OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
- January 13, 2015
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 13, 2015
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Posted by bonniekgoodman on December 29, 2014
Source: WH, 12-19-14
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:53 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. We’ve really got a full house today, huh? Well, all I want for Christmas is to take your questions. (Laughter.) But first let me say a little bit about this year.
In last year’s final press conference, I said that 2014 would be a year of action and would be a breakthrough year for America. And it has been. Yes, there were crises that we had to tackle around the world, many that were unanticipated. We have more work to do to make sure our economy, our justice system, and our government work not just for the few, but for the many. But there is no doubt that we can enter into the New Year with renewed confidence that America is making significant strides where it counts.
The steps that we took early on to rescue our economy and rebuild it on a new foundation helped make 2014 the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s. All told, over a 57-month streak, our businesses have created nearly 11 million new jobs. Almost all the job growth that we’ve seen have been in full-time positions. Much of the recent pickup in job growth has been in higher-paying industries. And in a hopeful sign for middle-class families, wages are on the rise again.
Our investments in American manufacturing have helped fuel its best stretch of job growth also since the 1990s. America is now the number-one producer of oil, the number-one producer of natural gas. We’re saving drivers about 70 cents a gallon at the pump over last Christmas. And effectively today, our rescue of the auto industry is officially over. We’ve now repaid taxpayers every dime and more of what my administration committed, and the American auto industry is on track for its strongest year since 2005. And we’ve created about half a million new jobs in the auto industry alone.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance just this past year. Enrollment is beginning to pick up again during the open enrollment period. The uninsured rate is at a near record low. Since the law passed, the price of health care has risen at its slowest rate in about 50 years. And we’ve cut our deficits by about two-thirds since I took office, bringing them to below their 40-year average.
Meanwhile, around the world, America is leading. We’re leading the coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL — a coalition that includes Arab partners. We’re leading the international community to check Russian aggression in Ukraine. We are leading the global fight to combat Ebola in West Africa, and we are preventing an outbreak from taking place here at home. We’re leading efforts to address climate change, including last month’s joint announcement with China that’s already jumpstarting new progress in other countries. We’re writing a new chapter in our leadership here in the Americas by turning a new page on our relationship with the Cuban people.
And in less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over. Today, more of our troops are home for the holidays than any time in over a decade. Still, many of our men and women in uniform will spend Christmas in harm’s way. And they should know that the country is united in support of you and grateful not only to you but also to your families.
The six years since the crisis have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everybody’s part. But as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve accomplished — more jobs; more people insured; a growing economy; shrinking deficits; bustling industry; booming energy. Pick any metric that you want — America’s resurgence is real. We are better off.
I’ve always said that recovering from the crisis of 2008 was our first order of business, and on that business, America has outperformed all of our other competitors. Over the past four years, we’ve put more people back to work than all other advanced economies combined. We’ve now come to a point where we have the chance to reverse an even deeper problem, the decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes, and to make sure that the middle class is the engine that powers our prosperity for decades to come.
To do that, we’re going to have to make some smart choices; we’ve got to make the right choices. We’re going to have to invest in the things that secure even faster growth in higher-paying jobs for more Americans. And I’m being absolutely sincere when I say I want to work with this new Congress to get things done, to make those investments, to make sure the government is working better and smarter. We’re going to disagree on some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement and we’ve got to be able to make that happen. And that’s going to involve compromise every once in a while, and we saw during this lame duck period that perhaps that spirit of compromise may be coming to the fore.
In terms of my own job, I’m energized, I’m excited about the prospects for the next couple of years, and I’m certainly not going to be stopping for a minute in the effort to make life better for ordinary Americans. Because, thanks to their efforts, we really do have a new foundation that’s been laid. We are better positioned than we have been in a very long time. A new future is ready to be written. We’ve set the stage for this American moment. And I’m going to spend every minute of my last two years making sure that we seize it.
My presidency is entering the fourth quarter; interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter. And I’m looking forward to it. But going into the fourth quarter, you usually get a timeout. I’m now looking forward to a quiet timeout — Christmas with my family. So I want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy New Year. I hope that all of you get some time to spend with your families as well, because one thing that we share is that we’re away too much from them.
And now, Josh has given me the “who’s been naughty and who’s been nice” list — (laughter) — and I’m going to use it to take some questions. And we’re going to start with Carrie Budoff Brown of Politico. There you go, Carrie.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I’ll start on North Korea — that seems to be the biggest topic today. What does a proportional response look like to the Sony hack? And did Sony make the right decision in pulling the movie? Or does that set a dangerous precedent when faced with this kind of situation?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me address the second question first. Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.
In this interconnected, digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyber assaults both in the private sector and the public sector. Now, our first order of business is making sure that we do everything to harden sites and prevent those kinds of attacks from taking place. When I came into office, I stood up a cybersecurity interagency team to look at everything that we could at the government level to prevent these kinds of attacks. We’ve been coordinating with the private sector, but a lot more needs to be done. We’re not even close to where we need to be.
And one of the things in the New Year that I hope Congress is prepared to work with us on is strong cybersecurity laws that allow for information-sharing across private sector platforms, as well as the public sector, so that we are incorporating best practices and preventing these attacks from happening in the first place.
But even as we get better, the hackers are going to get better, too. Some of them are going to be state actors; some of them are going to be non-state actors. All of them are going to be sophisticated and many of them can do some damage.
We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States. Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like, or news reports that they don’t like. Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.
So that’s not who we are. That’s not what America is about.
Again, I’m sympathetic that Sony as a private company was worried about liabilities, and this and that and the other. I wish they had spoken to me first. I would have told them, do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks. Imagine if, instead of it being a cyber-threat, somebody had broken into their offices and destroyed a bunch of computers and stolen disks. Is that what it takes for suddenly you to pull the plug on something?
So we’ll engage with not just the film industry, but the news industry and the private sector around these issues. We already have. We will continue to do so. But I think all of us have to anticipate occasionally there are going to be breaches like this. They’re going to be costly. They’re going to be serious. We take them with the utmost seriousness. But we can’t start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack; any more than Boston didn’t run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm. So let’s not get into that way of doing business.
Q Can you just say what the response would be to this attack? Wwould you consider taking some sort of symbolic step like watching the movie yourself or doing some sort of screening here that —
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve got a long list of movies I’m going to be watching. (Laughter.)
Q Will this be one of them?
THE PRESIDENT: I never release my full movie list.
But let’s talk of the specifics of what we now know. The FBI announced today and we can confirm that North Korea engaged in this attack. I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco [Franco]. (Laughter.) I love Seth and I love James, but the notion that that was a threat to them I think gives you some sense of the kind of regime we’re talking about here.
They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond. We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose. It’s not something that I will announce here today at a press conference.
More broadly, though, this points to the need for us to work with the international community to start setting up some very clear rules of the road in terms of how the Internet and cyber operates. Right now, it’s sort of the Wild West. And part of the problem is, is you’ve got weak states that can engage in these kinds of attacks, you’ve got non-state actors that can do enormous damage. That’s part of what makes this issue of cybersecurity so urgent.
Again, this is part of the reason why it’s going to be so important for Congress to work with us and get a actual bill passed that allows for the kind of information-sharing we need. Because if we don’t put in place the kind of architecture that can prevent these attacks from taking place, this is not just going to be affecting movies, this is going to be affecting our entire economy in ways that are extraordinarily significant.
And, by the way, I hear you’re moving to Europe. Where you going to be?
THE PRESIDENT: Brussels.
Q Yes. Helping Politico start a new publication.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, congratulations.
Q I’ve been covering you since the beginning.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think —
Q It’s been a long road for the both of us.
THE PRESIDENT: I think there’s no doubt that what Belgium needs is a version of Politico. (Laughter.)
Q I’ll take that as an endorsement.
THE PRESIDENT: The waffles are delicious there, by the way.
Cheryl Bolen. You’ve been naughty. (Laughter.) Cheryl, go ahead.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Looking ahead to your work with Congress next year, you’ve mentioned as an area of possible compromise tax reform. And so I am wondering, do you see a Republican Congress as presenting a better opportunity for actually getting tax reform next year? Will you be putting out a new proposal? Are you willing to consider both individual and corporate side of the tax ledger there? And also, are you still concerned about corporate inversions?
THE PRESIDENT: I think an all-Democratic Congress would have provided an even better opportunity for tax reform. But I think, talking to Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell that they are serious about wanting to get some things done. The tax area is one area where we can get things done. And I think in the coming weeks leading up to the State of Union, there will be some conversations at the staff levels about what principles each side are looking at.
I can tell you broadly what I’d like to see. I’d like to see more simplicity in the system. I’d like to see more fairness in the system. With respect to the corporate tax reform issue, we know that there are companies that are paying the full freight — 35 percent — higher than just about any other company on Earth, if you’re paying 35 percent, and then there are other companies that are paying zero because they’ve got better accountants or lawyers. That’s not fair.
There are companies that are parking money outside the country because of tax avoidance. We think that it’s important that everybody pays something if, in fact, they are effectively headquartered in the United States. In terms of corporate inversion, those are situations where companies really are headquartered here but, on paper, switch their headquarters to see if they can avoid paying their fair share of taxes. I think that needs to be fixed.
So, fairness, everybody paying their fair share, everybody taking responsibility I think is going to be very important.
Some of those principles I’ve heard Republicans say they share. How we do that — the devil is in the details. And I’ll be interested in seeing what they want to move forward. I’m going to make sure that we put forward some pretty specific proposals building on what we’ve already put forward.
One other element of this that I think is important is — and I’ve been on this hobby horse now for six years. (Audience member sneezes.) Bless you. We’ve got a lot of infrastructure we’ve got to rebuild in this country if we’re going to be competitive — roads, bridges, ports, airports, electrical grids, water systems, sewage systems. We are way behind.
And early on we indicated that there is a way of us potentially doing corporate tax reform, lowering rates, eliminating loopholes so everybody is paying their fair share, and during that transition also providing a mechanism where we can get some infrastructure built. I’d like to see us work on that issue as well. Historically, obviously, infrastructure has not been a Democratic or a Republican issue, and I’d like to see if we can return to that tradition.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I wanted to ask about Cuba. What would you say to dissidents or democracy advocates inside Cuba who fear that the policy changes you announced this week could give the Castro regime economic benefits without having to address human rights or their political system? When your administration was lifting sanctions on Myanmar you sought commitments of reform. Why not do the same with Cuba?
And if I could just follow up on North Korea. Do you have any indication that North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country, perhaps China?
THE PRESIDENT: We’ve got no indication that North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country.
With respect to Cuba, we are glad that the Cuban government have released slightly over 50 dissidents; that they are going to be allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations human rights agencies to operate more freely inside of Cuba and monitor what is taking place.
I share the concerns of dissidents there and human rights activists that this is still a regime that represses its people. And as I said when I made the announcement, I don’t anticipate overnight changes, but what I know deep in my bones is that if you’ve done the same thing for 50 years and nothing has changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome.
And this gives us an opportunity for a different outcome, because suddenly Cuba is open to the world in ways that it has not been before. It’s open to Americans traveling there in ways that it hasn’t been before. It’s open to church groups visiting their fellow believers inside of Cuba in ways they haven’t been before. It offers the prospect of telecommunications and the Internet being more widely available in Cuba in ways that it hasn’t been before.
And over time, that chips away at this hermetically sealed society, and I believe offers the best prospect then of leading to greater freedom, greater self-determination on the part of the Cuban people.
I think it will happen in fits and starts. But through engagement, we have a better chance of bringing about change then we would have otherwise.
Q Do you have a goal for where you see Cuba being at the end of your presidency?
THE PRESIDENT: I think it would be unrealistic for me to map out exactly where Cuba will be. But change is going to come to Cuba. It has to. They’ve got an economy that doesn’t work. They’ve been reliant for years first on subsidies from the Soviet Union, then on subsidies from Venezuela. Those can’t be sustained. And the more the Cuban people see what’s possible, the more interested they are going to be in change.
But how societies change is country-specific, it’s culturally specific. It could happen fast; it could happen slower than I’d like; but it’s going to happen. And I think this change in policy is going to advance that.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I had a number of questions on Cuba as well. Appreciate that. I wanted to —
THE PRESIDENT: Do I have to write all these down? How many are there? (Laughter.) “A number” sounded intimidating.
Q As quick as I can. As quick as I can. I wanted to see if you got an assurances from the Cuban government that it would not revert to the same sort of — sabotage the deal, as it has in the past when past Presidents had made similar overtures to the government.
THE PRESIDENT: Meaning? Be specific. What do you mean?
Q When the Clinton administration made some overtures, they shot down planes. They sort of had this pattern of doing provocative — provocative events.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, so just general provocative activity.
Q Provocative activities any time the U.S. has sort of reached out a hand to them. I wanted to see what is your knowledge of whether Fidel Castro — did he have any role in the talks? When you talked to President Raul Castro, did Fidel Castro’s name come up? Or did you ask about him? How he’s doing? People haven’t seen him in a while. Given the deep opposition from some Republicans in Congress to lifting the embargo, to an embassy, to any of the changes that you’re doing, are you going to personally get involved in terms of talking to them about efforts that they want to do to block money on a new embassy?
THE PRESIDENT: All right, Lesley, I think I’m going to cut you off here. (Laughter.) This is taking up a lot of time.
Q Okay, all right.
THE PRESIDENT: All right. So, with respect to sabotage, I mean, my understanding of the history, for example, of the plane being shot down, it’s not clear that that was the Cuban government purposely trying to undermine overtures by the Clinton administration. It was a tragic circumstance that ended up collapsing talks that had begun to take place. I haven’t seen a historical record that suggests that they shot the plane down specifically in order to undermine overtures by the Clinton government.
I think it is not precedented for the President of the United States and the President of Cuba to make an announcement at the same time that they are moving towards normalizing relations. So there hasn’t been anything like this in the past. That doesn’t meant that over the next two years we can anticipate them taking certain actions that we may end up finding deeply troubling either inside of Cuba or with respect to their foreign policy. And that could put significant strains on the relationship. But that’s true of a lot of countries out there where we have an embassy. And the whole point of normalizing relations is that it gives us a greater opportunity to have influence with that government than not.
So I would be surprised if the Cuban government purposely tries to undermine what is now effectively its own policy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they take at any given time actions that we think are a problem. And we will be in a position to respond to whatever actions they take the same way we do with a whole range of countries around the world when they do things we think are wrong. But the point is, is that we will be in a better position I think to actually have some influence, and there may be carrots as well as sticks that we can then apply.
The only way that Fidel’s name came up — I think I may have mentioned this in the Davie Muir article — interview that I did — was I delivered a fairly lengthy statement at the front end about how we’re looking forward to a new future in the relationship between our two countries, but that we are going to continue to press on issues of democracy and human rights, which we think are important.
My opening remarks probably took about 15 minutes, which on the phone is a pretty long time. And at the end of that, he said, Mr. President, you’re still a young man. Perhaps you have the — at the end of my remarks I apologized for taking such a long time, but I wanted to make sure that before we engaged in the conversation he was very clear about where I stood. He said, oh, don’t worry about it, Mr. President, you’re still a young man and you have still the chance to break Fidel’s record — he once spoke seven hours straight. (Laughter.)
And then, President Castro proceeded to deliver his own preliminary remarks that last at least twice as long as mine. (Laughter.) And then I was able to say, obviously it runs in the family. But that was the only discussion of Fidel Castro that we had.
I sort of forgot all the other questions. (Laughter.)
Q I have a few more if you’re — how personally involved are you going to get in —
THE PRESIDENT: With respect to Congress? We cannot unilaterally bring down the embargo. That’s codified in the Libertad Act. And what I do think is going to happen, though, is there’s going to be a process where Congress digests it. There are bipartisan supporters of our new approach, there are bipartisan detractors of this new approach. People will see how the actions we take unfold. And I think there’s going to be a healthy debate inside of Congress.
And I will certainly weigh in. I think that ultimately we need to go ahead and pull down the embargo, which I think has been self-defeating in advancing the aims that we’re interested in. But I don’t anticipate that that happens right away. I think people are going to want to see how does this move forward before there’s any serious debate about whether or not we would make major shifts in the embargo.
Q I want to follow on that by asking, under what conditions would you meet with President Castro in Havana? Would you have certain preconditions that you would want to see met before doing that? And on the hack, I know that you said that you’re not going to announce your response, but can you say whether you’re considering additional economic or financial sanctions on North Korea? Can you rule out the use of military force or some kind of cyber hit of your own?
THE PRESIDENT: I think I’m going to leave it where I left it, which is we just confirmed that it was North Korea; we have been working up a range of options. They will be presented to me. I will make a decision on those based on what I believe is proportional and appropriate to the nature of this crime.
With respect to Cuba, we’re not at a stage here where me visiting Cuba or President Castro coming to the United States is in the cards. I don’t know how this relationship will develop over the next several years. I’m a fairly young man so I imagine that at some point in my life I will have the opportunity to visit Cuba and enjoy interacting with the Cuban people. But there’s nothing specific where we’re trying to target some sort of visit on my part.
Colleen McCain Nelson.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: There you are.
Q You spoke earlier about 2014 being a breakthrough year, and you ended the year with executive actions on Cuba and immigration and climate change. But you didn’t make much progress this year on your legislative agenda. And some Republican lawmakers have said they’re less inclined to work with you if you pursue executive actions so aggressively. Are you going to continue to pursue executive actions if that creates more roadblocks for your legislative agenda? Or have you concluded that it’s not possible to break the fever in Washington and the partisan gridlock here?
THE PRESIDENT: I think there are real opportunities to get things done in Congress. As I said before, I take Speaker Boehner and Mitch McConnell at their words that they want to get things done. I think the American people would like to see us get some things done. The question is going to be are we able to separate out those areas where we disagree and those areas where we agree. I think there are going to be some tough fights on areas where we disagree.
If Republicans seek to take health care away from people who just got it, they will meet stiff resistance from me. If they try to water down consumer protections that we put in place in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I will say no. And I’m confident that I’ll be able to uphold vetoes of those types of provisions. But on increasing American exports, on simplifying our tax system, on rebuilding our infrastructure, my hope is that we can get some things done.
I’ve never been persuaded by this argument that if it weren’t for the executive actions they would have been more productive. There’s no evidence of that. So I intend to continue to do what I’ve been doing, which is where I see a big problem and the opportunity to help the American people, and it is within my lawful authority to provide that help, I’m going to do it. And I will then, side-by-side, reach out to members of Congress, reach out to Republicans, and say, let’s work together; I’d rather do it with you.
Immigration is the classic example. I was really happy when the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill. And I did everything I could for a year and a half to provide Republicans the space to act, and showed not only great patience, but flexibility, saying to them, look, if there are specific changes you’d like to see, we’re willing to compromise, we’re willing to be patient, we’re willing to work with you. Ultimately it wasn’t forthcoming.
And so the question is going to be I think if executive actions on areas like minimum wage, or equal pay, or having a more sensible immigration system are important to Republicans, if they care about those issues, and the executive actions are bothering them, there is a very simple solution, and that is: Pass bills. And work with me to make sure I’m willing to sign those bills.
Because both sides are going to have to compromise. On most issues, in order for their initiatives to become law, I’m going to have sign off. And that means they have to take into account the issues that I care about, just as I’m going to have to take into account the issues that they care about.
All right. I think this is going to be our last question. Juliet Eilperin. There you go.
Q Thanks so much. So one of the first bills that Mitch McConnell said he will send to you is one that would authorize the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. When you talked about this in the past, you’ve minimized the benefits and you highlighted some of the risks associated with that project. I’m wondering if you could tell us both what you would do when faced with that bill, given the Republican majority that we’ll have in both chambers. And also, what do you see as the benefits? And given the precipitous drop we’ve seen in oil prices recently, does that change the calculus in terms of how it will contribute to climate change, and whether you think it makes sense to go ahead with that project?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t think I’ve minimized the benefits, I think I’ve described the benefits. At issue in Keystone is not American oil. It is Canadian oil that is drawn out of tar sands in Canada. That oil currently is being shipped out through rail or trucks, and it would save Canadian oil companies and the Canadian oil industry an enormous amount of money if they could simply pipe it all the way through the United States down to the Gulf. Once that oil gets to the Gulf, it is then entering into the world market, and it would be sold all around the world.
So there’s no — I won’t say “no” — there is very little impact, nominal impact, on U.S. gas prices — what the average American consumer cares about — by having this pipeline come through. And sometimes the way this gets sold is, let’s get this oil and it’s going to come here. And the implication is, is that’s going to lower gas prices here in the United States. It’s not. There’s a global oil market. It’s very good for Canadian oil companies and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry, but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to U.S. consumers. It’s not even going to be a nominal benefit to U.S. consumers.
Now, the construction of the pipeline itself will create probably a couple thousand jobs. Those are temporary jobs until the construction actually happens. There’s probably some additional jobs that can be created in the refining process down in the Gulf. Those aren’t completely insignificant — it’s just like any other project. But when you consider what we could be doing if we were rebuilding our roads and bridges around the country — something that Congress could authorize — we could probably create hundreds of thousands of jobs, or a million jobs. So if that’s the argument, there are a lot more direct ways to create well-paying Americans construction jobs.
And then, with respect to the cost, all I’ve said is that I want to make sure that if, in fact, this project goes forward, that it’s not adding to the problem of climate change, which I think is very serious and does impose serious costs on the American people — some of them long term, but significant costs nonetheless. If we’ve got more flooding, more wildfires, more drought, there are direct economic impacts on that.
And as we’re now rebuilding after Sandy, for example, we’re having to consider how do we increase preparedness in how we structure infrastructure and housing, and so forth, along the Jersey Shore. That’s an example of the kind of costs that are imposed, and you can put a dollar figure on it.
So, in terms of process, you’ve got a Nebraska judge that’s still determining whether or not the new path for this pipeline is appropriate. Once that is resolved, then the State Department will have all the information it needs to make its decision.
But I’ve just tried to give this perspective, because I think that there’s been this tendency to really hype this thing as some magic formula to what ails the U.S. economy, and it’s hard to see on paper where exactly they’re getting that information from.
In terms of oil prices and how it impacts the decision, I think that it won’t have a significant impact except perhaps in the minds of folks — when gas prices are lower, maybe they’re less susceptible to the argument that this is the answer to lowering gas prices. But it was never going to be the answer to lowering gas prices, because the oil that would be piped through the Keystone pipeline would go into the world market. And that’s what determines oil prices, ultimately.
Q And in terms of Congress forcing your hand on this, is this something where you clearly say you’re not going to let Congress force your hand on whether to approve or disapprove of this?
THE PRESIDENT: I’ll see what they do. We’ll take that up in the New Year.
Q Any New Year’s resolutions?
THE PRESIDENT: I’ll ask — April, go ahead.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Last question, I guess. (Laughter.) Six years ago this month, I asked you what was the state of black America in the Oval Office, and you said it was the “the best of times and the worst of times.” You said it was the best of times in the sense that there was — has never been more opportunity for African Americans to receive a good education, and the worst of times for unemployment and the lack of opportunity. We’re ending 2014. What is the state of black America as we talk about those issues as well as racial issues in this country?
THE PRESIDENT: Like the rest of America, black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when I came into office. The jobs that have been created, the people who’ve gotten health insurance, the housing equity that’s been recovered, the 401 pensions that have been recovered — a lot of those folks are African American. They’re better off than they were.
The gap between income and wealth of white and black America persists. And we’ve got more work to do on that front. I’ve been consistent in saying that this is a legacy of a troubled racial past of Jim Crow and slavery. That’s not an excuse for black folks. And I think the overwhelming majority of black people understand it’s not an excuse. They’re working hard. They’re out there hustling and trying to get an education, trying to send their kids to college. But they’re starting behind, oftentimes, in the race.
And what’s true for all Americans is we should be willing to provide people a hand up — not a handout, but help folks get that good early childhood education, help them graduate from high school, help them afford college. If they do, they’re going to be able to succeed, and that’s going to be good for all of us.
And we’ve seen some progress. The education reforms that we’ve initiated are showing measurable results. We have the highest high school graduation that we’ve seen in a very long time. We are seeing record numbers of young people attending college. In many states that have initiated reforms, you’re seeing progress in math scores and reading scores for African American and Latino students as well as the broader population. But we’ve still got more work to go.
Now, obviously, how we’re thinking about race relations right now has been colored by Ferguson, the Garner case in New York, a growing awareness in the broader population of what I think many communities of color have understood for some time, and that is that there are specific instances at least where law enforcement doesn’t feel as if it’s being applied in a colorblind fashion.
The task force that I formed is supposed to report back to me in 90 days — not with a bunch of abstract musings about race relations, but some really concrete, practical things that police departments and law enforcement agencies can begin implementing right now to rebuild trust between communities of color and the police department.
And my intention is to, as soon as I get those recommendations, to start implementing them. Some of them we’ll be able to do through executive action. Some of them will require congressional action. Some of them will require action on the part of states and local jurisdictions.
But I actually think it’s been a healthy conversation that we’ve had. These are not new phenomenon. The fact that they’re now surfacing, in part because people are able to film what have just been, in the past, stories passed on around a kitchen table, allows people to make their own assessments and evaluations. And you’re not going to solve a problem if it’s not being talked about.
In the meantime, we’ve been moving forward on criminal justice reform issues more broadly. One of the things I didn’t talk about in my opening statement is the fact that last year was the first time in 40 years where we had the federal prison population go down and the crime rate go down at the same time, which indicates the degree to which it’s possible for us to think smarter about who we’re incarcerating, how long we’re incarcerating, how are we dealing with nonviolent offenders, how are we dealing with drug offenses, diversion programs, drug courts. We can do a better job of — and save money in the process by initiating some of these reforms. And I’ve been really pleased to see that we’ve had Republicans and Democrats in Congress who are interested in these issues as well.
The one thing I will say — and this is going to be the last thing I say — is that one of the great things about this job is you get to know the American people. I mean, you meet folks from every walk of life and every region of the country, and every race and every faith. And what I don’t think is always captured in our political debates is the vast majority of people are just trying to do the right thing, and people are basically good and have good intentions. Sometimes our institutions and our systems don’t work as well as they should. Sometimes you’ve got a police department that has gotten into bad habits over a period of time and hasn’t maybe surfaced some hidden biases that we all carry around. But if you offer practical solutions, I think people want to fix these problems. It’s not — this isn’t a situation where people feel good seeing somebody choked and dying. I think that troubles everybody. So there’s an opportunity of all of us to come together and to take a practical approach to these problems.
And I guess that’s my general theme for the end of the year — which is we’ve gone through difficult times. It is your job, press corps, to report on all the mistakes that are made and all the bad things that happen and the crises that look like they’re popping. And I understand that. But through persistent effort and faith in the American people, things get better. The economy has gotten better. Our ability to generate clean energy has gotten better. We know more about how to educate our kids. We solved problems. Ebola is a real crisis; you get a mistake in the first case because it’s not something that’s been seen before — we fix it. You have some unaccompanied children who spike at a border, and it may not get fixed in the time frame of the news cycle, but it gets fixed.
And part of what I hope as we reflect on the New Year this should generate is some confidence. America knows how to solve problems. And when we work together, we can’t be stopped.
And now I’m going to go on vacation. Mele Kalikimaka, everybody. (Laughter.) Mahalo. Thank you, everybody.
2:45 P.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on December 19, 2014
Source: WH, 12-9-14
2:26 P.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT:Thank you, everybody.Thank you.(Applause.)Thank you so much.Everybody, please have a seat.Thank you very much.Everybody, please have a seat, have a seat.
Well, hello, Nashville.
THE PRESIDENT:Hola.Cómo estás?
AUDIENCE MEMBER:Bien, bien.
THE PRESIDENT:Bien.Thank you, Renata, for the wonderful introduction.I’ve brought some friends with me who I think you may know — your Congressmen, Jim Cooper — (applause) — as well as Congressman Steve Cohen from Memphis is here.(Applause.)And I want to thank — is your mayor still here?Where did he go?There he is right there, doing a great job.(Applause.)And his wonderful daughter — we’ve got to brag about her, she’s a junior at Barnard.I just embarrassed her.(Applause.)When you’re the father of daughters, your job is to embarrass them, and I’m trying to give an assist here.(Laughter.)
I want to thank Casa Azafran for hosting us, and for being home to so many organizations that do important work welcoming immigrants to the community.And that’s why I’ve come here today.I won’t make a long speech, because I want to have a dialogue, but I wanted to give some remarks at the top.
As Renata mentioned, some people might think Nashville was an odd place to talk immigration.It’s not what comes to mind when people think about gateways to America.But, as all of you know, Nashville’s got one of the fastest-growing immigrant populations in the country.“New Nashvillians” — they’re from Somalia, Nepal, Laos, Mexico, Bangladesh.And Nashville happens to be the home of the largest Kurdish community in the United States as well.
“They” are “us.”They work as teachers in our schools, doctors in our hospitals, police officers in our neighborhoods.They start small businesses at a faster rate than many native-born Americans.They create jobs making this city more prosperous, and a more innovative place.And of course, they make the food better.(Laughter.)I know that Tennessee barbeque is pretty popular, but Korean barbeque is pretty good too.(Laughter.)
And the point is, welcoming immigrants into your community benefits all of us.And I was talking to your Mayor, Karl Dean, on the way over here, and he understands this.He’s been a great partner when it comes to preparing immigrants to become citizens.
A couple of weeks ago, I create a Task Force on New Americans that’s going to help do this kind of work all across the country.But, as we all know, our immigration system has been broken for a long time.Families who come here the right way can get stuck in line for years.Business owners who treat their workers right sometimes are undercut by competition from folks who are not just hiring undocumented workers but then underpaying them or not paying them minimum wage, or not giving them the benefits that they have earned.Nobody likes the idea of somebody reaping the rewards of living in America without its responsibilities as well.And there are all kinds of folks who want to gladly embrace those responsibilities, but they have no way to come out of the shadows and get right with the law.
And a year and a half ago, a big majority of Democrats, Republicans, and independents in the Senate –- including both of your senators -– passed a bipartisan bill to fix our broken immigration system.The bill wasn’t perfect, but it was a common-sense compromise.It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents.It would have made the legal immigration system smarter and faster.It would have given millions of people a chance to earn their citizenship the right way.It was good for our economy — independent economists estimated that it would not only grow our economy faster but shrink our deficits faster.And if the House of Representatives had simply called for an up-or-down vote, it would have passed.It would be the law.We would be on the way to solve — solving this problem in a sensible way.But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House blocked this simple up-or-down vote.
I still believe that the best way to solve this — is by working together to pass the kind of common-sense law that was passed in the Senate.But until then, there are actions that I have the legal authority to take that will help make our immigration system smarter and fairer.And I took those actions last month.
We’re providing more resources at the border to help law enforcement personnel stop illegal crossings and send home those who cross over.We’re going to focus our enforcement resources on people who actually pose a threat to our communities — felons rather than families, and criminals rather than children.We’re going to bring more undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so they can play by the rules — they have to pass a criminal background check, pay taxes, contribute more fully to our economy.
So this isn’t amnesty, or legalization, or even a path to citizenship.That can only be done by Congress.It doesn’t apply to anybody who’s come to this country recently, or who might come illegally in the future.What it does is create a system of accountability, a common-sense, middle-ground approach.And what we’re saying is, until Congress fixes this problem legislatively, if you have deep ties to this country and you are willing to get right by the law and do what you need to do, then you shouldn’t have to worry about being deported or being separated from your kids.
These are the kind of lawful actions taken by every President, Republican and Democrat, for the past 50 years.So when members of Congress question whether I have the authority to do this, I have one answer:Yes, and pass a bill.(Laughter.)If you want Congress to be involved in this process, I welcome it, but you’ve got to pass a bill that addresses the various components of immigration reform in a common-sense way.
And I want to work with both parties to get this done.The day I sign this bill into law, then the executive actions I take are no longer necessary and some of the changes that I’ve instituted administratively become permanent.
Unfortunately, so far, the only response that we’ve had out of the House was a vote taken last week to force talented young people and workers to leave our country.Rather than deport students or separate families or make it harder for law enforcement to do its job, we just need Congress to work with us to pass a common-sense law to fix the broken immigration system.
And meanwhile, Washington shouldn’t let disagreements on this issue prevent action on every other issue.That’s not how our democracy works.Americans are tired of gridlock.We’re seeing the economy move forward.We need to build on that.And certainly my administration is ready to work for it on a whole range of issues.
I do recognize that there are controversies around immigration — there always have been, by the way.Even those who know we need to reform the system may be concerned about not having Congress get it done.Then there are some folks who worry about immigration changing the fabric of our society, or taking jobs from native-born Americans.And I understand those concerns, but, as I said, they’re not new.As a country, we have had these concerns since the Irish and Italians and Poles were coming to Boston and New York, and we have the same concerns when Chinese and Japanese Americans were traveling out West.
But what our history and the facts show is that generation after generation, immigrants have been a net-plus to our economy, and a net-plus to our society.And that’s what cities like Nashville prove is still the case.And this city proves that we can address these concerns together and make sure that immigration works for everybody — that it strengthens our economy, that it strengthens our communities, that we can talk about some of the tensions and concerns in a constructive way rather than yelling at each other.
And so let me close with a story of somebody who’s working to bring people together.David Lubell, who many of you know and who’s here today — where’s David?There he is.(Applause.)So David used to run the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.And he knew that some folks were skeptical about immigrants changing the face of Nashville.And he also knew, though, that these immigrants were good people.So he saw an opportunity for immigration to unite this city rather than divide it.And in 2005, he started “Welcoming Tennessee,” which connects long-term residents in the community with new immigrants.And you’d have dinners and church socials, and at Rotary clubs, and folks got to know each other and maybe feel some empathy, and see themselves in new arrivals.
And the conversations weren’t always easy, but it created a foundation of mutual understanding and respect.And today, David’s initiative is expanding across the country.I think we — you said, David, that we’ve got these kinds of efforts going on in 42 cities around the country.
This is what makes America exceptional.We welcome strivers.We welcome dreamers from all around the world.And it keeps us young, and it keeps us invigorated, and it keeps us striving and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.And then we all bind ourselves together around similar ideals, a similar creed.And one generation in, suddenly those kids are already Americans like everybody else, and we have the same dreams and hopes for them, the same aspirations.
And if we keep harnessing that potential, there’s no limit to what this country can achieve.So Nashville is helping to lead the way in getting this conversation right.We hope that if it happens around the country, that eventually it will drift into the House of Representatives — (laughter) — and we’re going to get the kind of comprehensive legislation that we need to actually solve this problem.
So with that, let me start taking some questions.Thank you very much, everybody.I appreciate it.(Applause.)
So I’ve got a microphone here.This is a nice, intimate group.And so there’s no rules really.I’d just ask everybody who wants to speak to raise their hand.I’ll call on you one at a time.We’ve got some microphones in the audience.And why don’t you, when you’re asking your questions, stand, introduce yourself, tell us a little about yourself, and then ask your question.Try to keep your question relatively brief so — and I’ll try to keep my answers relatively brief.(Laughter.)I don’t always succeed, but I’ll do my best.I’m going to take off my jacket because it’s warm in here.Is Marvin back there?Okay, we’ve got some — here we go.Thanks.
All right.Who wants to go first?Yes, right here in the front.
Q Hi, Mr. President.Thank you so much for coming to Nashville, and the Latin community loves you and welcome you to Nashville.My question is — and I think it’s a concern in the community that — what is going to happen if the next administration decide not to follow what you — the executive action?And I think many of the communities — afraid are they going to be first in line to deportation because they give their information.And that would be my question.
THE PRESIDENT:Well, I think it’s a good question.So let me just — let me go over the mechanics of what’s going to happen.
First of all, part of what we’re saying is that we can’t deport 11 million people and it would be foolish to try, as well as I think wrong for us to try.Congress only allocates a certain amount of money to the immigration system, so we have to prioritize.And my priority is not to separate families who have already been living here but to try to make sure that our borders are secure, to make sure that people come through the right way; to focus on criminals, focus — those who pose a real risk to our society.
And so what’s happened is, is the Department of Homeland Security, which is in charge of the immigration services, what it said is, is that we’re going to set up priorities in terms of who is subject to deportation.And at the top are criminals, people who pose a threat, and at the bottom are ordinary people who are otherwise law abiding.And what we’re saying essentially is, in that low-priority list, you won’t be a priority for deportation.You’re not going to be deported.We’re not going to keep on separating families.And that new priority list applies to everybody, all 11 million people who are here — I mean, not 11 million, let’s say, whatever the number is.So even if somebody didn’t sign up, they’re still much less likely to be subject to deportation.That’s because we’ve changed our enforcement priorities in a formal way.
What we’re also saying, though, is that for those who have American children or children who are legal permanent residents, that you can actually register and submit yourself to a criminal background check, pay any back taxes and commit to paying future taxes, and if you do that, you’ll actually get a piece of paper that gives you an assurance that you can work and live here without fear of deportation.That doesn’t apply to everybody, but it does apply to roughly five million — about half of what is estimated to be the number of undocumented workers here.
Now, that is temporary.Just like DACA, the program that we put in place for young people who are brought here who otherwise are good citizens, are studying, working, joining our military — we did that several years ago, where we said, it doesn’t make sense for us to subject these young people to a deportation risk; they’re Americans in their heart even if they don’t have the right piece of paper.That’s temporary as well, although it’s been subject to renewal.
And so it’s true that a future administration might try to reverse some of our policies.But I’ll be honest with you, I think that the American people basically have a good heart and want to treat people fairly.And every survey shows that if, in fact, somebody has come out, subjected themselves to a background check, registered, paid their taxes, that the American people support allowing them to stay.So I think any future administration that tried to punish people for doing the right thing I think would not have the support of the American people.
The real question is, how do we make sure that enough people register so that it’s not just a few people in a few pockets around the country.And that’s going to require a lot of work by local agencies, by municipalities, by churches, by community organizations.We’ve got to give people confidence that they can go ahead and register; also make sure that they understand they don’t have to hire a lawyer or go to the notary in order to pay for this.Because what we saw during DACA when the young people were given this opportunity, a lot of people signed up but sometimes you would see advertisements, come and give us $1,000 or $2,000 and we’ll help you — you don’t have to do that.And so we’ve just got to build an effective network around the country.And the Department of Homeland Security will be working with local organizations to make sure that people get the right information.
But I think the main response to people that we have to assure them of is that the American people actually are fair-minded and want to reward rather than punish people who do the right thing.And if you register, I’m confident that that’s going to be something that allows you to then get on a path to being here in this country with your children and watching them grow up and making a life for yourself, as you already have.
Last point.It still is important for us, though, because this is temporary to make sure that we keep pushing for comprehensive immigration reform.Without an actual law, an actual statute passed by Congress, it’s true that theoretically a future administration could do something that I think would be very damaging.It’s not likely, politically, that they’d reverse everything that we’ve done, but it could be that some people then end up being in a disadvantageous position.And nobody is going to have a path to actual citizenship until we get a law passed.
Now, the Senate law would call for people to go to the back of the line, so it would take 10, 13 years before they have citizenship, but at least there’s that pathway.That’s why we still need a law.
And then there are some areas like, for example, the business sector, a lot of high-tech businesses are still looking for young graduates from computer science programs or physics programs around the country.And instead of being able to recruit them and put them to work, those kids are all going home and starting new businesses and creating jobs someplace else.And that doesn’t make any sense.So that’s another area where we couldn’t do anything administratively about that.We were able to streamline some of the legal immigration system, but we’ve still got more work to do.
Okay?Good.I’m going to go boy, girl, boy, girl to make sure that it’s fair.(Laughter.)So, right here.
Q Thank you.Good afternoon, President.Thank you so much for doing what you did.I was undocumented for 10 years from 1996.I took advantage of the amnesty.I want to thank you.I’m a community organizer with the Center for Community Change in Washington, D.C., working with the immigrants from the Human Rights Coalition.And I really thank the people from Nashville, Tennessee for hosting future Chicagoans – of course, I’m from Chicago, too.(Laughter.)
And my question to you is, thank you for the 5 million, but what about the others.There are millions of people who are going to be in the limbo, at risk of being deported.And the second question is, since talking about confidence -– people are skeptical about this, because they are afraid to apply for this.So what is your administration going to do to get the confidence — and people to feel safe to apply for this program that you just passed?Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT:Okay.Well, I sort of answered the question, but I’ll try to answer it one more time.The prioritization in terms of deportation — that applies to everybody, even if you don’t do anything.Now, this will take time to get ICE officers at the ground level to understand what these new priorities are and to apply them in a consistent way.And so there are still going to be stories around the country where some family is separated.
Over time, though, we’re really going to be pushing to retrain and refocus and reprioritize ICE officers to understand let’s focus on criminals, let’s focus on felons, let’s not focus on families.
In terms of setting up the system to sign people up to register so they can get an actual piece of paper that says they can work here, that’s probably going to take a couple of months. And so that gives us time then to communicate through our community organizations, through our churches, through our cities and towns to make sure that people have good information.
So the folks who, as you said, are in limbo, it’s true that they’re not going to qualify for the DACA-like registration process that I described.They’ll still be, if they’re law-abiding, otherwise, if they’re working, peaceful, then they’re much less likely to deportation now than they would have been in the past.And they don’t have to do anything for that.But the registration process, if you qualify, is powerful because you’re now able to go to work without being in the shadows, and you’re paying taxes, which is good for everybody, because we want people to be above board and to do things the right way.
And I think that those who register — my belief is, is that when we do get to passing a law, finally, I think those who have taken the time to register, pay taxes, gone through a criminal background check, they’ve got documentation and proof that they’ve done all that, they’re going to have an easier time then qualifying, I think, for a more permanent legal status because they will have already gone through the screening.And that’s one incentive for why people should want to sign up.
But building trust will take time.But that’s where you come in, so that’s your job.I’m going to work with you.I’ll work with Renata and I’ll work with other activists here to make sure it happens.But we’re going to have to do this together.
I will point out that you already had incredible courage among young people when we announced DACA.Now, we didn’t get 100 percent of young people who qualified signing up, but we got more than half of the people who were qualified signing up.And slowly then, each person who has the courage to sign up, that creates more confidence across the board.
All right, it’s a young woman’s turn now.Yes, go ahead.
Q Hi, Mr. President, and thank you so much for being here with us and giving us this opportunity to speak out our fears.I would like to ask you –- I’m with the Tennessee Immigrants and Refugee Rights Coalition.I’m part of the Migrant Women Committee.And I would like to ask you –- people like me that will probably benefit from this executive order, there is a lot of fear still for people that can have the path to a citizen but not immediately.But they apply for DAPA, the Deferred Action for Parents.Will they face a bar from being in this situation?
THE PRESIDENT:No, I think that those who are — look, I would encourage anybody who has another path for legalization to follow that path.But this does not short-circuit whatever other strategies you’re pursuing.If you are already trying to get legal permanent resident status or citizenship through some of the existing laws, then you should feel free to continue that.What this does do is it simply says that it gives you an opportunity to make sure that deportation is not going to happen during this period — which will extend for several years.
Can Big Marvin get me my cup of tea back there?Oh, here it is.All right.This isn’t Big Marvin, but he’s big.(Laughter.)
All right.Gentleman there in the back.
Q I’m a member of the Coalition for Education — Immigration.I’m an immigrant to Nashville.I grew up — Chicago, have lived here the last 12 years.
THE PRESIDENT:It’s warmer here.(Laughter.)
Q I do miss the White Sox.
Q My question is about — one of the many things I appreciate so much about your leadership is the civil way in which you approach the most difficult of problems, in spite of hearing the rancor you do from those who disagree.(Inaudible)
-– community like this, trying to talk with reason only to be greeted by deep emotion and anger and rhetoric that is demeaning. It’s almost as if we need a civility platform for our nation, an office of civility — maybe for our U.S. Congress.Excuse me, Jim.But I’m serious about how do we teach young people to act in a civil way if we don’t role-model the civility?And how important is that for us to move forward, that we can engage in the kinds of conversations in the tone that you present problems?
THE PRESIDENT:Well, look, first of all, I don’t know anybody more civil than Jim Cooper.(Applause.)He is an extraordinary gentleman, and always has been, ever since I’ve had a chance to know him since I came to Washington.
Look, immigration, as I said before, has always elicited passion.And it’s ironic because unless you are a member of a Native American tribe, you came here from someplace else, or your people did.And I know that sometimes folks talk about, well, we came here the right way rather than the wrong way.And it’s true that previous generations came through Ellis Island or they came through Angel Island or other ways of arriving here.
But I think sometimes we overstate the degree to which that was some really elaborate bureaucratic process.There’s a reason, for example, that these days a lot of people named Smith used to be named Smithsowsky or Smitharea or whatever it is.What happened is when they came in somebody just said, what’s your name, and they stamped them and if they couldn’t pronounce it — you always hear stories about they Anglicized it.A lot of times people’s papers were not necessarily being checked because folks might not have had papers.And who came in and who didn’t varied depending on how big of a workforce — or how much industry was looking for new labor, and what the political climate was at that particular time.
And so what happens is, is that once folks are here we kind of forget that we used to be there.And what I try to do when I talk about these issues is just try to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and feel some empathy, and recognize that to some degree, if you’re American, somewhere back there, there was somebody who was a newcomer here too.And it wasn’t always neat and orderly the way the American population expanded across the West.And if we have that sense of empathy then maybe that creates civility.That’s why the kinds of efforts were seeing here in Nashville just conversations where people get to know newcomers is so important.
It’s interesting — I was telling Steve and Jim, I get about 40,000 correspondence every day, and some of them are just writing to say you’re doing a good job, keep going.Some of them are you are the worst President ever, you’re an idiot, a lot of them are just people asking for help.
But more than once, multiple times during the course of my presidency, I’ve gotten letters from people who say I don’t agree with you about anything, I am a Republican, I used to be really angry with you about your immigration posture and then I found out that my son Jim’s best friend, Jose, was undocumented and he wasn’t going to be able to apply to the local college because he was afraid about being deported, and this is a kid who has played in my back yard, helped me wash my car, and been on the ball team with my kid and I loved this kid and so I don’t think it’s right that this young person shouldn’t be treated the same way that I would want someone to treat my son.And I’ve gotten a lot of letters like that.And they say, even though I still don’t agree with you about anything — (laughter) — I do ask you — that you give Jose a chance.
And so that’s where civility comes from.It’s that interaction and personal experience as opposed to just being able to stereotype somebody one way or the other.Now, it’s important, by the way, though, that the civility runs both ways.And I do think — obviously I’ve been at the receiving end of people really angry at me about not just these executive actions, but have been ginned up by some of the conservative talk shows that think that I’m usurping my authority despite the fact that every previous President has exercised the same authority or they think I’m favoring immigrants over red-blooded Americans.And so that’s a lot of the criticism directed at me.
But what’s also true is sometimes advocates on behalf of immigrants have suggested that anybody who is concerned about the impact of immigration, or asks questions about comprehensive immigration reform, that they must be racist or they must be anti-immigrant or their ignorant.And, that’s not true either.
There are people who are good people who actually believe in immigration, but are concerned about rewarding somebody who broke American laws.There are good people who believe in immigration but are concerned, will new immigrants depress wages, particularly in the low-wage sectors of the economy.Those are legitimate questions, and we have to be just as civil in addressing those questions as we expect people to be when we are talking to them.Because I think the facts are on our side, I think the studies have shown that over time immigrants aren’t lowering wages but in fact improving the economy, and over time, boosting wages and jobs for everyone.
So I would rather just make the argument on the facts, but just because somebody thinks that instinctually doesn’t mean that they are bad people.So civility is good, but it doesn’t just run one way.And I think — the good book says, don’t throw stones in glass houses, or make sure we’re looking at the log in our eye before were pulling out the mote in other folks eyes.And I think that’s as true in politics as it is in life.
Okay.Let’s see if I’ve got any women who want to ask questions today.I’m going to make sure I’m fair.That young lady in the back right there.You.
Q Hi.I’m part of an organization that works with refugees and immigrants.And one question I have — was there a particular reason why the parents of the DACA — the DREAMers, the DACA recipients, were excluded in your new executive order?
THE PRESIDENT:Yes, there is.And it was — the actions I took were bound by the legal authority that the Office of Legal Counsel determined I had in this area.The office — I don’t want to get too technical here, but the Office of Legal Counsel is a special office in the Department of Justice that is mandated to give me independent judgment not subject to politics or pressure from me about what my legal authorities are.
And so we presented to them the various things that we’d like to do.They were very clear about my legal authority to prioritize and then provide this temporary protection for parents whose children were Americans, or — American citizens, or legal permanent residents.Because the argument they found compelling, and there was a lot of precedent for, was — essentially humanitarian argument — that if we’re prioritizing, why would we want to separate families.
The challenge we had in the minds of the Office of Legal Counsel was, if you’ve already exempted the young people through DACA, and then you bootstrap off of that the capacity to exempt their parents as well, you’re not rooted originally in somebody who is either a citizen or a legal permanent resident.So it was a legal constraint on our authority.It was not because we did not care about those parents.
And I know that there are a lot of DREAM Act kids who are concerned that their parents may not still qualify.A sizable number do because they have a sibling who ended up being born in the United States.But not all do.This is one more reason why we still need to pass comprehensive immigration reform.Because what we did was to do everything that I could within my legal authority, but not go beyond the legal authority that we possessed.
This young man right here.I think the mic is coming from behind you.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.We are delighted to have you here in Nashville and in Casa Azafran.I’m a member of the mayor’s New American Advisory Council, and also direct a nonprofit that’s housed here called AMAC, the American Muslim Advisory Council.And my question to you is that — in 2004, when you gave that speech about — at the Democratic convention, kind of alluded to this idea that we are one nation, there’s no black and blue — blue or red America.But when it comes to this issue of immigration, as someone that works in this community, our mantra here in Nashville is, Nashville for all of us, and Tennessee for all of us.
So to come around that idea for America for all of us, that we don’t keep having this conversation — as the President, you have been in this position the past six years.What would you say to other — Americans who are feeling now on that side even considering the newly elected Congress that are adamant on stopping these steps?Because I got the privilege of being the — welcoming Tennessee director, and being in those conversations — and inherently, Tennesseans are the nicest people.Those people are in charge of the — that we used to have those conversations with.But what would you say to the rest of the nation — who thinks that now new Americans or immigrants are getting this special treatment?
THE PRESIDENT:Well, I, I addressed the nation when I announced this action, and I made a couple of simple points.
First of all, America is a nation of immigrants, but it’s also a nation of laws.And there does need to be accountability if you came here in a way that was not in accordance with the law.The question then becomes, how do you make that person accountable?I mean, one way of doing it is randomly or sporadically separating families, but you don’t have uniform enforcement, you’re pushing people into the shadows.They may not be paying taxes.They may be taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers.You are using all those resources instead of strengthening borders.And that’s not a smart outcome.
The second approach would be to pass laws that say, let’s improve the legal system.Because sometimes people actually would be qualified to come here if the system was just a little smoother, but they end up with a situation where they’ve got to wait years to be reunited with a family member who’s legally here and the heartache just becomes too great.So we’re — in some cases, we’re pushing people into the illegal system because we’re not making the legal system smart enough.
We can get people out of the shadows.We can acknowledge they are our neighbors, our friends, our coworkers.And then we still have to be serious about border security.And there have been times — I want to be very frank — there have been times where I’ve had arguments with immigrant rights activists who say, effectively, you know, there shouldn’t be any rules, these are good people, why should we have any kind of enforcement like this.And my response is, in the eyes of God, everybody is equal.In the eyes of God, some child in Mexico, Guatemala, Libya, Nepal is the equal of my child.
I don’t make any claims that my child is superior to somebody else’s child.But I’m the President of the United States, and nation states have borders.And, frankly, because America is so much wealthier than most countries around the world, if we had no system of enforcing our borders and our laws, then I promise you, everybody would try to come here, or if not everybody — maybe you wouldn’t have that many Swedes or Singaporians try to come here, but a whole lot of folks would try to come.And that we couldn’t accommodate.And it wouldn’t be fair, because there’s — you have to have some sort of line.It can’t just be — it can’t be whoever is able to get in here first, and then — it’s sort of first one to win the race.Because sometimes it’s just an accident that one person lives in a country that has a border with the United States, and another person in Somalia, it’s a lot harder to get here.
So the idea is, then, that what we try to do is to have a system that resets; that acknowledges — and this is where I think most Americans are.They recognize, you know what, people who are already here — many times they’ve been here 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, they’ve got deep roots here, they’ve shown themselves to be good people, their kids are for all practical purposes Americans — let’s just acknowledge they’re part of our community, they’re part of our society.
But then the tradeoff is, let’s try to make the legal system fairer, and in some cases, that means, for example, doing more work at the borders — although, by the way, the real work at the borders is not simply to just — more fencing and more people every five minutes at the borders, because we’ve already got a whole lot of folks at the borders.We can do some other additional stuff, but a lot of it is helping Mexico or helping Central American countries strengthen their economies so people don’t feel desperate and compelled to come here.
But I guess the bottom line is, what I say to folks on the other side of this debate is, work with me to reflect the wisdom of the American people.And I think the American people’s wisdom is, people who are already here, let’s give them a shot, let’s get them out of the shadows, but let’s also set up a legal system that is more reliable, more certain, more fair, doesn’t have people jumping the line, is more honest and reflecting the fact that families, it’s very hard for them to stay separated for 10, 15 years and so you shouldn’t set up a legal system that requires that.You’ve got to figure out a way to have it more reflective of human nature.
Now, does that mean everybody is going to listen to me on the other side?Not necessarily.They’re pretty sure I’m an illegal immigrant.(Laughter.)That was a joke.(Laughter.)But I mean, there are going to be some who just disagree with you.
The good news is, is that over time, these issues work themselves out.Anybody who is of Irish extraction — and that includes me, because I’ve been to a little town in Ireland called Moneygall, where my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather came over here.It turns out he was a boot maker, and it turns out Biden’s guy, Biden’s great-great-great-great-great came from I think the adjoining county within like 20 years.So me and Biden are — really are cousins.(Laughter.)
But anybody of Irish extraction just has to — read your history and look at how people talked about Irish immigrants.I mean, it was just — everything that’s said today was said about them — they’re criminals, they’re shiftless, they are draining our resources, they’re irresponsible, they’re going to change our culture.
And so if you read those passages, then you have to understand that this is not a new phenomenon.But the good news is, it should also be a source of optimism, because over time, essentially, new people get absorbed.And it’s always messy.It’s always a messy piece of business.
But the one thing that I want to emphasize — because sometimes this doesn’t get emphasized enough, and it seems somewhat abstract — but any economist will tell you that economies with younger workforces grow faster than economies with older workforces.One of the biggest advantages America has over Europe, over Japan, over China is we have a younger population.And it’s almost a mathematical certainty that we will grow faster than they do, all things being equal — I mean, we’ve got to make good choices about investing in research and development and education and all that stuff — but all things being equal, we will grow significantly faster than those other countries because our population is younger.
The only reason our population is younger is because we have this tradition of immigrants.Otherwise — because native-born Americans, actually, our birth rates are as low as Europeans’ are.But we replenish ourselves, and that’s good.And, by the way, people who are about my age right now, and who are going to be looking to draw on Social Security, when you’re 70, the way Social Security works, it’s the current workforce that pays for the retired workforce.And so you have a stake in these folks working and paying taxes, these young people, to support your retirement.So this is — it’s good for the economy as well as for our society.
How much time do I have?I want to make sure I’m not — am I doing pretty good?I’ve got a priest here who’s got his hand up, but it’s a woman’s turn first so this is — I’m a little nervous about not calling on him right away but I’m trying to stick to the rules here.(Laughter.)So all right, young lady right in the front here.
Q Hello, Mr. President.I am a senior in high school.And my question to you would be, how can we as young people in our communities get involved to address issues such as immigration or the access to a post-secondary education?What are some things we can do?
THE PRESIDENT:Well, if you’re here, you must already be involved.(Laughter.)You know, getting young people involved in civic life and activism and voting is one of the most important things we can do as a society.Because there are exceptions and there are people who are young at heart and young at mind, but the truth is, you get older, you get stuck in your ways and you start looking backwards and really focused on what was instead of what could be.
And again, part of the reason America has done so well is because we constantly reimagine ourselves, and we have a youthful culture that says, well, let’s — in the words of Robert Kennedy, some people ask why, and we have a tendency to ask why not.And that’s good.
Now, young people are also busy with — I got a couple young people at home — they have other things that they’re interested.I won’t name all of them.Hopefully some if it is their books and doing their homework.(Laughter.)And one of the most concerning things I had about the midterm elections was young people — the voting rates among young people dropped off drastically.
Young people have tended to vote at very high level during my presidential campaigns, but in between, they lose interest.And part of what your peers have to do is to understand that politics and government and policy and all the decisions that are going to shape your lives are not just a matter of one election, but it has to be sustained over time.
And when you think about what’s at stake right now, immigration is obviously a major issue.Climate change — most of those of us who are 50 or over, by the time the problems of a warming climate really hit, we’ll be gone, but you’ll still be around and your kids will be here.And if it’s having a significant impact on weather patterns, and drought, and wildfires, and flooding, and food, and migration, it’s not going to be pretty.So you have to get involved now to do something about it.
When we look at higher education costs, historically, Congress and state legislatures are more attentive to the demands of seniors than they are the demands of young people for one simple reason:Seniors vote, young people don’t.If you want state legislatures to increase support for higher education that then can help reduce tuition, then young people have to vote at a higher percentage than just 12 percent of those who vote.
Look at what’s happening right now with respect to concerns about bias and law enforcement, and policing.I mean, I met with a group of young activists, including several from Ferguson, to talk to them, and I was very impressed with how they presented themselves, and they were very serious and thoughtful.And I told them, I said, listen, I want you to continue to be active, because that’s how change happens.You need to be respectful.You need to understand that you’re not going to get 100 percent of the change that is needed, because that’s never been how society works, but if you are steady and you sustain it and you push it and you don’t tired or disappointed when you get half a loaf instead of a whole loaf, over time, the country and the world is transformed.
And I’m confident that — I said in an interview recently — America is a more just place, and issues of racial discrimination are lessened today than they were 50 years ago or 20 years ago, but that didn’t just happen by accident, that happened because people — especially young people — helped to make it happen.And over time, change occurs and people adjust to a new reality, and they open their heart and mind to new possibilities.And young people are typically the triggers of that.
So I think when your leaders like — young leaders like you are talking to your friends, you’ve got to just remind them that you have responsibilities and obligations.And make sure that you serve pizza at the meetings — (laughter) — because free food always helps when getting young people involved in social causes.(Laughter.)
All right, Father.Thank you for your patience there, sir.You’ve got a microphone behind you.
Q Father Joseph Freen (ph), native Nashvillian.I think I speak on behalf of a good number of people, Mr. President, of both parties — some you know may not agree with some of your policies.But I think I can speak for so many who are so proud of you for giving such a great example of a husband, of a father, and doing your very best as a President.
So we are very proud of you, grateful you’ve come to Nashville.We wish for you — I’m sure on behalf of all of us — a joyful and a blessed Christmas to you.
THE PRESIDENT:Well, I appreciate that very much.That’s very nice.Thank you.(Applause.)
I appreciate that, Father.It’s worth considering the Good Book when you’re thinking about immigration.This Christmas season there’s a whole story about a young, soon-to-be-mother and her husband of modest means looking for a place to house themselves for the night, and there’s no room at the inn.
And as I said the day that I announced these executive actions, we were once strangers too.And part of what my faith teaches me is to look upon the stranger as part of myself.And during this Christmas season, that’s a good place to start.
So thank you for your generous comment.But if we’re serious about the Christmas season, now is a good time to reflect on those who are strangers in our midst, and remember what it was like to be a stranger.
Last question.That was a pretty good place to end, though.(Laughter.)I got to admit.I kind of want to — but I’m going to call on one more person.Gentlemen, you can all put your hands down.I’m going to call on this young lady right here.
Q Hi, Mr. President.I’m an immigration attorney.And I wonder, what are the things that you deem necessary for comprehensive immigration reform if Congress does act soon?
THE PRESIDENT:Well, the Senate bill is a pretty good place to start.I do think there’s more work we can do at the borders.As I said before, it’s not just a matter of pouring money down there.
I’ll give you one very simple example.You’ll recall that some of the politics of this shifted during the summer when these unaccompanied children were here.And there was two weeks of wall-to-wall coverage.And we were being invaded by 8-, and 12- and 13-year-olds.I mean it was just terrifying, apparently.But it reflected a serious problem.You had smugglers, coyotes, who were essentially taking money from family members here, shuttling these kids up — it wasn’t that they weren’t apprehended.It wasn’t like they snuck through the border.What happened was they basically presented themselves at the border.They’d come in.And because there are so few immigration judges down there, because we hadn’t done a very good job cooperating with Central America and Mexico to deal — go after these smugglers, you’d then have a situation which the kids would oftentimes simply be released to the family member, and then that was the end of the things.
And so one of the things that we’ve done is — well, several things we did.Number one, I met with the Central American leaders down there and said, listen, you can’t — you’ve got to do something to message to families down here:Do not send your children on a dangerous path like this because we don’t know how many of them might have gotten killed, gotten abducted, trafficked in some terrible way.We have no way of keeping track of that.You can’t have them take this dangerous journey.
And to their credit, those Central American countries worked with us.We said to Mexico, you’ve got to do something more about the southern border.They did that.We now have the number of unaccompanied children below the rate that it was two years ago.So this was a momentary spike.
But also what we need to do is make sure that we have enough immigration lawyers down there that you can process kids and immigration judges to process kids in a timely fashion, but with due process so that if they have legitimate refugee claims, those can be presented, and if not, then they can be returned home.
So that’s not a strict border issue.It’s not a fence issue.It’s “have you set up a sensible process” issue.So I think that’s one pillar.
Second pillar is improving the legal immigration system.I already mentioned this but I’ll just repeat a couple of examples.Somebody who potentially qualifies to be a resident here, forcing them to leave the country and then waiting for years before they come back when they’ve got family members here, that’s just not how the human heart works.It’s very hard to expect somebody to do that.
Let’s have a more sensible, streamlined system.Let’s reduce some of the backlogs that already exist for people who actually qualify, but it’s just they’re waiting in line so long that they get frustrated.Let’s do something for especially talented and skilled people who are graduating.We educate them.We should be stapling a green card to graduates of top schools in fields that we know we need.And by the way, we can charge fees that we then use to make sure that American kids are getting the kinds of scholarships and training they need for those same jobs in the future.
We need to do more work.We need to deal with the agricultural sector.I’m generally skeptical when you hear employers say, well, we just can’t find any Americans to do the job.A lot of times what they really mean is, it’s a lot cheaper if we potentially hire somebody who has just come here before they know better in terms of what they’re worth.
But in the agriculture sector, there’s truth.We enjoy a lot of cheap fruits and vegetables and food stuffs because of the back-breaking work of farm workers.And we should find a system that is fair, make sure that they are not subject to exploitation, and helps us run the economy.We should make sure that we’re cracking down on employers who are purposely hiring undocumented workers so that they can get around minimum wage laws or overtime laws, so forth.
And finally, as I’ve discussed this whole afternoon, we should get people out of the shadows.And the Senate bill I thought had a sensible approach, which said, if you’ve been here a certain amount of time, you’ve got a clean record, you’re willing to submit yourself to a background check, you’re willing to pay back-taxes, you’re willing to pay a fine, learn English, go to the back of the line, but if you do all that, you can stay here for now and we’re going to put you on a pathway where eventually you can earn your citizenship, although it will be many years into the future because we still have to clear out those folks who did it the right way.
This concept — what I just described, that package — has bipartisan support.It’s not that it doesn’t have bipartisan support.The challenge is, is that there’s a certain segment — primarily within the Republican Party, although in fairness, in the Democratic Party there are some people who are resistant as well, who just keep on believing this notion of, that’s amnesty, that’s amnesty.
And what amnesty implies I think in the minds of the American people is that you’re getting something for nothing; that you’re getting over.And when you describe for people that, in fact, you do have to get a background check, you do have to register, you do have to pay fines, you do have to pay back-taxes, then people feel differently.But that’s never advertised by opponents.And that’s one reason why, by the way, that I’ve said to immigrant rights groups, you have to describe the responsibility side of this and not just the rights side of this.Because I think sometimes — I appreciate the immigrant rights groups.They speak from the heart, and they know the people involved.And they love them, and they want to just do right by them.And I get that.
But this is where you need to look at the other side of the equation and what people feel like is, you know what, if you’re just coming here for nothing, and I don’t know that you’re paying your taxes and you broke the law, and now suddenly I’m paying for your kid’s school and your kid’s hospitalization, and if feels unfair — at a time when people are already feeling burdened by their own challenges, trying to afford their own kid’s college education, or feeling like they’re worried about their own retirement.
So the langue we use I think is important.You have to speak to the fact that — if somebody broke the law, even if they’re good people, they’ve got to be held accountable.And there are going to be responsibilities involved in it.Because if it’s just rights and no responsibilities, then people feel resentful.
That make sense?All right, guys, I enjoyed spending time with you.Thank you.(Applause.)
3:37 P.M. CST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on December 9, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on December 7, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on December 4, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 13, 2014
Source: WH, 11-7-14
Old Family Dining Room
12:52 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I want to thank the leadership of both the House and the Senate for being here for this lunch, post-election. As I said the other night, obviously Republicans had a good night, and I’ve congratulated both Mitch McConnell as well as Speaker Boehner for running very strong campaigns.
As I also said the day after the election, what we’ve seen now for a number of cycles is that the American people just want to see work done here in Washington. I think they’re frustrated by the gridlock. They’d like to see more cooperation. And I think all of us have the responsibility, me in particular, to try to make that happen. And so this gives us a good opportunity to explore where we can make progress on behalf of the people who sent us here.
The good news is, today we saw another good set of jobs numbers. We’ve now had 56 consecutive months of job growth; more than 10.6 million jobs have been created. And the unemployment rate now is down to 5.8 percent.
So business is out there investing, hiring. The economic indicators are going in the right direction. As I travel to Asia for the G20 Summit, I’m going to be able to say that we’ve actually created more jobs here in the United States than every other advanced country combined. And they notice that we’re doing something right here. But what we also know is that the American people are still anxious about their futures, and that means that what we can do together to ensure that young people can afford college; what we can do together to rebuild our infrastructure so we’re competitive going forward; what we can do together to make sure that we’ve got a tax system that is fair and simple, and unleashes the dynamism of the economy; what we can do together to make sure that we keep the progress that we’ve been making in reducing the deficit while still making the investments we need to grow.
Those are all going to be areas where I’m very interested in hearing and sharing ideas. And then the one thing that I’ve committed to both Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell is that I am not going to judge ideas based on whether they’re Democratic or Republican; I’m going to be judging them based whether or not they work. And I’m confident that they want to produce results, as well, on behalf of the American people.
So I appreciate their graciousness in coming here. And I’m very much looking forward to giving them some updates on progress we’ve been making on issues like Ebola and ISIL. There’s going to be some specific work that has to get done during the next several weeks before the new Congress commences. And my hope is, is that even as we enter into a new Congress, the previous Congress has the opportunity still to make progress on a whole bunch of fronts, and I’m confident we can get that done.
So thank you again.
Q Have you made a decision on an Attorney General, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: You’re going to be the first to find out, Major, along with everybody else.
Thank you, everybody.
12:56 P.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 7, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 7, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 6, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 5, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 4, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 4, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 4, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 27, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 19, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 12, 2014
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
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.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 11, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 6, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 5, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 5, 2014
Source: WH, 10-3-14
2:17 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! Hello, Indiana! It’s good to be back close to home. Everybody have a seat, have a seat.
Well, first of all, let me thank Henry and everybody for extending such a warm welcome. It’s good to be back in Indiana. A couple people I just want to acknowledge very quickly: Your Mayor, Bob Hurst. Where did Mayor Hurst go? (Applause.) He was here just a second — there he is right there. Give him a big round of applause. (Applause.) We’ve got your former Congressman, Brad Ellsworth, in the house. Say hi to Brad. (Applause.)
It is great to be back in Indiana. It’s great to be in Princeton. And I want to thank Millennium Steel for hosting us here today. I’m here because you might have heard that today is National Manufacturing Day. You don’t get the day off on National Manufacturing Day. (Laughter.) But factories like this one, all over the country, are opening their doors to give young people a chance to understand what opportunities exist in manufacturing in 21st century in the United States of America. So I figured, what better place to celebrate Manufacturing Day than with a manufacturer?
And instead of giving a long speech, what I want to do today is just have a conversation with folks about what’s happening in the American economy, what’s happening in your lives, what’s happening in manufacturing, and to talk a little bit about how we can continue to build an economy that works for everybody, that gives everybody who’s willing to work hard a chance.
And I wanted to do that here because, in some ways, American manufacturing is powering the American recovery. This morning, we learned that last month, our businesses added more than 236,000 jobs. (Applause.) The unemployment rate fell from 6.1 percent to 5.9 percent. (Applause.) What that means is that the unemployment rate is below 6 percent for the first time in six years. (Applause.) And we’re on pace for the strongest job growth since the 1990s — strongest job growth since the 1990s. Over the past 55 months, our businesses have now created 10.3 million new jobs. (Applause.)
Now, that happens to be the longest uninterrupted stretch of job growth in the private sector in American history. And all told, the United States has put more folks back to work than Europe, Japan, and all other advanced economies combined. All combined, we put more folks back to work right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
So this progress that we’ve been making, it’s been hard, it goes in fits and starts, it’s not always been perfectly smooth or as fast as we want, but it is real and it is steady and it is happening. And it’s making a difference in economies all across the country. And it’s the direct result of the best workers in the world, the drive and determination of the American people, the resilience of the American people bouncing back from what was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression — and it’s also got a little bit to do with some decisions we made pretty early on in my administration.
So, just to take an example, many of you know that the auto industry was really in a bad spot when I came into office. And we decided to help our automakers to rebuild, to retool, and they’re now selling new cars at the fastest rate in about eight years. And they’re great cars, too. (Applause.) And that’s helped a lot of communities all across the Midwest. And that’s just one example of what’s been happening to American manufacturing generally.
About 10, 15 years ago, everybody said American manufacturing is going downhill, everything is moving to China or other countries. And the Midwest got hit a lot harder than a lot of places because we were the backbone of American manufacturing. But because folks invested in new plants and new technologies, and there were hubs that were created between businesses and universities and community colleges so that workers could master and get trained in some of these new technologies, what we’ve now seen is manufacturing driving economic growth in a way we haven’t seen in about 20-25 years.
Because of the efforts that we’ve made, manufacturing as a whole has added about 700,000 new jobs. It’s growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy. New factories are opening their doors. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking to bring jobs back from China. Our businesses are selling more goods overseas than any time in our history. And the reason this is important is not just because of some abstract statistic. Manufacturing jobs have good pay and good benefits.
And they create a ripple effect to the whole economy because everybody who’s working here at Millennium Steel, because you’re getting paid well, because you’ve got decent benefits, that means that the restaurants in the neighborhood are doing better. It means you can afford to make your mortgage payments and buy a new car yourself, and buy some new appliances. And you get a virtuous cycle in which all businesses are doing better.
To most middle-class folks, the last decade was defined by those jobs going overseas. But if we keep up these investments, then we can define this decade as a period, instead of outsourcing, insourcing — bringing jobs back to America. And when you ask business executives around the world, what’s the number-one place to invest their money right now, for a long time it was China. Today they say, the best place to invest money is here in the United States of America. Here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
So there is a lot of good stuff happening in the economy right now. But what we all know is, is that there’s still some challenges — there’s still some challenges — because there are still a lot of families where somebody in the family is out of work, or isn’t getting as many hours as they want. There are still a lot of folks who, at the end of the month, are having trouble paying the bills. And wages and incomes have not moved up as fast as all the gains we’re making in jobs and productivity. Too much of the growth in income and wealth is going to the very top; not enough of it is being spread to the ordinary worker.
And that means that we’ve still got some more work to do to put in place policies that make sure that the economy works not just for the few, but it works for everybody; and that if you work hard you’re going to be able to pay the bills, you’re going to be able to retire with some dignity and some respect, you can send your kids to school without having to worry about it. That’s what we’ve got to be working on — making sure that no matter who you are, where you started, you can make it here in America. That’s what the American Dream is all about. (Applause.)
Now, let me just close by saying a couple of things that I know would make a difference if we were doing them right now to make the economy grow even faster, to bring the unemployment rate down even faster, and if employers are hiring more workers and the labor market gets a little bit tighter, then employers end up paying a little bit more and wages go up a little bit more, and that means people have a little more money in their pockets, and then they’re spending more of it on businesses’ products and services, which means that even more workers get hired. There are some things we could do right now that would make a difference.
We should be investing in roads and bridges and ports and infrastructure all across the country. We’ve got a lot of stuff that was built back in the ‘40s and the ‘50s that needs to be updated. And if we’re putting construction workers back to work, that means they also need some steel. They also need some concrete. It means you need engineers doing the work, and you need suppliers. And all that would give a huge boost to the economy and make it easier for businesses to deliver their products and services around the world. It would be good for our economy. That’s something that we should be doing right now.
And I’ve been putting proposals forward in front of Congress to say let’s go ahead and just start rebuilding all kinds of parts of America that need rebuilding. And nobody disagrees that they need to be rebuilt. The only thing that’s holding us up right now is politics.
We should be raising the minimum wage to make sure that more workers — (applause) — who have been working full-time shouldn’t be living in poverty. And we’ve got legislation going on right now that would call for a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, which would mean that if you work full-time you’re not living in poverty, you can raise a family. And the good news is, is about 13 states and a bunch of cities around the country have gone ahead and done it without Congress. But it would sure help if Congress went ahead and did it as well. Because right now, since I, two years ago, called for a hike in the minimum wage, about 7 million people have seen their incomes go up, but there are still about 21 million people who would stand to benefit if we had a national minimum wage.
And by the way, when you hear folks saying, well, if you raise the minimum wage that’s going to be fewer jobs — it turns out the states that have raised the minimum wage have had faster job growth than the states that haven’t raised the minimum wage. So this is something that would benefit families, but again, if folks have more money in their pockets, they’re working hard, they go out and spend it. And that ends up being good for business, not just for the workers involved.
We should be making sure that women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same work. (Applause.) That’s something, by the way, that should be a no-brainer for men, too, because — (laughter) — I remember when Michelle and I were both working, I was always happy if she got a raise. I wanted to make sure that she was getting paid fairly because it’s all one household, and the more women that get into the workforce, the more families are reliant on two incomes in order to make ends meet. Plus it’s just fair and it’s the right thing to do. (Applause.)
So there are a number of steps that we can take to make unemployment go down faster, to make sure that wages are rising faster, and that would benefit everybody. And I’ll just close with this comment. If you look at American history, the times we grow fastest and do best is when we’re growing the economy from the middle out. When middle-class families are growing, when working folks can get their way into the middle class, that’s when the whole economy does well. When you have an economy where just a few are doing well, and a lot of other folks are left, no matter how hard they work, still just scraping to get by, the economy doesn’t get the same kind of momentum.
And if you think about what America is about, what the American Dream is about, it’s always been that everybody should have opportunity. It shouldn’t matter how you started out if you’re willing to work hard, if you have good values, if you take responsibility. And that’s the kind of economy that we want to build. And we can build it, and manufacturing is going to be right smack dab in the middle of that effort, we’ve got to continue to build on the success we have. We’re not going to rest on our laurels. We’re going to keep on going until every single person who wants to find a good job out there can get a good job, and that America is competing against everybody else, so that 21st century is the American Century, just like the 20th century was.
All right? (Applause.)
Here is how we’re going to do this. I’m going to just grab this mic. Anybody who wants to ask a question or make a comment just raise your hand. There are probably some folks with mics in the audience. Wait for the mic so everybody can hear you. Stand up, introduce yourself. Try to make your questions kind of short, and I’ll try to make my answers kind of short. That way we can get more folks in. All right? All right. Who wants to go first? Oh, and I’ll go boy, girl, boy, girl — to make sure everybody — (laughter) — it’s kind of fair, kind of even. All right.
This young man right here.
Q Thank you for coming out today, President Obama. I’m with the University of Southern Indiana Manufacturing Club out here —
THE PRESIDENT: Excellent.
Q And my question for you is, can you share some specifics about the Rebuild America Act? I know you talked a little bit about that.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have about $2 trillion in deferred maintenance. I don’t have to tell you because some of you have probably hit some potholes and tried to figure out what the heck is going on, why aren’t we fixing that road? But it’s not just the traditional roads and bridges. It’s also the infrastructure we don’t see — sewer systems, water systems. A lot of them are breaking down. Gas lines that we’ve been seeing in some big cities — those things start wearing out, suddenly they actually pose a threat if they explode because they’re just not in good shape.
There’s a whole bunch of new infrastructure that we should be building. So I’ll give you a good example is our electricity grid. The way we transmit power — if we’ve got old electricity grids, what happens is a lot of the electricity leaks, a lot of the power leaks in the transmission from the power plant to, let’s say, a factory like this one. And the more it leaks, the more that’s driving up prices, because it’s not as efficient as it should be and it’s more vulnerable to blackouts.
And in fact, if we built a smarter power grid — that’s called a smart grid — means that not only is it not leaking power, but it’s also sending power in efficient ways during peak times, so that we end up using less energy, which drives down consumer prices and is good for the environment.
I’ll give you one other example that I know everybody here will appreciate. We have an old, archaic air traffic control system. Some of you heard about what happened in Chicago — some guy got mad he was being transferred to Hawaii. Now, let me tell you, I’ve been to Hawaii. I don’t know why he was mad about that. (Laughter.) He sets fire to some of the facilities there, and suddenly folks couldn’t get in and out of Chicago for a couple of days. In fact, I was in Chicago yesterday — day before yesterday. I had to land in Gary because O’Hare was still somewhat restricted.
But even setting aside that, it turns out that if we revamped our whole air traffic control system, we could reduce the number of delayed flights by about 30 percent. We could reduce the amount of fuel that airlines use by about 30 percent, which means we could lower ticket prices by a whole bunch. It means that you wouldn’t have two-hour waits in the airport. And if you’re flying for business, that’s going to save you time and money. If you’re just trying to get home to see your family, it means time spent with family instead of sitting in an airport, buying stuff that’s really expensive. (Laughter.)
The whole economy would be more efficient if we do it. So the good news is it’s the best time for us to rebuild our infrastructure because there are still a lot of construction workers out of work, a lot of contractors — it’s not like they’ve got so much business, which means they can do the work on time, under budget. Interest rates are low. If we spent, let’s say, the next 10 years just saying we’re just going to rebuild all across America, old infrastructure and new infrastructure, then not only would we give the economy a boost right now, but what we’d also do is lay the foundation for even more economic growth in the future.
It’s a smart investment, and we should be doing it. So what I’ve proposed is let’s close some tax loopholes that exist right now that in some cases are incentivizing companies to send money overseas and profits overseas instead of investing here in the United States of America. Let’s close those loopholes that aren’t good for creating jobs here. Let’s take some of that money, let’s use that to rebuild our infrastructure. Makes good sense.
But Congress hasn’t done it yet — not because it’s not a good idea. Infrastructure is not partisan. That’s not Democratic or Republican, that’s just a common-sense thing. Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System. Lincoln — first Republican President — helped build the Transcontinental Railroad. Traditionally, everybody has been in favor of infrastructure because it powers our economy. It’s part of what made us an economic superpower. We’ve got to get back to that kind of mentality.
All right. Young lady right here.
Q Mr. President, you mentioned an increase to the minimum wage. How do you counter an opinion that increasing employee wages would ultimately increase the selling price of goods and services, thus negating any increase to the employee’s standard of living?
THE PRESIDENT: No, it’s a good question. It’s interesting that if you look at the studies that have been done — first of all, most employers pay more than the minimum wage already. Typically, minimum wage are in certain sectors of the economy. They’re disproportionately women who are getting paid the minimum wage. But unlike what people think, the majority of folks getting paid the minimum wage are adults, many of them supporting families. The average age of somebody getting paid the minimum wage is 35 years old. They’re not 16.
So in those states or where you’ve had one state pass a hike in the minimum wage and the state right next door doesn’t, and you kind of look at what’s happening along the border where you think that people would be kind of influenced — maybe they shop where the prices are cheaper, or businesses would move over to the place where there isn’t a minimum wage — it turns out that actually it doesn’t have that much of an impact. It has an impact on the families. It generally does not have a huge impact in terms of prices, and it doesn’t have — another argument that’s made is folks will hire fewer people because salaries are higher. Well, it turns out actually that’s not generally what happens. It’s just that if everybody has to raise the minimum wage, then everybody adjusts. And in some cases, because of competition, they’re not going to be able to raise their prices.
But you’re getting to a larger point that I think has plagued the American economy for some time, and that is that business has learned how to be really profitable and produce a lot of goods with fewer and fewer workers, partly through automation. And sometimes that does drive down prices. The problem is it also drives down wages. And it’s driven wages down faster, in many cases, than prices.
I mean, if what you’re worried about most is low prices, then presumably we could have everything made in low-wage countries overseas. They’d get shipped back here, but it doesn’t do you any good if a pair of sneakers is really cheap and you don’t have a job. So I think the goal here should be prioritizing — number one, making sure people have work, number two, making sure that that work pays well.
And if people have good jobs and they’re getting paid a decent wage, then businesses are the ones who have to compete for your business. They’re still going to have to keep prices down relatively low because they’re going to have to compete against other businesses. If they raise their prices too much, somebody is going to come in and offer a better deal. And consumers have gotten better, partly because of the Internet. They know what prices are there.
So there’s never been greater competition out there. The problem is right now that all that competition is on the back of workers. Businesses’ profits are through the roof. There was a report this week that showed that corporate balance sheets in America are as strong as they’ve been in history. It’s part of the reason why the stock market is doing great. So it’s not as if companies don’t have some room to pay their workers more. They’re just not doing it. And a greater and greater share has been going to the corporate balance sheet, and less and less of a share is going to workers.
So don’t let folks tell you that companies right now can’t afford to provide their workers a raise. The reason they’re not giving their workers a raise is because, frankly, they don’t have to — because the labor market is still somewhat soft, and people are afraid that if I leave this job I may not find something.
The good news is, as the unemployment rate comes down, there are fewer workers looking for jobs, and that means companies have to start bidding up wages a little bit. The market will take care of some of this. But having a minimum wage that is a little bit higher, that’s also going to help.
Last example I’ll give, by the way, Costco –I assume some folks here shopped at Costco before. Costco has the best prices around, right? Starting salary for a cash register operator — $11.50, maybe it’s $11.35. Starting wage. And by the way, even before the Affordable Care Act, Costco gave everybody health care. But they’ve been growing just as fast as folks who don’t pay the minimum wage and don’t provide health care benefits. Their stock has done great. The difference is they’re spreading more of the profits to their workers, which is good for the economy as a whole. And by the way, when you walk into Costco, everybody is pretty cheerful because they’re feeling like they’re getting a fair deal and that the company cares about them.
All right? Yes.
Q I’m the general manager at Millennium Steel. We’re very honored to have you. One of the questions I had is about the health care costs. We are seeing almost a double-digit increase in health care costs every year. So do you think that trend is going to go down? And what can we do to control that trend?
THE PRESIDENT: I think that’s really interesting. You’re going to have to talk to Henry because — (laughter) — no, no, no, this is serious. The question is whether you guys are shopping effectively enough. Because it turns out that this year, and in fact over the course of the last four years, premiums have gone up at the slowest rate in 50 years. So health care premiums have actually slowed down significantly. And it is having an effect both on businesses and families and the federal debt. Because most of the federal deficit and the federal debt, when folks talk about we’ve got to drive down the debt, we’ve got to do something about the debt — it turns out that most of the federal deficit and the federal debt over the last decade has come from health care costs going up so high, which means Medicare and Medicaid costs start going up. And that’s gobbled up a bigger and bigger share of the federal budget.
Because health care costs are going up much more slowly than expected, so far we anticipate we’re going to save about $188 billion over the next 10 years and reduce health care costs.
So the issue now is what can we do to make sure that you at Millennium are shopping and seeing more competition. Because the only problem with the health care market is sometimes it’s different in different pockets of the country, depending on how many carriers there are. And what we’re trying to do is to make sure that there’s more competition driving down cost when it comes to both the businesses who are trying to buy health care for their employees, but also folks who don’t get health care on the job and are just having to buy it on their own.
That’s part of what the Affordable Care Act is all about. Now, some of you — Affordable Care Act, by the way, is also known as Obamacare. (Applause.) For a while, everybody was saying — sort of using that as kind of an insult. I’m feeling pretty good about it being called Obamacare. I suspect that about five years from now when everybody agrees that it’s working, then they won’t call it Obamacare anymore. (Laughter.) That’s okay.
But part of what we did there is we set up what’s called these marketplaces, these exchanges, where individuals can go online and shop. And as you know, the website was really bad for the first three months. It’s now in really good shape. We’ve signed up 10 million people to get health coverage many times for the first time. And we’re giving them tax credits to help lower the cost even more. But we’re also setting up a network for businesses to be able to shop for health insurance.
And what’s happened — I talked about this yesterday — right now on average across America — so it may not be true in every single market, but across America, on average, premiums have — if it had not been for this drop in health care inflation, premiums would probably be about $1,800 higher per family than they actually have turned out to be. Now, you think about that — $1,800, that’s money that’s in your pocket that otherwise would be going to you paying for your health care premiums. That’s like an $1,800 tax cut for every family that’s got health insurance. And that’s good news. But we’ve got to make sure everybody takes advantage of it.
So I’m going to make sure — are you in charge of buying health care? You are? All right, so what I’m going to do is I’m going to make sure that you talk to some of our health care market folks. I bet we can get you a better deal. All right? We’ll see if we can save you a little money. (Applause.)
All right. Young lady right here in the jacket.
Q Good afternoon. My name is Conner Perry (ph). I’m in the 8th grade at the Lexington School in Lexington, Kentucky.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s so nice to meet you.
Q Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: How old are you — you’re in 8th grade, so you’re just tall and pretty, just like Malia and Sasha. There you go.
Q I was wondering, what are some actions we could take to put people in rural America to work?
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a great question. You know, the rural economy has actually done extremely well compared to the rest of the economy over the last couple of years. The main reason for it — first of all, we’ve got the best farmers in the world and we’re the most productive agricultural system in the world. So we just — our crops are really good and we produce a lot. And the weather has been pretty decent. I just talked to my friend — where is Scates? There he is. Good buddy of mine — the Scates farm over on Illinois side. He said best crops he’s seen in a while — right? Ever. So that’s the good news.
But what’s also helped is that we have increased our agricultural exports, sending our outstanding products overseas at a record pace. And I should introduce, by the way, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is right here. That’s Penny. (Applause.) And one of Penny’s most important jobs is going around the world and trying to open up new markets for agricultural goods. One of our biggest exports.
And so we’ve got to keep on making sure that if we have the best crops, the best products at the lowest price that we can get into these markets. A lot of countries protect their markets and their farmers from competition by closing their markets — even though they’re selling stuff to us. And my general attitude about trade, I’m a big believer in trade, but my attitude is it’s got to be two-way. If we’re going to buy your cars, or we’re going to buy your TV sets, or whatever else you’re selling, then you’ve got to be able to buy American wheat and corn and beans. And Penny has done a terrific job. And that’s part of the reason why we’ve seen record exports. And that helps the agricultural economy.
That’s number one. But number two, we’ve also got to diversify the rural economy so it’s not just dependent on agriculture. And that means, for example, investing in things like biofuels and clean energy. We are at the threshold of being able to create new energy sources out of not just crops that we grow — corn and ethanol — but also stuff that we usually throw away, like the corn stalks instead of the corn. And the more we invest in biofuels, clean energy, that can make a big difference in the rural economy.
So that’s another area where we can make progress. And then the rural economy should — just like here in Princeton, we’ve got to make sure that we are offering up opportunities for manufacturers to come back in to look at some of these rural sites, where you know the people there work hard and quality of life is high, but oftentimes international investors don’t know about some of these rural communities. And so Penny has been helping to advertise. We’ve got a whole program called SelectUSA where we go around and we help towns, mayors, county chairmen, local chambers of commerce invite investors from Japan and Singapore and Germany — come invest here in the United States of America.
Because what you want is an economy that isn’t just relying on one thing, but it has a bunch of different components to it, so that if, say, you have a bad crop one year the whole economy of that area doesn’t just collapse. And that can make a big difference.
But if we’re going to be able to attract investment into rural America, there are at least two things that have to happen. Number one, we’ve got to invest in education to make sure that the young people in rural America have the skills for today’s jobs. And that includes not just K through 12, but also community colleges — which are really a crown jewel — community colleges can be so powerful in just training folks — they may not go to a four-year college, but if they can get some technical training they’re suddenly ready for that job. And that is really attractive to investors. If they know they’ve got good workers in a site, that’s one of the most important things they’re looking for.
And the second thing is the thing I talked about earlier, which is infrastructure. Part of the problem with rural communities is they’re a little more isolated. All the more important, then, that our rail, our roads, our airports, that they all work, and that they’ve got broadband connections and Internet connections in order to make sure that they can access international markets.
All right? Great question. All right, it’s a gentleman’s turn. Right here. Right here in front.
Q Hello, Mr. President. Thank you for coming. I hope I’ve got this right — it is your wedding anniversary today?
THE PRESIDENT: That is correct.
Q So happy anniversary to you and Michelle.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Twenty-two years she’s been putting up with me. (Laughter.) I had a young man, a friend of mine just got married. And I told the bride — wonderful young lady — I said it takes about 10 years to train a man properly. (Laughter.) So you’ve got to be patient with him. Because he’ll screw up a bunch, but eventually we learn. It’s just it takes us a little longer. We’re not as smart. So Michelle has been very patient with me.
Thank you very much. That’s very kind of you. (Applause.) Young lady right here.
Q Hi, President Obama. I’m from Indiana State University. Right here. (Applause.) Representing.
THE PRESIDENT: Yay, Indiana State!
Q I just had a question. Recently on the media, we have been hearing a lot about the EPA system and the war on coal. What are your feelings on that?
THE PRESIDENT: Some of that is — some of it’s hype and politics. And that’s sort of the nature of our politics these days. But there’s a real issue involved. Less and less of our power is coming from coal.
Now, a lot of people think that’s because of environmental regulations. And the truth of the matter is, is that there’s some environmental regulations that have had an impact mainly because what it’s said to the power plant operators is you’ve got to be more efficient and you can’t send as much pollution into the air. So if you’re using coal, you’ve got to figure out how can we get smart coal — smart coal technologies that capture some of the pollution that’s being sent up, put it underground, store it. Some of that technology is developing, but it’s not quite there yet.
But actually the main reason that power plants in America are using less coal is because natural gas is so cheap. So the real war on coal is natural gas, which, because of new technologies, we are now extracting at a rate that is unbelievable. There’s about a hundred years’ supply of natural gas underground here in America. We are now the number-one natural gas producer in the world. And by the way, we’re also producing more oil than we import for the first time in almost two decades. (Applause.)
Some people don’t realize — you know who the number-one oil producer in the world is? It’s us, the United States of America. So we’re producing more oil than ever. We’re producing more natural gas than ever. And natural gas, we’re producing so much that when new power plants get built, it’s cheaper for them to run on natural gas than it is on coal. So that obviously causes some hardship in communities that traditionally relied on coal.
There are two things we need to do. Number one is — and my administration has been hugely supportive — we’ve put a lot of money into developing these new technologies to make sure we can burn coal cleaner than we have. And the second thing that we need to do is make sure that some of the new opportunities in clean energy and in natural gas and other energy-related industries that they locate in places that used to have coal, or used to be primarily coal country.
Because the trend lines are going to be inevitable. Because if you burn coal in a dirty way, that’s going to cause more and more pollution, including pollution that causes climate change. You’re going to see more and more restrictions on the use of coal not just here in the United States, but around the world, which means that we’ve got to get out in front of that and make sure that we’ve got the technologies to use coal cheaply. And we’ve got to be able to send those technologies to other counties that are still burning coal.
Because there are going to be counties like China and India and others that still use coal for years to come. They’re poor, and they’re building a lot of power plants quickly. They don’t have as much natural gas as us, so they’re going to be interested in figuring how can they use their coal supplies and how can they import our coal. But if we’re doing a good job giving them technologies that allow them to burn it cleanly, then it’s a win-win for us. Not only are we able to then sell coal to them, but we’re also selling the technology to help them burn it in the cleanest way possible.
We’ve been making those investments, and we’ve got to keep on making those investments in order for us to get ahead of the curve.
Gentleman back there in the tie. There aren’t that many ties in here, so there you go.
Q Hi, Mr. President. I’m with the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association. We’re one of the founding partners of Manufacturing Day, so thank you for your support. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q I’d like to ask you about R&D. U.S. manufacturers do more R&D than any county in the world. It makes us productive. It makes us innovative. Could you talk about policies and ideas to continue to support R&D activities to promote and accelerate manufacturing? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: When we think about manufacturing, we always think about the traditional guy with the hard hat and the glasses, and there are sparks flying and it’s noisy. These days you go into a manufacturing plant like this one, first of all, it’s clean, it’s quiet, and so much of it is running on computers and automation and new systems. So if we’re going to stay competitive in manufacturing, we’ve got some terrific advantages.
Energy, by the way, is one of our biggest advantages because we have some of the cheapest energy in the world. That’s part of why a lot of companies want to relocate here in the United States. But we’ve also got to stay ahead of the curve in the new technologies for the new kinds of manufacturing. Every budget I’ve submitted has called for an increase in our R&D budget — our research and development budget. And we’ve specifically been interested in putting more money into research and development in manufacturing.
So, in fact, today I announced the fifth — the proposal for the fifth manufacturing hub that we’re creating. We want to actually create about 15 more of them after this. And what it’s doing is it’s linking manufacturers with universities and researchers to start developing some of the new technologies that we know are going to be key to the future.
So, for example, we already created a manufacturing hub around 3D printing. Everybody know what 3D printing is? It’s actually pretty interesting. So basically the idea is, is that using software you can manufacture just about anything from a remote location just by you send the program to some site and then the machine builds whatever it is that you designed on the computer from scratch. And we know that over time this is going to be more and more incorporated in the manufacturing process. But we want to make sure that all that stuff is done right here in the United States of America. So we created a hub for that.
Today, I’m announcing a $100 million competition to create a new hub around photonics — I had to ask Penny to make sure I pronounced it right. But this is basically the science, the technology around light which is used to transmit data and information, and also is used in the manufacturing process for everything from lasers to some of the stuff that the Department of Defense is doing.
And what these hubs allow us to do is instead of having a slower process where somebody in some lab coat somewhere figures something out and then writes a report on it, and then maybe five years later, some manufacturer says, huh, I wonder if I could tinker around with that and use that in my manufacturing process, you have a system where the businesses and the researchers are working on it at the same time, which speeds up the discovery process and means we’re moving from discovery to application a lot faster.
Now, Germany has about 60 of these manufacturing hubs, and so far I’ve been able to create five of them — or four of them. This is going to be the fifth. And as I said, I want us to make sure we’re doing a lot more than that.
So that’s just one example of why our investment in manufacturing research and development is going to be so critically important. It allows us to keep our lead because America has always been the top innovator in the world. That’s the reason why our economy historically has done so well, is because we invent stuff faster and better than anybody else. And if we lose that lead, we’re going to be in trouble.
Can I just say one last thing about — because I appreciate you working on this National Manufacturers Day. For the young people here, and anybody who is listening, the reason we set up this National Manufacturing Day is because too many young people do not understand the opportunities that exist in manufacturing. Because so many plants were shut down, and so much offshoring was taking place, I think a lot of people just kind of gave up on the idea of working in manufacturing. The problem is that for a lot of young people, manufacturing offers great opportunities.
I was in Wisconsin, somebody told me an amazing statistic, which is the average age of a skilled tool and die operator in Wisconsin is 59 years old. Now, these folks are making 25, 30 bucks an hour, benefits. You are solidly middle class if you have one of these jobs. And the workforce is getting older and older in that area, and the young people aren’t coming to replace them.
So the idea behind National Manufacturing Day, we got 50,000 young people going into factories all across the county and learning about — look at all the jobs that you can get in manufacturing. Engineering jobs, but also jobs on the line, technical jobs. All of them require some skills. All of them require some higher level learning. But not all of them require a four-year degree. You could make a good living. So that’s part of what we’re trying to encourage getting young people to reorient.
And we’re actually also talking to high schools, saying to them, try to encourage young people to think about manufacturing as a career option. Because not everybody wants to sit behind a desk, pushing paper all day long. And different people have different aptitudes and different talents and different interests. And if we can set up a situation where high schools are starting to connect to manufacturing, then a lot of young people can start getting apprenticeships early — realize how interesting some of that work is. Then they have a better idea, if they do end up going to college, it’s a little more focused around the things that they’re actually going to need in order to succeed in manufacturing.
So thank you for participating in that. It’s really important.
We’ve got — how much more time do we have? I just want to make sure. We’ll make it two. We’ll make it two. All right, young lady right there. Yes, right — you, yes. All right, hold on, let’s make sure we got the microphone here.
Q Hi. I am a secondary English education student at USI. And I just want to say thank you for coming here today. It’s such an honor to hear you speak.
Being in the job force in the next couple of years, I am worried about equal pay as a woman. So you’ve talked a little bit about that. How can we get there? What can we do to get equal pay for women?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s a great question. Here are the statistics, first of all. Women on average make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Now, what folks will tell you sometimes is you can’t really compare the situation because a lot of women by choice end up working less when they have kids, and decide to stay home, and so it’s not the same thing. But here’s the problem. It turns out that actually in a lot of companies sometimes it’s still the case that women are getting paid less than men for doing the exact same job.
And so one of the first bills I signed was called the Lilly Ledbetter bill. And Lilly, who is a friend of mine, she was doing a job for 25 years and about 20 years into it just happened to find out that for that whole time she had been getting paid less for doing the exact same job that a man had been doing. And when she tried to sue to get her back pay, the court said, well, it’s too late now because the statute of limitations had run out. She said, well, I just found out. That doesn’t matter.
So we changed that law, and that was the first thing that we did. And what we’ve also done is through executive action what I’ve said is any federal contractor who does business with the federal government, you’ve got to allow people to compare their salaries so that they can get information about whether they’re getting paid fairly or not.
There is a fair pay bill that is before Congress, but so far it’s been blocked by the House Republicans. It hasn’t come up for a vote. We need to keep putting pressure on them to get this done. This is just a matter of basic fairness. I don’t think my daughters should be treated any different than somebody else’s sons if they’re doing a good job. They should get paid the same.
But it’s also a matter of economics, as I said before. More and more women are the key breadwinner in their family, and if they’re getting paid less, that whole family suffers. So this is something that we have to take care.
I do want to mention, though, going back to the first argument, people saying that women make different choices when they have children — well, part of the reason they have to make different choices is because we don’t have a good child care system. (Applause.) It’s because we don’t have a good family leave policy. A child gets sick; you need to take care of a sick child. You can get unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. But what if you can’t afford to give up that paycheck that day? Or you’ve got an ailing parent — they have to go to the doctor one day. They don’t drive. You need to drive them. You need a day off. But if you take the day off, now you can’t pay your rent.
So there are family-friendly policies that we could put in place — and some states are doing so — improving child care, especially early childhood education, by the way, which we know every dollar we invest in that makes our kids do better in school the whole way. (Applause.) So it’s good for our education system, but it’s also just good for parents.
Somebody mentioned my wedding anniversary. I can tell you the toughest time when we were married was when our kids were still small and I was working and Michelle was working. And sometimes I’d be out of town, and the babysitter doesn’t show up, and suddenly Michelle is having scramble. And I promise you when I get home, it’s rough. (Laughter.)
But we were actually — we were professionals. We were both lawyers. We were in a better position to get help than most families, but it was still hard. So the more we do on early childhood education, high quality day care, making it affordable for families, family leave, those family-friendly policies that will help make sure that women are able to take care of their families and pursue their professional careers and bring home the kind of paycheck that they deserve — we need to do both. It’s not a choice between one or the other. We have to do all those things.
I got time for one more question. Gentleman, right here in the blue.
Q Mr. President, I would like to thank you also for visiting. My name is Randy Perry, this young lady’s father. I do have a small manufacturing company in rural America. But how do you speak to us small manufacturers that want to raise the minimum wage but we have to compete?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I said before, the first thing we need to do is to make sure that the economy as a whole is strong because, remember what I said, when the economy is strong as a whole, there is more demand for workers. That gives workers more leverage to get pay raises. The same is true for businesses. When demand is high for whatever product you’re producing, then you can afford to charge a little bit more.
And the truth of the matter is, is that for a lot of small businesses, there’s going to be more pressure than large businesses when it comes to wages because you just don’t have as much margin for error. But overall, our economy is going to do better, and small businesses do better when there is greater demand out there for products and services. And there’s greater demand for products and services if people have money in their pockets.
And one of the biggest problems we have in our economy right now — and this includes one of the biggest problems for small businesses — is that when a bigger and bigger share goes to folks at the top, a lot of that money, they just don’t spend.
I had lunch with Bill Gates the other day. Now, Bill Gates has ot a lot of money. (Laughter.) And he’s doing great things with it, by the way, doing great charitable work. But the truth of the matter is, is that if Bill Gates gets an extra million dollars, it’s not like he’s going to spend more money on food or go and buy an extra car, or buy a new refrigerator, because he’s already got everything he needs.
But if somebody who is a low-wage worker gets a raise, first thing they’re going to do is they’re going to spend it — maybe on a new backpack for the kids, or finally trade in that old beater, or a new car. And that drives the economy. It picks it up. It boosts it. And when that happens, then more demand exists for services and goods. And that means that all businesses are going to do better, including small businesses. And that, then, gives you the higher profits, which then allows you to pay your workers a little bit more. You get in this virtuous cycle.
And this is part of the argument that I’ve been having with my good friends in the Republican Party for quite some time. If you look at the policies we’ve been pursuing and proposing — investing in research and development, rebuilding our infrastructure, making sure that college is more affordable, improving child care, fair pay legislation, increase the minimum wage — I can point to evidence that shows that that’s going to put more money in the pockets of middle-class families. That’s going to increase growth at a faster pace, and the economy, as a whole is going to do better.
And their main response to me typically is two things. One is they’ll say we got to get rid of regulations. Except the problem is, for example, the last big crisis we had was precisely because we didn’t have enough regulations on Wall Street, and folks were selling a bunch of junk on the market and doing reckless things that ended up costing everybody something.
And then the second argument that they make is we need more tax cuts for folks like me who make a pretty good living, folks at the top. And I’ve got to tell you, there’s no evidence that that’s going to help middle-class families. There’s no evidence for this trickle-down theory that somehow another tax cut for folks who are already making out like bandits over the last 20 years is going to somehow improve the prospects for ordinary families. It just doesn’t exist. They keep on repeating it, but they don’t show that that’s actually going to help the economy. That’s not going to help you. It’s not going to help you. And it’s not going to help Millennium. And it’s not going to help your business.
I made a speech yesterday at Northwestern, and what I just said is just look at the facts. Since I’ve been President, unemployment has gone from — is down from 10 percent down to now 5.9. The deficit has been cut by more than half. Our energy production is higher than it’s ever been. Our health care costs are slowing. More people have insurance. High school dropout rate has gone down. Graduation rate has gone up. College attendance rate has gone up. Our production of clean energy has doubled. Solar energy has gone up tenfold. Wind energy has gone up threefold. Exports — we export more than we ever have in history. Corporate balance sheets are doing great. Stock market, all-time highs. Housing market beginning to recover. There’s almost no economic measure by which the economy as a whole isn’t doing significantly better than it was when I came into office. (Applause.)
Now, those are just facts. You can look them up. I’m not making it up. That’s one thing about being President — if I stand here and say it, all these folks are filming me so they’ll go and check. (Laughter.) So that’s the truth. But what is also true is that wages and incomes have continued to be flat even though the economy is growing and businesses are making more money. So what that tells me is the one thing that’s holding things back, the one thing that people are still concerned about and the one thing that if we could change would really give more confidence to the economy and boost it is if wages and incomes start going up a little bit.
If all the productivity and profits, if we start sharing that a little bit more with more folks, and ordinary families start feeling like they got a little bit of a cushion, that will be good for everybody. Because that’s the one thing that really we haven’t seen as much improvement on as we need. And so what everybody should be asking is how do we increase wages, how do we increase incomes. Because if we do that, things are going to better.
And there are pretty much just a handful of ways to do it. Number one, you make the economy grow even faster so the labor market gets tighter. Number two, you pursue policies like a higher minimum wage, or making sure that families are able to get child care, you’re driving down health care costs, the kinds of things that affect people’s pocketbooks directly. Those are the things that I’ve been pursuing since I’ve been President. And those are the things I’ll continue to pursue as long as I have this great privilege of bring President.
Thank you so much, everybody. God bless you. Appreciate you. (Applause.)
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 3, 2014
Source: WH, 10-2-14
1:11 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Evanston! (Applause.) Hello, Northwestern! (Applause.) Thank you so much. Everybody, have a seat. Have a seat. It is so good to be here. Go ‘Cats! (Applause.) I want to thank your president, Morty Schapiro, and the dean of the Kellogg Business School, Sally Blount, for having me. I brought along some guests. Your Governor, Pat Quinn, is here. (Applause.) Your Senator, Dick Durbin, is here. (Applause.) Your Congresswoman, Jan Schakowsky, is here. (Applause.) We’ve got some who represent the Chicagoland area in Congress and do a great job every day — Danny Davis, Robin Kelly, Mike Quigley, Brad Schneider. (Applause.) We’ve got your mayor, Elizabeth Tisdahl. (Applause.) Where’s Elizabeth? There she is. One of my great friends and former chief of staff — the mild-mannered Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, is here. (Laughter and applause.)
It is great to be back home. (Applause.) It’s great to be back at Northwestern. Back when I was a senator, I had the honor of delivering the commencement address for the class of 2006. And as it turns out, I’ve got a bunch of staff who graduated from here, and so they’re constantly lobbying me about stuff. And so earlier this year, I popped in via video to help kick off the dance marathon. I figured this time I’d come in person — not only because it’s nice to be so close to home, but it’s also just nice to see old friends, people who helped to form how I think about public service; people who helped me along the way. Toni Preckwinkle was my alderwoman and was a great supporter. (Applause.) Lisa Madigan, your attorney general, was my seatmate. State Senator Terry Link was my golf buddy. So you’ve got people here who I’ve just known for years and really not only helped me be where I am today, but helped develop how I think about public service.
And I’m also happy to be here because this is a university that is brimming with the possibilities of a new economy — your research and technology; the ideas and the innovation; the training of doctors and educators, and scientists and entrepreneurs. But you can’t help but visit a campus like this and feel the promise of the future.
And that’s why I’m here — because it’s going to be young people like you, and universities like this, that will shape the American economy and set the conditions for middle-class growth well into the 21st century.
And obviously, recent months have seen their fair share of turmoil around the globe. But one thing should be crystal clear: American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It’s America — our troops, our diplomats — that lead the fight to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.
It’s America — our doctors, our scientists, our know-how — that leads the fight to contain and combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
It’s America — our colleges, our graduate schools, our unrivaled private sector — that attracts so many people to our shores to study and start businesses and tackle some of the most challenging problems in the world.
When alarms go off somewhere in the world, whether it’s a disaster that is natural or man-made; when there’s an idea or an invention that can make a difference, this is where things start. This is who the world calls — America. They don’t call Moscow. They don’t call Beijing. They call us. And we welcome that responsibility of leadership, because that’s who we are. That’s what we expect of ourselves.
But what supports our leadership role in the world is ultimately the strength of our economy here at home. And today, I want to step back from the rush of global events to take a clear-eyed look at our economy, its successes and its shortcomings, and determine what we still need to build for your generation — what you can help us build.
As Americans, we can and should be proud of the progress that our country has made over these past six years. And here are the facts — because sometimes the noise clutters and I think confuses the nature of the reality out there. Here are the facts: When I took office, businesses were laying off 800,000 Americans a month. Today, our businesses are hiring 200,000 Americans a month. (Applause.) The unemployment rate has come down from a high of 10 percent in 2009, to 6.1 percent today. (Applause.) Over the past four and a half years, our businesses have created 10 million new jobs; this is the longest uninterrupted stretch of private sector job creation in our history. Think about that. And you don’t have to applaud at — because I’m going to be giving you a lot of good statistics. (Laughter.) Right now, there are more job openings than at any time since 2001. All told, the United States has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined. I want you to think about that. We have put more people back to work, here in America, than Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined.
This progress has been hard, but it has been steady and it has been real. And it’s the direct result of the American people’s drive and their determination and their resilience, and it’s also the result of sound decisions made by my administration.
So it is indisputable that our economy is stronger today than when I took office. By every economic measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office. At the same time, it’s also indisputable that millions of Americans don’t yet feel enough of the benefits of a growing economy where it matters most — and that’s in their own lives.
And these truths aren’t incompatible. Our broader economy in the aggregate has come a long way, but the gains of recovery are not yet broadly shared — or at least not broadly shared enough. We can see that homes in our communities are selling for more money, and that the stock market has doubled, and maybe the neighbors have new health care or a car fresh off an American assembly line. And these are all good things. But the stress that families feel — that’s real, too. It’s still harder than it should be to pay the bills and to put away some money. Even when you’re working your tail off, it’s harder than it should be to get ahead.
And this isn’t just a hangover from the Great Recession. I’ve always said that recovering from the crisis of 2008 was our first order of business, but I also said that our economy wouldn’t be truly healthy until we reverse the much longer and profound erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes.
So here’s our challenge. We’re creating more jobs at a steady pace. We’ve got a recovering housing market, a revitalized manufacturing sector — two things that are critical to middle-class success. We’ve also begun to see some modest wage growth in recent months. All of that has gotten the economy rolling again, despite the fact that the economies of many other countries around the world are softening. But as Americans, we measure our success by something more than our GDP, or a jobs report. We measure it by whether our jobs provide meaningful work that give people a sense of purpose, and whether it allows folks to take care of their families. And too many families still work too many hours with too little to show for it. Job growth could be so much faster and wages could be going up faster if we made some better decisions going forward with the help of Congress. So our task now is to harness the momentum that is real, that does exist, and make sure that we accelerate that momentum, that the economy grows and jobs grow and wages grow. That’s our challenge.
When the typical family isn’t bringing home any more than it did in 1997, then that means it’s harder for middle-class Americans to climb the ladder of success. It means that it’s harder for poor Americans to grab hold of the ladder into the middle class. That’s not what America is supposed to be about. It offends the very essence of who we are. Because if being an American means anything, it means we believe that even if we’re born with nothing — regardless of our circumstances, a last name, whether we were wealthy, whether our parents were advantaged — no matter what our circumstances, with hard work we can change our lives, and then our kids can too.
And that’s about more than just fairness. It’s more than just the idea of what America is about. When middle-class families can’t afford to buy the goods or services our businesses sell, it actually makes it harder for our economy to grow. Our economy cannot truly succeed if we’re stuck in a winner-take-all system where a shrinking few do very well while a growing many are struggling to get by. Historically, our economic greatness rests on a simple principle: When the middle class thrives, and when people can work hard to get into the middle class, then America thrives. And when it doesn’t, America doesn’t.
This is going to be a central challenge of our times. We have to make our economy work for every working American. And every policy I pursue as President is aimed at answering that challenge.
Over the last decade, we learned the hard way that it wasn’t sustainable to have an economy where too much of the growth was based on inflated home prices and bubbles that burst and a casino mentality on Wall Street; where the recklessness of a few could threaten all of us; where incomes at the top skyrocketed, while working families saw theirs decline. That was not a formula for sustained growth. We need an economy that’s built on a rock, and that — a rock that is durable and competitive, and that’s a steady source of good, middle-class jobs. When that’s happening, everybody does well.
So that’s why on day one, when I took office, with Rahm and Dick Durbin and others who were working with us, I said we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation for growth and prosperity. And with dedicated, persistent effort, we’ve actually been laying the cornerstones of this foundation every single day since.
So I mentioned earlier that there is not an economic measure by which we’re not better off than when we took official. But let me break down what we’ve also been doing structurally to make sure that we have a strong foundation for growth going forward.
The first cornerstone is new investments in the energy and technologies that make America a magnet for good, middle-class jobs.
So right off the bat, as soon as I came into office, we upped our investments in American energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and strengthen our own energy security. And today, the number-one oil and gas producer in the world is no longer Russia or Saudi Arabia. It’s America. (Applause.)
For the first time in nearly two decades, we now produce more oil than we buy from other countries. We’re advancing so fast in this area that two years ago I set a goal to cut our oil imports by half by — in half by 2020, and we’ve actually — we will meet that goal this year, six years ahead of schedule. (Applause.)
So that’s in the traditional fossil fuel area. But at the same time, we’ve helped put tens of thousands of people to work manufacturing wind turbines, and installing solar panels on homes and businesses. We have tripled the electricity that we harness from the wind. We have increased tenfold what we generate from the sun. We have brought enough clean energy online to power every home and business in Illinois and Wisconsin, 24/7. And that’s the kind of progress that we can be proud of and in part accounts for the progress we have also made in reducing carbon emissions that cause climate change. And I know that here at Northwestern, your researchers are working to convert sunlight into liquid fuel — which sounds impossible, or at least really hard. (Laughter.) But the good news is, if you need to get the hard or the impossible done, America and American universities are a pretty good place to start.
Meanwhile, our 100-year supply of natural gas is a big factor in drawing jobs back to our shores. Many are in manufacturing — which produce the quintessential middle-class job. During the last decade, it was widely accepted that American manufacturing was in irreversible decline. And just six years ago, its crown jewel, the American auto industry, could not survive on its own. With the help of folks like Jan and Dick and Mike Quigley and others, we helped our automakers restructure and retool. Today, they’re building and selling new cars at the fastest rate in eight years. We invested in new plants, new technologies, new high-tech hubs like the Digital Manufacturing and Design Institute that Northwestern has partnered with in Chicago.
Today, American manufacturing has added more than 700,000 new jobs. It’s growing almost twice as fast as the rest of the economy. And more than half of all manufacturing executives have said they are actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. To many in the middle class, the last decade was defined by outsourcing good jobs overseas. If we keep up these investments, we can define this decade by what’s known as “insourcing” — with new factories now opening their doors here in America at the fastest pace in decades. And in the process, we’ve also worked to grow American exports and open new markets, knock down barriers to trade, because businesses that export tend to have better-paying jobs. So today, our businesses sell more goods and services made in America to the rest of the world than ever before. Ever.
And that’s progress we can be proud of. Now, we also know that many of these manufacturing jobs have changed. You’re not just punching in and pounding rivets anymore; you’re coding computers and you’re guiding robots. You’re mastering 3D printing. And these jobs require some higher education or technical training. And that’s why the second cornerstone of the new foundation we’ve been building is making sure our children are prepared and our workers are prepared to fill the jobs of the future.
America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free. We sent a generation to college. We cultivated the most educated workforce in the world. But it didn’t take long for other countries to look at our policies and caught on to the secret of our success. So they set out to educate their kids too, so they could out-compete our kids. We have to lead the world in education once again. (Applause.)
That’s why we launched a Race to the Top in our schools, trained thousands of math and science teachers, supported states that raised standards for learning. Today, teachers in 48 states and D.C. are teaching our kids the knowledge and skills they need to compete and win in the global economy. Working with parents and educators, we’ve turned around some of the country’s lowest-performing schools. We’re on our way to connecting 99 percent of students to high-speed Internet, and making sure every child, at every seat, has the best technology for learning.
Look, let’s face it: Some of these changes are hard. Sometimes they cause controversy. And we have a long way to go. But public education in America is actually improving. Last year, our elementary and middle school students had the highest math and reading scores on record. The dropout rates for Latinos and African Americans are down. (Applause.) The high school graduation rate — the high school graduation rate is up. It’s now above 80 percent for the first time in history. We’ve invested in more than 700 community colleges — which are so often gateways to the middle class — and we’re connecting them with employers to train high school graduates for good jobs in fast-growing fields like high-tech manufacturing and energy and IT and cybersecurity.
Here in Chicago, Rahm just announced that the city will pay community college tuition for more striving high school graduates. We’ve helped more students afford college with grants and tax credits and loans. And today, more young people are graduating than ever before. We’ve sent more veterans to college on the Post-9/11 GI Bill — including several veterans here at Northwestern — and a few of them are in this hall today, and we thank them for their service. (Applause.)
So we’ve made progress on manufacturing and creating good jobs. We’ve made progress on education. Of course, even if you have the right education, for decades, one of the things that made it harder for families to make ends meet and businesses to grow was the high cost of health care. And so the third cornerstone had to be health care reform.
In the decade before the Affordable Care Act, aka, Obamacare — (laughter and applause) — in the decade before the Affordable Care Act, double-digit premium increases were common. CEOs called them one of the biggest challenges to their competitiveness. And if your employer didn’t drop your coverage to avoid these costs, they might pass them on to you and take them out of your wages.
Today, we have seen a dramatic slowdown in the rising cost of health care. When we passed the Affordable Care Act, the critics were saying, what are you doing about cost. Well, let me tell you what we’ve done about cost. If your family gets your health care through your employer, premiums are rising at a rate tied for the lowest on record. And what this means for the economy is staggering. If we hadn’t taken this on, and premiums had kept growing at the rate they did in the last decade, the average premium for family coverage today would be $1,800 higher than they are. Now, most people don’t notice it, but that’s $1,800 you don’t have to pay out of your pocket or see vanish from your paycheck. That’s like a $1,800 tax cut. That’s not for folks who signed up for Obamacare. That’s the consequences of some of the reforms that we’ve made.
And because the insurance marketplaces we created encourage insurers to compete for your business, in many of cities they’ve announced that next year’s premiums — well, something important is happening here — next year’s premiums are actually falling in some of these markets. One expert said this is “defying the law of physics.” But we’re getting it done. And it is progress we can be proud of.
So we’re slowing the cost of health care, and we’re covering more people at the same time. In just the last year, we reduced the share of uninsured Americans by 26 percent. That means one in four uninsured Americans — about 10 million people — have gained the financial security of health insurance in less than one year. And for young entrepreneurs, like many of you here today, the fact that you can compare and buy affordable plans in the marketplace frees you up to strike out on your own, chase that new idea — something I hope will unleash new services and products and enterprises all across the country. So the job lock that used to exist because you needed health insurance, you’re free from that now. You can go out and do something on your own and get affordable health care.
And meanwhile, partly because health care prices have been growing at the slowest rate in nearly 50 years, the growth in what health care costs the government is down, also. I want everybody to listen carefully here, because when we were debating the Affordable Care Act there was a lot of complaining about how we couldn’t afford this. The independent, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently reported that in 2020, Medicare and Medicaid will cost us $188 billion less than projected just four years ago. And here’s what that means in layman’s terms: Health care has long been the single biggest driver of America’s future deficits. It’s been the single biggest driver of our debt. Health care is now the single biggest factor driving down those deficits.
And this is a game-changer for the fourth cornerstone of this new foundation — getting our fiscal house in order for the long run, so we can afford to make investments that grow the middle class.
Between a growing economy, some prudent spending cuts, health care reform, and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more on their taxes, over the past five years we’ve cut our deficits by more than half. When I took office, the deficit was nearly 10 percent of our economy. Today, it’s approaching 3 percent. (Applause.) In other words, we can shore up America’s long-term finances without falling back into the mindless austerity or manufactured crises or trying to find excuses to slash benefits to seniors that dominated Washington budget debates for so long.
And finally, we’ve put in place financial reform to protect consumers and prevent a crisis on Wall Street from hammering Main Street ever again. We have new tools to prevent “too big to fail,” to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts. We made it illegal for big banks to gamble with your money. We established the first-ever consumer watchdog to protect consumers from irresponsible lending or credit card practices. We secured billions of dollars in relief for consumers who get taken advantage of. And working with states attorneys general like Lisa Madigan, we’ve seen industry practices changing.
Now, an argument you’ll hear oftentimes from critics is that the way to grow the economy is to just get rid of regulations; free folks up from the oppressive hand of the government. And you know, it turns out, truth be told, there are still some kind of dopey regulations on the books. (Laughter.) There are regulations that are outdated or are no longer serving a useful purpose. And we have scrubbed the laws out there and identified hundreds that are outdated, that don’t help our economy, that don’t make sense, and we’re saving businesses billions of dollars by gradually eliminating those unnecessary regulations. But you have to contrast that with rules that discourage a casino-style mentality on Wall Street, or rules that protect the basic safety of workers on the job, or rules that safeguard the air our children breathe and keep mercury or arsenic out of our water supply. These don’t just have economic benefits, these are rules that save lives and protect families. And I’ll always stand up for those — and they’re good for our economy.
So here’s the bottom line: For all the work that remains, for all the citizens that we still need to reach, what I want people to know is that there are some really good things happening in America. Unemployment down. Jobs up. Manufacturing growing. Deficits cut by more than half. High school graduation is up. College enrollment up. Energy production up. Clean energy production up. Financial system more stable. Health care costs rising at a slower rate. Across the board, the trend lines have moved in the right direction.
That’s because this new foundation is now in place. New investments in energy and technologies that create new jobs and new industries. New investments in education that will make our workforce more skilled and competitive. New reforms to health care that cut costs for families and businesses. New reforms to our federal budget that will promote smart investments and a stronger economy for future generations. New rules for our financial system to protect consumers and prevent the kinds of crises that we endured from happening again.
You add it all up, and it’s no surprise that for the first time in more than a decade, business leaders from around the world — these are business surveys. Kellogg, you’re familiar with these. (Laughter.) Business leaders from around the world have said the world’s most attractive place to invest is not India or China, it’s the United States of America. And that’s because the financial sector is healthier; because manufacturing is healthier; because the housing market is healthier; because health care inflation is at a 50-year low; because our energy boom is at new highs. Because of all these things, our economy isn’t just primed for steadier, more sustained growth; America is better poised to lead and succeed in the 21st century than any other nation on Earth. We’ve got the best cards.
And I will not allow anyone to dismantle this foundation. Because for the first time, we can see real, tangible evidence of what the contours of the new economy will look like. It’s an economy teeming with new industry and commerce, and humming with new energy and new technologies, and bustling with highly skilled, higher-wage workers.
It’s an America where a student graduating from college has the chance to advance through a vibrant job market, and where an entrepreneur can start a new business and succeed, and where an older worker can retool for that new job. And to fully realize this vision requires steady, relentless investment in these areas. We cannot let up and we cannot be complacent. We have to be hungry as a nation. We have to compete. When we do — if we take the necessary steps to build on the foundation that through some really hard work we have laid over the last several years — I promise you, over the next 10 years we’ll build an economy where wage growth is stronger than it was in the past three decades. It is achievable.
So let me just talk a little more specifically about what we should be doing right now.
First of all, we’ve got to realize that the trends that have battered the middle class for so long aren’t ones that we’re going to reverse overnight. The facts that I just laid out don’t mean that there aren’t a lot of folks out there who are underpaid, they’re underemployed, they’re working long hours, they’re having trouble making ends meet. I hear from them every day, I meet with them. And it’s heartbreaking — because they’re struggling hard. And there are no silver bullets for job creation or faster wage growth. Anybody who tells you otherwise is not telling the truth. But there are policies that would grow jobs and wages faster than we’re doing right now.
If we rebuild roads and bridges — because we’ve got $2 trillion of deferred maintenance on our infrastructure — we won’t just put construction workers and engineers on the job; we will revitalize entire communities, and connect people to jobs, and make it easier for businesses to ship goods around the world. And we can pay for it with tax reform that actually cuts rates on businesses, but closes wasteful loopholes, making it even more attractive for companies to invest and create jobs here in the United States. Let’s do this and make our economy stronger.
If we make it easier for first-time homebuyers to get a loan, we won’t just create even more construction jobs and speed up recovery in the housing market; we’ll speed up your efforts to grow a nest egg and start a new company, and send your own kids to college and graduate school someday. So let’s help more young families buy that first home, make our economy stronger.
If we keep investing in clean energy technology, we won’t just put people to work on the assembly lines, pounding into place the zero-carbon components of a clean energy age; we’ll reduce our carbon emissions and prevent the worst costs of climate change down the road. Let’s do this — invest in new American energy and make our economy stronger.
If we make high-quality preschool available to every child, not only will we give our kids a safe place to learn and grow while their parents go to work; we’ll give them the start that they need to succeed in school, and earn higher wages, and form more stable families of their own. In fact, today, I’m setting a new goal: By the end of this decade, let’s enroll 6 million children in high-quality preschool. That is an achievable goal that we know will make our workforce stronger. (Applause.)
If we redesign our high schools, we’ll graduate more kids with the real-world skills that lead directly to a good job in the new economy. If we invest more in job training and apprenticeships, we’ll help more workers fill more good jobs that are coming back to this country. If we make it easier for students to pay off their college loans, we’ll help a whole lot of young people breathe easier and feel freer to take the jobs they really want. (Applause.) So look, let’s do this — let’s keep reforming our education system to make sure young people at every level have a shot at success, just like folks at Northwestern do.
If we fix our broken immigration system, we won’t just prevent some of the challenges like the ones that we saw at the border this summer; we’ll encourage the best and brightest from around the world to study here and stay here, and create jobs here. Independent economists say that a big bipartisan reform bill that the House has now blocked for over a year would grow our economy, shrink our deficits, secure our borders. Let’s pass that bill. Let’s make America stronger. (Applause.)
If we want to make and sell the best products, we have to invest in the best ideas, like you do here at Northwestern. Your nanotechnology institute doesn’t just conduct groundbreaking research; that research has spun off 20 startups and more than 1,800 products — that means jobs. (Applause.)
Here’s another example. Over a decade ago, America led the international effort to sequence the human genome. One study found that every dollar we invested returned $140 to our economy. Now, I don’t have an MBA, but that’s sounds like a good return on investment. (Laughter and applause.)
Today, though, the world’s largest genomics center is in China. That doesn’t mean America is slipping. It does mean America isn’t investing. We can’t let other countries discover the products and businesses that will shape the next century and the century after that. So we’ve got to invest more in the kinds of basic research that led to Google and GPS, and makes our economy stronger.
If we raise the minimum wage, we won’t just put — (applause) — we won’t just put more money in workers’ pockets; they’ll spend that money at local businesses, who in turn will hire more people.
In the two years since I first asked Congress to raise the national minimum wage, 13 states and D.C. went and raised theirs. And more business owners are joining them on their own. It’s on the ballot in five states this November, including Illinois. (Applause.) And here’s the thing — recent surveys show that a majority of small business owners support a gradual increase to $10.10 an hour. A survey just last week showed that nearly two-thirds of employers thought the minimum wage should go up in their state — and more than half of them think it should be at least $10. So what’s stopping us? Let’s agree that nobody who works full-time in America should ever have to raise a family in poverty. Let’s give America a raise. It will make the economy stronger. (Applause.)
If we make sure a woman is paid equal to a man for her efforts — (applause) — that is not just giving women a boost. Gentlemen, you want your wife making that money that she has earned. (Laughter.) It gives the entire family a boost and it gives the entire economy a boost. Women now outpace men in college degrees and graduate degrees, but they often start their careers with lower pay. And that gap grows over time, and that affects their families. It’s stupid. (Laughter and applause.) Let’s inspire and support more women, especially in fields like science and technology and engineering and math. (Applause.) Let’s catch up to 2014, pass a fair pay law, make our economy stronger.
And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of the barriers that keep more moms who want to work from entering the workforce. Let’s do what Dean Blount did here at Kellogg. She’s been working with us at the White House, helping business and political leaders who recognize that flexibility in the workplace and paid maternity leave are actually good for business. And let’s offer those deals to dads, too. (Applause.) Because we want to make sure that they can participate in child-rearing. And let’s make sure work pays for parents who are raising young kids. It’s a good investment.
California adopted paid leave, which boosted work and earnings for moms with young kids. Let’s follow their lead. Let’s make our economy stronger.
Now, none of these policies I just mentioned on their own will entirely get us to where we want to be. But if we do these things systematically, the cumulative impact will be huge. Unemployment will drop a little faster, which means workers will gain a little more leverage when it comes to wages and salaries, which means consumer confidence will go up, which means families will be able to spend a little more and save a little more, which means our economy grows stronger, and growth will be shared. More people will feel this recovery, rather than just reading about it in the newspapers. That’s the truth.
And I’m going to keep making the argument for these policies, because they are right for America. They are supported by the facts. And I’m always willing to work with anyone, Democrat or Republican, to get things done. And every once in a while, we actually see a bill land on my desk from Congress. (Laughter.) And we do a bill signing and I look at the members, and I say — I tell them, look how much fun this is. Let’s do this again. Let’s do it again. (Laughter and applause.)
But if gridlock prevails, if cooperation and compromise are no longer valued, but vilified, then I’ll keep doing everything I can on my own if it will make a difference for working Americans. (Applause.)
I will keep teaming up with governors and mayors and CEOs and philanthropists who want to help. Here’s an example. There are 28 million Americans who would benefit from a minimum wage increase — 28 million. Over the past two years, because we’ve teamed up with cities and states and businesses, and went around Congress, 7 million of them have gotten a raise. So until Congress chooses to step up and help all of them, I’ll keep fighting to get an extra million here and an extra million there with a raise. We’ll keep fighting for this.
And let me just say one other thing about the economy — because oftentimes you hear this from the critics: The notion is that the agenda I’ve just outlined is somehow contrary to pro-business, capitalist, free-market values. And since we’re here at a business school, I thought it might be useful to point out that Bloomberg, for example, I think came out with an article today saying that corporate balance sheets are the strongest just about that they’ve ever been. Corporate debt is down. Profits are up. Businesses are doing good.
So this idea that somehow any of these policies — like the minimum wage or fair pay or clean energy — are somehow bad for business is simply belied by the facts. It’s not true. And if you talk to business leaders, even the ones who really don’t like to admit it because they don’t like me that much — (laughter) — they’ll admit that actually their balance sheets look really strong, and that this economy is doing better than our competitors around the world. So don’t buy this notion that somehow this is an anti-business agenda. This is a pro-business agenda. This is a pro-economic growth agenda.
Now, I am not on the ballot this fall. Michelle is pretty happy about that. (Laughter.) But make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot — every single one of them. This isn’t some official campaign speech, or political speech, and I’m not going to tell you who to vote for — although I suppose it is kind of implied. (Laughter and applause.) But what I have done is laid out my ideas to create more jobs and to grow more wages. And I’ve also tried to correct the record — because, as I said, there’s a lot of noise out there. Every item I ticked off, those are the facts. It’s not conjecture. It’s not opinion. It’s not partisan rhetoric. I laid out facts.
So I laid out what I know has happened over the six years of my presidency so far, and I’ve laid out an agenda for what I think should happen to make us grow even better, grow even faster. A true opposition party should now have the courage to lay out their agenda, hopefully also grounded in facts.
There’s a reason fewer Republicans are preaching doom on deficits — it’s because the deficits have come down at almost a record pace, and they’re now manageable. There’s a reason fewer Republicans you hear them running about Obamacare — because while good, affordable health care might seem like a fanged threat to the freedom of the American people on Fox News — (laughter) — it’s turns out it’s working pretty well in the real world. (Applause.)
Now, when push came to shove this year, and Republicans in Congress actually had to take a stand on policies that would help the middle class and working Americans — like raising the minimum wage, or enacting fair pay, or refinancing student loans, or extending insurance for the unemployed — the answer was “no.” But one thing they did vote “yes” on was another massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. In fact, just last month, at least one top Republican in Congress said that tax cuts for those at the top are — and I’m quoting here — “even more pressing now” than they were 30 years ago. More pressing. When nearly all the gains of the recovery have gone to the top 1 percent, when income inequality is at as high a rate as we’ve seen in decades, I find that a little hard to swallow that they really desperately need a tax cut right now, it’s urgent. ]
Why? (Laughter.) What are the facts? What is the empirical data that would justify that position? Kellogg Business School, you guys are all smart. You do all this analysis. You run the numbers. Has anybody here seen a credible argument that that is what our economy needs right now? Seriously. (Laughter.)
But this is the — if you watch the debate, including on some of the business newscasts — (laughter) — and folks are just pontificating about how important this is. Based on what? What’s the data? What’s the proof? If there were any credible argument that says when those at the top do well and eventually everybody else will do well, it would have borne itself out by now. We’d see data that that was true. It’s not.
American economic greatness has never trickled down from the top. It grows from a rising, thriving middle class and opportunity for working people. That’s what makes us different. (Applause.)
So I just want to be clear here — because you guys are going to be business leaders of the future, and you’re going to be making decisions based on logic and reason and facts and data. And right now you’ve got two starkly different visions for this country. And I believe, with every bone in my body, that there’s one clear choice here because it’s supported by facts.
And this is our moment to define what the next decade and beyond will look like. This is our chance to set the conditions for middle-class growth in the 21st century. The decisions we make this year, and over the next few years, will determine whether or not we set the stage for America’s greatness in this century just like we did in the last one — whether or not we restore the link between hard work and higher wages; whether or not we continue to invest in a skilled, educated citizenry; whether or not we rebuild an economy where everyone who works hard can get ahead.
And some of that depends on you. There is a reason why I came to a business school instead of a school of government. I actually believe that capitalism is the greatest force for prosperity and opportunity the world has ever known. And I believe in private enterprise — not government, but innovators and risk-takers and makers and doers — driving job creation.
But I also believe in a higher principle, which is we’re all in this together. (Applause.) That’s the spirit that made the American economy work. That’s what made the American economy not just the world’s greatest wealth creator, but the world’s greatest opportunity generator. And because you’re America’s future business leaders and civic leaders, that makes you the stewards of America’s greatest singlet asset — and that’s our people.
So as you engage in the pursuit of profits, I challenge you to do so with a sense of purpose. As you chase your own success, I challenge you to cultivate more ways to help more Americans chase their success.
It is the American people who’ve made the progress of the last six years possible. It is the American people who will make our future progress possible. It is the American people that make American business successful. And they should share in that success. It’s not just for you. It’s for us. Because it’s the American people that made the investments over the course of generations to allow you and me to be here and experience this success. That’s the story of America. America is a story of progress — sometimes halting, sometimes incomplete, sometimes harshly challenged. But the story of America is a story of progress.
And it has now been six long years since our economy nearly collapsed. Despite that shock, through the pain that so many fellow Americans felt; for all the gritty, grueling work required to come back, all the work that’s left to be done — a new foundation is laid. A new future is yet to be written. And I am as confident as ever that that future will be led by the United States of America.
Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless America.
2:06 P.M. CDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 2, 2014