Political Musings October 15, 2014: Unpopular Obama sees lowest rating as Republicans set to win Senate in midterms

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Unpopular Obama sees lowest rating as Republicans set to win Senate in midterms

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama and Democrats are facing more bad news with just three weeks left before the midterm elections on Nov. 4, 2014. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014 gives…READ MORE

Political Musings October 6, 2014: Long-term jobless rate remains high Obama, Boehner ignore unemployment extension

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Long-term jobless rate remains high Obama, Boehner ignore unemployment extension

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The main headline for the September jobs report released on Friday, Oct. 3, 2014 was for the first time in six years the unemployment rate is under six percent, coming in at 5.9 percent. What was lost in the…READ MORE

Political Musings October 5, 2014: GOP make midterms referendum on Obama, as president refocuses on the economy

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

GOP make midterms referendum on Obama, as president refocuses on the economy

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With just a month to the midterm elections, President Barack Obama decided to help the Democrats, and ultimately himself by delivering a speech about the state of the economy on Thursday, Oct. 2, at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 2, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy at Northwestern University — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy — Northwestern University

Source: WH, 10-2-14 

Northwestern University
Evanston, Illinois

1:11 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Evanston!  (Applause.)  Hello, Northwestern!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Everybody, have a seat.  Have a seat.  It is so good to be here.  Go ‘Cats!  (Applause.)  I want to thank your president, Morty Schapiro, and the dean of the Kellogg Business School, Sally Blount, for having me.  I brought along some guests.  Your Governor, Pat Quinn, is here.  (Applause.)  Your Senator, Dick Durbin, is here.  (Applause.)  Your Congresswoman, Jan Schakowsky, is here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got some who represent the Chicagoland area in Congress and do a great job every day — Danny Davis, Robin Kelly, Mike Quigley, Brad Schneider.  (Applause.)  We’ve got your mayor, Elizabeth Tisdahl.  (Applause.)  Where’s Elizabeth?  There she is.  One of my great friends and former chief of staff — the mild-mannered Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, is here.  (Laughter and applause.)

It is great to be back home.  (Applause.)  It’s great to be back at Northwestern.  Back when I was a senator, I had the honor of delivering the commencement address for the class of 2006.  And as it turns out, I’ve got a bunch of staff who graduated from here, and so they’re constantly lobbying me about stuff.  And so earlier this year, I popped in via video to help kick off the dance marathon.  I figured this time I’d come in person — not only because it’s nice to be so close to home, but it’s also just nice to see old friends, people who helped to form how I think about public service; people who helped me along the way.  Toni Preckwinkle was my alderwoman and was a great supporter.  (Applause.)  Lisa Madigan, your attorney general, was my seatmate.  State Senator Terry Link was my golf buddy.  So you’ve got people here who I’ve just known for years and really not only helped me be where I am today, but helped develop how I think about public service.

And I’m also happy to be here because this is a university that is brimming with the possibilities of a new economy — your research and technology; the ideas and the innovation; the training of doctors and educators, and scientists and entrepreneurs.  But you can’t help but visit a campus like this and feel the promise of the future.

And that’s why I’m here — because it’s going to be young people like you, and universities like this, that will shape the American economy and set the conditions for middle-class growth well into the 21st century.

And obviously, recent months have seen their fair share of turmoil around the globe.  But one thing should be crystal clear:  American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world.  It’s America — our troops, our diplomats — that lead the fight to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.

It’s America — our doctors, our scientists, our know-how — that leads the fight to contain and combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

It’s America — our colleges, our graduate schools, our unrivaled private sector — that attracts so many people to our shores to study and start businesses and tackle some of the most challenging problems in the world.

When alarms go off somewhere in the world, whether it’s a disaster that is natural or man-made; when there’s an idea or an invention that can make a difference, this is where things start.  This is who the world calls — America.  They don’t call Moscow.  They don’t call Beijing.  They call us.  And we welcome that responsibility of leadership, because that’s who we are.  That’s what we expect of ourselves.

But what supports our leadership role in the world is ultimately the strength of our economy here at home.  And today, I want to step back from the rush of global events to take a clear-eyed look at our economy, its successes and its shortcomings, and determine what we still need to build for your generation — what you can help us build.

As Americans, we can and should be proud of the progress that our country has made over these past six years.  And here are the facts — because sometimes the noise clutters and I think confuses the nature of the reality out there.  Here are the facts:  When I took office, businesses were laying off 800,000 Americans a month.  Today, our businesses are hiring 200,000 Americans a month.  (Applause.)  The unemployment rate has come down from a high of 10 percent in 2009, to 6.1 percent today.  (Applause.)  Over the past four and a half years, our businesses have created 10 million new jobs; this is the longest uninterrupted stretch of private sector job creation in our history.  Think about that.  And you don’t have to applaud at — because I’m going to be giving you a lot of good statistics.  (Laughter.)  Right now, there are more job openings than at any time since 2001.  All told, the United States has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined.  I want you to think about that.  We have put more people back to work, here in America, than Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined.

This progress has been hard, but it has been steady and it has been real.  And it’s the direct result of the American people’s drive and their determination and their resilience, and it’s also the result of sound decisions made by my administration.

So it is indisputable that our economy is stronger today than when I took office.  By every economic measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office.  At the same time, it’s also indisputable that millions of Americans don’t yet feel enough of the benefits of a growing economy where it matters most — and that’s in their own lives.

And these truths aren’t incompatible.  Our broader economy in the aggregate has come a long way, but the gains of recovery are not yet broadly shared — or at least not broadly shared enough.  We can see that homes in our communities are selling for more money, and that the stock market has doubled, and maybe the neighbors have new health care or a car fresh off an American assembly line.  And these are all good things.  But the stress that families feel — that’s real, too.  It’s still harder than it should be to pay the bills and to put away some money.  Even when you’re working your tail off, it’s harder than it should be to get ahead.

And this isn’t just a hangover from the Great Recession.  I’ve always said that recovering from the crisis of 2008 was our first order of business, but I also said that our economy wouldn’t be truly healthy until we reverse the much longer and profound erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes.

So here’s our challenge.  We’re creating more jobs at a steady pace.  We’ve got a recovering housing market, a revitalized manufacturing sector — two things that are critical to middle-class success.  We’ve also begun to see some modest wage growth in recent months.  All of that has gotten the economy rolling again, despite the fact that the economies of many other countries around the world are softening.  But as Americans, we measure our success by something more than our GDP, or a jobs report.  We measure it by whether our jobs provide meaningful work that give people a sense of purpose, and whether it allows folks to take care of their families.  And too many families still work too many hours with too little to show for it.  Job growth could be so much faster and wages could be going up faster if we made some better decisions going forward with the help of Congress.  So our task now is to harness the momentum that is real, that does exist, and make sure that we accelerate that momentum, that the economy grows and jobs grow and wages grow.  That’s our challenge.

When the typical family isn’t bringing home any more than it did in 1997, then that means it’s harder for middle-class Americans to climb the ladder of success.  It means that it’s harder for poor Americans to grab hold of the ladder into the middle class.  That’s not what America is supposed to be about.  It offends the very essence of who we are.  Because if being an American means anything, it means we believe that even if we’re born with nothing — regardless of our circumstances, a last name, whether we were wealthy, whether our parents were advantaged — no matter what our circumstances, with hard work we can change our lives, and then our kids can too.

And that’s about more than just fairness.  It’s more than just the idea of what America is about.  When middle-class families can’t afford to buy the goods or services our businesses sell, it actually makes it harder for our economy to grow.  Our economy cannot truly succeed if we’re stuck in a winner-take-all system where a shrinking few do very well while a growing many are struggling to get by.  Historically, our economic greatness rests on a simple principle:  When the middle class thrives, and when people can work hard to get into the middle class, then America thrives.  And when it doesn’t, America doesn’t.

This is going to be a central challenge of our times.  We have to make our economy work for every working American.  And every policy I pursue as President is aimed at answering that challenge.

Over the last decade, we learned the hard way that it wasn’t sustainable to have an economy where too much of the growth was based on inflated home prices and bubbles that burst and a casino mentality on Wall Street; where the recklessness of a few could threaten all of us; where incomes at the top skyrocketed, while working families saw theirs decline.  That was not a formula for sustained growth.  We need an economy that’s built on a rock, and that — a rock that is durable and competitive, and that’s a steady source of good, middle-class jobs.  When that’s happening, everybody does well.

So that’s why on day one, when I took office, with Rahm and Dick Durbin and others who were working with us, I said we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation for growth and prosperity.  And with dedicated, persistent effort, we’ve actually been laying the cornerstones of this foundation every single day since.

So I mentioned earlier that there is not an economic measure by which we’re not better off than when we took official.  But let me break down what we’ve also been doing structurally to make sure that we have a strong foundation for growth going forward.

The first cornerstone is new investments in the energy and technologies that make America a magnet for good, middle-class jobs.

So right off the bat, as soon as I came into office, we upped our investments in American energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and strengthen our own energy security.  And today, the number-one oil and gas producer in the world is no longer Russia or Saudi Arabia.  It’s America.  (Applause.)

For the first time in nearly two decades, we now produce more oil than we buy from other countries.  We’re advancing so fast in this area that two years ago I set a goal to cut our oil imports by half by — in half by 2020, and we’ve actually — we will meet that goal this year, six years ahead of schedule.  (Applause.)

So that’s in the traditional fossil fuel area.  But at the same time, we’ve helped put tens of thousands of people to work manufacturing wind turbines, and installing solar panels on homes and businesses.  We have tripled the electricity that we harness from the wind.  We have increased tenfold what we generate from the sun.  We have brought enough clean energy online to power every home and business in Illinois and Wisconsin, 24/7.  And that’s the kind of progress that we can be proud of and in part accounts for the progress we have also made in reducing carbon emissions that cause climate change.  And I know that here at Northwestern, your researchers are working to convert sunlight into liquid fuel — which sounds impossible, or at least really hard.  (Laughter.)  But the good news is, if you need to get the hard or the impossible done, America and American universities are a pretty good place to start.

Meanwhile, our 100-year supply of natural gas is a big factor in drawing jobs back to our shores.  Many are in manufacturing — which produce the quintessential middle-class job.  During the last decade, it was widely accepted that American manufacturing was in irreversible decline.  And just six years ago, its crown jewel, the American auto industry, could not survive on its own.  With the help of folks like Jan and Dick and Mike Quigley and others, we helped our automakers restructure and retool.  Today, they’re building and selling new cars at the fastest rate in eight years.  We invested in new plants, new technologies, new high-tech hubs like the Digital Manufacturing and Design Institute that Northwestern has partnered with in Chicago.

Today, American manufacturing has added more than 700,000 new jobs.  It’s growing almost twice as fast as the rest of the economy.  And more than half of all manufacturing executives have said they are actively looking at bringing jobs back from China.  To many in the middle class, the last decade was defined by outsourcing good jobs overseas.  If we keep up these investments, we can define this decade by what’s known as “insourcing” — with new factories now opening their doors here in America at the fastest pace in decades.  And in the process, we’ve also worked to grow American exports and open new markets, knock down barriers to trade, because businesses that export tend to have better-paying jobs.  So today, our businesses sell more goods and services made in America to the rest of the world than ever before.  Ever.

And that’s progress we can be proud of.  Now, we also know that many of these manufacturing jobs have changed.  You’re not just punching in and pounding rivets anymore; you’re coding computers and you’re guiding robots.  You’re mastering 3D printing.  And these jobs require some higher education or technical training.  And that’s why the second cornerstone of the new foundation we’ve been building is making sure our children are prepared and our workers are prepared to fill the jobs of the future.

America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free.  We sent a generation to college.  We cultivated the most educated workforce in the world.  But it didn’t take long for other countries to look at our policies and caught on to the secret of our success.  So they set out to educate their kids too, so they could out-compete our kids.  We have to lead the world in education once again.  (Applause.)

That’s why we launched a Race to the Top in our schools, trained thousands of math and science teachers, supported states that raised standards for learning.  Today, teachers in 48 states and D.C. are teaching our kids the knowledge and skills they need to compete and win in the global economy.  Working with parents and educators, we’ve turned around some of the country’s lowest-performing schools.  We’re on our way to connecting 99 percent of students to high-speed Internet, and making sure every child, at every seat, has the best technology for learning.

Look, let’s face it:  Some of these changes are hard.  Sometimes they cause controversy.  And we have a long way to go.  But public education in America is actually improving.  Last year, our elementary and middle school students had the highest math and reading scores on record.  The dropout rates for Latinos and African Americans are down.  (Applause.)  The high school graduation rate — the high school graduation rate is up.  It’s now above 80 percent for the first time in history.  We’ve invested in more than 700 community colleges — which are so often gateways to the middle class — and we’re connecting them with employers to train high school graduates for good jobs in fast-growing fields like high-tech manufacturing and energy and IT and cybersecurity.

Here in Chicago, Rahm just announced that the city will pay community college tuition for more striving high school graduates.  We’ve helped more students afford college with grants and tax credits and loans.  And today, more young people are graduating than ever before.  We’ve sent more veterans to college on the Post-9/11 GI Bill — including several veterans here at Northwestern — and a few of them are in this hall today, and we thank them for their service.  (Applause.)

So we’ve made progress on manufacturing and creating good jobs.  We’ve made progress on education.  Of course, even if you have the right education, for decades, one of the things that made it harder for families to make ends meet and businesses to grow was the high cost of health care.  And so the third cornerstone had to be health care reform.

In the decade before the Affordable Care Act, aka, Obamacare — (laughter and applause) — in the decade before the Affordable Care Act, double-digit premium increases were common.  CEOs called them one of the biggest challenges to their competitiveness.  And if your employer didn’t drop your coverage to avoid these costs, they might pass them on to you and take them out of your wages.

Today, we have seen a dramatic slowdown in the rising cost of health care.  When we passed the Affordable Care Act, the critics were saying, what are you doing about cost.  Well, let me tell you what we’ve done about cost.  If your family gets your health care through your employer, premiums are rising at a rate tied for the lowest on record.  And what this means for the economy is staggering.  If we hadn’t taken this on, and premiums had kept growing at the rate they did in the last decade, the average premium for family coverage today would be $1,800 higher than they are.  Now, most people don’t notice it, but that’s $1,800 you don’t have to pay out of your pocket or see vanish from your paycheck.  That’s like a $1,800 tax cut.  That’s not for folks who signed up for Obamacare.  That’s the consequences of some of the reforms that we’ve made.

And because the insurance marketplaces we created encourage insurers to compete for your business, in many of cities they’ve announced that next year’s premiums — well, something important is happening here — next year’s premiums are actually falling in some of these markets.  One expert said this is “defying the law of physics.”  But we’re getting it done.  And it is progress we can be proud of.

So we’re slowing the cost of health care, and we’re covering more people at the same time.  In just the last year, we reduced the share of uninsured Americans by 26 percent.  That means one in four uninsured Americans — about 10 million people — have gained the financial security of health insurance in less than one year.  And for young entrepreneurs, like many of you here today, the fact that you can compare and buy affordable plans in the marketplace frees you up to strike out on your own, chase that new idea — something I hope will unleash new services and products and enterprises all across the country.  So the job lock that used to exist because you needed health insurance, you’re free from that now.   You can go out and do something on your own and get affordable health care.

And meanwhile, partly because health care prices have been growing at the slowest rate in nearly 50 years, the growth in what health care costs the government is down, also.  I want everybody to listen carefully here, because when we were debating the Affordable Care Act there was a lot of complaining about how we couldn’t afford this.  The independent, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently reported that in 2020, Medicare and Medicaid will cost us $188 billion less than projected just four years ago.  And here’s what that means in layman’s terms:  Health care has long been the single biggest driver of America’s future deficits.  It’s been the single biggest driver of our debt.  Health care is now the single biggest factor driving down those deficits.

And this is a game-changer for the fourth cornerstone of this new foundation — getting our fiscal house in order for the long run, so we can afford to make investments that grow the middle class.

Between a growing economy, some prudent spending cuts, health care reform, and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more on their taxes, over the past five years we’ve cut our deficits by more than half.  When I took office, the deficit was nearly 10 percent of our economy.  Today, it’s approaching 3 percent.  (Applause.)  In other words, we can shore up America’s long-term finances without falling back into the mindless austerity or manufactured crises or trying to find excuses to slash benefits to seniors that dominated Washington budget debates for so long.

And finally, we’ve put in place financial reform to protect consumers and prevent a crisis on Wall Street from hammering Main Street ever again.  We have new tools to prevent “too big to fail,” to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts.  We made it illegal for big banks to gamble with your money.  We established the first-ever consumer watchdog to protect consumers from irresponsible lending or credit card practices.  We secured billions of dollars in relief for consumers who get taken advantage of.  And working with states attorneys general like Lisa Madigan, we’ve seen industry practices changing.

Now, an argument you’ll hear oftentimes from critics is that the way to grow the economy is to just get rid of regulations; free folks up from the oppressive hand of the government.  And you know, it turns out, truth be told, there are still some kind of dopey regulations on the books.  (Laughter.)  There are regulations that are outdated or are no longer serving a useful purpose.  And we have scrubbed the laws out there and identified hundreds that are outdated, that don’t help our economy, that don’t make sense, and we’re saving businesses billions of dollars by gradually eliminating those unnecessary regulations.  But you have to contrast that with rules that discourage a casino-style mentality on Wall Street, or rules that protect the basic safety of workers on the job, or rules that safeguard the air our children breathe and keep mercury or arsenic out of our water supply.  These don’t just have economic benefits, these are rules that save lives and protect families.  And I’ll always stand up for those — and they’re good for our economy.

So here’s the bottom line:  For all the work that remains, for all the citizens that we still need to reach, what I want people to know is that there are some really good things happening in America.  Unemployment down.  Jobs up.  Manufacturing growing.  Deficits cut by more than half.  High school graduation is up.  College enrollment up.  Energy production up.  Clean energy production up.  Financial system more stable.  Health care costs rising at a slower rate.  Across the board, the trend lines have moved in the right direction.

That’s because this new foundation is now in place.  New investments in energy and technologies that create new jobs and new industries.  New investments in education that will make our workforce more skilled and competitive.  New reforms to health care that cut costs for families and businesses.  New reforms to our federal budget that will promote smart investments and a stronger economy for future generations.  New rules for our financial system to protect consumers and prevent the kinds of crises that we endured from happening again.

You add it all up, and it’s no surprise that for the first time in more than a decade, business leaders from around the world — these are business surveys.  Kellogg, you’re familiar with these.  (Laughter.)  Business leaders from around the world have said the world’s most attractive place to invest is not India or China, it’s the United States of America.  And that’s because the financial sector is healthier; because manufacturing is healthier; because the housing market is healthier; because health care inflation is at a 50-year low; because our energy boom is at new highs.  Because of all these things, our economy isn’t just primed for steadier, more sustained growth; America is better poised to lead and succeed in the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.  We’ve got the best cards.

And I will not allow anyone to dismantle this foundation.  Because for the first time, we can see real, tangible evidence of what the contours of the new economy will look like.  It’s an economy teeming with new industry and commerce, and humming with new energy and new technologies, and bustling with highly skilled, higher-wage workers.

It’s an America where a student graduating from college has the chance to advance through a vibrant job market, and where an entrepreneur can start a new business and succeed, and where an older worker can retool for that new job.  And to fully realize this vision requires steady, relentless investment in these areas.  We cannot let up and we cannot be complacent.  We have to be hungry as a nation.  We have to compete.  When we do — if we take the necessary steps to build on the foundation that through some really hard work we have laid over the last several years — I promise you, over the next 10 years we’ll build an economy where wage growth is stronger than it was in the past three decades.  It is achievable.

So let me just talk a little more specifically about what we should be doing right now.

First of all, we’ve got to realize that the trends that have battered the middle class for so long aren’t ones that we’re going to reverse overnight.  The facts that I just laid out don’t mean that there aren’t a lot of folks out there who are underpaid, they’re underemployed, they’re working long hours, they’re having trouble making ends meet.  I hear from them every day, I meet with them.  And it’s heartbreaking — because they’re struggling hard.  And there are no silver bullets for job creation or faster wage growth.  Anybody who tells you otherwise is not telling the truth.  But there are policies that would grow jobs and wages faster than we’re doing right now.

If we rebuild roads and bridges — because we’ve got $2 trillion of deferred maintenance on our infrastructure — we won’t just put construction workers and engineers on the job; we will revitalize entire communities, and connect people to jobs, and make it easier for businesses to ship goods around the world.  And we can pay for it with tax reform that actually cuts rates on businesses, but closes wasteful loopholes, making it even more attractive for companies to invest and create jobs here in the United States.  Let’s do this and make our economy stronger.

If we make it easier for first-time homebuyers to get a loan, we won’t just create even more construction jobs and speed up recovery in the housing market; we’ll speed up your efforts to grow a nest egg and start a new company, and send your own kids to college and graduate school someday.  So let’s help more young families buy that first home, make our economy stronger.

If we keep investing in clean energy technology, we won’t just put people to work on the assembly lines, pounding into place the zero-carbon components of a clean energy age; we’ll reduce our carbon emissions and prevent the worst costs of climate change down the road.  Let’s do this — invest in new American energy and make our economy stronger.

If we make high-quality preschool available to every child, not only will we give our kids a safe place to learn and grow while their parents go to work; we’ll give them the start that they need to succeed in school, and earn higher wages, and form more stable families of their own.  In fact, today, I’m setting a new goal:  By the end of this decade, let’s enroll 6 million children in high-quality preschool.  That is an achievable goal that we know will make our workforce stronger.  (Applause.)

If we redesign our high schools, we’ll graduate more kids with the real-world skills that lead directly to a good job in the new economy.  If we invest more in job training and apprenticeships, we’ll help more workers fill more good jobs that are coming back to this country.  If we make it easier for students to pay off their college loans, we’ll help a whole lot of young people breathe easier and feel freer to take the jobs they really want.  (Applause.)  So look, let’s do this — let’s keep reforming our education system to make sure young people at every level have a shot at success, just like folks at Northwestern do.

If we fix our broken immigration system, we won’t just prevent some of the challenges like the ones that we saw at the border this summer; we’ll encourage the best and brightest from around the world to study here and stay here, and create jobs here.  Independent economists say that a big bipartisan reform bill that the House has now blocked for over a year would grow our economy, shrink our deficits, secure our borders.  Let’s pass that bill.  Let’s make America stronger.  (Applause.)

If we want to make and sell the best products, we have to invest in the best ideas, like you do here at Northwestern.  Your nanotechnology institute doesn’t just conduct groundbreaking research; that research has spun off 20 startups and more than 1,800 products — that means jobs.  (Applause.)

Here’s another example.  Over a decade ago, America led the international effort to sequence the human genome.  One study found that every dollar we invested returned $140 to our economy.  Now, I don’t have an MBA, but that’s sounds like a good return on investment.  (Laughter and applause.)

Today, though, the world’s largest genomics center is in China.  That doesn’t mean America is slipping.  It does mean America isn’t investing.  We can’t let other countries discover the products and businesses that will shape the next century and the century after that.  So we’ve got to invest more in the kinds of basic research that led to Google and GPS, and makes our economy stronger.

If we raise the minimum wage, we won’t just put — (applause) — we won’t just put more money in workers’ pockets; they’ll spend that money at local businesses, who in turn will hire more people.

In the two years since I first asked Congress to raise the national minimum wage, 13 states and D.C. went and raised theirs.  And more business owners are joining them on their own.  It’s on the ballot in five states this November, including Illinois.  (Applause.)  And here’s the thing — recent surveys show that a majority of small business owners support a gradual increase to $10.10 an hour.  A survey just last week showed that nearly two-thirds of employers thought the minimum wage should go up in their state — and more than half of them think it should be at least $10.  So what’s stopping us?  Let’s agree that nobody who works full-time in America should ever have to raise a family in poverty.  Let’s give America a raise.  It will make the economy stronger.  (Applause.)

If we make sure a woman is paid equal to a man for her efforts — (applause) — that is not just giving women a boost.  Gentlemen, you want your wife making that money that she has earned.  (Laughter.)  It gives the entire family a boost and it gives the entire economy a boost.  Women now outpace men in college degrees and graduate degrees, but they often start their careers with lower pay.  And that gap grows over time, and that affects their families.  It’s stupid.  (Laughter and applause.)  Let’s inspire and support more women, especially in fields like science and technology and engineering and math.  (Applause.)  Let’s catch up to 2014, pass a fair pay law, make our economy stronger.

And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of the barriers that keep more moms who want to work from entering the workforce.  Let’s do what Dean Blount did here at Kellogg.  She’s been working with us at the White House, helping business and political leaders who recognize that flexibility in the workplace and paid maternity leave are actually good for business.  And let’s offer those deals to dads, too.  (Applause.)  Because we want to make sure that they can participate in child-rearing.  And let’s make sure work pays for parents who are raising young kids.  It’s a good investment.

California adopted paid leave, which boosted work and earnings for moms with young kids.  Let’s follow their lead.  Let’s make our economy stronger.

Now, none of these policies I just mentioned on their own will entirely get us to where we want to be.  But if we do these things systematically, the cumulative impact will be huge.  Unemployment will drop a little faster, which means workers will gain a little more leverage when it comes to wages and salaries, which means consumer confidence will go up, which means families will be able to spend a little more and save a little more, which means our economy grows stronger, and growth will be shared.  More people will feel this recovery, rather than just reading about it in the newspapers.  That’s the truth.

And I’m going to keep making the argument for these policies, because they are right for America.  They are supported by the facts.  And I’m always willing to work with anyone, Democrat or Republican, to get things done.  And every once in a while, we actually see a bill land on my desk from Congress.  (Laughter.)  And we do a bill signing and I look at the members, and I say — I tell them, look how much fun this is.  Let’s do this again.  Let’s do it again.  (Laughter and applause.)

But if gridlock prevails, if cooperation and compromise are no longer valued, but vilified, then I’ll keep doing everything I can on my own if it will make a difference for working Americans.  (Applause.)

I will keep teaming up with governors and mayors and CEOs and philanthropists who want to help.  Here’s an example.  There are 28 million Americans who would benefit from a minimum wage increase — 28 million.  Over the past two years, because we’ve teamed up with cities and states and businesses, and went around Congress, 7 million of them have gotten a raise.  So until Congress chooses to step up and help all of them, I’ll keep fighting to get an extra million here and an extra million there with a raise.  We’ll keep fighting for this.

And let me just say one other thing about the economy — because oftentimes you hear this from the critics:  The notion is that the agenda I’ve just outlined is somehow contrary to pro-business, capitalist, free-market values.  And since we’re here at a business school, I thought it might be useful to point out that Bloomberg, for example, I think came out with an article today saying that corporate balance sheets are the strongest just about that they’ve ever been.  Corporate debt is down.  Profits are up.  Businesses are doing good.

So this idea that somehow any of these policies — like the minimum wage or fair pay or clean energy — are somehow bad for business is simply belied by the facts.  It’s not true.  And if you talk to business leaders, even the ones who really don’t like to admit it because they don’t like me that much — (laughter) — they’ll admit that actually their balance sheets look really strong, and that this economy is doing better than our competitors around the world.  So don’t buy this notion that somehow this is an anti-business agenda.  This is a pro-business agenda.  This is a pro-economic growth agenda.

Now, I am not on the ballot this fall.  Michelle is pretty happy about that.  (Laughter.)  But make no mistake:  These policies are on the ballot — every single one of them.  This isn’t some official campaign speech, or political speech, and I’m not going to tell you who to vote for — although I suppose it is kind of implied.  (Laughter and applause.)  But what I have done is laid out my ideas to create more jobs and to grow more wages.  And I’ve also tried to correct the record — because, as I said, there’s a lot of noise out there.  Every item I ticked off, those are the facts.  It’s not conjecture.  It’s not opinion.  It’s not partisan rhetoric.  I laid out facts.

So I laid out what I know has happened over the six years of my presidency so far, and I’ve laid out an agenda for what I think should happen to make us grow even better, grow even faster.  A true opposition party should now have the courage to lay out their agenda, hopefully also grounded in facts.

There’s a reason fewer Republicans are preaching doom on deficits — it’s because the deficits have come down at almost a record pace, and they’re now manageable.  There’s a reason fewer Republicans you hear them running about Obamacare — because while good, affordable health care might seem like a fanged threat to the freedom of the American people on Fox News — (laughter) — it’s turns out it’s working pretty well in the real world.  (Applause.)

Now, when push came to shove this year, and Republicans in Congress actually had to take a stand on policies that would help the middle class and working Americans — like raising the minimum wage, or enacting fair pay, or refinancing student loans, or extending insurance for the unemployed — the answer was “no.”  But one thing they did vote “yes” on was another massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans.  In fact, just last month, at least one top Republican in Congress said that tax cuts for those at the top are — and I’m quoting here — “even more pressing now” than they were 30 years ago.  More pressing.  When nearly all the gains of the recovery have gone to the top 1 percent, when income inequality is at as high a rate as we’ve seen in decades, I find that a little hard to swallow that they really desperately need a tax cut right now, it’s urgent.  ]

Why?  (Laughter.)  What are the facts?  What is the empirical data that would justify that position?  Kellogg Business School, you guys are all smart.  You do all this analysis.  You run the numbers.  Has anybody here seen a credible argument that that is what our economy needs right now?  Seriously.  (Laughter.)

But this is the — if you watch the debate, including on some of the business newscasts — (laughter) — and folks are just pontificating about how important this is.  Based on what?  What’s the data?  What’s the proof?  If there were any credible argument that says when those at the top do well and eventually everybody else will do well, it would have borne itself out by now.  We’d see data that that was true.  It’s not.

American economic greatness has never trickled down from the top.  It grows from a rising, thriving middle class and opportunity for working people.  That’s what makes us different.  (Applause.)

So I just want to be clear here — because you guys are going to be business leaders of the future, and you’re going to be making decisions based on logic and reason and facts and data.  And right now you’ve got two starkly different visions for this country.  And I believe, with every bone in my body, that there’s one clear choice here because it’s supported by facts.

And this is our moment to define what the next decade and beyond will look like.  This is our chance to set the conditions for middle-class growth in the 21st century.  The decisions we make this year, and over the next few years, will determine whether or not we set the stage for America’s greatness in this century just like we did in the last one — whether or not we restore the link between hard work and higher wages; whether or not we continue to invest in a skilled, educated citizenry; whether or not we rebuild an economy where everyone who works hard can get ahead.

And some of that depends on you.  There is a reason why I came to a business school instead of a school of government.  I actually believe that capitalism is the greatest force for prosperity and opportunity the world has ever known.  And I believe in private enterprise — not government, but innovators and risk-takers and makers and doers — driving job creation.

But I also believe in a higher principle, which is we’re all in this together.  (Applause.)  That’s the spirit that made the American economy work.  That’s what made the American economy not just the world’s greatest wealth creator, but the world’s greatest opportunity generator.  And because you’re America’s future business leaders and civic leaders, that makes you the stewards of America’s greatest singlet asset — and that’s our people.

So as you engage in the pursuit of profits, I challenge you to do so with a sense of purpose.  As you chase your own success, I challenge you to cultivate more ways to help more Americans chase their success.

It is the American people who’ve made the progress of the last six years possible.  It is the American people who will make our future progress possible.  It is the American people that make American business successful.  And they should share in that success.  It’s not just for you.  It’s for us.  Because it’s the American people that made the investments over the course of generations to allow you and me to be here and experience this success.  That’s the story of America.  America is a story of progress — sometimes halting, sometimes incomplete, sometimes harshly challenged.  But the story of America is a story of progress.

And it has now been six long years since our economy nearly collapsed.  Despite that shock, through the pain that so many fellow Americans felt; for all the gritty, grueling work required to come back, all the work that’s left to be done — a new foundation is laid.  A new future is yet to be written.  And I am as confident as ever that that future will be led by the United States of America.

Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.

END
2:06 P.M. CDT

Political Headlines September 7, 2014: Full Meet the Press Interview With President Obama — Video

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Full Meet the Press Interview With President Obama

Source: NBC News, 9-7-14

Obama_Meet_the_Press_9-7-14

 

Political Musings September 6, 2014: Obama will not take executive action on immigration until after midterms

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama will not take executive action on immigration until after midterms

By Bonnie K. Goodman

A White House official revealed to the press on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014 that President Barack Obama would not take executive action on immigration prior to the midterm elections as he had previously indicated in June. The midterm elections are…READ MORE

Political Musings September 5, 2014: August jobs report shows unemployment benefits extension still necessary

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

August jobs report shows unemployment benefits extension still necessary

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The Bureau of Labor Statistic released the jobs report for August on Friday morning, Sept. 4, 2014. The numbers were a disappointment with far less jobs created than expected, and the least created in any month in 2014, showing the….READ MORE

Political Musings September 3, 2014: Obama’s Labor Day campaign to raise the minimum wage in Democrats midterm push

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama’s Labor Day campaign to raise the minimum wage in Democrats midterm push

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama spent the whole Labor Day weekend renewing his push to raise the minimum wage across the country first in his weekly address released on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2014 and then delivering a speech on the economy on…

READ MORE

Political Musings August 27, 2014: McConnell continues opposition to unemployment extension at Koch brothers event

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

McConnell continues opposition to unemployment extension at Koch brothers event

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY recently spoke on June 15, 2014 at a summit hosted by the Koch brothers in Dana Point, Calif. which included an audience of millionaires and billionaires as part his campaign for reelection as…READ MORE

Political Musings August 17, 2014: New research supports GOP unemployment extension opposition

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

New research supports GOP unemployment extension opposition

Republicans have been claiming that ending the unemployment benefits extension, was the reason for the recent drop in short-term unemployment in the June and July jobs reports. They also now have the research to back-up their assertion the…READ MORE

Political Musings August 15, 2014: Obama might consider executive action for the unemployment benefits extension

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama might consider executive action for the unemployment benefits extension

Since President Barack Obama announced his economic opportunity program during his State of the Union address in January 2014, and he has signed nearly 30 executive actions to help the economic plight of lower income and middle class Americans, but…READ MORE

Political Musings August 6, 2014: Obama emphasizes helping middle class ignores unemployment benefits extension

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama emphasizes helping middle class ignores unemployment benefits extension

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama used his pre-August recess press conference held at the White House press briefing room on Friday afternoon, Aug. 1, 2014 and his weekly address released on Saturday morning, Aug. 2, 2014 to boast about the good…READ MORE

 

Political Musings August 4, 2014: Highway Trust Fund bill passes the Senate ends unemployment extension funding

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Highway Trust Fund bill passes the Senate ends unemployment extension funding

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Now that the Senate passed and President Barack Obama signed the Highway Trust Fund extension bill on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 the payment method for the unemployment benefits extension bill has been permanently taken away. The highway bill uses pension…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency August 1, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Pre-August Recess Press Conference on the Domestic & Foreign Policy, Slams Republicans

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Press Conference by the President

Source: WH, 8-1-14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:45 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Happy Friday.  I thought I’d take some questions, but first, let me say a few words about the economy.

This morning, we learned that our economy created over 200,000 new jobs in July.  That’s on top of about 300,000 new jobs in June.  So we are now in a six-month streak with at least 200,000 new jobs each month.  That’s the first time that has happened since 1997.  Over the past year, we’ve added more jobs than any year since 2006.  And all told, our businesses have created 9.9 million new jobs over the past 53 months.  That’s the longest streak of private sector job creation in our history.

And as we saw on Wednesday, the economy grew at a strong pace in the spring.  Companies are investing.  Consumers are spending.  American manufacturing, energy, technology, autos — all are booming.  And thanks to the decisions that we’ve made, and the grit and resilience of the American people, we’ve recovered faster and come farther from the recession than almost any other advanced country on Earth.

So the good news is the economy clearly is getting stronger. Things are getting better.  Our engines are revving a little bit louder.  And the decisions that we make right now can sustain and keep that growth and momentum going.

Unfortunately, there are a series of steps that we could be taking to maintain momentum, and perhaps even accelerate it; there are steps that we could be taking that would result in more job growth, higher wages, higher incomes, more relief for middle-class families.  And so far, at least, in Congress, we have not seen them willing or able to take those steps.

I’ve been pushing for common-sense ideas like rebuilding our infrastructure in ways that are sustained over many years and support millions of good jobs and help businesses compete.  I’ve been advocating on behalf of raising the minimum wage, making it easier for working folks to pay off their student loans; fair pay, paid leave.  All these policies have two things in common:  All of them would help working families feel more stable and secure, and all of them so far have been blocked or ignored by Republicans in Congress.  That’s why my administration keeps taking whatever actions we can take on our own to help working families.

Now, it’s good that Congress was able to pass legislation to strengthen the VA.  And I want to thank the chairmen and ranking members who were involved in that.  It’s good that Congress was able to at least fund transportation projects for a few more months before leaving town — although it falls far short of the kind of infrastructure effort that we need that would actually accelerate the economy.  But for the most part, the big-ticket items, the things that would really make a difference in the lives of middle-class families, those things just are not getting done.

Let’s just take a recent example:  Immigration.  We all agree that there’s a problem that needs to be solved in a portion of our southern border.  And we even agree on most of the solutions.  But instead of working together — instead of focusing on the 80 percent where there is agreement between Democrats and Republicans, between the administration and Congress — House Republicans, as we speak, are trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable versions of a bill that they already know is going nowhere, that can’t pass the Senate and that if it were to pass the Senate I would veto.  They know it.

They’re not even trying to actually solve the problem.  This is a message bill that they couldn’t quite pull off yesterday, so they made it a little more extreme so maybe they can pass it today — just so they can check a box before they’re leaving town for a month.  And this is on an issue that they all insisted had to be a top priority.

Now, our efforts administratively so far have helped to slow the tide of child migrants trying to come to our country.  But without additional resources and help from Congress, we’re just not going to have the resources we need to fully solve the problem.  That means while they’re out on vacation I’m going to have to make some tough choices to meet the challenge — with or without Congress.

And yesterday, even though they’ve been sitting on a bipartisan immigration bill for over a year, House Republicans suggested that since they don’t expect to actually pass a bill that I can sign, that I actually should go ahead and act on my own to solve the problem.  Keep in mind that just a few days earlier, they voted to sue me for acting on my own.  And then when they couldn’t pass a bill yesterday, they put out a statement suggesting I should act on my own because they couldn’t pass a bill.

So immigration has not gotten done.  A student loan bill that would help folks who have student loan debt consolidate and refinance at lower rates — that didn’t pass.  The transportation bill that they did pass just gets us through the spring, when we should actually be planning years in advance.  States and businesses are raising the minimum wage for their workers because this Congress is failing to do so.

Even basic things like approving career diplomats for critical ambassadorial posts aren’t getting done.  Last night, for purely political reasons, Senate Republicans, for a certain period of time, blocked our new ambassador to Russia.  It raised such an uproar that finally they went ahead and let our Russian ambassador pass — at a time when we are dealing every day with the crisis in Ukraine.

They’re still blocking our ambassador to Sierra Leone, where there’s currently an Ebola outbreak.  They’re blocking our ambassador to Guatemala, even as they demand that we do more to stop the flow of unaccompanied children from Guatemala.  There are a lot of things that we could be arguing about on policy — that’s what we should be doing as a democracy — but we shouldn’t be having an argument about placing career diplomats with bipartisan support in countries around the world where we have to have a presence.

So the bottom line is this:  We have come a long way over the last five and a half years.  Our challenges are nowhere near as daunting as they were when I first came into office.  But the American people demand and deserve a strong and focused effort on the part of all of us to keep moving the country forward and to focus on their concerns.  And the fact is we could be much further along and we could be doing even better, and the economy could be even stronger, and more jobs could be created if Congress would do the job that the people sent them here to do.

And I will not stop trying to work with both parties to get things moving faster for middle-class families and those trying to get into the middle class.  When Congress returns next month, my hope is, is that instead of simply trying to pass partisan message bills on party lines that don’t actually solve problems, they’re going to be willing to come together to at least focus on some key areas where there’s broad agreement.  After all that we’ve had to overcome, our Congress should stop standing in the way of our country’s success.

So with that, let me take a couple of questions.  And I will start with Roberta Rampton of Reuters.

Q    Thanks.  I want to ask about the situation in the Middle East.  And why do you think Israel should embrace a cease-fire in Gaza when one of its soldiers appears to have been abducted and when Hamas continues to use its network of tunnels to launch attacks?  And also, have you seen Israel act at all on your call to do more to protect civilians?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I think it’s important to note that we have — and I have — unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions that were responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third almost minutes after a cease-fire had been announced.  And the U.N. has condemned them as well.

And I want to make sure that they are listening:  If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible.

I have been very clear throughout this crisis that Israel has a right to defend itself.  No country can tolerate missiles raining down on its cities and people having to rush to bomb shelters every 20 minutes or half hour.  No country can or would tolerate tunnels being dug under their land that can be used to launch terrorist attacks.

And so, not only have we been supportive of Israel in its right to defend itself, but in very concrete terms — for example, in support for the Iron Dome program that has intercepted rockets that are firing down on Israeli cities — we’ve been trying to cooperate as much as we can to make sure that Israel is able to protect its citizens.

Now, at the same time, we’ve also been clear that innocent civilians in Gaza caught in the crossfire have to weigh on our conscience and we have to do more to protect them.  A cease-fire was one way in which we could stop the killing, to step back and to try to resolve some of the underlying issues that have been building up over quite some time.  Israel committed to that 72-hour cease-fire, and it was violated.  And trying to put that back together is going to be challenging, but we will continue to make those efforts.

And let me take this opportunity, by the way, to give Secretary John Kerry credit.  He has been persistent.  He has worked very hard.  He has endured on many occasions really unfair criticism simply to try to get to the point where the killing stops and the underlying issues about Israel’s security but also the concerns of Palestinians in Gaza can be addressed.

We’re going to keep working towards that.  It’s going to take some time.  I think it’s going to be very hard to put a cease-fire back together again if Israelis and the international community can’t feel confident that Hamas can follow through on a cease-fire commitment.

And it’s not particularly relevant whether a particular leader in Hamas ordered this abduction.  The point is, is that when they sign onto a cease-fire they’re claiming to speak for all the Palestinian factions.  And if they don’t have control of them, and just moments after a cease-fire is signed you have Israeli soldiers being killed and captured, then it’s hard for the Israelis to feel confident that a cease-fire can actually be honored.

I’m in constant consultation with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Our national security team is in constant communication with the Israel military.  I want to see everything possible done to make sure that Palestinian civilians are not being killed.  And it is heartbreaking to see what’s happening there, and I think many of us recognize the dilemma we have.  On the one hand, Israel has a right to defend itself and it’s got to be able to get at those rockets and those tunnel networks.  On the other hand, because of the incredibly irresponsible actions on the part of Hamas to oftentimes house these rocket launchers right in the middle of civilian neighborhoods, we end up seeing people who had nothing to do with these rockets ending up being hurt.

Part of the reason why we’ve been pushing so hard for a cease-fire is precisely because it’s hard to reconcile Israel’s legitimate need to defend itself with our concern with those civilians.  And if we can pause the fighting, then it’s possible that we may be able to arrive at a formula that spares lives and also ensures Israel’s security.  But it’s difficult.  And I don’t think we should pretend otherwise.

Bill Plante.

Q    Mr. President, like that cease-fire, you’ve called for diplomatic solutions not only in Israel and Gaza but also in Ukraine, in Iraq, to very little effect so far.  Has the United States of America lost its influence in the world?  Have you lost yours?

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, this is a common theme that folks bring up.  Apparently people have forgotten that America, as the most powerful country on Earth, still does not control everything around the world.  And so our diplomatic efforts often take time. They often will see progress and then a step backwards.  That’s been true in the Middle East.  That’s been true in Europe.  That’s been true in Asia.  That’s the nature of world affairs.  It’s not neat, and it’s not smooth.

But if you look at, for example, Ukraine, we have made progress in delivering on what we said we would do.  We can’t control how Mr. Putin thinks.  But what we can do is say to Mr. Putin, if you continue on the path of arming separatists with heavy armaments that the evidence suggests may have resulted in 300 innocent people on a jet dying, and that violates international law and undermines the integrity — territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, then you’re going to face consequences that will hurt your country.

And there was a lot of skepticism about our ability to coordinate with Europeans for a strong series of sanctions.  And each time we have done what we said we would do, including this week, when we put in place sanctions that have an impact on key sectors of the Russian economy — their energy, their defense, their financial systems.

It hasn’t resolved the problem yet.  I spoke to Mr. Putin this morning, and I indicated to him, just as we will do what we say we do in terms of sanctions, we’ll also do what we say we do in terms of wanting to resolve this issue diplomatically if he takes a different position.  If he respects and honors the right of Ukrainians to determine their own destiny, then it’s possible to make sure that Russian interests are addressed that are legitimate, and that Ukrainians are able to make their own decisions, and we can resolve this conflict and end some of the bloodshed.

But the point is, though, Bill, that if you look at the 20th century and the early part of this century, there are a lot of conflicts that America doesn’t resolve.  That’s always been true.  That doesn’t mean we stop trying.  And it’s not a measure of American influence on any given day or at any given moment that there are conflicts around the world that are difficult.  The conflict in Northern Ireland raged for a very, very long time until finally something broke, where the parties decided that it wasn’t worth killing each other.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been going on even longer than you’ve been reporting.  (Laughter.)  And I don’t think at any point was there a suggestion somehow that America didn’t have influence just because we weren’t able to finalize an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

You will recall that situations like Kosovo and Bosnia raged on for quite some time, and there was a lot more death and bloodshed than there has been so far in the Ukrainian situation before it ultimately did get resolved.

And so I recognize with so many different issues popping up around the world, sometimes it may seem as if this is an aberration or it’s unusual.  But the truth of the matter is, is that there’s a big world out there, and that as indispensable as we are to try to lead it, there’s still going to be tragedies out there and there are going to be conflicts.  And our job is to just make sure that we continue to project what’s right, what’s just, and that we’re building coalitions of like-minded countries and partners in order to advance not only our core security interests but also the interests of the world as a whole.

Q    Do you think you could have done more?

THE PRESIDENT:  On which one?

Q    On any of them?  Ukraine?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well look, I think, Bill, that the nature of being President is that you’re always asking yourself what more can you do.  But with respect to, let’s say, the Israeli-Palestinian issue, this administration invested an enormous amount to try to bring the parties together around a framework for peace and a two-state solution.  John Kerry invested an enormous amount of time.  In the end, it’s up to the two parties to make a decision.  We can lead them to resolve some of the technical issues and to show them a path, but they’ve got to want it.

With respect to Ukraine, I think that we have done everything that we can to support the Ukrainian government and to deter Russia from moving further into Ukraine.  But short of going to war, there are going to be some constraints in terms of what we can do if President Putin and Russia are ignoring what should be their long-term interests.

Right now, what we’ve done is impose sufficient costs on Russia that, objectively speaking, they should — President Putin should want to resolve this diplomatically, get these sanctions lifted, get their economy growing again, and have good relations with Ukraine.  But sometimes people don’t always act rationally, and they don’t always act based on their medium- or long-term interests.  That can’t deter us, though.  We’ve just got to stay at it.

Wendell.

Q    Mr. President, Republicans point to some of your executive orders as reason, they say, that they can’t trust you to implement legislation that they pass.  Even if you don’t buy that argument, do you hold yourself totally blameless in the inability it appears to reach agreement with the Republican-led House?

THE PRESIDENT:  Wendell, let’s just take the recent example of immigration.  A bipartisan bill passed out of the Senate, co-sponsored by not just Democrats but some very conservative Republicans who recognize that the system currently is broken and if, in fact we put more resources on the border, provide a path in which those undocumented workers who’ve been living here for a long time and may have ties here are coming out of the shadows, paying their taxes, paying a fine, learning English — if we fix the legal immigration system so it’s more efficient, if we are attracting young people who may have studied here to stay here and create jobs here, that that all is going to be good for the economy, it’s going to reduce the deficit, it might have forestalled some of the problems that we’re seeing now in the Rio Grande Valley with these unaccompanied children.

And so we have a bipartisan bill, Wendell, bipartisan agreement supported by everybody from labor to the evangelical community to law enforcement.  So the argument isn’t between me and the House Republicans.  It’s between the House Republicans and Senate Republicans, and House Republicans and the business community, and House Republicans and the evangelical community.  I’m just one of the people they seem to disagree with on this issue.

So that’s on the comprehensive bill.  So now we have a short-term crisis with respect to the Rio Grande Valley.  They say we need more resources, we need tougher border security in this area where these unaccompanied children are showing up.  We agree.  So we put forward a supplemental to give us the additional resources and funding to do exactly what they say we should be doing, and they can’t pass the bill.  They can’t even pass their own version of the bill.  So that’s not a disagreement between me and the House Republicans; that’s a disagreement between the House Republicans and the House Republicans.

The point is that on a range of these issues, whether it’s tax reform, whether it’s reducing the deficit, whether it’s rebuilding our infrastructure, we have consistently put forward proposals that in previous years and previous administrations would not have been considered radical or left wing; they would have been considered pretty sensible, mainstream approaches to solving problems.

I include under that, by the way, the Affordable Care Act.  That’s a whole other conversation.

And in circumstances where even basic, common-sense, plain, vanilla legislation can’t pass because House Republicans consider it somehow a compromise of their principles, or giving Obama a victory, then we’ve got to take action.  Otherwise, we’re not going to be making progress on the things that the American people care about.

Q    On the border supplemental — can you act alone?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’m going to have to act alone because we don’t have enough resources.  We’ve already been very clear — we’ve run out of money.  And we are going to have to reallocate resources in order to just make sure that some of the basic functions that have to take place down there — whether it’s making sure that these children are properly housed, or making sure we’ve got enough immigration judges to process their cases  — that those things get done.  We’re going to have to reallocate some resources.

But the broader point, Wendell, is that if, in fact, House Republicans are concerned about me acting independently of Congress — despite the fact that I’ve taken fewer executive actions than my Republican predecessor or my Democratic predecessor before that, or the Republican predecessor before that — then the easiest way to solve it is passing legislation. Get things done.

On the supplemental, we agreed on 80 percent of the issues. There were 20 percent of the issues that perhaps there were disagreements between Democrats and Republicans.  As I said to one Republican colleague who was down here that I was briefing about some national security issues, why wouldn’t we just go ahead and pass the 80 percent that we agree on and we’ll try to work to resolve the differences on the other 20 percent?  Why wouldn’t we do that?  And he didn’t really have a good answer for it.

So there’s no doubt that I can always do better on everything, including making additional calls to Speaker Boehner, and having more conversations with some of the House Republican leadership.  But in the end, the challenge I have right now is that they are not able to act even on what they say their priorities are, and they’re not able to work and compromise even with Senate Republicans on certain issues.  And they consider what have been traditionally Republican-supported initiatives, they consider those as somehow a betrayal of the cause.

Take the example of the Export-Import Bank.  This is an interesting thing that’s happened.  This is a program in which we help to provide financing to sell American goods and products around the world.  Every country does this.  It’s traditionally been championed by Republicans.  For some reason, right now the House Republicans have decided that we shouldn’t do this — which means that when American companies go overseas and they’re trying to close a sale on selling Boeing planes, for example, or a GE turbine, or some other American product, that has all kinds of subcontractors behind it and is creating all kinds of jobs, and all sorts of small businesses depend on that sale, and that American company is going up against a German company or a Chinese company, and the Chinese and the German company are providing financing and the American company isn’t, we may lose that sale.

When did that become something that Republicans opposed?  It would be like me having a car dealership for Ford, and the Toyota dealership offers somebody financing and I don’t.  We will lose business and we’ll lose jobs if we don’t pass it.

So there’s some big issues where I understand why we have differences.  On taxes, Republicans want to maintain some corporate loopholes I think need to be closed because I think that we should be giving tax breaks to families that are struggling with child care or trying to save for a college education.  On health care, obviously their view is, is that we should not be helping folks get health care, even though it’s through the private marketplace.  My view is, is that in a country as wealthy as ours, we can afford to make sure that everybody has access to affordable care.

Those are legitimate policy arguments.  But getting our ambassadors confirmed?  These are career diplomats, not political types.  Making sure that we pass legislation to strengthen our borders and put more folks down there?  Those shouldn’t be controversial.  And I think you’d be hard-pressed to find an example of where I wouldn’t welcome some reasonable efforts to actually get a bill passed out of Congress that I could sign.

Last question, Michelle Kosinski.

Q    You made the point that in certain difficult conflicts in the past, both sides had to reach a point where they were tired of the bloodshed.  Do you think that we are actually far from that point right now?  And is it realistic to try to broker a cease-fire right now when there are still tunnel operations allowed to continue?  Is that going to cause a change of approach from this point forward?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, keep in mind that the cease-fire that had been agreed to would have given Israel the capability to continue to dismantle these tunnel networks, but the Israelis can dismantle these tunnel networks without going into major population centers in Gaza.  So I think the Israelis are entirely right that these tunnel networks need to be dismantled.  There is a way of doing that while still reducing the bloodshed.

You are right that in past conflicts, sometimes people have to feel deeply the costs.  Anybody who has been watching some of these images I’d like to think should recognize the costs.  You have children who are getting killed.  You have women, defenseless, who are getting killed.  You have Israelis whose lives are disrupted constantly and living in fear.  And those are costs that are avoidable if we’re able to get a cease-fire that preserves Israel’s ability to defend itself and gives it the capacity to have an assurance that they’re not going to be constantly threatened by rocket fire in the future, and, conversely, an agreement that recognizes the Palestinian need to be able to make a living and the average Palestinian’s capacity to live a decent life.

But it’s hard.  It’s going to be hard to get there.  I think that there’s a lot of anger and there’s a lot of despair, and that’s a volatile mix.  But we have to keep trying.

And it is — Bill asked earlier about American leadership.  Part of the reason why America remains indispensable, part of the essential ingredient in American leadership is that we’re willing to plunge in and try, where other countries don’t bother trying.  I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that in all these crises that have been mentioned, there may be some tangential risks to the United States.  In some cases, as in Iraq and ISIS, those are dangers that have to be addressed right now, and we have to take them very seriously.  But for the most part, these are not — the rockets aren’t being fired into the United States.  The reason we are concerned is because we recognize we’ve got some special responsibilities.

We have to have some humility about what we can and can’t accomplish.  We have to recognize that our resources are finite, and we’re coming out of a decade of war and our military has been stretched very hard, as has our budget.  Nevertheless, we try.  We go in there and we make an effort.

And when I see John Kerry going out there and trying to broker a cease-fire, we should all be supporting him.  There shouldn’t be a bunch of complaints and second-guessing about, well, it hasn’t happened yet, or nitpicking before he’s had a chance to complete his efforts.  Because, I tell you what, there isn’t any other country that’s going in there and making those efforts.

And more often than not, as a consequence of our involvement, we get better outcomes — not perfect outcomes, not immediate outcomes, but we get better outcomes.  And that’s going to be true with respect to the Middle East.  That’s going to be true with respect to Ukraine.  That’s going to be certainly true with respect to Iraq.

And I think it’s useful for me to end by just reminding folks that, in my first term, if I had a press conference like this, typically, everybody would want to ask about the economy and how come jobs weren’t being created, and how come the housing market is still bad, and why isn’t it working.  Well, you know what, what we did worked.  And the economy is better.  And when I say that we’ve just had six months of more than 200,000 jobs that hasn’t happened in 17 years that shows you the power of persistence.  It shows you that if you stay at it, eventually we make some progress.  All right?

Q    What about John Brennan?

Q    The Africa summit — Ebola?

THE PRESIDENT:  I thought that you guys were going to ask me how I was going to spend my birthday.  What happened to the happy birthday thing?

Q    Happy birthday.

Q    What about John Brennan?

Q    Africa summit?

THE PRESIDENT:  I will address two points.  I’ll address –

Q    And Flight 17?

THE PRESIDENT:  Hold on, guys.  Come on.  There’s just –

Q    And Africa.

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re not that pent up.  I’ve been giving you questions lately.

On Brennan and the CIA, the RDI report has been transmitted, the declassified version that will be released at the pleasure of the Senate committee.

I have full confidence in John Brennan.  I think he has acknowledged and directly apologized to Senator Feinstein that CIA personnel did not properly handle an investigation as to how certain documents that were not authorized to be released to the Senate staff got somehow into the hands of the Senate staff.  And it’s clear from the IG report that some very poor judgment was shown in terms of how that was handled.  Keep in mind, though, that John Brennan was the person who called for the IG report, and he’s already stood up a task force to make sure that lessons are learned and mistakes are resolved.

With respect to the larger point of the RDI report itself, even before I came into office I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong.  We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks.  We did some things that were contrary to our values.

I understand why it happened.  I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this.  And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had.  And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.

But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong.  And that’s what that report reflects.  And that’s the reason why, after I took office, one of the first things I did was to ban some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques that are the subject of that report.

And my hope is, is that this report reminds us once again that the character of our country has to be measured in part not by what we do when things are easy, but what we do when things are hard.  And when we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line.  And that needs to be — that needs to be understood and accepted.  And we have to, as a country, take responsibility for that so that, hopefully, we don’t do it again in the future.

Q    Mr. President –

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, I gave you a question.

Q    All right.

Q    The summit — the U.S.-Africa –

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ve got a U.S.-Africa Summit coming up next week.  It is going to be an unprecedented gathering of African leaders.  The importance of this for America needs to be understood.  Africa is one of the fastest-growing continents in the world.  You’ve got six of the 10 fastest-growing economies in Africa.  You have all sorts of other countries like China and Brazil and India deeply interested in working with Africa — not to extract natural resources alone, which traditionally has been the relationship between Africa and the rest of the world — but now because Africa is growing and you’ve got thriving markets and you’ve got entrepreneurs and extraordinary talent among the people there.

And Africa also happens to be one of the continents where America is most popular and people feel a real affinity for our way of life.  And we’ve made enormous progress over the last several years in not just providing traditional aid to Africa, helping countries that are suffering from malnutrition or helping countries that are suffering from AIDS, but rather partnering and thinking about how can we trade more and how can we do business together.  And that’s the kind of relationship that Africa is looking for.

And I’ve had conversations over the last several months with U.S. businesses — some of the biggest U.S. businesses in the world — and they say, Africa, that’s one of our top priorities; we want to do business with those folks, and we think that we can create U.S. jobs and send U.S. exports to Africa.  But we’ve got to be engaged, and so this gives us a chance to do that.  It also gives us a chance to talk to Africa about security issues — because, as we’ve seen, terrorist networks try to find places where governance is weak and security structures are weak.  And if we want to keep ourselves safe over the long term, then one of the things that we can do is make sure that we are partnering with some countries that really have pretty effective security forces and have been deploying themselves in peacekeeping and conflict resolution efforts in Africa.  And that, ultimately, can save us and our troops and our military a lot of money if we’ve got strong partners who are able to deal with conflicts in these regions.

So it’s going to be a terrific conference.  I won’t lie to you, traffic will be bad here in Washington.  (Laughter.)  I know that everybody has been warned about that, but we are really looking forward to this and I think it’s going to be a great success.

Now, the last thing I’m going to say about this, because I know that it’s been on people’s minds, is the issue of Ebola.  This is something that we take very seriously.  As soon as there’s an outbreak anywhere in the world of any disease that could have significant effects, the CDC is in communication with the World Health Organization and other multilateral agencies to try to make sure that we’ve got an appropriate response.

This has been a more aggressive Ebola outbreak than we’ve seen in the past.  But keep in mind that it is still affecting parts of three countries, and we’ve got some 50 countries represented at this summit.  We are doing two things with respect to the summit itself.  We’re taking the appropriate precautions.  Folks who are coming from these countries that have even a marginal risk or an infinitesimal risk of having been exposed in some fashion, we’re making sure we’re doing screening on that end — as they leave the country.  We’ll do additional screening when they’re here.  We feel confident that the procedures that we’ve put in place are appropriate.

More broadly, the CDC and our various health agencies are going to be working very intently with the World Health Organization and some of our partner countries to make sure that we can surge some resources down there and organization to these countries that are pretty poor and don’t have a strong public health infrastructure so that we can start containing the problem.

Keep in mind that Ebola is not something that is easily transmitted.  That’s why, generally, outbreaks dissipate.  But the key is identifying, quarantining, isolating those who contract it and making sure that practices are in place that avoid transmission.  And it can be done, but it’s got to be done in an organized, systematic way, and that means that we’re going to have to help these countries accomplish that.

All right?  Okay.

Q    Happy Birthday, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  There you go, April.  (Laughter.)  That’s what I was talking about — somebody finally wished me happy birthday — although it isn’t until Monday, you’re right.

Thank you so much.

END                3:34 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 31, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the Signing of Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Executive Order

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the Signing of Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Executive Order

Source: WH, 7-31-14

South Court Auditorium

1:40 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody, hello!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Welcome to the White House.

The executive order I’ll sign in a few minutes is one that’s good for workers, it’s good for responsible employers, and it’s good for the middle class.  That explains the folks who are standing up on stage with me, including Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who’s done a great job on this.  (Applause.)

Yesterday, we learned that the springtime was a strong time for economic growth.  Companies are investing.  Consumers are spending.  Our energy, our technology, our auto industries are all booming, with workers making and selling goods all around the world.  Our businesses have created nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months, and the unemployment rate is at its lowest point since 2008.  401(k)s have recovered their value.  Home prices are rising.  Millions more families have the peace of mind that comes with having affordable, quality health care.

And because of the incredible hard work and resilience of the American people, we’ve recovered faster, we’ve come farther than any other advanced country since the onset of the Great Recession.  (Applause.)  Things are getting better.  Steadily, things are getting better.  But we all know there’s more work to do.  And the decisions we make now are going to have an impact on whether or not this economy works for everybody or just folks at the top; whether we’ve got a growing economy that fuels rising incomes and creates a thriving middle class and ladders into the middle class.

That’s what’s at stake — making sure our economy works for every hardworking American, and if you work hard and you’re responsible, you can get ahead.  That’s what we want.  We want to make sure the young dad on the factory floor has a shot to make it into the corner suite — or at least see his daughter make it there some day.

That’s why I ran for office.  That’s what has driven every policy that we’ve initiated this year and since the advent of my presidency.  Policies that create more jobs rebuilding America.  Policies to ease the student loan burden.  Policies to raise wages for workers, and make sure that women are being paid fairly on the job, and creating opportunities for paid leave for working families, and support for child care.

These are all policies that have two things in common.  Number one, they’d all help working families.  And, frankly, number two, they’re being blocked or ignored by Republicans in Congress.  So I’ve said to my team, look, any time Congress wants to do work with me to help working families, I’m right there.  The door is always open.  More than that, I’ll go to them; I’ll wash their car — (laughter) — walk their dog.  (Laughter.)  I mean, I’m ready to work with them any time that they want to pursue policies that help working families.  But where they’re doing so little or nothing at all to help working families, then we’ve got to find ways, as an administration, to take action that’s going to help.

And so far this year, we’ve made sure that more women have the protection they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace  — because I believe when women succeed, America succeeds.  (Applause.)  We’ve acted to give millions of Americans the chance to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income. I don’t want young people to be so saddled with debt that they can’t get started in life.  (Applause.)

We’ve acted on our own to make sure federal contractors can’t discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity — because you shouldn’t be fired because of who you love.  (Applause.)  If you’re doing the job, you should be treated fairly and judged on your own merits.  (Applause.)

We acted to require federal contractors to pay their workers a fair wage of $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)  And we’ve gone out and we’ve worked with states and cities and business owners to join us on our $10.10 campaign, and more and more are joining us — because folks agree that if you work full-time in this country, you shouldn’t be raising your family in poverty.  That’s a pretty simple principle that we all believe in.  (Applause.)

So the American people are doing their job.  I’ve been traveling around the country meeting them.  They’re working hard. They’re meeting their responsibilities.  Here in the executive branch, we’re doing our job, trying to find ways in which we can help working families.  Think about how much further along we’d be if Congress would do its job.

Instead, the big event last night — it wasn’t the vote on the minimum wage.  (Laughter.)  It wasn’t a vote on immigration reform, strengthening the borders.  It wasn’t a vote on family leave.  What did they have a vote on?  (Laughter.)  They got together in the House of Representatives, the Republicans, and voted to sue me for taking the actions that we are doing to help families.  (Laughter.)

One of the main objections that’s the basis of this suit is us making a temporary modification to the health care law that they said needed to be modified.  (Laughter.)  So they criticized a provision; we modify it to make it easier for business to transition; and that’s the basis for their suit.  Now, you could say that, all right, this is a harmless political stunt — except it wastes America’s time.  You guys are all paying for it as taxpayers.  It’s not very productive.  But it’s not going to stop me from doing what I think needs to be done in order to help families all across this country.  (Applause.)

So we’ve got too much work to do.  (Applause.)  And I said to Speaker Boehner, tell your caucus the best way to avoid me acting on my own is work with me to actually do something.  Then you don’t have to worry about it.  We’re not going to stop, and if they’re not going to lift a finger to help working Americans then I’m going to work twice as hard to help working Americans.  (Applause.)  They can join me if they want.  I hope they do.  But at least they should stop standing in the way of America’s success.   We’ve got too much to do. (Applause.)

So, today, I’m taking another action, one that protects workers and taxpayers alike.  Every year, our government signs contracts with private companies for everything from fighter jets to flapjacks, computers to pencils.  And we expect our tax dollars to be spent wisely on these contracts; to get what we pay for on-time, on budget.  And when companies that receive federal contracts employ about 28 million Americans –- about one in five workers in America work for a company that has a federal contract -– we also expect that our tax dollars are being used to ensure that these jobs are good jobs.

Our tax dollars shouldn’t go to companies that violate workplace laws.  (Applause.)  They shouldn’t go to companies that violate worker rights.  (Applause.)  If a company is going to receive taxpayer money, it should have safe workplaces.  (Applause.)  It should pay its workers the wages they’ve earned. It should provide the medical leave workers are entitled to.  It should not discriminate against workers.  (Applause.)

But one study found that more than one in four companies that have poor records on these areas also still get contracts from the federal government.  And another study found that the worst violators are also the ones who end up missing performance or cost or schedule targets –- or even overbilled the government, ripping off the taxpayers altogether — which makes sense.  I mean, if you think about it, if you got a company that isn’t treating its workers with integrity, isn’t taking safety measures seriously, isn’t taking overtime laws seriously, then they’re probably cutting corners in other areas, too.

And I want to be clear, the vast majority of the companies that contract with our government, they play by the rules.  They live up to the right workplace standards.  But some don’t.  And I don’t want those who don’t to be getting a contract and getting a competitive advantage over the folks who are doing the right thing, right?  That’s not fair.  (Applause.)

Because the ones that don’t play by the rules, they’re not just failing their workers, they’re failing all of us.  It’s a bad deal for taxpayers when we’ve got to pay for poor performance or sloppy work.  Responsible companies that follow the law are likelier to have workers and workplaces that provide a better return for our tax dollar.  They should not have to compete on an unfair playing field with companies that undercut them by breaking the law.  In a race to the bottom, nobody wins.  (Applause.)

So over the past few years, my administration has taken steps to make the contracting process smarter.  But many of the people who award contracts don’t always have the information that they need to make sure contracts go to responsible companies.  So the executive order I’m signing today is going to do a few things.

Number one, it will hold corporations accountable by requiring potential contractors to disclose labor law violations from the past three years before they can receive a contract.  It’s going to crack down on the worst violators by giving agencies better tools to evaluate egregious or repeated offenses.
It will give workers better and clearer information on their paychecks, so they can be sure they’re getting paid what they’re owed.  It will give more workers who may have been sexually assaulted or had their civil rights violated their day in court.
It will ease compliance burdens for business owners around the country by streamlining all types of reporting requirements across the federal government.  So this is a first step in a series of actions to make it easier for companies, including small businesses, to do business with the government.   So we’re going to protect responsible companies that play by the rules — make it easier for them, try to reduce the paperwork, the burdens that they have.  They’ll basically check a box that says they don’t have these violations.  We want to make it easier for good corporate citizens to do business with us.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, for companies that have violations, our emphasis is not going to be on punishments.  It is to give them a chance to follow good workplace practices and come into compliance with the law.  If you want to do business with the United States of America, you’ve got to respect our workers, you’ve got to respect our taxpayers.

And we’ll spend a lot of time working with and listening to business owners, so we can implement this thoughtfully and make it manageable for everybody.  But the goal here is to make sure this action raises standards across the economy; encourages contractors to adopt better practices for all their employees, not just those working on federal contracts; give responsible businesses that play by the rules a fairer shot to compete for business; streamline the process; improve wages and working conditions for folks who work hard every single day to provide for their families and contribute to our country.

And even though it is an executive action, I want to acknowledge and thank the members of Congress who support it and who always stand up for America’s workers.  And most of them are stuck at Capitol Hill, but I just want to mention their names anyway — Tom Harkin; Rosa DeLauro; Keith Ellison is here; Raul Grijalva; Eleanor Holmes Norton.  They’ve all been working on these issues, so I want to thank those members of Congress.  (Applause.)

The executive order I sign today, like all the other actions I’ve taken, are not going to fix everything immediately.  If I had the power to raise the federal minimum wage on my own, or enact fair pay and paid leave for every worker on my own, or make college more affordable on my own, I would have done so already. If I could do all that, I would have gotten everything done in like my first two years.  (Laughter.)  Because these policies make sense.  But even though I can’t do all of it, that shouldn’t stop us from doing what we can.  That’s what these policies will do.

And I’m going to keep on trying, not just working with Democrats, but also reach out to Republicans to get things moving faster for the middle class.  We can do a lot more.  We need a Congress that’s willing to get things done.  We don’t have that right now.  In the meantime, I’m going to do whatever I can, wherever I can, whenever I can, to keep this country’s promise alive for more and more of the American people.

So, thank you all.  We’re going to just keep on at this thing, chipping away.  And I’m confident that when we look back, we’ll see that these kinds of executive actions build some of the momentum and give people the confidence and the hope that ultimately leads to broad-based changes that we need to make sure that this economy works for everybody.

Thank you so much.  I’m going to sign this executive order.  (Applause.)

END
2:00 P.M. EDT

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