Full Text Obama Presidency October 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: We Do Better When the Middle Class Does Better — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: We Do Better When the Middle Class Does Better

Source: WH, 10-4-14 

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President highlighted that six years after the Great Recession, thanks to the hard work of the American people and the President’s policies, our economy has come back further and faster than any other nation on Earth. With 10.3 million private sector jobs added over 55 straight months, America’s businesses have extended the longest streak of private-sector job gains on record. But even with this progress, too many Americans have yet to feel the benefits. The President reiterated the vision he set out earlier this week for steps that can lay a new foundation for stronger growth, rising wages, and expanded economic opportunity for middle class families. 

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
Princeton, Indiana
October 4, 2014

Hi, everybody.  I’m at Millennium Steel in Princeton, Indiana, to have a town hall with workers on National Manufacturing Day.  Because in many ways, manufacturing is the quintessential middle-class job.  And after a decade of losing jobs, American manufacturing is once again adding them – more than 700,000 over the past four and a half years.

In fact, it’s been a bright spot as we keep fighting to recover from the great recession.  Last month, our businesses added 236,000 new jobs.  The unemployment rate fell to under six percent for the first time in more than six years.  Over the past 55 months, our businesses have added 10.3 million new jobs.  That’s the longest uninterrupted stretch of private sector job creation in our history.  And we’re on pace to make 2014 the strongest year of job growth since the 1990s.

This progress has been hard, but it has been steady, and it is real.  It is a direct result of the American people’s drive and determination, and decisions made by my administration.

During the last decade, people thought the decline in American manufacturing was inevitable.  But we chose to invest in American auto industry and American workers. And today, an auto industry that was flatlining six years ago is building and selling new cars at the fastest pace in eight years.  American manufacturing is growing almost twice as fast as the rest of the economy, with new factories opening their doors at the fastest pace in decades.  That’s progress we can be proud of.

What’s also true is that too many families still work too many hours with too little to show for it.  And the much longer and profound erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes isn’t something we’re going to reverse overnight.  But there are ideas we should be putting into place that would grow jobs and wages faster right now.  And one of the best would be to raise the minimum wage.

We’ve actually begun to see some modest wage growth in recent months.  But most folks still haven’t seen a raise in over a decade.  It’s time to stop punishing some of the hardest-working Americans.  It’s time to raise the minimum wage.  It would put more money in workers’ pockets.  It would help 28 million Americans.  Recent surveys show that a majority of small business owners support a gradual increase to ten dollars and ten cents an hour.  The folks who keep blocking a minimum wage increase are running out of excuses.  Let’s give America a raise.

Let’s do this – because it would make our economy stronger, and make sure that growth is shared.  Rather than just reading about our recovery in a headline, more people will feel it in their own lives.  And that’s when America does best.  We do better when the middle class does better, and when more Americans have their way to climb into the middle class.

And that’s what drives me every single day.  Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Full Text Obama Presidency October 3, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Town Hall on Manufacturing at Millennium Steel — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at a Town Hall on Manufacturing

Source: WH, 10-3-14 

Millennium Steel
Princeton, Indiana

2:17 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! Hello, Indiana! It’s good to be back close to home. Everybody have a seat, have a seat.

Well, first of all, let me thank Henry and everybody for extending such a warm welcome. It’s good to be back in Indiana. A couple people I just want to acknowledge very quickly: Your Mayor, Bob Hurst. Where did Mayor Hurst go? (Applause.) He was here just a second — there he is right there. Give him a big round of applause. (Applause.) We’ve got your former Congressman, Brad Ellsworth, in the house. Say hi to Brad. (Applause.)

It is great to be back in Indiana. It’s great to be in Princeton. And I want to thank Millennium Steel for hosting us here today. I’m here because you might have heard that today is National Manufacturing Day. You don’t get the day off on National Manufacturing Day. (Laughter.) But factories like this one, all over the country, are opening their doors to give young people a chance to understand what opportunities exist in manufacturing in 21st century in the United States of America. So I figured, what better place to celebrate Manufacturing Day than with a manufacturer?

And instead of giving a long speech, what I want to do today is just have a conversation with folks about what’s happening in the American economy, what’s happening in your lives, what’s happening in manufacturing, and to talk a little bit about how we can continue to build an economy that works for everybody, that gives everybody who’s willing to work hard a chance.

And I wanted to do that here because, in some ways, American manufacturing is powering the American recovery. This morning, we learned that last month, our businesses added more than 236,000 jobs. (Applause.) The unemployment rate fell from 6.1 percent to 5.9 percent. (Applause.) What that means is that the unemployment rate is below 6 percent for the first time in six years. (Applause.) And we’re on pace for the strongest job growth since the 1990s — strongest job growth since the 1990s. Over the past 55 months, our businesses have now created 10.3 million new jobs. (Applause.)

Now, that happens to be the longest uninterrupted stretch of job growth in the private sector in American history. And all told, the United States has put more folks back to work than Europe, Japan, and all other advanced economies combined. All combined, we put more folks back to work right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)

So this progress that we’ve been making, it’s been hard, it goes in fits and starts, it’s not always been perfectly smooth or as fast as we want, but it is real and it is steady and it is happening. And it’s making a difference in economies all across the country. And it’s the direct result of the best workers in the world, the drive and determination of the American people, the resilience of the American people bouncing back from what was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression — and it’s also got a little bit to do with some decisions we made pretty early on in my administration.

So, just to take an example, many of you know that the auto industry was really in a bad spot when I came into office. And we decided to help our automakers to rebuild, to retool, and they’re now selling new cars at the fastest rate in about eight years. And they’re great cars, too. (Applause.) And that’s helped a lot of communities all across the Midwest. And that’s just one example of what’s been happening to American manufacturing generally.

About 10, 15 years ago, everybody said American manufacturing is going downhill, everything is moving to China or other countries. And the Midwest got hit a lot harder than a lot of places because we were the backbone of American manufacturing. But because folks invested in new plants and new technologies, and there were hubs that were created between businesses and universities and community colleges so that workers could master and get trained in some of these new technologies, what we’ve now seen is manufacturing driving economic growth in a way we haven’t seen in about 20-25 years.

Because of the efforts that we’ve made, manufacturing as a whole has added about 700,000 new jobs. It’s growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy. New factories are opening their doors. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking to bring jobs back from China. Our businesses are selling more goods overseas than any time in our history. And the reason this is important is not just because of some abstract statistic. Manufacturing jobs have good pay and good benefits.

And they create a ripple effect to the whole economy because everybody who’s working here at Millennium Steel, because you’re getting paid well, because you’ve got decent benefits, that means that the restaurants in the neighborhood are doing better. It means you can afford to make your mortgage payments and buy a new car yourself, and buy some new appliances. And you get a virtuous cycle in which all businesses are doing better.

To most middle-class folks, the last decade was defined by those jobs going overseas. But if we keep up these investments, then we can define this decade as a period, instead of outsourcing, insourcing — bringing jobs back to America. And when you ask business executives around the world, what’s the number-one place to invest their money right now, for a long time it was China. Today they say, the best place to invest money is here in the United States of America. Here in the United States of America. (Applause.)

So there is a lot of good stuff happening in the economy right now. But what we all know is, is that there’s still some challenges — there’s still some challenges — because there are still a lot of families where somebody in the family is out of work, or isn’t getting as many hours as they want. There are still a lot of folks who, at the end of the month, are having trouble paying the bills. And wages and incomes have not moved up as fast as all the gains we’re making in jobs and productivity. Too much of the growth in income and wealth is going to the very top; not enough of it is being spread to the ordinary worker.

And that means that we’ve still got some more work to do to put in place policies that make sure that the economy works not just for the few, but it works for everybody; and that if you work hard you’re going to be able to pay the bills, you’re going to be able to retire with some dignity and some respect, you can send your kids to school without having to worry about it. That’s what we’ve got to be working on — making sure that no matter who you are, where you started, you can make it here in America. That’s what the American Dream is all about. (Applause.)

Now, let me just close by saying a couple of things that I know would make a difference if we were doing them right now to make the economy grow even faster, to bring the unemployment rate down even faster, and if employers are hiring more workers and the labor market gets a little bit tighter, then employers end up paying a little bit more and wages go up a little bit more, and that means people have a little more money in their pockets, and then they’re spending more of it on businesses’ products and services, which means that even more workers get hired. There are some things we could do right now that would make a difference.

We should be investing in roads and bridges and ports and infrastructure all across the country. We’ve got a lot of stuff that was built back in the ‘40s and the ‘50s that needs to be updated. And if we’re putting construction workers back to work, that means they also need some steel. They also need some concrete. It means you need engineers doing the work, and you need suppliers. And all that would give a huge boost to the economy and make it easier for businesses to deliver their products and services around the world. It would be good for our economy. That’s something that we should be doing right now.

And I’ve been putting proposals forward in front of Congress to say let’s go ahead and just start rebuilding all kinds of parts of America that need rebuilding. And nobody disagrees that they need to be rebuilt. The only thing that’s holding us up right now is politics.

We should be raising the minimum wage to make sure that more workers — (applause) — who have been working full-time shouldn’t be living in poverty. And we’ve got legislation going on right now that would call for a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, which would mean that if you work full-time you’re not living in poverty, you can raise a family. And the good news is, is about 13 states and a bunch of cities around the country have gone ahead and done it without Congress. But it would sure help if Congress went ahead and did it as well. Because right now, since I, two years ago, called for a hike in the minimum wage, about 7 million people have seen their incomes go up, but there are still about 21 million people who would stand to benefit if we had a national minimum wage.

And by the way, when you hear folks saying, well, if you raise the minimum wage that’s going to be fewer jobs — it turns out the states that have raised the minimum wage have had faster job growth than the states that haven’t raised the minimum wage. So this is something that would benefit families, but again, if folks have more money in their pockets, they’re working hard, they go out and spend it. And that ends up being good for business, not just for the workers involved.

We should be making sure that women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same work. (Applause.) That’s something, by the way, that should be a no-brainer for men, too, because — (laughter) — I remember when Michelle and I were both working, I was always happy if she got a raise. I wanted to make sure that she was getting paid fairly because it’s all one household, and the more women that get into the workforce, the more families are reliant on two incomes in order to make ends meet. Plus it’s just fair and it’s the right thing to do. (Applause.)

So there are a number of steps that we can take to make unemployment go down faster, to make sure that wages are rising faster, and that would benefit everybody. And I’ll just close with this comment. If you look at American history, the times we grow fastest and do best is when we’re growing the economy from the middle out. When middle-class families are growing, when working folks can get their way into the middle class, that’s when the whole economy does well. When you have an economy where just a few are doing well, and a lot of other folks are left, no matter how hard they work, still just scraping to get by, the economy doesn’t get the same kind of momentum.

And if you think about what America is about, what the American Dream is about, it’s always been that everybody should have opportunity. It shouldn’t matter how you started out if you’re willing to work hard, if you have good values, if you take responsibility. And that’s the kind of economy that we want to build. And we can build it, and manufacturing is going to be right smack dab in the middle of that effort, we’ve got to continue to build on the success we have. We’re not going to rest on our laurels. We’re going to keep on going until every single person who wants to find a good job out there can get a good job, and that America is competing against everybody else, so that 21st century is the American Century, just like the 20th century was.

All right? (Applause.)

Here is how we’re going to do this. I’m going to just grab this mic. Anybody who wants to ask a question or make a comment just raise your hand. There are probably some folks with mics in the audience. Wait for the mic so everybody can hear you. Stand up, introduce yourself. Try to make your questions kind of short, and I’ll try to make my answers kind of short. That way we can get more folks in. All right? All right. Who wants to go first? Oh, and I’ll go boy, girl, boy, girl — to make sure everybody — (laughter) — it’s kind of fair, kind of even. All right.

This young man right here.

Q Thank you for coming out today, President Obama. I’m with the University of Southern Indiana Manufacturing Club out here –

THE PRESIDENT: Excellent.

Q And my question for you is, can you share some specifics about the Rebuild America Act? I know you talked a little bit about that.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have about $2 trillion in deferred maintenance. I don’t have to tell you because some of you have probably hit some potholes and tried to figure out what the heck is going on, why aren’t we fixing that road? But it’s not just the traditional roads and bridges. It’s also the infrastructure we don’t see — sewer systems, water systems. A lot of them are breaking down. Gas lines that we’ve been seeing in some big cities — those things start wearing out, suddenly they actually pose a threat if they explode because they’re just not in good shape.

There’s a whole bunch of new infrastructure that we should be building. So I’ll give you a good example is our electricity grid. The way we transmit power — if we’ve got old electricity grids, what happens is a lot of the electricity leaks, a lot of the power leaks in the transmission from the power plant to, let’s say, a factory like this one. And the more it leaks, the more that’s driving up prices, because it’s not as efficient as it should be and it’s more vulnerable to blackouts.

And in fact, if we built a smarter power grid — that’s called a smart grid — means that not only is it not leaking power, but it’s also sending power in efficient ways during peak times, so that we end up using less energy, which drives down consumer prices and is good for the environment.

I’ll give you one other example that I know everybody here will appreciate. We have an old, archaic air traffic control system. Some of you heard about what happened in Chicago — some guy got mad he was being transferred to Hawaii. Now, let me tell you, I’ve been to Hawaii. I don’t know why he was mad about that. (Laughter.) He sets fire to some of the facilities there, and suddenly folks couldn’t get in and out of Chicago for a couple of days. In fact, I was in Chicago yesterday — day before yesterday. I had to land in Gary because O’Hare was still somewhat restricted.

But even setting aside that, it turns out that if we revamped our whole air traffic control system, we could reduce the number of delayed flights by about 30 percent. We could reduce the amount of fuel that airlines use by about 30 percent, which means we could lower ticket prices by a whole bunch. It means that you wouldn’t have two-hour waits in the airport. And if you’re flying for business, that’s going to save you time and money. If you’re just trying to get home to see your family, it means time spent with family instead of sitting in an airport, buying stuff that’s really expensive. (Laughter.)

The whole economy would be more efficient if we do it. So the good news is it’s the best time for us to rebuild our infrastructure because there are still a lot of construction workers out of work, a lot of contractors — it’s not like they’ve got so much business, which means they can do the work on time, under budget. Interest rates are low. If we spent, let’s say, the next 10 years just saying we’re just going to rebuild all across America, old infrastructure and new infrastructure, then not only would we give the economy a boost right now, but what we’d also do is lay the foundation for even more economic growth in the future.

It’s a smart investment, and we should be doing it. So what I’ve proposed is let’s close some tax loopholes that exist right now that in some cases are incentivizing companies to send money overseas and profits overseas instead of investing here in the United States of America. Let’s close those loopholes that aren’t good for creating jobs here. Let’s take some of that money, let’s use that to rebuild our infrastructure. Makes good sense.

But Congress hasn’t done it yet — not because it’s not a good idea. Infrastructure is not partisan. That’s not Democratic or Republican, that’s just a common-sense thing. Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System. Lincoln — first Republican President — helped build the Transcontinental Railroad. Traditionally, everybody has been in favor of infrastructure because it powers our economy. It’s part of what made us an economic superpower. We’ve got to get back to that kind of mentality.

All right. Young lady right here.

Q Mr. President, you mentioned an increase to the minimum wage. How do you counter an opinion that increasing employee wages would ultimately increase the selling price of goods and services, thus negating any increase to the employee’s standard of living?

THE PRESIDENT: No, it’s a good question. It’s interesting that if you look at the studies that have been done — first of all, most employers pay more than the minimum wage already. Typically, minimum wage are in certain sectors of the economy. They’re disproportionately women who are getting paid the minimum wage. But unlike what people think, the majority of folks getting paid the minimum wage are adults, many of them supporting families. The average age of somebody getting paid the minimum wage is 35 years old. They’re not 16.

So in those states or where you’ve had one state pass a hike in the minimum wage and the state right next door doesn’t, and you kind of look at what’s happening along the border where you think that people would be kind of influenced — maybe they shop where the prices are cheaper, or businesses would move over to the place where there isn’t a minimum wage — it turns out that actually it doesn’t have that much of an impact. It has an impact on the families. It generally does not have a huge impact in terms of prices, and it doesn’t have — another argument that’s made is folks will hire fewer people because salaries are higher. Well, it turns out actually that’s not generally what happens. It’s just that if everybody has to raise the minimum wage, then everybody adjusts. And in some cases, because of competition, they’re not going to be able to raise their prices.

But you’re getting to a larger point that I think has plagued the American economy for some time, and that is that business has learned how to be really profitable and produce a lot of goods with fewer and fewer workers, partly through automation. And sometimes that does drive down prices. The problem is it also drives down wages. And it’s driven wages down faster, in many cases, than prices.

I mean, if what you’re worried about most is low prices, then presumably we could have everything made in low-wage countries overseas. They’d get shipped back here, but it doesn’t do you any good if a pair of sneakers is really cheap and you don’t have a job. So I think the goal here should be prioritizing — number one, making sure people have work, number two, making sure that that work pays well.

And if people have good jobs and they’re getting paid a decent wage, then businesses are the ones who have to compete for your business. They’re still going to have to keep prices down relatively low because they’re going to have to compete against other businesses. If they raise their prices too much, somebody is going to come in and offer a better deal. And consumers have gotten better, partly because of the Internet. They know what prices are there.

So there’s never been greater competition out there. The problem is right now that all that competition is on the back of workers. Businesses’ profits are through the roof. There was a report this week that showed that corporate balance sheets in America are as strong as they’ve been in history. It’s part of the reason why the stock market is doing great. So it’s not as if companies don’t have some room to pay their workers more. They’re just not doing it. And a greater and greater share has been going to the corporate balance sheet, and less and less of a share is going to workers.

So don’t let folks tell you that companies right now can’t afford to provide their workers a raise. The reason they’re not giving their workers a raise is because, frankly, they don’t have to — because the labor market is still somewhat soft, and people are afraid that if I leave this job I may not find something.

The good news is, as the unemployment rate comes down, there are fewer workers looking for jobs, and that means companies have to start bidding up wages a little bit. The market will take care of some of this. But having a minimum wage that is a little bit higher, that’s also going to help.

Last example I’ll give, by the way, Costco –I assume some folks here shopped at Costco before. Costco has the best prices around, right? Starting salary for a cash register operator — $11.50, maybe it’s $11.35. Starting wage. And by the way, even before the Affordable Care Act, Costco gave everybody health care. But they’ve been growing just as fast as folks who don’t pay the minimum wage and don’t provide health care benefits. Their stock has done great. The difference is they’re spreading more of the profits to their workers, which is good for the economy as a whole. And by the way, when you walk into Costco, everybody is pretty cheerful because they’re feeling like they’re getting a fair deal and that the company cares about them.

All right? Yes.

Q I’m the general manager at Millennium Steel. We’re very honored to have you. One of the questions I had is about the health care costs. We are seeing almost a double-digit increase in health care costs every year. So do you think that trend is going to go down? And what can we do to control that trend?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that’s really interesting. You’re going to have to talk to Henry because — (laughter) — no, no, no, this is serious. The question is whether you guys are shopping effectively enough. Because it turns out that this year, and in fact over the course of the last four years, premiums have gone up at the slowest rate in 50 years. So health care premiums have actually slowed down significantly. And it is having an effect both on businesses and families and the federal debt. Because most of the federal deficit and the federal debt, when folks talk about we’ve got to drive down the debt, we’ve got to do something about the debt — it turns out that most of the federal deficit and the federal debt over the last decade has come from health care costs going up so high, which means Medicare and Medicaid costs start going up. And that’s gobbled up a bigger and bigger share of the federal budget.

Because health care costs are going up much more slowly than expected, so far we anticipate we’re going to save about $188 billion over the next 10 years and reduce health care costs.

So the issue now is what can we do to make sure that you at Millennium are shopping and seeing more competition. Because the only problem with the health care market is sometimes it’s different in different pockets of the country, depending on how many carriers there are. And what we’re trying to do is to make sure that there’s more competition driving down cost when it comes to both the businesses who are trying to buy health care for their employees, but also folks who don’t get health care on the job and are just having to buy it on their own.

That’s part of what the Affordable Care Act is all about. Now, some of you — Affordable Care Act, by the way, is also known as Obamacare. (Applause.) For a while, everybody was saying — sort of using that as kind of an insult. I’m feeling pretty good about it being called Obamacare. I suspect that about five years from now when everybody agrees that it’s working, then they won’t call it Obamacare anymore. (Laughter.) That’s okay.

But part of what we did there is we set up what’s called these marketplaces, these exchanges, where individuals can go online and shop. And as you know, the website was really bad for the first three months. It’s now in really good shape. We’ve signed up 10 million people to get health coverage many times for the first time. And we’re giving them tax credits to help lower the cost even more. But we’re also setting up a network for businesses to be able to shop for health insurance.

And what’s happened — I talked about this yesterday — right now on average across America — so it may not be true in every single market, but across America, on average, premiums have — if it had not been for this drop in health care inflation, premiums would probably be about $1,800 higher per family than they actually have turned out to be. Now, you think about that — $1,800, that’s money that’s in your pocket that otherwise would be going to you paying for your health care premiums. That’s like an $1,800 tax cut for every family that’s got health insurance. And that’s good news. But we’ve got to make sure everybody takes advantage of it.

So I’m going to make sure — are you in charge of buying health care? You are? All right, so what I’m going to do is I’m going to make sure that you talk to some of our health care market folks. I bet we can get you a better deal. All right? We’ll see if we can save you a little money. (Applause.)

All right. Young lady right here in the jacket.

Q Good afternoon. My name is Conner Perry (ph). I’m in the 8th grade at the Lexington School in Lexington, Kentucky.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s so nice to meet you.

Q Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: How old are you — you’re in 8th grade, so you’re just tall and pretty, just like Malia and Sasha. There you go.

Q I was wondering, what are some actions we could take to put people in rural America to work?

THE PRESIDENT: That’s a great question. You know, the rural economy has actually done extremely well compared to the rest of the economy over the last couple of years. The main reason for it — first of all, we’ve got the best farmers in the world and we’re the most productive agricultural system in the world. So we just — our crops are really good and we produce a lot. And the weather has been pretty decent. I just talked to my friend — where is Scates? There he is. Good buddy of mine — the Scates farm over on Illinois side. He said best crops he’s seen in a while — right? Ever. So that’s the good news.

But what’s also helped is that we have increased our agricultural exports, sending our outstanding products overseas at a record pace. And I should introduce, by the way, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is right here. That’s Penny. (Applause.) And one of Penny’s most important jobs is going around the world and trying to open up new markets for agricultural goods. One of our biggest exports.

And so we’ve got to keep on making sure that if we have the best crops, the best products at the lowest price that we can get into these markets. A lot of countries protect their markets and their farmers from competition by closing their markets — even though they’re selling stuff to us. And my general attitude about trade, I’m a big believer in trade, but my attitude is it’s got to be two-way. If we’re going to buy your cars, or we’re going to buy your TV sets, or whatever else you’re selling, then you’ve got to be able to buy American wheat and corn and beans. And Penny has done a terrific job. And that’s part of the reason why we’ve seen record exports. And that helps the agricultural economy.

That’s number one. But number two, we’ve also got to diversify the rural economy so it’s not just dependent on agriculture. And that means, for example, investing in things like biofuels and clean energy. We are at the threshold of being able to create new energy sources out of not just crops that we grow — corn and ethanol — but also stuff that we usually throw away, like the corn stalks instead of the corn. And the more we invest in biofuels, clean energy, that can make a big difference in the rural economy.

So that’s another area where we can make progress. And then the rural economy should — just like here in Princeton, we’ve got to make sure that we are offering up opportunities for manufacturers to come back in to look at some of these rural sites, where you know the people there work hard and quality of life is high, but oftentimes international investors don’t know about some of these rural communities. And so Penny has been helping to advertise. We’ve got a whole program called SelectUSA where we go around and we help towns, mayors, county chairmen, local chambers of commerce invite investors from Japan and Singapore and Germany — come invest here in the United States of America.

Because what you want is an economy that isn’t just relying on one thing, but it has a bunch of different components to it, so that if, say, you have a bad crop one year the whole economy of that area doesn’t just collapse. And that can make a big difference.

But if we’re going to be able to attract investment into rural America, there are at least two things that have to happen. Number one, we’ve got to invest in education to make sure that the young people in rural America have the skills for today’s jobs. And that includes not just K through 12, but also community colleges — which are really a crown jewel — community colleges can be so powerful in just training folks — they may not go to a four-year college, but if they can get some technical training they’re suddenly ready for that job. And that is really attractive to investors. If they know they’ve got good workers in a site, that’s one of the most important things they’re looking for.

And the second thing is the thing I talked about earlier, which is infrastructure. Part of the problem with rural communities is they’re a little more isolated. All the more important, then, that our rail, our roads, our airports, that they all work, and that they’ve got broadband connections and Internet connections in order to make sure that they can access international markets.

All right? Great question. All right, it’s a gentleman’s turn. Right here. Right here in front.

Q Hello, Mr. President. Thank you for coming. I hope I’ve got this right — it is your wedding anniversary today?

THE PRESIDENT: That is correct.

Q So happy anniversary to you and Michelle.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Twenty-two years she’s been putting up with me. (Laughter.) I had a young man, a friend of mine just got married. And I told the bride — wonderful young lady — I said it takes about 10 years to train a man properly. (Laughter.) So you’ve got to be patient with him. Because he’ll screw up a bunch, but eventually we learn. It’s just it takes us a little longer. We’re not as smart. So Michelle has been very patient with me.

Thank you very much. That’s very kind of you. (Applause.) Young lady right here.

Q Hi, President Obama. I’m from Indiana State University. Right here. (Applause.) Representing.

THE PRESIDENT: Yay, Indiana State!

Q I just had a question. Recently on the media, we have been hearing a lot about the EPA system and the war on coal. What are your feelings on that?

THE PRESIDENT: Some of that is — some of it’s hype and politics. And that’s sort of the nature of our politics these days. But there’s a real issue involved. Less and less of our power is coming from coal.

Now, a lot of people think that’s because of environmental regulations. And the truth of the matter is, is that there’s some environmental regulations that have had an impact mainly because what it’s said to the power plant operators is you’ve got to be more efficient and you can’t send as much pollution into the air. So if you’re using coal, you’ve got to figure out how can we get smart coal — smart coal technologies that capture some of the pollution that’s being sent up, put it underground, store it. Some of that technology is developing, but it’s not quite there yet.

But actually the main reason that power plants in America are using less coal is because natural gas is so cheap. So the real war on coal is natural gas, which, because of new technologies, we are now extracting at a rate that is unbelievable. There’s about a hundred years’ supply of natural gas underground here in America. We are now the number-one natural gas producer in the world. And by the way, we’re also producing more oil than we import for the first time in almost two decades. (Applause.)

Some people don’t realize — you know who the number-one oil producer in the world is? It’s us, the United States of America. So we’re producing more oil than ever. We’re producing more natural gas than ever. And natural gas, we’re producing so much that when new power plants get built, it’s cheaper for them to run on natural gas than it is on coal. So that obviously causes some hardship in communities that traditionally relied on coal.

There are two things we need to do. Number one is — and my administration has been hugely supportive — we’ve put a lot of money into developing these new technologies to make sure we can burn coal cleaner than we have. And the second thing that we need to do is make sure that some of the new opportunities in clean energy and in natural gas and other energy-related industries that they locate in places that used to have coal, or used to be primarily coal country.

Because the trend lines are going to be inevitable. Because if you burn coal in a dirty way, that’s going to cause more and more pollution, including pollution that causes climate change. You’re going to see more and more restrictions on the use of coal not just here in the United States, but around the world, which means that we’ve got to get out in front of that and make sure that we’ve got the technologies to use coal cheaply. And we’ve got to be able to send those technologies to other counties that are still burning coal.

Because there are going to be counties like China and India and others that still use coal for years to come. They’re poor, and they’re building a lot of power plants quickly. They don’t have as much natural gas as us, so they’re going to be interested in figuring how can they use their coal supplies and how can they import our coal. But if we’re doing a good job giving them technologies that allow them to burn it cleanly, then it’s a win-win for us. Not only are we able to then sell coal to them, but we’re also selling the technology to help them burn it in the cleanest way possible.

We’ve been making those investments, and we’ve got to keep on making those investments in order for us to get ahead of the curve.

Great question.

Gentleman back there in the tie. There aren’t that many ties in here, so there you go.

Q Hi, Mr. President. I’m with the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association. We’re one of the founding partners of Manufacturing Day, so thank you for your support. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.

Q I’d like to ask you about R&D. U.S. manufacturers do more R&D than any county in the world. It makes us productive. It makes us innovative. Could you talk about policies and ideas to continue to support R&D activities to promote and accelerate manufacturing? Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: When we think about manufacturing, we always think about the traditional guy with the hard hat and the glasses, and there are sparks flying and it’s noisy. These days you go into a manufacturing plant like this one, first of all, it’s clean, it’s quiet, and so much of it is running on computers and automation and new systems. So if we’re going to stay competitive in manufacturing, we’ve got some terrific advantages.

Energy, by the way, is one of our biggest advantages because we have some of the cheapest energy in the world. That’s part of why a lot of companies want to relocate here in the United States. But we’ve also got to stay ahead of the curve in the new technologies for the new kinds of manufacturing. Every budget I’ve submitted has called for an increase in our R&D budget — our research and development budget. And we’ve specifically been interested in putting more money into research and development in manufacturing.

So, in fact, today I announced the fifth — the proposal for the fifth manufacturing hub that we’re creating. We want to actually create about 15 more of them after this. And what it’s doing is it’s linking manufacturers with universities and researchers to start developing some of the new technologies that we know are going to be key to the future.

So, for example, we already created a manufacturing hub around 3D printing. Everybody know what 3D printing is? It’s actually pretty interesting. So basically the idea is, is that using software you can manufacture just about anything from a remote location just by you send the program to some site and then the machine builds whatever it is that you designed on the computer from scratch. And we know that over time this is going to be more and more incorporated in the manufacturing process. But we want to make sure that all that stuff is done right here in the United States of America. So we created a hub for that.

Today, I’m announcing a $100 million competition to create a new hub around photonics — I had to ask Penny to make sure I pronounced it right. But this is basically the science, the technology around light which is used to transmit data and information, and also is used in the manufacturing process for everything from lasers to some of the stuff that the Department of Defense is doing.

And what these hubs allow us to do is instead of having a slower process where somebody in some lab coat somewhere figures something out and then writes a report on it, and then maybe five years later, some manufacturer says, huh, I wonder if I could tinker around with that and use that in my manufacturing process, you have a system where the businesses and the researchers are working on it at the same time, which speeds up the discovery process and means we’re moving from discovery to application a lot faster.

Now, Germany has about 60 of these manufacturing hubs, and so far I’ve been able to create five of them — or four of them. This is going to be the fifth. And as I said, I want us to make sure we’re doing a lot more than that.

So that’s just one example of why our investment in manufacturing research and development is going to be so critically important. It allows us to keep our lead because America has always been the top innovator in the world. That’s the reason why our economy historically has done so well, is because we invent stuff faster and better than anybody else. And if we lose that lead, we’re going to be in trouble.

Can I just say one last thing about — because I appreciate you working on this National Manufacturers Day. For the young people here, and anybody who is listening, the reason we set up this National Manufacturing Day is because too many young people do not understand the opportunities that exist in manufacturing. Because so many plants were shut down, and so much offshoring was taking place, I think a lot of people just kind of gave up on the idea of working in manufacturing. The problem is that for a lot of young people, manufacturing offers great opportunities.

I was in Wisconsin, somebody told me an amazing statistic, which is the average age of a skilled tool and die operator in Wisconsin is 59 years old. Now, these folks are making 25, 30 bucks an hour, benefits. You are solidly middle class if you have one of these jobs. And the workforce is getting older and older in that area, and the young people aren’t coming to replace them.

So the idea behind National Manufacturing Day, we got 50,000 young people going into factories all across the county and learning about — look at all the jobs that you can get in manufacturing. Engineering jobs, but also jobs on the line, technical jobs. All of them require some skills. All of them require some higher level learning. But not all of them require a four-year degree. You could make a good living. So that’s part of what we’re trying to encourage getting young people to reorient.

And we’re actually also talking to high schools, saying to them, try to encourage young people to think about manufacturing as a career option. Because not everybody wants to sit behind a desk, pushing paper all day long. And different people have different aptitudes and different talents and different interests. And if we can set up a situation where high schools are starting to connect to manufacturing, then a lot of young people can start getting apprenticeships early — realize how interesting some of that work is. Then they have a better idea, if they do end up going to college, it’s a little more focused around the things that they’re actually going to need in order to succeed in manufacturing.

So thank you for participating in that. It’s really important.

We’ve got — how much more time do we have? I just want to make sure. We’ll make it two. We’ll make it two. All right, young lady right there. Yes, right — you, yes. All right, hold on, let’s make sure we got the microphone here.

Q Hi. I am a secondary English education student at USI. And I just want to say thank you for coming here today. It’s such an honor to hear you speak.

Being in the job force in the next couple of years, I am worried about equal pay as a woman. So you’ve talked a little bit about that. How can we get there? What can we do to get equal pay for women?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s a great question. Here are the statistics, first of all. Women on average make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Now, what folks will tell you sometimes is you can’t really compare the situation because a lot of women by choice end up working less when they have kids, and decide to stay home, and so it’s not the same thing. But here’s the problem. It turns out that actually in a lot of companies sometimes it’s still the case that women are getting paid less than men for doing the exact same job.

And so one of the first bills I signed was called the Lilly Ledbetter bill. And Lilly, who is a friend of mine, she was doing a job for 25 years and about 20 years into it just happened to find out that for that whole time she had been getting paid less for doing the exact same job that a man had been doing. And when she tried to sue to get her back pay, the court said, well, it’s too late now because the statute of limitations had run out. She said, well, I just found out. That doesn’t matter.

So we changed that law, and that was the first thing that we did. And what we’ve also done is through executive action what I’ve said is any federal contractor who does business with the federal government, you’ve got to allow people to compare their salaries so that they can get information about whether they’re getting paid fairly or not.

There is a fair pay bill that is before Congress, but so far it’s been blocked by the House Republicans. It hasn’t come up for a vote. We need to keep putting pressure on them to get this done. This is just a matter of basic fairness. I don’t think my daughters should be treated any different than somebody else’s sons if they’re doing a good job. They should get paid the same.

But it’s also a matter of economics, as I said before. More and more women are the key breadwinner in their family, and if they’re getting paid less, that whole family suffers. So this is something that we have to take care.

I do want to mention, though, going back to the first argument, people saying that women make different choices when they have children — well, part of the reason they have to make different choices is because we don’t have a good child care system. (Applause.) It’s because we don’t have a good family leave policy. A child gets sick; you need to take care of a sick child. You can get unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. But what if you can’t afford to give up that paycheck that day? Or you’ve got an ailing parent — they have to go to the doctor one day. They don’t drive. You need to drive them. You need a day off. But if you take the day off, now you can’t pay your rent.

So there are family-friendly policies that we could put in place — and some states are doing so — improving child care, especially early childhood education, by the way, which we know every dollar we invest in that makes our kids do better in school the whole way. (Applause.) So it’s good for our education system, but it’s also just good for parents.

Somebody mentioned my wedding anniversary. I can tell you the toughest time when we were married was when our kids were still small and I was working and Michelle was working. And sometimes I’d be out of town, and the babysitter doesn’t show up, and suddenly Michelle is having scramble. And I promise you when I get home, it’s rough. (Laughter.)

But we were actually — we were professionals. We were both lawyers. We were in a better position to get help than most families, but it was still hard. So the more we do on early childhood education, high quality day care, making it affordable for families, family leave, those family-friendly policies that will help make sure that women are able to take care of their families and pursue their professional careers and bring home the kind of paycheck that they deserve — we need to do both. It’s not a choice between one or the other. We have to do all those things.

I got time for one more question. Gentleman, right here in the blue.

Q Mr. President, I would like to thank you also for visiting. My name is Randy Perry, this young lady’s father. I do have a small manufacturing company in rural America. But how do you speak to us small manufacturers that want to raise the minimum wage but we have to compete?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I said before, the first thing we need to do is to make sure that the economy as a whole is strong because, remember what I said, when the economy is strong as a whole, there is more demand for workers. That gives workers more leverage to get pay raises. The same is true for businesses. When demand is high for whatever product you’re producing, then you can afford to charge a little bit more.

And the truth of the matter is, is that for a lot of small businesses, there’s going to be more pressure than large businesses when it comes to wages because you just don’t have as much margin for error. But overall, our economy is going to do better, and small businesses do better when there is greater demand out there for products and services. And there’s greater demand for products and services if people have money in their pockets.

And one of the biggest problems we have in our economy right now — and this includes one of the biggest problems for small businesses — is that when a bigger and bigger share goes to folks at the top, a lot of that money, they just don’t spend.

I had lunch with Bill Gates the other day. Now, Bill Gates has ot a lot of money. (Laughter.) And he’s doing great things with it, by the way, doing great charitable work. But the truth of the matter is, is that if Bill Gates gets an extra million dollars, it’s not like he’s going to spend more money on food or go and buy an extra car, or buy a new refrigerator, because he’s already got everything he needs.

But if somebody who is a low-wage worker gets a raise, first thing they’re going to do is they’re going to spend it — maybe on a new backpack for the kids, or finally trade in that old beater, or a new car. And that drives the economy. It picks it up. It boosts it. And when that happens, then more demand exists for services and goods. And that means that all businesses are going to do better, including small businesses. And that, then, gives you the higher profits, which then allows you to pay your workers a little bit more. You get in this virtuous cycle.

And this is part of the argument that I’ve been having with my good friends in the Republican Party for quite some time. If you look at the policies we’ve been pursuing and proposing — investing in research and development, rebuilding our infrastructure, making sure that college is more affordable, improving child care, fair pay legislation, increase the minimum wage — I can point to evidence that shows that that’s going to put more money in the pockets of middle-class families. That’s going to increase growth at a faster pace, and the economy, as a whole is going to do better.

And their main response to me typically is two things. One is they’ll say we got to get rid of regulations. Except the problem is, for example, the last big crisis we had was precisely because we didn’t have enough regulations on Wall Street, and folks were selling a bunch of junk on the market and doing reckless things that ended up costing everybody something.

And then the second argument that they make is we need more tax cuts for folks like me who make a pretty good living, folks at the top. And I’ve got to tell you, there’s no evidence that that’s going to help middle-class families. There’s no evidence for this trickle-down theory that somehow another tax cut for folks who are already making out like bandits over the last 20 years is going to somehow improve the prospects for ordinary families. It just doesn’t exist. They keep on repeating it, but they don’t show that that’s actually going to help the economy. That’s not going to help you. It’s not going to help you. And it’s not going to help Millennium. And it’s not going to help your business.

I made a speech yesterday at Northwestern, and what I just said is just look at the facts. Since I’ve been President, unemployment has gone from — is down from 10 percent down to now 5.9. The deficit has been cut by more than half. Our energy production is higher than it’s ever been. Our health care costs are slowing. More people have insurance. High school dropout rate has gone down. Graduation rate has gone up. College attendance rate has gone up. Our production of clean energy has doubled. Solar energy has gone up tenfold. Wind energy has gone up threefold. Exports — we export more than we ever have in history. Corporate balance sheets are doing great. Stock market, all-time highs. Housing market beginning to recover. There’s almost no economic measure by which the economy as a whole isn’t doing significantly better than it was when I came into office. (Applause.)

Now, those are just facts. You can look them up. I’m not making it up. That’s one thing about being President — if I stand here and say it, all these folks are filming me so they’ll go and check. (Laughter.) So that’s the truth. But what is also true is that wages and incomes have continued to be flat even though the economy is growing and businesses are making more money. So what that tells me is the one thing that’s holding things back, the one thing that people are still concerned about and the one thing that if we could change would really give more confidence to the economy and boost it is if wages and incomes start going up a little bit.

If all the productivity and profits, if we start sharing that a little bit more with more folks, and ordinary families start feeling like they got a little bit of a cushion, that will be good for everybody. Because that’s the one thing that really we haven’t seen as much improvement on as we need. And so what everybody should be asking is how do we increase wages, how do we increase incomes. Because if we do that, things are going to better.

And there are pretty much just a handful of ways to do it. Number one, you make the economy grow even faster so the labor market gets tighter. Number two, you pursue policies like a higher minimum wage, or making sure that families are able to get child care, you’re driving down health care costs, the kinds of things that affect people’s pocketbooks directly. Those are the things that I’ve been pursuing since I’ve been President. And those are the things I’ll continue to pursue as long as I have this great privilege of bring President.

Thank you so much, everybody. God bless you. Appreciate you. (Applause.)

END
P.M. CDT

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

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

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

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’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

Full Text Obama Presidency August 28, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement and Press Conference updating on Iraq, Syria, Ukraine and the Economy

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President

Source: WH, 8-28-14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

4:09 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I want to say a few words on a number of topics and take a few questions before the long Labor Day weekend.

First, beginning with the number one thing most Americans care about — the economy.  This morning, we found out that our economy actually grew at a stronger clip in the 2nd quarter than we originally thought.  Companies are investing.  Consumers are spending.  Over the past four and a half years, our businesses have now created nearly 10 million new jobs.  So there are reasons to feel good about the direction we’re headed.

But as everybody knows, there’s a lot more that we should be doing to make sure that all Americans benefit from the progress that we’ve made.  And I’m going to be pushing Congress hard on this when they return next week.

Second, in Iraq, our dedicated pilots and crews continue to carry out the targeted strikes that I authorized to protect Americans there and to address the humanitarian situation on the ground.

As Commander-in-Chief, I will always do what is necessary to protect the American people and defend against evolving threats to our homeland.  Because of our strikes, the terrorists of ISIL are losing arms and equipment.  In some areas, Iraqi government and Kurdish forces have begun to push them back.

And we continue to be proud and grateful to our extraordinary personnel serving in this mission.

Now, ISIL poses an immediate threat to the people of Iraq and to people throughout the region.  And that’s why our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader, comprehensive strategy to protect our people and to support our partners who are taking the fight to ISIL.  And that starts with Iraq’s leaders building on the progress that they’ve made so far and forming an inclusive government that will unite their country and strengthen their security forces to confront ISIL.

Any successful strategy, though, also needs strong regional partners.  I’m encouraged so far that countries in the region — countries that don’t always agree on many things — increasingly recognize the primacy of the threat that ISIL poses to all of them.  And I’ve asked Secretary Kerry to travel to the region to continue to build the coalition that’s needed to meet this threat.  As I’ve said, rooting out a cancer like ISIL will not be quick or easy, but I’m confident that we can — and we will — working closely with our allies and our partners.

For our part, I’ve directed Secretary Hagel and our Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare a range of options.  I’ll be meeting with my National Security Council again this evening as we continue to develop that strategy.  And I’ve been consulting with members of Congress and I’ll continue to do so in the days ahead.

Finally, I just spoke with Chancellor Merkel of Germany on the situation in Ukraine.  We agree — if there was ever any doubt — that Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine.  The violence is encouraged by Russia.  The separatists are trained by Russia.  They are armed by Russia.  They are funded by Russia.  Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.  And the new images of Russian forces inside Ukraine make that plain for the world to see.  This comes as Ukrainian forces are making progress against the separatists.

As a result of the actions Russia has already taken, and the major sanctions we’ve imposed with our European and international partners, Russia is already more isolated than at any time since the end of the Cold War.  Capital is fleeing.  Investors are increasingly staying out.  Its economy is in decline.  And this ongoing Russian incursion into Ukraine will only bring more costs and consequences for Russia.

Next week, I’ll be in Europe to coordinate with our closest allies and partners.  In Estonia, I will reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the defense of our NATO allies.

At the NATO Summit in the United Kingdom, we’ll focus on the additional steps we can take to ensure the Alliance remains prepared for any challenge.  Our meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission will be another opportunity for our alliance to continue our partnership with Ukraine.  And I look forward to reaffirming the unwavering commitment of the United States to Ukraine and its people when I welcome President Poroshenko to the White House next month.

So with that, I’m going to take a few questions.  And I’m going to start with somebody who I guess is now a big cheese — he’s moved on.  But I understand this is going to be his last chance to ask me a question in the press room.  So I want to congratulate Chuck Todd and give him first dibs.

Q    I’m glad you said “in the press room.”  Let me start with Syria.  The decision that you have to make between — first of all, is it a “if” or “when” situation about going after ISIL in Syria?  Can you defeat ISIL or ISIS without going after them in Syria?  And then how do you prioritize?  You have said that Assad has lost legitimacy to lead.  Defeating ISIS could help Assad keep power.  Talk about how you prioritize those two pieces of your foreign policy.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I want to make sure everybody is clear on what we’re doing now, because it is limited.  Our focus right now is to protect American personnel on the ground in Iraq; to protect our embassy, to protect our consulates, to make sure that critical infrastructure that could adversely affect our personnel is protected.

Where we see an opportunity that allows us with very modest risk to help the humanitarian situation there as we did in Sinjar Mountain, we will take those opportunities after having consulted with Congress.  But our core priority right now is just to make sure that our folks are safe and to do an effective assessment of Iraqi and Kurdish capabilities.

As I said I think in the last press conference, in order for us to be successful, we’ve got to have an Iraqi government that is unified and inclusive.  So we are continuing to push them to get that job done.  As soon as we have an Iraqi government in place, the likelihood of the Iraqi security forces being more effective in taking the fight to ISIL significantly increases.  And the options that I’m asking for from the Joint Chiefs focuses primarily on making sure that ISIL is not overrunning Iraq.

What is true, though, is that the violence that’s been taking place in Syria has obviously given ISIL a safe haven there in ungoverned spaces.  And in order for us to degrade ISIL over the long term, we’re going to have to build a regional strategy.  Now, we’re not going to do that alone.  We’re going to have to do that with other partners, and particularly Sunni partners, because part of the goal here is to make sure that Sunnis both in Syria and in Iraq feel as if they’ve got an investment in a government that actually functions, a government that can protect them, a government that makes sure that their families are safe from the barbaric acts that we’ve seen in ISIL.  And right now, those structures are not in place.

And that’s why the issue with respect to Syria is not simply a military issue, it’s also a political issue.  It’s also an issue that involves all the Sunni states in the region and Sunni leadership recognizing that this cancer that has developed is one that they have to be just as invested in defeating as we are.

And so to cut to the chase in terms of what may be your specific concerns, Chuck, my priority at this point is to make sure that the gains that ISIL made in Iraq are rolled back, and that Iraq has the opportunity to govern itself effectively and secure itself.

But when we look at a broader strategy that is consistent with what I said at West Point, that’s consistent with what I said at the National Defense College, clearly ISIL has come to represent the very worst elements in the region that we have to deal with collectively.  And that’s going to be a long-term project.  It’s going to require us to stabilize Syria in some fashion, and stabilizing Syria in some fashion means that we’ve got to get moderate Sunnis who are able to govern and offer a real alternative and competition to what ISIL has been doing in some of these spaces.

Now, the last point with respect to Assad, it’s not just my opinion — I think it would be international opinion — that Assad has lost legitimacy in terms of dropping barrel bombs on innocent families and killing tens of thousands of people.  And right now, what we’re seeing is the areas that ISIL is occupying are not controlled by Assad anyway.  And, frankly, Assad doesn’t seem to have the capability or reach to get into those areas.  So I don’t think this is a situation where we have to choose between Assad or the kinds of people who carry on the incredible violence that we’ve been seeing there.  We will continue to support a moderate opposition inside of Syria, in part because we have to give people inside of Syria a choice other than ISIL or Assad.

And I don’t see any scenario in which Assad somehow is able to bring peace and stability to a region that is majority Sunni and has not so far shown any willingness to share power with them or in any kind of significant way deal with the longstanding grievances that they have there.

Q    Do you need Congress’s approval to go into Syria?

THE PRESIDENT:  I have consulted with Congress throughout this process.  I am confident that as Commander-in-Chief I have the authorities to engage in the acts that we are conducting currently.  As our strategy develops, we will continue to consult with Congress.  And I do think that it will be important for Congress to weigh in, or that our consultations with Congress continue to develop so that the American people are part of the debate.

But I don’t want to put the cart before the horse.  We don’t have a strategy yet.  I think what I’ve seen in some of the news reports suggests that folks are getting a little further ahead of where we’re at than we currently are.  And I think that’s not just my assessment, but the assessment of our military as well.  We need to make sure that we’ve got clear plans, that we’re developing them.  At that point, I will consult with Congress and make sure that their voices are heard.  But there’s no point in me asking for action on the part of Congress before I know exactly what it is that is going to be required for us to get the job done.

Colleen McCain Nelson.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Do you consider today’s escalation in Ukraine an invasion?  And when you talk about additional costs to Russia, are you ready at this point to impose broader economic sanctions?  Or are you considering other responses that go beyond sanctions?

THE PRESIDENT:  I consider the actions that we’ve seen in the last week a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now.  As I said in my opening statement, there is no doubt that this is not a homegrown, indigenous uprising in eastern Ukraine.  The separatists are backed, trained, armed, financed by Russia.  Throughout this process, we’ve seen deep Russian involvement in everything that they’ve done.

I think in part because of the progress that you had seen by the Ukrainians around Donetsk and Luhansk, Russia determined that it had to be a little more overt in what it had already been doing.  But it’s not really a shift.

What we have seen, though, is that President Putin and Russia have repeatedly passed by potential off-ramps to resolve this diplomatically.  And so in our consultations with our European allies and partners, my expectation is, is that we will take additional steps primarily because we have not seen any meaningful action on the part of Russia to actually try to resolve this in diplomatic fashion.

And I think that the sanctions that we’ve already applied have been effective.  Our intelligence shows that the Russians know they’ve been effective, even though it may not appear on Russian television.  And I think there are ways for us to deepen or expand the scope of some of that work.

But ultimately, I think what’s important to recognize is the degree to which Russian decision-making is isolating Russia.  They’re doing this to themselves.  And what I’ve been encouraged by is the degree to which our European partners recognize even though they are bearing a cost in implementing these sanctions, they understand that a broader principle is at stake.  And so I look forward to the consultations that we’ll have when I see them next week.

Zeke Miller.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Last year, you said that you believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress.  In response to Chuck’s question you said you don’t have a strategy yet, but you’ll reconsider that going forward.  But why didn’t you go to Congress before this current round of strikes in Iraq?  Do you not believe that that’s the case anymore, what you said last year?  And throughout your career you’ve also said that — you raised concerns with the expansion of powers of the executive.  Are you concerned that your recent actions, unilaterally, had maybe — have cut against that?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  And here’s why:  It is not just part of my responsibility, but it is a sacred duty for me as Commander-in-Chief to protect the American people.  And that requires me to act fast, based on information I receive, if an embassy of ours or a consulate of ours is being threatened.  The decisions I made were based on very concrete assessments about the possibility that Erbil might be overrun in the Kurdish region and that our consulate could be in danger.  And I can’t afford to wait in order to make sure that those folks are protected.

But throughout this process, we’ve consulted closely with Congress, and the feedback I’ve gotten from Congress is, is that we’re doing the right thing.  Now, as we go forward — as I’ve described to Chuck — and look at a broader regional strategy with an international coalition and partners to systematically degrade ISIL’s capacity to engage in the terrible violence and disruptions that they’ve been engaging in not just in Syria, not just in Iraq, but potentially elsewhere if we don’t nip this at the bud, then those consultations with Congress for something that is longer term I think become more relevant.

And it is my intention that Congress has to have some buy-in as representatives of the American people.  And, by the way, the American people need to hear what that strategy is.  But as I said to Chuck, I don’t want to put the cart before the horse.  And in some of the media reports the suggestion seems to have been that we’re about to go full scale on an elaborate strategy for defeating ISIL, and the suggestion, I guess, has been that we’ll start moving forward imminently and somehow Congress — still out of town — is going to be left in the dark.  That’s not what’s going to happen.

We are going to continue to focus on protecting the American people.  We’re going to continue, where we can, to engage in the sort of humanitarian acts that saved so many folks who were trapped on a mountain.  We are going to work politically and diplomatically with folks in the region.  And we’re going to cobble together the kind of coalition that we need for a long-term strategy as soon as we are able to fit together the military, political and economic components of that strategy.  There will be a military aspect to that, and it’s going to be important for Congress to know what that is, in part because it may cost some money.

I’ll just take a couple more.  Yes.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Do you regret not moving on ISIS earlier?  There are some reports indicating that most of the weapons, the U.S. weapons that they have, they got it or they acquired it after the fall of Mosul.  And also, the Iraqi President said today that the Iraqi forces are in no position to stand up to ISIS.  What makes you think that forming a new government will change the situation?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, once ISIL got into Mosul that posed a big problem, because there’s no doubt that they were able to capture some weapons and resources that they then used to finance additional operations.

And at that stage, we immediately contacted the Iraqi government.  Keep in mind we had been in communications with the Iraqi government for more than a year indicating that we saw significant problems in the Sunni areas.  Prime Minister Maliki was not as responsive perhaps as we would have liked to some of the underlying political grievances that existed at the time.

There is no doubt that in order for Iraq security forces to be successful, they’re going to need help.  They’re going to need help from us.  They’re going to need help from our international partners.  They’re going to need additional training.  They’re going to need additional equipment.  And we are going to be prepared to offer that support.

There may be a role for an international coalition providing additional air support for their operations.  But the reason it’s so important that an Iraqi government be in place is this is not simply a military problem.  The problem we have had consistently is a Sunni population that feels alienated from Baghdad and does not feel invested in what’s happening, and does not feel as if anybody is looking out for them.

If we can get a government in place that provides Sunnis some hope that a national government serves their interest, if they can regain some confidence and trust that it will follow through on commitments that were made way back in 2006 and 2007 and 2008 and earlier about how you arrive at, for example, de-Baathification laws and give people opportunities so they’re not locked out of government positions — if those things are followed through on, and we are able to combine it with a sound military strategy, then I think we can be successful.  If we can’t, then the idea that the United States or any outside power would perpetually defeat ISIS I think is unrealistic.

As I’ve said before — I think I said in the previous press conference — our military is the best in the world.  We can route ISIS on the ground and keep a lid on things temporarily.  But then as soon as we leave, the same problems come back again.  So we’ve got to make sure that Iraqis understand in the end they’re going to be responsible for their own security.  And part of that is going to be the capacity for them to make compromises.

It also means that states in the region stop being ambivalent about these extremist groups.  The truth is that we’ve had state actors who at times have thought that the way to advance their interests is, well, financing some of these groups as proxies is not such a bad strategy.  And part of our message to the entire region is this should be a wake-up call to Sunni,to Shia — to everybody — that a group like ISIS is beyond the pale; that they have no vision or ideology beyond violence and chaos and the slaughter of innocent people.  And as a consequence, we’ve got to all join together — even if we have differences on a range of political issues — to make sure that they’re rooted out.

Last question.

Q    Mr. President, despite all of the actions the West has taken to get Russia to pull back from Ukraine, Russia seems intent on taking one step after another — convoys, transports of arms.  At what point do sanctions no longer work?  Would you envisage the possibility of a necessity of military action to get Russia to pull back from Ukraine?

THE PRESIDENT:  We are not taking military action to solve the Ukrainian problem.  What we’re doing is to mobilize the international community to apply pressure on Russia.  But I think it is very important to recognize that a military solution to this problem is not going to be forthcoming.  Now, the fact that Russia has taken these actions in violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukrainians has resulted, I believe, in a weakening of Russia, not a strengthening of Russia.  That may not be apparent immediately, but I think it will become increasingly apparent.

What it’s also done is isolated Russia from its trading partners, its commercial partners, international business in ways that I think are going to be very difficult to recover from.  And we will continue to stand firm with our allies and partners that what is happening is wrong, that there is a solution that allows Ukraine and Russia to live peacefully.  But it is not in the cards for us to see a military confrontation between Russia and the United States in this region.

Keep in mind, however, that I’m about to go to a NATO conference.  Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but a number of those states that are close by are.  And we take our Article 5 commitments to defend each other very seriously, and that includes the smallest NATO member, as well as the largest NATO member.  And so part of the reason I think this NATO meeting is going to be so important is to refocus attention on the critical function that NATO plays to make sure that every country is contributing in order to deliver on the promise of our Article 5 assurances.

Part of the reason I’ll be going to Estonia is to let the Estonians know that we mean what we say with respect to our treaty obligations.  We don’t have those treaty obligations with Ukraine.  We do, however, stand shoulder to shoulder with them, and we’re doing not just a lot of work diplomatically but also financially in order to make sure that they have the best chance at dealing with what is admittedly a very difficult situation.

Thank you very much, everybody.

Q    On immigration?

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, guys.  Thank you.

Q    Immigration?

Q    Mr. President, how are external events and your executive decision-making going to impact your decision on immigration reform?  Some people say you’re going to delay this.

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me just say this:  I’ve been very clear about the fact that our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed.  And my preference continues to be that Congress act.  I don’t think anybody thinks that Congress is going to act in the short term, but hope springs eternal that after the midterm elections they may act.

In the meantime, what I’ve asked Jeh Johnson to do is to look at what kinds of executive authorities we have in order to make the system work better.  And we’ve had a lot of stakeholder discussions; that set of proposals is being worked up.

And the one thing that I think has happened was the issue with unaccompanied children that got so much attention a couple of months back.  And part of the reason that was important was not because that represented a huge unprecedented surge in overall immigration at the border, but I do think that it changed the perception of the American people about what’s happening at the borders.

And so one of the things we’ve had — have had to do is to work through systematically to make sure that that specific problem in a fairly defined area of the border, that we’re starting to deal with that in a serious way.  And the good news is we’ve started to make some progress.  I mean, what we’ve seen so far is that throughout the summer the number of apprehensions have been decreasing — maybe that’s counterintuitive, but that’s a good thing because that means that fewer folks are coming across.  The number of apprehensions in August are down from July, and they’re actually lower than they were August of last year.  Apprehensions in July were half of what they were in June.  So we’re seeing a significant downward trend in terms of these unaccompanied children.

And what that I think allows us to do is to make sure that those kids are being taken care of properly, with due process.  At the same time, it’s allowed us to then engage in a broader conversation about what we need to do to get more resources down at the border.  It would have been helped along if Congress had voted for the supplemental that I asked for; they did not.  That means we’ve got to make some administrative choices and executive choices about, for example, getting more immigration judges down there.

So that has kept us busy, but it has not stopped the process of looking more broadly about how do we get a smarter immigration system in place while we’re waiting for Congress to act.  And it continues to be my belief that if I can’t see congressional action, that I need to do at least what I can in order to make the system work better.

But some of these things do affect timelines, and we’re just going to be working through as systematically as possible in order to get this done.  But have no doubt, in the absence of congressional action, I’m going to do what I can to make sure the system works better.

Thank you, guys.
END 4:39 P.M. EDT

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 30, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on the Economy in Kansas, City, Missouri

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy — Kansas, City, MO

Source: WH, 7-30-14

Uptown Theater
Kansas City, Missouri

11:06 A.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Kansas City!  (Applause.)  Well, it is good to be back in Kansas City, back in the Midwest.  (Applause.)  And I have to say, I love these old theaters.  I mean, they are unbelievable.  This is just gorgeous.

It is good to see Governor Jay Nixon here today.  (Applause.)  Congressman Emanuel Cleaver is here.  (Applause.)  Congressman Lacy Clay is here.  (Applause.)  Mayor Sly James is here.  (Applause.)  And you’re here!  All of you are here.  (Applause.)

Now, if you have a seat, feel free to sit down, because I don’t want everybody starting to fall out.  (Laughter.)  If you don’t have a seat, don’t sit down.  But bend your knees a little bit.

It’s always good to spend a little time in Kansas City.  Last night, I had a chance to get some barbecue at Arthur Bryant’s.  (Applause.)  Now, they had run out of coleslaw, which I asked — I said, did you save some coleslaw for me?  They said, no, they hadn’t saved any.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, what are you hollering about?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible) to God –

THE PRESIDENT:  I believe in God.  Thanks for the prayer.  Amen.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  We love you!  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  I just want to be on record, though, because people have been asking me this question.  I deal with a lot of tough issues — I am not going to decide who makes the best barbecue in Kansas City.  (Laughter.)  Bryant’s barbecue was tasty.  And Victor is right, I did plow through it pretty good.  (Laughter.)  But I have not had enough samples to make a definitive judgment, so I’m going to have to try some other barbecue the next time I come in.  I have to say, by the way, Victor was not shy about eating either.  (Laughter.)  So I just want to be clear.

But I had a chance — I went there for the barbecue, but also I went there because I wanted to have a chance to talk to Victor and three other people from the area who took the time to sit down with me and talk, because they had written letters to me.  Some of you may know –

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I wrote you, too!  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know what, if I had known, I would have had you over for dinner, too.  (Laughter.)

But what happens is, every night I read 10 letters that we receive.  We get 40,000 correspondence.  And then our correspondence office chooses 10, sort of a sample for me to take a look at.  And it gives me a chance to hear directly from the people I serve.  And folks tell me their stories — they tell me their worries and their hopes and their hardships, their successes.  Some say I’m doing a good job.  (Applause.)  But other people say, “You’re an idiot.”

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, I mean, this is how I know that I’m getting a good sample of letters.  (Laughter.)

Last week, a young girl wrote to ask me why aren’t there any women on our currency, and then she gave me like a long list of possible women to put on our dollar bills and quarters and stuff — which I thought was a pretty good idea.

Now, Victor wrote to me to tell me about his life in Butler, and he told me that he has been unemployed for a while after he and his wife had had their first child.  But he refused to quit.  He earned his degree, found a full-time job.  He now helps folks with disabilities live independently.  And he’s just a good-hearted man.  (Applause.)  And you can tell, really, he’s doing great stuff.  And Victor described how he got through some tough times because of his Christian faith and his determination — which are things that government programs and policies can’t replace.  You got to have that sense of purpose and perseverance.  That has to come from inside; you can’t legislate that.

But he also said that he was able to afford health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.)  And he also said that because of the income-based repayment plan that we had put in place, where you only have to pay 10 percent of your income maximum in repaying your loans each month, that was what allowed him and his family to keep a roof over their heads and support themselves.

And so I’m here because Victor is the sort of person I’m working for every single day — (applause) — somebody who never quits, somebody who is doing everything right, somebody who believes in the American Dream.  Somebody who just wants a chance to build a decent life for himself and his family.  And that’s the vast majority of Americans.  That’s who I’m fighting for right here in Kansas City and all across this country.  (Applause.)  That’s why I ran for President in the first place, to fight for folks like that.  (Applause.)

Now, we all know it hasn’t always been easy.  The crisis that hit near the end of my campaign back in 2008, it would end up costing millions of Americans their jobs, their homes, their sense of security.  But we have fought back.  We have got back off our feet, we have dusted ourselves off.  Today, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  (Applause.)  Construction is up.  Manufacturing is back.  Our energy, our technology, our auto industries, they’re all booming.

The unemployment rate is at its lowest point since September of 2008.  (Applause.)  It’s dropped faster than any time in 30 years.  This morning, we found out that in the second quarter of this year our economy grew at a strong pace, and businesses are investing, workers are building new homes, consumers are spending, America is exporting goods around the world.

So the decisions that we made — to rescue our economy, to rescue the auto industry, to rebuild the economy on a new foundation, to invest in research and infrastructure, education — all those things are starting to pay off.

The world’s number-one oil and gas producer — that’s not Saudi Arabia; that’s not Russia — it’s the United States of America.  (Applause.)  We’ve tripled the amount of electricity we get from wind.  (Applause.)  We’ve increased by 10 times the amount of electricity we get from the sun.  And all that is creating tens of thousands of jobs across the country.

Our high school graduation rate is at a record high.  More young people are earning their college degrees than ever before.  (Applause.)  401(k)s have recovered their value.  Home prices are rising.  And, yes, millions of families now have the peace of mind, just like Victor’s family does, of getting quality, affordable health care when you need it.  It makes a difference in people’s lives.  (Applause.)

And, look, Kansas City, none of this is an accident.  It’s thanks to the resilience and resolve of the American people.  It’s also thanks to some decisions that we made early on.  And now America has recovered faster and come farther than just about any other advanced country on Earth.  And for the first time in more than a decade, if you ask business leaders around the world what’s the number-one place to invest, they don’t say China anymore.  They say the United States of America.  (Applause.)  And our lead is growing.

So sometimes you wouldn’t know it if you were watching the news, but there are a lot of good reasons to be optimistic about America.  We hold the best cards.  Things are getting better.  The decisions we make now can make things even better than that.  In fact, the decisions we make now will determine whether the economic gains that we’re generating are broad based, whether they just go to a few at the top or whether we got an economy in which the middle class is growing and folks who are trying to get into the middle class have more rungs on the ladder; whether ordinary folks are benefiting from growth.
And that’s what’s at stake right now — making sure our economy works for every American.  See, I’m glad that GDP is growing, and I’m glad that corporate profits are high, and I’m glad that the stock market is booming.  But what really I want to see is a guy working nine to five, and then working some overtime, I want that guy making more than the minimum wage.  (Applause.)
And what I really want is somebody who has worked for 20, 30 years being able to retire with some dignity and some respect.  (Applause.)  What I really want is a family that they have the capacity to save so that when their child is ready to go to college, they know they can help and that it’s affordable, and that that child is not going to be burdened down with debt.  That’s the measure of whether the economy is working; not just how well it’s doing overall, but is it doing well for ordinary folks who are working hard every single day and aren’t always getting a fair shot.  That’s what we’re fighting for.  That’s why I ran for President.  That’s what I’m focused on every day.  (Applause.)
And that’s what sometimes Washington forgets.  Your lives and what you’re going through day to day — the struggles, but also the opportunities and the hopes and the good things, but sometimes the rough things that happen — that’s more important than some of the phony scandals or the fleeting stories that you see.  This is the challenge of our time — how do we make sure we’ve got an economy that is working for everybody?
Now, all of you are doing your part to help bring America back.  You’re doing your job.  Imagine how much further along we’d be, how much stronger our economy would be, if Congress was doing its job, too.  (Applause.)  We’d be doing great.  Every time I meet some of these folks who have written me letters, we sit down and talk, and they say, what’s going on in Washington?  Why –

What they tell me is, if Congress had the same priorities that ordinary families did, if they felt the same sense of urgency about things like the cost of college or the need for increases in the minimum wage, or how we’re making child care more affordable and improving early childhood education — if that’s what they were thinking about, we could help a lot more families.  A lot more people would be getting ahead.  The economy would be doing better.  We could help a lot more families, and we should.

We should be relentlessly focused on what I call an opportunity agenda, one that creates more jobs by investing in what’s always made our economy strong:  making sure that we’re on the cutting edge when it comes to clean energy; making sure that we’re rebuilding our infrastructure — our roads, our bridges, our ports, our airports, our locks, our dams.  (Applause.)  Making sure that advanced manufacturing is happening right here in the United States so we can start bringing manufacturing jobs back to the Midwest and all across the country, jobs that pay a good wage.  (Applause.)  Investing in research and science that leads to new American industries. Training our workers — really making a job-training program and using our community colleges in ways that allow people to constantly retrain for the new opportunities that are out there and to prepare our kids for the global competition that they’re going to face.  Making sure that hard work pays off with higher wages and higher incomes.
If we do all these things, we’re going to strengthen the middle class, we’ll help more people get into the middle class.  Businesses, by the way, will do better.  If folks have more money in their pocket, then businesses have more customers.  (Applause.)  If businesses have more customers, they hire more workers.  If you hire more workers, they spend more money.  You spend more money, businesses have more customers — they hire even more workers.  You start moving in the right direction.  (Applause.)  But it starts not from the top down, it starts from the middle out, the bottom up.
Now, so far this year, Republicans in Congress keep blocking or voting down just about every idea that would have some of the biggest impact on middle-class and working-class families.  They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage.  They’ve said no to fair pay, making sure that women have the ability to make sure that they’re getting paid the same as men for doing the same job.  They’ve said no for fixing our broken immigration system.  Rather than investing in education, they actually voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.  And they’ve been pushing to gut the rules that we put in place after the financial crisis to make sure big banks and credit card companies wouldn’t take advantage of consumers or cause another crisis.  So they haven’t been that helpful.  (Laughter.)  They have not been as constructive as I would have hoped.  (Laughter.)
And these actions, they come with a cost.  When you block policies that would help millions of Americans right now, not only are those families hurt, but the whole economy is hurt.  So that’s why this year, my administration, what we’ve said was we want to work with Congress, we want to work with Republicans and Democrats to get things going, but we can’t wait.  So if they’re not going to do anything, we’ll do what we can on our own.  And we’ve taken more than 40 actions aimed at helping hardworking families like yours.  (Applause.)  That’s when we act — when your Congress won’t.
So when Congress failed to pass equal pay legislation, I made sure that women got more protection in their fight for fair pay in the workplace, because I think that when women succeed, everybody succeeds.  (Applause.)  I want my daughters paid the same as your sons for doing the same job.  (Applause.)
Congress had the chance to pass a law that would help lower interest rates on student loans.  They didn’t pass it.  I acted on my own to give millions of Americans a chance to cap their payments, the program that Victor has taken advantage of.  I don’t want our young people just saddled with debt before they’ve even gotten started in life.  (Applause.)
When it comes to the minimum wage, last week marked five years since the last time the minimum wage went up.  Now, you know the cost of living went up.  The minimum wage didn’t go up.  So I went ahead on my own.  When it came to federal contractors, I said, if you want to get a federal contract, you’ve got to pay your workers at least $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)  And I’ve been trying to work with governors and mayors, and in some cases with business owners, just calling them up directly.  How about giving your folks a raise?  And some of them have done it.
And since I had first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, businesses like the Gap — you’ve got 13 states and D.C. — they’ve gone ahead and raised their minimum wage.  It makes a difference in people’s lives.  (Applause.)  And, by the way, here’s something interesting:  The states that have increased their minimum wages this year, they’ve seen higher job growth than the states that didn’t increase their minimum wage.  (Applause.)  So remember, you give them a little bit more money, businesses have more customers.  They got more customers, they make more profit.  They make more profit, what do they do?  They hire more workers.  America deserves a raise, and it’s good for everybody.
So some of the things we’re doing without Congress are making a difference, but we could do so much more if Congress would just come on and help out a little bit.  (Applause.)  Just come on.  Come on and help out a little bit.  Stop being mad all the time.  (Applause.)  Stop just hating all the time.  Come on.  (Applause.)  Let’s get some work done together.  (Applause.)
They did pass this workforce training act, and it was bipartisan.  There were Republicans and Democrats, and everybody was all pleased.  They came, we had a bill signing, and they were all in their suits.  I said, doesn’t this feel good?  (Laughter.)  We’re doing something.  It’s like, useful.  Nobody is shouting at each other.  (Laughter.)  It was really nice.  I said, let’s do this again.  Let’s do it more often.  (Applause.)
I know they’re not that happy that I’m President, but that’s okay.  (Laughter.)  Come on.  I’ve only got a couple of years left.  Come on, let’s get some work done.  Then you can be mad at the next President.
Look, we’ve got just today and tomorrow until Congress leaves town for a month.  And we’ve still got some serious work to do.  We’ve still got a chance to — we got to put people to work rebuilding roads and bridges.  And the Highway Trust Fund is running out of money; we got to get that done.  We’ve got to get some resources to fight wildfires out West.  That’s a serious situation.  We need more resources to deal with the situation in the southern part of the border with some of those kids.  We got to be able to deal with that in a proper way.  (Applause.)
So there’s a bunch of stuff that needs to get done.  Unfortunately, I think the main vote — correct me if I’m wrong here, Congressman — the main vote that they’ve scheduled for today is whether or not they decide to sue me for doing my job.
AUDIENCE:  Booo –
THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no — first of all, here’s something I always say — do not boo, vote.  Booing doesn’t help.  Voting helps.  (Applause.)
But think about this — they have announced that they’re going to sue me for taking executive actions to help people.  So they’re mad because I’m doing my job.  And, by the way, I’ve told them — I said, I’d be happy to do it with you.  So the only reason I’m doing it on my own is because you don’t do anything.  (Applause.)  But if you want, let’s work together.
I mean, everybody recognizes this is a political stunt, but it’s worse than that, because every vote they’re taking like that means a vote they’re not taking to actually help you.  When they have taken 50 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, that was time that could have been spent working constructively to help you on some things.  (Applause.)  And, by the way, you know who is paying for this suit they’re going to file?  You.
AUDIENCE MEMBER:  No!
THE PRESIDENT:  No, no — you’re paying for it.  And it’s estimated that by the time the thing was done, I would have already left office.  So it’s not a productive thing to do.
But here’s what I want people to remember.  Every single day, as depressing sometimes as what goes on in Washington may be, I see the inherent goodness and generosity of the American people.  I see it every day.  I see it in all of you.  I saw it in the four people that I had dinner with last night.
In addition to Victor, one guy who joined us was a guy named Mark Turner.  He works with high schools dropouts to help get them back on track.  He used to be a successful corporate executive, decided he wanted to give something back.  (Applause.)  You got Valerie McCaw.  Valerie is a single mom, engineer, owns a small business.  She’s doing great things.  Even though sometimes it’s a struggle making sure she keeps her business afloat, she’s persevered and is helping her son get his college education.  Then you got Becky Forrest.  She’s a fireplug.  She’s president of the Town Fork Creek Neighborhood Association.  She’s got so many things going on — after-school programs and mentoring programs, and basketball leagues, and all kinds of things at a community center — I couldn’t keep track of all of them.  (Laughter.)
And to listen to them talk, it made you optimistic.  It reminded you there are good people out here.  Everybody is out there trying to do their best, trying to look after their families, trying to raise their kids, trying to give something back — working with their church, working with their synagogues, working with their places of faith.  Just trying to give something back and give some meaning to their lives.  And they’re responsible.  And we all make mistakes and we all have regrets, but generally speaking, people are decent.

And so the question is, how can we do a better job at capturing that spirit in Washington, in our government?  The American people are working harder than ever to support families, to strengthen communities.  And so instead of suing me for doing my job, let’s — I want Congress to do its job and make life a little better for the Americans who sent them there in the first place.  (Applause.)  Stop posturing.

And, by the way, there’s one place to start.  I talked about this last week, but I want to talk about this a little more.  Right now, there’s a loophole in the tax code that lets a small but growing group of corporations leave the country; they declare themselves no longer American companies just to get out of paying their fair share of taxes — even though most of their operations are here, they’ve always been American companies, they took advantage of all the benefits of being an American company, but now their accountant has convinced them maybe they can get out of paying some taxes.

They’re renouncing their citizenship even though they’re keeping most of their business here.  I mean, it’s just an accounting trick, but it hurts our country’s finances, and it adds to the deficit and sticks you with the tab — because if they’re not paying their share and stashing their money offshore, you don’t have that option.  It ain’t right.  Not only is it not right, it ain’t right.  (Laughter and applause.)  It ain’t right.  I hope everybody is clear on the distinction.  There are some things are not right.  And then there’s some things that just ain’t right.  (Laughter and applause.)  And this ain’t right.  (Laughter.)

I mean, you don’t have accountants figuring all this stuff out for you, trying to game the system.  These companies shouldn’t either.  And they shouldn’t turn their back on the country that made their success possible.  And, by the way, this can be fixed.  For the last two years I’ve put forward plans to cut corporate taxes, close loopholes, make it more reliable, make it clearer.  And to Republicans, I say, join with me.  Let’s work to close this unpatriotic tax loophole for good.  Let’s use the savings that we get from closing the loophole to invest in things like education that are good for everybody.

Don’t double down on top-down economics.  Let’s really fight to make sure that everybody gets a chance and, by the way, that everybody plays by the same rules.  (Applause.)  We could do so much more if we got that kind of economic patriotism that says we rise or fall as one nation and as one people.  And that’s what Victor believes.

When Victor wrote me his letter, he said, “I believe, regardless of political party, we can all do something to help our citizens to have a chance at a job, have food in their stomachs, have access to great education and health care.”  That’s what economic patriotism is.  (Applause.)  That’s what we should all be working on.

Instead of tax breaks for folks who don’t need them, let’s give tax breaks to working families to help them pay for child care and college.  Don’t reward companies shipping jobs overseas; let’s give tax breaks to companies investing right here in Missouri, right here in the Midwest.  (Applause.)  Let’s give every citizen access to preschool and college and affordable health care.  And let’s make sure women get a fair wage.  (Applause.)  Let’s make sure anybody who is working full-time isn’t living in poverty.  (Applause.)

These are not un-American ideas; these are patriotic ideas.  This is how we built America.  (Applause.)

So just remember this:  The hardest thing to do is to bring about real change.  It’s hard.  You’ve got a stubborn status quo.  And folks in Washington, sometimes they’re focused on everything but your concerns.  And there are special interests and there are lobbyists, and they’re paid to maintain the status quo that’s working for somebody.  And they’re counting on you getting cynical, so you don’t vote and you don’t get involved, and people just say, you know what, none of this is going to make a difference.  And the more you do that, then the more power the special interests have, and the more entrenched the status quo becomes.

You can’t afford to be cynical.  Cynicism is fashionable sometimes.  You see it all over our culture, all over TV; everybody likes just putting stuff down and being cynical and being negative, and that shows somehow that you’re sophisticated and you’re cool.  You know what — cynicism didn’t put a man on the moon.  Cynicism didn’t win women the right to vote.  Cynicism did not get a Civil Rights Act signed.  Cynicism has never won a war.  Cynicism has never cured a disease.  Cynicism has never started a business.  Cynicism has never fed a young mind.  (Applause.)

I do not believe in a cynical America; I believe in an optimistic America that is making progress.  (Applause.)  And I believe despite unyielding opposition, there are workers right now who have jobs who didn’t have them before because of what we’ve done; and folks who got health care who didn’t have it because of the work that we’ve done; and students who are going to college who couldn’t afford it before; and troops who’ve come home after tour after tour of duty because of what we’ve done.  (Applause.)

You don’t have time to be cynical.  Hope is a better choice.  (Applause.)  That’s what I need you for.

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.)

END
11:39 A.M. CDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 24, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy — Los Angeles, CA

Source: WH, 7-24-14

Los Angeles Trade-Technical College
Los Angeles, California

1:15 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, L.A.!  (Applause.)  Good to see you! Hello, Los Angeles!  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody.  Now, if you’ve got a seat, sit down.  I know that a couple people have been getting overheated.  A tip for you — if you’ve got some water, then drink.  Standing in the sun is rough.  Bend your knees a little bit.  And I’m going to try to be fast.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  God Almighty, Jesus Christ — (inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s okay.

AUDIENCE:  Obama!  Obama!  Obama!

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Now, I have to admit that I’ve actually met that guy before.  (Laughter.)  That’s a couple of years ago and he had the same line.  He needs to update his material.

All right, everybody, settle down for a second.  First of all, I’d like everybody to say thank you to Katrice not only for the great introduction, but for the great work she’s doing helping to train people to get the kinds of jobs that we want and opportunity for people that don’t have it.  So, Katrice, thank you so much.  (Applause.)  We’re proud of you.

My understanding — we understand we also have — Congresswoman Karen Bass is here.  Where’s Karen?  (Applause.)  We love Karen.  There’s Karen Bass.  We’ve got — America’s Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, is here.  Give Tom a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

And we want to thank L.A. Trade Technical College for your hospitality.  (Applause.)  This is a school that does good work helping the unemployed retrain for new careers.  And that’s one of the things I want to talk about today.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Applause.)

I always love being in California.  I spent a couple good years here in college myself.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Occi Tigers!

THE PRESIDENT:  Occi — that’s right, Occi Tigers.  Earlier today, I sat down at Canter’s with Katrice and a few Californians who wrote to me.  I get letters from folks all across the country and I read them every night.  And folks tell me their stories — about their worries and their hopes and hardships and successes. Some say I’m doing a good job.  Some say I’m an idiot — which let’s me know that I’m getting a representative sample.  (Laughter.)

But in addition to Katrice, a young woman named Kati Koster was there, and she told me about her life.  She grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Wisconsin.  Her parents taught her to value education, that that was going to be the ticket to the middle class.  First in her family to go to college; moved on to get her master’s degree from Pepperdine, stayed out in California.  (Applause.)

And she wrote to tell me that she’s always played by the rules, valued education, worked hard but she felt “trapped” because no matter how hard she worked it seemed like she couldn’t get ahead.  And she said, “If earning an education doesn’t open doors for someone like me to rise above my socioeconomic class…what does that say about our country?”  “What does it say about our values,” she asked.  She said, “I try not to be cynical, but one shouldn’t have to be rich or from a wealthy family in order to pay their bills, save some money, have fun, enjoy life.” She said, “I didn’t write this letter to complain.  I wrote because I don’t know what else to do, and as the President of my country I hoped you would listen to my story.”

So, L.A., I’m here because I am listening to Kati’s story.  I’m listening to Americans all across the country, everybody who works their tail off, is doing the right thing, who believes in the American Dream, just wants a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their family.  You are why I ran for President in the first place.  And I am always going to be listening to you.  (Applause.)

Now, the crisis that hit near the end of that campaign back in 2008 cost millions of Americans their jobs, their homes, their sense of security.  But today, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  The unemployment rate is at its lowest point since September of 2008.  (Applause.) And this past year, we saw one of the fastest drops in nearly 30 years in the unemployment rate.  (Applause.)  The decisions we made not only to rescue the economy, rescue the auto industry, but to rebuild it on a new foundation — those decisions are paying off.

We’re more energy independent.  The world’s number-one oil and gas producer is not Russia, it’s not Saudi Arabia — it’s the United States of America.  (Applause.)  We’ve reduced our carbon pollution over the past eight years more than any country on Earth.  You saw an L.A. Times headline the other day that said “2014 off to the hottest start on record for California.”  That’s why we have to worry about climate change.

We’ve tripled the electricity we’re getting from wind power, generating enough last year to power every home in California.  We now generate 10 times the solar electricity, creating tens of thousands of jobs across the country.  California is so far ahead of the rest of the country in solar that earlier this year, solar power met 18 percent of your total power demand one day.  That’s the kind of progress, kind of leadership we need.  (Applause.)

But it’s not just the energy sector.  In education, our high school graduation rate is at a record high.  The Latino dropout rate has been cut in half since 2008.  (Applause.)  More young people are earning their college degrees than ever before.  Meanwhile, 401(k)s have restored their value.  Fewer homes are underwater.  Millions more families have the peace of mind of affordable health care when you need it because we did pass the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.)

None of this was an accident.  We made some good decisions, but we also saw the resilience and the resolve of the American people.  And because of that, we’ve recovered faster, we’ve gone farther than almost any country on Earth since the economic crisis.  For the first time in more than a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that the number-one place to invest is not China; it’s the United States of America.  And our lead is growing.  (Applause.)

So — USA!

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

THE PRESIDENT:  So there are reasons — we’ve got every reason to be optimistic about America.  We hold all the best cards.  We’ve got the best hand.  But the decisions we make now are going to determine whether or not working Americans like Kati continue to feel trapped, or whether they get ahead; whether the economic gains that we make just go to a few at the top, or they help to grow an economy and grow incomes and growing middle-opportunities for everybody.

And that’s what’s at stake right now — making sure our economy works for every working American.  That’s why I ran for President.  That’s what I’m focused on every day.  (Applause.)   This is the challenge of our time.  We can’t be distracted.  And if you’re in public office, and you don’t have an answer for somebody like Kati, if you’re not thinking about her and folks who are working hard but still struggling every day, why are you in public service?  (Applause.)

So today, I’m here to focus on one thing that we should be doing, which is training more Americans to fill the jobs we’re creating.  Right now, there are more job openings in America than any time since 2007.  That doesn’t always make headlines, it’s not sexy so the news doesn’t report it, but it’s a big deal.  And the job training programs can help folks who fell on hard times in the recession, help them find a solid path back to the middle class.

And I’m always impressed by people who have the courage to go back to school, especially later in life.  (Applause.)  Last month, in Minnesota, I met a woman named Rebekah, a wonderful young woman.  A few years ago, she was waiting tables.  She enrolled in a community college, retrained for a new career; today, she loves her job as an accountant.  Joe Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, teaches at a community college.  A lot of her students are in their 30s.  One of the women I met with this morning, Joan Waddell, wrote me to say she’s ready to get back in the game at age 60, after caring for a sick husband, but older workers like her need a little support.  And she wrote, “We are a great investment and we want to be part of the workforce.”  And if you’d met Joan you’d want to hire her because she is sharp.

So Americans are the best workers in the world — if we’re given a chance.  If we work together, we can help more of our fellow citizens learn the skills that growing fields require — in high-tech manufacturing, in clean energy, in information technology, and in health care.

Now, the good news is, earlier this week, I signed a bipartisan bill into law that would help communities update and invest in job training programs like these.  And I got to say I had so much fun actually signing a bipartisan bill from Congress — I said, why don’t you all do it more often?  (Laughter and applause.)  Why don’t you focus on getting some stuff done for the American people?  It feels good.  (Applause.)

So my administration has taken some steps on our own.  We’ve rallied employers to give the long-term unemployed a fair shot at a job.  We’re offering grants to community colleges that work with companies to expand apprenticeships.  We’re helping cities identify fields with job openings, and custom-tailor programs to help workers earn the skills employers are looking for right now, whether it’s welding metal or coding computers.  If your job has been stamped “obsolete” and shipped overseas, or displaced by new technology, your country should help train you to land an even better job in the future.  And that’s something we can do if we work together.  (Applause.)

So this is just some of what we should be doing to help strengthen the middle class and help Americans who are working to join the middle class.  And what I keep hearing from folks across the country is that if Congress had the same priorities most Americans did, if they felt the same urgency that you feel in your own lives, we’d be helping a lot more families right now.

I mean, think about what Congress hasn’t done, despite the fact that I’ve been pushing them to do it.  Congress won’t act to make sure a woman gets fair pay.  Why not?  I went ahead and made sure more women have the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace — because I believe equal pay shouldn’t mean equal work — (applause.)  And when women succeed, America succeeds.  Why isn’t Congress doing something?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I get you, I understand that.

Congress won’t act to help more young people like Kati manage their student loan debt.  I acted to give nearly five million Americans the chance to cap their payments at 10 percent of their income.  I don’t want future leaders saddled with debt they can’t pay before they’ve even started off in life.  Why don’t we see House Republicans working with Democrats who’ve already said, we’re behind making student loans more affordable? (Applause.)

Today marks exactly five years since the last time the minimum wage went up in this country.  That’s too long between raises for a lot of Americans.  I’ve done what I can by requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of $10.10 an hour.  And since the first time I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, 13 states and D.C. have gone ahead and raised theirs.  (Applause.)  And here is something interesting — states that have increased the minimum wages this year have seen higher job growth than those who didn’t raise the minimum wage.  (Applause.)  America deserves a raise.  It will be good for those workers and good for business.

So I’m not going to stop trying to work with Democrats and Republicans to make a difference in your lives.  But I’ve got to call things as they are.  What’s really going on is that Republicans in Congress are directly blocking policies that would help millions of Americans.  They are promoting policies that millions of Americans.  Just this year, on the other hand, they voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.

AUDIENCE:  Booo –

THE PRESIDENT:  Just last week, they actually voted to gut the rules we put in place to make sure big banks and credit card companies couldn’t hurt consumers and cause another crisis.  They’re going in the wrong direction.  Our economy does not grow from the top down; it grows from the middle class out.  We do better when middle-class families and folks who are working hard to get into the middle class have a chance.  (Applause.)

So just in case some Republicans are listening, let me give you an example of a place where Democrats and Republicans should be able to work together to make a difference.  I want everybody to pay attention to this.  Right now, our businesses are creating jobs, more companies are choosing to bring jobs back to America. But there’s another trend that is a threat to us.  Even as corporate profits are higher than ever, there’s a small but growing group of big corporations that are fleeing the country to get out of paying taxes.

AUDIENCE:  Booo –

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, hold on a second.  I want you — I say fleeing the country, but they’re not actually do that.  They’re not actually going anywhere.  They’re keeping most of their business here.  They’re keeping usually their headquarters here in the U.S.  They don’t want to give up the best universities and the best military, and all the advantages of operating in the United States.  They just don’t want to pay for it.  So they’re technically renouncing their U.S. citizenship.  They’re declaring they’re based someplace else even though most of their operations are here.  Some people are calling these companies “corporate deserters.”

And it’s only a few big corporations so far.  The vast majority of American businesses play by the rules. But these companies are cherry-picking the rules.  And it damages the country’s finances.  It adds to the deficit.  It makes it harder to invest in things like job training that help keep America growing.  It sticks you with the tab to make up for what they’re stashing offshore through their evasive tax policies.

Now, the problem is this loophole they’re using in our tax laws is actually legal.  It’s so simple and so lucrative, one corporate attorney said it’s almost like “the Holy Grail” of tax avoidance schemes.  My attitude is I don’t care if it’s legal — it’s wrong.  (Applause.)  And my attitude is, is that nobody begrudges our companies from turning a profit — we want them to be profitable.  And in a global economy, there’s nothing wrong with companies expanding to foreign markets.  But you don’t get to pick the tax rate you pay.  Folks, if you’re a secretary or you’re a construction worker, you don’t say, you know what, I feel like paying a little less, so let me do that.  You don’t get a chance to do that.  These companies shouldn’t either.

And the practice they’re engaging is the same kind of behavior that keeps middle-class and working-class families working harder and harder just to keep up.

So the good news is there’s a way to change this.  We could end this through tax reform that lowers the corporate rate, closes wasteful loopholes, simplifies the tax code so people can’t game it.

And over the past two years, I’ve put forward plans that would have cut corporate taxes and made our tax system more competitive — but Congress hasn’t done anything — as usual.  Now, some members of Congress, in both parties, have been working together on responsible corporate tax reform so we don’t have to keep playing whack-a-mole, trying to chase folks around, we’d finally start dealing with these special interest tax loopholes. But that’s going to take some time.  And in the meantime, we need to stop companies from renouncing their citizenship just to get out of paying their fair share of taxes.  We can’t wait for that. You shouldn’t get to call yourself an American company only when you want a handout from American taxpayers.  (Applause.)

That’s why, in my budget earlier this year, I proposed closing this unpatriotic tax loophole for good.  Democrats in Congress have advanced a proposal that would do the same thing.  A couple of Republicans have said they want to address it, too. Let’s everybody get together, Democrats and Republicans, to deter companies from rushing to take advantage of this tax loophole. And let’s make sure that we’re rewarding companies that are investing and paying their fair share here in the United States.

And this is not a partisan issue.  Just 10 years ago, a Republican-led Congress cracked down on corporations moving to offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands.  We should do it again.

I’m not interested in punishing these companies.  But I am interested in economic patriotism.  Instead of doubling down on top-down economics, I want an economic patriotism that says we rise or fall together, as one nation, and as one people.  (Applause.)

Economic patriotism says it’s a good thing when we close wasteful tax loopholes and invest in education, and invest in job training that helps the economy for everybody.  Instead of tax breaks for millionaires, let’s give tax breaks to families to help on child care or college.  (Applause.)  Let’s stop rewarding companies that ship jobs overseas; give tax breaks to companies that are bringing jobs back to the United States.  (Applause.)   Let’s put America back to work rebuilding roads and bridges and airports.  Let’s make sure the next generation of good manufacturing is happening right here in Los Angeles, and in Wisconsin, and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Economic patriotism says it’s a good thing when our fellow citizens have access to preschool, and college, and, yes, health care that is affordable.  (Applause.)  It’s a good thing when women earn the same as men for doing the same work.  It’s a good thing when nobody who’s working full-time has to raise a family in poverty.  (Applause.)  That’s not un-American.  It’s how we built America — together.  That’s what economic patriotism is.

So let me just close by saying this.  The hardest thing in politics is to change a stubborn status quo.  It’s even harder when Washington seems focused on everything but the concerns of you.  There are plenty of folks out there who count on you being cynical and say you’re not going to vote, you’re not going to get involved.  And that just gives more power to the special interests who already benefit from the status quo.

Cynicism is fashionable these days.  But I got to tell you, cynicism didn’t put a man on the moon.  Cynicism did not create the opportunity for all our citizens to vote.  Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or started a business, or fed young minds.

I believe in optimism.  I believe in hope.

AUDIENCE:  Yes!

THE PRESIDENT:  I believe in America making progress.  And despite unyielding opposition, there are workers with jobs who didn’t have them before because of what we’ve done.  There are families who have health insurance because of what we’ve done. There are students who are going to college who weren’t going before because of what we’ve done.  There are troops who have finally come home after serving tour after tour overseas because of what we’ve done.  (Applause.)

Don’t let the cynics get you down.  Cynicism is a choice — and hope is a better choice.  And if we can work together, I promise you there’s no holding America back.

Thank you, Los Angeles.  I love you.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
1:37 P.M. PDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 12, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Expanding Opportunity – It’s Time for Congressional Republicans to Do Their Part

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Expanding Opportunity – It’s Time for Congressional Republicans to Do Their Part

Source: WH, 7-12-14

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President recapped his visits with folks who have written him letters about their own American stories — their successes and struggles. While Congressional Republicans are blocking meaningful measures that would strengthen the middle class, the President continues looking for ways to grow the economy and expand opportunity for more hardworking Americans. The President again urged Congress to join him, as they were elected to do, in working on behalf of everyday Americans – including those the President spent time with this week – by investing in our infrastructure to support American jobs, and ensuring that the Highway Trust Fund does not expire.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, July 12, 2014.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
July 12, 2014

Hi, everybody.  This week, I spent some time in Colorado and Texas, talking with people about what’s going on in their lives.

One of them was Elizabeth Cooper, who’ll be a college junior this fall.  She wrote to tell me something I hear often: how hard it is for middle-class families like hers to afford college.  And she shared something I know many of you feel when you wonder what’s going on in Washington.  She said she feels “not significant enough to be addressed, not poor enough for people to worry [about], and not rich enough to be cared about.”

I ran for President to fight for Americans just like Elizabeth – people who work hard, do everything right, and just want a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their families.

And after the worst economic crisis in generations, our businesses have now created nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  The unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest point since 2008.  By almost every measure, our economy is better off than it was five years ago.

But while we’ve created more jobs at this point of the year than any year since 1999, too many families barely earn what they did in 1999.  It’s harder to pay for college, save, or retire, because people’s wages and incomes have not gone up.  Nearly all the gains of the recovery are going to the very top – and aren’t making a difference in your lives.

And I believe America does better when the middle class does better.  And I’ve laid out an opportunity agenda to create jobs, train workers, educate our kids, and make sure hard work actually pays off.

These are the things we should be doing to grow the middle class and help folks work their way into the middle class.  And it’s pretty uncontroversial stuff. I hope we can work together on it.  And I’m always willing to compromise if folks have other ideas or if it advances generally the interests of working Americans.

But so far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked every serious idea to strengthen the middle class.  Lifting the minimum wage, fair pay, student loan reform – they’ve said no to all of it.  And that’s when I’ve acted this year to help working Americans on my own– when Congress won’t act.

I’ve taken actions to attract new jobs, lift workers’ wages, help students pay off their loans, and more.  And the Republican plan right now is not to do some of this work with me – instead, it’s to sue me.  That’s actually what they’re spending their time on.  It’s a political stunt that’s going to waste months of America’s time.  And by the way, they’re going to pay for it using your hard-earned tax dollars.

I have a better idea: do something, Congress.  Do anything to help working Americans.  Join the rest of the country. Join me, I’m looking forward to working with you.

You know, on Tuesday, I met with Carolyn Reed and her husband David, who own six Silver Mine Sub shops in Colorado.  Two days later, they announced they’re giving their hourly employees a raise to ten dollars and ten cents an hour.

They’re not waiting for Congress.  Carolyn said, “We are happy to be a part of what I hope will be a growing voluntary trend in increased wages.”

Carolyn and Americans like her all across the country are happy to do their part.  Congress now needs to step up and do its part.  And next week, I’ll travel to a couple of job sites to talk about how Democrats and Republicans can work together to grow the economy and protect nearly 700,000 jobs by passing a highway bill by the end of the summer.

I’m here because hardworking Americans like Elizabeth and Carolyn.  That’s something I’ll never forget – it’s something I’ll never stop fighting for.  Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Full Text Obama Presidency July 10, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy in Austin, Texas

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy — Austin, TX

Source: WH, 7-10-14 

Watch the Video

Paramount Theatre
Austin, Texas

12:48 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Austin!  (Applause.)  Hey!  Hello, Austin!  (Applause.)  All right, everybody have a seat, have a seat.

It’s good to be in Austin, Texas.  (Applause.)  Can everybody please give Kinsey a big round of applause for the great introduction?  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s because I love you.  (Applause.)  Everybody knows I love Austin, Texas.  (Applause.)  Every time I come here I tell you how much I love you.  I love Austin.  I love the people.  I love the barbecue — which I will get right after this.  (Laughter.)  I like the music.  (Applause.)  I’ve got good memories here, I’ve got good friends.

I was telling somebody the last time I walked a real walk where I was kind of left alone was in Austin, Texas.  (Applause.) Right before the debate here during the primary in 2007?  2008?  It must have been 2008.  And I was walking along the river and nobody noticed me, and I felt great.  (Laughter.)  And then on the way back somebody did notice me and Secret Service started coming around and — (laughter) — but that first walk was really good.  So let’s face it, I just love Austin.  (Applause.)  Love the people of Austin.

I want to thank a proud Texan, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, for being here today.  We appreciate her.  (Applause.)

It is great to play at the Paramount.  I think I finally made it.  I finally arrived.  (Applause.)  I’ve enjoyed the last couple of days, just getting out of Washington.  And we started in Colorado, in Denver, and then went to Dallas and then came down here.  And at each stop I’ve been able to just meet people and talk about people’s lives — their hopes, their dreams.

I just had some coffee, as Kinsey may have mentioned, at the Magnolia Café, which is very nice.  (Applause.)  It was fun, too, because I had a chance to — there were a bunch of folks there and some EMT folks were there on their break after the shift, and there were a group of high school kids who were getting together — they were about to go on a two-weeklong service trip to Peru  — which, by the way, reminds you, you should be optimistic whenever you meet young people because they’re full of energy and idealism.  And so they were going to do this service trip and they were going to go for two days, then, to Machu Picchu — the old Inca ruins in Peru.  And I said, I always wanted to go there. And they said, well, you can come with us if you want.  (Laughter.)  And I said, I’m really tempted, but I think there are some things I’ve got to do.  (Laughter.)

But I got them — in exchange for a selfie with them, they promised that they would send me a picture of them when they get there.  So I’m going to hold them to it.  We got their email and if I don’t get it I’ll be upset.  (Laughter.)

Anyway, so I was talking to Kinsey because she wrote me a letter and I wanted to reply in person.  Because, as some of you may know, every day, we get tens of thousands of letters or correspondence, emails at the White House.  And ever since the first day I was in office, what I’ve asked our Correspondence Office to do is to select 10 of them for me to read every night. And in these letters, people tell me their stories.  They talk about losing a job, or finding a job.  They talk about trying to finance a college education.  They talk about challenges because maybe they’re the children of immigrants and they’re worried about their status.  They talk about the hardships they’re going through, successes they’ve had, things they hope for, things that they’re afraid of when it comes to the future and their lives.

Sometimes people say thank you for something I’ve done or a position I’ve taken, and some people say, “You’re an idiot.”  (Laughter.)  And that’s how I know that I’m getting a good representative sampling because — (laughter) — half the letters are less than impressed with me.

So Kinsey wrote me to tell me about her family.  Her mom was a preschool teacher, her dad was an engineer.  Together, obviously, they worked really hard, raised a family.  They were responsible, did all the right things, were able to put their kids through college.  Then they lost their jobs.  And because they lost their jobs as mid-career persons, a lot of their resumes didn’t get answered.  And their savings started to dwindle.  And Kinsey works to pay for school, but it’s not enough.

And she told me that she’s always been passionate about politics and the issues of the day, but after last year’s government shutdown, all this stuff that’s happened with her family, it doesn’t seem like anybody in Washington is thinking about them.  She wrote, “I became a disgruntled citizen.  I felt as if my government, my beloved government that’s supposed to look out for the needs of all Americans had failed me.  My parents have always supported my siblings and me,” she wrote, “now it’s my turn to help them.  I want to be involved.  President Obama, what can I do?”

So I wanted to meet with Kinsey to let her know that I had heard her, that I listened to what was happening with her family, and I was thinking about her parents and I was thinking about her and her sisters.  And I’m here today because of Kinsey.  And I’m here today because of every American who is working their tail off and does everything right and who believes in the American Dream and just wants a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their families.

And you and folks like Kinsey are the reason I ran for President in the first place — (applause) — because your lives are the lives that I lived.  When I listen to Kinsey I think about me and Michelle trying to finance our college education.  When I think about somebody who didn’t have health care, I think about my mom when she had cancer that would ultimately end her life at about the age I am now.  When I think about equal pay, I think about my grandmother working her way up at a bank with nothing but a high school education and becoming the vice president of the bank, but always being kind of passed over for the next stage by men who were less qualified than she was.

So the stories that I hear in these letters, they’re my story, and they’re Michelle’s story, and they’re the story that we had before I became senator — worrying about child care, trying to figure out how to have a balanced life so that if Malia or Sasha got sick we could take time off, and how do you manage all that.

So that’s why these letters are so important to me.  And that’s why whenever I’m out of Washington, part of what I want to do is just to remember and to connect with your stories so that you know that what I’m trying to do every single day is based on that experience.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  And when you see the trajectory of Kinsey’s family, in some ways, it’s a little bit a story of what’s happened to America.

The crisis in 2008 hurt us all badly — worse financial crisis since the Great Depression.  But you think about the progress we’ve made.  Today, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  (Applause.)  Our housing is rebounding.  Our auto industry is booming.  Manufacturing is adding more jobs than any time since the 1990s. The unemployment rate is the lowest point it’s been since September of 2008.  (Applause.)  Kinsey’s dad found a new job that he loves in the field he was trained for.  (Applause.)  So a lot of this was because of the resilience and hard work of the American people.  That’s what happens — Americans bounce back.

But some of it had to do with decisions we made to build our economy on a new foundation.  And those decisions are paying off. We’re more energy independent.  For the first time in nearly 20 years, we produce more oil here at home than we buy from abroad. (Applause.)  The world’s largest oil and gas producer isn’t Russia; it’s not Saudi Arabia — it’s the United States of America.  (Applause.)

At the same time, we’ve reduced our total carbon pollution over the past eight years more than any country on Earth.  (Applause.)  We’ve tripled the amount of electricity we generate from wind.  We’ve increased the amount of solar energy we have by 10 times.  We’re creating jobs across the country in clean energy.  (Applause.)

In education, our high school graduation rate is at a record high; the Latino dropout rate has been cut in half since 2000.  (Applause.)  More young people are graduating from college than ever before.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Si se puede!

THE PRESIDENT:  Si se peude.  (Laughter.)

The Affordable Care Act has given millions more families peace of mind.  They won’t go broke just because they get sick.  (Applause.)  Our deficits have been cut by more than half.

We have come farther and recovered faster, thanks to you, than just about any other nation on Earth.  (Applause.)  And so we’ve got a lot to be encouraged by, just as the story of Kinsey’s family makes us feel more encouraged.  For the first time in a decade, business leaders around the world have said the number-one place to invest is not China, it’s the United States of America.  So we’re actually seeing companies bring jobs back. (Applause.)  So there’s no doubt that we are making progress.  By almost every measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office.  (Applause.)

But the fact is we’ve still got a long way to go.  We’ve still got a long way to go, because while we’re creating more jobs faster these first six months of this year than any time since 1999, we know there are still a lot of folks out there who are looking for work or looking for more full-time work or looking for a better-paying job.  Corporate profits are higher than ever.  CEOs make more than ever.  But you’re working harder than ever just to get by and pay the bills.

So, as a whole, the country is doing better.  But the problem is, is that so much of the improved productivity and profits have gone to the folks at the very top, and the average person, their wages and incomes haven’t really gone up at all, and in some cases, haven’t kept up with the rising cost of health care or college or all the basic necessities that people need.

And so, Austin, I’m here to say that this country is not going to succeed if just a few are doing well.  This country succeeds when everybody has got a shot.  (Applause.)  The country does better when the middle class does better, and when there are more ladders of opportunity into the middle class.  (Applause.) That’s the kind of economy that works here in America.  And that’s what’s at stake right now.

Now, that’s why we’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that creates more good jobs and creates more good wages — jobs in American manufacturing, jobs in construction.  We should be rebuilding infrastructure all across America, putting people back to work rebuilding roads and bridges and schools, creating a smart grid to transmit clean energy across the country more efficiently.  (Applause.)

We can create good jobs in American energy — (sneezes) — bless me — and innovation.  (Laughter.)  I’m okay, just haven’t had enough sleep.  (Laughter.)

We’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that trains more workers with the skills to fill the jobs that are being created. I was talking to some folks from a community college before I came out here.  We’ve learned that if we reach out to businesses and help them design the training programs in the community colleges, then when somebody finishes that training, they know they can get a job right away.  (Applause.)

We’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that guarantees every child a world-class education from the time that they are three until the time that they graduate from college.

We’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that makes sure your hard work pays off with higher wages and equal pay for equal work, and workplace flexibility, and the overtime pay you’ve earned.  (Applause.)

We’re fighting for opportunity for all and the idea that no matter who you are and what you look like and where you come from and who you love, if you work hard in America, if you work hard in Austin, if you work hard in Texas, you can make it here.  (Applause.)  You can make it.  (Applause.)

So that’s what we’re working for.  And the good news is, is that the things that we need to do are well within our capabilities, our grasp.  We know we can — we know how to build roads.  We know how to put people back to work on infrastructure. We know that if we invest in early childhood education, every dollar we put in, we get seven dollars back, and fewer dropouts and fewer teen pregnancies, and fewer folks going into the criminal justice system.  (Applause.)

We know that if we do some basic things, if we make some basic changes, we’ll see more jobs, faster economic growth, lift more incomes, strengthen the middle class.  They are common-sense things.  They’re not that radical.  We know it’s what we should be doing.  And what drives me nuts — and I know drives you nuts — is Washington isn’t doing it.  (Applause.)

And let me be clear about why Washington is broken, because sometimes everybody says, well, you know what, all politicians are the same, he parties — the Democrats, Republicans, it doesn’t matter.  Look, Democrats are not perfect, I promise you. I know a lot of them.  (Laughter.)  And, yes, every member of Congress, they’re thinking about, I’d like to be reelected and I’d like to keep my job.  That’s human nature.  We all understand that.  But let me be clear.  On the common-sense agenda that would help middle-class families, the overwhelming number of Democrats are in favor of these things.

They’re in favor of minimum wage.  They’re in favor of equal pay.  (Applause.)  They’re in favor of extending unemployment benefits.  They’re in favor of infrastructure.  They’re in favor of investing in research and development.  They’re in favor of making college more affordable.  They’ve got specific proposals. They’re willing to compromise.  They’re prepared to go forward.

So when folks say they’re frustrated with Congress, let’s be clear about what the problem is.  (Applause.)  I’m just telling the truth now.  I don’t have to run for office again, so I can just let her rip.  (Applause.)  And I want to assure you, I’m really not that partisan of a guy.  My favorite President is the first Republican President, a guy named Abraham Lincoln.  You look at our history, and we had great Republican Presidents who  — like Teddy Roosevelt started the National Park System, and Dwight Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System, and Richard Nixon started the EPA.

The statement I’m making is not a partisan statement, it is a statement of fact.  (Applause.)  So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every serious idea to strengthen the middle class.  They have said no –

AUDIENCE:  Booo!

THE PRESIDENT:  Don’t boo now, because what I want you to do is vote.  (Applause.)

They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage.  They’ve said no to fair pay.  They said no to unemployment insurance for hardworking folks like Kinsey’s parents who have paid taxes all their lives and never depended on anything and just needed a little help to get over a hump.  They said no to fixing our broken immigration system that we know would strengthen our borders and our businesses and help families.  (Applause.)

Instead of investing in education that helps working families, they voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.  Instead of creating jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our ports that help every business, they’ve decided to protect tax loopholes for companies that are shifting jobs overseas and profits overseas.

The best thing you can say about this Congress — the Republicans in Congress, and particularly the House of Representatives — the best you can say for them this year is that so far they have not shut down the government — (laughter) — or threatened to have America welch on our obligations and ruin our credit rating.  That’s the best you can say.  But of course, it’s only July — (laughter) — so who knows what they may cook up in the next few months.

So even as they’re blocking policies that would help middle-class families, they keep on offering these theories of the economy that have failed over and over again.  They say, well, if we give more tax breaks to folks at the top that’s going to be good.  If we make fewer investments in things like education, everything will work out.  If we loosen the rules for big banks and credit card companies and polluters and insurers, somehow that’s going to make the economy better.  If we shrink the safety net and cut Medicaid and cut food stamps, and make sure that folks who are vulnerable and trying to get back on their suffer more hardship, somehow that’s going to improve the economy.

Now, they believe these things — sincerely, I assume — that if they — if we do these things, if we just take care of folks at the top, or at least if we don’t empower our government to be able to help anybody, that somehow jobs and prosperity will trickle down and we’ll all be better off.

And that may work just fine for folks at the top.  It worked fine for me.  I don’t need government.  (Laughter.)  Michelle and I now are in a position where we can pretty much finance Malia and Sasha’s college education.  But I remember when Michelle’s parents couldn’t, they needed help.  And I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe in pulling up the ladder once I’m up.  I believe in extending it down and making sure that everybody has a chance to climb up.  (Applause.)

The status quo certainly works for the special interests in Washington who like things just as they are.  They’ll be fine whether Congress ever passes a bill again or not.  But it doesn’t help you.  It doesn’t help your neighbors.  It doesn’t help your friends.  It doesn’t help your communities.

And what it does, is it just feeds people’s cynicism about Washington.  It just makes people think, well, nothing can happen, and people start feeling hopeless.  And we have to understand, in the face of all evidence to the contrary in Washington, we can do better than we’re doing right now.  (Applause.)  We can do better than what we’re doing right now.

We know from our history, our economy does not grow from the top down, it grows from the middle up.  It grows from a rising, thriving middle class.  It grows when we got ladders of opportunity for everybody, and every young person in America is feeling hopeful and has a chance to do what they can with the God-given talents that they have.  That’s what we’re fighting for.  That is what you should be fighting for.  (Applause.)

And I will always look — I’ll always look for ways to get Republicans and Democrats together in this effort.  But I’m not  — I can’t stand by with partisan gridlock that’s the result of cynical political games that threaten the hard work of millions of Americans.  I’m not just going to stand by and say, okay, that’s — I guess that’s the way it is.  Whenever and wherever I have the power, the legal authority to help families like yours, even if Congress is not doing anything, I will take that opportunity.  I will try to make something happen.  (Applause.)
And that’s the reason — that’s the reason why my administration has taken more than 40 different actions just this year to help working Americans — because Congress won’t.

Congress won’t act to make sure a woman gets equal pay for equal work.  So I made sure more women have the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace — because I think when women succeed America succeeds.   So we went ahead and did that.  (Applause.)

Congress won’t act to create jobs in manufacturing or construction.  Well, I went ahead and speeded up permits for big projects.  We launched a new hub to attract more high-tech manufacturing jobs to America.  I want to make sure the next revolution in manufacturing is right here in America; it’s an American revolution, not a German or a Chinese revolution.  I want it happening right here in Austin, Texas.  (Applause.)

Congress so far hasn’t acted to help more young people manage their student loan debt.  So I acted with my lawful authority to give nearly 5 million Americans the chance to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income so they can manage it better, so that if they go into teaching, or they go into social work, or they’re doing something at a non-for-profit, that they’re not encumbered by mountains of debt.  I don’t want our future leaders saddled with debt before they start out in life.  (Applause.)

And Republicans in Congress so far have refused to raise workers’ wages with a higher minimum wage.  So I acted to require that federal contractors pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour — (applause) — which would give hundreds of thousands of workers a raise.  I asked business owners and governors and mayors and state legislators — anybody I could work with — do what you can on your own, I told them.

Since the first time I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, Congress hasn’t done anything, but 13 states have gone ahead and raised theirs.  (Applause.)  And, by the way — this is important to remember just because folks are always trying to run the okey doke on you — (laughter) — the states that have increased their minimum wages this year have seen higher job growth than the states that have not increased their minimum wage.  (Applause.)  And more and more business owners are choosing to lift the wages for their workers because they understand that it’s going to be good to have productive workers, loyal workers, invested workers.

Just yesterday, before I came down to Texas, when I was in Denver, I met with Carolyn Reed.  She owns six Silver Mine sub shops.  She started her own business.  She was working at UPS and decided she wanted to be a business owner, got her first franchise.  Her and her husband mortgaged their house.  Eventually, they got an SBA loan.  Now, she’s got six stores.  A wonderful woman.  And today, she decided to raise her hourly employees’ wages to a minimum of $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)  She just went ahead and did it on her own, because she realized that she’ll have less turnover and she’s going to have more productive workers.

As long as Congress will not increase wages for workers, I will go and talk to every business in America if I have to.  (Applause.)  There’s no denying a simple truth:  America deserves a raise, and if you work full-time in this country, you shouldn’t live in poverty.  That’s something that we all believe. (Applause.)

Now, here’s where it gets interesting.  There are a number of Republicans, including a number in the Texas delegation, who are mad at me for taking these actions.  They actually plan to sue me.  (Laughter.)  Now, I don’t know which things they find most offensive — me helping to create jobs, or me raising wages, or me easing the student loan burdens, or me making sure women can find out whether they’re getting paid the same as men for doing the same job.  I don’t know which of these actions really bug them.  (Laughter.)

The truth is, even with all the actions I’ve taken this year, I’m issuing executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years.  So it’s not clear how it is that Republicans didn’t seem to mind when President Bush took more executive actions than I did.  (Applause.)  Maybe it’s just me they don’t like.  I don’t know.  Maybe there’s some principle out there that I haven’t discerned, that I haven’t figure out.  (Laughter.)  You hear some of them — “sue him,” “impeach him.”  Really?  (Laughter.)  Really?  For what?  (Applause.)  You’re going to sue me for doing my job?  Okay.  (Applause.)

I mean, think about that.  You’re going to use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job — (laughter) — while you don’t do your job.  (Applause.)

There’s a great movie called “The Departed” — a little violent for kids.  But there’s a scene in the movie where Mark Wahlberg — they’re on a stakeout and somehow the guy loses the guy that they’re tracking.   And Wahlberg is all upset and yelling at the guy.  And the guy looks up and he says, “Well, who are you?”  And Wahlberg says, “I’m the guy doing my job.  You must be the other guy.”  (Laughter and applause.)  Sometimes, I feel like saying to these guys, I’m the guy doing my job, you must be the other guy.  (Applause.)

So rather than wage another political stunt that wastes time, wastes taxpayers’ money, I’ve got a better idea:  Do something.  (Applause.)  If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, let’s team up.  Let’s pass some bills.  Let’s help America together.  (Applause.)

It is lonely, me just doing stuff.  I’d love if the Republicans did stuff, too.  (Laughter.)  On immigration issues, we’ve got — and to their credit, there are some Republicans in the Senate who actually worked with Democrats, passed a bill, would strengthen the borders, would help make the system more fair and more just.  But the House Republicans, they haven’t even called the bill.  They won’t even take a vote on the bill.  They don’t have enough energy or organization or I don’t know what to just even vote no on the bill.  (Laughter.)  And then they’re made at me for trying to do some things to make the immigration system work better.  So it doesn’t make sense.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, what are you yelling about now?  Sit down, guys.  I’m almost done.  Come on, sit down.  I’ll talk to you afterwards, I promise.  I’ll bring you back.  I’m wrapping things up here.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I understand.  See, everybody is going to start — I’m on your side, man.  Sit down, guys, we’ll talk about it later, I promise.

So, look, here’s what we could do.  We could do so much more — you don’t have to escort them out.  They’ll sit down.  I promise, I’ll talk to you afterwards.

We could do so much more if Republicans in Congress would focus less on stacking the deck for those on the top and focus more on creating opportunity for everybody.  And I want to work with them.  I don’t expect them to agree with me on everything, but at least agree with me on the things that you used to say you were for before I was for them.  (Applause.)

You used to be for building roads and infrastructure.  Nothing has changed.  Let’s go ahead and do it.  (Applause.)  Ronald Reagan passed immigration reform, and you love Ronald Reagan.  Let’s go ahead and do it.  (Applause.)

I mean, what changed?  I’m just saying.  (Laughter.)  That’s what made our country great, a sense of common purpose, a sense we’re all in it together as one nation, as one people.  We can debate the issues, we can have our differences, but let’s do something.  (Applause.)  Let’s rally around an economic patriotism that says, instead of giving more tax breaks to millionaires, let’s give tax breaks to working families to help pay for child care or college.

Instead of protecting tax loopholes that let corporations keep their profits overseas,  let’s put some of that money to work right here in the United States rebuilding America.  (Applause.)  We can rebuild our airports, create the next generation of good manufacturing jobs, make sure those are made in America.

Let’s rally around a patriotism that says we’re stronger as a nation when we cultivate the ingenuity and talent of every American, and give every 4-year-old in America access to high-quality education — good-quality preschool.  (Applause.)  Let’s redesign our high schools to make them more relevant to the 21st century economy.  Let’s make college more affordable.  Let’s  make sure every worker, if you lose your job, you can get a good job training that gives you an even better job.  (Applause.)

Let’s embrace the patriotism that says it’s a good thing when our fellow citizens have health care.  It’s not a bad thing. (Applause.)  That’s not a bad thing.  It’s a good thing when women earn what men do for the same work.  That’s an all-American principle.  (Applause.)  Everybody has got a mom out there or a wife out there or a daughter out there.  They don’t want them to not get treated fairly.  Why would you be against that?

It’s a good thing when parents can take a day off to care for a sick child without losing their job or losing pay and they can’t pay their bills at the end of the month.  It’s a good thing when nobody who works full-time is living in poverty.  That is not radical.  It’s not un-American.  It’s not socialist.  That’s how we built this country.  It’s what America is all about, us working together.  (Applause.)

So let me just wrap up by saying this:  The hardest thing to change in politics is a stubborn status quo.  Our democracy is designed where folks who have power, who have clout — they can block stuff, they can keep things as they are.  It’s hard.  It’s even harder when Washington seems focused on everything but your concerns, Kinsey’s concerns.

There are plenty of people who count on you getting cynical and count on you not getting involved so that you don’t vote, so you give up.  And you can’t give into that.  America is making progress, despite what the cynics say.  (Applause.)  Despite unyielding opposition and a Congress that can’t seem to do anything, there are workers with jobs who didn’t have them before; there are families with health insurance who didn’t have them before; there are students in college who couldn’t afford it before; there are troops who served tour after tour who are home with their families today.  (Applause.)

Cynicism is popular.  Cynicism is popular these days.  It’s what passes off as wisdom.  But cynics didn’t put a man on the moon.  Cynics never won a war.  Cynics didn’t cure a disease, or start a business, or feed a young mind.  Cynicism didn’t bring about the right for women to vote, or the right for African Americans to be full citizens.  Cynicism is a choice.

Hope is a better choice.  Hope is what gave young soldiers the courage to storm a beach.  Hope is what gave young people the strength to march for women’s rights and civil rights and voting rights and gay rights and immigrant rights.  (Applause.)

Hope is what compelled Kinsey to sit down and pick up a pen, and ask “what can I do,” and actually think maybe the President might read that story and it might make a difference.  (Applause.)  And her voice rang out here in the Paramount Theatre.  And it’s her voice and your voice that’s going to change this country.  That’s how we’re going to make sure that we remain the greatest nation on Earth — not by asking what we can do for ourselves, but what we can do for each other and what we can do for our country.

And so, as President, I’m going to keep a promise that I made when I first ran:  Every day, I will keep asking the same question, and that is, how can I help you?  And I’ll keep treating your cares and your concerns as my own.  And I will keep fighting to restore the American Dream for everybody who’s willing to work for it.

And I am going to need you to be right there with me.  (Applause.)  Do not get cynical.  Hope is the better choice.

Thank you, Texas.  Thank you, Austin.  God bless you.  (Applause.)

END
1:28 P.M. CDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 9, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy in Denver, Colorado

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy, Denver, CO

Source: WH, 7-9-14

Cheesman Park
Denver, Colorado

10:27 A.M. MDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Hello, Denver!

AUDIENCE:  Hello!

THE PRESIDENT:  Everybody have a seat.  So I think we should just stay here all afternoon and have a picnic.  (Applause.)  This is really nice around here.  Wow!  What a gorgeous day.

Can everybody please give Alex a big round of applause for that great introduction?  (Applause.)  It is so good to be back in Denver.  It is great to be back in Colorado.  As all of you know, I spent a lot of time here in my last campaign.  I have been itching to get back.

I got to have dinner last night with Alex and four other Coloradans — Elizabeth Cooper, Leslie Gresham, Carolyn Reed and her husband David — at the Wazee Supper Club.  (Applause.)  It was tasty.  That was some good pizza.  (Laughter.)  And then I walked down the block to shoot some pool with Governor Hickenlooper at his old bar, the Wynkoop Brewing Company.  You should not ask him who won.  (Laughter.)  No, no, really, don’t ask Governor Hickenlooper who won at pool.  (Laughter.)  And it’s a great time to be in this beautiful park with my friend, Ken Salazar — (applause) — who I love and I haven’t seen in a while.  There he is right there.  (Applause.)  As well as your Congressman, Ed Perlmutter.  Yay, Ed.  (Applause.)

So let me tell you why I’m here.  Every day, we get thousands of letters and emails at the White House.  I think it’s something like 40,000 a day of some sort of correspondence.  And every night, our Correspondence Office selects 10 letters for me to read.  And I’ve been doing that since I first came into office.  And it’s one of the most important things I do — it’s right there next to my national security briefing and whatever policy issues that we’re supposed to be working on — because it reminds me of why I ran for office.

And so I have a chance just to hear from people as they tell their stories.  They talk about the hardships that they’re going through; sometimes they talk about a success that they’ve had.  Kids write to me, asking questions about what I’m doing about climate change, or how old is Bo.  (Laughter.)  So people describe to me their fears and their hopes not just for themselves, but also for their children and their grandchildren and for the country.  And sometimes they thank me for taking a position on an issue.  And sometimes they say, how dare you take that position on an issue.  And sometimes people say they’re proud of the work that I’ve done, and sometimes people call me an idiot — or worse than an idiot — which is how I know that I’m getting a good sample.  (Laughter.)

So Alex wrote to tell me that the day after my State of the Union address, her boss gave her a raise to $10.10 an hour.   Alex actually, last night, confessed she actually didn’t watch my State of the Union address.  (Laughter.)  Which, hey, I understand.  (Laughter.)  When I was her age, I’m sure I missed a whole bunch of State of the Union addresses.  But her boss caught it, and he decided, let me make sure I’m paying my employees a fair wage.

Carolyn, from up in Wellington, wrote to say she and David used an SBA loan from the Recovery Act to open the third of their six Silver Mine Subs shops.  (Applause.)  Oh, you know Silver Mine?  All right.  Everybody is happy about that.  It was a wonderful story because both her and her husband were Teamsters.  See, she worked at UPS, and he worked for Bud.  And they just knew that they wanted to start something of their own.  And she described to us last night what it was like to take the risk to mortgage the house and make a business for herself, and then now to have a hundred employees and to be giving those folks an opportunity.  They’re hiring, by the way — (laughter) — in case people are interested.

Leslie, from Parker, wrote to say she’d been teaching preschool for 26 years and was an Early Childhood education — Educator of the Year, just a wonderful teacher.  But she described the difference she could see in children who had that early exposure to the kind of classroom education that she’s providing.

And Elizabeth, who’s going to be a junior this fall at the University of Northern Colorado, wrote to tell me how hard it is for middle-class families like hers to afford college.  And she shared something I know many of you feel when you wonder what the heck is going on in Washington.  She wrote she feels “not significant enough to be addressed, not poor enough for people to worry about, and not rich enough to be cared about.”  That’s what she wrote.

So part of the reason I wanted to have dinner with these folks is because they reminded me of why I ran for office and what I’m supposed to be doing every single day.  And the reason I’m here today is very simple:  I’m here because of Elizabeth, and Alex, and Carolyn, and Leslie.  And I’m here for every American who works their tail off and does everything right and who believes in the American Dream — (applause) — and asks for nothing but a chance at a decent life for themselves and their families.  That’s why I’m here.  (Applause.)  And to tell all of you that I hear you.

I mean, sometimes it’s as simple as that — that I am listening and paying attention, partly because when I listen to Alex or I listen to Carolyn or I listen to any of the folks that I met with, I see myself in them.  Because I remember my first minimum wage job — at Baskin Robbins, by the way — (laughter) — I had to wear a cap and an apron — and how like a little raise would have really helped.  I think about what it was like for me to finance college.  I think about childcare costs when Michelle and I were first starting out with Malia and Sasha.  Your stories are ours.  You’re why I ran.

And so what I want to make sure of is, is that as screwed up sometimes as Washington gets, that everybody here understands that there’s progress to be made, and that there’s somebody out there who’s fighting for them, even if it sometimes feels like the system is rigged against them.

The other thing I want to make sure people understand is, is that we are making progress, as bad as the news looks, if all you were doing was watching cable TV all day long.  Yes, the crisis that hit towards the end of my first campaign hit us all really badly; 2007, 2008, that was rough.  But today, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  (Applause.)  Construction and housing are rebounding.  Our auto industry is booming.  Manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the ‘90s.  The unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest point since September of 2008 — the fastest one-year drop in nearly 30 years.  (Applause.)

And, look, most of this is attributable to you, the American people — starting businesses, and paying down debt, and tightening belts, and doing all kinds of stuff just to make sure that you kept on and were able to look after your families.  But the decisions we made early on not only stopped the slide, but also built a new foundation for our economy, and they’re paying off now.

We’re more energy independent.  We’ve tripled the electricity we generate from the wind, ten times from the sun, creating jobs across the country — (applause) — while producing more oil at home than we buy abroad for the first time in nearly 20 years.  Our energy sector is booming.  (Applause.)  And, by the way, we’re doing that while reducing our carbon emissions more than any other country over the last five years.  So we’re making progress on climate change as well.  (Applause.)

In education — our high school graduation rate is at a record high.  (Applause.)  The Latino dropout rate has dropped in half.  More young people are graduating from college than ever before.  (Applause.)  We’ve made our tax code fairer.  We cut our deficits by more than half.  We’ve given millions more Americans the security of health care that means you won’t go broke just because you get sick.  (Applause.)

So thanks to the hard work of you — and some actually pretty smart policies by us — (laughter) — we have come farther and recovered faster than almost any other advanced nation on Earth.  More companies are choosing to bring back jobs from overseas.  Thanks to our leadership in technology and innovation, for the first time in more than a decade, business leaders around the world have declared China is not number one when it comes to the place to invest, the United States is.  And our lead is growing.  (Applause.)

So despite what you may hear, there is no doubt we are making progress.  By almost every measure, we are better off than when I took office — by almost every measure.  (Applause.)  But here’s the thing — and this is why I’ve got to get out more and have lunch with — and pizza with my friends — because the fact is, we know we’ve still got a long way to go.

Here’s the challenge:  We’ve created more jobs at this point of the year than any year since 1999.  More jobs have been created in the first half of this year than we have since the ‘90s.  But many families barely earn what they did in the ‘90s.  Corporate profits are higher than ever.  CEOs make more than ever.  But most people are working harder than ever just to get by.  Wages, incomes have flat-lined.  They have not gone up.

So as a whole, the country is doing better, but too much improvement goes to the folks at the top and not enough of it is making a difference in the lives of ordinary Americans.  (Applause.)  And that’s what we should be spending all our time talking about, how do we reverse some of those trends.  That’s what I came to Denver to talk about, that issue — how do we make sure if you work hard, do the right thing you can get ahead.  Washington may chase whatever political story they think will get attention, but to me the only story that matters is your story.  And I am here to say that this country does not succeed when just a few at the top do well and everybody else is treading water.  America does better when the middle class does better, when folks who work hard can afford to buy what they make and provide for our families and leave something better for our kids.  (Applause.)

So this is what I’m spending time on.  This is what I’m fighting for.  This is my opportunity agenda.  I’m focused on how do we create good jobs that pay good wages — jobs in American manufacturing and construction, in American energy and innovation.

I’m fighting for an opportunity agenda that trains more workers with the skills to fill those jobs at community colleges and in apprenticeships and internships that give young people a solid start.

We’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that guarantees every child a world-class education, from high-quality pre-K, to a redesigned high school, to colleges and a rewarding career that’s affordable and you’re not loaded up with debt.  (Applause.)

We’re fighting to make sure your hard work pays off with higher wages that you can live on and savings you can retire on — workplace flexibility, so if your kids get sick or you’ve got an ailing parent you’re not looking at losing your job; overtime pay that you’ve earned; affordable health care that’s there when you get sick and you need it most.

We’re fighting for the idea that everybody gets opportunity — no matter what you look like, or where you come from, or who you love, or how you grew up, or what your last name is.  America is a place where you should be able to make it if you try.  (Applause.)

And the good news is we actually know how to do some of these things.  If we make just some modest changes — we don’t need revolutionary changes.  If we made some modest changes, made some sensible decisions we’d create more jobs, we’d lift more income, we’d strengthen the middle class.  We wouldn’t solve every problem overnight, but we’d be making more progress even than we’re already making.  That’s what we should be doing.  And of course, that’s what drives you nuts about Washington, because that’s not what it’s doing.  (Laughter.)

After everything we’ve been through together, you’d think that these challenges would absorb the attention of folks in Washington.  But these days, basic common-sense ideas cannot get through Congress.  Basic stuff — stuff that used to be uncontroversial.  It used to be that Republicans, Democrats, everybody said, you know what, America, it’s a good thing when we build roads and bridges and a smart grid to transmit energy — all those things are good for business, they’re good for workers, it helps — now they can’t seem to pass a bill, just to fund basic projects that we know are good for our economy.

We have evidence that early childhood education, every dollar we spend there, you get seven bucks back — (applause) — because kids to better in school, they don’t drop out, they’re less likely to get in trouble.  They’re less likely to go to jail.  They’re more likely to be taxpayers later on.  But you look at Congress — they can’t do it.

Think about it.  So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every serious idea to strengthen the middle class.  They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage.  They said no to fair pay legislation so that women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same work.  They said no to unemployment insurance for Americans who are out there looking for a new job.  I know, because I get letters from them every day — folks who have worked all their lives, paid taxes all their lives.  And now, right when they’re having a tough time because of an unprecedented recession that we just went through, and they need a little help so they don’t lose their house or they don’t lose their car, suddenly Congress can’t do it.

Congress just said no to fixing our broken immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders and our businesses — despite the fact that everybody from law enforcement to corporations to evangelicals — there’s a coalition around immigration reform that’s unprecedented.  These guys still can’t get their act together.

Rather than invest in education that lets working families get ahead, they voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.  Rather than invest in roads and bridges to create construction jobs and help our businesses succeed, they’ve chosen to preserve and protect tax loopholes for companies that shift their profits overseas that don’t do anybody any good.

Republicans in Congress right now have shown over and over they’ll do anything to rig the system for those at the top or to try to score political points on me, even if the obstruction keeps the system rigged against the middle class.  The best thing you can say for them this year is they haven’t yet shut down the government or threatened to go deadbeat on America’s obligations.  But it is still early, so — (applause.)

Now, I always have to say this:  I don’t think that they’re all terrible people.  I think they love their families.  They love the country.  They’ve got a different economic theory.  Maybe they don’t know what ordinary folks are going through.  But maybe it’s not that they don’t get it.  Maybe it’s just because the theory they have is, is that if the economy is doing good for folks at the very top, then it’s going to help everybody else — despite the fact that we have evidence over and over again that those theories have failed the middle class.

More tax breaks to those at the top.  Fewer investments in things like education.  Looser rules for big banks, or credit card companies, or polluters, or insurers — they believe all that stuff really makes the economy hum and prosperity trickles down.

Just because they believe it doesn’t mean the rest of us believe it — because we know from our history it doesn’t work.  Our economy grows best from the middle out, when everybody has a shot, everybody is doing well.   (Applause.)  And with a slight change of priorities, we could do it.  We could help a lot more Americans get ahead.  And folks at the top will do well too.  (Applause.)  Everybody will do better.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, Republicans used to understand this.  This is not like a crazy Democratic, socialist idea.  (Laughter.)  My favorite President is a Republican:  Abraham Lincoln, who helped build a Transcontinental Railroad and invested in the Homestead Act that helped people get land; and invested in our first major federal scientific research; understood that you make these common investments — land-lease colleges — or land-grant colleges, that all these things would end up giving people tools to improve themselves and thereby improve the country.  And we couldn’t all do it alone.  We had to do it with each other.

This wasn’t just a Democratic idea.  Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System.  Teddy Roosevelt started our national parks.  These are basic ideas that made America work.  They’re not partisan.  So I’m going to keep on working with Republicans and Democrats to try to get things moving over there.

In the meantime, I’m not going to stand by while partisan gridlock or political games threaten the hard work of millions of Americans.  (Applause.)  So wherever and whenever I can go ahead and help families like yours, I’ve got the legal authority to do it, I’m going to do it.  (Applause.)  I’m not going to wait.  Not going to wait.  (Applause.)

That’s why I’ve taken a bunch of actions this year just to help working Americans while still reaching out to Congress.  What I’ve said to them is, if you’re not acting, I’m going to go ahead and do what I can.

So if Congress won’t act to make sure women have the ability to get equal pay for equal work, I made sure that women had the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace.  (Applause.)  I think when women succeed, America succeeds.  We’re going to keep on investing in that.  (Applause.)
If Congress won’t act to create jobs in construction or manufacturing, we’re going to go ahead and speed up permits for big projects that are already funded, and launch new hubs to attract more high-tech manufacturing jobs — because I want to make sure the next revolution in manufacturing and technology is an American revolution, right here in the United States.  I don’t want it going to France or Germany or China.  I want it to happen here.  (Applause.)

If Congress won’t act to help more young people manage their student loan debt — and Republicans voted against a bill that would have allowed young people to refinance at lower rates — I went ahead and gave nearly 5 million Americans the opportunity to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income.  (Applause.)  I don’t want them saddled with debt before they start out in life.  I want to make sure that they’re able to pursue a career in teaching or social work, or work in a non-for- profit, and they can still afford it.  (Applause.)

Republicans so far refuse to raise workers’ wages.  I did what I could — it turns out I’m a pretty big employer.  (Laughter.)  So I said any federal worker — anybody who works for federal contractors, they’re going to have to pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)   And I asked business owners and governors and mayors and state legislators to do what they could on their own.  (Applause.)

And, by at way, since I first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, 13 states have gone ahead and raised theirs — and those states have seen higher job growth than the states that haven’t raised their minimum wage.  (Applause.)  And more and more business owners are choosing to lift wages for workers like Alex.  America needs a raise.  And, by the way, when America needs a raise — I was telling Carolyn, our sub owner, last night, and she made the simple point, look, I want tax cuts and raises for my workers and for others who don’t have a lot because that means they’re going to buy more sandwiches.  I can already afford a sub sandwich.  If you give me a tax cut I’m not going to spend — I’m not going to buy more sub sandwiches; I can only eat so many.  (Laughter.)  But that’s true about the economy generally.  When you give tax breaks and you give raises, you raise the minimum wage, you give a bigger chance to folks who are climbing the ladder, working hard, don’t have a lot at the end of the month, that money gets churned back into the economy.  And the whole economy does better, including the businesses.

Now, I gather that some of the Republicans in Congress are mad at me for going ahead and doing things.  (Laughter.)  And I don’t know which things they find most offensive, whether it’s creating jobs, or easing student loan burdens, or raising wages, but it’s really bothering them.  They have a plan to sue me.  They have plans to sue me for taking executive actions that are within my authority — while they do nothing.

I have a better idea.  They should do something.  (Applause.)  I will work with them.  Rather than engage in political stunts that waste time and taxpayer money, join me.  Let’s do some things together.  Let’s build some roads.  Let’s give America a raise.  Let’s help families with childcare costs. There are all kinds of things we can do.  Don’t be mad at me for doing something.  How about teaming up with me.  Let’s all do something.  (Applause.)  Let’s all get America working.

We are better than this.  Gosh, doesn’t it get you just frustrated?  (Laughter.)  We could do so much more if Republicans in Congress focused less on protecting the folks who’ve got the lobbyists and all that soft money out there.  Stop worrying about the folks who already got — are doing just fine.  Focus more on stoking opportunity for all people.  Work with me.  That’s the American way.  That’s what makes this country great — a sense of common purpose and patriotism, an economic patriotism that says we fall and we rise as one nation, as one people.

So we can rally America around an economic patriotism that says, don’t give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, let’s give more tax breaks to help working families pay for childcare or college.  (Applause.)

Let’s rally around a patriotism that says, don’t give tax loopholes to corporations shifting jobs overseas, let’s put people back to work here rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our airports, making sure the next generation of manufacturing is made in America.  That’s patriotism.  (Applause.)  That’s patriotism.

Don’t stack the deck in favor of those who’ve already succeeded.  We’re stronger when we’re helping everybody succeed, cultivating every talent of every child — every 4-year-old in America, give them high-quality preschool so they’re safe and taught well while we go to work and redesign our high schools to better prepare our kids for the 21st century.  And tell every American, you know, if your job was stamped “obsolete,” if it was shipped overseas, we’re going to train you for an even better one.

We need an economic patriotism that says it’s a good thing that everybody gets health insurance.  That’s not a bad thing.  (Applause.)  That’s a good thing.  It’s a good thing when women are paid the same as men for doing the same work.  (Applause.)  That’s not un-American.  It’s a good thing when parents have some flexibility when their kids are sick.  It will make the employees more loyal; they’re more productive.  It’s a good thing when nobody who works full-time is living in poverty.  That’s not un-American.  (Applause.)  That’s not radical.  It’s right.  It’s what built this country.

I know that sometimes it must be frustrating watching what’s going on.  I guarantee I get frustrated.  There are some things that I have to mutter under my breath sometimes.  (Laughter.)  And the hardest thing to change in politics is a stubborn status quo.  And it’s harder when Washington seems distracted by everything except the things you care about.  And there’s a cottage industry in Washington that counts on you just being cynical about stuff, so that you don’t vote, you don’t get involved, you get discouraged, you say a plague on both your houses.  But you can’t give into that cynicism.  Do not let them win by you being cynical, because despite everything that’s happened, despite all the obstruction, America is making progress.  (Applause.)

We’re better off now than we were five years ago.  We’re going to be better off five years from now than we are right now.  Despite the unyielding opposition of a few, there are workers who have jobs who didn’t have them before.  There are families who have health insurance who didn’t have it before.  There are students who can afford to go to college who couldn’t afford to go before.  There are troops who are home with their families after serving tour after tour of war.  (Applause.)  Don’t get cynical.  (Applause.)  Don’t do it.

Cynicism is a popular choice these days.  It’s what passes off for wisdom.  (Laughter.)  But cynicism isn’t wise.  And remember that it is a choice.  Cynicism is a choice, and hope is a better choice.  And it’s a choice that I make every time I sit down with these incredible people that I had dinner with last night.  They make me hopeful.

It’s the hope that Alex has when she sits down and she picks up a pen and she writes to the President hoping that the system still works; hoping maybe the letter gets there; hoping that I’ll listen; hoping that even when Washington seems tone deaf, your voice might reach a President, your voice might reach a crowd in a park, your voice might move fellow citizens to change what needs changing.

Every day I receive these thousands of acts of hope from you.  I’m listening.  It’s why I ran for office.  It’s why I’m fighting for you.  I will keep treating your cares and concerns as my own.  I will keep trying to restore the American Dream for everybody who is willing to work for it.

Thank you, Denver.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
10:57 A.M. MDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 3, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy at 1776

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy

Source: WH, 7-3-14

1776
Washington, D.C.

11:57 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  So we’re going into the 4th of July weekend and what more appropriate place to be than 1776.  (Applause.)   This is an incubator for all sorts of tech startups, a lot of them focused on social change issues, on education, on health care.  And so we’ve got a range of entrepreneurs who are trying to figure out how can we do well by doing good, in many cases.

And I just have to say that the young people — and some not so young people — (laughter) — that I spoke to, coming from a wide range of backgrounds — we had former Army Rangers; we had lawyers; we had former HR folks, transportation experts, engineers — all of them had the kind of energy and drive and creativity and innovation that has been the hallmark of the American economy.

And part of the reason I wanted to come here today is to focus on what’s happened in the U.S. economy over the last several months and last several years.  We just got a jobs report today showing that we’ve now seen the fastest job growth in the United States in the first half of the year since 1999.  (Applause.)  So this is also the first time we’ve seen five consecutive months of job growth over 200,000 since 1999.  (Applause.)  And we’ve seen the quickest drop in unemployment in 30 years.

So it gives you a sense that the economy has built momentum, that we are making progress.  We’ve now seen almost 10 million jobs created over the course of the last 52 months.  And it should be a useful reminder to people all across the country that given where we started back in 2008, we have made enormous strides, thanks to the incredible hard work of the American people and American businesses that have been out there competing, getting smarter, getting more effective.  And it’s making a difference all across the country.

Now, what we also know is, as much progress as has been made, there are still folks out there who are struggling.  We still have not seen as much increase in income and wages as we’d like to see.  A lot of folks are still digging themselves out of challenges that arose out of the Great Recession.

Historically, financial crises take a longer time to recover from.  We’ve done better than the vast majority of other countries over the last five years, but that drag has still meant a lot of hardship for a lot of folks.  And so it’s really important for us to understand that we could be making even stronger process, we could be growing even more jobs, we could be creating even more business opportunities for smart, talented folks like these if those of us here in Washington were focused on them, focused on you, the American people, rather than focused on politics.

And I’ve given a number of examples over the last several months of things we know would work if we are investing in rebuilding our infrastructure — that doesn’t just put construction workers back to work, that puts engineers back to work, that puts landscape architects back to work, it puts folks who are manufacturing concrete or steel back to work.  It makes a difference and it has huge ripple effects all across the economy.

If we are serious about increasing the minimum wage, that puts more money in the pockets of people who are most likely to spend it.  They, in turn, are most likely to hire more people because they now have more customers who are frequenting their businesses.  If we are making sure that there’s equal pay for equal work, that’s helping families all across the country.  If we’re focused on making sure that childcare is accessible and affordable and high-quality, that frees up a whole bunch of potential entrepreneurs, as well as people who are just going to work every single day, doing the right thing, being responsible, but often are hampered by difficult situations in terms of trying to manage parenting and families.

And so there are just a series of specific things we can do right now — many of them I’m doing on my own because we have the administrative authority to do it, but some of them we can’t do without Congress.  We can’t fix a broken immigration system that would allow incredibly talented folks who want to start businesses here and create jobs here in the United States, would allow them to stay and make those investments.  That’s something that we need Congress to help us on.  (Applause.)  We’re not going to be able to fund the Highway Trust Fund and to ramp up our investment in infrastructure without acts of Congress.

So my hope is, is the American people look at today’s news and understand that, in fact, we are making strides.  We have not seen more consistent job growth since the ‘90s.  But we can make even more progress if Congress is willing to work with my administration and to set politics aside, at least occasionally — (laughter) — which I know is what the American people are urgently looking for.

It’s a sort of economic patriotism where you say to yourself, how is it that we can start rebuilding this country to make sure that all of the young people who are here but their kids and their grandkids are going to be able to enjoy the same incredible opportunities that this country offers as we have.  That’s our job.  That’s what we should be focused on.  And it’s worth remembering as we go into Independence Day.

Thanks, everybody.  Appreciate it.  Thanks.  (Applause.)

END
12:04 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 1, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy at the Georgetown Waterfront

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy

Source: WH, 7-1-14

Georgetown Waterfront
Washington, D.C.

2:22 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, hello, everybody.  Have a seat, have a seat.  It’s hot.  (Laughter.)  It’s hot out — Anthony, take off your coat, man.  (Laughter.)  It is hot and Team USA takes the pitch in a couple hours, so we’ve got to get down to business.  (Applause.)  We don’t have time for a lot of small talk — am I right, Mr. Mayor?  We’ve got to get going.

Behind me is one of the busiest bridges in Washington.  And, with the 4th of July on Friday — also Malia’s birthday, for those of you who are interested, she will be 16, a little worrisome — I would note that this bridge is named for the man who wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner” –- Francis Scott Key.

Three years ago, I came here to this very spot, to the Key Bridge, to talk about how two of the five major bridges connecting D.C. and Virginia –- including this one -– were rated “structurally deficient.”  And with almost 120,000 vehicles crossing them every day, I said it was important to fix them.

And today, that’s exactly what we’re doing.  So, soon, construction workers will be on the job making the Key Bridge safer for commuters and for families, and even for members of Congress to cross.  (Laughter.)  This is made possible by something called the Highway Trust Fund, which Congress established back in the 1950s, and which helps states repair and rebuild our infrastructure all across the country.  It’s an example of what can happen when Washington just functions the way it was supposed to.

Back then, you had Eisenhower, a Republican President; over time you would have Democratic Presidents, Democratic and Republican members of Congress all recognizing building bridges and roads and levees and ports and airports — that none of that is a partisan issue.  That’s making sure that America continues to progress.
Now, here is the problem.  Here is the reason we’re here in the heat.  If this Congress does not act by the end of the summer, the Highway Trust Fund will run out.  There won’t be any money there.  All told, nearly 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year.  That would be like Congress threatening to lay off the entire population of Denver, or Seattle, or Boston.  That’s a lot of people.  It would be a bad idea.  Right now, there are more than 100,000 active projects across the country where workers are paving roads, and rebuilding bridges, and modernizing our transit systems.  And soon, states may have to choose which projects to continue and which ones to put the brakes on because they’re running out of money.  Some have already done just that, just because they’re worried that Congress will not get its act together in time.

Now, earlier this year, I put forward a plan not just to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, I put forward a plan to rebuild our transportation infrastructure across the country in a responsible way.  And I want to thank Secretary Anthony Foxx, who is here today, for his hard work in putting this plan together.  (Applause.)  Because we are not spending enough on the things that help our economy grow, the things that help businesses move products, the thing that help workers get to the job, the things that help families get home to see their loved ones at night.  We spend significantly less as a portion of our economy than China does, than Germany does, than just about every other advanced country.  They know something that I guess we don’t, which is that’s the path to growth, that’s the path to competitiveness.

So the plan we put together would support millions of jobs.  It would give cities, and states, and private investors the certainty they need to plan ahead.  It would help small businesses ship their goods faster, help parents get home to their kids faster.  And it wouldn’t add to the deficits –- because we’d pay for it in part by closing tax loopholes for companies that are shipping their profits overseas to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  Seems like a sensible thing to do.  (Applause.)

It’s not crazy, it’s not socialism.  (Laughter.)  It’s not the imperial presidency — no laws are broken.  We’re just building roads and bridges like we’ve been doing for the last, I don’t know, 50, 100 years.  But so far, House Republicans have refused to act on this idea.  I haven’t heard a good reason why they haven’t acted — it’s not like they’ve been busy with other stuff.  (Laughter.)  No, seriously.  (Laughter.)  I mean, they’re not doing anything.  Why don’t they do this?

Now, Republican obstruction is not just some abstract political stunt; it has real and direct consequences for middle-class families all across the country.

We went through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we’ve climbed back.  Since then, we’ve created 9.4 million new jobs over the past 51 months.  Corporate profits are up, stock market is up, housing is improving.  (Applause.)  Unemployment is down.  The deficits have been cut in half.  We’re making progress, but we still have a situation where those at the top are doing as well as ever but middle-class families all across the country are still struggling to get by.  There are people who are working hard, they believe in the American Dream — it feels sometimes like the system is rigged against them.

And they have good reason to think that way.  So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every serious idea to strengthen the middle class.  Not ideas that are unique to me, they’re not — this isn’t Obama bridge.  (Laughter.)  It’s Key Bridge.  But the Republicans have said no to raising the minimum wage, they’ve said no to fair pay, they’ve said no to extending unemployment insurance for over 3 million Americans looking for a new job.

And this obstruction keeps the system rigged for those who are doing fine at the top.  It prevents us from helping more middle-class families.  And as long as they insist on taking no action whatsoever that will help anybody, I’m going to keep on taking actions on my own that can help the middle class — like the actions I’ve already taken to speed up construction projects, and attract new manufacturing jobs, and lift workers’ wages, and help students pay off their loans.  (Applause.)

And they criticize me for this.  Boehner sued me for this.  And I told him, I’d rather do things with you, pass some laws, make sure the Highway Trust Fund is funded so we don’t lay off hundreds of thousands of workers.  It’s not that hard.  Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff.  So sue me.  (Laughter.)  As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something.  (Applause.)

And look, I just want to be clear — Republicans in Congress, they’re patriots, they love their country, they love their families.  They just have a flawed theory of the economy that they can’t seem to get past.  They believe that all we should be doing is giving more tax breaks to those at the top, eliminating regulations that stop big banks or polluters from doing what they want, cut the safety net for people trying to work their way into the middle class, and then somehow the economy is going to get stronger and jobs and prosperity trickle down to everybody.  That’s their worldview.  I’m sure they sincerely believe it.  It’s just not accurate.  It does not work.
We know from our history our economy doesn’t grow from the top down; it grows from the middle out.  We do better when you’ve got some construction workers on the job.  They then go to a restaurant and they buy a new car.  That means the workers there start doing better.  Everybody does better.  And we could be doing so much more if Republicans in Congress were less interested in stacking the deck in favor of those at the top or trying to score political points, or purposely trying to gridlock Washington, and just tried to get some things done to grow the economy for everybody.  We could do so much more if we just rallied around an economic patriotism, a sense that our job is to get things done as one nation and as one people.

Economic patriotism would say that instead of protecting corporations that are shipping jobs overseas, let’s make sure they’re paying their fair share of taxes, let’s reward American workers and businesses that hire them.  Let’s put people to work rebuilding America.  Let’s invest in manufacturing, so the next generation of good manufacturing jobs are right here, made in the USA.  (Applause.)  That would be something to celebrate on the 4th of July.  (Applause.)

Economic patriotism says that instead of stacking the deck in the favor of folks just at the top, let’s harness the talents and ingenuity of every American and give every child access to quality education, and make sure that if your job was stamped obsolete or shipped overseas, you’re going to get retrained for an even better job.  (Applause.)

Economic patriotism says that instead of making it tougher for middle-class families to get ahead, let’s reward hard work for every American.  Let’s make sure women earn pay that’s equal to their efforts.  (Applause.)  Let’s make sure families can make ends meet if their child gets sick and they need to take a day off.  Let’s make sure no American who works full-time ever has to live in poverty.  (Applause.)

Let’s tell everybody they’re worth something.  No matter who you are, no matter what you look like, where you come from, who you love, if you work hard, if you’re responsible, you can make it here in America.  That’s what this country was founded on, that idea.  That’s why I ran for this office.  I think sometimes about what we could be accomplishing, what we could have accomplished this past year, what we could have accomplished the year before that.  And typically what gets reported on is just the politics — well, you know, they’re not doing this because they don’t want to give Obama a victory or oh, well, we don’t want to do this right now because maybe the midterm election is coming up and, oh, well, what’s happening with the polls.  People don’t care about that.  People just want to see some results.  And objectively, if you look at the agenda I’m putting forward, the things that we’re trying to get done like just fixing bridges and roads, it really shouldn’t be controversial.  It hasn’t been controversial in the past.

And so part of the reason that I’m going to be spending a lot of time over the next several weeks and months getting out there with ordinary folks is just to report to you it’s not as if I don’t know that you could use some help.  I know.  It’s not as if we don’t have good plans to put more people back to work and raise their incomes and improve the quality of education.  We know how to do it.  That’s not the reason it’s not happening.  It’s not happening because of politics.

And the only folks that can fix that are going to be you — the American people and voters.  Sometimes in our culture right now we just get cynical about stuff and we just assume things can’t change because nothing seems to change in this town.  But that’s not true.  It can change as long as everybody gets activated, as long as people still feel hopeful and we don’t fall prey to cynicism.

And so I just want everybody here to understand that as frustrating as it may be sometimes, as stuck as Congress may be sometimes, if the American people put pressure on this town to actually get something done and everybody is looking at some commonsense agenda items that we should be able to do because Democrats and Republicans were able to do them in the past, we can grow our economy, we can lift people’s incomes, we can make sure that people who are fighting hard can get into the middle class and stay there.  But it’s going to take you.  It’s going to take you.  This is not going to happen on its own.  And I’m confident if that’s what we do, if all of you are fighting alongside me every single day instead of just giving up on this place, then we’re going to make America better than ever.  That’s a promise.

Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  Go Team USA!  Let’s build some bridges!

END
2:37 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 1, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks Before Cabinet Meeting

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President Before Cabinet Meeting

Source: WH, 7-1-14

Cabinet Room

11:04 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  I thought I’d get the Cabinet together this morning because we all know that America will be busy this afternoon.  (Laughter.)  Go, Team USA.

About the halfway point through this year, we can look back and see some enormous progress that we’ve been able to make on the economy.  We continue to create jobs with over 9.4 million created over the last several years.  We’re continuing to see improvement in the housing market.  We’re continuing to see real progress in terms of the energy sectors.  But what we also know is, is that there’s so much more that’s possible.

And part of the reason that I wanted to bring the Cabinet together today is to underscore for them my belief I think shared by most Americans that we can’t wait for Congress to actually get going on issues that are vital to the middle class.

We’ve already seen the power of some of our executive actions in making a real difference for ordinary families — whether it’s on minimum wage for federal workers — or for workers who are with federal contractors; equal pay; and the terrific work that’s being done around climate change so we’re transitioning to a clean-energy economy.

But what I’m going to be urging all of you to do, and what I’m going to be continually pushing throughout this year and for the next couple of years is that if Congress can’t act on core issues that would actually make a difference in helping middle-class families get ahead, then we’re going to have to be creative about how we can make real progress.

Keep in mind that my preference is always going to be to work with Congress and to actually get legislation done.  That’s how we get some more of the permanent fixes.  And as I mentioned yesterday with respect to immigration, whatever we do administratively is not going to be sufficient to solve a broken immigration system.

The same is true when it comes to infrastructure.  We’ll be talking a little bit about how we need to renew the Highway Trust Fund.  But, more importantly, we could potentially put people to work all across the country, rebuilding roads and bridges, putting construction workers back to work.  That could boost our economy enormously.  And now is the time to do it, but that requires congressional action.

And so we’re always going to prefer working on a bipartisan basis to get things done.  That’s what folks expect out of Washington.  They’re not looking for excuses and they’re not looking for a lot of partisan sniping.  But if Congress is unable to do it, then all of our Cabinet members here — and the head of big agencies that touch people’s live in all sorts of ways — and I’m going to be continuing looking for ways in which we can show some real progress.

And the second topic that we’re going to be spending a lot of time talking about is how to do we continue to improve the functioning of government to make it more customer-friendly.  This is something that we’ve been working on since Sylvia was head of OMB.  This is something that Shaun will be prioritizing.  I expect every agency to look and see how can we get more bang for the buck in the agencies that we operate.  And I know that many of you can report some significant progress in reducing paperwork and bureaucracy and red tape for projects and initiatives around the country in education, in energy, in housing and in transportation.  But I think we can do even better.

So I’m looking forward to getting a report from you on the progress that has been made.  And hopefully we can share some ideas to see if we can make even more progress.

The bottom line is this:  I went to Minnesota — many of the press here accompanied me — and had a wonderful conversation with folks around the country who are doing their jobs every single day — raising families, working hard, contributing to their communities.  And their hopes and aspirations are my primary focus and should be the primary focus of this town.  They are extraordinarily cynical about Washington right now, and rightfully so.  They just don’t see any capacity by Congress to do anything.  We’ve seen a Congress that said no to increasing the minimum wage; said no to immigration reform; has said no to equal pay legislation.  The only thing they seem to say yes to, the Republican in the House at least, is more tax breaks for folks at the top.  And as a consequence, the people who sent us here, they just don’t feel as if anybody is fighting for them and working for them.

We’re not always going to be able to get things through Congress, at least this Congress, the way we want to.  But we sure as heck can make sure that the folks back home know that we’re pushing their agenda and that we’re working hard on their behalf and we’re doing every single thing we can do to make a difference in their lives.  So I want to make sure that we emphasize not what we can’t do, but what we can do in the coming months.
Thank you very much, everybody.

END
11:10 A.M. EDT

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