Full Text Obama Presidency June 28, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Focusing on the Economic Priorities for the Middle Class Nationwide

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Focusing on the Economic Priorities for the Middle Class Nationwide

Source: WH, 6-28-14 

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President discussed his recent trip to Minneapolis where he met a working mother named Rebekah, who wrote the President to share the challenges her family and many middle class Americans are facing where they work hard and sacrifice yet still can’t seem to get ahead. But instead of focusing on growing the middle class and expanding opportunity for all, Republicans in Congress continue to block commonsense economic proposals such as raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance and making college more affordable.  The President will keep fighting his economic priorities in the weeks and months ahead, because he knows the best way to expand opportunity for all hardworking Americans and continue to strengthen the economy is to grow it from the middle-out.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
June 28, 2014

Hi, everybody.  This week, I spent a couple days in Minneapolis, talking with people about their lives – their concerns, their successes, and their hopes for the future.

I went because of a letter I received from a working mother named Rebekah, who shared with me the hardships her young family has faced since the financial crisis.  She and her husband Ben were just newlyweds expecting their first child, Jack, when the housing crash dried up his contracting business.  He took what jobs he could, and Rebekah took out student loans and retrained for a new career.  They sacrificed – for their kids, and for each other.  And five years later, they’ve paid off debt, bought their first home, and had their second son, Henry.

In her letter to me, she wrote, “We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”  And in many ways, that’s America’s story these past five years.  We are a strong, tight-knit family that’s made it through some very tough times.

Today, over the past 51 months, our businesses have created 9.4 million new jobs.  By measure after measure, our economy is doing better than it was five years ago.

But as Rebekah also wrote in her letter, there are still too many middle-class families like hers who do everything right – who work hard and who sacrifice – but can’t seem to get ahead.  It feels like the odds are stacked against them.  And with just a small change in our priorities, we could fix that.

The problem is, Republicans in Congress keep blocking or voting down almost every serious idea to strengthen the middle class.  This year alone, they’ve said no to raising the minimum wage, no to fair pay, no to student loan reform, no to extending unemployment insurance.  And rather than invest in education that helps working families get ahead, they actually voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.

This obstruction keeps the system rigged for those at the top, and rigged against the middle class.  And as long as they insist on doing it, I’ll keep taking actions on my own – like the actions I’ve taken already to attract new jobs, lift workers’ wages, and help students pay off their loans.  I’ll do my job.  And if it makes Republicans in Congress mad that I’m trying to help people out, they can join me, and we’ll do it together.

The point is, we could do so much more as a country – as a strong, tight-knit family – if Republicans in Congress were less interested in stacking the deck for those at the top, and more interested in growing the economy for everybody.

So rather than more tax breaks for millionaires, let’s give more tax breaks to help working families pay for child care or college.  Rather than protect tax loopholes that let big corporations set up tax shelters overseas, let’s put people to work rebuilding roads and bridges right here in America.  Rather than stack the decks in favor of those who’ve already succeeded, let’s realize that we are stronger as a nation when we offer a fair shot to every American.

I’m going to spend some time talking about these very choices in the week ahead.  That’s because we know from our history that our economy doesn’t grow from the top-down, it grows from the middle-out.  We do better when the middle class does better.  That’s the American way.  That’s what I believe in.  And that’s what I’ll keep fighting for.

Have a great Fourth of July, everybody – and good luck to Team USA down in Brazil.

Thanks.

Full Text Obama Presidency June 23, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the White House Summit on Working Families

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama at the White House Summit on Working Families | June 23, 2014

Source: WH, 6-23-14 

Omni Shoreham Hotel
Washington, D.C.

1:51 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  This crowd looks fired up.  (Applause.)  Already, everybody have a seat.  Have a seat.  You look like you’ve been busy.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS:  Yes!

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We’re just waiting on you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I know that’s right.  (Applause.)  I know that’s right.  (Laughter.)  Good afternoon, everybody.  Have a seat, have a seat.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I love you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Applause.)  I do.  Well, welcome to the White House Summit on Working Families.  (Applause.)  And thanks to all of you for joining us.  I know that for most of you, you are taking time off of work or family, or both, to be here.  And I know that’s a sacrifice.  And I know just juggling schedules can be tough.  And in fact, that’s one of the reasons that we are here today.

I want to thank our co-hosts, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez — give him a big round of applause — as well as Neera Tanden and everyone at the Center for American Progress for the great work that they did.  (Applause.)  Thanks as well to all the members of Congress who are participating, especially Nancy Pelosi and the members of the Democratic Women’s Working Group.  (Applause.)  And a long-time friend and champion of families and women and veterans, Connie Milstein — we could not have pulled this off without Connie’s great assistance, so we want to thank Connie.  (Applause.)

So I just walked over to Chipotle for lunch.  (Laughter.)  I caused a lot of havoc, as you might expect.  (Laughter.)  It had been a while since I had the burrito bowl, and it was good.  (Laughter.)  And I went there with four new buddies of mine.  One of them is a father of a four year old and a two month old who has worked with his wife to come up with a flexible plan where he works three or four days a week.  She works three or four days a week.  And the reason is because, as Roger put it, he thinks it’s important that he is able to bond with this kids just as much as his wife is.

Lisa you just heard from, who had twins who were prematurely born.  And because her company was supportive, she was able to not just thrive and watch her kids grow up, but she’s also been able to be promoted and continue to succeed in her company without being on a slower track while maintaining that life-family balance, which is terrific — worth applauding.

Shirley Young from New York works at a nursing home, and she’s got older children.  And she was most interested in talking about the fact that when her son — it was discovered had curvature of the spine, that she had health care that she could count on.  Otherwise, there was no way that she could deal with it.  And her benefits on the job were good enough that she could use her vacation time when he had to go to the doctor.

And then Shelby from Denver — (applause) — Shelby has got a little fan club here.  Shelby talked about the fact that on her job it’s been a little more challenging.  Her kids are older and she’s going back to school.  And it is wonderful that she is actually now taking some classes with her children and they’re helping explain math to her.  (Laughter.)  On the other hand, she’s also got an aging parent.  And when he had to go to the doctor, they don’t have a policy of paid family leave.  And since it’s hard making ends meet in the first place, her dad had to end up getting on a bus for eye surgery and come back on his own, because she couldn’t afford to take the time off.

Now, each of these folks come from different parts of the country.  They have different occupations, different income levels.  And yet, what bound all of us together was a recognition that work gives us a sense of place and dignity, as well as income.  And it is critically important, but family is also the bedrock of our lives and we don’t want a society in which folks are having to make a choice between those two things.  And there are better decisions that we can make and there are not-so-good decisions that we can make as a society to support this balance between work and family.

Most of our days consist of work, family, and not much else.   And those two spheres are constantly interacting with each other.  When we’re with our family, sometimes we’re thinking about work, and when we’re at work, we’re thinking about family.  That’s a pretty universal experience.  It’s true when you are President of the United States.  (Laughter.)

Now, I am lucky that my daughters were a bit older by the time I became President, so I never had to meet a world leader with Cheerios stuck to my pants.  (Laughter.)  That has not happened.  And I’m also lucky, because we live above the store, so to speak.  (Laughter.)  I have a very short commute.  (Laughter.)  And as a consequence, we’ve been able to organize ourselves to have dinner with Michelle and the girls almost every night.  And that’s pretty much the first time we’ve been able to do that in our lives.  (Applause.)

But before I moved into the White House, I was away a lot sometimes with work, sometimes with campaigning.  Michelle was working full-time and was at home with the responsibility all too often of dealing with everything that the girls needed.  And so, I understand how lucky we are now, because there was a big chunk of time when we were doing what so many of you have to deal with every day, and that is figuring out how do we make this whole thing work.

A lot of Americans are not as lucky as we have been.  It is hard sometimes just to get by.  Our businesses have created jobs for 51 consecutive months — 9.4 [million] new jobs in all.  (Applause.)  But we all know somebody out there who is still looking for work.  And there are a whole lot of people who are working harder than ever, but can’t seem to get ahead and pay all the bills at the end of the month.  Despite the fact that our economy has grown and those of us at the very top have done very well, the average wage, the average income hasn’t gone up in 15 years in any meaningful way.  And that means that relative to 15 years ago, a lot of families just aren’t that much better off.  And the sacrifices they make for their families go beyond just missing family dinner.

You look at something like workplace flexibility.  This was so important to our family when I was away, because if Malia or Sasha got sick, or the babysitter did not show up, it was Michelle who got the call.  And, fortunately, she had an employer who understood if she needed to leave work in the middle of the day or change her schedule suddenly.  In fact, actually when she applied for the job, she brought Sasha, who was then about six months, in her car seat into the interview — (applause) — just to kind of explain this is what you will be dealing with if you hire me.  (Laughter.)

And so, they signed up for that.  And that flexibility made all the difference to our families.  But a lot of working moms and dads can’t do that.  They don’t have the leverage.  They’re not being recruited necessarily where they can dictate terms of employment.  And as a consequence, if they need to bring their mom to the doctor or take an afternoon off to see their kid’s school play, it would mean them losing income that they can’t afford to lose.  And even when working from home from time to time is doable, it’s often not an option — even though studies show that flexibility makes workers happier and helps companies lower turnover and raise productivity.

The same goes with paid family leave.  A lot of jobs do not offer it.  So when a new baby arrives or an aging parent gets sick, workers have to make painful decisions about whether they can afford to be there when their families need them the most.  Many women can’t even get a paid day off to give birth.  Now, that’s a pretty low bar.  (Laughter.)  You would think — that we should be able to take care of.  (Laughter and applause.)

For many hourly workers, taking just a few days off can mean losing their job.  And even though unpaid family leave is available, if you can’t pay the bills already the idea of taking a couple days off unpaid may mean you can’t make the mortgage payment or the rent payment at the end of the month.

Or look at childcare.  In most countries, it costs — in most parts of the country, it costs thousands of dollars a year.  In fact, in 31 states, decent childcare costs more than in-state college tuition — in 31 states, in more than half the states.  I recently got a letter from a woman in Minnesota whose kids’ preschool is so expensive, it costs more than her monthly mortgage payment.  Now, she’s made a determination to make that sacrifice for her kids, but a lot of working families can’t make that sacrifice.  And, by the way, there are other countries that know how to do childcare well.  I mean, this isn’t rocket science.

Or look at the minimum wage.  Low-wage occupations disproportionately represented by women.  Nearly 28 million Americans would benefit if we raised the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)  And we’re not just talking about young people on their first job.  The average worker who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage is 35 years old.  Many have kids, a majority are women.  And right now, many full-time minimum wage workers are not making enough to keep their children out of poverty.

So these are just a few of the challenges that working parents face.  And every day, I hear from parents all across the country.  They are doing everything right — they are working hard, they are living responsibly, they are taking care of their children, they’re participating in their community — and these letters can be heartbreaking, because at the end of the day it doesn’t feel like they’re getting ahead.  And all too often, it feels like they’re slipping behind.  And a lot of the time, they end up blaming themselves thinking, if I just work a little harder — if I plan a little better, if I sleep a little bit less, if I stretch every dollar a little bit farther — maybe I can do it.  And that thought may have crossed the minds of some of the folks here from time to time.

Part of the purpose of this summit is to make clear you’re not alone.  Because here’s the thing:  These problems are not typically the result of poor planning or too little diligence on the parts of moms or dads, and they cannot just be fixed by working harder or being an even better parent.  (Applause.)  All too often, they are the results of outdated policies and old ways of thinking.  Family leave, childcare, workplace flexibility, a decent wage — these are not frills, they are basic needs.  They shouldn’t be bonuses.  They should be part of our bottom line as a society.  That’s what we’re striving for.  (Applause.)

Parents who work full-time should earn enough to pay the bills, and they should be able to head off to work every day knowing that their children are in good hands.  Workers who give their all should know that if they need a little flexibility, they can have it — because their employers understand that it’s hard to be productive if you’ve got a sick kid at home or a childcare crisis.

Talented, hard-working people should be able to say yes to a promotion or a great new opportunity without worrying about the price that their family will pay.  There was a new poll by Nielsen’s that found that nearly half of all working parents say they have turned down a job not because they didn’t want it, but because it would put too much of a burden on their families.  When that many members of our workforce are forced to choose between a job and their family, something’s wrong.

And here is a critical point:  All too often, these issues are thought of as women’s issues, which I guess means you can kind of scoot them aside a little bit.  At a time when women are nearly half of our workforce, among our most skilled workers, are the primary breadwinners in more families than ever before, anything that makes life harder for women makes life harder for families and makes life harder for children.  (Applause.)  When women succeed, America succeeds, so there’s no such thing as a women’s issue.  (Applause.)  There’s no such thing as a women’s issue.  This is a family issue and an American issue — these are commonsense issues.  (Applause.)

This is about you too, men.  (Laughter.)  Men care about having high-quality childcare.  Dad’s rearrange their schedules to make it to teacher meetings and school plays, just like moms.  Although somebody pointed out to me — this is a useful insight — that when dads say, yes, I’ve got to leave early to go to the parent-teacher conference, everybody in the office says, oh, isn’t that nice.  (Laughter.)  And then, when women do it, everybody is all like, is she really committed to the job?  So there can be a double standard there.  (Applause.)  But sons help care for aging parents.  A whole lot of fathers would love to be home for their new baby’s first weeks in the world.

People ask me what do I love most about being President, and it’s true Air Force One is on the list.  (Laughter.)  The Truman Balcony has a really nice view.  (Laughter.)  But one of the — I was telling folks the other day that one of the best perks about being President is anybody will hand you their baby — here.  (Laughter.)

So I get this baby fix like two or three times a week.  (Laughter.)  But the reason it’s so powerful is because I remember taking the night shift when Malia was born and when Sasha was born, and being up at two in the morning changing diapers and burping them, and singing to them and reading them stories, and watching Sports Center once in a while, which I thought was good for their development.  (Laughter.)  It was.  We want them to be well-rounded.  (Laughter.)

But the point is, I was lucky enough to be able to take some time off so that I was there for the 2:00 a.m. feeding and the soothing, and just getting to know them and making sure they knew me.  And that bond is irreplaceable.  And I want every father and every child to have that opportunity.  But that requires a society that makes it easier for us to give folks that opportunity.  (Applause.)

So the bottom line is 21st-century families deserve 21st-century workplaces.  (Applause.)  And our economy demands them, because it’s going to help us compete.  It’s going to help us lead.  And that means paid family leave, especially paid parental leave.  (Applause.)  There is only one developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave, and that is us.  And that is not the list you want to be on by your lonesome.  It’s time to change that, because all Americans should be able to afford to care for their families.  (Applause.)

It means high-quality early education.  We know that the investment we make in those early years pays off over a child’s entire lifetime.  And these programs give parents a great place to know that their kids are thriving while they’re at work.  Other countries know how to do this.  If France can figure this out, we can figure it out.  (Laughter and applause.)  All our kids need to benefit from that early enrichment.

It means treating pregnant workers fairly, because too many are forced to choose between their health and their job.  (Applause.)  Right now, if you’re pregnant you could potentially get fired for taking too many bathroom breaks — clearly from a boss who has never been pregnant — or forced unpaid leave.  That makes no sense.  Congress should pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act without delay.  (Applause.)

Speaking of Congress, by the way — (laughter) –

AUDIENCE MEMBERS:  Booo –

THE PRESIDENT:  No, don’t boo, vote.  (Applause.)  As long as Congress refuses to act on these policies, we’re going to need you to raise your voices.  We need you to tell Congress don’t talk about how you support families, actually support families.  Don’t talk the talk.  We want you to walk the walk.

In the meantime, if Congress will not act, we’re going to need mayors to act.  We’ll need governors and state legislators to act.  We need CEOs to act.  And I will promise you, you will have a President who will take action to support working families.  (Applause.)

The good news is you don’t have to do it alone and I don’t have to do it alone.  Now that’s part of the purpose of this summit is to recognize that there’s all kinds of exciting stuff going on around the country.  We just have to make sure that we lift up conversations that are taking place at the kitchen table every single day.  Some businesses are already taking the lead, knowing that family-friendly policies are good business practices.  It’s how you keep talented employees.  That’s how you build loyalty and inspire your workers to go the extra mile for your company.

Some of those businesses are represented here today.  So JetBlue, for example, has a flexible, work-from-home plan in place for its customer service representatives.  They found it led to happier and more productive employees, and it lowered their costs, which translated into higher profits and lower ticket prices for their customers.  It was good business.

In 2007, Google realized that women were leaving the company at twice the rate that men left — and one of the reasons was that the maternity leave policy wasn’t competitive enough.  So they increased paid leave for new parents — moms and dads — to five months.  And that helped to cut the rate of women leaving the company in half.  Good business sense.

Cisco estimates that by letting their employees telecommute, they save more than $275 million each year.  They say it’s the main reason why they’re rated one of the best places to work in America.

So it’s easy to see how policies like this make for better places to work.  There’s also a larger economic case for it.  The strength of our economy rests on whether we’re getting the most out of our nation’s talent, whether we’re making it possible for every citizen to contribute to our growth and prosperity.  We do better when we field an entire team, not just part of a team.

And the key to staying competitive in the global economy is your workforce, is your talent.  Right now, too many folks are on the sidelines who have the desire and the capacity to work, but they’re held back by one obstacle or another.  So it’s our job to remove those obstacles — help working parents, improve job training, improve early childhood education, invest in better infrastructure so people are getting to work safely.  Just about everything I do as President is to make sure that we’re not leaving any of our nation’s talent behind.  That’s what this summit is all about.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Working families love you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you.  (Applause.)  So we’re seeing businesses set a good examples.  We’ve got states who are setting a good example.  California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey all gave workers paid family leave.  Connecticut offers paid sick days and so does New York City.  (Applause.)  Since I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage last year — they’ve been a little slow, shockingly, but 13 states have taken steps to raise it on their own.  (Applause.)  In my State of the Union address this year, I asked mayors and governors and CEOs — do what you can to raise your workers’ wages, and a lot of them are.  A lot of them are doing it.

Because even if Republicans in Congress refuse to budge on this issue this year, everybody knows America deserves a raise, including Republican voters out there.  There are a lot of them who support it.  And I’ve said I will work with anybody — Democrat or Republican — to increase opportunities for American workers.  And Nancy Pelosi is ready to work.  (Applause.)

Now, many of these issues, they’re not partisan until they get to Washington.  Back home, to folks sitting around the kitchen table, this isn’t partisan.  Nobody says, I don’t know, I’m not sure whether the Republican platform agrees with paid family leave.  They’re thinking, I could really use a couple of paid days off to take care of dad, regardless of what their party affiliation is.

So even as we’re waiting for Congress, whenever I can act on my own, I’m going to.  That’s why we raised the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors.  (Applause.)  Nobody who cooks our troops’ meals or washes their dishes should have to live in poverty.  That’s a disgrace.  That’s why I ordered Tom Perez, our Secretary of Labor, to review overtime protections for millions of workers to make sure they’re getting the pay that they deserve.  (Applause.)

That’s why I signed an executive order preventing retaliation against federally contracted workers who share their salary information or raise issues of unequal compensation –because I think if you do the same work, you should get the same pay and you should be able to enforce it, which is why Congress should pass the Paycheck Fairness Act today for all workers and not just federally-contracted workers.  (Applause.)

And yes, that’s why I fought to pass the Affordable Care Act, to give every American access to high-quality affordable care no matter where they work.  (Applause.)  So far, over 8 million people have enrolled in plans through the ACA.  Millions with preexisting conditions have been prevented or have been confident that their insurance companies have not been able to block them from getting health insurance.  And by the way, women are no longer charged more for being women.

They’re getting the basic care they need, including reproductive care.  And millions are now free to take the best job for their families without worrying about losing their health care.  Today, I’m going to sign a presidential memorandum directing every agency in the federal government to expand access to flexible work schedules, and giving employees the right to request those flexible work schedules.  (Applause.)

Because whether it’s the public sector or the private sector, if there’s a way to make our employees more productive and happier, every employer should want to find it.  And to help parents trying to get ahead, I’m going to direct my Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, to invest $25 million in helping people who want to enroll in jobs programs, but don’t currently have access to the childcare that they need to enroll in those job training programs.  (Applause.)  We’re going to make it easier for parents to get the training they need to get a good job.  (Applause.)

So we’re going to do everything we can to create more jobs and more opportunity for Americans.  And then, let me just close by saying that I was interviewed in the run up to this on Friday.  Somebody asked, well, it’s well-known that women are more likely to vote for Democrats — to which I said, women are smarter.  This is true.  (Applause.)

But they said, so isn’t this Working Families Summit political?  And I said, no, I take this personally.  I was raised by strong women who worked hard to support my sister and me.  (Applause.)  I saw what it was like for a single mom who was trying to go to school and work at the same time.  And I remember her coming home and having to try to fix us dinner, and me saying, are we eating that again?  (Laughter.)  And she saying, you know what, buddy, I really don’t want to hear anything out of you right now, because I’ve got to go do some homework after this.

And I remember times where my mom had to take some food stamps to make sure that we had enough nutritious food in the house, and I know what she went through.  I know what my grandmother went through, working her way up from a secretary to the vice president of a bank.  But she should have run the bank, except she hit a glass ceiling and was training people who would leapfrog ahead of her year after year.  I know what that’s like.  I’ve seen it.

I take this personally, because I’m the husband of a brilliant woman who struggled to balance work and raising our girls when I was away.  And I remember the stresses that were on Michelle, which I’m sure she’ll be happy to share with you later today.  (Laughter.)  And most of all, I take it personally, because I am the father of two unbelievable young ladies.  (Applause.)  And I want them to be able to have families.  And I want them to be able to have careers.  And I want them to go as far as their dreams will take them.  And I want a society that supports that.

And I take this personally as the President of the country that built the greatest middle class the world has ever known and inspired people to reach new heights and invent, and innovate, and drew immigrants from every corner of the world because they understood that no matter what you look like or where you come from, here in America you can make it.  That’s the promise of America.  That’s what we’re going to keep on fighting for.  That’s what you’re fighting for.  That’s what this summit is all about.

Let’s go out there and get to work.  Thank you, guys.  I love you.  God bless you.  God bless America.

END
2:21 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines August 7, 2013: President Obama’s Talks Housing & Mortgage Reform at Town Hall on Real Estate Site Zillow

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama ‘Would Save Some Money’ by Refinancing Chicago Home

MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama personalized the promotion of his housing agenda Wednesday, saying he would save money by refinancing his family’s home in Chicago.

“I would probably benefit from refinancing right now. I would save some money,” the president said in an online forum hosted by real estate website Zillow….READ MORE

Political Musings August 7, 2013: President Barack Obama unveils mortgage plan to restore housing market in Phoenix, Arizona speech

HISTORY MUSINGS

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

Obama unveils mortgage plan to restore housing market in Phoenix, Arizona speech (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Video

 

President Barack Obama announced his mortgage reform plan in a speech at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Arizona on August 6, 2013. The plan includes ending government run Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s role in mortgages and…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency August 6, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Mortgage Reform, Housing Market and the Economy at Vista High School in Arizona — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama speech in Arizona: Full transcript of President’s speech at Desert Vista High School

During a speech on the housing market in Phoenix, Arizona, President Obama outlined a plan to repair the hurting industry. 

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been visiting towns like this talking about what we need to do as a country to secure a better bargain for the middle class – a national strategy to make sure everyone who works hard has a chance to succeed in the 21 st century economy.

For the past four and a half years, we’ve been fighting our way back from a devastating recession that cost millions of Americans their jobs, their homes, and their savings – a recession that laid bare the long erosion of middle-class security.

Together, we took on a broken health care system and a housing market in freefall.  We invested in new American technologies to reverse our addiction to foreign oil. We changed a tax code that had become tilted in favor of the wealthiest at the expense of working families.  We saved the auto industry, and now GM plans to hire 1,000 new workers right next door in Chandler to make sure we build some of the most high-tech cars in the world right here in America.

Today, our businesses have created 7.3 million new jobs over the last 41 months.  We now sell more products made in America to the rest of the world than ever before.  We produce more renewable energy than ever, and more natural gas than anyone.  Health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years.  And our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years.

Thanks to the grit and resilience of the American people, we’ve cleared away the rubble from the financial crisis, and begun to lay a new foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth.  But as any middle-class family will tell you, we’re not where we need to be yet.  Even before the crisis hit, we were living through a decade where a few at the top were doing better and better, while most families were working harder and harder just to get by.

Reversing this trend must be Washington’s highest priority.  It’s certainly my highest priority.  But for most of this year, an endless parade of distractions, political posturing, and phony scandals have shifted focus from what we need to do to shore up the middle class.  And as Washington heads towards another budget debate, the stakes could not be higher.

That’s why I’m laying out my ideas for how we must build on the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America.  A good job with good wages.  A home to call your own.  A good education.  Affordable health care that’s there for you when you get sick.  A secure retirement even if you’re not rich.  And more chances for folks to earn their way into the middle class as long as they’re willing to work for it.

Last Tuesday, I went to Tennessee to talk about that first cornerstone, and lay out a grand bargain for middle-class jobs. And today, I’ve come to Phoenix to talk about that second, most tangible cornerstone at the heart of middle-class life: the chance to own your own home.

A home is supposed to be our ultimate evidence that in America, hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.  I think of my grandparents’ generation.  After my grandfather served in World War II, this country gave him the chance to go to college on the GI Bill, and buy his first home with a loan from the FHA.  To him, and to generations of Americans before and since, a home was more than just a house.  A home was a source of pride and security.  It was a place to raise children, put down roots, and build up savings for college, or a business, or retirement.  And buying a home required responsibility on everyone’s part – banks were supposed to give you a fair deal, with terms you could understand, and buyers were supposed to live within their means.  In my grandfather’s America, houses weren’t for flipping – they were for living in.

But over time, responsibility too often gave way to recklessness – on the part of lenders who sold loans to people who couldn’t afford them, and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them.  And when the housing bubble burst, triggering the recession, millions of Americans who had done everything right were hurt badly by the actions of others.  By the time I took office, home values had fallen almost 20% from the year before.  New housing starts had fallen nearly 80% from their peak. Hundreds of thousands of construction workers had lost their jobs.  A record number of people were behind on their mortgages.  And the storm hit harder here in Phoenix than almost anywhere.

So less than a month after I took office, I came here to Arizona and laid out steps to stabilize the housing market and help responsible homeowners get back on their feet.  And while it’s been a long, slow process that’s taken longer than any of us would like, we’ve helped millions of Americans save an average of $3,000 each year by refinancing at lower rates, and we’ve helped millions of responsible homeowners stay in their homes.

And

where Congress wouldn’t act, we did.  Over the past few years, the Department of Justice stood up for buyers who were discriminated against or conned by predatory lenders, winning more money for victims of discrimination last year alone than in the previous 23 combined.  We worked with states to force big banks to repay more than $50 billion dollars to more than 1.5 million families – the largest lending settlement in history.  We’ve extended the time folks who’ve lost their jobs can delay payments on their mortgages while they keep looking for work.  And we’ve cracked down on the bad practices that led to the crisis in the first place – because if something is called a “liar’s loan,” it’s probably a bad idea.

Today, our housing market is healing.  Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in 7 years.  Sales are up nearly 50%.  Construction is up nearly 75%.  New foreclosures are down by nearly two-thirds.  Millions of families have been able to come up for air, because they’re no longer underwater on their mortgages.  And even though we’re not where we were need to be yet, Phoenix has led one of the biggest comebacks in the country.  Home prices have risen by nearly 20% over the last year.  New home sales are up by more than 25%.  A company I visited this morning, Erickson Construction, shrank to less than 100 workers during the worst years of the crisis.  Today they employ 580 people – and they’re hiring even more.

Now we have to build on this progress. We give to more hard-working Americans the chance to buy their first home.  We have to help more responsible homeowners refinance their mortgage. And above all, we have to turn the page on the bubble-and-bust mentality that created this mess, and build a housing system that’s durable and fair and rewards responsibility for generations to come.

Some of the ideas I put forward today will be new.  Some will be old ideas Congress hasn’t acted on yet.  But like the other actions we’ve taken, these will not help the neighbors down the street who bought a house they couldn’t afford, then walked away and left a foreclosed home behind.  It won’t help speculators who bought multiple homes just to make a quick buck.

What these ideas will do is help millions of responsible, middle-class homeowners who still need relief, and working Americans who dream of owning their own home fair and square.  And there are immediate actions we can take, right now, that would make a difference.

Step one is for Congress to pass a good, bipartisan idea, and allow every homeowner to save thousands of dollars a year by refinancing their mortgage at today’s rates.  Let’s get that done.

Step two: now that we’ve made it harder for reckless buyers to buy homes they can’t afford, let’s make it easier for qualified buyers to buy homes they can.  We should simplify overlapping regulations and cut red tape for responsible families who want to get a mortgage, but who keep getting rejected by banks.  And we should give well-qualified Americans who lost their jobs during the crisis a fair chance to get a loan if they’ve worked hard to repair their credit.

Step three is something you don’t always hear about when it comes to the housing market – and that’s fixing a broken immigration system.  It’s pretty simple: when more people buy homes, and play by the rules, home values go up for everybody.  According to one recent study, the average homeowner has already seen the value of their home boosted by thousands of dollars, just because of immigration.  Now, with the help of your Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, the Senate has already passed a bipartisan immigration bill that’s got the support of CEOs, labor, and law enforcement.  And considering what this bill can do for homeowners, that’s just one more reason Republicans in the House should stop dragging their feet and get this done.

Step four: we should address the uneven recovery by rebuilding the communities hit hardest by the housing crisis, including many right here in Arizona.  Let’s put construction workers back to work repairing rundown homes and tearing down vacant properties.  Places facing a longer road back from the crisis should have their country’s help to get there.

Step five: we should make sure families that don’t want to buy a home, or can’t yet afford to buy one, have a decent place to rent.  In the run-up to the crisis, banks and the government too often made everyone feel like they had to own a home, even if they weren’t ready.  That’s a mistake we shouldn’t repeat.  Instead, let’s invest in affordable rental housing.  And let’s bring together cities and states to address local barriers that drive up rent for working families.

Helping more Americans refinance.  Helping qualified families get a mortgage.  Reforming our immigration system.  Rebuilding the hardest-hit communities.  Making sure folks have a decent place to rent.  These steps will give more middle-class families the chance to buy their own home, more relief

to responsible homeowners, and more options for families who aren’t yet ready to buy.  But as home prices rise, we can’t just re-inflate a housing bubble.  That’s the second thing I’m here to talk about today: laying a rock-solid foundation to make sure the kind of crisis we just went through never happens again.

That begins with winding down the companies known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  For too long, these companies were allowed to make big profits buying mortgages, knowing that if their bets went bad, taxpayers would be left holding the bag.  It was “heads we win, tails you lose.”  And it was wrong.

The good news is that there’s a bipartisan group of Senators working to end Fannie and Freddie as we know them.  I support these kinds of efforts, and today I want to lay out four core principles for what I believe this reform should look like.

First, private capital should take a bigger role in the mortgage market.  I know that must sound confusing to the folks who call me a raging socialist every day.  But just like the health care law that set clear rules for insurance companies to protect consumers and make it more affordable for millions to buy coverage on the private market, I believe that while our housing system must have a limited government role, private lending should be the backbone of the housing market, including community-based lenders who view their borrowers not as a number, but as a neighbor.

Second, no more leaving taxpayers on the hook for irresponsibility or bad decisions.  We encourage the pursuit of profit – but the era of expecting a bailout after your pursuit of profit puts the whole country at risk is over.

Third, we should preserve access to safe and simple mortgage products like the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage.  That’s something families should be able to rely on when they make the most important purchase of their lives.

Fourth, we have to keep housing affordable for first-time homebuyers and families working to climb into the middle class.  We need to strengthen the FHA so it gives today’s families the same kind of chance it gave my grandparents, and preserves that rung on the ladder of opportunity.  And we need to support affordable rental housing and keep up our fight against homelessness.  Since I took office we’ve helped bring one in four homeless veterans off the streets. Here in Phoenix, thanks to the hard work of everyone from Mayor Stanton to the local United Way to US Airways, you’re on track to end chronic homelessness for veterans by 2014.  But we have to keep going, because nobody in America, and certainly no veteran, should be left to live on the street.

Putting these principles in place will protect our entire economy, but we also need to do more to give individual homeowners the tools they need to protect themselves.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau we created is laying down new rules of the road that every family can count on when they’re shopping for a mortgage.  They’re designing a new, simple mortgage form in plain English, with no fine print, so you know before you owe.  And I’m glad the Senate finally confirmed Richard Cordray as the head watchdog at the CFPB, so he can aggressively protect homeowners and consumers.

But when it comes to some of the other leaders we need to look out for the American people, the Senate still has to do its job.  Months ago, I nominated a man named Mel Watt to be our nation’s top housing regulator.  Mel’s represented the people of North Carolina in Congress for 20 years, and in that time, he worked with banks and borrowers to protect consumers and help responsible lenders provide credit.  He’s the right person for the job, and Congress should give his nomination an up-or-down vote without any more obstruction or delay.

Now I want to be clear: no program or policy will solve all the problems in a multi-trillion dollar housing market.  The heights the housing bubble reached before it burst were unsustainable, and it will take time to fully recover.  But if we take the steps I put forward today, then I know we will restore not just our home values, but our common values.  We’ll make owning a home a symbol of responsibility and a source of security for generations to come, just like it was for my grandparents, and just like I want it to be for our grandchildren.

And if we follow the strategy I am laying out for our entire economy: for jobs, housing, education, healthcare, retirement, and climbing the ladders of opportunity, then I have no doubt we will secure that better bargain where hard work is once again rewarded with a shot at a middle-class life.  More Americans will know the pride of that first paycheck.  More will know the satisfaction of flipping the sign to “Open” on their own business.  More will know the joy of etching a child’s height into the door of their new home.

We can do all this if we work together.  It won’t be easy, but if we’re willing to take a few bold steps – and if Washington will just end

the gridlock and set aside the kind of slash-and-burn partisanship we’ve seen these past few years – our economy will be stronger a year from now.  And five years from now.  And ten years from now.  And as long as I have the privilege of serving as your President, I’ll spend every minute of every day I have left in this office doing everything I can to build that better bargain for the middle class and make this country a place where everyone who works hard can get ahead.

Thank you, Arizona.  God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Full Text Obama Presidency August 3, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Pitching a ‘Grand Bargain’ for the Middle Class

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama’s Weekly Address: Pitching a ‘Grand Bargain’ for the Middle Class

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Highlighting his new “grand bargain” offer to Republicans, President Obama says his plan to couple corporate tax reform with investments in programs to create middle class jobs has the potential to break through the “Washington logjam.”…READ MORE

Weekly Address: Securing a Better Bargain for the Middle Class

Source: WH, 8-3-13

In this week’s address, President Obama told the American people that his plan for creating a better bargain for the middle class builds on the progress we’ve made, fighting our way back from the worst economic recession of our lifetimes. The President underscored the need for Congress to end the logjam in Washington and act on his plan that strengthens the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America: a good job, a home that is your own, affordable health care, and a secure retirement.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
August 3, 2013

Hi, everybody.  This week, I went down to an Amazon warehouse in Tennessee to talk more about what we need to do to secure a better bargain for the middle class – to make sure that anyone who works hard can get ahead in the 21st century economy.

Over the past four and a half years, we’ve fought our way back from the worst recession of our lifetimes and begun to lay a foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth.  Today, our businesses have created 7.3 million new jobs over the last 41 months.  We now sell more products made in America to the rest of the world than ever before.  Health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years, and our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years.

But as any middle-class family will tell you, we’re not where we need to be yet.  Even before the crisis hit, we were living through a decade where a few at the top were doing better and better, while most families were working harder and harder just to get by.

Reversing this trend must be Washington’s highest priority.  It’s certainly mine.  But too often over the past two years, Washington has taken its eye off the ball.  They’ve allowed an endless parade of political posturing and phony scandals to distract from growing our economy and strengthening the middle class.

That’s why I’m laying out my ideas for how we can build on the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America.  A good education.  A home of your own.  Health care when you get sick.  A secure retirement even if you’re not rich.  And the most important cornerstone of all: a good job in a durable, growing industry.

When it comes to creating more good jobs that pay decent wages, the problem is not a lack of ideas.  Plenty of independent economists, business owners and people from both parties agree on what we have to do.  I proposed many of these ideas two years ago in the American Jobs Act.  And this week, I put forward common-sense proposals for how we can create more jobs in manufacturing; in wind, solar and natural gas; and by rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

What we’re lacking is action from Washington.  And that’s why, in addition to proposing ideas that we know will grow our economy, I’ve also put forward a strategy for breaking through the Washington logjam – a “grand bargain” for the middle class.

I’m willing to work with Republicans to simplify our tax code for businesses large and small, but only if we take the money we save by transitioning to a simpler tax system and make a significant investment in creating good, middle-class jobs.  We can put construction workers back on the job rebuilding our infrastructure.  We can boost manufacturing, so more American companies can sell their products around the world.  And we can help our community colleges arm our workers with the skills they need in a global economy – all without adding a dime to the deficit.

I’ll keep laying out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot in the 21st century, and I’ll keep reaching out to Republicans for theirs.  But gutting critical investments in our future and threatening national default on the bills that Congress has already racked up – that’s not an economic plan.  Denying health care to millions of Americans, or shutting down the government just because I’m for keeping it open – that won’t help the middle class.

The truth is, there are no gimmicks when it comes to creating jobs.  There are no tricks to grow the economy.  Reversing the long erosion of middle-class security in this country won’t be easy.  But if we work together and take a few bold steps – and if Washington is willing to set aside politics and focus on what really matters – we can grow our economy and give the middle class a better bargain.  And together, we can make this country a place where everyone who works hard can get ahead.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

###

Full Text Obama Presidency July 30, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Jobs for the Middle Class Unveils “Grand Bargain”

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Jobs for the Middle Class

Source: WH, 7-30-13

President Obama Speaks on Jumpstarting Job Growth

President Obama Speaks on Jumpstarting Job Growth

Amazon Chattanooga Fulfillment Center
Chattanooga, Tennessee

2:00 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Chattanooga! (Applause.) It is good to be back in Tennessee. (Applause.) It’s great to be here at Amazon. (Applause.)

I want to thank Lydia for the introduction and sharing her story. Give Lydia a big round of applause. (Applause.) So this is something here. I just finished getting a tour of just one little corner of this massive facility — size of 28 football fields. Last year, during the busiest day of the Christmas rush, customers around the world ordered more than 300 items from Amazon every second, and a lot of those traveled through this building. So this is kind of like the North Pole of the south right here. (Applause.) Got a bunch of good-looking elves here.

Before we start, I want to recognize your general manager, Mike Thomas. (Applause.) My tour guide and your vice president, Dave Clark. (Applause.) You’ve got the Mayor of Chattanooga, Andy Berke. (Applause.) And you’ve got one of the finest gentlemen I know, your Congressman, Jim Cooper. (Applause.) So thank you all for being here.

So I’ve come here today to talk a little more about something I was discussing last week, and that’s what we need to do as a country to secure a better bargain for the middle class -– a national strategy to make sure that every single person who’s willing to work hard in this country has a chance to succeed in the 21st century economy. (Applause.)

Now, you heard from Lydia, so you know — because many of you went through it — over the past four and a half years, we’ve been fighting our way back from the worst recession since the Great Depression, and it cost millions of Americans their jobs and their homes and their savings. And part of what it did is it laid bare the long-term erosion that’s been happening when it comes to middle-class security.

But because the American people are resilient, we bounced back. Together, we’ve righted the ship. We took on a broken health care system. We invested in new American technologies to reverse our addiction to foreign oil. Changed a tax code that had become tilted too much in favor of the wealthy at the expense of working families. Saved the auto industry, and thanks to GM and the UAW working together, we’re bringing jobs back here to America, including 1,800 autoworkers in Spring Hill. (Applause.) 1,800 workers in Spring Hill are on the job today where a plant was once closed.

Today, our businesses have created 7.2 million new jobs over the last 40 months. This year, we’re off to our best private-sector jobs growth since 1999. We now sell more products made in America to the rest of the world than ever before. (Applause.) We produce more renewable energy than ever. We produce more natural gas than anybody else in the world. (Applause.) Health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years. Our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years. (Applause.)

So thanks to hardworking folks like you, thanks to the grit and resilience of the American people, we’ve been able to clear away some of the rubble from the financial crisis. We’ve started to lay a new foundation for a stronger, more durable America — the kind of economic growth that’s broad-based, the foundation required to make this century another American century.

But as I said last week, and as any middle-class family will tell you, we’re not there yet. Even before the financial crisis hit, we were going through a decade where a few at the top were doing better and better, but most families were working harder and harder just to get by. And reversing that trend should be Washington’s highest priority. (Applause.) It’s my highest priority.

But so far, for most of this year, we’ve seen an endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals. And we keep on shifting our way — shifting our attention away from what we should be focused on, which is how do we strengthen the middle class and grow the economy for everybody. (Applause.) And as Washington heads towards yet another budget debate, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

And that’s why I’m visiting cities and towns like this -– to lay out my ideas for how we can build on the cornerstone of what it means to be middle class in America. A good job with good wages. A good education. (Applause.) A home to call your own. (Applause.) Affordable health care that’s there for you when you get sick. (Applause.) A secure retirement even if you’re not rich. (Applause.) More chances for folks to earn their way into the middle class as long as they’re willing to work for it. And, most importantly, the chance to pass on a better future for our kids. (Applause.)

So I’m doing a series of speeches over the next several weeks, but I came to Chattanooga today to talk about the first and most important cornerstone of middle-class security, and that’s a good job in a durable, growing industry. (Applause.)

It’s hard to get the other stuff going if you don’t have a good job. And the truth is everything I’m going to be talking about over the next several weeks really is about jobs. Because preparing our children and our workers for the global competition they’ll face, that’s about jobs. A housing finance system that makes it easier and safer to buy and build new homes, that’s about jobs in the construction industry. Health care that frees you from the fear of losing everything after you’ve worked so hard, and then having the freedom to maybe start your own business because you know you’ll be able to get health care, that’s about jobs. And, obviously, retirement benefits speak to the quality of our jobs.

And let me say this, it’s something everybody here understands: Jobs are about more than just paying the bills. Jobs are about more than just statistics. We’ve never just defined having a job as having a paycheck here in America. A job is a source of pride, is a source of dignity. It’s the way you look after your family. (Applause.) It’s proof that you’re doing the right things and meeting your responsibilities and contributing to the fabric of your community and helping to build the country. That’s what a job is all about. It’s not just about a paycheck. It’s not just about paying the bills. It’s also about knowing that what you’re doing is important, that it counts.

So we should be doing everything we can as a country to create more good jobs that pay good wages. Period. (Applause.)

Now, here’s the thing, Chattanooga, the problem is not that we don’t have ideas about how we could create even more jobs. We’ve got a lot of ideas out there. There are plenty of independent economists, plenty of business owners, people from both parties agree on some of the ingredients that we need for creating good jobs. And you’ve heard them debated again and again over these past few years. I proposed a lot of these ideas myself. Just two years ago, I announced the American Jobs Act — full of ideas that every independent economist said would create more jobs. Some were passed by Congress. But I got to admit, most of them weren’t. Sometimes there were ideas that historically had Republican support and for some reason suddenly Republicans didn’t want to support them anymore.

Putting people back to work rebuilding America’s infrastructure. Equipping our kids and our workers with the best skills. Leading the world in scientific research that helps to pave the way for new jobs in new industries. Accelerating our clean energy and natural gas revolutions. Fixing a broken immigration system so that American workers aren’t undercut, undermined because some businesses are unscrupulous and hiring folks and not paying them decent wages. (Applause.)

Independent economists say immigration reform would boost our economy by more than a trillion dollars. So we’ve got ideas out there we know can work. And if we don’t make these investments, if we don’t make these reforms, then we might as well be waving the white flag to the rest of the world, because they’re moving forward. They’re not slowing down. China, Germany, India — they’re going. And we can’t just sit by and do nothing. Doing nothing doesn’t help the middle class. (Applause.)

So today, I came here to offer a framework that might help break through some of the political logjam in Washington and try to get Congress to start moving on some of these proven ideas. But let me briefly outline some of the areas I think we need to focus on if we want to create good jobs, with good wages, in durable industries -– areas that will fuel our future growth.

Number one — jobs in American manufacturing. (Applause.) Over the past four years, for the first time since the 1990s, the number of manufacturing jobs in America hasn’t gone down, it’s actually gone up. (Applause.) So the trend lines are good; now we’ve got to build on that progress. I want to offer new incentives for manufacturers not to ship jobs overseas, but to bring them back here to America. (Applause.) I want new tax credits so communities hit hardest by plant closures can attract new investment. (Applause.)

In my State of the Union address, I asked Congress to build on a successful pilot program we’ve set up. We want to create not just 15 manufacturing innovation institutes that connect businesses and universities and federal agencies to help communities left behind by global competition to become centers of high-tech jobs. Today, I’m asking Congress to build on this bipartisan support and triple that number from 15 to 45 — these hubs — where we’re getting businesses, universities, communities all to work together to develop centers of high-tech industries all throughout the United States that allow us to be at the forefront of the next revolution of manufacturing. I want it made here in the United States of America. I don’t want that happening overseas. (Applause.)

Number two — I talked about this last week — jobs rebuilding our infrastructure. I look at this amazing facility and you guys, you don’t miss a beat. I mean, you’ve got these packages coming out. You’ve got dog food and Kindles and beard trimmers. (Laughter.) I mean, there’s all kinds of stuff around here. But once it’s packed up, it’s got to get to the customer. And how quickly and how dependably it gets to the customer depends on do we have good roads, do we have good bridges, do we have state-of-the-art airports.

We’ve got about $2 trillion of deferred maintenance here in this country. So let’s put more construction workers back on the job doing the work America needs done. (Applause.) These are vital projects that Amazon needs, businesses all across the country need, like widening Route 27 here in Chattanooga — (applause) — deepening the Jacksonville Port that I visited last week. These are projects vital to our national pride.

We’re going to be breaking ground this week at the St. Louis Arch. Congress should pass what I’ve called my “Fix-It-First” plan to put people to work immediately on our most urgent repairs, like the 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare. That will create good middle-class jobs right now. (Applause.) And we should partner with the private sector to upgrade what businesses like Amazon need most. We should have a modern air traffic control system to keep planes running on time. We should have modern power grids and pipelines to survive a storm. We should have modern schools to prepare our kids for the jobs of tomorrow. (Applause.)

Number three, we need to keep creating good jobs in energy — in wind and solar and natural gas. Those new energy sources are reducing energy costs. They’re reducing dangerous carbon pollution. They’re reducing our dependence on foreign oil. So now is not the time to gut investments in American technology. Now is the time to double down on renewable energy and biofuels and electric vehicles, and to put money into the research that will shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. (Applause.)

And let me tell you, cheaper costs of natural gas is a huge boost to our businesses here in America, so we should develop it even more. We’ve got to do it in a way that protects our air and our water for our children and future generations. But we can do that. We’ve got the technology to do it.

Number four, we’ve got to export more. We want to send American goods all around the world. (Applause.) A year ago, I signed a new trade agreement with Korea, because they were selling a lot of Hyundais here, but we weren’t selling a lot of GM cars over there. Since we signed that deal, our Big Three automakers are selling 18 percent more cars in Korea than they were. (Applause.)

So now we’ve got to help more of our businesses do the same thing. I’m asking Congress for the authority to negotiate the best trade deals possible for our workers, and combine it with robust training and assistance measures to make sure our workers have the support and the skills they need for this new global competition. And we’re going to have to sharpen our competitive edge in the global job marketplace.

Two years ago, we created something called SelectUSA. This is a coordinated effort to attract foreign companies looking to invest and create jobs here in the United States. And today I’m directing my Cabinet to expand these efforts. And this October, I’m going to bring business leaders from around the world, and I’m going to connect them to state leaders and local leaders like your mayor who are ready to prove there’s no better place to do business than right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)

Number five — let’s do more to help the more than 4 million long-term unemployed Americans that are out there. (Applause.) One of the problems is a lot of folks, they lose their jobs during this really bad recession through no fault of their own. They’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but because they’ve been out of work so long employers won’t even give their application a fair look. (Applause.)

So I’m challenging CEOs to do more to get these Americans back on their feet. And I’m going to bring together the CEOs and companies that are putting in place some of the best practices for recruiting and training and hiring workers who have been out of work for a long time, but want the chance to show that they’re ready to go back to work. (Applause.)

And at the same time, I’m calling on our businesses to do more for their workers. (Applause.) Amazon is a great example of what’s possible. What you’re doing here at Amazon with your Career Choice Program pays 95 percent of the tuition for employees who want to earn skills in fields with high demand — not just, by the way, jobs here at Amazon, but jobs anywhere — computer-aided design or nursing. I talked to Jeff Bezos yesterday, and he was so proud of the fact that he wants to see every employee at Amazon continually upgrade their skills and improve. And if they’ve got a dream they want to pursue, Amazon wants to help them pursue it. (Applause.)

That’s the kind of approach that we need from America’s businesses. Offering training programs, health care, retirement plans, paying better wages — that’s not just the right thing to do, it’s actually good for your bottom line. A recent study shows that when a company makes the list of the “100 Best Companies to Work for in America,” its share price outperforms its competitors, because the stock market and investors, they know if a company has employees that are motivated and happy, that business is more likely to succeed. (Applause.) That business is more likely to succeed.

And because nobody who works full-time in America should have to live in poverty, I’m going to keep on making the case and fighting for the fact that we need to raise our minimum wage, because right now it’s in lower terms than it was when Ronald Reagan took office. (Applause.) When folks have more money in their pockets, that’s good for Amazon; it means your customers have a little more money. They can order a little more of that protein powder. (Laughter.) I noticed a lot of folks were ordering protein power. Everybody is trying to get bulked up. (Laughter.)

So here’s — those are some of the ideas that we’re out there, we’re promoting. We’re not lacking for ideas, we’re just lacking action, especially out of Washington. (Applause.)

For most of the past two years, Washington has just taken its eye off the ball when it comes to the middle class. And I’ll tell you — look, there are a growing number of — the good news is there are a growing number of Republican senators who are trying to work with Democrats to get some stuff done. (Applause.) That’s good news.

The bad news is that rather than keep our focus on what should be our priority — which is growing our economy and creating good middle-class jobs — we’ve seen a certain faction of Republicans in Congress hurt a fragile recovery by saying that they wouldn’t pay the very bills that Congress racked up in the first place, threatening to shut down the people’s government if they can’t get rid of Obamacare. Instead of reducing our deficits with a scalpel to get rid of programs we don’t need, but keep vital investments that we do, this same group has kept in place this meat cleaver called the sequester that is just slashing all kinds of important investments in education and research and our military. All the things that are needed to make this country a magnet for good middle-class jobs, those things are being cut.

And these moves don’t just hurt our economy in the long term; they hurt our middle class right now. The independent Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cuts that are being made right now in Washington will cost our economy 750,000 jobs this year; 900,000 fewer jobs next year. And a lot of the jobs at risk are at small businesses that contract with our military or our federal agencies.

Over the past four years, another 700,000 workers at the federal, state, and local levels of government have lost their jobs. These are cops and firefighters, and about half of them are people who work in our schools. Those are real jobs. It doesn’t help a company like Amazon when a teacher or a cop or a firefighter loses their job. They don’t have money to place an order. That’s hundreds of thousands of customers who have less money to spend.

If those layoffs had not happened, if public sector employees grew like they did in the past two recessions, the unemployment rate would be 6.5 percent instead of 7.5 percent. Our economy would be much better off, and the deficit would still be going down because we’d be getting more tax revenue.

So the point is, if Washington spent as much time and energy these past two years figuring out how to grow our economy and grow our middle class as it’s spent manufacturing crises in pursuit of a cut-at-all-costs approach to deficits, we’d be much better off. We’d be much better off. (Applause.)

And it’s not like we don’t have to cut our deficits. As a share of the economy, we’ve cut our deficits by nearly half since I took office. Half. And they’re projected to go down even further, but there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. And we should do it in a way that actually helps middle-class families instead of hurts them. (Applause.)

I’ve told Republicans that if they’re serious about a balanced, long-term fiscal plan that replaces harmful budget cuts that would get serious about a long-term plan that prevents those 900,000 jobs from being lost, that helps grow the economy, that helps the middle class, I am ready to go. But we can’t lose sight of our North Star. We can’t allow an impasse over long-term fiscal challenges to distract us from what the middle class needs right now.

So here’s the bottom line: If folks in Washington really want a grand bargain, how about a grand bargain for middle-class jobs? (Applause.) How about a grand bargain for middle-class jobs?

I don’t want to go through the same old arguments where I propose an idea and the Republicans just say, no, because it’s my idea. (Applause.) So I’m going to try offering something that serious people in both parties should be able to support: a deal that simplifies the tax code for our businesses and creates good jobs with good wages for middle-class folks who work at those businesses.

Right now, everybody knows this — our tax code is so riddled with loopholes and special interest tax breaks that a lot of companies who are doing the right thing and investing in America pay 35 percent in their taxes; corporations who have got fancy accountants and stash their money overseas, they pay little or nothing in taxes. That’s not fair, and it’s not good for the economy here.

So I’m willing to simplify our tax code — closes those loopholes, ends incentives to ship jobs overseas, lowers the rate for businesses that are creating jobs right here in America, provides tax incentives for manufacturers that bring jobs home to the United States. Let’s simplify taxes for small business owners, give them incentives to invest so they can spend less time filling out complicated forms, more time expanding and hiring.

I’m willing to do all that that should help businesses and help them grow. But if we’re going to give businesses a better deal, then we’re also going to have to give workers a better deal, too. (Applause.) I want to use some of the money that we save by closing these loopholes to create more good construction jobs with infrastructure initiatives that I already talked about. We can build a broader network of high-tech manufacturing hubs that leaders from both parties can support. We can help our community colleges arm our workers with the skills that a global economy demands. All these things would benefit the middle class right now and benefit our economy in the years to come.

So, again, here’s the bottom line: I’m willing to work with Republicans on reforming our corporate tax code, as long as we use the money from transitioning to a simpler tax system for a significant investment in creating middle-class jobs. That’s the deal. (Applause.)

And I’m just going to keep on throwing ideas out there to see if something takes. (Laughter.) I’m going to lay out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot. But now it’s time for Republicans to lay out their ideas.

If they’ve got a better plan to bring back more manufacturing jobs here to Tennessee and around the country, then let them know — let me know. I want to hear them. If they’ve got a better plan to create jobs rebuilding our infrastructure or to help workers earn the high-tech skills that they need, then they should offer up these ideas.

But I’ve got to tell you, just gutting our environmental protection, that’s not a jobs plan. Gutting investments in education, that’s not a jobs plan. They keep on talking about this — an oil pipeline coming down from Canada that’s estimated to create about 50 permanent jobs — that’s not a jobs plan. Wasting the country’s time by taking something like 40 meaningless votes to repeal Obamacare is not a jobs plan. That’s not a jobs plan. (Applause.)

So let’s get serious. Look, I want to tell everybody here the truth. And you know, look, I know that the politics for Obama aren’t always great in Tennessee. I understand that. But I want everybody to just hear the honest truth. I’ve run my last campaign, so I don’t need to spin. (Applause.)

And here’s the truth — there are no gimmicks that create jobs. There are no simple tricks to grow the economy. Growing the economy, making sure that the middle class is strong is like getting in shape. You can’t just go on the muffin and doughnut diet and the latest fad and lose weight. You’ve got to work out and you’ve got to eat better. Well, the same is true for our economy. The same is true for helping the middle class.

We’ve got to have a serious, steady, long-term American strategy to reverse the long-term erosion of middle-class security and give everybody a fair shot. (Applause.) And we know what we have to do. It involves education. It involves infrastructure. It involves research. It involves good energy policy. And we just have to stay at it — more good jobs that pay decent wages, a better bargain for the middle class, an economy that grows from the middle out. That’s got to be our focus.

We can’t be getting into a whole bunch of fads and pretend like you roll back Obamacare and suddenly all these jobs are going to be created, because the middle class was struggling before I came into office. (Applause.) The middle class was losing ground before I came into office. (Applause.) Jobs were getting shipped overseas before Obamacare was in place. So we’ve got to be honest. We’ve got to be honest about the challenges we face, but also the opportunities that are out there.

And that’s what I’m going to be focused on not just for the next few months. I’m going to be focused for every one of the 1,270 days I’ve got left in my presidency on how to make sure that we’ve got more opportunity and more security for everybody who is willing to work hard in this country. That’s where I believe America needs to go. (Applause.) And we can do it if we work together, Chattanooga. Let’s get to work.

Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

END
2:32 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines July 24, 2013: President Barack Obama Starts Economic Campaign, Accuses GOP of Obstruction

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Starts Economic Campaign, Accuses GOP of Obstruction

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Seeking to force the public debate back to the economy, President Obama slammed Republicans on Wednesday for standing in the way of his efforts to boost the middle class, as he launched a campaign to highlight his second-term priorities.

“With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball.  And I am here to say this needs to stop,” the president said in a speech at Knox College, the site of his first economic address on the national stage in 2005….READ MORE

Political Headlines July 24, 2013: President Barack Obama Focuses on Economy, Vowing to Help Middle Class in Knox College Speech

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Focuses on Economy, Vowing to Help Middle Class

Source: NYT, 7-24-13

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

President Obama spoke about the economy On Wednesday at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.

President Obama tried to move past months of debate over guns, surveillance and scandal on Wednesday and reorient his administration behind a program to lift a middling economy and help middle-class Americans who are stuck with stagnant incomes and shrinking horizons….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

Political Headlines February 16, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: The Plan for a Strong Middle Class

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama’s Weekly Address: the Plan for a Strong Middle Class

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-16-13

TOBY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama spent much of this week traveling the country promoting his State of the Union message — what he calls a “Plan for a Strong Middle Class.” Now in his weekly address, the president’s message is the same, urging lawmakers to act on the proposals he laid out in his Tuesday speech before a joint session of Congress.

Speaking from Hyde Park Academy in his hometown Chicago, the president says he wants to reignite the “true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.”….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 15, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Strengthening the Economy For The Middle Class & Gun Violence at Hyde Park Career Academy Chicago, Illinois

Giving Every Child a Chance in Life

Source: WH, 2-15-13

President Obama at the Hyde Park Career Academy Chicago, Illinois, Feb. 15, 2013President Barack Obama delivers remarks to discuss proposals unveiled in the State of the Union Address that focus on strengthening the economy for the middle class and those striving to get there, at Hyde Park Academy, Chicago, Ill., Feb. 15, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama was in Chicago on Friday to talk about the importance of making sure every child in America has every chance in life to succeed. Speaking at the Hyde Park Career Academy, which is less than a mile from the Obama’s home in that city, the President discussed the recent death of Hadiyah Pendleton, a Chicago teenager who was shot just days after attending the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, DC.

Hadiyah’s parents were guests of First Lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address on Tuesday, where President Obama discussed the need to prevent this kind of senseless violence and protect American children. But the important goal of  keeping guns out of the hands of criminals is not enough to ensure a bright future for all of our children, and the President also laid out a plan to rebuild ladders of opportunity for every American who is willing to work hard and climb them. This includes making sure every child in America has access to high-quality pre-K, and raising the minimum wage so that no family that works hard and relies on a minimum wage is living in poverty. But creating a path into the middle class also means transforming high-poverty communities into places of opportunity that can attract private investment, improve education, and create jobs, and President Obama talked about his plan to make that happen:

And that’s why on Tuesday I announced — and that’s part of what I want to focus on here in Chicago and across the country — is my intention to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit communities in America to get them back in the game — get them back in the game.

First, we’ll work with local leaders to cut through red tape and improve things like public safety and education and housing. And we’ll bring all the resources to bear in a coordinated fashion so that we can get that tipping point where suddenly a community starts feeling like things are changing and we can come back.

Second of all, if you’re willing to play a role in a child’s education, then we’ll help you reform your schools. We want to seed more and more partnerships of the kind that Rahm is trying to set up.

Third, we’re going to help bring jobs and growth to hard-hit neighborhoods by giving tax breaks to business owners who invest and hire in those neighborhoods.

Fourth, and specific to the issue of violence — because it’s very hard to develop economically if people don’t feel safe. If they don’t feel like they can walk down the street and shop at a store without getting hit over head or worse, then commerce dries up, businesses don’t want to locate, families move out, you get into the wrong cycle. So we’re going to target neighborhoods struggling to deal with violent crime and help them reduce that violence in ways that have been proven to work. And I know this is a priority of your Mayor’s; it’s going to be a priority of mine.

And finally, we’re going to keep working in communities all across the country, including here in Chicago, to replace run-down public housing that doesn’t offer much hope or safety with new, healthy homes for low- and moderate-income families.


Learn more about President Obama’s plan for a strong middle class and a strong America:

Remarks By The President On Strengthening The Economy For The Middle Class

Hyde Park Career Academy Chicago, Illinois

3:31 P.M. CST

THE PRESIDENT: Hey, Chicago! (Applause.) Hello, Chicago! Hello, everybody. Hello, Hyde Park! (Applause.) It is good to be home! It is good to be home. Everybody have a seat. You all relax. It’s just me. You all know me. It is good to be back home.

A couple of people I want to acknowledge — first of all, I want to thank your Mayor, my great friend, Rahm Emanuel for his outstanding leadership of the city and his kind introduction. (Applause.) I want to thank everybody here at Hyde Park Academy for welcoming me here today. (Applause.)

I want to acknowledge your principal and your assistant principal — although, they really make me feel old, because when I saw them — (laughter) — where are they? Where are they? Stand up. Stand up. (Applause.) They are doing outstanding work. We’re very, very proud them. But you do make me feel old. Sit down. (Laughter.)

A couple other people I want to acknowledge — Governor Pat Quinn is here doing great work down in Springfield. (Applause.) My great friend and senior Senator Dick Durbin is in the house. (Applause.) Congressman Bobby Rush is here. (Applause.) We’re in his district. Attorney General and former seatmate of mine when I was in the state senate, Lisa Madigan. (Applause.) County Board President — used to be my alderwoman — Tony Preckwinkle in the house. (Applause.)

And I’ve got — I see a lot of reverend clergy here, but I’m not going to mention them, because if I miss one I’m in trouble. (Laughter.) They’re all friends of mine. They’ve been knowing me.

Some people may not know this, but obviously, this is my old neighborhood. I used to teach right around the corner. This is where Michelle and I met, where we fell in love –

AUDIENCE: Aww –

THE PRESIDENT: This is where we raised our daughters, in a house just about a mile away from here — less than a mile. And that’s really what I’ve come here to talk about today — raising our kids.

AUDIENCE: We love you!

THE PRESIDENT: I love you, too. (Applause.) I love you, too.

I’m here to make sure that we talk about and then work towards giving every child every chance in life; building stronger communities and new ladders of opportunity that they can climb into the middle class and beyond; and, most importantly, keeping them safe from harm.

Michelle was born and raised here — a proud daughter of the South Side. (Applause.) Last weekend, she came home, but it was to attend the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton. And Hadiya’s parents, by the way, are here — and I want to just acknowledge them. They are just wonderful, wonderful people. (Applause.)

And as you know, this week, in my State of the Union, I talked about Hadiya on Tuesday night and the fact that unfortunately what happened to Hadiya is not unique. It’s not unique to Chicago. It’s not unique to this country. Too many of our children are being taken away from us.

Two months ago, America mourned 26 innocent first-graders and their educators in Newtown. And today, I had the high honor of giving the highest civilian award I can give to the parent — or the families of the educators who had been killed in Newtown. And there was something profound and uniquely heartbreaking and tragic, obviously, about a group of 6-year-olds being killed. But last year, there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city, and 65 of those victims were 18 and under. So that’s the equivalent of a Newtown every four months.

And that’s precisely why the overwhelming majority of Americans are asking for some common-sense proposals to make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. And as I said on Tuesday night, I recognize not everybody agrees with every issue. There are regional differences. The experience of gun ownership is different in urban areas than it is in rural areas, different from upstate and downstate Illinois. But these proposals deserve a vote in Congress. They deserve a vote. (Applause.) They deserve a vote. And I want to thank those members of Congress who are working together in a serious way to try to address this issue.

But I’ve also said no law or set of laws can prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. When a child opens fire on another child, there’s a hole in that child’s heart that government can’t fill — only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole. In too many neighborhoods today — whether here in Chicago or the farthest reaches of rural America — it can feel like for a lot of young people the future only extends to the next street corner or the outskirts of town; that no matter how much you work or how hard you try, your destiny was determined the moment you were born. There are entire neighborhoods where young people, they don’t see an example of somebody succeeding. And for a lot of young boys and young men, in particular, they don’t see an example of fathers or grandfathers, uncles, who are in a position to support families and be held up and respected.

And so that means that this is not just a gun issue. It’s also an issue of the kinds of communities that we’re building. And for that, we all share a responsibility, as citizens, to fix it. We all share a responsibility to move this country closer to our founding vision that no matter who you are, or where you come from, here in America, you can decide your own destiny. You can succeed if you work hard and fulfill your responsibilities. (Applause.)

Now, that means we’ve got to grow our economy and create more good jobs. It means we’ve got to equip every American with the skills and the training to fill those jobs. And it means we’ve got to rebuild ladders of opportunity for everybody willing to climb them.

Now, that starts at home. There’s no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families — which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood. (Applause.) Don’t get me wrong — as the son of a single mom, who gave everything she had to raise me with the help of my grandparents, I turned out okay. (Applause and laughter.) But — no, no, but I think it’s — so we’ve got single moms out here, they’re heroic in what they’re doing and we are so proud of them. (Applause.) But at the same time, I wish I had had a father who was around and involved. Loving, supportive parents — and, by the way, that’s all kinds of parents — that includes foster parents, and that includes grandparents, and extended families; it includes gay or straight parents. (Applause.)

Those parents supporting kids — that’s the single most important thing. Unconditional love for your child — that makes a difference. If a child grows up with parents who have work, and have some education, and can be role models, and can teach integrity and responsibility, and discipline and delayed gratification — all those things give a child the kind of foundation that allows them to say, my future, I can make it what I want. And we’ve got to make sure that every child has that, and in some cases, we may have to fill the gap and the void if children don’t have that.

So we should encourage marriage by removing the financial disincentives for couples who love one another but may find it financially disadvantageous if they get married. We should reform our child support laws to get more men working and engaged with their children. (Applause.) And my administration will continue to work with the faith community and the private sector this year on a campaign to encourage strong parenting and fatherhood. Because what makes you a man is not the ability to make a child, it’s the courage to raise one. (Applause.)

We also know, though, that there is no surer path to success in the middle class than a good education. And what we now know is that that has to begin in the earliest years. Study after study shows that the earlier a child starts learning, the more likely they are to succeed — the more likely they are to do well at Hyde Park Academy; the more likely they are to graduate; the more likely they are to get a good job; the more likely they are to form stable families and then be able to raise children themselves who get off to a good start.

Chicago already has a competition, thanks to what the Mayor is doing, that rewards the best preschools in the city — so Rahm has already prioritized this. But what I’ve also done is say, let’s give every child across America access to high-quality, public preschool. Every child, not just some. (Applause.) Every dollar we put into early childhood education can save $7 down the road by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, reducing violent crime, reducing the welfare rolls, making sure that folks who have work, now they’re paying taxes. All this stuff pays back huge dividends if we make the investment. So let’s make this happen. Let’s make sure every child has the chance they deserve. (Applause.)

As kids go through school, we’ll recruit new math and science teachers to make sure that they’ve got the skills that the future demands. We’ll help more young people in low-income neighborhoods get summer jobs. We’ll redesign our high schools and encourage our kids to stay in high school, so that the diploma they get leads directly to a good job once they graduate. (Applause.)

Right here in Chicago, five new high schools have partnered with companies and community colleges to prepare our kids with the skills that businesses are looking for right now. And your College to Careers program helps community college students get access to the same kinds of real-world experiences. So we know what works. Let’s just do it in more places. Let’s reach more young people. Let’s give more kids a chance.

So we know how important families are. We know how important education is. We recognize that government alone can’t solve these problems of violence and poverty, that everybody has to be involved. But we also have to remember that the broader economic environment of communities is critical as well. For example, we need to make sure that folks who are working now, often in the hardest jobs, see their work rewarded with wages that allow them to raise a family without falling into poverty. (Applause.)

Today, a family with two kids that works hard and relies on a minimum wage salary still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong, and we should fix it. We should reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. And that’s why we should raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour and make it a wage you can live on. (Applause.)

And even though some cities have bounced back pretty quickly from the recession, we know that there are communities and neighborhoods within cities or in small towns that haven’t bounced back. Cities like Chicago are ringed with former factory towns that never came back all the way from plants packing up; there are pockets of poverty where young adults are still looking for their first job.

And that’s why on Tuesday I announced — and that’s part of what I want to focus on here in Chicago and across the country — is my intention to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit communities in America to get them back in the game — get them back in the game. (Applause.)

First, we’ll work with local leaders to cut through red tape and improve things like public safety and education and housing. And we’ll bring all the resources to bear in a coordinated fashion so that we can get that tipping point where suddenly a community starts feeling like things are changing and we can come back.

Second of all, if you’re willing to play a role in a child’s education, then we’ll help you reform your schools. We want to seed more and more partnerships of the kind that Rahm is trying to set up.

Third, we’re going to help bring jobs and growth to hard-hit neighborhoods by giving tax breaks to business owners who invest and hire in those neighborhoods. (Applause.)

Fourth, and specific to the issue of violence — because it’s very hard to develop economically if people don’t feel safe. If they don’t feel like they can walk down the street and shop at a store without getting hit over head or worse, then commerce dries up, businesses don’t want to locate, families move out, you get into the wrong cycle. So we’re going to target neighborhoods struggling to deal with violent crime and help them reduce that violence in ways that have been proven to work. And I know this is a priority of your Mayor’s; it’s going to be a priority of mine. (Applause.)

And finally, we’re going to keep working in communities all across the country, including here in Chicago, to replace run-down public housing that doesn’t offer much hope or safety with new, healthy homes for low- and moderate-income families. (Applause.)

And here in Woodlawn, you’ve seen some of the progress that we can make when we come together to rebuild our neighborhoods, and attract new businesses, and improve our schools. Woodlawn is not all the way where it needs to be, but thanks to wonderful institutions like Apostolic Church, we’ve made great progress. (Applause.)

So we want to help more communities follow your example. And let’s go even farther by offering incentives to companies that hire unemployed Americans who have got what it takes to fill a job opening, but they may have been out of work so long that nobody is willing to give them a chance right now. Let’s put our people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in need of repair. Young people can get experience — apprenticeships, learn a trade. And we’re removing blight from our community. (Applause.)

If we gather together what works, we can extend more ladders of opportunity for anybody who’s working to build a strong, middle-class life for themselves. Because in America, your destiny shouldn’t be determined by where you live, where you were born. It should be determined by how big you’re willing to dream, how much effort and sweat and tears you’re willing to put in to realizing that dream.

When I first moved to Chicago — before any of the students in this room were born — (laughter) — and a whole lot of people who are in the audience remember me from those days, I lived in a community on the South Side right up the block, but I also worked further south where communities had been devastated by some of the steel plants closing. And my job was to work with churches and laypeople and local leaders to rebuild neighborhoods, and improve schools, and help young people who felt like they had nowhere to turn.

And those of you who worked with me, Reverend Love, you remember, it wasn’t easy. Progress didn’t come quickly. Sometimes I got so discouraged I thought about just giving up. But what kept me going was the belief that with enough determination and effort and persistence and perseverance, change is always possible; that we may not be able to help everybody, but if we help a few then that propels progress forward. We may not be able to save every child from gun violence, but if we save a few, that starts changing the atmosphere in our communities. (Applause.) We may not be able to get everybody a job right away, but if we get a few folks a job, then everybody starts feeling a little more hopeful and a little more encouraged. (Applause.) Neighborhood by neighborhood, one block by one block, one family at a time.

Now, this is what I had a chance to talk about when I met with some young men from Hyde Park Academy who were participating in this B.A.M. program. Where are the guys I talked to? Stand up you all, so we can all see you guys. (Applause.) So these are some — these are all some exceptional young men, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. And the reason I’m proud of them is because a lot of them have had some issues. That’s part of the reason why you guys are in the program. (Laughter.)

But what I explained to them was I had issues too when I was their age. I just had an environment that was a little more forgiving. So when I screwed up, the consequences weren’t as high as when kids on the South Side screw up. (Applause.) So I had more of a safety net. But these guys are no different than me, and we had that conversation about what does it take to change. And the same thing that it takes for us individually to change, I said to them, well, that’s what it takes for communities to change. That’s what it takes for countries to change. It’s not easy.

But it does require us, first of all, having a vision about where we want to be. It requires us recognizing that it will be hard work getting there. It requires us being able to overcome and persevere in the face of roadblocks and disappointments and failures. It requires us reflecting internally about who we are and what we believe in, and facing up to our own fears and insecurities, and admitting when we’re wrong. And that same thing that we have to do in our individual lives that these guys talked about, that’s what we have to do for our communities. And it will not be easy, but it can be done.

When Hadiya Pendleton and her classmates visited Washington three weeks ago, they spent time visiting the monuments — including the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial just off the National Mall. And that memorial stands as a tribute to everything Dr. King achieved in his lifetime. But it also reminds us of how hard that work was and how many disappointments he experienced. He was here in Chicago fighting poverty, and just like a lot of us, there were times where he felt like he was losing hope. So in some ways, that memorial is a testament not to work that’s completed, but it’s a testament to the work that remains unfinished.

His goal was to free us not only from the shackles of discrimination, but from the shadow of poverty that haunts too many of our communities, the self-destructive impulses, and the mindless violence that claims so many lives of so many innocent young people.

These are difficult challenges. No solution we offer will be perfect. But perfection has never been our goal. Our goal has been to try and make whatever difference we can. Our goal has been to engage in the hard but necessary work of bringing America one step closer to the nation we know we can be.

If we do that, if we’re striving with every fiber of our being to strengthen our middle class, to extend ladders of opportunity for everybody who is trying as hard as they can to create a better life for themselves; if we do everything in our power to keep our children safe from harm; if we’re fulfilling our obligations to one another and to future generations; if we make that effort, then I’m confident — I’m confident that we will write the next great chapter in our American story. I’m not going to be able to do it by myself, though. Nobody can. We’re going to have to do it together.

Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

END        3:58 P.M. CST

Political Headlines February 9, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: A ‘Balanced Approach’ to Averting the Sequester

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama’s Address: A ‘Balanced Approach’ to Averting the Sequester

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-9-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

With deep budget cuts looming, President Obama is accusing Republicans of putting tax loopholes for the wealthy ahead of the needs of the middle class.

In his weekly address, the president urges lawmakers to pass a short-term package of spending cuts and tax revenue to head off across-the-board cuts set to kick-in on March 1.
….READ MORE

Political Headlines December 21, 2012: Congress in Recess, President Barack Obama Still ‘Optimist’ On Fiscal Cliff Deal

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Congress in Recess, Obama Still ‘Optimist’ On Fiscal Cliff Deal

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-21-12

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Ten days remain before the mandatory spending cuts and tax increases known as the “fiscal cliff” take effect, but President Obama says that he is still a “hopeless optimist” that a federal budget deal can be reached before the year-end deadline that economists agree would plunge the country back into recession.

“Even though Democrats and Republicans are arguing about whether those rates should go up for the wealthiest individuals, all of us — every single one of us — agrees that tax rates shouldn’t go up for the other 98 percent of Americans, which includes 97 percent of small businesses,” he said, adding there was “no reason” not to move forward on that aspect of theoretical legislation, and that it was “within our capacity” to resolve.

The question of whether to raise taxes on incomes over $250,000 remains at an impasse, but is only one aspect of nuanced legislative wrangling that has left the parties at odds….READ MORE

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