University Musings March 14, 2014: Bachelor’s degree value rises becomes new high school diploma

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Bachelor’s degree value rises becomes new high school diploma

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Two recent surveys one released in the United States the other in Canada indicate that even with recent high unemployment rates for college and university graduates, getting a college degree is definitely worth the cost. In the U.S. the…READ MORE

Political Musings April 19, 2014: Obama and Biden announce 500 million in economic opportunity job training grants

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama and Biden announce 500 million in economic opportunity job training grants

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama with the help of Vice President Joe Biden announced the latest effort in his economy opportunity program a competition for $500 million in grants for job training programs on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at Community College of…READ MORE
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Political Musings April 7, 2014: Senate passes unemployment benefits extension bill 59-38, now moves to House

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Senate passes unemployment benefits extension bill 59-38, now moves to House

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The Senate passed on Monday, April 7, 2014 the full and final vote on the long-term jobless unemployment benefits extension bill with 59 votes for and 38 against with six Republicans joining the Democrats to pass the bill, while…READ MORE

Political Musings March 23, 2014: Obama pushes equal pay for women and raising the minimum wage in weekly address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Political Musings March 22, 2014: Obama promotes economic opportunity for women urges equal pay for equal work

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Believing something needs to be done to ensure equal pay for equal work, President Barack Obama promoted on Thursday, March 20, 2014 women’s economic problems and “a women’s economic agenda that grows our economy for…Continue

Political Musings February 28, 2014: Emotional Obama launches My Brother’s Keeper program to help minority youth

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Emotional Obama launches My Brother’s Keeper program to help minority youth

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama launched the most personal program to date when on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 27, 2014 he announced in the White House’s East Room another part of his economic opportunity program, called “My Brother’s Keeper…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 27, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech Launching My Brother’s Keeper, His New Initiative to Help Young Men of Color

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Launches My Brother’s Keeper, His New Initiative to Help Young Men of Color

Source: WH, 2-27-14

This afternoon, in the East Room of the White House, President Obama delivered remarks at the launch event for My Brother’s Keeper – his new initiative aimed at helping young men and boys of color facing tough odds reach their full potential. The initiative will bring together private philanthropies, businesses, governors, mayors, faith leaders, and nonprofit organizations that are committed to helping them succeed….READ MORE

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an event to highlight "My Brother's Keeper," an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color, in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 27, 2014.President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an event to highlight “My Brother’s Keeper,” an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color, in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 27, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Remarks by the President on “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative

Source: WH, 2-27-14

East Room

3:43 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Well, good afternoon, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Good afternoon.

THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House.  And thank you, Christian, for that outstanding introduction.  And thank you for cheering for the White Sox, which is the right thing to do.  (Laughter.)  Like your parents and your teachers, I could not be prouder of you.  I could not be prouder of the other young men who are here today.  But just so we’re clear — you’re only excused for one day of school.  (Laughter.)  And I’m assuming you’ve got your assignments with you so that you can catch up — perhaps even on the flight back.  (Laughter.)

As Christian mentioned, I first met Christian about a year ago.  I visited the Hyde Park Academy in Chicago, which is only about a mile from my house.  And Christian was part of this program called “Becoming a Man.”  It’s a program that Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced to me.  And it helps young men who show a lot of potential but may have gotten in some trouble to stay on the right path.

They get help with schoolwork, but they also learn life skills like how to be a responsible citizen, and how to deal with life’s challenges, and how to manage frustrations in a constructive way, and how to set goals for themselves.  And it works.  One study found that, among young men who participate in the BAM program, arrests for violent crimes dropped 44 percent, and they were more likely to graduate from high school.  (Applause.)

So as Christian mentioned, during my visit, they’re in a circle and I sat down in the circle, and we went around, led by their counselor, and guys talked about their lives, talked about their stories.  They talked about what they were struggling with, and how they were trying to do the right thing, and how sometimes they didn’t always do the right thing.  And when it was my turn, I explained to them that when I was their age I was a lot like them.  I didn’t have a dad in the house.  And I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time.  I made bad choices.  I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do.  I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have.  I made excuses.  Sometimes I sold myself short.

And I remember when I was saying this — Christian, you may remember this — after I was finished, the guy sitting next to me said, “Are you talking about you?”  (Laughter.)  I said, yes.

And the point was I could see myself in these young men.  And the only difference is that I grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving, so when I made a mistake the consequences were not as severe.  I had people who encouraged me — not just my mom and grandparents, but wonderful teachers and community leaders — and they’d push me to work hard and study hard and make the most of myself.  And if I didn’t listen they said it again.  And if I didn’t listen they said it a third time. And they would give me second chances, and third chances.  They never gave up on me, and so I didn’t give up on myself.

I told these young men my story then, and I repeat it now because I firmly believe that every child deserves the same chances that I had.  And that’s why we’re here today — to do what we can, in this year of action, to give more young Americans the support they need to make good choices, and to be resilient, and to overcome obstacles, and achieve their dreams.

This is an issue of national importance — it’s as important as any issue that I work on.  It’s an issue that goes to the very heart of why I ran for President — because if America stands for anything, it stands for the idea of opportunity for everybody; the notion that no matter who you are, or where you came from, or the circumstances into which you are born, if you work hard, if you take responsibility, then you can make it in this country.  (Applause.)  That’s the core idea.

And that’s the idea behind everything that I’ll do this year, and for the rest of my presidency.  Because at a time when the economy is growing, we’ve got to make sure that every American shares in that growth, not just a few.  And that means guaranteeing every child in America has access to a world-class education.  It means creating more jobs and empowering more workers with the skills they need to do those jobs.  It means making sure that hard work pays off with wages you can live on and savings you can retire on and health care that you can count on.  It means building more ladders of opportunity into the middle class for anybody who’s willing to work hard to climb them.

Those are national issues.  They have an impact on everybody.  And the problem of stagnant wages and economic insecurity and stalled mobility are issues that affect all demographic groups all across the country.  My administration’s policies — from early childhood education to job training, to minimum wages — are designed to give a hand up to everybody, every child, every American willing to work hard and take responsibility for their own success.  That’s the larger agenda.
But the plain fact is there are some Americans who, in the aggregate, are consistently doing worse in our society — groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions; groups who’ve seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations.  And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color.

Now, to say this is not to deny the enormous strides we’ve made in closing the opportunity gaps that marred our history for so long.  My presence is a testimony to that progress.  Across this country, in government, in business, in our military, in communities in every state we see extraordinary examples of African American and Latino men who are standing tall and leading, and building businesses, and making our country stronger.  Some of those role models who have defied the odds are with us here today — the Magic Johnsons or the Colin Powells who are doing extraordinary things — the Anthony Foxxes.

Anthony, yesterday he and I were talking about how both of us never knew our dads, and shared that sense of both how hard that had been but also how that had driven us to succeed in many ways.  So there are examples of extraordinary achievement.  We all know that.  We don’t need to stereotype and pretend that there’s only dysfunction out there.  But 50 years after Dr. King talked about his dream for America’s children, the stubborn fact is that the life chances of the average black or brown child in this country lags behind by almost every measure, and is worse for boys and young men.

If you’re African American, there’s about a one in two chance you grow up without a father in your house — one in two. If you’re Latino, you have about a one in four chance.  We know that boys who grow up without a father are more likely to be poor, more likely to underperform in school.

As a black student, you are far less likely than a white student to be able to read proficiently by the time you are in 4th grade.  By the time you reach high school, you’re far more likely to have been suspended or expelled.  There’s a higher chance you end up in the criminal justice system, and a far higher chance that you are the victim of a violent crime.  Fewer young black and Latino men participate in the labor force compared to young white men.  And all of this translates into higher unemployment rates and poverty rates as adults.

And the worst part is we’ve become numb to these statistics.  We’re not surprised by them.  We take them as the norm.  We just assume this is an inevitable part of American life, instead of the outrage that it is.  (Applause.)  That’s how we think about it.  It’s like a cultural backdrop for us — in movies and television.  We just assume, of course, it’s going to be like that.  But these statistics should break our hearts.  And they should compel us to act.

Michelle and I are blessed with two beautiful daughters.  We don’t have a son.  But I know if I had a son, on the day he was born I would have felt everything I felt with Malia and Sasha — the awe, the gratitude, the overwhelming sense of responsibility to do everything in my power to protect that amazing new life from this big world out there.  And just as our daughters are growing up into wonderful, beautiful young women, I’d want my son to feel a sense of boundless possibility.  And I’d want him to have independence and confidence.  And I’d want him to have empathy and compassion.  I’d want him to have a sense of diligence and commitment, and a respect for others and himself — the tools that he’d need to succeed.

I don’t have a son, but as parents, that’s what we should want not just for our children, but for all children.  (Applause.)  And I believe the continuing struggles of so many boys and young men — the fact that too many of them are falling by the wayside, dropping out, unemployed, involved in negative behavior, going to jail, being profiled — this is a moral issue for our country.  It’s also an economic issue for our country.

After all, these boys are a growing segment of our population.  They are our future workforce.  When, generation after generation, they lag behind, our economy suffers.  Our family structure suffers.  Our civic life suffers.  Cycles of hopelessness breed violence and mistrust.  And our country is a little less than what we know it can be.  So we need to change the statistics — not just for the sake of the young men and boys, but for the sake of America’s future.

That’s why, in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin verdict, with all the emotions and controversy that it sparked, I spoke about the need to bolster and reinforce our young men, and give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them.  (Applause.)  And I’m grateful that Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina and Tracy, are here with us today, along with Jordan Davis’s parents, Lucy and Ron.

In my State of the Union address last month, I said I’d pick up the phone and reach out to Americans willing to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds to stay on track and reach their full potential, so America can reach its full potential.  And that’s what today is all about.

After months of conversation with a wide range of people, we’ve pulled together private philanthropies and businesses, mayors, state and local leaders, faith leaders, nonprofits, all who are committed to creating more pathways to success.  And we’re committed to building on what works.  And we call it “My Brother’s Keeper.”

Now, just to be clear — “My Brother’s Keeper” is not some big, new government program.  In my State of the Union address, I outlined the work that needs to be done for broad-based economic growth and opportunity for all Americans.  We have manufacturing hubs, infrastructure spending — I’ve been traveling around the country for the last several weeks talking about what we need to do to grow the economy and expand opportunity for everybody.  And in the absence of some of those macroeconomic policies that create more good jobs and restore middle-class security, it’s going to be harder for everyone to make progress.  And for the last four years, we’ve been working through initiatives like Promise Zones to help break down the structural barriers — from lack of transportation to substandard schools — that afflict some of this country’s most impoverished counties, and we’ll continue to promote these efforts in urban and rural counties alike.

Those are all government initiatives, government programs that we think are good for all Americans and we’re going to keep on pushing for them.  But what we’re talking about here today with “My Brother’s Keeper” is a more focused effort on boys and young men of color who are having a particularly tough time.  And in this effort, government cannot play the only — or even the primary — role.  We can help give every child access to quality preschool and help them start learning from an early age, but we can’t replace the power of a parent who’s reading to that child. We can reform our criminal justice system to ensure that it’s not infected with bias, but nothing keeps a young man out of trouble like a father who takes an active role in his son’s life.  (Applause.)

In other words, broadening the horizons for our young men and giving them the tools they need to succeed will require a sustained effort from all of us.  Parents will have to parent — and turn off the television, and help with homework.  (Applause.) Teachers will need to do their part to make sure our kids don’t fall behind and that we’re setting high expectations for those children and not giving up on them.  Business leaders will need to create more mentorships and apprenticeships to show more young people what careers are out there.  Tech leaders will need to open young eyes to fields like computer science and engineering. Faith leaders will need to help our young men develop the values and ethical framework that is the foundation for a good and productive life.

So we all have a job to do.  And we can do it together — black and white, urban and rural, Democrat and Republican.  So often, the issues facing boys and young men of color get caught up in long-running ideological arguments about race and class, and crime and poverty, the role of government, partisan politics. We’ve all heard those arguments before.  But the urgency of the situation requires us to move past some of those old arguments and focus on getting something done and focusing on what works.  It doesn’t mean the arguments are unimportant; it just means that they can’t paralyze us.  And there’s enough goodwill and enough overlap and agreement that we should be able to go ahead and get some things done, without resolved everything about our history or our future.

Twenty years ago, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson started a program in the Miami public school system — feel free to stand up.  (Applause.)  To help young boys at risk of dropping out of school.  Today, it serves thousands of students in dozens of schools.

As Mayor of New York, Mayor Bloomberg — Michael Bloomberg, who’s here today, started a “Young Men’s Initiative” for African-American and Latino boys, because he understood that in order for America to compete we need to make it easier for all our young people to do better in the classroom and find a job once they graduate.

A bipartisan group of mayors called “Cities United” has made this issue a priority in communities across the country.  Senator Mike Lee — a leader of the tea party — has been working with Senator Dick Durbin — a Democrat from my home state of Illinois — to reduce disparities in our criminal justice system that have hit the African American and Latino communities especially hard.

So I want to thank everybody who’s been doing incredible work — many of the people who are here today, including members of Congress, who have been focused on this and are moving the needle in their communities and around the country.

They understand that giving every young person who’s willing to work hard a shot at opportunity should not be a partisan issue.  Yes, we need to train our workers, invest in our schools, make college more affordable — and government has a role to play.  And, yes, we need to encourage fathers to stick around, and remove the barriers to marriage, and talk openly about things like responsibility and faith and community.  In the words of Dr. King, it is not either-or; it is both-and.

And if I can persuade Sharpton and O’Reilly to be in the same meeting — (laughter and applause) — then it means that there are people of good faith who want to get some stuff done, even if we don’t agree on everything.  And that’s our focus.

While there may not be much of an appetite in Congress for sweeping new programs or major new initiatives right now, we all know we can’t wait.  And so the good news is folks in the private sector who know how important boosting the achievement of young men of color is to this country — they are ready to step up.

Today, I’m pleased to announce that some of the most forward-looking foundations in America are looking to invest at least $200 million over the next five years — on top of the $150 million that they’ve already invested — to test which strategies are working for our kids and expand them in cities across the country.  (Applause.)

Many of these folks have been on the front lines in this fight for a long time.  What’s more, they’re joined by business leaders, corporate leaders, entrepreneurs who are stepping forward to support this effort as well.  And my administration is going to do its part.  So today after my remarks are done, I’m going to pen this presidential memorandum directing the federal government not to spend more money, but to do things smarter, to determine what we can do right now to improve the odds for boys and young men of color, and make sure our agencies are working more effectively with each other, with those businesses, with those philanthropies, and with local communities to implement proven solutions.

And part of what makes this initiative so promising is that we actually know what works — and we know when it works. Now, what do I mean by that?  Over the years, we’ve identified key moments in the life of a boy or a young man of color that will, more often than not, determine whether he succeeds, or falls through the cracks.  We know the data.  We know the statistics.  And if we can focus on those key moments, those life-changing points in their lives, you can have a big impact; you can boost the odds for more of our kids.

First of all, we know that during the first three years of life, a child born into a low-income family hears 30 million fewer words than a child born into a well-off family.  And everybody knows babies are sponges, they just soak that up.  A 30-million-word deficit is hard to make up.  And if a black or Latino kid isn’t ready for kindergarten, he’s half as likely to finish middle school with strong academic and social skills.  So by giving more of our kids access to high-quality early education — and by helping parents get the tools they need to help their children succeed — we can give more kids a better shot at the career they’re capable of, and the life that will make us all better off.  So that’s point number one right at the beginning.

Point number two, if a child can’t read well by the time he’s in 3rd grade, he’s four times less likely to graduate from high school by age 19 than one who can.  And if he happens to be poor, he’s six times less likely to graduate.  So by boosting reading levels, we can help more of our kids make the grade, keep on advancing, reach that day that so many parents dream of — until it comes close and then you start tearing up — and that’s when they’re walking across the stage, holding that high school diploma.

Number three, we know that Latino kids are almost twice as likely as white kids to be suspended from school.  Black kids are nearly four times as likely.  And if a student has been suspended even once by the time they’re in 9th grade they are twice as likely to drop out.

That’s why my administration has been working with schools on alternatives to the so-called “zero tolerance” guidelines — not because teachers or administrators or fellow students shold have to put up with bad behavior, but because there are ways to modify bad behavior that lead to good behavior — as opposed to bad behavior out of school.  We can make classrooms good places for learning for everybody without jeopardizing a child’s future. (Applause.)   And by building on that work, we can keep more of our young men where they belong — in the classroom, learning, growing, gaining the skills they need to succeed.

Number four, we know that students of color are far more likely than their white classmates to find themselves in trouble with the law.  If a student gets arrested, he’s almost twice as likely to drop out of school.  By making sure our criminal justice system doesn’t just function as a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, we can help young men of color stay out of prison, stay out of jail.  And that means then, they’re more likely to be employable, and to invest in their own families, and to pass on a legacy of love and hope.

And finally, we know young black men are twice as likely as young white men to be “disconnected” — not in school, not working.  We’ve got to reconnect them.  We’ve got to give more of these young men access to mentors.  We’ve got to contine to encourage responsible fatherhood.  We’ve got to provide more pathways to apply to college or find a job.  We can keep them from falling through the cracks, and help them lay a foundation for a career and a family and a better life.

In the discussion before we came in, General Powell talked about the fact that there are going to be some kids who just don’t have a family at home that is functional, no matter how hard we try.  But just an adult, any adult who’s paying attention can make a difference.  Any adult who cares can make a difference.

Magic was talking about being in a school in Chicago, and rather than going to the school he brought the school to the company, All-State, that was doing the work.  And suddenly, just that one conversation meant these young men saw something different.  A world opened up for them.  It doesn’t take that much.  But it takes more than we’re doing now.

And that’s what “My Brother’s Keeper” is all about — helping more of our young people stay on track; providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future;  building on what works, when it works, in those critical life-changing moments.  And when I say, by the way, building on what works, it means looking at the actual evidence of what works.  There are a lot of programs out there that sound good, are well-intentioned, well-inspired, but they’re not actually having an impact.  We don’t have enough money or time or resources to invest in things that don’t work, so we’ve got to be pretty hard-headed about saying if something is not working, let’s stop doing it.  Let’s do things that work.  And we shouldn’t care whether it was a Democratic program or a Republican program, or a fait-based program or — if it works, we should support it.  If it doesn’t, we shouldn’t.

And all the time recognizing that “my neighbor’s child is my child” — that each of us has an obligation to give every child the same chance this country gave so many of us.

So, in closing, let me just say this.  None of this is going to be easy.  This is not a one-year proposition.  It’s not a two-year proposition.  It’s going to take time.  We’re dealing with complicated issues that run deep in our history, run deep in our society, and are entrenched in our minds.  And addressing these issues will have to be a two-way bargain.  Because no matter how much the community chips in, it’s ultimately going to be up to these young men and all the young men who are out there to step up and seize responsibility for their own lives.  (Applause.)

And that’s why I want to close by speaking directly to the young men who are here today and all the boys and young men who are watching at home.  Part of my message, part of our message in this initiative is “no excuses.”  Government and private sector and philanthropy and all the faith communities — we all have a responsibility to help provide you the tools you need; we’ve got to help you knock down some of the barriers that you experience. That’s what we’re here for.  But you’ve got responsibilities, too.

And I know you can meet the challenge — many of you already are — if you make the effort.  It may be hard, but you will have to reject the cynicism that says the circumstances of your birth or society’s lingering injustices necessarily define you and your future.  It will take courage, but you will have to tune out the naysayers who say the deck is stacked against you, you might as well just give up — or settle into the stereotype.

It’s not going to happen overnight, but you’re going to have to set goals and you’re going to have to work for those goals.  Nothing will be given to you.  The world is tough out there, there’s a lot of competition for jobs and college positions, and everybody has to work hard.  But I know you guys can succeed.  We’ve got young men up here who are starting to make those good choices because somebody stepped in and gave them a sense of how they might go about it.

And I know it can work because of men like Maurice Owens, who’s here today.  I want to tell Moe’s story just real quick.

When Moe was four years old, he moved with his mom Chauvet from South Carolina to the Bronx.  His mom didn’t have a lot of money, and they lived in a tough neighborhood.  Crime was high.  A lot of young men ended up in jail or worse.  But she knew the importance of education, so she got Moe into the best elementary school that she could find.  And every morning, she put him on a bus; every night, she welcomed him when he came home.

She took the initiative, she eventually found a sponsorship program that allowed Moe to attend a good high school.  And while many of his friends got into trouble, some of it pretty serious, Moe just kept on getting on the bus, and kept on working hard and reaching for something better.  And he had some adults in his life that were willing to give him advice and help him along the way.  And he ended up going to college.  And he ended up serving his country in the Air Force.  And today, Moe works in the White House, just two doors down from the Oval Office, as the Special Assistant to my Chief of Staff.  (Applause.)  And Moe never misses a chance to tell kids who grew up just like he did that if he can make it, they can, too.

Moe and his mom are here today, so I want to thank them both for this incredible example.  Stand up, Moe, and show off your mom there.  (Applause.)  Good job, Moe.

So Moe didn’t make excuses.  His mom had high expectations. America needs more citizens like Moe.  We need more young men like Christian.  We will beat the odds.  We need to give every child, no matter what they look like, where they live, the chance to reach their full potential.  Because if we do — if we help these wonderful young men become better husbands and fathers, and well-educated, hardworking, good citizens — then not only will they contribute to the growth and prosperity of this country, but they will pass on those lessons on to their children, on to their grandchildren, will start a different cycle.  And this country will be richer and stronger for it for generations to come.

So let’s get going.  Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
4:17 P.M. EST

Political Musings February 2, 2014: Obama urges CEOs to hire long-term unemployed after benefits extension fails

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama urges CEOs to hire long-term unemployed after benefits extension fails

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In effort to compensate for Congress not extending unemployment benefits to the long-term jobless, on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 President Barack Obama urged CEOs of 20 major companies to not “discriminate” and give them an equal chance…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency January 15, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy, Unemployment Benefits Extension and the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation in North Carolina

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

North Carolina Is Home to America’s Newest High-Tech Manufacturing Hub

Remarks by the President on the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation

Source: WH, 1-15-14

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks on the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation
January 15, 2014 6:02 PM

President Obama Speaks on the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on manufacturinPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks on manufacturing at the J.W. Isenhour Tennis Center at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., Jan. 15, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

J.W. Isenhour Tennis Center
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina

1:14 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Raleigh!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Well, it is good to be back in North Carolina.  (Applause.)  If you have a seat, go ahead and have a seat.  Now, if you don’t have a seat, don’t.  (Laughter.)

It is good to be here at the home of the Wolfpack.  (Applause.)  I want to thank your chancellor, Randy Woodson, for the introduction and the great work that he’s doing on behalf of students all across the system.  I want to recognize my Secretary of Energy, Ernie Moniz, who is here.  Give him a big round of applause — he’s doing good work.  (Applause.)  Your Governor, Pat McCrory, is here.  (Applause.)  The Mayor of Raleigh, Nancy McFarlane.  (Applause.)  The Mayor of Chapel Hill, Mark Kleinschmidt.  (Applause.)  The Mayor of Durham, Bill Bell.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got Congressman Mike McIntyre doing great work.  (Applause.)  Your Senator, Kay Hagan, couldn’t be here, but I wanted to thank her publicly for the great work she’s doing.  (Applause.)

And I want to thank all the students for coming out.  We’re doing this event nice and early so it doesn’t run up against the Wake game.  (Applause.)  I’ve learned a few things as President, and one of them is not to compete with college basketball down here on Tobacco Road.  You don’t do that.  (Applause.)

Now, this is actually my second stop in Raleigh-Durham.  I just took a tour of a company called Vacon, where workers design the drives that power everything from elevators to the giant fans that help cool buildings like this one — although I think we’re kind of saving money on this — (laughter) — which is the smart thing to do.

So this company is making these engines and these systems more efficient, saving businesses big bucks on energy costs, improving the environment.  Those savings get passed on to customers, puts money in people’s pockets.  And growing companies that need the products that Vacon makes, they’re benefitting enormously.  So it’s a good-news story.  But in a global economy, that company, just like every company in America, has to keep inventing and innovating in order to stay on the cutting edge.  And that’s where all of you come in.

Here at NC State, you know something about innovation.  You’ve got one of the largest undergraduate engineering programs in the country.  That’s worth cheering for.  (Applause.)  I’m a lawyer by training, and that is nice.  But we need more engineers.  (Applause.)

Companies like Cisco and IBM, they come to this school when they’re looking to hire because of the quality of the engineering program.  And over at Centennial Campus — (applause) — some very smart people experiment in state-of-the-art facilities to figure out everything from how to design better fireproof fabrics to how to better protect our computer systems.

So the reason I came here today is because we’ve got to do more to connect universities like NC State with companies like Vacon to make America the number-one place in the world to open new businesses and create new jobs.  We want to do that here in North Carolina, and we want to do this all across America.  (Applause.)

Now, it’s been more than five years since a devastating recession cost this country millions of jobs, and it hurt North Carolina pretty tough.  But everyone here knows that even before the recession hit, the middle class had been hitting — getting hit on the chin for years before that.  Here in North Carolina, factories were shutting their doors, jobs were getting shipped overseas.  Wages and incomes were flat-lining, so even if you had a job you didn’t see your standard of living going up very much. Meanwhile the cost of everything from college tuition to groceries did go up.

So when I took office, we decided to focus on the hard work of rebuilding our economy on a new foundation for growth and prosperity, and to make sure that everybody had a chance to get ahead.  And thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of the American people, the good news is the economy is growing stronger.  (Applause.)  Our businesses have now created more than 8 million new jobs since we hit bottom.  Because of an all-of-the-above strategy for American energy, for the first time in nearly two decades we produce more oil here in the United States than we buy from the rest of the world.  That hasn’t happened in a very long time.  (Applause.)  We now generate more renewable energy than ever before, more natural gas than anybody on the planet.  (Applause.)  We’re lowering energy costs, reducing pollution.

Health care costs are growing at their slowest rate in 50 years.  For the first time since the 1990s, health care costs eat up a smaller chunk of our economy, and part of that, yes, has to do with the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.)  And so over time, that means bigger paychecks for middle-class families, bigger savings for companies that are looking to hire.  And along with all this, since I took office we’ve cut our deficits by more than half.  (Applause.)

So we’ve made progress.  And that’s what I mean when I say this can be a breakthrough year for America.  The pieces are all there to start bringing back more of the jobs that we’ve lost over the past decade.  A lot of companies around the world are starting to talk about bringing jobs back to the United States, bringing jobs back to places like North Carolina — partly because we got cheap energy costs, we’ve got the best workers in the world, we’ve got the best university systems in the world — (applause) — and we’ve got the largest market in the world.

So the pieces are there to restore some of the ground that the middle class has lost in recent decades, start raising wages for American families.  But it requires us to take action.  This has to be a year of action.

And here in North Carolina, you’re doing your part to create good jobs that pay good wages.  Congress has to do its part, too — because restoring the American Dream of opportunity for everyone who’s willing to work for it is something that should unite the country.  That shouldn’t divide the country.  That’s what we should be aspiring to — that everybody has a shot if they’re willing to work hard and take responsibility.  (Applause.)

So in the short term, one thing Congress could do is listen to the majority of the American people and restore the unemployment insurance for Americans who need it.   (Applause.)  And let me just make an aside here.  North Carolina still has a higher-than-average unemployment rate, so this is important to this state.  Folks aren’t looking for a handout.  They’re not looking for special treatment.  There are a lot of people who are sending our resumes every single day, but the market — the job market is still tough in pockets around the country, and people need support, a little help, so they can look after their families while they’re looking for a new job.  (Applause.)  So Congress should do the right thing and extend this vital lifeline for millions of Americans.

Of course, that’s just short term.  Long term, the challenge of making sure everybody who works hard can get ahead in today’s economy is so important that we can’t wait for Congress to solve it.  Where I can act on my own without Congress, I’m going to do so.

And today, I’m here to act — to help make Raleigh-Durham, and America, a magnet for the good, high-tech manufacturing jobs that a growing middle class requires and that are going to continue to keep this country on the cutting edge.  (Applause.)

So we’ve already got some success to build on.  Manufacturing is a bright spot in this economy.  For decades we’d been losing manufacturing jobs.  But now our manufacturers have added over the last four years more than 550,000 new jobs, including almost 80,000 manufacturing jobs in the last five months alone.  So we want to keep that trend going.  We want to build on the kind of work that’s being done in places like NC State to develop technology that leads to new jobs and entire new industries.

So a little over a year ago, we launched America’s first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio.  And what it was is a partnership; it includes companies and colleges.  They came up with a joint plan.  They were focusing on developing 3D printing technology and training workers with the skills required to master that technology.

Now, that was a great start.  We got one going and some of the folks from Youngstown are here today, and we congratulate them on the great work they’re doing.  But here’s the problem:  We created one; in Germany, they’ve already got about 60 of these manufacturing innovation hubs.  So we’ve got some catching up to do.  I don’t want the next big job-creating discovery, the research and technology to be in Germany or China or Japan.  I want it to be right here in the United States of America.  I want it to be right here in North Carolina.  (Applause.)

So what I said was in my State of the Union address last year, I said to Congress, let’s set up a network of at least 15 of these manufacturing hubs all across America, focusing on different opportunities where we can get manufacturing innovation going, create jobs, make sure that the research is tied to businesses that are actually hiring, and those synergies are going to grow the economy regionally and ultimately across the whole country.

And last summer, as part of our push to create middle-class jobs, I said, you know what, let’s not settle on 15, let’s just go ahead and do 45.  Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate introduced bills that would get this going — that’s good.  But they haven’t passed the bills yet.  So I want to encourage them to continue to pass the bills that would create 45 of these manufacturing hubs.  In the meantime, I’m directing my administration to move forward where we can on our own.

So today, after almost a year of competition, I’m pleased to announce America’s newest high-tech manufacturing hub — which is going to be focused on the next generation of power electronics  — is going to be based right here in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Applause.)  That’s good news.  That’s good news.  (Applause.)   That’s good news.  It’s great.  (Applause.)

So just like the hub in Youngstown, what we’re calling the Next Generation Power Electronics Innovation Institute is bringing together leading companies, universities, and federal research all together under one roof.  Folks at this hub are going to develop what are called “wide bandgap semiconductors.”

Now, I was just schooled on all this.  (Laughter.)  I’m not sure that I’m fully qualified to describe the technical elements of this.  Raise your hand if you know what that is.  (Laughter.) See, we’ve got some.  (Laughter.)  For all you non-engineers out there, here’s what it means in the simplest terms.  Semiconductors, obviously, are at the heart of every piece of the electronics that we use every day — your smartphone, your television set, these days everything.  Public research helped develop them decades ago, and then that research allowed commercialization, new products, new services, and obviously not only improved the economy, but greatly enhanced our lives.  So we want companies to run with the ball also, but first we’ve got to make sure that we’re also doing the research and linking it up to those companies.

Wide bandgap semiconductors, they’re special because they lose up to 90 percent less power; they can operate at higher temperatures than normal semiconductors.  So that means they can make everything from cell phones to industrial motors to electric cars smaller, faster, cheaper.  There are going to be still applications for the traditional semiconductors, but these can be focused on certain areas that will vastly improve energy efficiency, vastly improve the quality of our lives.  And the country that figures out how to do this first, and the companies that figure how to do this best, they’re the ones that are going to attract the jobs that come with it.

So this manufacturing hub, right here, focused in North Carolina –

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  GoPack!

THE PRESIDENT:  GoPack!  (Laughter and applause.)  This hub is going to make it easier for these wide bandgap semiconductors to go from the drawing board to the factory floor to the store shelves — or not necessarily the store shelves, because what I just saw, for example, were these really big pieces of equipment that are attached to utility companies or help windmills translate the power they’re generating actually get transmitted to where they’re going to be finally used.  It’s going to bring together chip designers and manufacturers with companies like Vacon and Delphi that stand to benefit from these new technologies.  And this will help big companies, but it’s also going to help small companies, because they’re going to be able to use equipment they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to test and prototype new products.  And of course, American workers will be able to come right here, to North Carolina, to learn the skills that companies are looking for.  And the next generation of manufacturing will be an American revolution.

So in the coming weeks, we’re going to be launching two more of these innovation hubs; we’ve already got them all planned out. One is going to focus on digital design and manufacturing; another is going to be developing lightweight metals that could transform everything from wind turbines to military vehicles.  And together, they’re going to help build new partnerships in areas that show potential.  They’ll help to lift up our communities.  They’ll help spark the technology and research that will create the new industries, the good jobs required for folks to punch their ticket into the middle class.

And that’s what America is all about.  We have always been about research, innovation, and then commercializing that research and innovation so that everybody can benefit.  And then we start selling our stuff all around the world, we start exporting it.  And we create good jobs, and middle-class families then are able to buy the products that result from this innovation.  And you get a virtuous cycle where everybody is doing better, and nobody is left behind.  And that’s what we can do if we pull together the way those companies and universities have pulled together as part of this bid.

Now, this is going to be a long haul.  We’re not going to turn things around overnight.  A lot of jobs were lost in the textile industry and furniture-making.  But the great news is, is that ultimately, because our people are good and smart and hardworking and willing to take risks, we are going to be able to start bringing those jobs back to America.  And that’s what we do.  (Applause.)  When times get tough, we don’t give up.  We get up.  We innovate.  We adapt.  We keep going.  We look to the future.  (Applause.)

And I want all of you to know, North Carolina, that as long as we keep working together and fighting together and doing what it takes to widen the circle of opportunity for more Americans so nobody is left behind — if you work hard, if you are responsible, then you can go out there, get a skill, train yourself, find a job, support a family.  If we work together, and that’s our focus, there’s nothing we can’t achieve.  (Applause.) There’s no limit to how far we can go.

So congratulations, North Carolina State.  Congratulations, Raleigh.  Let’s get to work.  God bless you.  God bless America. (Applause.)

END
1:31 P.M. EST

Political Musings January 7, 2014: Obama speech urges Congress to extend unemployment benefits, Senate votes 60-37

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

Just before President BarackObama delivered a speech on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 urging Congress to extend unemployment benefits for long term jobless Americans, the Senate with the help of some Republicans passed the bill’s first procedural vote…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency January 7, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Importance of Extending Emergency Unemployment Insurance Benefits

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Extending Emergency Unemployment Insurance: “More Than One Million Americans Across the Country Will Feel A Little Hope Right Away.”

Source: WH, 1-8-14

Remarks by the President on the Importance of Extending Emergency Unemployment Insurance

Source: WH, 1-7-14 

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on emergency unemployment insurance in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 7, 2014.President Barack Obama delivers remarks on emergency unemployment insurance in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

East Room

11:55 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Please, everybody, have a seat.  (Applause.)  Well, Happy New Year, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Happy New Year!

THE PRESIDENT:  I hope you’re keeping warm.  A few weeks ago, I said that 2014 could be a breakthrough year for America.  Think about it:  Five years ago this month our economy was shedding 800,000 jobs just in one month.  But as Americans buckled down and worked hard and sacrificed, we began to come back.

And our businesses have created more than 8 million new jobs since we hit the bottom.  Our auto industry has gone from bust to boom.  Manufacturing is rebounding.  The housing market is rebounding.  Stock markets are restoring retirement accounts.  The promise of energy independence is actually in sight.  Health care costs eat up less of our economy; over the past four years, costs have grown at the slowest rate on record.  And since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by more than half.

So America is getting stronger and we’ve made progress.  And the economy is growing, and we’ve got to do more to make sure that all Americans share in that growth.  We’ve got to help our businesses create more jobs.  We’ve got to make sure those jobs offer the wages and benefits that let families rebuild a little security.  In other words, we’ve got to make sure that this recovery leaves nobody behind.  And we’ve got a lot of work to do on that front.  The good news is I’m optimistic we can do it if we do it together.

Now, before the holidays, both parties compromised on a budget that lifts some of the drag that’s been on the economy from these indiscriminate cuts we call sequester.  And as a consequence, this year we may see more stability when it comes to economic growth.  And I think I’m not alone in saying that we are all grateful in the New Year that we won’t have another partisan shutdown, hopefully, going forward.  (Applause.)

So that was a good sign.  And we should build on that progress with what I said should be the first order of business in 2014, and that is extending insurance for the unemployed.  (Applause.)  The good news is this morning the Senate took a very important step in that direction.

For the Americans who have joined me at the White House today and millions like them who were laid off in the recession through no fault of their own, unemployment insurance has been a vital economic lifeline.  For a lot of people, it’s the only source of income they’ve got to support their families while they look for a new job.  These aren’t folks who are just sitting back waiting for things to happen.  They’re out there actively looking for work.  They desperately want work.

But although the economy has been growing and we’ve been adding new jobs, the truth of the matter is, is that the financial crisis was so devastating that there’s still a lot of people who are struggling.  And, in fact, if we don’t provide unemployment insurance it makes it harder for them to find a job.

You heard Katherine’s story.  And she’s far more eloquent than I could ever be.  She wrote me last month to say, “Please let those who think I am sitting at home enjoying being unemployed know that I would much rather be working.”  And I had a chance to talk to Katherine, and I think it’s pretty clear that that’s the case.  Katherine went on to say, “I have applied to everything for which I am possibly qualified to no avail.  I have worked hard all my life, paid taxes, voted, engaged in political discussion, and made the ultimate sacrifice:  My two sons serve in the U.S. military.  Job loss is devastating, and if I could fix it myself, I would.  I challenge any lawmaker to live without an income.”  That’s what Katherine said.  It’s hard.  (Applause.)

So when we’ve got the mom of two of our troops, who is working hard out there, but is having to wear a coat inside the house, we’ve got a problem.  And it’s one that can be fixed.  And Katherine is not alone.

Devlin Smith, who’s watching today from her home in California, wrote me about her hunt for a new job.  Since she was laid off 13 months ago, she has sent out hundreds of résumés, she has volunteered, she has done seasonal work.  She doesn’t want to just be sitting around the house.  She’s been taking online courses to learn new skills.  Without unemployment insurance, though, she won’t be able to pay for her car or her cellphone, which makes the job hunt that much harder.  And Devlin wrote to me and said, “I’ve wanted nothing more than to find a new full-time job and have dedicated every day to that mission.  I’m asking you to advocate for me and the millions like me who need our extended unemployment benefits to make ends meet.”

So I just want everybody to understand this is not an abstraction.  These are not statistics.  These are your neighbors, your friends, your family members.  It could at some point be any of us.  That’s why we set up a system of unemployment insurance.  The notion was everybody is making a contribution because you don’t know when the business cycle or an economic crisis might make any of us vulnerable.

And this insurance helps keep food on the table while Dad is sending out résumés.  It helps Mom pay the rent while she’s learning new skills to earn that new job.  It provides that extra bit of security so that losing your job doesn’t mean that you have to lose your house, or everything you’ve worked so hard to build for years.  We make this promise to our fellow Americans who are working hard to get back on their feet, because when times get tough, we are not a people who say, you’re on your own.  We’re a people who believe that we’re all in it together.  And we know, “there but the grace of God go I.”  (Applause.)

So that’s the values case for this.  That’s the moral case for this.  But there’s an economic case for it, as well.  Independent economists have shown that extending emergency unemployment insurance actually helps the economy, actually creates new jobs.  When folks like Katherine have a little more to spend to turn up the heat in her house or buy a few extra groceries, that means more spending with businesses in her local community, which in turn may inspire that business to hire one more person — maybe Kathy.

That’s why, in the past, both parties have repeatedly put partisanship and ideology aside to offer some security for job-seekers with no strings attached.  It’s been done regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans were in the White House.  It’s been done regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans controlled Congress.  And, by the way, it’s been done multiple times when the unemployment rate was significantly lower than it is today.

And what’s important to keep in mind also is that the recovery in a big country like the United States is going to be somewhat uneven.  So there are some states that have a 2.5 unemployment rate, and then there are some places that may still have a 7, 8, 9 percent unemployment rate.  The people living in those respective states may be working equally hard to find a job, but it’s going to be harder in some places than others.

Now, two weeks ago, Congress went home for the holidays and let this lifeline expire for 1.3 million Americans.  If this doesn’t get fixed, it will hurt about 14 million Americans over the course of this year:  5 million workers along with 9 million of their family members — their spouses, their kids.

Now, I’ve heard the argument that says extending unemployment insurance will somehow hurt the unemployed because it zaps their motivation to get a new job.  I really want to go at this for a second.  (Laughter and applause.)  That really sells the American people short.  I meet a lot of people as President of the United States, and as a candidate for President of the United States, and as a U.S. senator, and as a state senator — I meet a lot of people.  And I can’t name a time where I met an American who would rather have an unemployment check than the pride of having a job.  (Applause.)

The long-term unemployed are not lazy.  They’re not lacking in motivation.  They’re coping with the aftermath of the worst economic crisis in generations.  In some cases, they may have a skills mismatch.  They may have been doing a certain job for 20 years; suddenly they lose that job.  They may be an older worker, may have to get retrained.  It’s hard — sometimes employers will discriminate if you’ve been out of work for a while; they decide, well, we’re not sure we want to hire you, we’d rather hire somebody who’s still working right now.

So it’s hard out there.  There are a lot of our friends, a lot of our neighbors who have lost their jobs and they’re working their tails off every single day trying to find a new job.  Now, as the job market keeps getting better, more and more of these folks will find work.  But, in the meantime, the insurance keeps them from falling off a cliff.  It makes sure they can pay their car note to go to that interview.  It makes sure they can pay their cell phone bills so that if somebody calls back for an interview, they can answer it.  (Laughter.)

And Katherine explained this.  Katherine, in the letter that she wrote to me, said, do folks really think that “cutting this benefit will make someone hire me?”  I mean, that’s not how employers are thinking.

So letting unemployment insurance expire for millions of Americans is wrong.  Congress should make things right.  I am very appreciative that they’re on their way to doing just that thanks to the bipartisan work of two senators.  You had a Democrat from Rhode Island, Senator Reed, and you had a conservative Republican from Nevada, Senator Heller.  And despite their political differences, they worked together on a plan to extend unemployment insurance at least for three months temporarily while we figure out a longer-term solution.  And this morning, a bipartisan majority of senators agreed to allow this common-sense provision to at least move forward in the process.

The Senate is a complicated place.  (Laughter.)  So just because they agreed on this vote, all they’ve agreed to so far is that we’re actually going to be able to have a vote on it.  They haven’t actually passed it.  So we’ve got to get this across the finish line without obstruction or delay, and we need the House of Representatives to be able to vote for it as well.  (Applause.)  That’s the bottom line.

Voting for unemployment insurance helps people and creates jobs, and voting against it does not.  Congress should pass this bipartisan plan right away, and I will sign it right away.  And more than 1 million Americans across the country will feel a little hope right away.  And hope is contagious.  (Applause.)

When Katherine has a little bit more confidence about her situation, when she finds a job, she is going to be able to help somebody down the line maybe who is also down on their luck.  When Congress passes a bipartisan effort starting here right at the beginning of the New Year, who knows — we might actually get some things done this year.  (Laughter.)  So after all the hard work and sacrifice of the past five years to recover and rebuild from the crisis, what I think the American people are really looking for in 2014 is just a little bit of stability.  Let’s just do the common-sense thing.  Let’s do what’s right.

We’re going to have to see action, though, on the part of Congress.  And I’ll be willing to work with them every step of the way — action to help our businesses create more of the good jobs that a growing middle class requires; action to restore economic mobility and reduce inequality; action to open more doors of opportunity for everybody who is willing to work hard and walk through those doors.

When I was listening to Katherine, I was just so struck by her strength and dignity.  And I think people when they bump into some tough times, like Katherine, they’re not looking for pity.  They just want a shot.  (Applause.)  And they just want to feel as if — as a part of this country, as a part of their communities, that if misfortune strikes, all the things that they’ve done in the past, all the hard work they’ve done raising children and paying taxes and working hard, that that counts for something, and that folks aren’t suddenly just going to dismiss their concerns, but we’re going to rally behind them.  That’s not too much to ask.  That’s who we are as Americans.  That’s what built this country.  That’s what I want to promote.  (Applause.)

So thank you very much, everybody.  Let’s get to work.  Let’s get this done.  (Applause.)

END
12:11 P.M. EST

Political Musings January 6, 2014: Obama pushes unemployment benefits extension in weekly address, Tuesday speech

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

In his first weekly address of the New Year President Barack Obama focuses on his number one priority urging Congress to pass an extension of unemployment benefits for Americans out of work for more than 26 weeks. His address released…READ MORE

Political Headlines May 9, 2013: President Barack Obama Declares Economy is ‘Poised for Progress’ on “Middle Class Jobs & Opportunity Tour” in Austin, Texas

POLITICAL HEADLINES

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Declares Economy is ‘Poised for Progress’

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-9-13

File photo. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Speaking before a group of high school students and teachers at Manor New Tech High School near Austin, Texas, on Thursday, President Obama said that the innovation and persistence of the American people has fostered an economy that is “poised for progress.”….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 5, 2013: President Barack Obama to Start ‘Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tours’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama to Start ‘Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tours’

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-5-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama will kick off a series of Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tours with a trip Thursday to Austin, Texas, a White House spokesman announced Sunday.

“In his State of the Union, the president laid out his belief that the middle class is the engine of economic growth. To reignite that engine, there are three areas we need to invest in: 1) jobs, 2) skills 3) opportunity,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 13, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Manufacturing at Linamar Corporation in Asheville, North Carolina

POLITICAL BUZZ


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Manufacturing — Asheville, NC

Source: WH, 2-13-13

Linamar Corporation
Asheville, North Carolina

12:10 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Hello, North Carolina!  (Applause.)  It is good to be back.  I love coming to Asheville.  (Applause.)  Love coming to Asheville.  Michelle and I always talk about how after this whole presidency thing, we’re looking for a little spot to — (applause) –

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Come on down.

THE PRESIDENT:  Come on down?  (Applause.)  Play a little golf, do a little hiking, fishing, barbecue.  There are two things that keep bringing me back here.  Number one is I really like the people.  And number two is 12 Bones, which I will be stopping on the way back to the airport.  (Laughter and applause.)

Now, I want to start off by thanking Stratton for the wonderful introduction.  And what made it wonderful was not only did he do a great job, but it was really brief.  (Laughter.)  And I also want to thank Frank and Jim and everybody at Linamar for hosting us and giving me this terrific tour of the plant.

I want to point out two elected officials who are with us here today –- first of all, your Mayor, Terry Bellamy.  (Applause.)  Where is Mayor Bellamy?  There she is.  Good to see you.  Plus, you got a wonderful mayor.  I like that in you, too. And also, Congressman Mel Watt is here.  So give Congressman Watt a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

So last night, I delivered the State of the Union Address.  (Applause.)  And I talked about steps we can take right now to strengthen our recovery, but also to build up our middle class.  And I said that while we’re seeing some signs of solid progress — car sales are up, housing is starting to recover — we’re still a ways away from where we need to be.  There are still too many Americans who are out there every day.  They’re pounding the pavement.  They’re looking for work.  You guys probably know friends or family members who are still pretty strapped, having a difficult time.  And while it’s true that corporate profits have rocketed to an all-time high, it’s also true that for more than a decade now, wages and incomes haven’t gone up at all just about.
So we’ve got a lot of work to do.  And our job — and this is a job for everybody; it’s not a Democratic thing or a Republican thing.  Our job as Americans is to restore that basic bargain that says if you work hard, if you’re willing to meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead.  You can get ahead.  (Applause.)  It doesn’t matter what you look like.  It doesn’t matter where you come from.  That’s what we should be focused on: How do we make sure that people who are willing to work hard can make a decent living and look after their family?

Because the true engine of America’s economic growth has always been our middle class.  Now, there are a lot of countries that have folks at the top who are doing real well, and a bunch of folks at the bottom, but part of what set America apart was ordinary folks, if they worked hard, they could do well.  Our middle class when it’s growing, when it’s thriving, when there are ladders of opportunity for people to do a little bit better each year and then make sure that their kids are doing even better than them — that’s the American Dream.  That’s what we got to fight for.  That has to be the North Star that guides everything we do.

And as I said last night, we should be asking ourselves three questions every single day.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re in North Carolina or Texas or California or Oregon.  It doesn’t matter.  Wherever we are, three things we should be asking.  Number one — how do we bring more jobs to America?  Number two — how do we equip people with the skills they need to do those jobs?  And number three — how do we make sure that once they have a job, it leads to a decent living?

I believe we reward effort and determination with wages that allow working families to raise their kids and get ahead.  (Applause.)  And that’s part of the reason why I said last night that it’s time for an increase in the minimum wage, because if you work full-time, you shouldn’t be in poverty.  (Applause.)

I also believe we provide our people skills and training by investing in education, and that has to start early.  It has to start early.  So I talked about making sure that kids are getting an early childhood education, making sure that our high schools are preparing our children for a high-tech economy, and making sure that colleges are affordable and accessible to every single American.  (Applause.)

And I believe we attract new jobs to America by investing in new sources of energy and new infrastructure and the next generation of high-wage, high-tech American manufacturing.  I believe in manufacturing.  I think it makes our country stronger.  (Applause.)

So that’s what we can do together.  And that’s why I wanted to come down here to Asheville, because there’s a good story to tell here.  I know that a few years ago, manufacturing comebacks in North Carolina, a manufacturing comeback in Asheville may not have seemed real likely, because Volvo had just left town.  This plant had gone dark — 228 jobs had vanished.  And that was a big blow for this area, because part of what happens is when those manufacturing jobs go away, then suddenly the restaurant has fewer customers, and suppliers for the plant start withering.  And it’s hard for everybody.  It has a ripple effect.

But then local officials started reaching out to companies, offering new incentives to take over this plant.  Some of the workers who got laid off, like Stratton, went back to school and they learned new skills.  And then, a year later, Linamar showed up.  They were looking for a place to build some big parts.  And these parts are big, I got to say — (laughter) — hubs and wheels and anchors for 400-ton mining trucks.  And while they could have gone any place in the world, they saw this incredible potential right here in Asheville.  They saw the most promise in this workforce, so they chose to invest in Asheville, in North Carolina, in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

So to date, Linamar has hired 160 workers.  It will be 200 by the end of the year, and it’s just going to keep on going after that.  (Applause.)  So the folks at Linamar said, they came to Asheville to grow their business.  They came here to stay and put down some roots.

And the good news is what’s happening here is happening all around the country.  Because just as it’s becoming more and more expensive to do business in places like China, America is getting more competitive and more productive.

After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have now added about 500,000 jobs over the past three years.  (Applause.)  And I mentioned this last night — Caterpillar, which I know you guys supply, they’re bringing jobs back from Japan.  Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico.  After placing plants in other countries like China, Intel is opening its most advanced plant here in the United States.  Apple is starting to make Macs in America again.  (Applause.)

So we’re seeing this trend of what we call insourcing, not just outsourcing.  And the reason is because America has got outstanding workers.  We’re starting to produce more homegrown energy, which is driving down our energy costs.  And, obviously, we’ve still got the biggest market in the world.  And if we try to improve our infrastructure a little bit more, then we’re going to be even that much more competitive.

Now, I want to be honest with you.  We’re not going to bring back every job that’s been lost to outsourcing and automation over the last decade.  I was talking to some of the guys who were showing me their facilities who had been in manufacturing for 20 years, and they explained how things had changed.  It used to be you had to — you wanted to do the kind of stuff you guys are doing here — everything was done manually.  Now you’ve got a computer and you’re punching in stuff.  So it’s changed, and that means that you can just produce a lot more with fewer people.

But there are things we can do right now to accelerate the resurgence of American manufacturing.

Number one — we can create more centers for high-tech manufacturing in America.  Last year, my administration created our first manufacturing innovation institute.  We put it in Youngstown, Ohio, which had been really hard-hit when manufacturing started going overseas.  And so you have a once-shuttered warehouse — it’s now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering what’s called 3-D printing, which has the potential to revolutionize the way we make everything.  That’s the future.  And there’s no reason that those same kinds of projects can’t take root in other cities and towns.

So last night, I announced the launch of three more institutes.  And I’m calling on Congress to help us set up 15 institutes –- global centers of high-tech jobs and advanced manufacturing around the country.  (Applause.)

The second thing we need to do is make our tax code more competitive.  Right now, companies get all kinds of tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas, but companies that stay here get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world.  That doesn’t make any sense.  So what I’m proposing is that we reform our tax code, stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, reward companies that are creating jobs right here in the United States of America.  That makes sense.  (Applause.)

Number three — if you’re a manufacturing town, especially one that’s taken a hit — that’s seen a company close up shop or a plant shut down — I want to partner with local leaders to help you attract new investment.  Because once that investment starts coming in, things can start turning around.  And that means infrastructure gets modernized and research facilities get built, and suddenly a community that was knocked down is getting back up, and they’re attracting new manufacturers who want to come and expand and hire.

So I want us to focus on — if a place like — when Asheville lost the Volvo plant, we’ve got to come in here real quick and help them figure out, all right, what is it that we need to attract a new employer.

Number four — we’ve got to help our workers get the training to compete for the industries of tomorrow.  At least a couple of the guys that I had a chance to meet as we were taking the tour told me they were out of work for a year — in one case, two years — in part because we kept unemployment insurance in place so folks could get back on their feet, they were able to go back to school, and now are gainfully employed.  No job in America should go unfilled because somebody doesn’t have the right skills to get that job — nobody.  (Applause.)

So if there is a job open, we should train those folks right away, so that they can do the job.  And that’s why I’m proposing a national goal of training 2 million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job.  And we know this works.  After Linamar came to town, they started working with AB-Tech, one of the community colleges here in Asheville.  (Applause.)  And AB-Tech and Linamar worked together to do something that is really smart.  Rather than have kids just — or in some cases not kids, older workers — show up and they’re taking a bunch of classes but they don’t know how this is directly going to lead to a job, what you do is you customize the class to train people so they can come and work at the plant and they’re getting experience that’s directly applicable to what’s being done here at the job.  (Applause.)

That’s good for the community.  It’s good for Linamar, because they’re getting workers who they know can do the job.  It’s good for the folks who are going to the community college, because they know if they work hard and they do well in the class there’s a job waiting for them.  It’s good for the economy as a whole.

So those are four common-sense steps that we can take right now to strengthen manufacturing in America.  There’s no magic bullet here.  It’s just some common-sense stuff.  People still have to work hard.  Companies like Linamar still have to make good products.  But the point is, is that if we can just do a few things, then over time what happens is we start rebuilding our manufacturing base in a way that strengthens our economy as a whole.

Now, I’m doing what I can just through administrative action, but I need Congress to help.  I need Congress to do their part.  (Applause.)  I need Congress to take up these initiatives, because we’ve come too far and we’ve worked too hard to turn back now.

And you think about all that this city and all of you have been through over the last few years.  Think about folks like Jeff Brower.  Now, Jeff was in the trucking industry for over a decade.  Two years ago, he got laid off.  He lost his job as a diesel mechanic.  That’s a tough thing to go through, even though Jeff is a pretty tough guy.  But he bounced back.  He decided it was time for him to change careers.  He decided it was time to get some new skills.  He went to AB-Technology, took a class in automated machining.  A few months ago, Jeff got his diploma.  He graduated on a Wednesday, interviewed at this plant on Thursday. By Friday, he was working as a machine operator.  (Applause.)

Where’s Jeff?  There he is, right here.  (Applause.)  Now, obviously, Jeff is pretty good at interviews — (laughter) — because he just got hired like that.  I hope he can give me some advice.  (Laughter.)

But here’s the thing.  The reason Jeff did all that — obviously, a lot of it was to support himself and his family — but it wasn’t just to punch a clock at a new plant or pick up a paycheck from a new company.  It was to make sure he could have a better future for his family and for his community and his country.  Jeff said, “Getting my foot in the door has opened my eyes to bigger horizons.  And I want to keep on going.”  I want to keep on going.  (Applause.)

So that’s our story.  That’s the American story.  We don’t give up.  We get up.  We innovate.  We adapt.  We learn new skills.  We keep going.  And I just want everybody here to know at this plant, but everybody in Asheville, everybody in North Carolina and everybody all across the country — I want you to know as long as you’re out here fighting every day to better your lives and to better the lives of your children, then I’ll be back in Washington fighting for you.  (Applause.)  I will be back there fighting for you — because there’s nothing we can’t do and no possibilities we can’t reach when we’re working together.  We just have to work together.

And we’ve got to stop with some of the politics that we see in Washington, sometimes that’s focused on who’s up and who’s down.  Let’s just focus on the same kind of common sense and cooperation that we’re seeing at this plant and we see all across the country.

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

END
12:30 P.M. EST

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