis in 2008 hurt us all badly — worse financial crisis since the Great Depression. But you think about the progress we’ve made. Today, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months. (Applause.) Our housing is rebounding. Our auto industry is booming. Manufacturing is adding more jobs than any time since the 1990s. The unemployment rate is the lowest point it’s been since September of 2008. (Applause.) Kinsey’s dad found a new job that he loves in the field he was trained for. (Applause.) So a lot of this was because of the resilience and hard work of the American people. That’s what happens — Americans bounce back.
But some of it had to do with decisions we made to build our economy on a new foundation. And those decisions are paying off. We’re more energy independent. For the first time in nearly 20 years, we produce more oil here at home than we buy from abroad. (Applause.) The world’s largest oil and gas producer isn’t Russia; it’s not Saudi Arabia — it’s the United States of America. (Applause.)
At the same time, we’ve reduced our total carbon pollution over the past eight years more than any country on Earth. (Applause.) We’ve tripled the amount of electricity we generate from wind. We’ve increased the amount of solar energy we have by 10 times. We’re creating jobs across the country in clean energy. (Applause.)
In education, our high school graduation rate is at a record high; the Latino dropout rate has been cut in half since 2000. (Applause.) More young people are graduating from college than ever before.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Si se puede!
THE PRESIDENT: Si se peude. (Laughter.)
The Affordable Care Act has given millions more families peace of mind. They won’t go broke just because they get sick. (Applause.) Our deficits have been cut by more than half.
We have come farther and recovered faster, thanks to you, than just about any other nation on Earth. (Applause.) And so we’ve got a lot to be encouraged by, just as the story of Kinsey’s family makes us feel more encouraged. For the first time in a decade, business leaders around the world have said the number-one place to invest is not China, it’s the United States of America. So we’re actually seeing companies bring jobs back. (Applause.) So there’s no doubt that we are making progress. By almost every measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office. (Applause.)
But the fact is we’ve still got a long way to go. We’ve still got a long way to go, because while we’re creating more jobs faster these first six months of this year than any time since 1999, we know there are still a lot of folks out there who are looking for work or looking for more full-time work or looking for a better-paying job. Corporate profits are higher than ever. CEOs make more than ever. But you’re working harder than ever just to get by and pay the bills.
So, as a whole, the country is doing better. But the problem is, is that so much of the improved productivity and profits have gone to the folks at the very top, and the average person, their wages and incomes haven’t really gone up at all, and in some cases, haven’t kept up with the rising cost of health care or college or all the basic necessities that people need.
And so, Austin, I’m here to say that this country is not going to succeed if just a few are doing well. This country succeeds when everybody has got a shot. (Applause.) The country does better when the middle class does better, and when there are more ladders of opportunity into the middle class. (Applause.) That’s the kind of economy that works here in America. And that’s what’s at stake right now.
Now, that’s why we’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that creates more good jobs and creates more good wages — jobs in American manufacturing, jobs in construction. We should be rebuilding infrastructure all across America, putting people back to work rebuilding roads and bridges and schools, creating a smart grid to transmit clean energy across the country more efficiently. (Applause.)
We can create good jobs in American energy — (sneezes) — bless me — and innovation. (Laughter.) I’m okay, just haven’t had enough sleep. (Laughter.)
We’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that trains more workers with the skills to fill the jobs that are being created. I was talking to some folks from a community college before I came out here. We’ve learned that if we reach out to businesses and help them design the training programs in the community colleges, then when somebody finishes that training, they know they can get a job right away. (Applause.)
We’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that guarantees every child a world-class education from the time that they are three until the time that they graduate from college.
We’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that makes sure your hard work pays off with higher wages and equal pay for equal work, and workplace flexibility, and the overtime pay you’ve earned. (Applause.)
We’re fighting for opportunity for all and the idea that no matter who you are and what you look like and where you come from and who you love, if you work hard in America, if you work hard in Austin, if you work hard in Texas, you can make it here. (Applause.) You can make it. (Applause.)
So that’s what we’re working for. And the good news is, is that the things that we need to do are well within our capabilities, our grasp. We know we can — we know how to build roads. We know how to put people back to work on infrastructure. We know that if we invest in early childhood education, every dollar we put in, we get seven dollars back, and fewer dropouts and fewer teen pregnancies, and fewer folks going into the criminal justice system. (Applause.)
We know that if we do some basic things, if we make some basic changes, we’ll see more jobs, faster economic growth, lift more incomes, strengthen the middle class. They are common-sense things. They’re not that radical. We know it’s what we should be doing. And what drives me nuts — and I know drives you nuts — is Washington isn’t doing it. (Applause.)
And let me be clear about why Washington is broken, because sometimes everybody says, well, you know what, all politicians are the same, he parties — the Democrats, Republicans, it doesn’t matter. Look, Democrats are not perfect, I promise you. I know a lot of them. (Laughter.) And, yes, every member of Congress, they’re thinking about, I’d like to be reelected and I’d like to keep my job. That’s human nature. We all understand that. But let me be clear. On the common-sense agenda that would help middle-class families, the overwhelming number of Democrats are in favor of these things.
They’re in favor of minimum wage. They’re in favor of equal pay. (Applause.) They’re in favor of extending unemployment benefits. They’re in favor of infrastructure. They’re in favor of investing in research and development. They’re in favor of making college more affordable. They’ve got specific proposals. They’re willing to compromise. They’re prepared to go forward.
So when folks say they’re frustrated with Congress, let’s be clear about what the problem is. (Applause.) I’m just telling the truth now. I don’t have to run for office again, so I can just let her rip. (Applause.) And I want to assure you, I’m really not that partisan of a guy. My favorite President is the first Republican President, a guy named Abraham Lincoln. You look at our history, and we had great Republican Presidents who — like Teddy Roosevelt started the National Park System, and Dwight Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System, and Richard Nixon started the EPA.
The statement I’m making is not a partisan statement, it is a statement of fact. (Applause.) So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every serious idea to strengthen the middle class. They have said no –
THE PRESIDENT: Don’t boo now, because what I want you to do is vote. (Applause.)
They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage. They’ve said no to fair pay. They said no to unemployment insurance for hardworking folks like Kinsey’s parents who have paid taxes all their lives and never depended on anything and just needed a little help to get over a hump. They said no to fixing our broken immigration system that we know would strengthen our borders and our businesses and help families. (Applause.)
Instead of investing in education that helps working families, they voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans. Instead of creating jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our ports that help every business, they’ve decided to protect tax loopholes for companies that are shifting jobs overseas and profits overseas.
The best thing you can say about this Congress — the Republicans in Congress, and particularly the House of Representatives — the best you can say for them this year is that so far they have not shut down the government — (laughter) — or threatened to have America welch on our obligations and ruin our credit rating. That’s the best you can say. But of course, it’s only July — (laughter) — so who knows what they may cook up in the next few months.
So even as they’re blocking policies that would help middle-class families, they keep on offering these theories of the economy that have failed over and over again. They say, well, if we give more tax breaks to folks at the top that’s going to be good. If we make fewer investments in things like education, everything will work out. If we loosen the rules for big banks and credit card companies and polluters and insurers, somehow that’s going to make the economy better. If we shrink the safety net and cut Medicaid and cut food stamps, and make sure that folks who are vulnerable and trying to get back on their suffer more hardship, somehow that’s going to improve the economy.
Now, they believe these things — sincerely, I assume — that if they — if we do these things, if we just take care of folks at the top, or at least if we don’t empower our government to be able to help anybody, that somehow jobs and prosperity will trickle down and we’ll all be better off.
And that may work just fine for folks at the top. It worked fine for me. I don’t need government. (Laughter.) Michelle and I now are in a position where we can pretty much finance Malia and Sasha’s college education. But I remember when Michelle’s parents couldn’t, they needed help. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe in pulling up the ladder once I’m up. I believe in extending it down and making sure that everybody has a chance to climb up. (Applause.)
The status quo certainly works for the special interests in Washington who like things just as they are. They’ll be fine whether Congress ever passes a bill again or not. But it doesn’t help you. It doesn’t help your neighbors. It doesn’t help your friends. It doesn’t help your communities.
And what it does, is it just feeds people’s cynicism about Washington. It just makes people think, well, nothing can happen, and people start feeling hopeless. And we have to understand, in the face of all evidence to the contrary in Washington, we can do better than we’re doing right now. (Applause.) We can do better than what we’re doing right now.
We know from our history, our economy does not grow from the top down, it grows from the middle up. It grows from a rising, thriving middle class. It grows when we got ladders of opportunity for everybody, and every young person in America is feeling hopeful and has a chance to do what they can with the God-given talents that they have. That’s what we’re fighting for. That is what you should be fighting for. (Applause.)
And I will always look — I’ll always look for ways to get Republicans and Democrats together in this effort. But I’m not — I can’t stand by with partisan gridlock that’s the result of cynical political games that threaten the hard work of millions of Americans. I’m not just going to stand by and say, okay, that’s — I guess that’s the way it is. Whenever and wherever I have the power, the legal authority to help families like yours, even if Congress is not doing anything, I will take that opportunity. I will try to make something happen. (Applause.)
And that’s the reason — that’s the reason why my administration has taken more than 40 different actions just this year to help working Americans — because Congress won’t.
Congress won’t act to make sure a woman gets equal pay for equal work. So I made sure more women have the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace — because I think when women succeed America succeeds. So we went ahead and did that. (Applause.)
Congress won’t act to create jobs in manufacturing or construction. Well, I went ahead and speeded up permits for big projects. We launched a new hub to attract more high-tech manufacturing jobs to America. I want to make sure the next revolution in manufacturing is right here in America; it’s an American revolution, not a German or a Chinese revolution. I want it happening right here in Austin, Texas. (Applause.)
Congress so far hasn’t acted to help more young people manage their student loan debt. So I acted with my lawful authority to give nearly 5 million Americans the chance to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income so they can manage it better, so that if they go into teaching, or they go into social work, or they’re doing something at a non-for-profit, that they’re not encumbered by mountains of debt. I don’t want our future leaders saddled with debt before they start out in life. (Applause.)
And Republicans in Congress so far have refused to raise workers’ wages with a higher minimum wage. So I acted to require that federal contractors pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour — (applause) — which would give hundreds of thousands of workers a raise. I asked business owners and governors and mayors and state legislators — anybody I could work with — do what you can on your own, I told them.
Since the first time I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, Congress hasn’t done anything, but 13 states have gone ahead and raised theirs. (Applause.) And, by the way — this is important to remember just because folks are always trying to run the okey doke on you — (laughter) — the states that have increased their minimum wages this year have seen higher job growth than the states that have not increased their minimum wage. (Applause.) And more and more business owners are choosing to lift the wages for their workers because they understand that it’s going to be good to have productive workers, loyal workers, invested workers.
Just yesterday, before I came down to Texas, when I was in Denver, I met with Carolyn Reed. She owns six Silver Mine sub shops. She started her own business. She was working at UPS and decided she wanted to be a business owner, got her first franchise. Her and her husband mortgaged their house. Eventually, they got an SBA loan. Now, she’s got six stores. A wonderful woman. And today, she decided to raise her hourly employees’ wages to a minimum of $10.10 an hour. (Applause.) She just went ahead and did it on her own, because she realized that she’ll have less turnover and she’s going to have more productive workers.
As long as Congress will not increase wages for workers, I will go and talk to every business in America if I have to. (Applause.) There’s no denying a simple truth: America deserves a raise, and if you work full-time in this country, you shouldn’t live in poverty. That’s something that we all believe. (Applause.)
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. There are a number of Republicans, including a number in the Texas delegation, who are mad at me for taking these actions. They actually plan to sue me. (Laughter.) Now, I don’t know which things they find most offensive — me helping to create jobs, or me raising wages, or me easing the student loan burdens, or me making sure women can find out whether they’re getting paid the same as men for doing the same job. I don’t know which of these actions really bug them. (Laughter.)
The truth is, even with all the actions I’ve taken this year, I’m issuing executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years. So it’s not clear how it is that Republicans didn’t seem to mind when President Bush took more executive actions than I did. (Applause.) Maybe it’s just me they don’t like. I don’t know. Maybe there’s some principle out there that I haven’t discerned, that I haven’t figure out. (Laughter.) You hear some of them — “sue him,” “impeach him.” Really? (Laughter.) Really? For what? (Applause.) You’re going to sue me for doing my job? Okay. (Applause.)
I mean, think about that. You’re going to use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job — (laughter) — while you don’t do your job. (Applause.)
There’s a great movie called “The Departed” — a little violent for kids. But there’s a scene in the movie where Mark Wahlberg — they’re on a stakeout and somehow the guy loses the guy that they’re tracking. And Wahlberg is all upset and yelling at the guy. And the guy looks up and he says, “Well, who are you?” And Wahlberg says, “I’m the guy doing my job. You must be the other guy.” (Laughter and applause.) Sometimes, I feel like saying to these guys, I’m the guy doing my job, you must be the other guy. (Applause.)
So rather than wage another political stunt that wastes time, wastes taxpayers’ money, I’ve got a better idea: Do something. (Applause.) If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, let’s team up. Let’s pass some bills. Let’s help America together. (Applause.)
It is lonely, me just doing stuff. I’d love if the Republicans did stuff, too. (Laughter.) On immigration issues, we’ve got — and to their credit, there are some Republicans in the Senate who actually worked with Democrats, passed a bill, would strengthen the borders, would help make the system more fair and more just. But the House Republicans, they haven’t even called the bill. They won’t even take a vote on the bill. They don’t have enough energy or organization or I don’t know what to just even vote no on the bill. (Laughter.) And then they’re made at me for trying to do some things to make the immigration system work better. So it doesn’t make sense.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: I’m sorry, what are you yelling about now? Sit down, guys. I’m almost done. Come on, sit down. I’ll talk to you afterwards, I promise. I’ll bring you back. I’m wrapping things up here.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: I understand. See, everybody is going to start — I’m on your side, man. Sit down, guys, we’ll talk about it later, I promise.
So, look, here’s what we could do. We could do so much more — you don’t have to escort them out. They’ll sit down. I promise, I’ll talk to you afterwards.
We could do so much more if Republicans in Congress would focus less on stacking the deck for those on the top and focus more on creating opportunity for everybody. And I want to work with them. I don’t expect them to agree with me on everything, but at least agree with me on the things that you used to say you were for before I was for them. (Applause.)
You used to be for building roads and infrastructure. Nothing has changed. Let’s go ahead and do it. (Applause.) Ronald Reagan passed immigration reform, and you love Ronald Reagan. Let’s go ahead and do it. (Applause.)
I mean, what changed? I’m just saying. (Laughter.) That’s what made our country great, a sense of common purpose, a sense we’re all in it together as one nation, as one people. We can debate the issues, we can have our differences, but let’s do something. (Applause.) Let’s rally around an economic patriotism that says, instead of giving more tax breaks to millionaires, let’s give tax breaks to working families to help pay for child care or college.
Instead of protecting tax loopholes that let corporations keep their profits overseas, let’s put some of that money to work right here in the United States rebuilding America. (Applause.) We can rebuild our airports, create the next generation of good manufacturing jobs, make sure those are made in America.
Let’s rally around a patriotism that says we’re stronger as a nation when we cultivate the ingenuity and talent of every American, and give every 4-year-old in America access to high-quality education — good-quality preschool. (Applause.) Let’s redesign our high schools to make them more relevant to the 21st century economy. Let’s make college more affordable. Let’s make sure every worker, if you lose your job, you can get a good job training that gives you an even better job. (Applause.)
Let’s embrace the patriotism that says it’s a good thing when our fellow citizens have health care. It’s not a bad thing. (Applause.) That’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing when women earn what men do for the same work. That’s an all-American principle. (Applause.) Everybody has got a mom out there or a wife out there or a daughter out there. They don’t want them to not get treated fairly. Why would you be against that?
It’s a good thing when parents can take a day off to care for a sick child without losing their job or losing pay and they can’t pay their bills at the end of the month. It’s a good thing when nobody who works full-time is living in poverty. That is not radical. It’s not un-American. It’s not socialist. That’s how we built this country. It’s what America is all about, us working together. (Applause.)
So let me just wrap up by saying this: The hardest thing to change in politics is a stubborn status quo. Our democracy is designed where folks who have power, who have clout — they can block stuff, they can keep things as they are. It’s hard. It’s even harder when Washington seems focused on everything but your concerns, Kinsey’s concerns.
There are plenty of people who count on you getting cynical and count on you not getting involved so that you don’t vote, so you give up. And you can’t give into that. America is making progress, despite what the cynics say. (Applause.) Despite unyielding opposition and a Congress that can’t seem to do anything, there are workers with jobs who didn’t have them before; there are families with health insurance who didn’t have them before; there are students in college who couldn’t afford it before; there are troops who served tour after tour who are home with their families today. (Applause.)
Cynicism is popular. Cynicism is popular these days. It’s what passes off as wisdom. But cynics didn’t put a man on the moon. Cynics never won a war. Cynics didn’t cure a disease, or start a business, or feed a young mind. Cynicism didn’t bring about the right for women to vote, or the right for African Americans to be full citizens. Cynicism is a choice.
Hope is a better choice. Hope is what gave young soldiers the courage to storm a beach. Hope is what gave young people the strength to march for women’s rights and civil rights and voting rights and gay rights and immigrant rights. (Applause.)
Hope is what compelled Kinsey to sit down and pick up a pen, and ask “what can I do,” and actually think maybe the President might read that story and it might make a difference. (Applause.) And her voice rang out here in the Paramount Theatre. And it’s her voice and your voice that’s going to change this country. That’s how we’re going to make sure that we remain the greatest nation on Earth — not by asking what we can do for ourselves, but what we can do for each other and what we can do for our country.
And so, as President, I’m going to keep a promise that I made when I first ran: Every day, I will keep asking the same question, and that is, how can I help you? And I’ll keep treating your cares and your concerns as my own. And I will keep fighting to restore the American Dream for everybody who’s willing to work for it.
And I am going to need you to be right there with me. (Applause.) Do not get cynical. Hope is the better choice.
Thank you, Texas. Thank you, Austin. God bless you. (Applause.)
1:28 P.M. CDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 10, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 9, 2014
Source: WH, 7-9-14
10:27 A.M. MDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! (Applause.) Hello, Denver!
THE PRESIDENT: Everybody have a seat. So I think we should just stay here all afternoon and have a picnic. (Applause.) This is really nice around here. Wow! What a gorgeous day.
Can everybody please give Alex a big round of applause for that great introduction? (Applause.) It is so good to be back in Denver. It is great to be back in Colorado. As all of you know, I spent a lot of time here in my last campaign. I have been itching to get back.
I got to have dinner last night with Alex and four other Coloradans — Elizabeth Cooper, Leslie Gresham, Carolyn Reed and her husband David — at the Wazee Supper Club. (Applause.) It was tasty. That was some good pizza. (Laughter.) And then I walked down the block to shoot some pool with Governor Hickenlooper at his old bar, the Wynkoop Brewing Company. You should not ask him who won. (Laughter.) No, no, really, don’t ask Governor Hickenlooper who won at pool. (Laughter.) And it’s a great time to be in this beautiful park with my friend, Ken Salazar — (applause) — who I love and I haven’t seen in a while. There he is right there. (Applause.) As well as your Congressman, Ed Perlmutter. Yay, Ed. (Applause.)
So let me tell you why I’m here. Every day, we get thousands of letters and emails at the White House. I think it’s something like 40,000 a day of some sort of correspondence. And every night, our Correspondence Office selects 10 letters for me to read. And I’ve been doing that since I first came into office. And it’s one of the most important things I do — it’s right there next to my national security briefing and whatever policy issues that we’re supposed to be working on — because it reminds me of why I ran for office.
And so I have a chance just to hear from people as they tell their stories. They talk about the hardships that they’re going through; sometimes they talk about a success that they’ve had. Kids write to me, asking questions about what I’m doing about climate change, or how old is Bo. (Laughter.) So people describe to me their fears and their hopes not just for themselves, but also for their children and their grandchildren and for the country. And sometimes they thank me for taking a position on an issue. And sometimes they say, how dare you take that position on an issue. And sometimes people say they’re proud of the work that I’ve done, and sometimes people call me an idiot — or worse than an idiot — which is how I know that I’m getting a good sample. (Laughter.)
So Alex wrote to tell me that the day after my State of the Union address, her boss gave her a raise to $10.10 an hour. Alex actually, last night, confessed she actually didn’t watch my State of the Union address. (Laughter.) Which, hey, I understand. (Laughter.) When I was her age, I’m sure I missed a whole bunch of State of the Union addresses. But her boss caught it, and he decided, let me make sure I’m paying my employees a fair wage.
Carolyn, from up in Wellington, wrote to say she and David used an SBA loan from the Recovery Act to open the third of their six Silver Mine Subs shops. (Applause.) Oh, you know Silver Mine? All right. Everybody is happy about that. It was a wonderful story because both her and her husband were Teamsters. See, she worked at UPS, and he worked for Bud. And they just knew that they wanted to start something of their own. And she described to us last night what it was like to take the risk to mortgage the house and make a business for herself, and then now to have a hundred employees and to be giving those folks an opportunity. They’re hiring, by the way — (laughter) — in case people are interested.
Leslie, from Parker, wrote to say she’d been teaching preschool for 26 years and was an Early Childhood education — Educator of the Year, just a wonderful teacher. But she described the difference she could see in children who had that early exposure to the kind of classroom education that she’s providing.
And Elizabeth, who’s going to be a junior this fall at the University of Northern Colorado, wrote to tell me how hard it is for middle-class families like hers to afford college. And she shared something I know many of you feel when you wonder what the heck is going on in Washington. She wrote she feels “not significant enough to be addressed, not poor enough for people to worry about, and not rich enough to be cared about.” That’s what she wrote.
So part of the reason I wanted to have dinner with these folks is because they reminded me of why I ran for office and what I’m supposed to be doing every single day. And the reason I’m here today is very simple: I’m here because of Elizabeth, and Alex, and Carolyn, and Leslie. And I’m here for every American who works their tail off and does everything right and who believes in the American Dream — (applause) — and asks for nothing but a chance at a decent life for themselves and their families. That’s why I’m here. (Applause.) And to tell all of you that I hear you.
I mean, sometimes it’s as simple as that — that I am listening and paying attention, partly because when I listen to Alex or I listen to Carolyn or I listen to any of the folks that I met with, I see myself in them. Because I remember my first minimum wage job — at Baskin Robbins, by the way — (laughter) — I had to wear a cap and an apron — and how like a little raise would have really helped. I think about what it was like for me to finance college. I think about childcare costs when Michelle and I were first starting out with Malia and Sasha. Your stories are ours. You’re why I ran.
And so what I want to make sure of is, is that as screwed up sometimes as Washington gets, that everybody here understands that there’s progress to be made, and that there’s somebody out there who’s fighting for them, even if it sometimes feels like the system is rigged against them.
The other thing I want to make sure people understand is, is that we are making progress, as bad as the news looks, if all you were doing was watching cable TV all day long. Yes, the crisis that hit towards the end of my first campaign hit us all really badly; 2007, 2008, that was rough. But today, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months. (Applause.) Construction and housing are rebounding. Our auto industry is booming. Manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the ‘90s. The unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest point since September of 2008 — the fastest one-year drop in nearly 30 years. (Applause.)
And, look, most of this is attributable to you, the American people — starting businesses, and paying down debt, and tightening belts, and doing all kinds of stuff just to make sure that you kept on and were able to look after your families. But the decisions we made early on not only stopped the slide, but also built a new foundation for our economy, and they’re paying off now.
We’re more energy independent. We’ve tripled the electricity we generate from the wind, ten times from the sun, creating jobs across the country — (applause) — while producing more oil at home than we buy abroad for the first time in nearly 20 years. Our energy sector is booming. (Applause.) And, by the way, we’re doing that while reducing our carbon emissions more than any other country over the last five years. So we’re making progress on climate change as well. (Applause.)
In education — our high school graduation rate is at a record high. (Applause.) The Latino dropout rate has dropped in half. More young people are graduating from college than ever before. (Applause.) We’ve made our tax code fairer. We cut our deficits by more than half. We’ve given millions more Americans the security of health care that means you won’t go broke just because you get sick. (Applause.)
So thanks to the hard work of you — and some actually pretty smart policies by us — (laughter) — we have come farther and recovered faster than almost any other advanced nation on Earth. More companies are choosing to bring back jobs from overseas. Thanks to our leadership in technology and innovation, for the first time in more than a decade, business leaders around the world have declared China is not number one when it comes to the place to invest, the United States is. And our lead is growing. (Applause.)
So despite what you may hear, there is no doubt we are making progress. By almost every measure, we are better off than when I took office — by almost every measure. (Applause.) But here’s the thing — and this is why I’ve got to get out more and have lunch with — and pizza with my friends — because the fact is, we know we’ve still got a long way to go.
Here’s the challenge: We’ve created more jobs at this point of the year than any year since 1999. More jobs have been created in the first half of this year than we have since the ‘90s. But many families barely earn what they did in the ‘90s. Corporate profits are higher than ever. CEOs make more than ever. But most people are working harder than ever just to get by. Wages, incomes have flat-lined. They have not gone up.
So as a whole, the country is doing better, but too much improvement goes to the folks at the top and not enough of it is making a difference in the lives of ordinary Americans. (Applause.) And that’s what we should be spending all our time talking about, how do we reverse some of those trends. That’s what I came to Denver to talk about, that issue — how do we make sure if you work hard, do the right thing you can get ahead. Washington may chase whatever political story they think will get attention, but to me the only story that matters is your story. And I am here to say that this country does not succeed when just a few at the top do well and everybody else is treading water. America does better when the middle class does better, when folks who work hard can afford to buy what they make and provide for our families and leave something better for our kids. (Applause.)
So this is what I’m spending time on. This is what I’m fighting for. This is my opportunity agenda. I’m focused on how do we create good jobs that pay good wages — jobs in American manufacturing and construction, in American energy and innovation.
I’m fighting for an opportunity agenda that trains more workers with the skills to fill those jobs at community colleges and in apprenticeships and internships that give young people a solid start.
We’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that guarantees every child a world-class education, from high-quality pre-K, to a redesigned high school, to colleges and a rewarding career that’s affordable and you’re not loaded up with debt. (Applause.)
We’re fighting to make sure your hard work pays off with higher wages that you can live on and savings you can retire on — workplace flexibility, so if your kids get sick or you’ve got an ailing parent you’re not looking at losing your job; overtime pay that you’ve earned; affordable health care that’s there when you get sick and you need it most.
We’re fighting for the idea that everybody gets opportunity — no matter what you look like, or where you come from, or who you love, or how you grew up, or what your last name is. America is a place where you should be able to make it if you try. (Applause.)
And the good news is we actually know how to do some of these things. If we make just some modest changes — we don’t need revolutionary changes. If we made some modest changes, made some sensible decisions we’d create more jobs, we’d lift more income, we’d strengthen the middle class. We wouldn’t solve every problem overnight, but we’d be making more progress even than we’re already making. That’s what we should be doing. And of course, that’s what drives you nuts about Washington, because that’s not what it’s doing. (Laughter.)
After everything we’ve been through together, you’d think that these challenges would absorb the attention of folks in Washington. But these days, basic common-sense ideas cannot get through Congress. Basic stuff — stuff that used to be uncontroversial. It used to be that Republicans, Democrats, everybody said, you know what, America, it’s a good thing when we build roads and bridges and a smart grid to transmit energy — all those things are good for business, they’re good for workers, it helps — now they can’t seem to pass a bill, just to fund basic projects that we know are good for our economy.
We have evidence that early childhood education, every dollar we spend there, you get seven bucks back — (applause) — because kids to better in school, they don’t drop out, they’re less likely to get in trouble. They’re less likely to go to jail. They’re more likely to be taxpayers later on. But you look at Congress — they can’t do it.
Think about it. So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every serious idea to strengthen the middle class. They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage. They said no to fair pay legislation so that women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same work. They said no to unemployment insurance for Americans who are out there looking for a new job. I know, because I get letters from them every day — folks who have worked all their lives, paid taxes all their lives. And now, right when they’re having a tough time because of an unprecedented recession that we just went through, and they need a little help so they don’t lose their house or they don’t lose their car, suddenly Congress can’t do it.
Congress just said no to fixing our broken immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders and our businesses — despite the fact that everybody from law enforcement to corporations to evangelicals — there’s a coalition around immigration reform that’s unprecedented. These guys still can’t get their act together.
Rather than invest in education that lets working families get ahead, they voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans. Rather than invest in roads and bridges to create construction jobs and help our businesses succeed, they’ve chosen to preserve and protect tax loopholes for companies that shift their profits overseas that don’t do anybody any good.
Republicans in Congress right now have shown over and over they’ll do anything to rig the system for those at the top or to try to score political points on me, even if the obstruction keeps the system rigged against the middle class. The best thing you can say for them this year is they haven’t yet shut down the government or threatened to go deadbeat on America’s obligations. But it is still early, so — (applause.)
Now, I always have to say this: I don’t think that they’re all terrible people. I think they love their families. They love the country. They’ve got a different economic theory. Maybe they don’t know what ordinary folks are going through. But maybe it’s not that they don’t get it. Maybe it’s just because the theory they have is, is that if the economy is doing good for folks at the very top, then it’s going to help everybody else — despite the fact that we have evidence over and over again that those theories have failed the middle class.
More tax breaks to those at the top. Fewer investments in things like education. Looser rules for big banks, or credit card companies, or polluters, or insurers — they believe all that stuff really makes the economy hum and prosperity trickles down.
Just because they believe it doesn’t mean the rest of us believe it — because we know from our history it doesn’t work. Our economy grows best from the middle out, when everybody has a shot, everybody is doing well. (Applause.) And with a slight change of priorities, we could do it. We could help a lot more Americans get ahead. And folks at the top will do well too. (Applause.) Everybody will do better. (Applause.)
And, by the way, Republicans used to understand this. This is not like a crazy Democratic, socialist idea. (Laughter.) My favorite President is a Republican: Abraham Lincoln, who helped build a Transcontinental Railroad and invested in the Homestead Act that helped people get land; and invested in our first major federal scientific research; understood that you make these common investments — land-lease colleges — or land-grant colleges, that all these things would end up giving people tools to improve themselves and thereby improve the country. And we couldn’t all do it alone. We had to do it with each other.
This wasn’t just a Democratic idea. Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System. Teddy Roosevelt started our national parks. These are basic ideas that made America work. They’re not partisan. So I’m going to keep on working with Republicans and Democrats to try to get things moving over there.
In the meantime, I’m not going to stand by while partisan gridlock or political games threaten the hard work of millions of Americans. (Applause.) So wherever and whenever I can go ahead and help families like yours, I’ve got the legal authority to do it, I’m going to do it. (Applause.) I’m not going to wait. Not going to wait. (Applause.)
That’s why I’ve taken a bunch of actions this year just to help working Americans while still reaching out to Congress. What I’ve said to them is, if you’re not acting, I’m going to go ahead and do what I can.
So if Congress won’t act to make sure women have the ability to get equal pay for equal work, I made sure that women had the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace. (Applause.) I think when women succeed, America succeeds. We’re going to keep on investing in that. (Applause.)
If Congress won’t act to create jobs in construction or manufacturing, we’re going to go ahead and speed up permits for big projects that are already funded, and launch new hubs to attract more high-tech manufacturing jobs — because I want to make sure the next revolution in manufacturing and technology is an American revolution, right here in the United States. I don’t want it going to France or Germany or China. I want it to happen here. (Applause.)
If Congress won’t act to help more young people manage their student loan debt — and Republicans voted against a bill that would have allowed young people to refinance at lower rates — I went ahead and gave nearly 5 million Americans the opportunity to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income. (Applause.) I don’t want them saddled with debt before they start out in life. I want to make sure that they’re able to pursue a career in teaching or social work, or work in a non-for- profit, and they can still afford it. (Applause.)
Republicans so far refuse to raise workers’ wages. I did what I could — it turns out I’m a pretty big employer. (Laughter.) So I said any federal worker — anybody who works for federal contractors, they’re going to have to pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour. (Applause.) And I asked business owners and governors and mayors and state legislators to do what they could on their own. (Applause.)
And, by at way, since I first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, 13 states have gone ahead and raised theirs — and those states have seen higher job growth than the states that haven’t raised their minimum wage. (Applause.) And more and more business owners are choosing to lift wages for workers like Alex. America needs a raise. And, by the way, when America needs a raise — I was telling Carolyn, our sub owner, last night, and she made the simple point, look, I want tax cuts and raises for my workers and for others who don’t have a lot because that means they’re going to buy more sandwiches. I can already afford a sub sandwich. If you give me a tax cut I’m not going to spend — I’m not going to buy more sub sandwiches; I can only eat so many. (Laughter.) But that’s true about the economy generally. When you give tax breaks and you give raises, you raise the minimum wage, you give a bigger chance to folks who are climbing the ladder, working hard, don’t have a lot at the end of the month, that money gets churned back into the economy. And the whole economy does better, including the businesses.
Now, I gather that some of the Republicans in Congress are mad at me for going ahead and doing things. (Laughter.) And I don’t know which things they find most offensive, whether it’s creating jobs, or easing student loan burdens, or raising wages, but it’s really bothering them. They have a plan to sue me. They have plans to sue me for taking executive actions that are within my authority — while they do nothing.
I have a better idea. They should do something. (Applause.) I will work with them. Rather than engage in political stunts that waste time and taxpayer money, join me. Let’s do some things together. Let’s build some roads. Let’s give America a raise. Let’s help families with childcare costs. There are all kinds of things we can do. Don’t be mad at me for doing something. How about teaming up with me. Let’s all do something. (Applause.) Let’s all get America working.
We are better than this. Gosh, doesn’t it get you just frustrated? (Laughter.) We could do so much more if Republicans in Congress focused less on protecting the folks who’ve got the lobbyists and all that soft money out there. Stop worrying about the folks who already got — are doing just fine. Focus more on stoking opportunity for all people. Work with me. That’s the American way. That’s what makes this country great — a sense of common purpose and patriotism, an economic patriotism that says we fall and we rise as one nation, as one people.
So we can rally America around an economic patriotism that says, don’t give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, let’s give more tax breaks to help working families pay for childcare or college. (Applause.)
Let’s rally around a patriotism that says, don’t give tax loopholes to corporations shifting jobs overseas, let’s put people back to work here rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our airports, making sure the next generation of manufacturing is made in America. That’s patriotism. (Applause.) That’s patriotism.
Don’t stack the deck in favor of those who’ve already succeeded. We’re stronger when we’re helping everybody succeed, cultivating every talent of every child — every 4-year-old in America, give them high-quality preschool so they’re safe and taught well while we go to work and redesign our high schools to better prepare our kids for the 21st century. And tell every American, you know, if your job was stamped “obsolete,” if it was shipped overseas, we’re going to train you for an even better one.
We need an economic patriotism that says it’s a good thing that everybody gets health insurance. That’s not a bad thing. (Applause.) That’s a good thing. It’s a good thing when women are paid the same as men for doing the same work. (Applause.) That’s not un-American. It’s a good thing when parents have some flexibility when their kids are sick. It will make the employees more loyal; they’re more productive. It’s a good thing when nobody who works full-time is living in poverty. That’s not un-American. (Applause.) That’s not radical. It’s right. It’s what built this country.
I know that sometimes it must be frustrating watching what’s going on. I guarantee I get frustrated. There are some things that I have to mutter under my breath sometimes. (Laughter.) And the hardest thing to change in politics is a stubborn status quo. And it’s harder when Washington seems distracted by everything except the things you care about. And there’s a cottage industry in Washington that counts on you just being cynical about stuff, so that you don’t vote, you don’t get involved, you get discouraged, you say a plague on both your houses. But you can’t give into that cynicism. Do not let them win by you being cynical, because despite everything that’s happened, despite all the obstruction, America is making progress. (Applause.)
We’re better off now than we were five years ago. We’re going to be better off five years from now than we are right now. Despite the unyielding opposition of a few, there are workers who have jobs who didn’t have them before. There are families who have health insurance who didn’t have it before. There are students who can afford to go to college who couldn’t afford to go before. There are troops who are home with their families after serving tour after tour of war. (Applause.) Don’t get cynical. (Applause.) Don’t do it.
Cynicism is a popular choice these days. It’s what passes off for wisdom. (Laughter.) But cynicism isn’t wise. And remember that it is a choice. Cynicism is a choice, and hope is a better choice. And it’s a choice that I make every time I sit down with these incredible people that I had dinner with last night. They make me hopeful.
It’s the hope that Alex has when she sits down and she picks up a pen and she writes to the President hoping that the system still works; hoping maybe the letter gets there; hoping that I’ll listen; hoping that even when Washington seems tone deaf, your voice might reach a President, your voice might reach a crowd in a park, your voice might move fellow citizens to change what needs changing.
Every day I receive these thousands of acts of hope from you. I’m listening. It’s why I ran for office. It’s why I’m fighting for you. I will keep treating your cares and concerns as my own. I will keep trying to restore the American Dream for everybody who is willing to work for it.
Thank you, Denver. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
10:57 A.M. MDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 9, 2014
Source: WH, 7-1-14
2:22 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, hello, everybody. Have a seat, have a seat. It’s hot. (Laughter.) It’s hot out — Anthony, take off your coat, man. (Laughter.) It is hot and Team USA takes the pitch in a couple hours, so we’ve got to get down to business. (Applause.) We don’t have time for a lot of small talk — am I right, Mr. Mayor? We’ve got to get going.
Behind me is one of the busiest bridges in Washington. And, with the 4th of July on Friday — also Malia’s birthday, for those of you who are interested, she will be 16, a little worrisome — I would note that this bridge is named for the man who wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner” –- Francis Scott Key.
Three years ago, I came here to this very spot, to the Key Bridge, to talk about how two of the five major bridges connecting D.C. and Virginia –- including this one -– were rated “structurally deficient.” And with almost 120,000 vehicles crossing them every day, I said it was important to fix them.
And today, that’s exactly what we’re doing. So, soon, construction workers will be on the job making the Key Bridge safer for commuters and for families, and even for members of Congress to cross. (Laughter.) This is made possible by something called the Highway Trust Fund, which Congress established back in the 1950s, and which helps states repair and rebuild our infrastructure all across the country. It’s an example of what can happen when Washington just functions the way it was supposed to.
Back then, you had Eisenhower, a Republican President; over time you would have Democratic Presidents, Democratic and Republican members of Congress all recognizing building bridges and roads and levees and ports and airports — that none of that is a partisan issue. That’s making sure that America continues to progress.
Now, here is the problem. Here is the reason we’re here in the heat. If this Congress does not act by the end of the summer, the Highway Trust Fund will run out. There won’t be any money there. All told, nearly 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year. That would be like Congress threatening to lay off the entire population of Denver, or Seattle, or Boston. That’s a lot of people. It would be a bad idea. Right now, there are more than 100,000 active projects across the country where workers are paving roads, and rebuilding bridges, and modernizing our transit systems. And soon, states may have to choose which projects to continue and which ones to put the brakes on because they’re running out of money. Some have already done just that, just because they’re worried that Congress will not get its act together in time.
Now, earlier this year, I put forward a plan not just to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, I put forward a plan to rebuild our transportation infrastructure across the country in a responsible way. And I want to thank Secretary Anthony Foxx, who is here today, for his hard work in putting this plan together. (Applause.) Because we are not spending enough on the things that help our economy grow, the things that help businesses move products, the thing that help workers get to the job, the things that help families get home to see their loved ones at night. We spend significantly less as a portion of our economy than China does, than Germany does, than just about every other advanced country. They know something that I guess we don’t, which is that’s the path to growth, that’s the path to competitiveness.
So the plan we put together would support millions of jobs. It would give cities, and states, and private investors the certainty they need to plan ahead. It would help small businesses ship their goods faster, help parents get home to their kids faster. And it wouldn’t add to the deficits –- because we’d pay for it in part by closing tax loopholes for companies that are shipping their profits overseas to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Seems like a sensible thing to do. (Applause.)
It’s not crazy, it’s not socialism. (Laughter.) It’s not the imperial presidency — no laws are broken. We’re just building roads and bridges like we’ve been doing for the last, I don’t know, 50, 100 years. But so far, House Republicans have refused to act on this idea. I haven’t heard a good reason why they haven’t acted — it’s not like they’ve been busy with other stuff. (Laughter.) No, seriously. (Laughter.) I mean, they’re not doing anything. Why don’t they do this?
Now, Republican obstruction is not just some abstract political stunt; it has real and direct consequences for middle-class families all across the country.
We went through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we’ve climbed back. Since then, we’ve created 9.4 million new jobs over the past 51 months. Corporate profits are up, stock market is up, housing is improving. (Applause.) Unemployment is down. The deficits have been cut in half. We’re making progress, but we still have a situation where those at the top are doing as well as ever but middle-class families all across the country are still struggling to get by. There are people who are working hard, they believe in the American Dream — it feels sometimes like the system is rigged against them.
And they have good reason to think that way. So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every serious idea to strengthen the middle class. Not ideas that are unique to me, they’re not — this isn’t Obama bridge. (Laughter.) It’s Key Bridge. But the Republicans have said no to raising the minimum wage, they’ve said no to fair pay, they’ve said no to extending unemployment insurance for over 3 million Americans looking for a new job.
And this obstruction keeps the system rigged for those who are doing fine at the top. It prevents us from helping more middle-class families. And as long as they insist on taking no action whatsoever that will help anybody, I’m going to keep on taking actions on my own that can help the middle class — like the actions I’ve already taken to speed up construction projects, and attract new manufacturing jobs, and lift workers’ wages, and help students pay off their loans. (Applause.)
And they criticize me for this. Boehner sued me for this. And I told him, I’d rather do things with you, pass some laws, make sure the Highway Trust Fund is funded so we don’t lay off hundreds of thousands of workers. It’s not that hard. Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff. So sue me. (Laughter.) As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something. (Applause.)
And look, I just want to be clear — Republicans in Congress, they’re patriots, they love their country, they love their families. They just have a flawed theory of the economy that they can’t seem to get past. They believe that all we should be doing is giving more tax breaks to those at the top, eliminating regulations that stop big banks or polluters from doing what they want, cut the safety net for people trying to work their way into the middle class, and then somehow the economy is going to get stronger and jobs and prosperity trickle down to everybody. That’s their worldview. I’m sure they sincerely believe it. It’s just not accurate. It does not work.
We know from our history our economy doesn’t grow from the top down; it grows from the middle out. We do better when you’ve got some construction workers on the job. They then go to a restaurant and they buy a new car. That means the workers there start doing better. Everybody does better. And we could be doing so much more if Republicans in Congress were less interested in stacking the deck in favor of those at the top or trying to score political points, or purposely trying to gridlock Washington, and just tried to get some things done to grow the economy for everybody. We could do so much more if we just rallied around an economic patriotism, a sense that our job is to get things done as one nation and as one people.
Economic patriotism would say that instead of protecting corporations that are shipping jobs overseas, let’s make sure they’re paying their fair share of taxes, let’s reward American workers and businesses that hire them. Let’s put people to work rebuilding America. Let’s invest in manufacturing, so the next generation of good manufacturing jobs are right here, made in the USA. (Applause.) That would be something to celebrate on the 4th of July. (Applause.)
Economic patriotism says that instead of stacking the deck in the favor of folks just at the top, let’s harness the talents and ingenuity of every American and give every child access to quality education, and make sure that if your job was stamped obsolete or shipped overseas, you’re going to get retrained for an even better job. (Applause.)
Economic patriotism says that instead of making it tougher for middle-class families to get ahead, let’s reward hard work for every American. Let’s make sure women earn pay that’s equal to their efforts. (Applause.) Let’s make sure families can make ends meet if their child gets sick and they need to take a day off. Let’s make sure no American who works full-time ever has to live in poverty. (Applause.)
Let’s tell everybody they’re worth something. No matter who you are, no matter what you look like, where you come from, who you love, if you work hard, if you’re responsible, you can make it here in America. That’s what this country was founded on, that idea. That’s why I ran for this office. I think sometimes about what we could be accomplishing, what we could have accomplished this past year, what we could have accomplished the year before that. And typically what gets reported on is just the politics — well, you know, they’re not doing this because they don’t want to give Obama a victory or oh, well, we don’t want to do this right now because maybe the midterm election is coming up and, oh, well, what’s happening with the polls. People don’t care about that. People just want to see some results. And objectively, if you look at the agenda I’m putting forward, the things that we’re trying to get done like just fixing bridges and roads, it really shouldn’t be controversial. It hasn’t been controversial in the past.
And so part of the reason that I’m going to be spending a lot of time over the next several weeks and months getting out there with ordinary folks is just to report to you it’s not as if I don’t know that you could use some help. I know. It’s not as if we don’t have good plans to put more people back to work and raise their incomes and improve the quality of education. We know how to do it. That’s not the reason it’s not happening. It’s not happening because of politics.
And the only folks that can fix that are going to be you — the American people and voters. Sometimes in our culture right now we just get cynical about stuff and we just assume things can’t change because nothing seems to change in this town. But that’s not true. It can change as long as everybody gets activated, as long as people still feel hopeful and we don’t fall prey to cynicism.
And so I just want everybody here to understand that as frustrating as it may be sometimes, as stuck as Congress may be sometimes, if the American people put pressure on this town to actually get something done and everybody is looking at some commonsense agenda items that we should be able to do because Democrats and Republicans were able to do them in the past, we can grow our economy, we can lift people’s incomes, we can make sure that people who are fighting hard can get into the middle class and stay there. But it’s going to take you. It’s going to take you. This is not going to happen on its own. And I’m confident if that’s what we do, if all of you are fighting alongside me every single day instead of just giving up on this place, then we’re going to make America better than ever. That’s a promise.
Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. Go Team USA! Let’s build some bridges!
2:37 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 1, 2014
Source: WH, 6-30-14
3:04 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. One year ago this month, senators of both parties –- with support from the business, labor, law enforcement, faith communities –- came together to pass a commonsense immigration bill.
Independent experts said that bill would strengthen our borders, grow our economy, shrink our deficits. As we speak, there are enough Republicans and Democrats in the House to pass an immigration bill today. I would sign it into law today, and Washington would solve a problem in a bipartisan way.
But for more than a year, Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to allow an up-or-down vote on that Senate bill or any legislation to fix our broken immigration system. And I held off on pressuring them for a long time to give Speaker Boehner the space he needed to get his fellow Republicans on board.
Meanwhile, here’s what a year of obstruction has meant. It has meant fewer resources to strengthen our borders. It’s meant more businesses free to game the system by hiring undocumented workers, which punishes businesses that play by the rules, and drives down wages for hardworking Americans. It’s meant lost talent when the best and brightest from around the world come to study here but are forced to leave and then compete against our businesses and our workers. It’s meant no chance for 11 million immigrants to come out of the shadows and earn their citizenship if they pay a penalty and pass a background check, pay their fair share of taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line. It’s meant the heartbreak of separated families.
That’s what this obstruction has meant over the past year. That’s what the Senate bill would fix if the House allowed it to go to a vote.
Our country and our economy would be stronger today if House Republicans had allowed a simple yes-or-no vote on this bill or, for that matter, any bill. They’d be following the will of the majority of the American people who support reform. Instead, they’ve proven again and again that they’re unwilling to stand up to the tea party in order to do what’s best for the country. And the worst part about it is a bunch of them know better.
We now have an actual humanitarian crisis on the border that only underscores the need to drop the politics and fix our immigration system once and for all. In recent weeks, we’ve seen a surge of unaccompanied children arrive at the border, brought here and to other countries by smugglers and traffickers.
The journey is unbelievably dangerous for these kids. The children who are fortunate enough to survive it will be taken care of while they go through the legal process, but in most cases that process will lead to them being sent back home. I’ve sent a clear message to parents in these countries not to put their kids through this. I recently sent Vice President Biden to meet with Central American leaders and find ways to address the root causes of this crisis. Secretary Kerry will also be meeting with those leaders again tomorrow. With our international partners, we’re taking new steps to go after the dangerous smugglers who are putting thousands of children’s lives at risk.
Today, I sent a letter to congressional leaders asking that they work with me to address the urgent humanitarian challenge on the border, and support the immigration and Border Patrol agents who already apprehend and deport hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants every year. And understand, by the way, for the most part, this is not a situation where these children are slipping through. They’re being apprehended. But the problem is, is that our system is so broken, so unclear that folks don’t know what the rules are.
Now, understand –- there are a number of Republicans who have been willing to work with us to pass real, commonsense immigration reform, and I want to thank them for their efforts. There are a number of Republican leaders in the Senate who did excellent work and deserve our thanks. And less visibly, there have been folks in the House who have been trying to work to get this done. And quietly, because it doesn’t always help me to praise them, I’ve expressed to them how much I appreciate the efforts that they’ve made.
I believe Speaker Boehner when he says he wants to pass an immigration bill. I think he genuinely wants to get something done. But last week, he informed me that Republicans will continue to block a vote on immigration reform at least for the remainder of this year. Some in the House Republican Caucus are using the situation with unaccompanied children as their newest excuse to do nothing. Now, I want everybody to think about that. Their argument seems to be that because the system is broken, we shouldn’t make an effort to fix it. It makes no sense. It’s not on the level. It’s just politics, plain and simple.
Now, there are others in the Republican Caucus in the House who are arguing that they can’t act because they’re mad at me about using my executive authority too broadly. This also makes no sense. I don’t prefer taking administrative action. I’d rather see permanent fixes to the issue we face. Certainly that’s true on immigration. I’ve made that clear multiple times. I would love nothing more than bipartisan legislation to pass the House, the Senate, land on my desk so I can sign it. That’s true about immigration, that’s true about the minimum wage, it’s true about equal pay. There are a whole bunch of things where I would greatly prefer Congress actually do something. I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing. And in this situation, the failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it’s bad for our economy, and it’s bad for our future.
So while I will continue to push House Republicans to drop the excuses and act –- and I hope their constituents will too -– America cannot wait forever for them to act. And that’s why, today, I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress. As a first step, I’m directing the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General to move available and appropriate resources from our interior to the border. Protecting public safety and deporting dangerous criminals has been and will remain the top priority, but we are going to refocus our efforts where we can to make sure we do what it takes to keep our border secure.
I have also directed Secretary Johnson and Attorney General Holder to identify additional actions my administration can take on our own, within my existing legal authorities, to do what Congress refuses to do and fix as much of our immigration system as we can. If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours. I expect their recommendations before the end of summer and I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay.
Of course, even with aggressive steps on my part, administrative action alone will not adequately address the problem. The reforms that will do the most to strengthen our businesses, our workers, and our entire economy will still require an act of Congress. And I repeat: These are reforms that already enjoy the wide support of the American people. It’s very rare where you get labor, business, evangelicals, law enforcement all agreeing on what needs to be done. And at some point, that should be enough. Normally, that is enough. The point of public service is to solve public problems. And those of us who have the privilege to serve have a responsibility to do everything in our power to keep Americans safe and to keep the doors of opportunity open.
And if we do, then one year from now, not only would our economy and our security be stronger, but maybe the best and the brightest from around the world who come study here would stay and create jobs here. Maybe companies that play by the rules will no longer be undercut by companies that don’t. Maybe more families who’ve been living here for years, whose children are often U.S. citizens, who are our neighbors and our friends, whose children are our kids’ friends and go to school with them, and play on ball teams with them, maybe those families would get to stay together. But much of this only happens if Americans continue to push Congress to get this done.
So I’ve told Speaker Boehner that even as I take those steps that I can within my existing legal authorities to make the immigration system work better, I’m going to continue to reach out to House Republicans in the hope that they deliver a more permanent solution with a comprehensive bill. Maybe it will be after the midterms, when they’re less worried about politics. Maybe it will be next year. Whenever it is, they will find me a willing partner. I have been consistent in saying that I am prepared to work with them even on a bill that I don’t consider perfect. And the Senate bill was a good example of the capacity to compromise and get this done. The only thing I can’t do is stand by and do nothing while waiting for them to get their act together.
And I want to repeat what I said earlier. If House Republicans are really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, the best solution to that is passing bills. Pass a bill; solve a problem. Don’t just say no on something that everybody agrees needs to be done. Because if we pass a bill, that will supplant whatever I’ve done administratively. We’ll have a structure there that works, and it will be permanent. And people can make plans and businesses can make plans based on the law. And there will be clarity both here inside this country and outside it.
Let me just close by saying Friday is the Fourth of July. It’s the day we celebrate our independence and all the things that make this country so great. And each year, Michelle and I host a few hundred servicemembers and wounded warriors and their families right here on the lawn for a barbecue and fireworks on the Mall.
And some of the servicemembers coming this year are unique because they signed up to serve, to sacrifice, potentially to give their lives for the security of this country even though they weren’t yet Americans. That’s how much they love this country. They were prepared to fight and die for an America they did not yet fully belong to. I think they’ve earned their stripes in more ways than one. And that’s why on Friday morning we’re going to naturalize them in a ceremony right here at the White House. This Independence Day will be their first day as American citizens.
One of the things we celebrate on Friday –- one of the things that make this country great –- is that we are a nation of immigrants. Our people come from every corner of the globe. That’s what makes us special. That’s what makes us unique. And throughout our history, we’ve come here in wave after wave from everywhere understanding that there was something about this place where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts; that all the different cultures and ideas and energy would come together and create something new.
We won this country’s freedom together. We built this country together. We defended this country together. It makes us special. It makes us strong. It makes us Americans. That’s worth celebrating. And that’s what I want not just House Republicans but all of us as Americans to remember.
Thanks very much.
3:21 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 30, 2014
Source: WH, 6-28-14
WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President discussed his recent trip to Minneapolis where he met a working mother named Rebekah, who wrote the President to share the challenges her family and many middle class Americans are facing where they work hard and sacrifice yet still can’t seem to get ahead. But instead of focusing on growing the middle class and expanding opportunity for all, Republicans in Congress continue to block commonsense economic proposals such as raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance and making college more affordable. The President will keep fighting his economic priorities in the weeks and months ahead, because he knows the best way to expand opportunity for all hardworking Americans and continue to strengthen the economy is to grow it from the middle-out.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
The White House
June 28, 2014
Hi, everybody. This week, I spent a couple days in Minneapolis, talking with people about their lives – their concerns, their successes, and their hopes for the future.
I went because of a letter I received from a working mother named Rebekah, who shared with me the hardships her young family has faced since the financial crisis. She and her husband Ben were just newlyweds expecting their first child, Jack, when the housing crash dried up his contracting business. He took what jobs he could, and Rebekah took out student loans and retrained for a new career. They sacrificed – for their kids, and for each other. And five years later, they’ve paid off debt, bought their first home, and had their second son, Henry.
In her letter to me, she wrote, “We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.” And in many ways, that’s America’s story these past five years. We are a strong, tight-knit family that’s made it through some very tough times.
Today, over the past 51 months, our businesses have created 9.4 million new jobs. By measure after measure, our economy is doing better than it was five years ago.
But as Rebekah also wrote in her letter, there are still too many middle-class families like hers who do everything right – who work hard and who sacrifice – but can’t seem to get ahead. It feels like the odds are stacked against them. And with just a small change in our priorities, we could fix that.
The problem is, Republicans in Congress keep blocking or voting down almost every serious idea to strengthen the middle class. This year alone, they’ve said no to raising the minimum wage, no to fair pay, no to student loan reform, no to extending unemployment insurance. And rather than invest in education that helps working families get ahead, they actually voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.
This obstruction keeps the system rigged for those at the top, and rigged against the middle class. And as long as they insist on doing it, I’ll keep taking actions on my own – like the actions I’ve taken already to attract new jobs, lift workers’ wages, and help students pay off their loans. I’ll do my job. And if it makes Republicans in Congress mad that I’m trying to help people out, they can join me, and we’ll do it together.
The point is, we could do so much more as a country – as a strong, tight-knit family – if Republicans in Congress were less interested in stacking the deck for those at the top, and more interested in growing the economy for everybody.
So rather than more tax breaks for millionaires, let’s give more tax breaks to help working families pay for child care or college. Rather than protect tax loopholes that let big corporations set up tax shelters overseas, let’s put people to work rebuilding roads and bridges right here in America. Rather than stack the decks in favor of those who’ve already succeeded, let’s realize that we are stronger as a nation when we offer a fair shot to every American.
I’m going to spend some time talking about these very choices in the week ahead. That’s because we know from our history that our economy doesn’t grow from the top-down, it grows from the middle-out. We do better when the middle class does better. That’s the American way. That’s what I believe in. And that’s what I’ll keep fighting for.
Have a great Fourth of July, everybody – and good luck to Team USA down in Brazil.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 28, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 27, 2014
Source: WH, 6-27-14
Lake Harriet Band Shell
10:15 A.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Minneapolis! (Applause.) How is everybody doing today? You look good. (Applause.) It is good to see all of you. I miss Minneapolis. I missed you guys. Go ahead and have a seat, I’m going to be talking for a while. (Laughter.)
So we’ve got some wonderful folks here today. I want to acknowledge a few of them. First of all, your outstanding Governor, Mark Dayton. (Applause.) Your wonderful senators, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar. (Applause.) Congressman Keith Ellison. (Applause.) Your Mayor, Betsy Hodges. (Applause.) And all of you are here, and that’s special.
I want to thank Rebekah for not just the introduction and for sharing her story, but for letting me hang out with her and her family for the last couple of days. I really like her. (Laughter.) And her husband is like the husband of the year. Generally, you don’t want your wife to meet Rebekah’s husband, because she’ll be like, well, why don’t you do that? (Laughter.) Why aren’t you like that?
I’ve been wanting to visit a place where all the women are strong and the men are good-looking, and the children above average. (Applause.) And this clearly is an example of what Minnesota produces. So yesterday, Rebekah and I had lunch at Matt’s Bar, had a “Jucy Lucy” — (applause) — which was quite tasty. We had a town hall at Minnehaha Park, although I did not take a kayak over the falls, which seemed dangerous. (Laughter.) We got ice cream at Grand Ole Creamery — very good, very tasty.
And then this morning, Al Franken and I and Secretary Tom Perez, our Secretary of Labor who’s here — Tom, stand up — (applause) — we stopped by a community organization that helps with a lot of job programs and job placement programs. And this program in particular was focused on young moms. It was really interesting talking to them, because there are teenage mothers, 16 to 18, and it was a great pleasure for me to be able to say to all of them that my mom was a teenage mom, and she was 18 when she had me — and to be able to say to all of them that here in this country, it is possible for the child of a teenage mom, a single mom, to end up being President of the United States. (Applause.) And I think that it maybe gave them something to think about.
So you guys have been great hosts, Minnesota.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you!
THE PRESIDENT: You’re welcome. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. (Laughter and applause.)
So I want to give you a sense of how this visit came up. As some of you know, every day we get tens of thousands of correspondence at the White House. And we have a big correspondence office, and every night the folks who manage the correspondence office select 10 letters for me to read.
And the job of these letters is not to just puff me up — so it’s not like they only send me letters saying, Mr. President, you’re doing great. (Laughter.) Sometimes the letters say thank you for something I may have done. Sometimes the letters say, you are an idiot and the worst President ever. (Laughter.) And most of the stories, though, are stories of hardship, or hard-won success, or hopes that haven’t been met yet. Some appreciate a position that I may have taken; some disagree with what I’m doing. Some consider policies like the Affordable Care Act to be socialism; some tell stories about the difference that same policy may have made in folks’ lives.
So I’m getting a good sample of what’s happening around the country. And last month, three young girls wrote to me that boys aren’t fair because they don’t pass the ball in gym class. (Laughter.) So there’s a wide spectrum — and I’m going to prepare an executive order on that.
But the letter that Rebekah sent stood out — first of all, because she’s a good writer, and also because she’s a good person. And the story that she told me reminded Michelle and I of some of our own experiences when we were Rebekah and her husband’s age. And in many ways, her story for the past five years is our story, it’s the American story.
In early 2009, Rebekah and Ben, her husband, they were newly married, expecting their first son, Jack. She was waiting tables, he was in construction. Like millions of middle-class families who got hammered by the Great Recession — the worst recession since the Great Depression — life was about to get pretty hard. “If only we had known,” she wrote, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.”
Ben’s business dried up. But as a new husband and dad, he did what he had to, so he took whatever jobs he could, even if it forced him to be away from his family for days at a time. Rebekah realized she needed to think about how her career would unfold, so she took out student loans and enrolled in St. Paul College, and retrained for a new career as an accountant.
And it’s been a long, hard road for them. They had to pay off debt. They had to sacrifice for their kids and for one another. But then last year, they were able to buy their first home, and they’ve got a second son. And they love where they work, and Ben’s new job lets him be home for dinner each night. (Applause.) And so what Rebekah wrote was, “It’s amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to. We’re a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”
And that describes the American people. We, too, are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times. And today, over the past 51 months, our businesses have created 9.4 million new jobs. Our housing market is rebounding. Our auto industry is booming. Our manufacturing sector is adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. We’ve made our tax code fairer. We’ve cut our deficits by more than half. More than 8 million Americans have signed up for private insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act. (Applause.) So here in Minnesota, you can now say that the women are strong, the men are good-looking, the children are above average, and 95 percent of you are insured. (Applause.)
And it’s thanks to the hard work of citizens like Rebekah and Ben and so many of you that we’ve come farther, we’ve recovered faster than just about any other advanced economy on Earth. More and more companies are deciding that the world’s number-one place to create jobs and invest is once again the United States of America. (Applause.) That’s the good news. And you don’t hear it very often.
By every economic measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office. (Applause.) You wouldn’t know it, but we are. We’ve made some enormous strides. But that’s not the end of the story. We have more work to do.
It wasn’t the end of Rebekah’s story, because she went on to write in her letter, “We did everything right. The truth is, in America, where two people have done everything they can to succeed and fight back from the brink of financial ruin -– through job loss and retraining, and kids, and credit card debts that are set up to keep you impoverished forever, and the discipline to stop spending any money on yourselves or take a vacation in five years — it’s virtually impossible to live a simple middle-class life.” That’s what Rebekah wrote. Because their income is eaten up by childcare for Jack and Henry that costs more each month than their mortgage. And as I was telling Rebekah — Michelle and I, when we were their age, we had good jobs and we still had to deal with childcare issues and couldn’t figure out how to some months make ends meet.
They forego vacations so they can afford to pay off student loans and save for retirement. “Our big splurge,” Rebekah wrote, “is cable TV, so we can follow our beloved Minnesota Wild, and watch Team USA in the Olympics!” (Applause.) They go out once a week for pizza or a burger. But they’re not splurging. And at the end of the month, things are tight. And this is like this wonderful young couple, with these wonderful kids, who are really working hard.
And the point is, all across this country, there are people just like that, all in this audience. You’re working hard, you’re doing everything right. You believe in the American Dream. You’re not trying to get fabulously wealthy. You just want a chance to build a decent life for yourselves and your families, but sometimes it feels like the odds are rigged against you.
And I think sometimes what it takes for somebody like Rebekah to sit down and write one of these letters. And I believe that even when it’s heartbreaking and it’s hard, every single one of those letters is by definition an act of hope.
Because it’s a hope that the system can listen, that somebody is going to hear you; that even when Washington sometimes seems tone deaf to what’s going on in people’s lives and around kitchen tables, that there’s going to be somebody who’s going to stand up for you and your family.
And that’s why I’m here — because I want to let Rebekah know, and I wanted to let all of you know that — because you don’t see it on TV sometimes. It’s not what the press and the pundits talk about. I’m here to tell you I’m listening, because you’re the reason I ran for President. (Applause.) Because those stories are stories I’ve lived. The same way that when I saw those young teenage moms, I thought of my mother. And when I see Rebekah and Ben, I think of our struggles when Malia and Sasha were young. And they’re not distant from me and everything we do.
I ran for President because I believe this country is at its best when we’re all in it together and when everybody has a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share. (Applause.) And the reason I believe that is because that’s how I came here. That’s how I got here. That’s how Michelle and I were able to succeed. (Applause.) And I haven’t forgotten.
And so even though you may not read about it or see it on TV all the time, our agenda, what we’re fighting for every day, is designed not to solve every problem, but to help just a little bit. To create more good jobs that pay good wages — jobs in manufacturing and construction; energy and innovation. That’s why we’re fighting to train more workers to fill those jobs. That’s why we’re fighting to guarantee every child a world-class education, including early childhood education and better childcare. (Applause.) That’s why we’re fighting to make sure hard work pays off with a wage you can live on and savings you can retire on, and making sure that women get paid the same as men for the same job, and folks have flexibility to look after a sick child or a sick parent. (Applause.)
That’s what we’re fighting for. We’re fighting so everybody has a chance. We’re fighting to vindicate the idea that no matter who you are, or what you look like, or how you grew up, or who you love, or who your parents were, or what your last name is, it doesn’t matter — America is a place where if you’re doing the right thing, like Ben and Rebekah are, and you’re being responsible and you’re taking care of your family, that you can make it.
And the fact is, we can do that. If we do some basic things, if we make some basic changes, we can create more jobs and lift more incomes and strengthen the middle class. And that’s what we should be doing. And I know it drives you nuts that Washington isn’t doing it. And it drives me nuts. (Applause.) And the reason it’s not getting done is, today, even basic commonsense ideas can’t get through this Congress.
And sometimes I’m supposed to be politic about how I say things — (laughter) — but I’m finding lately that I just want to say what’s on my mind. (Applause.) So let me just be clear — I want you think about this — so far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every single serious idea to strengthen the middle class. You may think I’m exaggerating, but let me go through the list. They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage. They’ve said no to fair pay. Some of them have denied that there’s even a problem, despite the fact that women are getting paid 77 cents for every dollar a man is getting paid.
They’ve said no to extending unemployment insurance for more than three million Americans who are out there looking every single day for a new job, despite the fact that we know it would be good not just for those families who are working hard to try to get back on their feet, but for the economy as a whole. Rather than invest in working families getting ahead, they actually voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.
AUDIENCE: Booo –
THE PRESIDENT: Don’t boo, by the way. I want you to vote. (Laughter and applause.) I mean, over and over again, they show that they’ll do anything to keep in place systems that really help folks at the top but don’t help you. And they don’t seem to mind. And their obstruction is keeping a system that is rigged against families like Ben’s and Rebekah’s.
Now, I’m not saying these are all bad people; they’re not. When I’m sitting there just talking to them about family, we get along just fine. Many of them will acknowledge when I talk to them — yes, I know, I wish we could do something more, but I can’t — but they can’t be too friendly towards me because they’d be run out of town by the tea party. (Laughter.)
But sometimes I get a sense they just don’t know what most folks are going through. They keep on offering a theory of the economy that time and again failed for the middle class. They think we should give more tax breaks to those at the top. They think we should invest less in things like education. They think we should let big banks, and credit card companies, and polluters, and insurers do only whatever is best for their bottom line without any responsibility to anybody else. They want to drastically reduce or get rid of the safety net for people trying to work their way into the middle class.
And if we did all these things, they think the economy will thrive and jobs will prosper, and everything will trickle down.
And just because they believe it, it doesn’t mean the rest of us should be believing it — because we’ve tried what they’re peddling, and it doesn’t work. We know from our history that our economy does not grow from the top down, it grows from the middle out. We do better when the middle class does better. We do better when workers are getting a decent salary. We do better when they’ve got decent benefits. (Applause.) We do better when a young family knows that they can get ahead. And we do better when people who are working hard know that they can count on decent childcare at an affordable cost, and that if they get sick they’re not going to lose their homes.
We do better when if somebody is stuck in a job that is not paying well enough, they know they can go get retrained without taking on huge mountains of debt. That’s when things hum. And with just a few changes in priorities, we could get a lot of that done right now if Congress would actually just think about you and not about getting reelected, not about the next election, not about some media sound bite, but just focus on you. (Applause.)
So that’s why I’ve said, look, I want to work with Democrats and Republicans. My favorite President, by the way, was the first Republican President — a guy named Abraham Lincoln. So this is not a statement about partisanship. This is a statement about America and what we’re fighting for. And I’m not going to let gridlock and inaction and willful indifference and greed threaten the hard work of families like yours. And so we can’t afford to wait for Congress right now. And that’s why I’m going ahead and moving ahead without them wherever I can. (Applause.)
That’s why I acted to raise more workers’ wages by requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour. (Applause.) That’s why I acted to help nearly five million Americans make student loan payments cap those payments at 10 percent of their income. That’s why I made sure more women have the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace. (Applause.) That’s why we went ahead and launched new hubs to attract more high-tech manufacturing jobs to America.
And, now, some of you may have read — so we take these actions and then now Republicans are mad at me for taking these actions. They’re not doing anything, and then they’re mad that I’m doing something. I’m not sure which of the things I’ve done they find most offensive, but they’ve decided they’re going to sue me for doing my job. I mean, I might have said in the heat of the moment during one of these debates, “I want to raise the minimum wage, so sue me when I do.” (Laughter.) But I didn’t think they were going to take it literally.
But giving more working Americans a fair shot is not about simply what I can do — it’s about what we can do together. So when Congress doesn’t act, not only have I acted, I’ve also tried to rally others to help. I told CEOs, and governors, and mayors, and state legislatures, for example, they don’t have to wait for Congress to raise the minimum wage. Go ahead and raise your workers’ wages right now. And since I first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, 13 states and D.C. have raised theirs, including Minnesota, where more than 450,000 of your neighbors are poised to get a raise. (Applause.)
When Gap raised wages for its employees, job applications went up through the roof. It was good for business. I even got a letter from a proud mom right here in Minneapolis who just wanted me to know that her son starts his employees at $15 an hour, at Aaron’s Green Cleaning here in town. (Applause.) There they are! (Applause.) So the letter said, “We are very proud of his people-centered business philosophy! Three cheers for a decent living wage!”
So we don’t have to wait for Congress to do some good stuff. On Monday, we held the first-ever White House Summit on Working Families, and we heard from a lot of other families like Ben and Rebekah. They count on policies like paid leave and workplace flexibility to juggle everything. We had business owners who came and told me they became more profitable when they made family life easier for their employees.
So more companies are deciding that higher wages and workplace flexibility is good for business — it reduces turnover, more productive workers, more loyal workers. More cities and states are deciding this is good policy for families. So the only holdout standing in the way of change for tens of millions of Americans are some Republicans in Congress.
Because I just want to be real blunt: If you watch the news, you just see, okay, Washington is a mess, and the basic attitude is everybody is just crazy up there. But if you actually read the fine print, it turns out that the things you care about right now Democrats are promoting. (Applause.) And we’re just not getting enough help.
And my message to Republicans is: Join us. Get on board. If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, then why don’t you join me and we’ll do it together? (Applause.) We’ll do it together. I’m happy to share the credit. You’re mad at me for doing some things to raise the minimum wage, let’s pass a law — Republicans and Democrats giving America a raise.
If you’re mad at me for taking executive action to make it easier for women to find out if they’re not getting treated fairly in the workplace, let’s do it together. You can share the credit. (Applause.) You’re worried about me trying to fix a broken immigration system, let’s hold hands and go ahead and make sure that this country continues to be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. I want to work with you, but you’ve got to give me something. You’ve got to try to deliver something — anything. (Applause.)
They don’t do anything — (laughter) — except block me. And call me names. It can’t be that much fun. (Laughter.) It’d be so much more fun if they said, you know what, let’s do something together. If they were more interested in growing the economy for you, and the issues that you’re talking about, instead of trying to mess with me — (laughter) — then we’d be doing a lot better. That’s what makes this country great, is when we’re all working together. That’s the American way.
Now more than ever, with the 4th of July next week, Team USA moving on down in Brazil — (applause) — we should try to rally around some economic patriotism that says we rise or fall as one nation and one people. Let’s rally around the idea that instead of giving tax breaks for millionaires, let’s give more tax breaks for working families to help pay for childcare or college. (Applause.)
Instead of protecting companies that are shifting profits overseas to avoid paying their fair share, let’s put people to work rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our airports. (Applause.) Let’s invest in manufacturing startups so that we’re creating good jobs making products here in America, here in Minnesota. (Applause.) Rather than stack the deck in favor of those who have already got an awful lot, let’s help folks who have huge talent and potential and ingenuity but just need a little bit of a hand up so that we can tap the potential of every American.
I mean, this isn’t rocket science. There are some things that are complicated — this isn’t one of them. Let’s make sure every 4-year-old in America has access to high school — high-quality preschool — (applause) — so that moms like Rebekah and dads like Ben know their kids are getting the best quality care and getting a head start on life. Let’s redesign our high schools to make sure that our kids are better prepared for the 21st century economy. Let’s follow the lead of Senator Franken and Secretary Perez and give more apprenticeships that connect young people to rewarding careers. (Applause.)
Let’s tell every American if they’ve lost their job because it was shipped overseas, we’re going to train you for an even better one. (Applause.) Let’s rally around the patriotism that says our country is stronger when every American can count on affordable health insurance and Medicare and Social Security, and women earn pay equal to their efforts, and family can make ends meet if their kid get sick, and when nobody who works full-time is living in poverty. We can do all these things.
And so let me just — let me wrap up by saying this. I know sometimes things get kind of discouraging. And I know that our politics looks profoundly broken, and Washington looks like it’s never going to deliver for you. It seems like they’re focused on everything but your concerns. And I know that when I was elected in 2008 and then reelected in 2012, so many of you were hoping that we could get Washington to work differently, and sometimes when I get stymied you’d think, oh, maybe not; maybe it’s just too tough, maybe things won’t change. And I get that frustration. And the critics and the cynics in Washington, they’ve written me off more times than I can count.
But I’m here to tell you, don’t get cynical. Despite all of the frustrations, America is making progress. Despite the unyielding opposition, there are families who have health insurance now who didn’t have it before. And there are students in college who couldn’t afford it before. And there are workers on the job who didn’t have jobs before. And there are troops home with their families after serving tour after tour. (Applause.) Don’t think that we’re not making progress.
So, yes, it’s easy to be cynical; in fact, these days it’s kind of trendy. Cynicism passes off for wisdom. But cynicism doesn’t liberate a continent. Cynicism doesn’t build a transcontinental railroad. Cynicism doesn’t send a man to the moon. Cynicism doesn’t invent the Internet. Cynicism doesn’t give women the right to vote. Cynicism doesn’t make sure that people are treated equally regardless of race.
Cynicism is a choice, and hope is a better choice. And every day I’m lucky to receive thousands of acts of hope — every time somebody sits down and picks up a pen, and writes to me and shares their story, just like Rebekah did. And Rebekah said in her letter — she ended it, she said, “I’m pretty sure this is a silly thing to do to write a letter to the President, but on some level I know that staying silent about what you see and what needs changing, it never makes any difference. So I’m writing to you to let you know what it’s like for us out here in the middle of the country, and I hope you will listen.”
And I’m here because Rebekah wrote to me and I want her to know I’m listening. I’m here as President, because I want you all to know that I’m listening. (Applause.) I ran for office to make sure that anybody who is working hard to meet their dreams has somebody in Washington that is listening. And I’m always going to keep listening. And I’m always going to keep fighting. (Applause.)
And your cares and your concerns are my own, and your hopes for your kids and your grandkids are my own. And I’m always going to be working to restore the American Dream for everybody who’s willing to work for it. (Applause.) And I am not going to get cynical; I’m staying hopeful, and I hope you do too.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
10:50 A.M. CDT
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