Full Text Obama Presidency February 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech Unveiling the FY2016 Budget

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the FY2016 Budget

Source: WH, 2-2-15

Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C.

11:27 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Please, have a seat.  Well, good morning, everybody.   It is good to be here at the Department of Homeland Security.  And let me thank Jeh Johnson not only for the outstanding job that’s he’s doing as Secretary of DHS, but also for a short introduction.  I like short introductions.  (Laughter.)  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

This is a great way to start the week, because I get to do something I enjoy doing, which is saying thank you.  Nobody works harder to keep America safe than the people who are gathered here today.  And you don’t get a lot of attention for it — that’s the nature of the job.  But I know how vital you are, and I want to make that sure more Americans know how vital you are.  Because against just about every threat that we face — from terrorist networks to microscopic viruses to cyber-attacks to weather disasters — you guys are there.  You protect us from threats at home and abroad, by air and land and sea.  You safeguard our ports, you patrol our borders.  You inspect our chemical plants, screen travelers for Ebola, shield our computer networks, and help hunt down criminals around the world.  You have a busy agenda, a full plate.  And here at home, you are ready to respond to any emergency at a moment’s notice.

It is simply extraordinary how much the Department of Homeland Security does every single day to keep our nation, our people safe.  It’s a critical job, and you get it done without a lot of fanfare.  And I want to make sure that you have what you need to keep getting the job done.  Every American has an interest in making sure that the Department of Homeland Security has what it needs to achieve its mission — because we are reliant on that mission every single day.

Now, today, I’m sending Congress a budget that will make sure you’ve got what you need to achieve your mission.  It gives you the resources you need to carry out your mission in a way that is smart and strategic, and makes the most of every dollar.  It’s also a broader blueprint for America’s success in this new global economy.  Because after a breakthrough year for America — at a time when our economy is growing and our businesses are creating jobs at the fastest pace since the 1990s, and wages are starting to rise again — we’ve got some fundamental choices to make about the kind of country we want to be.

Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?  Or are we going to build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead?

And that was the focus of my State of the Union Address a couple weeks ago — what I called middle-class economics.  The idea that this country does best when everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules.

The budget that Congress now has in its hands is built on those values.  It helps working families’ paychecks go farther by treating things like paid sick leave and childcare as the economic priorities that they are.  It gives Americans of every age the chance to upgrade their skills so they can earn higher wages, and it includes my plan to make two years of community college free for responsible students.  It lets us keep building the world’s most attractive economy for high-wage jobs, with new investments in research, and infrastructure and manufacturing, as well as expanded access to faster Internet and new markets for goods made in America.

It’s also a budget that recognizes that our economy flourishes when America is safe and secure.  So it invests in our IT networks, to protect them from malicious actors.  It supports our troops and strengthens our border security.  And it gives us the resources to confront global challenges, from ISIL to Russian aggression.

Now, since I took office, we have cut our deficits by about two-thirds.  I’m going to repeat that, as I always do when I mention this fact, because the public oftentimes, if you ask them, thinks that the deficit has shot up.  Since I took office, we have cut our deficits by about two-thirds.  That’s the fastest period of sustained deficit reduction since after the demobilization at the end of World War II.  So we can afford to make these investments while remaining fiscally responsible.  And, in fact, we cannot afford — we would be making a critical error if we avoided making these investments.  We can’t afford not to.  When the economy is doing well, we’re making investments when we’re growing.  That’s part of what keeps deficits low — because the economy is doing well.  So we’ve just got to be smarter about how we pay for our priorities, and that’s what my budget does.

At the end of 2013, I signed a bipartisan budget agreement that helped us end some of the arbitrary cuts known in Washington-speak as “sequestration.”  And folks here at DHS know a little too much about sequestration — (laughter) — because many of you have to deal with those cuts, and it made it a lot harder for you to do your jobs.

The 2013 agreement to reverse some of those cuts helped to boost our economic growth.  Part of the reason why we grew faster last year was we were no longer being burdened by mindless across-the-board cuts, and we were being more strategic about how we handled our federal budget.  And now we need to take the next step.  So my budget will end sequestration and fully reverse the cuts to domestic priorities in 2016.  And it will match the investments that were made domestically, dollar for dollar, with increases in our defense funding.

And just last week, top military officials told Congress that if Congress does nothing to stop sequestration, there could be serious consequences for our national security, at a time when our military is stretched on a whole range of issues.  And that’s why I want to work with Congress to replace mindless austerity with smart investments that strengthen America.  And we can do so in a way that is fiscally responsible.

I’m not going to accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward.  It would be bad for our security and bad for our growth.  I will not accept a budget that severs the vital link between our national security and our economic security.  I know there’s some on Capitol Hill who would say, well, we’d be willing to increase defense spending but we’re not going to increase investments in infrastructure, for example, or basic research.  Well, those two things go hand in hand.  If we don’t have a vital infrastructure, if we don’t have broadband lines across the country, if we don’t have a smart grid, all that makes us more vulnerable.  America can’t afford being shortsighted, and I’m not going to allow it.

The budget I’ve sent to Congress today is fully paid for, through a combination of smart spending cuts and tax reforms.  Let me give you an example.  Right now, our tax code is full of loopholes for special interests — like the trust fund loophole that allows the wealthiest Americans to avoid paying taxes on their unearned income.  I think we should fix that and use the savings to cut taxes for middle-class families.  That would be good for our economy.

Now, I know there are Republicans who disagree with my approach.  And I’ve said this before:  If they have other ideas for how we can keep America safe, grow our economy, while helping middle-class families feel some sense of economic security, I welcome their ideas.  But their numbers have to add up.  And what we can’t do is play politics with folks’ economic security, or with our national security.  You, better than anybody, know what the stakes are.  The work you do hangs in the balance.

In just a few weeks from now, funding for Homeland Security will run out.  That’s not because of anything this department did, it’s because the Republicans in Congress who funded everything in government through September, except for this department.  And they’re now threatening to let Homeland Security funding expire because of their disagreeing with my actions to make our immigration system smarter, fairer and safer.

Now let’s be clear, I think we can have a reasonable debate about immigration.  I’m confident that what we’re doing is the right thing and the lawful thing.  I understand they may have some disagreements with me on that, although I should note that a large majority — or a large percentage of Republicans agree that we need comprehensive immigration reform, and we’re prepared to act in the Senate and should have acted in the House.  But if they don’t agree with me, that’s fine, that’s how our democracy works.  You may have noticed they usually don’t agree with me.  But don’t jeopardize our national security over this disagreement.

As one Republican put it, if they let your funding run out, “it’s not the end of the world.”  That’s what they said.  Well, I guess literally that’s true; it may not be the end of the world.  But until they pass a funding bill, it is the end of a paycheck for tens of thousands of frontline workers who will continue to get — to have to work without getting paid.  Over 40,000 Border Patrol and Customs agents.  Over 50,000 airport screeners.  Over 13,000 immigration officers.  Over 40,000 men and women in the Coast Guard.  These Americans aren’t just working to keep us safe, they have to take care of their own families.  The notion that they would get caught up in a disagreement around policy that has nothing to do with them makes no sense.

And if Republicans let Homeland Security funding expire, it’s the end to any new initiatives in the event that a new threat emerges.  It’s the end of grants to states and cities that improve local law enforcement and keep our communities safe.  The men and women of America’s homeland security apparatus do important work to protect us, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress should not be playing politics with that.

We need to fund the department, pure and simple.  We’ve got to put politics aside, pass a budget that funds our national security priorities at home and abroad, and gives middle-class families the security they need to get ahead in the new economy.  This is one of our most basic and most important responsibilities as a government.  So I’m calling on Congress to get this done.

Every day, we count on people like you to keep America secure.  And you are counting on us as well to uphold our end of the bargain.  You’re counting on us to make sure that you’ve got the resources to do your jobs safely and efficiently, and that you’re able to look after your families while you are out there working really hard to keep us safe.

We ask a lot of you.  The least we can do is have your backs.  That’s what I’m going to keep on doing for as long as I have the honor of serving as your President.  I have your back.  And I’m going to keep on fighting to make sure that you get the resources you deserve.  I’m going to keep fighting to make sure that every American has the chance not just to share in America’s success but to contribute to America’s success.  That’s what this budget is about.

It reflects our values in making sure that we are making the investments we need to keep America safe, to keep America growing, and to make sure that everybody is participating no matter what they look like, where they come from, no matter how they started in life, they’ve got a chance to get ahead in this great country of ours.  That’s what I believe.  That’s what you believe.  (Applause.)  Let’s get it done.

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

END
11:43 A.M. EST

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Political Musings October 31, 2014: Obama celebrates Halloween with devilish cake, White House trick-or-treat party

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama along with First Lady Michelle Obama on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014 hosted trick-or-treaters at the White House, the treats however, were not as health conscious as the First Lady usually advocates. President Obama was so…READ MORE

Political Musings October 12, 2014: Raising minimum wage not unemployment extension top issue for Obama in midterms

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Raising minimum wage not unemployment extension top issue for Obama in midterms

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama has decided to make raising the minimum wage the key issue for the midterm elections in order to help the Democrats maintain control of the Senate. This past week President Obama has brought up…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 11, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: America Is a Place Where Hard Work Should Be Rewarded on Raising the Minimum Wage — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: America Is a Place Where Hard Work Should Be Rewarded

Source: WH, 10-11-14

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President made the case for why it’s past time to raise the minimum wage. Increasing the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would benefit 28 million Americans, and make our economy stronger. While Republicans in Congress have blocked this commonsense proposal, a large and growing coalition of state and local leaders and owners of businesses large and small have answered the President’s call and raised wages for their residents and employees. This progress is important, but there is more that can be done. No American who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty. That’s why the President will continue to push Congress to take action and give America its well-deserved raise.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, October 11, 2014.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
October 11, 2014

Hi, everybody.  For the first time in more than 6 years, the unemployment rate is below 6%.  Over the past four and a half years, our businesses have created more than 10 million new jobs.  That’s the longest uninterrupted stretch of private sector job creation in our history.

But while our businesses are creating jobs at the fastest pace since the ‘90s, the typical family hasn’t seen a raise since the ‘90s also.  Folks are feeling as squeezed as ever.  That’s why I’m going to keep pushing policies that will create more jobs faster and raise wages faster – policies like rebuilding our infrastructure, making sure women are paid fairly, and making it easier for young people to pay off their student loans.

But one of the simplest and fastest ways to start helping folks get ahead is by raising the minimum wage.

Ask yourself: could you live on $14,500 a year?  That’s what someone working full-time on the minimum wage makes.  If they’re raising kids, that’s below the poverty line.  And that’s not right.  A hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.

Right now, a worker on the federal minimum wage earns $7.25 an hour.  It’s time to raise that to $10.10 an hour.

Raising the federal minimum wage to ten dollars and ten cents an hour, or ten-ten, would benefit 28 million American workers.  28 million.  And these aren’t just high schoolers on their first job.  The average worker who would benefit is 35 years old.  Most low-wage workers are women.  And that extra money would help them pay the bills and provide for their families.  It also means they’ll have more money to spend at local businesses – which grows the economy for everyone.

But Congress hasn’t voted to raise the minimum wage in seven years.  Seven years.  And when it got a vote earlier this year, Republicans flat-out voted “no.”  That’s why, since the first time I asked Congress to give America a raise, 13 states, 21 cities and D.C. have gone around Congress to raise their workers’ wages.  Five more states have minimum wage initiatives on the ballot next month.  More companies are choosing to raise their workers’ wages.  A recent survey shows that a majority of small business owners support a gradual increase to ten-ten an hour, too.  And I’ve done what I can on my own by requiring federal contractors to pay their workers at least ten-ten an hour.

On Friday, a coalition of citizens – including business leaders, working moms, labor unions, and more than 65 mayors – told Republicans in Congress to stop blocking a raise for millions of hard-working Americans. Because we believe that in America, nobody who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.  And I’m going to keep up this fight until we win.  Because America deserves a raise right now.  And America should forever be a place where your hard work is rewarded.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Political Musings September 7, 2014: Biden campaigns for Democrats on the economy helping the middle class in address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Biden campaigns for Democrats on the economy helping the middle class in address

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With President Barack Obama returning home from the NATO conference in Wales, Vice President Joe Biden took over and delivered the weekly address released on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014. In the address, Biden attempted to turn around the disappointing August…Continue

Political Musings September 7, 2014: Biden campaigns for Democrats on the economy helping the middle class in address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Biden campaigns for Democrats on the economy helping the middle class in address

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With President Barack Obama returning home from the NATO conference in Wales, Vice President Joe Biden took over and delivered the weekly address released on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014. In the address, Biden attempted to turn around the disappointing August…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency September 6, 2014: Vice President Joe Biden’s Weekly Address: Time to Give the Middle Class a Chance

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Time to Give the Middle Class a Chance

Source: WH, 9-6-14 

WASHINGTON, DC —In this week’s address, the Vice President discusses our continued economic recovery, with 10 million private sector jobs created over the past 54 months. Yet even with this good news, too many Americans are still not seeing the effects of our recovery. As the Vice President explains, there’s more that can be done to continue to bolster our economy and ensure that middle class families benefit from the growth they helped create, including closing tax loopholes, expanding education opportunities, and raising the minimum wage.

Remarks of Vice President Joe Biden
Weekly Address
The White House
September 6, 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Joe Biden, I’m filling in for President Obama, while he addresses the NATO summit in Wales.

When the President and I took office in January of 2009, this nation was in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the great depression. Our economy had plummeted at a rate of 8% in a single quarter – part of the fastest economic decline any time in the last half century. Millions of families were falling underwater on their homes and threatened with foreclosure. The iconic American automobile industry was under siege.

But yesterday’s jobs report was another reminder of how far we’ve come. We’ve had 54 straight months of job creation. And that’s the longest streak of uninterrupted job growth in the United States’ history.

We’ve gone from losing 9 million jobs during the financial crisis to creating 10 million jobs. We’ve reduced the unemployment rate from 10% in October of 2009 to 6.1% today. And for the first time since the 1990s, American manufacturing is steadily adding jobs – over 700,000 since 2010. And surveys of both American and foreign business leaders confirm that America once again is viewed as the best place in the world to build and invest.

That’s all good news. But an awful lot of middle class Americans are still not feeling the effects of this recovery. Since the year 2000, Gross Domestic Product – our GDP – has risen by 25%. And productivity in America is up by 30%. But middle class wages during that same time period have gone up by only fourteen cents.

Folks, it’s long past time to cut the middle class back into the deal, so they can benefit from the economic growth they helped create. Folks, there used to be a bargain in this country supported by Democrats and Republicans, business and labor. The bargain was simple. If an employee contributed to the growth and profitability of the company, they got to share in the profits and the benefits as well. That’s what built the middle class. It’s time to restore the bargain, to deal the middle class back in. Because, folks, when the middle class does well, everybody does well – the wealthy get wealthier and the poor have a way up.

You know, the middle class is not a number. It’s a value set. It means being able to own your home; raise your children in a safe neighborhood; send them to a good school where if they do well they can qualify to go to college and if they get accepted you’d be able to find a way to be able to send them to college. And in the meantime, if your parents need help, being able to take care of them, and hope to put aside enough money so that your children will not have to take care of you.

That’s the American dream. That’s what this country was built on. And that’s what we’re determined to restore.

In order to do that, it’s time to have a fair tax structure, one that values paychecks as much as unearned income and inherited wealth, to take some of the burden off of the middle class. It’s time to close tax loopholes so we can reduce the deficit, and invest in rebuilding America – our bridges, our ports, our highways, rails, providing good jobs.

With corporate profits at near record highs, we should encourage corporations to invest more in research and development and the salaries of their employees. It’s time for us to invest in educational opportunity to guarantee that we have the most highly skilled workforce in the world, for 6 out of every 10 jobs in the near term is going to require some education beyond high school. Folks, it’s long past due to increase the minimum wage that will lift millions of hardworking families out of poverty and in the process produce a ripple effect that boosts wages for the middle class and spurs economic growth for the United States of America. Economists acknowledge that if we do these and other things, wages will go up and we’ll increase the Gross Domestic Product of the United States.

My fellow Americans, we know how to do this. We’ve done it before. It’s the way we used to do business and we can do it that way again. All the middle class in this country want is a chance. No guarantee, just a chance.

Americans want to work. And when given a fair shot, the American worker has never, ever, ever, let his country down. Folks, it’s never a good bet to bet against the American people.

Thanks for listening.

May God bless you, and may God protect our troops.

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

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

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

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

READ MORE

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

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama might consider executive action for the unemployment benefits extension

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

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

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama emphasizes helping middle class ignores unemployment benefits extension

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

 

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WH, 7-31-14

South Court Auditorium

1:40 P.M. EDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
2:00 P.M. EDT

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WH, 7-30-14

Uptown Theater
Kansas City, Missouri

11:06 A.M. CDT

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible) to God —

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

AUDIENCE:  We love you!  We love you!

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE:  No!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
11:39 A.M. CDT

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WH, 7-24-14

Los Angeles Trade-Technical College
Los Angeles, California

1:15 P.M. PDT

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

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

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s okay.

AUDIENCE:  Obama!  Obama!  Obama!

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I love you!

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Occi Tigers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So — USA!

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

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

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

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I believe in optimism.  I believe in hope.

AUDIENCE:  Yes!

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

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

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

END
1:37 P.M. PDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 22, 2014: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s Remarks at the Bill Signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and Vice President at Bill Signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Source: WH,  7-22-14

12:18 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone.  It’s great to be here.  (Applause.)  Please, thank you very much.  Thank you, distinguished members of Congress and members of labor and business, and the community.  Today, as the President signs the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, we’re using this occasion also to present to the President a roadmap he asked — requested in the State of the Union message, how to keep and maintain the highest-skilled workforce in the world.  And this is a perfect build-on as to what the bipartisan consensus that Congress recently reached.

I had the best partners in preparing this report that I could ask for — Tom Perez at Labor, Penny Pritzker at Commerce and Arne Duncan at the Department of Education.  I talked to governors, mayors, industry leaders, presidents of community colleges and colleges, and unions, and a lot of members of Congress, many of whom are here.  And I have to acknowledge at the out front — at the outset, my wife, Jill, has been an incredible advocate for community colleges and the role they play in training the workforce.

But most importantly, I spoke with an awful lot of Americans who are — as all of you have, particularly members of Congress, who were hit exceedingly hard by the Great Recession, but are doing everything they possibly can to find a job — willing to learn new skills in order to have a decent, middle-class job.  One thing I hope that’s been put to rest — and I know we all share this view — Americans want to work.  They want to work.  They’re willing to do anything that they need to do to get a good and decent job.

And they show us that our single greatest resource is not — and it’s not hyperbole — remains the American people.  They’re the most highly-skilled workers in the world and the most capable people in the world.  And they’re in the best position to learn the new skills of the 21st century that the workforce requires.  There’s that phrase — all has changed, changed utterly.  Well, all has changed.  It’s a different world in which people are competing in order to get the kind of jobs they need, whether it’s in advanced manufacturing or clean energy or information technology or health care — all areas that are booming, all areas where America is back.

So the core question that we set out to answer — and I’m sure my colleagues did as well — was how do you connect?  How do you connect these workers who desperately want a job, who will do all they need to do to qualify, how do you connect them with jobs?  How do Americans know what skills employers need?  It sounds like a silly question, but how do they know?  And how do they get these skills once they know what skills are needed for the job?  And where, where do they go to get those jobs?

This report is designed to help answer those extremely practical questions.  It includes 50 actions that the federal government and our outside partners are taking now to help fill this skills gap.  There is this new strategy that we think will lead directly to more middle-class jobs.  These actions are going to help promote partnerships between educational institutions and workforce institutions.  They’re going to increase apprenticeships, which will allow folks to learn — and earn while they learn.  And it will empower job seekers and employers with better data on what jobs are available and what skills are needed to fill those jobs.

Let me tell you a story why all this matters.  And I’ve been all over the country and invited by many of you into your districts and states in order to look at programs you have that are similar to what we’re proposing today.  But I was recently — and I could talk about many of them, but I was recently in Detroit just last week.  And I met with an incredible group of women at a local community college.  Now, all of these women came from hardscrabble neighborhoods in Detroit.  They happened to be all women, it was coincidence, but they all made it through high school.  They ranged in age I’m guessing somewhere from 25 to their mid-50s.  But they all got a high school education, and they were absolutely determined to do more to be able to provide for themselves and their family.

Through word of mouth, Tom, they heard about a coding boot camp, computer coding — a coding boot camp.  And it’s called [Step] IT Up America.  And it was a partnership between Wayne County Community College and a company called UST Global.  Now, it’s an intensive, four-month — just four months, but intensive eight-hour day — I think it’s almost the whole day — don’t hold me to the exact number of hours, but intensive training program where these women happen to be, as I said, there were about a dozen and a half women learn IT skills needed to fill jobs at UST Global.

UST Global represents a lot of other IT companies as well.  Knowing vacancies exist — they estimate over a thousand vacancies just in the greater Detroit area.  And upon completion of this program, UST Global hires the students, and the lowest starting job is at $45,000 a year and the highest is $70,000 a year.  These are coders, computer programmers.  But there’s a key point:  UST Global doesn’t train these women out of some altruistic sense of charity.  They do it because it’s a very, very smart business decision.

There’s an overwhelming need for more computer coders -— as does not just UST Global, but the entire industry.  By 2020, our research shows there will be 1.4 million new IT jobs all across this country.  And the pay is in the $70,000 range.

I was so proud of these women.  As I said, my wife teaches in a community college.  Her average class age of people in her class is 28 to 30 years old.  Just think of yourself, what courage it takes.  You’re out of high school.  You’re graduated.  You’ve been bumping along in a job trying to make it.  You’ve been out, two, five, 10, 15 years.  And someone says, there’s this opportunity to take this program to learn Java, to learn a new language, to learn how to operate a computer in a way that you can code it.  It takes a lot of courage to step up.

It takes a willingness to be ready to fail.  These women were remarkable, but not just these women.  They write code, so they look — they weren’t out there.  They were — they knew someone who had gotten a job because of the program, and they thought they could do it.  So they learned an entire new language, and they displayed an initiative that was remarkable to see.  They showed up.  They worked hard because they want a good-paying job.  They want to make a decent living.  They want to take care of themselves and their families.

Folks, that’s what — as I know all of my colleagues believe — that’s what this is all about.  It’s not just information technology.  Manufacturing — 100,000 high-tech manufacturing jobs available today in the United States because the employers cannot find workers with the right skills.  That number of highly skilled manufacturing jobs is going to grow to 875,000 by 2020.

And, folks, I was recently up in Michigan.  And Dow Kokam has a plant there that’s — they couldn’t find anybody with photovoltaic technology, didn’t know how to run the machines.  So the community college and the business, they roll the machines right into the community college because of the help you all have provided in Congress, the funding.  And it’s like an assembly line.  These are good-paying jobs.

And in energy:  26 percent more jobs for petroleum engineers, average salary 130,000 bucks a year; 25 percent more jobs for solar panel installers, $38,000 a year; 20 percent more jobs needed — more electricians are needed, earning $50,000 a year -— all now and in the near term.  These are real jobs.  These are real jobs.

Health care:  There are 20 percent more jobs -— or 526,000 more that are needed in the health care industry -— registered nurses, jobs that pay 65,000 bucks a year.  There’s training programs in all of your states and districts, where you go out there, and while you’re a practical nurse, you can still be working and be essentially apprentice, while you are learning how to become — and taking courses to be a registered nurse.

Physician assistants — badly needed as the call for health care increases.  What’s the number, Tom, 130,000 a year roughly?  These are jobs all within the grasp of the American people if we give them the shot, if we show them the way, let them know how they can possibly pay for it while they are raising a family, and they’ll do the rest.

To maintain our place in the world we need to keep the world’s most skilled workforce right here in America, and to give a whole lot more hardworking Americans a chance at a good, middle-class job they can raise a family on.

But we also know the actions in this report are only a beginning, and as is the legislation.  The fact of the matter is that so many people over the last two decades have fallen out of the middle class, and so many in the upcoming generation need to find a path back.  Well, there is a path back if we all do our jobs — from industry, to education, to union leaders, to governors, to Congress, to the federal government.

And the mission is very simple.  It goes back to the central economic vision that has guided most of us — I can speak for the President and I — from the first day we got here.

The mission is to widen the aperture to be able to get into the middle class by expanding opportunity.  No guarantees, just expanding opportunity to American men and women who represent the backbone of the most dynamic, thriving economy in the world.  That’s a fact.  We are the most dynamic, thriving economy in the world.

But in order to thrive, their education and training has to be as just as dynamic and adaptable as our economy is.  So, folks, America is back.  We’re better positioned today than we ever have been.  According to A.T. Kearney, we are the most attractive place in the world for foreign investments by a long shot, of every other country in the world.  Since this survey has been kept, the gap between number one and number two is wider than it ever has been.  Manufacturing is back, folks.  They’re coming home.  Instead of hearing — my kids, instead of hearing about outsourcing, what are you hearing now?  You’re hearing about insourcing.  Companies are coming back.

We’re in the midst of — we take no direct credit for it — we’re in the midst of an energy boom.  North America will be the epicenter of energy in the 21st century — the United States of America, Mexico, and Canada.  We remain the leader in innovation.  We have the greatest research universities in the world.  We have the most adaptive financing systems in the world, to go out and take chances on new startups.  And American workers are the most productive in the world.  They want to work.

But to seize this moment, we need to keep the world’s most skilled workforce here in America.  And I think today in this bipartisan group — we’re ready.  The American people are ready.  And I know the man I’m about to introduce is ready.  He wakes up every morning trying to figure out how do we give ordinary Americans an opportunity.  This is just about opportunity, man.  Simple opportunity — how do we give them — because they — an opportunity because they are so exceptional.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I think everyone in this room shares that goal — providing for opportunity.  And the man I’m about to introduce, that’s all he talks about, it seems to me when he talks to me.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Everybody, please be seated.  Thank you.  Well, welcome to the White House, everybody.  And I want to thank Joe for the generous introduction, but more importantly, for everything he does, day in, day out, on behalf of American workers.  And I want to thank the members of Congress who are here from both parties who led the effort to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act.

When President Clinton signed the original Workforce Investment Act back in 1998, he said it was, “a big step forward in making sure that every adult can keep on learning for a lifetime.”  And he was right — the law became a pillar of American job training programs.  It’s helped millions of Americans earn the skills they need to find a new job or get a better-paying job.

But even back then, even in 1998, our economy was changing.  The notion that a high school education could get you a good job and that you’d keep that job until retirement wasn’t a reality for the majority of people.  Advances in technology made some jobs obsolete.  Global competition sent other jobs overseas.  And then, as we were coming into office, the Great Recession pulled the rug out from under millions of hardworking families.

Now, the good news is, today, nearly six years after the financial crisis, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  Manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s.  The unemployment rate is at its lowest point since September of 2008 -– by the way, the fastest one-year drop in nearly 30 years.  There are now more job openings than at any time since 2007, pre-recession.  For the first time in a decade, as Joe mentioned, business leaders around the world have declared that the number-one place to do business, the number-one place to invest isn’t China, it’s the United States of America.

So thanks to the hard work of the American people and some decent policies, our economy has recovered faster and it has gone farther than most other advanced nations.  As Joe said, we are well-positioned.  We’ve got the best cards.  So we have the opportunity right now to extend the lead we already have -– to encourage more companies to join the trend and bring jobs home; to make sure that the gains aren’t just for folks at the very top, but that the economy works for every single American.  If you’re working hard, you should be able to get a job, that job should pay well, and you should be able to move forward, look after your family.

Opportunity for all.  And that means that even as we’re creating new jobs in this new economy, we have to make sure that every American has the skills to fill those jobs.  And keep in mind, not every job that’s a good job out there needs a four-year degree, but the ones that don’t need a college degree generally need some sort of specialized training.

Last month, I met just a wonderful young woman named Rebekah in Minnesota.  A few years ago, she was waiting tables.  Her husband lost his job, he was a carpenter doing construction work.  He had to figure out how to scramble and get a new job that paid less.  She chose to take out student loans, she enrolled in a community college, she retrained for a new career.  Today, not only has her husband been able to get back into construction but she loves her job as an accountant — started a whole new career.  And the question then is how do we give more workers that chance to adapt, to revamp, retool, so that they can move forward in this new economy.

In 2011, I called on Congress to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, update it for the 21st century.  And I want to thank every single lawmaker who is here — lawmakers from both parties — who answered that call.  It took some compromising, but, you know what, it turns out compromise sometimes is okay.  Folks in Congress got past their differences and they got a bill to my desk.  So this is not a win for Democrats or Republicans.  It is a win for American workers.  It’s a win for the middle class.  And it’s a win for everybody who is fighting to earn their way into the middle class.

So the bill I’m about to sign will give communities more certainty to invest in job-training programs for the long run.  It will help us bring those programs into the 21st century by building on what we know works based on evidence, based on tracking what actually delivers on behalf of folks who enroll in these programs -– more partnerships with employers, more tools to measure performance, more flexibilities for states and cities to innovate and to run their workforce programs in ways that are best suited for their particular demographic and their particular industries.  And as we approach the 24th anniversary of the ADA, this bill takes new steps to support Americans with disabilities who want to live and work independently.  So there’s a lot of good stuff in here.

Of course, as Joe said, there is still more that we can do.  And that’s why we’ve rallied employers to give long-term unemployed a fair shot.  It’s why we’re using $600 million in federal grants to encourage companies to offer apprenticeships and work directly with community colleges.  It’s why, in my State of Union address this year, I asked Joe to lead an across-the-board review of America’s training programs to make sure that they have one mission:  Train Americans with the skills employers actually need, then match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.

So today, I’m directing my Cabinet — even as we’re signing the bill — to implement some of Joe’s recommendations.  First, we’re going to use the funds and programs we already have in a smarter way.  Federal agencies will award grants that move away from what our Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, who has been working very hard on this, what he calls a “train and pray” approach, and I’ll bet a lot of you who have dealt with folks who are unemployed know what that means.  They enroll, they get trained for something, they’re not even sure whether the job is out there, and if the job isn’t out there, all they’re doing is saddling themselves with debt, oftentimes putting themselves in a worse position.  What we want to do is make sure where you train your workers first based on what employers are telling you they’re hiring for.  Help business design the training programs so that we’re creating a pipeline into jobs that are actually out there.

Number two, training programs that use federal money will be required to make public how many of its graduates find jobs and how much they earn.  And that means workers, as they’re shopping around for what’s available, they’ll know in advance if they can expect a good return on their investment.  Every job seeker should have all the tools they need to take their career into their own hands, and we’re going to help make sure they can do that.

And finally, we’re going to keep investing in new strategies and innovations that help keep pace with a rapidly changing economy — from testing new, faster ways of teaching skills like coding and cybersecurity and welding, to giving at-risk youth the chance to learn on the job, we will keep making sure that Americans have the chance to build their careers throughout a lifetime of hard work.

So the bill I’m signing today and the actions I’m taking today will connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.  Of course, there is so much more that we can still do.  And I’m looking forward to engaging all the members of Congress and all the businesses and not-for-profits who worked on this issue.  I’m really interested in engaging them, see what else we can get going.

I’ll give you a couple of examples.  Our high school graduation rate is the highest on record.  More young people are earning their college degrees than ever before.  But we still have work to do to make college more affordable and lift the burden of student loan debt.  I acted to give nearly five million Americans the opportunity to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income — particularly important for those who were choosing careers that aren’t as lucrative.  But Congress could help millions more, and I’d like to work with you on that.

Minimum wage.  This week marks five years since the last increase in the minimum wage.  More and more states and business owners are raising their workers’ wages.  I did the same thing for federal contractors.  I’d like to work with Congress to see if we can do the same for about 28 million Americans — give Americans a raise right now.

Fair pay.  Let’s make sure the next generation of women are getting a fair deal.  Let’s make sure the next generation of good manufacturing jobs are made in America.  Let’s make it easier, not harder, for companies to bring those jobs back home.  Tomorrow, senators will get to vote on the Bring Jobs Home Act.  Instead of rewarding companies for shipping jobs overseas or rewarding companies that are moving profits offshore, let’s create jobs right here in America and let’s encourage those companies.

So let’s build on what both parties have already done on many of these issues.  Let’s see if we can come together and, while we’re at it, let’s fix an immigration system that is currently broken in a way that strengthens our borders and that we know will be good for business, we know will increase our GDP, we know will drive down our deficit.

So I want to thank all the Democrats and Republicans here today for getting this bill done.  This is a big piece of work.  You can see, it’s a big bill.  (Laughter.)  But I’m also inviting you back.  Let’s do this more often.  It’s so much fun.  (Laughter and applause.)  Let’s pass more bills to help create more good jobs, strengthen the middle class.  Look at everybody — everybody is smiling, everybody feels good.  (Laughter.)  We could be doing this all the time.  (Laughter.)

Our work can make a real difference in the lives of real Americans.  That’s why we’re here.  We’ll have more job satisfaction.  (Laughter.)  The American people, our customers, they’ll feel better about the product we produce.

And back in 1998, when President Clinton signed the original Workforce Investment Act into law, he was introduced by a man named Jim Antosy from Reading, Pennsylvania.  And Jim spoke about how he had been laid off in 1995 at age 49, two kids, no college degree.  With the help of job training programs, he earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science, found a new job in his field.

Today, Jim and his wife, Barb, still live in Reading.  Over the past 16 years, he’s been steadily employed as a programmer, working his way up from contractor to full-time employee.  In just a few months, Jim now is planning to retire after a lifetime of hard work.  A job training program made a difference in his life.  And one thing he’s thinking about doing in his retirement is teaching computer science at the local community college, so he can help a new generation of Americans earn skills that lead directly to a job, just like he had the opportunity to do.

Well, I ran for President because I believe even in a changing economy, even in a changing world, stories like Jim aren’t just possible, they should be the norm.  Joe believes the same thing.  Many of you believe the same thing.  I believe America is — I don’t just believe, I know America is full of men and women who work very hard and live up to their responsibilities, and all they want in return is to see their hard work pay off, that responsibility rewarded.

They’re not greedy.  They’re not looking for the moon.  They just want to be able to know that if they work hard, they can find a job, they can look after their families, they can retire with dignity, they’re not going to go bankrupt when they get sick, maybe take a vacation once in a while — nothing fancy.  That’s what they’re looking for, because they know that ultimately what’s important is family and community and relationships.  And that’s possible.  That’s what America is supposed to be about.  That’s what I’m fighting for every single day as President.

This bill will help move us along that path.  We need to do it more.  Let’s get together, work together, restore opportunity for every single American.  So with that, I’d like to invite up some of the outstanding folks who are sitting in the audience who helped make this happen.  And I’m going to sign this bill with all those pens.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
12:48 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 21, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Signing of Executive Order on LGBT Workplace Discrimination

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Signing of Executive Order on LGBT Workplace Discrimination

Source: WH, 7-21-14 

East Room

10:39 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House, everybody.  I know I’m a little late.  But that’s okay because we’ve got some big business to do here.

Many of you have worked for a long time to see this day coming.  You organized, you spoke up, you signed petitions, you sent letters — I know because I got a lot of them.  (Laughter.) And now, thanks to your passionate advocacy and the irrefutable rightness of your cause, our government — government of the people, by the people, and for the people — will become just a little bit fairer.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It doesn’t make much sense, but today in America, millions of our fellow citizens wake up and go to work with the awareness that they could lose their job, not because of anything they do or fail to do, but because of who they are —  lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender.  And that’s wrong.  We’re here to do what we can to make it right — to bend that arc of justice just a little bit in a better direction.

In a few moments, I will sign an executive order that does two things.  First, the federal government already prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Once I sign this order, the same will be explicitly true for gender identity.  (Applause.)

And second, we’re going to prohibit all companies that receive a contract from the federal government from discriminating against their LGBT employees.  (Applause.)    America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people.

Now, this executive order is part of a long bipartisan tradition.  President Roosevelt signed an order prohibiting racial discrimination in the national defense industry.  President Eisenhower strengthened it.  President Johnson expanded it.  Today, I’m going to expand it again.

Currently, 18 states have already banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  And over 200 cities and localities have done the same.  Governor Terry McAuliffe is here; his first act as governor was to prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  (Applause.)  Where did Terry go?  Right back here.

I’ve appointed a record number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender public servants to positions across my administration.  They are ambassadors and federal judges, special assistants, senior advisors from the Pentagon to the Labor Department.  Every day, their talent is put to work on behalf of the American people.

Equality in the workplace is not only the right thing to do, it turns out to be good business.  That’s why a majority of Fortune 500 companies already have nondiscrimination policies in place.  It is not just about doing the right thing — it’s also about attracting and retaining the best talent.  And there are several business leaders who are here today who will attest to that.

And yet, despite all that, in too many states and in too many workplaces, simply being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can still be a fireable offense.  There are people here today who’ve lost their jobs for that reason.  This is not speculative, this is not a matter of political correctness — people lose their jobs as a consequence of this.  Their livelihoods are threatened, their families are threatened.  In fact, more states now allow same-sex marriage than prohibit discrimination against LGBT workers.  So I firmly believe that it’s time to address this injustice for every American.

Now, Congress has spent 40 years — four decades — considering legislation that would help solve the problem.  That’s a long time.  And yet they still haven’t gotten it done.  Senators Terry [Tammy] Baldwin and Jeff Merkley are here.  They have been champions of this issue for a long, long time.  We are very proud of them.  I know they will not stop fighting until fair treatment for all workers is the federal law of the land.  Everyone thanks them for that.  (Applause.)

But I’m going to do what I can, with the authority I have, to act.  The rest of you, of course, need to keep putting pressure on Congress to pass federal legislation that resolves this problem once and for all.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen!

THE PRESIDENT:  Amen.  Amen.  (Applause.)  Got the “amen” corner here.  (Laughter.)  Well — (sings) — (laughter.)  You don’t want to get me preaching, now.  (Laughter.)

For more than two centuries, we have strived, often at great cost, to form “a more perfect union” — to make sure that “we, the people” applies to all the people.  Many of us are only here because others fought to secure rights and opportunities for us. And we’ve got a responsibility to do the same for future generations.  We’ve got an obligation to make sure that the country we love remains a place where no matter who you are, or what you look like, or where you come from, or how you started out, or what your last name is, or who you love — no matter what, you can make it in this country.

That’s the story of America.  That’s the story of this movement.  I want to thank all of you for doing your part.  We’ve got a long way to go, but I hope as everybody looks around this room, you are reminded of the extraordinary progress that we have made not just in our lifetimes, but in the last five years.  In the last two years.  (Applause.)  In the last one year.  (Applause.)  We’re on the right side of history.

I’m going to sign this executive order.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

(The executive order is signed.)

END
10:47 A.M. EDT

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WH, 7-12-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy — Austin, TX

Source: WH, 7-10-14 

Watch the Video

Paramount Theatre
Austin, Texas

12:48 P.M. CDT

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you!  (Applause.)

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Si se puede!

THE PRESIDENT:  Si se peude.  (Laughter.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE:  Booo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
1:28 P.M. CDT

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy, Denver, CO

Source: WH, 7-9-14

Cheesman Park
Denver, Colorado

10:27 A.M. MDT

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

AUDIENCE:  Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
10:57 A.M. MDT

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy

Source: WH, 7-3-14

1776
Washington, D.C.

11:57 A.M. EDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
12:04 P.M. EDT

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy

Source: WH, 7-1-14

Georgetown Waterfront
Washington, D.C.

2:22 P.M. EDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
2:37 P.M. EDT

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President Before Cabinet Meeting

Source: WH, 7-1-14

Cabinet Room

11:04 A.M. EDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
11:10 A.M. EDT

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 27, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy in Minneapolis, MN — Attacking GOP for Not Passing Economic Agenda

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy — Minneapolis, MN

Source: WH, 6-27-14 

Lake Harriet Band Shell
Minneapolis, Minnesota

10:15 A.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Minneapolis!  (Applause.)  How is everybody doing today?  You look good.  (Applause.)  It is good to see all of you.  I miss Minneapolis.  I missed you guys.  Go ahead and have a seat, I’m going to be talking for a while.  (Laughter.)

So we’ve got some wonderful folks here today.  I want to acknowledge a few of them.  First of all, your outstanding Governor, Mark Dayton.  (Applause.)  Your wonderful senators, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar.  (Applause.)  Congressman Keith Ellison.  (Applause.)  Your Mayor, Betsy Hodges.  (Applause.)  And all of you are here, and that’s special.

I want to thank Rebekah for not just the introduction and for sharing her story, but for letting me hang out with her and her family for the last couple of days.  I really like her.  (Laughter.)  And her husband is like the husband of the year.  Generally, you don’t want your wife to meet Rebekah’s husband, because she’ll be like, well, why don’t you do that?  (Laughter.)  Why aren’t you like that?

I’ve been wanting to visit a place where all the women are strong and the men are good-looking, and the children above average.  (Applause.)  And this clearly is an example of what Minnesota produces.  So yesterday, Rebekah and I had lunch at Matt’s Bar, had a “Jucy Lucy” — (applause) — which was quite tasty.  We had a town hall at Minnehaha Park, although I did not take a kayak over the falls, which seemed dangerous.  (Laughter.)  We got ice cream at Grand Ole Creamery — very good, very tasty.

And then this morning, Al Franken and I and Secretary Tom Perez, our Secretary of Labor who’s here — Tom, stand up — (applause) — we stopped by a community organization that helps with a lot of job programs and job placement programs.  And this program in particular was focused on young moms.  It was really interesting talking to them, because there are teenage mothers, 16 to 18, and it was a great pleasure for me to be able to say to all of them that my mom was a teenage mom, and she was 18 when she had me — and to be able to say to all of them that here in this country, it is possible for the child of a teenage mom, a single mom, to end up being President of the United States.  (Applause.)  And I think that it maybe gave them something to think about.

So you guys have been great hosts, Minnesota.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you!

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re welcome.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Laughter and applause.)

So I want to give you a sense of how this visit came up.  As some of you know, every day we get tens of thousands of correspondence at the White House.  And we have a big correspondence office, and every night the folks who manage the correspondence office select 10 letters for me to read.

And the job of these letters is not to just puff me up — so it’s not like they only send me letters saying, Mr. President, you’re doing great.  (Laughter.)  Sometimes the letters say thank you for something I may have done.  Sometimes the letters say, you are an idiot and the worst President ever.  (Laughter.)  And most of the stories, though, are stories of hardship, or hard-won success, or hopes that haven’t been met yet.  Some appreciate a position that I may have taken; some disagree with what I’m doing.  Some consider policies like the Affordable Care Act to be socialism; some tell stories about the difference that same policy may have made in folks’ lives.

So I’m getting a good sample of what’s happening around the country.  And last month, three young girls wrote to me that boys aren’t fair because they don’t pass the ball in gym class.  (Laughter.)  So there’s a wide spectrum — and I’m going to prepare an executive order on that.

But the letter that Rebekah sent stood out — first of all, because she’s a good writer, and also because she’s a good person.  And the story that she told me reminded Michelle and I of some of our own experiences when we were Rebekah and her husband’s age.  And in many ways, her story for the past five years is our story, it’s the American story.

In early 2009, Rebekah and Ben, her husband, they were newly married, expecting their first son, Jack.  She was waiting tables, he was in construction.  Like millions of middle-class families who got hammered by the Great Recession — the worst recession since the Great Depression — life was about to get pretty hard.  “If only we had known,” she wrote, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.”

Ben’s business dried up.  But as a new husband and dad, he did what he had to, so he took whatever jobs he could, even if it forced him to be away from his family for days at a time.  Rebekah realized she needed to think about how her career would unfold, so she took out student loans and enrolled in St. Paul College, and retrained for a new career as an accountant.

And it’s been a long, hard road for them.  They had to pay off debt.  They had to sacrifice for their kids and for one another.  But then last year, they were able to buy their first home, and they’ve got a second son.  And they love where they work, and Ben’s new job lets him be home for dinner each night.  (Applause.)  And so what Rebekah wrote was, “It’s amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to.  We’re a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

And that describes the American people.  We, too, are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.  And today, over the past 51 months, our businesses have created 9.4 million new jobs.  Our housing market is rebounding.  Our auto industry is booming.  Our manufacturing sector is adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s.  We’ve made our tax code fairer.  We’ve cut our deficits by more than half.  More than 8 million Americans have signed up for private insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.)  So here in Minnesota, you can now say that the women are strong, the men are good-looking, the children are above average, and 95 percent of you are insured.  (Applause.)

And it’s thanks to the hard work of citizens like Rebekah and Ben and so many of you that we’ve come farther, we’ve recovered faster than just about any other advanced economy on Earth.  More and more companies are deciding that the world’s number-one place to create jobs and invest is once again the United States of America.  (Applause.)  That’s the good news.  And you don’t hear it very often.

By every economic measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office.  (Applause.)  You wouldn’t know it, but we are.  We’ve made some enormous strides.  But that’s not the end of the story.  We have more work to do.

It wasn’t the end of Rebekah’s story, because she went on to write in her letter, “We did everything right.  The truth is, in America, where two people have done everything they can to succeed and fight back from the brink of financial ruin -– through job loss and retraining, and kids, and credit card debts that are set up to keep you impoverished forever, and the discipline to stop spending any money on yourselves or take a vacation in five years — it’s virtually impossible to live a simple middle-class life.”  That’s what Rebekah wrote.  Because their income is eaten up by childcare for Jack and Henry that costs more each month than their mortgage.  And as I was telling Rebekah — Michelle and I, when we were their age, we had good jobs and we still had to deal with childcare issues and couldn’t figure out how to some months make ends meet.

They forego vacations so they can afford to pay off student loans and save for retirement.  “Our big splurge,” Rebekah wrote, “is cable TV, so we can follow our beloved Minnesota Wild, and watch Team USA in the Olympics!”  (Applause.)  They go out once a week for pizza or a burger.  But they’re not splurging.  And at the end of the month, things are tight.  And this is like this wonderful young couple, with these wonderful kids, who are really working hard.

And the point is, all across this country, there are people just like that, all in this audience.  You’re working hard, you’re doing everything right.  You believe in the American Dream.  You’re not trying to get fabulously wealthy.  You just want a chance to build a decent life for yourselves and your families, but sometimes it feels like the odds are rigged against you.

And I think sometimes what it takes for somebody like Rebekah to sit down and write one of these letters.  And I believe that even when it’s heartbreaking and it’s hard, every single one of those letters is by definition an act of hope.
Because it’s a hope that the system can listen, that somebody is going to hear you; that even when Washington sometimes seems tone deaf to what’s going on in people’s lives and around kitchen tables, that there’s going to be somebody who’s going to stand up for you and your family.

And that’s why I’m here — because I want to let Rebekah know, and I wanted to let all of you know that — because you don’t see it on TV sometimes.  It’s not what the press and the pundits talk about.  I’m here to tell you I’m listening, because you’re the reason I ran for President.  (Applause.)  Because those stories are stories I’ve lived.  The same way that when I saw those young teenage moms, I thought of my mother.  And when I see Rebekah and Ben, I think of our struggles when Malia and Sasha were young.  And they’re not distant from me and everything we do.

I ran for President because I believe this country is at its best when we’re all in it together and when everybody has a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share.  (Applause.)  And the reason I believe that is because that’s how I came here.  That’s how I got here.  That’s how Michelle and I were able to succeed.  (Applause.)  And I haven’t forgotten.

And so even though you may not read about it or see it on TV all the time, our agenda, what we’re fighting for every day, is designed not to solve every problem, but to help just a little bit.  To create more good jobs that pay good wages — jobs in manufacturing and construction; energy and innovation.  That’s why we’re fighting to train more workers to fill those jobs.  That’s why we’re fighting to guarantee every child a world-class education, including early childhood education and better childcare.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’re fighting to make sure hard work pays off with a wage you can live on and savings you can retire on, and making sure that women get paid the same as men for the same job, and folks have flexibility to look after a sick child or a sick parent.  (Applause.)

That’s what we’re fighting for.  We’re fighting so everybody has a chance.  We’re fighting to vindicate the idea that no matter who you are, or what you look like, or how you grew up, or who you love, or who your parents were, or what your last name is, it doesn’t matter — America is a place where if you’re doing the right thing, like Ben and Rebekah are, and you’re being responsible and you’re taking care of your family, that you can make it.

And the fact is, we can do that.  If we do some basic things, if we make some basic changes, we can create more jobs and lift more incomes and strengthen the middle class.  And that’s what we should be doing.  And I know it drives you nuts that Washington isn’t doing it.  And it drives me nuts.  (Applause.)  And the reason it’s not getting done is, today, even basic commonsense ideas can’t get through this Congress.

And sometimes I’m supposed to be politic about how I say things — (laughter) — but I’m finding lately that I just want to say what’s on my mind.  (Applause.)  So let me just be clear — I want you think about this — so far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every single serious idea to strengthen the middle class.  You may think I’m exaggerating, but let me go through the list.  They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage.  They’ve said no to fair pay.  Some of them have denied that there’s even a problem, despite the fact that women are getting paid 77 cents for every dollar a man is getting paid.

They’ve said no to extending unemployment insurance for more than three million Americans who are out there looking every single day for a new job, despite the fact that we know it would be good not just for those families who are working hard to try to get back on their feet, but for the economy as a whole.  Rather than invest in working families getting ahead, they actually voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Don’t boo, by the way.  I want you to vote.  (Laughter and applause.)  I mean, over and over again, they show that they’ll do anything to keep in place systems that really help folks at the top but don’t help you.  And they don’t seem to mind.  And their obstruction is keeping a system that is rigged against families like Ben’s and Rebekah’s.

Now, I’m not saying these are all bad people; they’re not.  When I’m sitting there just talking to them about family, we get along just fine.  Many of them will acknowledge when I talk to them — yes, I know, I wish we could do something more, but I can’t — but they can’t be too friendly towards me because they’d be run out of town by the tea party.  (Laughter.)

But sometimes I get a sense they just don’t know what most folks are going through.  They keep on offering a theory of the economy that time and again failed for the middle class.  They think we should give more tax breaks to those at the top.  They think we should invest less in things like education.  They think we should let big banks, and credit card companies, and polluters, and insurers do only whatever is best for their bottom line without any responsibility to anybody else.  They want to drastically reduce or get rid of the safety net for people trying to work their way into the middle class.
And if we did all these things, they think the economy will thrive and jobs will prosper, and everything will trickle down.

And just because they believe it, it doesn’t mean the rest of us should be believing it — because we’ve tried what they’re peddling, and it doesn’t work.  We know from our history that our economy does not grow from the top down, it grows from the middle out.  We do better when the middle class does better.  We do better when workers are getting a decent salary.  We do better when they’ve got decent benefits.  (Applause.)  We do better when a young family knows that they can get ahead.  And we do better when people who are working hard know that they can count on decent childcare at an affordable cost, and that if they get sick they’re not going to lose their homes.

We do better when if somebody is stuck in a job that is not paying well enough, they know they can go get retrained without taking on huge mountains of debt.  That’s when things hum.  And with just a few changes in priorities, we could get a lot of that done right now if Congress would actually just think about you and not about getting reelected, not about the next election, not about some media sound bite, but just focus on you.  (Applause.)

So that’s why I’ve said, look, I want to work with Democrats and Republicans.  My favorite President, by the way, was the first Republican President — a guy named Abraham Lincoln.  So this is not a statement about partisanship.  This is a statement about America and what we’re fighting for.  And I’m not going to let gridlock and inaction and willful indifference and greed threaten the hard work of families like yours.   And so we can’t afford to wait for Congress right now.  And that’s why I’m going ahead and moving ahead without them wherever I can.  (Applause.)

That’s why I acted to raise more workers’ wages by requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)  That’s why I acted to help nearly five million Americans make student loan payments cap those payments at 10 percent of their income.  That’s why I made sure more women have the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace.  (Applause.)  That’s why we went ahead and launched new hubs to attract more high-tech manufacturing jobs to America.

And, now, some of you may have read — so we take these actions and then now Republicans are mad at me for taking these actions.  They’re not doing anything, and then they’re mad that I’m doing something.  I’m not sure which of the things I’ve done they find most offensive, but they’ve decided they’re going to sue me for doing my job.  I mean, I might have said in the heat of the moment during one of these debates, “I want to raise the minimum wage, so sue me when I do.”  (Laughter.)  But I didn’t think they were going to take it literally.

But giving more working Americans a fair shot is not about simply what I can do — it’s about what we can do together.  So when Congress doesn’t act, not only have I acted, I’ve also tried to rally others to help.  I told CEOs, and governors, and mayors, and state legislatures, for example, they don’t have to wait for Congress to raise the minimum wage.  Go ahead and raise your workers’ wages right now.  And since I first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, 13 states and D.C. have raised theirs, including Minnesota, where more than 450,000 of your neighbors are poised to get a raise.  (Applause.)

When Gap raised wages for its employees, job applications went up through the roof.  It was good for business.  I even got a letter from a proud mom right here in Minneapolis who just wanted me to know that her son starts his employees at $15 an hour, at Aaron’s Green Cleaning here in town.  (Applause.)  There they are!  (Applause.)  So the letter said, “We are very proud of his people-centered business philosophy!  Three cheers for a decent living wage!”

So we don’t have to wait for Congress to do some good stuff.  On Monday, we held the first-ever White House Summit on Working Families, and we heard from a lot of other families like Ben and Rebekah.  They count on policies like paid leave and workplace flexibility to juggle everything.  We had business owners who came and told me they became more profitable when they made family life easier for their employees.

So more companies are deciding that higher wages and workplace flexibility is good for business — it reduces turnover, more productive workers, more loyal workers.  More cities and states are deciding this is good policy for families.  So the only holdout standing in the way of change for tens of millions of Americans are some Republicans in Congress.

Because I just want to be real blunt:  If you watch the news, you just see, okay, Washington is a mess, and the basic attitude is everybody is just crazy up there.  But if you actually read the fine print, it turns out that the things you care about right now Democrats are promoting.  (Applause.)  And we’re just not getting enough help.

And my message to Republicans is:  Join us.  Get on board.  If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, then why don’t you join me and we’ll do it together?  (Applause.)  We’ll do it together.  I’m happy to share the credit.  You’re mad at me for doing some things to raise the minimum wage, let’s pass a law — Republicans and Democrats giving America a raise.

If you’re mad at me for taking executive action to make it easier for women to find out if they’re not getting treated fairly in the workplace, let’s do it together.  You can share the credit.  (Applause.)  You’re worried about me trying to fix a broken immigration system, let’s hold hands and go ahead and make sure that this country continues to be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.  I want to work with you, but you’ve got to give me something.  You’ve got to try to deliver something — anything.  (Applause.)

They don’t do anything — (laughter) — except block me.  And call me names.  It can’t be that much fun.  (Laughter.)  It’d be so much more fun if they said, you know what, let’s do something together.  If they were more interested in growing the economy for you, and the issues that you’re talking about, instead of trying to mess with me — (laughter) — then we’d be doing a lot better.  That’s what makes this country great, is when we’re all working together.  That’s the American way.

Now more than ever, with the 4th of July next week, Team USA moving on down in Brazil — (applause) — we should try to rally around some economic patriotism that says we rise or fall as one nation and one people.  Let’s rally around the idea that instead of giving tax breaks for millionaires, let’s give more tax breaks for working families to help pay for childcare or college.  (Applause.)

Instead of protecting companies that are shifting profits overseas to avoid paying their fair share, let’s put people to work rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our airports.  (Applause.)  Let’s invest in manufacturing startups so that we’re creating good jobs making products here in America, here in Minnesota.  (Applause.)  Rather than stack the deck in favor of those who have already got an awful lot, let’s help folks who have huge talent and potential and ingenuity but just need a little bit of a hand up so that we can tap the potential of every American.

I mean, this isn’t rocket science.  There are some things that are complicated — this isn’t one of them.  Let’s make sure every 4-year-old in America has access to high school — high-quality preschool — (applause) — so that moms like Rebekah and dads like Ben know their kids are getting the best quality care and getting a head start on life.  Let’s redesign our high schools to make sure that our kids are better prepared for the 21st century economy.  Let’s follow the lead of Senator Franken and Secretary Perez and give more apprenticeships that connect young people to rewarding careers.  (Applause.)

Let’s tell every American if they’ve lost their job because it was shipped overseas, we’re going to train you for an even better one.  (Applause.)  Let’s rally around the patriotism that says our country is stronger when every American can count on affordable health insurance and Medicare and Social Security, and women earn pay equal to their efforts, and family can make ends meet if their kid get sick, and when nobody who works full-time is living in poverty.  We can do all these things.

And so let me just — let me wrap up by saying this.  I know sometimes things get kind of discouraging.  And I know that our politics looks profoundly broken, and Washington looks like it’s never going to deliver for you.  It seems like they’re focused on everything but your concerns.  And I know that when I was elected in 2008 and then reelected in 2012, so many of you were hoping that we could get Washington to work differently, and sometimes when I get stymied you’d think, oh, maybe not; maybe it’s just too tough, maybe things won’t change.  And I get that frustration.  And the critics and the cynics in Washington, they’ve written me off more times than I can count.

But I’m here to tell you, don’t get cynical.  Despite all of the frustrations, America is making progress.  Despite the unyielding opposition, there are families who have health insurance now who didn’t have it before.  And there are students in college who couldn’t afford it before.  And there are workers on the job who didn’t have jobs before.  And there are troops home with their families after serving tour after tour.  (Applause.)  Don’t think that we’re not making progress.

So, yes, it’s easy to be cynical; in fact, these days it’s kind of trendy.  Cynicism passes off for wisdom.  But cynicism doesn’t liberate a continent.  Cynicism doesn’t build a transcontinental railroad.  Cynicism doesn’t send a man to the moon.  Cynicism doesn’t invent the Internet.  Cynicism doesn’t give women the right to vote.  Cynicism doesn’t make sure that people are treated equally regardless of race.

Cynicism is a choice, and hope is a better choice.  And every day I’m lucky to receive thousands of acts of hope — every time somebody sits down and picks up a pen, and writes to me and shares their story, just like Rebekah did.  And Rebekah said in her letter — she ended it, she said, “I’m pretty sure this is a silly thing to do to write a letter to the President, but on some level I know that staying silent about what you see and what needs changing, it never makes any difference.  So I’m writing to you to let you know what it’s like for us out here in the middle of the country, and I hope you will listen.”

And I’m here because Rebekah wrote to me and I want her to know I’m listening.  I’m here as President, because I want you all to know that I’m listening.  (Applause.)  I ran for office to make sure that anybody who is working hard to meet their dreams has somebody in Washington that is listening.  And I’m always going to keep listening.  And I’m always going to keep fighting.  (Applause.)

And your cares and your concerns are my own, and your hopes for your kids and your grandkids are my own.  And I’m always going to be working to restore the American Dream for everybody who’s willing to work for it.  (Applause.)  And I am not going to get cynical; I’m staying hopeful, and I hope you do too.

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

END
10:50 A.M. CDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 26, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Town Hall on the Economy Minneapolis, Minnesota

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Town Hall

Source: WH, 6-26-14 

Minnehaha Park
Minneapolis, Minnesota

2:24 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Minneapolis!  (Applause.)  Good to see you.  Good to see you.  Everybody have a seat.  It is good to be back in Minnesota.  (Applause.)  Last time I was here it was colder.  (Laughter.)  Here’s just a tip for folks who are not from Minnesota — if you come here and the Minnesotans are complaining about how cold it is it’s really cold.  (Laughter.) Because these are some pretty tough folks.  They don’t get phased with cold.  But it was cold, so it’s nice to be back when it’s a little warmer.

And I have to begin by congratulating our U.S. soccer team, Team USA — (applause) — for advancing to the next round of the World Cup.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

THE PRESIDENT:  USA!

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  We were in what’s called the “Group of Death.”  (Laughter.)  And even though we didn’t win today, we were in the toughest grouping and we got through.  And so we’ve still got a chance to win the World Cup.  (Applause.)  And we could not be prouder of them.  They are defying the odds and earned a lot of believers in the process.  And I want everybody on the team to know that all of us back home are really proud of them.

Let me tell you something.  I’ve been really looking forward to getting out of D.C.  (Laughter.)  But I’ve also been looking forward to spending a couple days here in the Twin Cities.  Our agenda is still a little loose.  I might pop in for some ice cream, visit a small business.  I don’t know.  I’m just going to make it up as I go along.  The Secret Service — I always tease them.  I’m like a caged bear, and every once in a while I break loose.  And I’m feeling super loose today.  (Applause.)  So you don’t know what I might do.  You don’t know what I might do.  Who knows?  (Applause.)

But the main reason I wanted to be here is I just wanted to have a chance to talk to folks about their lives and their hopes and their dreams and what they’re going through.  I want to spend some time listening and answering your questions and just having a conversation about what’s going well in your lives and in your neighborhoods and communities right now, but also what kinds of struggles folks are going through, and what things are helping and what things aren’t.

Now, before I do I just want to mention our Governor, Mark Dayton, is here.  (Applause.)  And Mark gave me an update on the flooding that’s been going on all across the state and I know some folks here are probably affected by it as well.  We made sure that FEMA is already on the ground here.  The Army Corps of Engineers is helping to build up a levee up in Warroad.  I told the Governor that we will be there as we get some clarity about the damage and what needs to be done, and you should feel confident that you’re going to have a strong partner in FEMA and the federal government in the process of cleaning up. (Applause.)

And you can also feel confident because if we didn’t help out, then I’d have Mayor Coleman and Mayor Hodges and Congressman Keith Ellison giving me a hard time.  So they’re going to hold me to it.  They do a great job on behalf of their constituents every day.  (Applause.)

I also wanted to mention that up the road there’s a memorial service for a person that many of you knew and loved, and that’s Jim Oberstar, who served so long in Congress.  I had a chance to know Jim; we overlapped before he came back home.  He was a good man.  He was a good public servant.  He was somebody who never forgot the folks in the Iron Range that he was fighting for.  And in a lot of ways, what he represented was a time when folks went to Washington, but they understood that they were working on behalf of hardworking middle-class families and people who were trying to get into the middle class.

And that fight continues.  We’ve made progress.  And the one thing that I always remind people of is by just about every economic measure, we are significantly better off than we were when I came into office.   (Applause.)  Unemployment is down; the deficits have been cut in half; the housing market has improved; 401(k)s have gotten more solid.  The number of people who are uninsured are down.  Our exports are up, our energy production is up.  So, in the aggregate, when you look at the country as a whole, by pretty much every measure, the economy is doing better than it was when I came into office — and in most cases significantly better.

We’ve created now 9.4 million new jobs over the last 51 months.  (Applause.)  The unemployment rate here in Minnesota is the lowest it’s been since 2007.  (Applause.)  But here’s the thing — and I’m not telling you anything that you don’t know.  There are still a lot of folks struggling out there.

We’ve got an economy that, even when it grows and corporate profits are high and the stock market is doing well, we’re still having trouble producing increases in salary and increases in wages for ordinary folks.  So we’ve seen wages and incomes sort of flat-line, even though the costs of food and housing and other things have gone up.  And so there are a lot of people who work really hard, do the right thing, are responsible, but still find at the end of the month that they’re not getting ahead.  And that is the central challenge that drives me every single day when I think about what kinds of policies would help.

So I’ve put forward an opportunity agenda that is a continuation of things I’ve been talking about since I came into the United States Senate and served with Mark and things that I’ve been working on since I became President — making sure that hard work pays off; making sure that if you work hard your kid can go to a good school and end up going to college without a huge amount of debt; that you’re not going to go broke if you get sick; that you’re able to have a home of your own; and that you’re able to retire with some dignity and some respect, maybe a vacation once in a while.  That’s what people are looking for.  And that means that we’ve got to reverse this mindset that somehow if everybody at the top does really well then somehow benefits all automatically trickle down — because that’s not what’s been happening for the last 20, 30 years.

We had — on Monday we had what we called a White House Working Families Summit.  And we just talked about bread-and-butter issues that everybody talks about around the kitchen table but, unfortunately, don’t make it on the nightly news a lot.  So we talked about childcare and the fact that it’s prohibitive for too many young families.  (Applause.)  We talked about paid family leave, so that if a child was sick or a parent was sick, that you could actually go help and take care of them — which is, by the way, what every other developed country does.  We’re the only one that doesn’t have it.

We talked about workplace flexibility, so that if you wanted to go to a parent-teacher conference with your family — or for your kid, or a school play, that you could balance that.  And in fact, those companies we discovered at the summit who provide that kind of flexibility usually have more productive workers, harder-working workers, more loyal workers, lower turnover, and the companies end up being more profitable.

We talked about increasing the minimum wage, which would benefit millions of people all across the country.  (Applause.)  We talked about equal pay for equal work, because I want my daughters getting paid the same as men do.  (Applause.)

All of these things are achievable, but we’ve got to make Washington work for you — not for special interests, not for lobbyists.  We don’t need a politics that’s planned to some — the most fringe elements of politics.  We just need folks who are having a common-sense conversation about what’s happening in your lives and how can we help, and then try to take some concrete actions that makes a difference.

So that’s what I want to talk about.  And I’m hoping that some people in Washington are going to be listening.  Some of them will be and they’ll probably be saying I’m crazy or a socialist or something — (laughter) — but hopefully hearing from you, some of this stuff will sink in.  All right?
So with that, I’m just going to take some questions.  I’ve got my little hot tea here to make sure I don’t lose my voice.  And I think we’ve got microphones in the audience and I’m just going to call on folks.  The only rule I’ve got is when I call on you, you’ve got to wait for the microphone, introduce yourself.  If you keep your question relatively short I’ll try to keep my answers relatively short.  And I’m going to go boy, girl, boy, girl to make sure it’s fair, all right?  (Laughter.)

All right.  Let’s start it off.  All right, who wants to go first?  This young lady right here.  Tell me your name.

Q    Hello, I’m Cheryl Hill.

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey, Cheryl.

Q    And I admire you so much and your office for the support we’ve received.  I’m the founder of ClearCause.  I work to protect our students abroad.  I support hundreds of students who worked their way up through college — our best and our brightest — are not well-protected by any surveillance or laws. They are robbed, raped, starved, abandoned and killed.  I’m here because of my son, Tyler Hill.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, so this is like an exchange programs?

Q    Study abroad.

THE PRESIDENT:  Study abroad program.  Generally, study abroad programs are coordinated by the universities and colleges that sponsor them.  There should be interaction between those educational institutions and the State Department.  There are obviously some countries that are particularly dangerous, and in those cases, I think making sure that everybody has good information going in is important.

Tragedies happen when folks travel overseas.  Unfortunately, tragedies happen here as well.  But what I’d like to do is — let me find out more about the nature of the coordination that happens between the State Department and study abroad programs and see if there are some things that we can do to tighten them up.  And it sounds like you’ve been thinking about it, so you may have some ideas.  Excellent.

Gentleman in the cool sunglasses there.

Q    Good morning, Mr. President — or afternoon, Mr. President.  My name is Dan Morette (ph).  And my question is — you spoke about tragedies at home — how we can reduce gun violence in this nation and what we can do to team up together and really make a difference.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, on my way over here I was talking to a mom that I had lunch with — who’s wonderful, by the way, and she’s here but I’m not going to embarrass her.  And she’s got a couple of young sons.  And we talked about a whole bunch of issues — the cost of childcare, the fact that wages don’t go up to meet the cost of living.  But one thing she talked about was Newtown.  And I described how the day that Sandy Hook happened was probably the worst day of my presidency, and meeting those families just a couple of days after they lost these beautiful six-year-olds — 20 of them — and then some of the parents — or some of the teachers and administrators who had been affected as well.

I was sure after that happened, there’s no way that Congress isn’t going to do some common-sense stuff.  I thought that the issue of gun safety and common-sense legislation has been controversial for some time, but I thought that was going to be a breakthrough moment.  The fact that it wasn’t was probably the most disappointing moment that I’ve had with Congress.

What we’ve done is we’ve developed 24 executive actions, things that were in our power, to really try to tighten tracking where guns go, making sure that we’re sifting through and separating out responsible gun owners from folks who really shouldn’t be having a weapon.

So we’ve probably made some progress.  We’ve probably saved a few lives.  But I will tell you this is the only advanced country that tolerates something like this.  We have what’s basically a mass shooting, it seems like, happening once every couple weeks — kids on college campuses, kids at home.  And we’re not going to eliminate all of that violence, and there’s a strong tradition of gun ownership and there are wonderful folks who are sportsman and hunters, and I respect all of that.  But we should be able to take some basic common-sense steps that are, by the way, supported by most responsible gun owners — like having background checks so you can’t just walk into a store and buy a semiautomatic — (applause.)

Something I’m going to keep on talking about that I was asked about this a few weeks ago, and I said, honestly, this is not going to change unless the people who want to prevent these kinds of mass shootings from taking place feel at least as passionate and are at least as mobilized and well-funded and organized as the NRS and the gun manufacturers are.  Because the politics in Congress are such where even members of Congress who know better are fearful that if they vote their conscience and support common-sense gun legislation like background checks, they’re worried that they’re going to lose their seat.  And frankly, there’s a number who have because the other side is very well organized.

So I will keep on talking about it.  We’re going to continue to work with law enforcement and community groups and others to try to take steps locally and at the state level.  But if we’re going to do something nationally, then we’re going to have to mobilize ordinary folks — moms, dads, families, responsible gun owners, law enforcement — and they’re going to have to get organized and be able to counter the pressure that’s coming from the other side in a sustained way — not in a one-week or two-week or one-month situation right after a tragedy occurs; it’s going to have to just keep on going for several years before we’re able to make progress.  (Applause.)

All right.  Young lady right there.  The one in the orange — got a mic right next to you.

Q    I’m an educator in a public school, and I have a son in college who’s struggling through college with student loans.  I’ve been an educator for 27-plus years.  (Applause.)  And I know you’re into sports and I hear they generate a lot of money.  We generate a lot of minds.  And it really bothers me that I can’t pay for his education.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m just curious what your son’s circumstances are.  Is he going to a state school?  Is he going to a private school?

Q    He’s going to a community college.

THE PRESIDENT:  He’s going to a community college.

Q    And wants to go to college in New York, in fashion design.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  But he’s in community college here in Minnesota right now?

Q    Correct.

THE PRESIDENT:  And is he eligible for the federal student loans programs?  Or is he finding that because of your income or your family’s income that it’s hard to get some of the lower-interest loans?

Q    Both.  He’s kind of both.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Well, look, this is something we’ve been spending a lot of time on.  There are a couple components to the problem.  And, by the way, this is something near and dear to my heart because I was not born into a wealthy family.  I’m only here because of my education, but the reason I was able to get that education was because grants, loans, work during the summer — all of those things allowed me to pay the bills.

But college costs were lower then when I was going to school.  I know you can’t tell from my gray hair, but I’m getting a little older now.  (Laughter.)  And so I started college in 1979, and when I graduated — I was able to get a four-year college education — I had some debt, but I could pay it off after one year.  Now, the average student that does have debt is seeing $30,000 worth of debt.  And even if they’re able to take out loans, that’s a burden that they’re carrying with them in their first job; it may prevent them from buying their first home; if they’ve got a business idea, that’s money that is going to take them a while before they’re able to start a business, and, as a consequence, it effects the whole economy.

Now, it is really important just to remind everybody a college education is still a great investment as long as you graduate.  (Applause.)  As long as you graduate.  So when you go into college, you’ve got to be determined, “I’m going to graduate.”  It’s a great investment, but it’s not a great investment if you take out $20,0000 worth of debt and you don’t graduate, you don’t get the degree, which is why we’re spending a lot of time talking to colleges about what are you doing to retain students.

But the things that we need to do are, number one, try to keep costs of student loans down.  We’ve been working with colleges and universities, telling them if the federal government is going to help subsidize your universities essentially with the student loan program, you need to show us that you’re informing students ahead of time how much they’re going to owe; that you are describing for them what their repayment plans would be; that you are keeping tuition low and that you’re graduating folks at a high rate.

So we’ve got to work with the colleges and universities to lower costs.  We’ve got to keep the interest rates on student loans low.  Right now, there’s legislation that was presented in the Senate — Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren sponsored it — and what it does is it just allows student loans that you already have to be consolidated, and you can refinance them at a lower rate just like you could your mortgage if the rates go down.  Republicans all voted against it — I don’t know why.  You will have to ask them.  But that’s an example of a tool we can use.

We’ve also put in place — this is something that I passed a while back and now I’ve expanded — a program whereby you never have to pay more than 10 percent of your current income to pay back your student loans, so that if you decide you want to go into teaching or you want to go into social work — something that may not be a high-paying profession but a satisfying profession — that the fact that you’ve had some student debt is not going to preclude you from taking that position.

So there are a number of different steps that we’re taking.I will tell you, though, in addition to what we do at the federal level, you’re going to need to talk to your state legislators.  Part of the reason that tuition has gone up is because state legislatures across the country have consistently lowered the support that they provide public universities and community colleges, and then the community colleges and the public universities feel obliged to increase tuition rates.  And that obviously adds the burden to students.

The bottom line is your son is doing the right thing.  The fact that he’s starting at a community college will save him money.  Even if he wants to graduate from a four-year institution eventually, it will still be a good investment.  So he should shop around, get the right information.  We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we keep it as affordable as possible.  And I’m sure he’s going to do wonderfully, and then he’s going to look after his mom.  (Applause.)

Okay, it’s a guy’s turn.  This gentleman right here.

Q    Mr. President, like you, I’m the father of two beautiful, intelligent girls.

THE PRESIDENT:  Can’t beat daughters.  No offense, sons.  (Laughter.)

Q    And they’re both in STEM careers.  I’m wondering what we can do to promote and encourage more girls to go into STEM careers.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, this is a great question.  (Applause.)  First of all, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

America became an economic superpower in large part because we were the most innovative economy.  We are a nation of inventors and tinkerers, and we expand the boundaries of what’s possible through science.  And that continues to be the case.  We still have the most cutting-edge technology, the most patents.  But if we’re not careful, we’ll lose our lead.  And if things aren’t being invented here, then they’re not being produced here. And if they’re not being produced here, that means the jobs aren’t being created here.  And over time, other countries catch up.

So what do we have to do?  Number one, we’ve got to make sure that we’re investing in basic science.  Sometimes people say, I don’t know what the federal government spends the money on; they’re all just wasting it.  You know, one of the things that the federal government does is it invests in basic research that companies won’t invest in.  And if it wasn’t for the investment in basic research, then things like the Internet, things like GPS that everybody uses every day, things that result in cures for diseases that have touched probably every family that’s represented here in some fashion — that stuff never happens.

You do the basic research and then you move on to commercialize it, and that’s oftentimes when the private sector gets involved.  But they’re not willing or able a lot of times to finance basic research.  So that’s number one.

Number two, we’ve got to make sure that we’re investing in working with companies who are doing, let’s say, advanced manufacturing, the next phases of manufacturing, linking them up with universities so that once we have a good idea, a good invention — whether it’s clean energy or a new way to build a car — that the next phase of production and innovation is done here in the United States.  And we’ve opened up four what we call advanced manufacturing hubs around the country — I actually want 15 — where we link private sector and universities so that they become centers of innovation and jobs get created here in the United States.

But the third thing we need is we need more folks in engineering, math, science, technology, computer science.  (Applause.)  And that means we’ve got to have a school system generally that encourages those subjects.  And, by the way, I was a political science and English major, and you need to know how to communicate, and I loved the liberal arts, so this is no offense, but we’ve got enough lawyers like me.  We need more engineers.  (Applause.)  We need more scientists.

Generally speaking, we’re not doing good enough educating kids and encouraging them into these kinds of careers.  We’re particularly bad when it comes to girls.  And my whole thing is
— somebody said I was a sports fan.  I am.  And one rule of sports is you don’t play as well if you’ve only got half the team.  We don’t have everybody on the field right now if our young women are not being encouraged the same way to get into these fields.  So this starts at an early age.

What we’ve done is I’ve used my Office of Science and Technology to partner with elementary schools to, first of all, train teachers better in STEM,’ then to really focus on populations that are under-represented in STEM — not only young women but also African Americans, Latinos, others — getting them interested early.  In some cases, for example, we know that young girls — I know as a father — they oftentimes do better if they’re in a team and social environment, so making sure that the structure of science classes, for example, have collaboration involved and there’s actual experience doing stuff, as opposed to just it being a classroom exercise.  There are certain things that can end up making it a better experience for them, boosting their confidence, and encouraging them to get into the fields.

So we’re going to continue to really spend a lot of time on this.  I’ll just close by saying every year now I have a science fair at the White House, because my attitude is if I’m bringing the top football and basketball teams to the White House, I should also bring the top scientists.  I want them to feel — (applause) — that they get the spotlight just like athletes do. And these kids are amazing — except they make you feel really stupid.  (Laughter.)

The first student who I met — she’s now — she just graduated.  When she was 12, she was diagnosed with a rare liver cancer.  Fortunately, she had health insurance.  They caught it early enough, she responded to treatment.  Lovely young lady — it didn’t come back.  But by the time she got into high school and she was taking biology and chemistry, she became interested in why was it that I got this thing at 12 years old?

So she talks to her teachers, and she designs a study where she goes to the surgeon who took out the cancer from her liver, takes samples, identifies the genetic profile and the chromosomes that might have led to this particular kind of cancer, writes up the research in Science Magazine, and now has a scholarship to Harvard to pursue her interest in bio-medicine.  And as you might imagine, her parents are pretty proud of her.  (Laughter.)  I was really proud of her.

But it gives you a sense of the possibilities for young people and young women if somebody is sparking that interest in them, and telling them this is something that they can do and they should pursue their interests.  (Applause.)

Young lady right here in the yellow.

Q    Hi, my name is Joelle Stangle.  I’m the University of Minnesota student body president.  And so I have a question about higher education.  And I also have a softball question after this hardball question.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, I love the softball questions.

Q    My first question is, the House Republicans recently released their recommendations for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, and so I want to know where you think that Republicans and Democrats can work together and what the top priorities should be for reauthorization.  And my softball question is how do you get a President to be your commencement speaker?  Kids want to know.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, you have to invite me.  (Laughter.)  So that’s always a good start.  I just did my last commencement at UC Irvine.  I have to say, they had a campus-wide letter-writing campaign; I think we ended up getting, like, 10,000 letters, was it, from — something like that.  They also have a very cute mascot.  It’s an anteater.  I guess that’s their sign; that’s supposed to be the anteater.

PARTICIPANT:  We’ve got a gopher.

THE PRESIDENT:  Gophers are cool.  (Laughter.)  Gophers are cool.

But the invitation is a good place to start, and then we’ll work from there.

In terms of the higher education reauthorization act, that’s a big bill, there’s a lot of complexities to it.  I will just focus on an area that I think should be the focus — and we’ve already talked about — and that is student loan costs, and how we can hold schools more accountable for informing young people as they’re starting their education what exactly it’s going to mean for them.

Now, we’ve already started this.  I mentioned a few things. One thing I didn’t mention is the Consumer Finance Protection Board that we set up that, in response to what had happened during the Great Recession, when people were taking out mortgages they couldn’t afford and predatory lenders were getting folks in a whole lot of trouble.  And we said, the same way that you should be protected from a faulty appliance or a faulty car, you should be protected from a faulty financial instrument, make sure it doesn’t explode in your face.  (Applause.)

And one of the goals of CFPB, is what it’s called, was to tackle the student loan issue.  And what we’ve done is created what we call a Know What You Owe program, which pushes colleges and universities not to do the financial counseling on the exit interview where suddenly they hand you a packet and says, here, this is what you’re going to owe — hand it to folks at the beginning, break it down for them.  And that will allow young people I think to make better decisions, and their parents to work with them to make better decisions about what college expenses are going to be.

But as I said before — this is true for education generally — the federal government can help, but states and local governments have to do their part as well.  In public education, the federal government accounts for about 7 percent of total costs.  The rest of it comes from state and local taxes.  And what we’ve tried to do is leverage the little bit of money that the federal government gives to this to modify how — to incentivize reform, and to get folks to experiment with new ways of learning.

For example, can we use online classes more effectively to help keep college costs down?  Can we get more high school students to get transferable college credits while they’re in high school so that they can maybe graduate in three years instead of two?  We’re trying to encourage folks to experiment in those ways.

All of that we hope can get embodied in the higher education act.  I will tell you, sometimes if I’m for it, then the other side is against it even if originally it was their idea.  So I can’t guarantee you that we’ll get bipartisan support for these ideas, but there’s nothing that should prevent us from doing it because this is just about making a college education a better value for families.  And that’s something that should transcend party; it shouldn’t be a Democrat or a Republican issue.

All right.  Gentleman right here in the uniform.

Q    All right, my name is — well, good afternoon, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.

Q    My name is John Martinez.  I’m a recent EMT graduate from the Freedom House EMS Academy in St. Paul.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, there you go.

Q    Currently I’m teaching at the Academy, and I just got hired at Allina — I applied for St. Paul Fire.  My question is have you considered starting any other organizations such as the Freedom House for law enforcement or fire or other establishments that could get programs like that going for low-income or minorities?

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, I’ll confess to you I don’t know enough about Freedom House — so I’m considering it right now.  (Laughter.)  But you’ve got to tell me more about it.  Since you’re an instructor there and a graduate from there, why don’t you tell me how it works?

Q    You go through an interviewing process and the leaders — there’s fire chiefs that interview the candidates.  You get paid, but it is an interviewing process.  You wear a unifor;, it’s a strict program.  And it’s a 14-week or a 10-week program, depending on what time of the year.  It’s intensive.  Everything is compacted, all the information that we learn.  And you learn skills — all the skills that you need to be an EMT.  You meet, you network, you meet fire chiefs, police.  I know people that are going into med school.  It started in 1967 in Philadelphia.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it sounds like a great program.

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  And who’s eligible for it?  Is it young people who have already graduated from high school but haven’t yet gone to college?  If I’m 30 years old and I’m thinking let me try a new career — who is it that can participate?

Q    Anyone from the ages of 17 to 30 is eligible.  You have to meet the income requirements.  And it’s open to anyone who wants to get into EMS or fire.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s a great idea.  See, you just gave me a good idea.  (Laughter.)  So now I’m considering expanding it.  (Applause.)

It’s a good example, though, of a broader issues, which is not everybody is going to go to a four-year university, but everybody is going to need some advanced training.  And so the question is how do we set up systems — whether it’s apprenticeships, whether it’s programs like Freedom House that you just described, whether it’s through the community colleges
— where whatever stage in your life, if you feel as if you’re stuck in your existing occupation, you want to do better, or you lose your job and you’ve got to transition to a new industry, that you are able to get training that fits you.  Understanding that for a lot of folks they may be working at the same time as they are looking after their kids, and so there’s got to be some flexibility.  The programs have to be more compact.  Most importantly, they have to be job-training programs or technical programs that actually produce the skills you need to get jobs that are there.

And so what we’ve been trying to do is to — which seems like common sense but, unfortunately, for a long time wasn’t done — going to the businesses first that are hiring and asking them, well, what exactly are you looking for, and why don’t you work with the community college, or why don’t you work with the nonprofit to help design the actual training program so that you’ll have the benefit of knowing if somebody has gone through the program, they’re prepared for the job.  Conversely, the person who’s gone through the training program, they know if they complete it, that there’s a job at the other end.  And that’s how we’re actually trying to redesign a lot of the job training programs that are out there.

But as I said before, you’ve also got to make sure that you structure it so that a working mom who can’t afford to just quit her job and go to school — maybe she’s a waitress right now — she’s interested in being a nurse’s assistant that has slightly better pay and benefits, and then wants to become a nurse, that she has the opportunity to work around her schedule, make sure that we’ve got the ability to take classes at night, or on weekends, or online.

That’s how — in the future, we’re going to have to redesign a lot of this stuff, getting away from thinking that all the training that’s going to take place is just for 18 and 19-year-olds who’ve got all day and are supported by their parents, because that’s not the model that our economy is going to be in for the foreseeable future.

Young lady.  Yes, in the stripes.

Q    Hi, my name is Erin.  I just left a corporation in Minnesota, a Fortune 500 corporation, where I had my four-year degree, my male counterpart did not, and he was making $3 more an hour than I was.  My question for you is what are we going to do about it so as I grow up and other women grow up we are not experiencing the wage gap anymore?  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ve got all kinds of opinions on this.  (Laughter.)

First of all — I told this story at the Working Families Summit — my mom was a single mom.  She worked, went to school, raised two kids with the help of my grandparents.  And I remember what it was like for her — coming home, she’s dead tired, she’s trying to fix a healthy meal for me and my sister, which meant there were only really like five things in the rotation because she didn’t have time to be practicing with a whole bunch of stuff.  And sometimes, because you’re a kid, you’re stupid, so you’re all like, I don’t want to eat that again.  (Laughter.)  And she’s like, really?  (Laughter.)  What did you make?  Eat your food.  (Laughter.)

But I remember the struggles that she would go through when she did finally get her advanced degree, got a job, and she’d experience on-the-job discrimination because of her gender.

My grandmother, she was Rosie the Riveter.  When my grandfather went to fight in World War II, part of Patton’s Army, she stayed home because — my mom was born in Kansas, at Fort Leavenworth, and my grandmother worked at a bomber assembly line. And she was whip smart.  I mean, in another era, she would have ended up running a company.  But at the time, she didn’t even get her college degree — worked as a secretary.  She was smart enough that she worked her way up to be a vice president at the local bank where we lived — which is why sometimes when I watch Mad Men, there’s Peggy and Joan, the two women there, I’m always rooting for them because I imagine them — that’s what it was like for my grandmother, kind of working her way up.

But as smart as she was, she got to a certain point and then she stopped advancing.  And then she would train guys how to do the job and they would end up being her boss.  And it happened three or four times.

So this is something that I care a lot about not just because of my past, but also because of my future.  I’ve got two daughters.  The idea that they would not be paid the same or not have the same opportunities as somebody’s sons is infuriating.  And even if you’re not a dad, those of you who have partners, spouses — men — this is not a women’s issue.  Because if they’re not getting paid, that means they’re not bringing home as much money, which means your family budget is tighter.  (Applause.)  So this is a family issue and not a gender issue.

So what can we do?  First bill I signed was called the Lily Ledbetter Act, that allowed folks to sue if they found out that they had been discriminated against, like you found out.  Back then, Lilly Ledbetter, this wonderful woman, she had been paid less than her male counterparts for the same job for over a decade.  When she finally finds out, she sues, and the Supreme Court says, well, the statute of limitations has run out; you can’t sue for all of that back pay.  She says, well, I just found out — well, that doesn’t matter.  So we reversed that law, allowing people to sue based on when you find out.

Most recently what I did was we made it against the law, at least for federal contractors, to retaliate against employees for sharing job — or salary information.  Because part of the problem — part of the reason that it’s hard to enforce equal pay for equal work is most employers don’t let you talk, or discourage talk about what everybody else is getting paid.  And what we’ve said is women have a right to know what the guy sitting next to them who’s doing the exact same job is getting paid.  So that’s something we were able to do.

But ultimately, we’re going to need Congress to act.  There have been repeated efforts by us to get what we call the Paycheck Fairness Act through Congress and Republicans have blocked it.  Some have denied that it’s a problem.  What they’ve said is, you know what, women make different choices.  That explains the wage gap.  That’s the reason that women on average make 77 cents to every dollar that a man earns — is because they’re making different choices.

Well, first of all, that’s not true in your case because you were doing the same job.  You didn’t make a different choice; you just were getting paid less.  But let’s even unpack this whole idea of making different choices.  What they’re really saying is, because women have to bear children, and a company doesn’t give them enough maternity leave or doesn’t give them enough flexibility, that they should be punished.

And our whole point is that this is a family issue and that if we structure the workplace to actually be family-friendly, which everybody always talks about but we don’t always actually practice, then women won’t have to make different choices.  Then if they’re pregnant and have a child, it’s expected that they’re going to have some time off.  By the way, the dads should, too.  They should have some flexibility in the workplace.  (Applause.) They should be able to take care of a sick kid without getting docked for pay.

And there are some wonderful companies who are doing this.  And as I said before, it turns out that when companies adopt family-friendly policies their productivity goes up, they have lower turnover — which makes sense.  Look, if you have a family emergency, and you go to your boss and you say, can I have a week off, I’ve got to take care of a sick child or a dad — or can I leave early this afternoon because my kid is in a school play and I really think this is important, and they say, of course, nothing is more important than family — how hard are you going to work for that person when you get back on the job?  You’re going to feel invested in them.  You’re going to say to yourself, man, these folks care about me, which means I care about you.  And if I have to take some extra time on a weekend, or I’ve got to do some work late at night when I’m not under an emergency situation, I’m going to do that.

So this makes good business sense.  But the problem is, is that we haven’t done enough to encourage these new models.  And this is part of the reason why we did this Family Summit — we wanted to lift this stuff up, show companies that are doing the right thing, encourage others to adopt the same practices, and maybe get some legislation that incentivizes better policies.

In the meantime, though, if you’re doing the same job you should make the same pay — period; full stop.  (Applause.)  That should be a basic rule.  That shouldn’t be subject to confusion. (Applause.)

Let’s see — this young man back here, right there.

Q    Good afternoon, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Quinn Graham.  I’m an intern with Right Track.

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s Right Track?  Tell me about it.

Q    It’s a youth jobs program through the city of St. Paul.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.  Now, what grade are you going into next year?

Q    I’m going to be a senior next year.

THE PRESIDENT:  Fantastic.  How did junior year go?

Q    What?

THE PRESIDENT:  How did junior year go?

Q    Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  It was okay?  What do you mean, yeah?  No, how did junior year go?

Q    Oh, it went well.

THE PRESIDENT:  It went well?

Q    Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  I just wanted — because Malia is going into her junior year and I hear it’s pretty busy your junior year.

Q    Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah?  Well, you look like you survived it.

Q    Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  You wanted to get to your question.  Please go ahead.  (Laughter.)

Q    I was wondering how you would propose to address the growing issue of climate change.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, as it just so happens — now, this young man was not a plant.  (Laughter.)  But as it just so happens, last year yesterday, I announced my Climate Action Plan. And let me just set the stage by saying that the science here is settled — (applause) — carbon dioxide is released by a whole bunch of manmade activities.

When you release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere it traps heat.  We are seeing the highest levels of carbon dioxide, and as a consequence, some of the warmest temperatures that we’ve seen in hundreds of thousands of years.  They’re going up.  And this is not just a problem of polar bears — although I really like polar bears — and the ice caps melting.  What happens is, is that when temperatures on average go up it throws weather patterns into a whole bunch of different directions.

So it may mean that snowcaps on mountains diminish.  And out West, entire states get their water from snowcaps.  If you’re not getting the same amount of water you now have the potential for more severe drought.  Agriculture is impacted, which means your food bills go up.  California is going through the worst drought it’s gone through in a very, very long time.  That raises the price of all the fruits and vegetables that are grown in California, so it hits you in your pocketbook.

Wildfires may increase.  And in fact, we’ve seen record wildfires.  We’re having to spend more money fighting fires now than we ever have.  It makes hurricanes potentially more frequent and potentially more powerful.  So Hurricane Sandy may not be as unusual as it used to be.  You see higher incidents of flooding. Coastal states like Florida, there are neighborhoods where now every time there’s a high tide there’s a flood in these neighborhoods.

And the problem is it’s getting worse.  Because as folks in China and India and other places decide they want to have cars, too, and they want to have electricity and the things that we’ve got, they start building more power plants and they start driving more — all of that adds to more carbon dioxide and it starts compounding.

So this is something we have to deal with.  Now, the good news is there are things we can do.  So we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars.  By the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks are going to go twice as far on a gallon of gas. That’s going to save you money in your pocketbook, but it’s also taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.  (Applause.)

We’ve invested in clean energy.  Since I came into office we’re producing three times as much energy through wind power and we’re producing about 10 times as much energy through solar power, and we’re creating jobs here in the United States — folks installing wind turbines and solar panels.  So it’s good economics and it’s also good for the environment.

Most recently, what I’ve done is I’ve said — about 40 percent of the carbon that we emit comes from power plants.  So what we’ve said is, through the Environmental Protection Agency, we’re going to set standards.  We set standards for the amount of mercury and arsenic and sulfur that’s pumped out by factories and power plants into our air and our water.  Right now we don’t have a cap on the amount of carbon pollution.  So we said we’re going to cap it.

And we’re going to let states work with their private sector and local governments to come up with what’s going to be best for them.  Not every state is going to do the same thing.  Nevada might emphasize solar power.  South Dakota might emphasize wind power.  Whatever it is that you’re going to do you’ve got to start bringing down your carbon pollution.

Now, this has some controversy.  Oil companies, not wild about it; coal companies, not crazy about it.  These traditional sources of fuel — fossil fuels — we’re going to use for a while, but we can’t just keep on using them forever.  We’ve got to develop new ways of producing energy so that your generation isn’t seeing a planet that is starting to break down, with all the costs associated with it.

Last point I’ll make — one of the benefits of asking power plants to produce energy that’s cleaner is that when they control their carbon dioxide they’re also putting less soot in the air.  They’re also putting less particulates in the air.  And what that means is your child is less likely to get asthma and those with respiratory diseases are less likely to be impacted.  So it has a public health effect that is good as well.

We can have an environment that is cleaner, that is healthy for us, and at the same time, develop entire new industries in clean energy.  But we’re going to have to get started now.  And that’s why, despite some of the pushback from some of the special interests out there, we’re going to just keep on going at this, because we don’t have a choice.  This is something that we’re going to have to tackle during this generation to make sure we’re giving a good future for the next generation.  (Applause.)  Great question.

Last question — last question.  This young lady in the pink, go ahead.

Q    Good afternoon, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.

Q    My name is Katie Peterson.  And my coworker here and friend, we’ve been working for the federal government for almost 29 years.  And we feel really privileged that we’ve been able to serve that way.

THE PRESIDENT:  Where do you work?

Q    For Defense Contract Management Agency.

THE PRESIDENT:  Excellent.

Q    But it’s been a great career, we love it, but lately, as you know, there’s been a few rough patches with three years of pay freeze and sequestration and furloughs.  And we’re just kind of wondering what you foresee for the next fiscal year for government workers.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me make a couple of points.  First of all, folks in the federal government, the overwhelming majority, they work really hard doing really important stuff.  And I don’t know why it is that — (applause) — I don’t know when it was that somehow working for government — whether the state or local or federal level — somehow became not a real job. When you listen to some of the Republican rhetoric sometimes you think, well, this is really important work that we depend on.

We’ve got floods right here right now.  The federal government is coming in and it’s going to be working with local communities that are overwhelmed to try to make sure that people get help rebuilding.  Those are federal workers.  If they weren’t around after a tornado or a hurricane, communities would be in a world of hurt.

When you check the weather, even on your smartphone, that information didn’t just come from some Silicon Valley office.  That came from the National Weather Service.  We put out the data developed by the federal government to our satellites that are paid for, and then it’s commercialized.  And people use it to set up things like the Weather Channel and Weather.com and websites.

The folks who help our men and women in uniform make sure that they’ve got proper equipment, those are federal workers.  Fighting fires — a lot of times those are federal workers in the Forest Service.

So it frustrates me when I hear people acting as if somebody who’s working for the federal government somehow is less than somebody working on the private sector — if they’re doing a good job and carrying on an important function, we should praise them. (Applause.)

The same is true, by the way, at the local level.  The same is true at the local level.  I don’t know a job more important than teaching.  Those are all government workers.  In fact, one of the biggest problems we had in coming out of this recession, in addition to it being the worst recession since the Great Depression, was that states and local governments were cutting back on their hiring at an unprecedented rate.  We still haven’t seen state and local government hiring get back to where it was back in 2007-2008.  If we had, if we hadn’t lost so many teachers and teachers’ aides in a lot of communities, the unemployment rate would be much lower and the economy would be much stronger.

So I say all this just to make a general point, which is, historically, it’s been the private sector that drove the economy, but it was also a whole bunch of really great work done by agricultural extension workers and engineers at NASA and researchers at our labs that helped to create the platform and the wealth that we enjoy.  And so this whole idea that somehow government is the enemy or the problem is just not true.

Now, are there programs that the government does that are a waste of money or aren’t working as well as they should be?  Of course.  But I tell you, if you work in any company in America, big company, you’ll find some things that they’re doing that aren’t all that efficient either.  Are there some federal workers who do bone-headed things?  Absolutely.  I remember the first week I was on the job I talked to my Defense Secretary, Bob Gates, who’s older and had been there a long time.  I said, do you have advice for me, Bob?  He says, one thing you should know, Mr. President, is that at any given moment, on any given day, somebody in the federal government is screwing up.  (Laughter.)  Which is true, because there are 2 million employees.  Somebody out there — if 99 percent of the folks are doing the right thing and only 1 percent aren’t, that’s still a lot of people.

So my job as President, working with Congress, is to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and efficiently.  We shouldn’t be wasting a dime.  And where we see waste, where we see things not working the way they should — like recently, these long waits for folks trying to get in the VA health care program — we’ve got to crack down and we’ve got to reform it.  But we can’t paint in a broad brush and just say somehow stuff is not working — because even in the VA health care system, once people get in, the quality of care, the satisfaction rates for customers are actually better than in private sector health care. (Applause.)  So we can’t generalize like this.

Now, the last point I’ll make — going to your question — federal workers generally have not gotten raises.  And you remember during the government shutdown, they were getting pressed having to pay bills like everybody else, but not having a paycheck coming in.  It’s very disruptive for them.  And what’s called sequestration and furloughs meant that they might only be able to come to work three days a week instead of the full five. And this all put a strain on their budgets.

We’ve been able to stabilize it, but when we go into the budget talks with Republicans next year, we may go through some of the same problems, in part because the other side has said they want to cut funding for education; they’ve said that they want to cut support for vulnerable families; they want to cut Medicaid, which would have an impact on the elderly and families that have folks with disabilities.  And I’ve said no.

I’ve said why would I — by the way, the deficit has come down by more than half since I came into office.  (Applause.)  It hasn’t gone up.  Federal spending has not gone up.  The deficit has gone down.  And if we want to do more to reduce the deficit further, why am I going to take it out on the most vulnerable in our society and programs we need to grow when we’ve got a tax system where you’ve got corporations taking advantage of loopholes — in some cases, they’re paying no taxes, when a teacher or a secretary are paying taxes themselves?  Why wouldn’t I close those loopholes first to generate additional revenues before I started cutting education spending or spending on basic research?  (Applause.)

It will be a tough negotiation just because everything is a tough negotiation in Washington right now — which I guess brings me just to my last point.  I don’t watch TV news generally, or cable shows, but I suspect if you’re out here and going to work, and picking up your kids and taking them to soccer, or at night sitting there paying the bills, and you just turn on the TV, sometimes it must feel kind of discouraging because it doesn’t feel like what’s being talked about in Washington has anything to do with what’s going on in your lives day to day.  And it must feel as if sometimes you’re just forgotten.

And sometimes the news that’s being reported on is really important.  I mean, what’s happening in Iraq is relevant.  We’ve got to pay attention to the threats that are emanating from the chaos in the Middle East.  Although I want to be very clear we’re not sending combat troops into Iraq, because that’s — (applause) — we’ve done that and we’ve given them an opportunity.  And they’re going to have to contribute to solving their own problems here, although we’ll protect our people and we’ll make sure that we’re going after terrorists who could do us harm.

But sometimes the news that’s coming off is just — these are just Washington fights.  They’re fabricated issues.  They’re phony scandals that are generated.  It’s all geared towards the next election or ginning up a base.  It’s not on the level.  And that must feel frustrating, and it makes people cynical and it makes people turned off from the idea that anything can get done.
And if I’ve got one message today, it’s the same message that I gave to that young mom that I mentioned who I had lunch with before I came here, who wrote me a letter just talking about how she had done everything right, her and her husband, and she’s working hard and raising two beautiful kids and she has a great life, but it’s a struggle and wondering if anybody in Washington knows it.  What I told her is the same thing I want to tell all of you, which is:  I know it.  You’re the reason I ran for office.  You’re — (applause) — no, no, I’m not looking for applause.  I want to make this point.  I grew up not in tough circumstances, but I was you guys.  Somebody out here is going through what my mom went through.  Somebody out here is growing through what my grandma went through.  Somebody out here is going through what Michelle and I went through when we were first married and our kids were first born.  It’s not like I forget.

That was just 20 years ago that we were trying to figure out how to buy our first home.  This is 10 years ago when we finished off paying our student loans.

You guys are the reason I ran.  You’re who I’m thinking about every single day.  And just because it’s not reported in the news, I don’t want you to think that I’m not fighting for you.  And I’m not always going to get it done as fast as I want, because right now we’ve got a Congress that’s dysfunctional.  And I’ll be honest with you — you’ve got a party on the other side whose only rationale — motivation seems to be opposing me.

But despite all that, we’re making progress.  Despite all that, some folks have health care that didn’t have it before.  (Applause.)  Despite all that, some students are able to afford their education better.  Despite all that, some folks have jobs that didn’t have it.  Despite all that, the Green Line got built here in Minnesota.  (Applause.)  Despite all that, we can make life a little better for American families who are doing their best, working hard, meeting their responsibilities.

And I don’t want you to ever forget that.  And I don’t want you to be cynical.  Cynicism is popular these days, but hope is better.

Thanks, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END
3:36 P.M. CDT

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

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