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

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

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

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With President Barack Obama returning home from the NATO conference in Wales, Vice President Joe Biden took over and delivered the weekly address released on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014. In the address, Biden attempted to turn around the disappointing August…Continue
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Political Musings September 3, 2014: Obama’s Labor Day campaign to raise the minimum wage in Democrats midterm push

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

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

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WH, 7-30-14

Uptown Theater
Kansas City, Missouri

11:06 A.M. CDT

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible) to God —

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

AUDIENCE:  We love you!  We love you!

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE:  No!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
11:39 A.M. CDT

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WH, 7-12-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy, Denver, CO

Source: WH, 7-9-14

Cheesman Park
Denver, Colorado

10:27 A.M. MDT

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

AUDIENCE:  Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
10:57 A.M. MDT

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WH, 6-28-14 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks.

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy — Minneapolis, MN

Source: WH, 6-27-14 

Lake Harriet Band Shell
Minneapolis, Minnesota

10:15 A.M. CDT

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

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

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

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

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

So you guys have been great hosts, Minnesota.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you!

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
10:50 A.M. CDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 21, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Bringing our Workplace Policies into the 21st Century

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Bringing our Workplace Policies into the 21st Century

Source: WH, 6-21-14 

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President previewed Monday’s first-ever White House Summit on Working Families where he will bring together businesses leaders and workers to discuss the challenges that working parents face every day and lift up solutions that are good for these families and American businesses. Many working families can’t afford basic needs like childcare or receive simple benefits such as paid family leave that are common in most countries around the world.  When hardworking Americans are forced to choose between work and family, America lags behind in a global economy.  To stay competitive and economically successful, America needs to bring our workplace policies into the 21st century.

In addition to the address, the White House is also releasing a new report by the Council of Economic Advisers that examines economic benefits that paid family leave policies can have for workers and employers. A copy of that report, which is also embargoed until 6:00 am EDT Saturday June 21st, can be found here.

Remarks of President Barack Obama

Weekly Address

The White House

June 21, 2014

Hi, everybody.  As President, my top priority is rebuilding an economy where everybody who works hard has the chance to get ahead.

That’s what I’ll spend some time talking about on Monday, at the White House Summit on Working Families. We’re bringing together business leaders and workers to talk about the challenges that working parents face every day, and how we can address them together.

Take paid family leave. Many jobs don’t offer adequate leave to care for a new baby or an ailing parent, so workers can’t afford to be there when their family needs them the most. That’s wrong. And it puts us way behind the times. Only three countries in the world report that they don’t offer paid maternity leave. Three. And the United States is one of them. It’s time to change that. A few states have acted on their own to give workers paid family leave, but this should be available to everyone, because all Americans should be able to afford to care for a family member in need.

Childcare is another challenge. Most working families I know can’t afford thousands a year for childcare, but often that’s what it costs. That leaves parents scrambling just to make sure their kids are safe while they’re at work – forget about giving them the high-quality early childhood education that helps kids succeed in life.

Then there’s the issue of flexibility – the ability to take a few hours off for a parent-teacher conference or to work from home when your kid is sick. Most workers want it, but not enough of them have it. What’s more, it not only makes workers happier – studies show that flexibility can make workers more productive and reduce worker turnover and absenteeism. That’s good for business.

At a time when women make up about half of America’s workforce, outdated workplace policies that make it harder for mothers to work hold our entire economy back. But these aren’t just problems for women.  Men also care about who’s watching their kids.  They’re rearranging their schedules to make it to soccer games and school plays.  Lots of sons help care for aging parents.  And plenty of fathers would love to be home for their new baby’s first weeks in the world.

In fact, in a new study, nearly half of all parents – women and men – report that they’ve said no to a job, not because they didn’t want it, but because it would be too hard on their families.  When that many talented, hard-working people are forced to choose between work and family, something’s wrong.  Other countries are making it easier for people to have both.  We should too, if we want American businesses to compete and win in the global economy.

Family leave. Childcare. Flexibility. These aren’t frills – they’re basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses – they should be the bottom line.

The good news is, some businesses are embracing family-friendly policies, because they know it’s key to attracting and retaining talented employees. And I’m going to keep highlighting the businesses that do. Because I take this personally. I take it personally as the son and grandson of some strong women who worked hard to support my sister and me. As the husband of a brilliant woman who struggled to balance work and raising our young ladies when my job often kept me away. And as the father of two beautiful girls, whom I want to be there for as much as I possibly can – and whom I hope will be able to have families and careers of their own one day.

We know from our history that our economy grows best from the middle-out; that our country does better when everybody participates; when everyone’s talents are put to use; when we all have a fair shot. That’s the America I believe in. That’s the America I’ll keep fighting for every day. Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Full Text Obama Presidency June 11, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Worcester Technical High School Commencement Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Worcester Technical High School Commencement Ceremony

Source: WH, 6-11-14 

Worcester Technical High School

Worcester, Massachusetts

4:44 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Please, everybody, be seated.  Good afternoon.  (Applause.)  It is great to be back in Massachusetts, and it is great to be here at Worcester Tech.  (Applause.)

I want to thank Reggie for that outstanding introduction.  (Applause.)  I want to thank Naomi for those inspiring words.  (Applause.)  I want to thank your outstanding, fabulous principal, Sheila Harrity, who has done so much to make this school a success.  (Applause.)  Let me just say, when you’re the National High School Principal of the Year, you’re doing something right.  There are a lot of principals out there, and we could not be prouder of what she’s doing.

I want to thank your Mayor, Joseph Petty; your outstanding Governor and a great friend of mine, Deval Patrick; wonderful Congressman, Jim McGovern.  (Applause.)  And most of all, I want to thank the class of 2014.  (Applause.)  Thank you for allowing me to be part of your special day.  And you all look great.  And I want to thank all the parents and all the grandparents, and the family and the friends — this is your day, too.  Part of the reason I’m here is because I’ve got to practice, because Malia is graduating in two years.  So I’m trying to get used to not choking up and crying and embarrassing her.  So this is sort of my trial run here.

I have to say, I do not remember my high school graduation speaker.  I have no idea who it was.  (Laughter.)  I’m sure I was thinking about the party after graduation.  (Applause.)  I don’t remember the party either.  (Laughter.)  I’m just telling the truth here.  You will remember the speaker at this graduation because there’s a lot of Secret Service around, not because of anything that I say that’s so inspiring.

But I know this day has been a long time coming.  Together, you made it through freshman initiation.  You survived Mr. O’Connor’s English class, which I understand is pretty tough.  (Applause.)  Everybody has got to have, like, a Mr. O’Connor in their life just to kind of straighten you out.  And now it’s the big day — although I notice that none of you are wearing your IDs.  Rumor has it some of you haven’t been wearing them for years.  (Laughter.)  Today I’m exercising my power as President and granting an official pardon for all of you who did not follow the rules there.  Consider it my graduation gift to you.

I know a lot of folks watching at home today will see all of you in your caps and your gowns and they’ll think, well, maybe this is just another class of graduates at another American high school.  But I’m here today because there is nothing ordinary about Worcester Tech or the Class of 2014.  (Applause.)  You have set yourselves apart.  This high school has set itself apart.

Over the past four years, some of you have learned how to take apart an engine and put it back together again.  Some of you have learned how to run a restaurant, or build a house, or fix a computer.  And all of you are graduating today not just with a great education, but with the skills that will let you start your careers and skills that will make America stronger.

Together, you’re an example of what’s possible when we stop just talking about giving young people opportunity, when we don’t just give lip service to helping you compete in the global economy and we actually start doing it.  That’s what’s happening right here in Worcester.  And that’s why I’m here today.  I mean, I like all of you, and I’m glad to be with you, but the thing I really want to do is make sure that what we’ve learned here at this high school we can lift up for the entire nation.  I want the nation to learn from Worcester Tech.  (Applause.)

Of course, your journey is just beginning.  Take a look around at all the smiles from the parents and the grandparents and all the family members.  Everything your families have done has been so that you could pursue your dreams, so that you could fulfill your potential.  Everybody here has a story of some sacrifice that’s been made on your behalf.  And whether you’re heading to college, or the military, or starting your career, you’re not going to be able to take them with you now.  Some of your moms and dads probably wish they could hang onto you a little bit longer.  Some of you, maybe they’re ready to get rid of you.  (Laughter.)  Regardless, though, you are now entering into a stage where it’s up to you.  And what you can do is remember some of the lessons that you’ve learned here and carry them with you, wherever you’re going.

And I want to talk about three of those lessons, a couple of which have already been mentioned by the previous speakers.

First of all, I want you to remember that each of us is only here because somebody somewhere invested in our success.  (Applause.)  Somebody invested in us.  I know that’s true for me.  I was raised by a single mom with the help of my grandparents.  We didn’t have a lot of money growing up.  At times, we struggled.  When my mom was going to school at the same time as she was raising my sister and me, we had to scrape to get by.

But we had a family who loved me and my sister.  And I had teachers who cared about me.  And ultimately, with the help of a community and a country that supported me, I was able to get a good education.  And I was able to get grants and student loans, and opportunities opened up.  And all of this happened because people saw something in me that I didn’t always see in myself.  And that’s not just true for me, that’s true for Michelle, who grew up the daughter of a blue-collar worker and a mom who stayed at home and then became a secretary — never went to college themselves.

That’s true for Duval, who grew up initially on the South Side of Chicago and didn’t have a lot, and somebody reached out and gave him a hand up.

It’s true of this city.  This is a town that’s always been home to smart people with big ideas.  The Mayor mentioned Robert Goddard, the father of the modern rocket.  He was born here, performed some of the earliest tests on rocketry.

But Worcester has also prepared its workers for the jobs that those big ideas would bring.  And that’s why they opened a technical school here more than a century ago — with a class of 29 ironworkers and 23 woodworkers.  And that school became Worcester Tech.

Along the way, the economy changed.  Innovation made it possible for businesses to do more with less.  The Internet meant they could do it anywhere.  Schools like this were finding it harder to prepare students with the skills that businesses were looking for.

And then a guy named Ted Coghlin came along.  (Applause.)  And Ted is known as the “godfather” of Worcester Tech, because about 10 years ago he set out to make this school what he knew it could be — a place where businesses train new workers, and young people get the keys to a brighter future.

And he put his heart and soul into it.  And eventually, that’s what happened.  Ted helped raise money for a new building — and the state and federal government chipped in, as well.  And businesses helped create everything from an auto service center to a bank right inside the school.  And top-notch teachers got on board — led by Principal Harrity and the assistant principals here, and an outstanding superintendent.  And before long, Worcester Tech was on its way to becoming one of the best schools in this city.

And today, so many students want to come to Worcester Tech that there’s a waiting list more than 400 names long.  (Applause.)  The number of students scoring “proficient” or “advanced” in math has gone up 100 percent; in English more than 200 percent.  (Applause.)  Ninety-five percent of students now graduate in four years.

And just as impressive, many of you are leaving here with more than a diploma.  You’re already certified as nursing assistants and EMTs and home health aides and preparing to become IT associates.  (Applause.)  And with the credits that you’ve earned, some of you are already on your way to a college diploma.  And as Ted said, “Our students deserve the best so we can help them become the best — for their future and ours.”

The point is, a lot of people made an investment in you.  I can’t imagine a better investment.  But as you experience your success and as you experience setbacks, you need to remember everything that’s been put into making sure that you had opportunity.  Which brings me to the second thing I hope you remember when you leave here:  You’re going to also have to give back.  (Applause.)  This community invested in you.  You’ve got to make sure that you use those gifts.

When my Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, came to Worcester Tech earlier this year, he said he had never seen a school more open.  If you live near the school, you can come in and get your car detailed for a fraction of what it would cost someplace else.  So I’m giving a little free advertising to the detailing operation here.  (Laughter.)  You can eat a meal cooked by students in the culinary arts program.  (Applause.)  One teacher called the hair salon the “city’s best kept secret.”  (Applause.)  Your veterinary clinic cares for about 250 pets a month, so I could have brought Bo and Sunny here.  (Laughter.)  You guys would have taken care of them.

So Worcester Tech isn’t separate from the broader community.  You’re a vital part of the community.  So part of what you’ve learned here is that we are at our best, we are strongest when we are working together and when we’re looking out for one another and we have responsibilities towards each other, and all of us have contributions to make.  You’re giving back to folks who gave you so much.  And whatever you do next, I hope you keep giving back.  That may mean staying in Worcester and working for one of the companies that helped train you.  If it means going to college or the military, or using your skills to help more students get the same opportunities that you’ve had here, no matter what it is that you do, no matter what path you take, I want to make sure that you understand the incredible leadership that we now expect from you.

I understand that every year at exam time, you hear from a motivational speaker.  And one of them this year was Colin Powell, because when you’re getting ready to take a test it never hurts to get a pep talk from a general.  (Laughter.)  But the best part is that you decide to do the same thing for younger kids.  So this class — those of you in the National Honor Society — rolled out the red carpet for students at nearby Chandler Elementary.  And so those younger kids left here feeling fired up, inspired by your example — looking up to you, imagining that they could do what you did.  And they’re going to keep on looking up to you.

And there are going to be people across the country who are watching you.  And when they see you succeed, when they see you working hard, when they see you overcoming setbacks — that’s going to inspire them as well.

And that brings me to my final point, which is I hope you leave here today believing that if you can make it, then there shouldn’t be any kid out here who can’t make it.  (Applause.)  Every child in America, no matter what they look like, or where they grow up, what their last name is — there’s so much talent out there.  And every single child — as Ted understood when he helped transform this school — every single child should have the opportunity like you have had to go as far as your talents and hard work will take you.  I’ve seen you do it, so we know it’s possible.

Now, it’s a challenging time.  I think sometimes I worry that your generation has grown up in a cynical time — in the aftermath of a Great Recession, in the aftermath of two wars.  We live in a culture that so often focuses on conflict and controversy and looks at the glass half empty instead of half full.  And you’re graduating at a time when you’ll no longer be competing just with people across town for good jobs, you’re going to be competing with the rest of the world.

But when I meet young people like you I am absolutely certain we are not just going to out-compete the rest of the world, we are going to win because of you.  Because we are Americans, that’s what we do.  We don’t settle.  We outwork.  We out-innovate.  We out-hustle the competition.  (Applause.)   And when we do, nobody can beat us.

And that’s what you’ve shown at this school — not just helping a few kids go as far as their hard work will take them.  I want all of you to be part of the process of helping all our young people achieve their God-given potential.  And as President, my job is to make sure every child in America gets that chance.  And Deval Patrick’s job is to make sure that everybody in the Commonwealth gets that chance.  And the Mayor, his focus is making sure everybody in this town gets that chance.  Every community is different.  But if Worcester can bring teachers and business and entire communities together for the sake of our young people, then other places can, too.

And that’s why I’ve challenged high schools all across the country to do what you’re doing here — better prepare students for the demands of the global economy.  We’re getting started this year with a competition that pairs schools and employers and colleges to combine quality education with real-world skills.

As part of that initiative, I launched something called ConnectED, working with the private sector to connect America’s students to high-speed broadband and advanced technology, just like you’ve got here at Worcester Tech.  Already, companies have committed to donate $2 billion to this effort.  And starting later this week, schools and teachers and students will be able to go to WhiteHouse.gov and access resources in time for the new school year — because I want to encourage more schools to do what you’re doing.  You’ve set a standard.  You’ve set a bar.  More schools can do it across the country.  (Applause.)

If you’re going to college, I also want to make sure that when you graduate you don’t have a mountain of debt.   (Applause.)  So we’re not only working to make college more affordable, we’re working to help more students pay back their loans that they take out when they go to college.  It is not fair to students who do everything right to get saddled with debt that they have to pay off not just for years, but in some cases decades.   We can do better than that.  (Applause.)

And even though they had votes and they couldn’t make it, I want to give a plug to a couple people.  Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman John Tierney, both from Massachusetts, who introduced bills that would make it easier for students to repay their student loans.  (Applause.)

It’s the same idea we used to make it easier for your parents to pay off their mortgages.  Now today, that idea was defeated by Republicans in Congress, which was frustrating, especially —

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, don’t boo.  Just remember to vote.   (Laughter and applause.)  So I know that it’s frustrating for parents.  It’s frustrating for students who are working hard and doing everything right.  There are too many politicians in Washington who don’t have the right priorities.  We need to straighten them out.  And maybe they forgot where they came from and who invested in them along the way.  (Applause.)  And when a bill to help you pay off your college doesn’t pass, it’s a disservice not only to your generation but to our history as a nation that strives to put quality education within the reach of every American.  So we’re going to have to keep on putting pressure on Congress.

But in the meantime, where Congress won’t act, I’m going to do whatever I can on my own.  (Applause.)  So on Monday, I announced executive actions that are going to help students like you find the right options — and give millions of Americans who are already making their loan payments a chance to cap those repayments at 10 percent of their income.  Because a quality education shouldn’t be something that other kids get — it should be something that every kid gets.  And that has to be a priority for this country.  (Applause.)

I tell you all this not just because you stand to benefit from changes in laws, but because you’re going to have to be a part of helping to shape the law.  You’re going to have to shape public opinion.  You’re going to have remember everybody who invested in you.  You’re going to have to remember the experience of being part of this incredible community.  And then, when you go out into the world, whether you are a businessperson, or you are in the military, or you are an academic, or a doctor, or whatever it is that you’re doing, you’re also going to be a citizen.  You’re also going to be somebody who has a voice in how this country operates.  And you’ve got to push so that others get the same chance you did.

And making sure that every young person has the same opportunities you’ve had — it won’t be easy.  Progress takes commitment.  It takes hard work.  We have to fight through the cynicism.  It’s going to take work from parents and from teachers, and members of the community and from students, but I know we can do it — and I know it because of you.

If Melinda Blanchard can get so good at welding that a bunch of college kids ask her help building a solar-paneled house for a competition in China, I know that we can get more young people excited about learning.  (Applause.)

If Greg Carlson can help the robotics team at Worcester Tech win the world championship — (applause) — and still find time to mentor a robotics team at the middle school where he started out, then I know we can help guarantee every child in America a quality education.

If Derek Murphy can start his own web development company — (applause) — and graduate with 18 college credits, I know we can help more students earn the skills that businesses are looking for.

You’re already doing it.  You’re already blazing a trail.  You’re already leading.  You’re already giving back.  You don’t need to remember what I said today, because you’re already doing it.

And if it can happen in Worcester, it can happen anyplace.  (Applause.)  And if it does — if more communities invest in young people like you, if you give back, if we all keep fighting to put opportunity within the reach of everybody who is willing to work for it — America will be stronger, your future will be brighter.  There is no limit to what we can do together.

So congratulations, Class of 2014.  You’re going to do big things.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
5:10 P.M. EDT

 

Full Text Obama Presidency June 10, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks in Q&A with David Karp, CEO of Tumblr on Easing Student Loan Debt

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Q&A with David Karp, CEO of Tumblr

Source: WH, 6-10-14

State Dining Room

4:15 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Hi.

THE PRESIDENT:  You don’t have to be so formal.  (Laughter.)  Sheesh.  Come on, now.

MR. KARP:  This is unusual.  Thank you.  Thank you, everyone, and welcome to the White House.  Thank you for having us, Mr. President.  I’m David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, and it is my tremendous privilege to be here with President Obama today and joined by the Tumblr community.  Thank you for joining us, everyone.

Yesterday, the President signed an executive order intended to curb the pain of student debt.  Americans now hold more than a trillion dollars in student debt, one of the greatest expenses they’ll incur in their lifetime.  And the generation that’s just reaching college age is beginning to wonder if it’s even worth it.

One-third of Americans who have applied for an education loan this year also happen to use Tumblr, so last week we asked our audience if they had questions that they’d like to ask the President about the cost value and accessibility of higher education — turns out they had quite a few.  We’re not going to be able to get through all of them today, but the President has been kind enough to give us some time at his house to answer some of those questions.  (Laughter.)

So again, huge thank you for making yourself available today.  Anything you’d like to add before we start?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, this is a rental house.  (Laughter.)  I just want to be clear.  My lease runs out in about two and a half years.

Second of all, I want to thank David and the whole Tumblr community for participating in this.  We’re constantly looking for new ways to reach audiences that are relevant to the things we’re talking about.  And, obviously, young people disproportionately use Tumblr.  A lot of Tumblr users are impacted by student debt.  So for you to be able to give us this forum to speak directly to folks is wonderful, and I’m looking forward to a whole bunch of good questions.

MR. KARP:  Thank you.  Okay, so everybody is clear on how the questions work — so since we closed for questions at 5:00 p.m. yesterday, we brought together a team of influential Tumblr bloggers who helped us select some of the best questions.  There are — a few of them, anyway, are joining us in the audience in the State Dining Room here today.  Neither the White House nor the President have seen any of these questions in advance.

Should we get started?

THE PRESIDENT:  Let’s go.

MR. KARP:  All right.  So, first came in from Caitlin (ph).  I appreciate your willingness to work with legislators to attempt to retroactively diffuse the cost of some student’s loans by creating new repayment plans, but this seems to me like an attempt to put a band aid on a broken leg.  What are we doing to actually lower the cost of a college degree — excuse me — of college tuition so these loans will no longer be necessary?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s a great question.  Let me give people some context for what’s happened over the last 20, 30 years.

I graduated from college in ’83; graduated from law school in 1990.  And although I went to a private school, through a combination of grants, loans and working I had a fairly low level of debt that I was able to pay in one year without getting an incredibly well-paying job.  I was able to keep my debt burden pretty low.  Folks who were 10 years younger than me, they probably paid even less.  And if you went to a state school at the time, typically people would come out with almost no debt whatsoever.

Today, the average debt burden, even for young people who are going to a public university, is about $30,000.  And that gives you some sense of how much the cost has escalated for the average young person.

Now, you mentioned earlier some people are wondering, is this a good investment.  It absolutely is.  The difference between a college grad and somebody with a high school diploma is about $28,000 a year in income.  So it continues to be a very smart investment for you to go to college.  But we have to find ways to do two things.

One is we have to lower the costs on the front end.  And then, if you do have to supplement whatever you can pay with borrowing, we’ve got to make sure that that is a manageable debt.  And about 12 months ago, maybe 16 months ago, I convened college and university presidents around the country to start working with them on how we could lower debt — or lower tuition, rather.

The main reason that tuition has gone up so much is that state legislatures stopped subsidizing public universities as much as they used to, in part because they started spending money on things like prisons and other activities that I think are less productive.  And so schools then made up for the declining state support by jacking up their tuition rates.

What’s also happened is, is that the costs of things like health care that a university community with a lot of personnel has to shoulder, those costs have gone up faster than wages and incomes.  The combination of those things has made college tuition skyrocket faster than health care costs have.

There are ways we can bring down those costs, and we know that because there are some colleges who have done a very good job in keeping tuition low.  We also have to do a better job of informing students about how to keep their debt down — because, frankly, universities don’t always counsel young people well when they first come in; they say, don’t worry about it, you can pay for it — not realizing that you’re paying for it through borrowing that you’re going to end up having to shoulder once you graduate.

MR. KARP:  What does that help, what does that support look like?  So Chelsea sent in a very similar question from Portland.  So she asks:  “Colleges help students get into debt.  They don’t often help offer financial planning services before school, after they graduate.”

Do you guys have a plan to help students make sound financial decisions?  I mean, these are teenagers who are making decisions sometimes amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars that are going to follow them through their entire lives.  Hopefully, they have parents who can help them navigate those decisions.  But if they don’t, are they on their own?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we are already doing something we call Know What You Owe.  And the idea is to work with every college, university, community college out there so that when you come into school, ideally even before you accept admission from a school, you are given a sense of what your annual loans might be, what your financial package is going to translate into in terms of debt — assuming you go through a four-year degree on schedule, and what your monthly payments are likely to be afterwards.

And so just that one step alone — making sure that schools are obliged to counsel you on the front end when you come in, as opposed to just on the exit interview once you’ve already accumulated the debt — that in and of itself can make a big difference.

MR. KARP:  Understood.  We didn’t get first names for everybody.  So Haiku Moon asks — (laughter) —

THE PRESIDENT:  That might be the first name.  That’s a cool name.  (Laughter.)

MR. KARP:  “It wasn’t until after I graduated college that I realized what I wanted to do with my life.  Now I have a degree that has very little to do with that goal and a mountain of debt.  I can’t help but wonder if I wasn’t pressured to go to college and was better prepared to make that decision, and if I was better prepared to make that decision, that I might be in a better place to pursue my dreams today.  How can we change the public education system to better prepare and support young people making this huge decision?”  I mean, again, teenagers deciding what they want to do for the rest of their lives.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, one of the things that Haiku Moon is alluding to is that high school should be a time in which young people have greater exposure to actual careers as opposed to just classroom study.

And I went to a wonderful school in New York called P-TECH, went there for a visit.  What they’ve done is they have collapsed high school basically into a three-year program.  You can then extend for another two years and get an associate’s degree.  IBM is working with them so that if, in fact, they complete the curriculum that IBM helped to design, they know they’ve got a job at IBM on the back end.  And that’s just one example of what I’d like to see a lot more high schools do, which is give young people in high school more hands-on experience, more apprenticeships, more training.

If you are somebody who is interested in graphic design, I’d rather have you work at a company doing graphic design your senior year or junior year to see if you actually like it, to get a sense of the training you need.  You may not need a four-year degree.  You might only need a two-year degree.  You might be able to work while getting that degree.  All that can save you money.  So that can make a really big difference for high school kids.

At the same time, one of the things that we initiated several years back is something called income-based repayments.  And that’s something I really want to focus on, IBR for short — income-based repayments.  What we did in 2011 was to say all student loans going forward, if you have a debt and you decide you want to go into a job that — like teaching or social work, that doesn’t necessarily pay a lot, you shouldn’t be hampered from making that choice just because you’ve got such a significant debt load.  So what we said was that we will cap your repayments of your loans at 10 percent of your income above $18,000.  And by doing that, that gives people flexibility.  It doesn’t eliminate your debt.  But what it does is it makes it manageable each month so that the career that you choose may not be constrained, and we then have additional programs so that if you go into one of the helping professions — public service, law enforcement, social work, teaching — then over time that debt could actually be forgiven.

Now, the problem with it was that we passed this law in 2011; it only applied going forward.  It didn’t apply retroactively.  So yesterday what I did was sign an executive action saying that the Department of Education is going to be developing rules so that going backwards anybody can avail themselves of this income-based repayments, because I get a lot of letters from people who took out loans in 2005 or 2000 — they are also in a situation where they’re making regular payments but it’s very hard for them to make ends meet.  And we want to ideally finish what’s called the rulemaking process — nothing is easy around here — hopefully by the time — say, the end of next year, the rules will be in place, that will be the law, and then everybody and not just folks who borrowed after 2011 can take advantage of that.

But there’s not a lot of knowledge of this, and I hope that the Tumblr community helps to spread the word that this is something already available for loans that you took out after 2011 and hopefully by next year it will be available for people even if you took out your loans before 2011.

MR. KARP:  Where do we find information about it?

THE PRESIDENT:  You should go to whitehouse.gov, the White House website.  It will then link you to ED.gov, which is the Education Department website.  But whitehouse.gov I figure is easier to remember.  (Laughter.)

MR. KARP:  Can you elaborate real quick on encouraging public service?  So Josh from Oak Park sent in a really good question about this:  “The U.S. has a long history of encouraging college-age men and women to give back to their larger communities through organizations like the Peace Corps, through organizations like Teach for America.  Couldn’t we make a larger commitment to that by creating tuition loan forgiveness programs for those students who agree to work in those fields or work in those geographic areas in need of skilled employees?”  So you can imagine family practice doctors, you can imagine public defenders.

THE PRESIDENT:  I mean, right now we have some programs like this in place but they’re typically relatively small, relatively specialized.  So there are some loan-forgiveness programs for primary care physicians who are going out to rural communities or inner cities or underserved communities.  There are some programs that are available through the AmeriCorps program for people who are engaged in public service.  They are not as broad-based and widespread as I would like.  And we have tried to work with Congress — so far, unsuccessfully — to be able to get an expansion of these areas.

And let’s take health care as an example.  We know that the population is aging.  We know that we have a severe shortage of primary care physicians.  A lot of young doctors are going into specialized fields like dermatology or plastic surgery because you can make a relatively large profit, you don’t end up having a lot of liability, and that’s not really what we need more of.

And so my hope is, is that over time Congress recognizes that young people are our most precious asset.  There are some areas that we know we need people to get into the field, our best and brightest, and right now the financial burdens are precluding them from doing it.  And we could open up those fields to a huge influx of talent if we were a little smarter with it.

MR. KARP:  So you’ve touched on health care in public service and health care in general.  You talk a lot about STEM fields.  So how do we promote — this is one Orta (sp) asked:  “How can we promote growth in STEM fields without putting humanities on the back burner?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I want to say I was a humanities major.  (Laughter.)  I majored in political science and I minored in English.  And I was pretty good in math, but in high school — I actually loved math and science until I got into high school, and then I misspent those years.  (Laughter.)  And the thing about the humanities was you could kind of talk your way through classes, which you couldn’t do in math and science.  (Laughter.)

So a great liberal arts humanities education is still critically important, because in today’s global economy, one of the most important skills you have is your ability to work with people and communicate clearly and effectively.  Having said that, what is also true is that technology is going to continue to drive innovation.  And just to be a good citizen, you need some background in STEM, and we are not producing enough engineers, enough computer scientists, enough math teachers and science teachers, and enough researchers.

And so I’m putting a big emphasis on STEM in part because we have a shortage; not because I’m privileging one over the other, but because we don’t have as many people going into the STEM fields.  And it starts early.

Part of what we’re trying to do is work with public schools to take away some of the intimidation factor in math and science.  Part of what we’re trying to do is make sure that we are reaching to demographics that are very underrepresented — and, yes, I mean you, women.  Girls are still more likely to be discouraged from pursuing math, science, technology degrees.  You see that imbalance in Silicon Valley, you see it in a lot of high-tech firms.

And so we’re trying to lift up curriculums that are interesting for kids, work with schools in terms of best practices.  One of the things that we’re also discovering is that young people who have an interest in math and science, when they go to college, oftentimes they’re steered into finance because that’s been perceived as the more lucrative option.  And we’re trying to work with universities and departments of engineering, for example, to help mentor young people to understand that — if you look at the top 100 companies in the country, you’ve got a lot more engineers running companies than you do folks who have a finance background.

And so there are great opportunities.  And one of the things that every young person should be thinking about is, A, what’s their passion, what do they care about, but they should also be taking a look at where is there a demand.  And frankly, if you’ve got a science or engineering background, the likelihood of you being unemployed is very low, because there’s always going to be a need — and it doesn’t preclude you from writing a haiku at some point and figuring out some creative outlet.  But having that discipline and that skillset is still going to be invaluable.

MR. KARP:  Well, you just described it as really hard to navigate — again, a teenager making the decision between passion or an industry that’s going to have demand for them.  So great question:  “At this point, I’m stuck between majors.  I know the field I have a passion for has a limited number of jobs, all of which pay very little.  Assuming I get the job, the low income will make it difficult to pay the substantial debt I’ll most likely be in from that education.  There are other fields I know I could succeed in and receive the higher salary, but I’m afraid that one day I’ll realize I hate what I do.”

Question was, how did you decide on your career, and what advice do you have for somebody who is coming up trying to navigate that marketplace with demand or their passions?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well —

MR. KARP:  By the way, one vote for keeping kids out of finance.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Or the law, by the way, because — (laughter) — we have enough lawyers.  Although it’s a fine profession.  (Laughter.)  I can say that because I’m a lawyer.

I think everybody is different.  But I do think that, first of all, when I first got out of school I worked for a year in a job that I wasn’t interested in because I wanted to pay off my loans.

Now, I had the luxury, as I said, that my loan burden was only — was small enough that I could pay it off in a year.  But work is not always fun, and you can’t always follow your bliss right away.  And so I think that young people should be practical.  I know a lot of young people who work for five years in a field that they may not be interested, but it gives them the financial stability and the base from which then to do what they want.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The main advice I would give young people starting off, though, is ultimately you are going to do best at something you care deeply about.  And some people have probably heard this said before, but if you really enjoy what you do, then the line between work and play starts vanishing a little bit.  You still have to grind it out, but you can get into that mindset where the creativity or the effort and the sweat that you’re putting into what you do doesn’t feel like a burden, it feels like an expression of what you care about.

And so I think your career is not going to be a straight line all the time.  I think there may be times where you got to take a detour and you got to do something practical to pay the bills.  There are going to be times where you see an opportunity, and you’re making a calculated risk that I’m going to start some wacky company called Tumblr.  (Laughter.)

And how you balance the practical with your highest aspirations is something that will be different for each person.  Everybody is going to have different circumstances.

MR. KARP:  What do you say to kids right now who ask you — they see their passion, they want to build big stuff for the Internet.  They want to build the next big app or the next big social network.  What do you tell them, when they say, hey, look, David, Zuckerberg, Jobs, Gates, all these guys —

THE PRESIDENT:  Just dropped out of school.

MR. KARP:  — might not necessarily deserve to get a company up, but dropped out of school?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  I mean you wouldn’t know it looking at you, but you’re like LeBron or Durant.  (Laughter.)  I mean, you guys don’t have the same physiques — (laughter) — but there are only going to be so many Zuckerbergs or Gates who are able to short-circuit the traditional path.

If you can, more power to you.  But let me put it this way: Had you not — let’s say Tumblr had been a bust, right?  Or Facebook had just ended up being some dating site that nobody was really interested in.

MR. KARP:  We’d be in a hard place.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, but the truth is also you had the foundation where you could go back to school, right?  I mean, it wasn’t as if you were suddenly operating without a net.  I’m assuming that you would have been readmitted to whatever institution you were in.  And if not, then you would go to another school and you’d do fine.

So the issue is not whether you may not want to take a risk at some point.  The point is that for the average young person an investment in college is always going to be a smart investment.  Making sure you know what it is that you’re investing in is important.

One of the biggest areas where we see a problem is young people who are going, let’s say, to technical schools or community colleges or some of these for-profit universities, they’re promised a lot.  But they haven’t done the research to see, okay, does typically a graduate coming out of one of these schools get a job in the occupation?  Are they actually making money?  If you’re going to have $50,000 worth of debt, you better have factored in what are the employment prospects coming out.

And so I think it’s good for young people — not only good, it’s imperative for young people to be good consumers of education, and don’t just assume that there’s one way of doing things.

We tell our daughters — Malia is now — she’ll be 16 next month, and she’s going to be in the college process.  And we tell her, don’t assume that there are 10 schools that you have to go to, and if you didn’t go to those 10, that somehow things are going to be terrible.  There are a lot of schools out there.  There are a lot of options.  And you should do your research before you decide to exercise one of those options.

Having said that, the overwhelming evidence is that a college education is the surest, clearest path into the middle class for most Americans.

MR. KARP:  Is the White House right now offering any of those tools to be a good a consumer, to navigate all the choices out there?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, yes.  So if you go to whitehouse.gov, which will link you to the Department of Education, one of the things that we’re doing is to — we’re starting to develop a scorecard for colleges and universities so you have just a general sense of what’s the typical graduation rate, what’s the typical debt that you carry once you get out, what is the employment rate for graduates five years afterwards.  And over time, one of the things that we’re trying to do is develop a ranking system that is not exactly the same as the typical college-ranking systems that you see in U.S. News and World Report, for example.

Part of the problem with the traditional ranking systems of schools is that, for example, high cost is actually a bonus in the ranking system.  It indicates prestige, and so there may be some great schools that are expensive, but what you’re missing is a great school that may give you much better value, particularly in the field that you’re in.

Now, there’s some controversy, I want to confess, about — that a lot of colleges and universities say, you know, if you start ranking just based on cost and employability, et cetera, you’re missing the essence of higher education and so forth.  What we’re really trying to do is just identify here are some good bargains, here are some really bad deals.  Then there’s going to be a bunch of schools in the middle that there’s not going to be a huge amount of differentiation.  But what we are trying to do is make sure that students have enough information going into it that they don’t end up in a school that is pretty notorious for piling a lot of debt on their students but not really delivering a great education.

MR. KARP:  Back to the debt, which is top of mind for everybody here today — so Megan (ph) from Tulsa asked an interesting question:  “Of my $220,000 in student loans —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yikes.

MR. KARP:  — from college and law school” — there you go — “less than half is receiving the benefit of loan forgiveness.”  Why is there no discussion on the mounting private student loan debt?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there is a discussion.  The problem is we just end up having less leverage over that.  I mean, the truth is, is that both legislatively and administratively we have some impact on federal loans.  Private loans — if you take — if you go to a private company and you’re taking out a loan, we have the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau that is trying to regulate this area and make sure that you have full information about what you’re getting yourself into.  It’s another version of Know Before You Owe.  But it’s harder for us to restructure some of that debt.

Now, one thing that I think is really important for everybody to know here — because this is actual action you can take, as opposed to just listening to me blather on.  This week, there will be a vote in the United States Senate on a bill sponsored by Elizabeth Warren, the Senator from Massachusetts.  And what this bill would do would allow students to refinance their existing loans at today’s rates.  The reason that’s important is because rates have been low, and typically there’s going to be a pretty big spread between the rates that a lot of students — the interest rates that a lot of students have on their debt right now, versus what they could do if they refinanced, the same way that a lot of people refinance their mortgages to take advantage of historically low rates.

And so this vote is coming up.  It will come up this week.  I think everybody on Tumblr should be contacting their senators and finding out where they stand on the issue, because — and, by the way, this is something that will not add to the deficit, because the way we pay for it is we say that we’re going to eliminate some loopholes right now that allow millionaires and billionaires to pay lower rates of taxes than secretaries and teachers.  And so it would pay for itself.  It’s a good piece of legislation.  It directly affects folks in their 20s and 30s, and in some cases, their 40s and 50s and 60s.  But particularly the young people who use Tumblr, this is something that you should pay a lot of attention to.  Make sure that you are pushing your senators around this issue.

MR. KARP:  Particularly important if you know you’re facing that debt already or you are already today facing that debt.  What’s the best way, though, for people who are — again, they’re thinking about higher education, they’re in school today, and a thoughtful question.  What is the best way for students to have a voice in their own education?  So much education today, I think really — I don’t know, I mean, so many teenagers who feel like education is happening to them.  They’re going through the motions.  They know that this is what they’re supposed to do, and so they follow along.  How do we make sure kids are driving?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, at some point it’s going to be up to the young person to drive that education.  It’s not inevitable that you just fasten your seatbelt and just go on a ride for four years or two years or whatever it is.  I mean, I have to say that in my own college experience, I think the first two years I was there thinking I’m just happy to be here and I’m having fun and I’ll just sort of go through the motions.  My last two years was when I really became much more serious about what I was doing and much more intentional about what I was doing.

Too many young people see — and I’m grossly generalizing now, so excuse me — but I use myself as an example as well.  I think too many of us see college as a box to check or a place to have fun and extend adolescence, as opposed to a opportunity for each of us to figure out what is it that we’re good at, what is it that we care about, what is it that we’re willing to invest a lot of time and effort and energy into, how do we hone some skills or interests or attributes that we already have.  And as a consequence, I think young people waste a lot of time in school.

Now, again, I’m generalizing, because there are a whole bunch of folks who are working while going to school, while helping out their parents — in some cases, they’re already parents themselves.  And so everything I just said does not apply to you.  It’s interesting — one of the reasons I think I did well in law school was because I had worked for three and a half years so that by the time I got to law school I actually knew why I was studying the law, and I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of it — not to mention the fact that the idea of just going to class for three hours a day and then reading didn’t seem particularly oppressive to me, whereas young people who had come straight out of college thought, this is horrible.  Try working for a while and then you realize that this is a pretty good deal.  (Laughter.)

But I think that part of what we as adults have to do goes back to what I said about high schools.  Education is not a passive thing.  You don’t tip your head and somebody pours it into your ear.  It is an active process of you figuring out the world and your place in it.  And the earlier we can help young people — not lock them in.  Look, nobody expects that somebody who is 16 automatically knows exactly what they want to do, and people may change their minds repeatedly.  But what we can do is expose young people to enough actual work and occupations that they start getting a feel for what they would be interested in.  And I really want to work with more school districts, and I’ve asked the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to work with more school districts, and we’re actually giving grants to school districts that are thinking creatively about how high school can be used more effectively.

I don’t want a young person who knows that they want to go into the trades to just waste four years of high school and then they’ve got to go through two years of apprenticeship and classwork before they become a contractor.  I’d rather have them doing contracting while also getting some other educational exposure so that they’re getting a jump on the things that they want to do.  And they can save a lot of money in the process.

MR. KARP:  So Beth asked a question close to that point.  Instead of pushing all students into college, shouldn’t we focus on the other side — increasing the minimum wage and making it viable, livable to enter the workforce straight out of high school?  Should we be doing both?

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  Well, here is what I would say:  There are very few jobs now where you’re not going to need some advanced training.  One of the great things about being President is I get to visit companies and worksites and factories.  And if you go into the average auto company today, for example, first of all, it’s not at all what you’d imagine — it is spotless and it is quiet, and it is humming, because it is all mechanized and computerized at this point.  And even if you have a four-football-field-sized assembly line, most of the people there are working with machines and they’re working on computer keyboards.

So having some basic training in math, some familiarity with computers, some familiarity with programming and code — all that is a huge advantage if you are trying to get a job on an assembly line.  Now, if that’s true for assembly line work, that’s certainly going to be true for any other trade that you’re interested in.

We do have to do a better job of giving young people who are interested an effective vocational education.  And there are tons of opportunities out there for people — here’s an interesting statistic:  The average trade person in Wisconsin — and what I mean by that is an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter, a machine tool worker — the average age in Wisconsin is 59 years old.  Now, these jobs typically pay 25, 30 bucks an hour, potentially, with benefits.  You can make a really good living doing that, and there are a lot of folks who love doing it.  It’s really interesting work and highly skilled work.

So I don’t want somebody to find out about that when they’re 30, after they’ve already taken a bunch of classes and stuff that they ended up not using; now they’ve got a bunch of debt.  I’d rather, if they got that inclination, to figure that early and be able to go straight into something that helps them get that job.

MR. KARP:  So one question we heard a lot from our community that I wanted to make sure to mention today:  Recently — I think you’ve been following — the Department of Ed’s Office of Civil Rights and DOJ have extended Title IX protections to trans students.  What do you see as the next steps to ensure equal treatment of trans people in schools in America?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Title IX is a powerful tool.  It’s interesting — yesterday I had the University of Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball teams here.  This is only the second time that the men’s and women’s basketball teams won the national championship in the same year.  The previous year was 2004, and it was UConn again.

But what was interesting about it is that the men were kind of a surprise.  It was nice.  The women were dominant.  I mean, the UConn Husky women’s program, they rule.  And they are incredible athletes.  And talking to these young women, they’re poised and they’re beautiful, and some of them are 6’6” and they’re wearing high heels, and supremely confident and competitive.  And that’s a huge shift from even 20 years ago or 30 years ago.  The reason for that was Title IX was applied vigorously in schools, and it gave opportunities — it’s not like women suddenly became athletes.  They were athletic before.  Michelle, when I work out with her, she puts me to shame.  (Laughter.)  But it had more to do with restrictions and opportunity.

So the point I’m making is, is that Title IX is a very powerful tool.  The fact that we are applying it to transgender students means that they are going to be in a position to assert their rights if and when they see that they are being discriminated on their college campuses.  And that could manifest itself in a whole variety of ways.

MR. KARP:  Brilliant.  This one was sent in a few days ago:  “Mr. President, my name is Nick Dineen, and I attend school at the University of California-Santa Barbara.  I was the RA for the floor that George Chen lived on last year as a first-year college student.  I knew him.  Elliot Rodger killed him and five more of my fellow students.  Today, another man has shot and killed at least one person and injured three others at a private Christian school in Seattle.  What are you going to do?  What can we all do?”  And of course, another mass shooting this morning.

THE PRESIDENT:  I have to say that people often ask me how has it been being President, and what am I proudest of and what are my biggest disappointments.  And I’ve got two and a half years left.  My biggest frustration so far is the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do just unbelievable damage.

We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens.  And it happens now once a week.  And it’s a one-day story.  There’s no place else like this.  A couple of decades ago, Australia had a mass shooting similar to Columbine or Newtown.  And Australia just said, well, that’s it — we’re not seeing that again.  And basically imposed very severe, tough gun laws.  And they haven’t had a mass shooting since.

Our levels of gun violence are off the charts.  There’s no advanced, developed country on Earth that would put up with this.  Now, we have a different tradition.  We have a Second Amendment.  We have historically respected gun rights.  I respect gun rights.  But the idea that, for example, we couldn’t even get a background check bill in to make sure that if you’re going to buy a weapon you have to actually go through a fairly rigorous process so that we know who you are, so you can’t just walk up to a store and buy a semiautomatic weapon — it makes no sense.

And I don’t know if anybody saw the brief press conference from the father of the young man who had been killed at Santa Barbara.  And as a father myself, I just could not understand the pain he must be going through and just the primal scream that he gave out — why aren’t we doing something about this?

And I will tell you, I have been in Washington for a while now and most things don’t surprise me.  The fact that 20 six-year-olds were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible and this town couldn’t do anything about it was stunning to me.  And so the question then becomes what can we do about it.  The only thing that is going to change is public opinion.  If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change.  I’ve initiated over 20 executive actions to try to tighten up some of the rules in the laws, but the bottom line is, is that we don’t have enough tools right now to really make as big of a dent as we need to.

And most members of Congress — and I have to say, to some degree, this is bipartisan — are terrified of the NRA.  The combination of the NRA and gun manufacturers are very well financed and have the capacity to move votes in local elections and congressional elections.  And so if you’re running for office right now, that’s where you feel the heat.  And people on the other side may be generally favorable towards things like background checks and other commonsense rules but they’re not as motivated.  So that’s not — that doesn’t end up being the issue that a lot of you vote on.

And until that changes, until there is a fundamental shift in public opinion in which people say, enough, this is not acceptable, this is not normal, this isn’t sort of the price we should be paying for our freedom, that we can have respect for the Second Amendment and responsible gun owners and sportsmen and hunters can have the ability to possess weapons but that we are going to put some commonsense rules in place that make a dent, at least, in what’s happening — until that is not just the majority of you — because that’s already the majority of you, even the majority of gun owners believe that.  But until that’s a view that people feel passionately about and are willing to go after folks who don’t vote reflecting those values, until that happens, sadly, not that much is going to change.

The last thing I’ll say:  A lot of people will say that, well, this is a mental health problem, it’s not a gun problem.  The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people.  (Laughter.)  It’s not the only country that has psychosis.  And yet, we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than anyplace else.  Well, what’s the difference?  The difference is, is that these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses and that’s sort of par for the course.

So the country has to do some soul searching about this.  This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me.  And I am prepared to work with anybody, including responsible sportsmen and gun owners, to craft some solutions.  But right now, it’s not even possible to get even the mildest restrictions through Congress, and we should be ashamed of that.

MR. KARP:  Thank you for taking the time to answer that one.  Obviously an incredibly difficult and disappointing conversation to have.

It looks like we have time for one more question, so let’s switch over to a lighter one.  There are plenty of young people out there today who are watching your career incredibly closely.  They’re thinking about their futures, their careers, their educations that they’re going off to pursue.  Astonishment asked, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I haven’t projected out 10 years.  I’m really focused on making sure that I make every day in the next two and a half years count, because it’s an incredible privilege to be in this office.  And even when I’m frustrated with Congress or I’m frustrated with the press and how it’s reporting things and Washington generally, I also know that there’s something I can do every single day that’s helping somebody and that sometimes without a lot of fanfare we’re making it easier for a business to get a loan, and we’re making it easier for a young person to get an education, and we’re making it easier for a family to get health care, and making sure that each day I come away with something that we’ve done to make it a little easier for folks to work their way into the middle class, to stay in the middle class, to save for retirement, to finance their kids’ college educations — that’s a good day for me.

I know what I’ll do right after the next President is inaugurated.  I’ll be on a beach somewhere drinking out of a coconut.  (Laughter.)  But that probably won’t last too long.

And one of the things that Michelle and I have talked about a lot is we’re really interested in developing young people and working with them and creating more institutions to promote young leadership.  I’m so impressed when I meet young people around the country.  They’re full of passion.  They’re full of ideas.  I think they’re much wiser and smarter than I was, part of it maybe is because of Tumblr — I don’t know.  (Laughter.)

And so there’s just huge potential.  And the challenge is they’re also fed a lot of cynicism.  You guys are fed a lot of cynicism every single day about how nothing works and big institutions stink and government is broken.  And so you channel a lot of your passion and energy into various private endeavors.

But this country has always been built both through an individual initiative, but also a sense of some common purpose.  And if there’s one message I want to deliver to young people like a Tumblr audience is, don’t get cynical.  Guard against cynicism.  I mean, the truth of the matter is that for all the challenges we face, all the problems that we have, if you had to be — if you had to choose any moment to be born in human history, not knowing what your position was going to be, who you were going to be, you’d choose this time.  The world is less violent than it has ever been.  It is healthier than it has ever been.  It is more tolerant than it has ever been.  It is better fed then it’s ever been.  It is more educated than it’s ever been.

Terrible things happen around the world every single day, but the trend lines of progress are unmistakable.  And the reason is, is because each successive generation tries to learn from previous mistakes and pushes the course of history in a better direction.  And the only thing that stops that is if people start thinking that they don’t make a difference and they can’t make changes.  And that’s fed in our culture all the time.

It’s fascinating to me — I don’t consume a lot of television, but generally, the culture right now is inherently in a cynical mood in part because we went through a big trauma back in 2007, 2008 with the financial crisis, and we went through a decade of wars that were really tough.  And that’s the era in which you were born.

But look out on the horizon, and there’s a lot of opportunity out there.  And that’s what I’d like to do after the presidency, is make sure that I help young people guard against cynicism and do the remarkable things they can do.

MR. KARP:  Beautiful.  Mr. President, thank you so much for taking time to answer our questions today, really.

THE PRESIDENT:  We had a great time.

MR. KARP:  Thank you.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Appreciate it.  It was great.  Thank you.

MR. KARP:  Was that okay?  I’ve never talked to a President before.

THE PRESIDENT:  He’s a natural.  He could have gone into journalism.

MR. KARP:  I’ve never talked to a President before.  Thank you so much.  Hey, real quick, guys, before we go, I would really like to thank the President for having us over to his rental property today.  (Laughter.)  It really does mean a lot to our community to know that America’s leader is listening to us.  I hope we’ve all come away with a clear picture as to the issues that we’re facing.  Please make sure to follow WhiteHouse.tumblr.com.  And lastly, please wish — excuse me — Sasha a happy 13th birthday from us.

THE PRESIDENT:  It is Sasha’s birthday today.  (Applause.)

MR. KARP:  Now that’s she’s 13, guys — (applause) — now that she’s 13, according to our terms of service, she’s officially old enough to use Tumblr.  (Laughter.)  Let us know.

THE PRESIDENT:  So she wasn’t before then?  (Laughter.)

MR. KARP:  She wasn’t.  Sorry.  We can let this one slide.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to have to talk to somebody about that.  (Laughter.)

Thank you, guys.  Had a great time.  (Applause.)

END
5:10 P.M. EDT

Political Musings May 5, 2014: Obama’s year of action weekly address attacks GOP for unemployment extension

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Obama’s year of action weekly address attacks GOP for unemployment extension

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Full Text Obama Presidency March 7, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Education, College Opportunity and Federal Student Aid

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

A World-Class Education for Every Student in America

Source: WH, 3-7-14
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talks with students in a classroom at Coral Reef Senior High School, Florida, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talks with students in a classroom at Coral Reef Senior High School, Fla., March 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Remarks by the President on Preparing for College

Source: WH, 3-7-14

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks on College Opportunity
March 07, 2014 5:36 PM

President Obama Speaks on College Opportunity

Coral Reef Senior High School
Miami, Florida

3:05 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Miami!  (Applause.)  Hello, Cuda Nation!  (Applause.)  Hello!  It is good to be here at Coral Reef Senior High.  (Applause.)  You guys are just happy because it’s warm down here all the time.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the rest of the country is cold.  (Laughter.)  Listen, Michelle and I are so grateful for the warm welcome.  It is great to be here.  I want to thank some people who are doing outstanding work.

First of all, your superintendent, Superintendent Carvalho, is doing great work.  We’re really proud of him.  (Applause.)  Your principal, Principal Leal, is doing great work.  (Applause.)  All the Coral Reef teachers and staff, you guys are all doing a great job.  (Applause.)  And you’re doing what is necessary to help young people get ready for college and careers.  So that’s why we’re here.  We are proud of what’s being done at this school.

I want to mention a few other folks who are here who are fighting on behalf of the people of South Florida every day.  We’ve got Congressman Joe Garcia is here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Congresswoman Frederica Wilson here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.  Your former Governor Charlie Crist is here.  (Applause.)

And most of all, I want to thank the people that Michelle and I came all the down here to see, and that is the students of Coral Reef.  (Applause.)  We had heard great things about your school.  We had heard great things about the students.  We wanted to come down here and just see what was going on.  (Applause.)  And Michelle and I just had a chance to visit with some of your classmates who are going through some of the scholarship applications, and we had a chance to talk to them and hear what their plans were.  And first of all, Michelle and I looked and we said, these must be actors playing students, because they were all smart and good-looking and organized.  (Laughter.)  And I asked them, what are you going to do?  And they’re — well, I’m going to be applying to business school, and then I’m going to start a company, and then I — when I was your age, I didn’t know what I was doing.  I was lucky if I had gotten out of bed on time.  (Laughter.)  So you guys are ahead of the game.

And we’re here to tell you that you’ve got to keep up the good work, because by working hard every single day, every single night, you are making the best investment there is in your future.  And we want to make sure you’ve got everything, all the tools you need to succeed.  We want every young person to have the kinds of teachers and the kind of classes and the kind of learning experiences that are available to you here at Coral Reef.  (Applause.)  Because that’s the best investment we can make in America’s future.  (Applause.)

Now, keep in mind, Michelle and I, we’re only here today because of the kind of education that we got.  That was our ticket to success.  We grew up a lot like many of you.  I was raised by a single mom; she was a teenager when I was born.  We moved around a lot, we did not have a lot of money, but the one thing she was determined to see was that my sister and I would get the best education possible.

And she would press me.  Sometimes she’d make me wake up, do my lessons before I even went to school.  She was not going to let me off the hook.  And at the time, I wasn’t happy about it, but now I’m glad she pressed me like that.  Because, thanks to my mother and my grandparents, and then great teachers and great counselors who encouraged me, and a country that made it possible for me to afford a higher education, I was able to go to college and law school.

And then when I met Michelle, I saw that — (applause) –there were a couple of things I noticed.  I noticed she was smart.  (Applause.)  I noticed she was funny — she’s funny, she’s funnier than I am.  (Laughter.)  Obviously, I noticed she was cute, yes.  (Applause.)  But one of the things I also realized was, even though we had grown up in very different places, her story was a lot like mine.  Her dad worked at a city water plant.  He didn’t go to college.  He was a blue-collar worker.  Michelle’s mom — my mother-in-law, who I love to death — she was a secretary.  No one in her family had gone to college.  But because she had worked hard and her parents understood the value of education, and she had great teachers and great opportunities, and because the country was willing to invest to make sure that she was able to pay for college, she ended up going to some of the best universities in the country.  (Applause.)

So the point is she and I have been able to achieve things that our parents, our grandparents would have never dreamed of.  And that’s the chance this country should give every young person.  That’s the idea at the heart of America.  (Applause.)

What makes this country great, what makes it special when you look around, and Miami is a great example of it, you’ve got people coming from everywhere, every background, every race, every faith.  But what binds us together is this idea that if you work hard, you can make it — that there’s opportunity for all.  The belief that no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter what your last name is, if you are responsible and put in the effort, you can succeed.  There’s no limit to what you can do.  That’s what America is all about.  (Applause.)

Opportunity is what drew many of your parents and grandparents to America.  And we’ve got to restore that idea for your generation, so that everybody has the same chance Michelle and I did.  That’s why we’re working on what we call an opportunity agenda to create more jobs and train more workers with new skills; to make sure hard work is rewarded with a paycheck that supports a family; to make sure that everybody can get health care when they need it, so that nobody has to get into financial trouble because somebody in the family gets sick.  (Applause.)

And for the students here, a lot of you, you may not think about these issues all the time.  You’re spending a lot of time on homework and sports, and this and that.  But you also oftentimes see your own family struggling and you worry about it.  And one of the single-most important parts of our opportunity agenda is making sure that every young person in America has access to a world-class education — a world-class education.  (Applause.)  So that’s why we are here.

I believe we should start teaching our kids at the earliest ages.  So we’re trying to help more states make high-quality preschool and other early learning programs available to the youngest kids.  (Applause.)  I believe that our K-12 system should be the best in the world.  So we started a competition called Race to the Top, to encourage more states like Florida to raise expectations for students like you, because when we set high expectations, every single one of you can meet them.  (Applause.)  You’re recruiting and preparing the best teachers.  You are turning around low-performing schools.  You’re expanding high-performing ones.  You’re making sure every student is prepared for college or a career.

I believe that every student should have the best technology.  So we launched something we called ConnectED to connect our schools to high-speed Internet.  And I want to congratulate Miami-Dade and your superintendent, because you have achieved your goal of installing wi-fi in every single one of your schools.  (Applause.)

So the good news is, in part because of some of these reforms we’ve initiated, when you add it all up our nation’s high school graduation rate is the highest on record.  The drop-out rate has been dropping, and among Latino students has been cut in half since 2000.  (Applause.)  Miami-Dade’s graduation rate is higher than it’s ever been.  That’s all because of the efforts of so many people, including the parents and students who have been putting in the effort.  It’s because of the teachers and administrators and staff who are doing such a great job.  You should be proud.  We’re making progress — we’re making progress.  (Applause.)

Yes, you guys — by the way, you can all sit down.  I didn’t realize everybody was still standing up.  Sit down.  Take a load off.  You guys can’t sit down though, because you don’t have chairs, although bend your knees so you don’t faint.  (Laughter.)

But here’s the key thing, Coral Reef:  We still have more work to do, all of us — elected officials, principals, teachers, parents, students.  Because, as Michelle says, education is a two-way street.  Folks like us have to work hard to give you the best schools and support that you need.  But then, you’ve got to hold up your end of the bargain by committing to your education.  That means you’ve got to stretch your minds.  You’ve got to push through subjects that aren’t always easy.  And it means continuing your education past high school, whether that’s a two-year or a four-year college degree or getting some professional training.

So I want to talk about an easy step that high school students like you can take to make college a reality.  And it’s something you already know here at Coral Reef, but I’m speaking to all the young people out there who may be watching.  It’s called FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

It is a simple form.  It used to be complicated; we made it simple.  It doesn’t cost anything — that’s why the word “free” is right there in the name.  (Laughter.)  It does not take a long time to fill out.  Once you do, you’re putting yourself in the running for all kinds of financial support for college — scholarships, grants, loans, work-study jobs.

For the past five years, we’ve been working to make college more affordable.  We took on a college loan system that gave billions of dollars of taxpayer money to big banks to manage the student loan system.  We said, we don’t need the banks, let’s give the money directly to students, we can help more students.  (Applause.)  We can help more students that way.  So we expanded the grants that help millions of students from low-income backgrounds pay for college.  We’re offering millions of people the chance to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their incomes once they graduate.

Today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before.  That’s a great thing.  (Applause.)  That is a great thing.  But we still need to do more to help rein in the rising cost of tuition.  We need to do more to help Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt — because no striving, hardworking, ambitious, young American should ever be denied a college education just because they can’t afford it — nobody.  (Applause.)

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of young people all across the country who say the cost of college is holding them back.  Some of you may have sat around the kitchen table with your parents wondering about whether you’ll be able to afford it.  So FAFSA is by far the easiest way to answer that question.  And I know the Barracudas know all about FAFSA.  (Applause.)  Last year, you had the second-highest completion rate of any large high school in the state.  (Applause.)  You should be proud of that.  Your teachers and parents should be proud of that.

But last year, almost half of high school graduates in Florida didn’t fill out the FAFSA form.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  That ain’t right.  (Laughter.)  Not only is it not right, but it also ain’t right.  (Laughter.)  And as a result, they lost out on over $100 million in Pell grants.  Think about that — $100 million that could have helped Florida students help pay for college was just left on the table.  That’s just in Florida.  Nationwide, over one million high school students did not fill out the FAFSA form.  That happens every year.

So my challenge today to every high school student in America:  Fill out the form.  Even if you think you might not qualify for financial aid, fill out the form.  You might qualify.

And we’re making it easier than ever.  We put the FAFSA form online.  We made it shorter.  It takes about half an hour to fill out.  And it could change the rest of your life.  We’ve updated it to save your parents a lot of hassle as well.  And today, I’m announcing another improvement.

Today, I’m directing the Department of Education to tell every governor that, starting today, they can, if they choose, confidentially let high school administrators know which students have filled out the FAFSA form and which haven’t.  So that way, if Principal Leal wants to check in with the seniors —

AUDIENCE:  Wooo —

THE PRESIDENT:  I know, everybody is like, wow.  (Laughter.)  I know she’s already on top of stuff, but this way, she could check and seniors who had not filled it out, she could then help them answer the questions and figure out what’s holding her back — what’s holding them back.

Anybody will be able to go online and find out the number of students who have filled out the form at each high school, so we can track it.  So if you want to have a friendly competition with Palmetto High or Miami Killian — (applause) — to see who can get a higher completion rate on your FAFSA, you can do that.  (Applause.)  You achieved the second-highest rate in the state, but I mean if you want to settle for number two, that’s okay —  you might be able to get number one.  (Applause.)  Huh?  I’m just saying you could go for number one.  (Applause.)

So these are things I can do on my own, but I’m here to also tell you I need — I could use some help from folks in Washington.  There are some things I don’t need Congress’s permission for, and in this year of action, whenever I see a way to act to help expand opportunity for young people I’m just going to go ahead and take it.  I’m just going to go ahead and do it.  (Applause.)

So earlier this year, Michelle and I hosted a College Opportunity Summit, where over 150 colleges and universities and nonprofits made commitments to help more low-income students get to college and graduate from college.  (Applause.)  But I’m also willing to work with anybody in Congress — Democrat, Republican, don’t matter — to make sure young people like you have a shot to success.

So a few days ago, I sent my budget to Congress.  And budgets are pretty boring — but the stuff inside the budgets are pretty important.  And my budget focuses on things like preschool for all; like redesigning high schools so students like you can learn real-world skills that businesses want — (applause) — like preparing more young people for careers in some of the fields of the future — in science and technology and engineering and math to discover new planets and invent robots and cure diseases — all the cool stuff that we adults haven’t figured out yet.  (Laughter.)

These are not just the right investments for our schools; they’re the right priorities for our country.  You are our priority.  We’ve got to make sure we have budgets that reflect that you are the most important thing to this country’s success. If you don’t succeed, we don’t succeed.  (Applause.)

We’ve got to make sure all of you are prepared for the new century, and we’ve got to keep growing our economy in other ways:  attracting new high-tech jobs, reforming our immigration system — something Congressman Garcia is fighting for.  (Applause.)   And the rest of Congress needs to stop doing nothing, do right by America’s students, America’s teachers, America’s workers.  Let’s get to work.  Let’s get busy.  (Applause.)  We’ve got work to do. All of us have work to do — teachers, school counselors, principals, superintendents, parents, grandparents.

We all have work to do, because we want to see you succeed, because we’re counting on you, Barracudas.  (Applause.)  And if you keep reaching for success — and I know you will, just based on the small sampling we saw of students here — if you keep working as hard as you can and learning as much as you can, and if you’ve got big ambitions and big dreams, if you don’t let anybody tell you something is out of your reach, if you are convinced that you can do something and apply effort and energy and determination and persistence to that vision, then not only will you be great but this country will be great.  (Applause.)  Our schools will be great.  (Applause.)

I want us to have the best-educated workforce in America.  And I want it to be the most diverse workforce in the world.  That’s what I’m fighting for.  That’s what your superintendent and your principal are fighting for, and I hope that’s what you fight for yourselves.  (Applause.)  Because when I meet the students here at Coral Reef, I am optimistic about the future.  Michelle and I walked out of that classroom, and we said, you know what, we’re going to be in good hands, we’re going to do okay.  (Applause.)  Because these young people are coming, and nobody is going to stop them.

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

END
3:25 P.M EST

Political Musings March 6, 2014: Selling minimum wage raise, Obama pushes Congress with governors in Connecticut

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Part of a campaign push towards the midterm elections in November President Barack Obama on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 urged Congress to raise the minimum raise alongside governors from New England states at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 5, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech Urging Congress to Raise the Minimum Wage with New England Governors in Connecticut

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama: It’s Time to Give America a Raise

Source: WH, 3-5-14
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the minimum wage, at Central Connecticut State UniversityPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks on the minimum wage, at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut, March 5, 2014. The President is joined by Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut; Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont, Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, and Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, President Obama travelled to Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut to speak about the importance of raising the minimum wage….READ MORE

Remarks by the President on Opportunity For All: Making Work Pay and the Minimum Wage

Source: WH, 3-5-14

Central Connecticut State University
New Britain, Connecticut

2:20 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Connecticut!  (Applause.)  Go Blue Devils!  (Applause.)  It is good to be back in Connecticut.  (Applause.)  I want to thank your wonderful Governor, Dan Malloy, for that introduction.  (Applause.)  I want to thank your President, Jack Miller, for inviting me here today.  (Applause.)

We’ve got members of your student government behind me.  (Applause.)  I couldn’t help but notice your Student Government Association logo, which has a gavel –- and a pitchfork, which is pretty intense.  (Laughter.)  And I wish some folks in Congress used the gavel more.  (Laughter.)  Less pitchfork.  (Laughter.)

We also have some members of your non-student government.  One of our finest members of our Cabinet, who just cares so much about working families and is working tirelessly every single day, Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, is here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got all five of Connecticut’s representatives in Congress — including CCSU alum John Larson, in the house.  (Applause.)  Another proud CCSU alum, Erin Stewart, your mayor, is here.  (Applause.)  Along with Mayor Segarra and the other mayors and legislators from all across Connecticut.

And today, we’re doing something a little different than usual.  Usually, when I hit the road and talk with folks like all of you, I’ve got a governor with me.  But you are special.  (Applause.)  So we decided one governor wasn’t enough.  (Laughter.)  So in addition to Governor Malloy, we’ve got Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Peter Shumlin of Vermont.  (Applause.)  This is like a governor supergroup.  (Laughter.)  It’s like the Justice League of governors.  (Laughter.)  I’d call them the New England Patriots, but that name is already taken.  (Laughter.)

STUDENT:  We love you, Mr. President!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back!  I love you.  (Applause.)  But we can’t just spend the whole day talking about how we love each other.  (Laughter.)  That’s not why I came.  We are here today — we’re here today because each of us cares deeply about creating new jobs and new opportunities for all Americans.  And we’re at this interesting moment in our economy — our economy has been growing, our businesses have created about eight and a half million new jobs over the past four years.  The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in over five years.  (Applause.)  Those are all things that we should be proud of.

But there are some trends out there that have been battering the middle class for a long, long time — well before this Great Recession hit.  And in some ways, some of those trends have gotten worse, not better.  The nature of today’s economy with technology and globalization means that there are folks at the top who are doing better than ever, but average wages have barely budged.  Average incomes have not gone up.  Too many Americans are working harder than ever just to keep up.

So as I said at my State of the Union address, we’ve got to reverse those trends.  It is a central task for all of us to build an economy that works for everybody, not just for some.  (Applause.)  That’s what every one of these governors and Tom Perez believes in — that’s what we got into public service for.  I hope Dan and Peter don’t mind me sharing this — while we were driving over here, they were talking about the fact that when they were growing up, both of them had dyslexia.  And because of the incredible fierce love of their parents but also because there were some folks there to help them, they achieved — made these extraordinary achievements.  Now, I wasn’t in the car with Deval, but Deval is a close friend of mine.  He’s got a similar story — grew up on the South Side of Chicago.  (Audience member cheers.) South Side! (Laughter and applause.)  And came from a very modest background.  But somebody gave him a chance.  (Applause.)  Me, Tom Perez — so many of us understand that at the heart of America, the central premise of this country is the chance to achieve your dreams if you work hard, if you take responsibility; that it doesn’t matter where you start — it’s where you finish.  (Applause.)

And in America, we believe in opportunity for all.  We believe that our success shouldn’t be determined by the circumstances of our birth.  It’s determined by each of us.  But also by a society that’s committed to everybody succeeding.  So that it doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is, who you love — what matters is the strength of your work ethic; and the power of your dreams; and your willingness to take responsibility for yourself but also for the larger society.  That’s what makes America the place that it is, why it continues to be a beacon, attracting people from all around the world, the idea that you can make it here if you try.

Now, there’s been a lot of news about foreign affairs around the world over the last several days, but also for the last couple years.  And one of the things that you see, a trend you see — it doesn’t matter whether it’s in Central Europe or in the Middle East or Africa — individuals want a chance to make it if they try.  And what makes us special is we already do that when we’re at our best.  But we’ve got some work to do to match up our ideals with the reality that’s happening on the ground right now.

And the opportunity agenda that I’ve laid out is designed to help us restore that idea of opportunity for everybody for this generation, the generation of young people who are studying here and are about to enter the workforce.  And it’s got four parts.  Part one is something that I know the seniors here are very interested in, which is more good jobs that pay good wages.  (Applause.)

We can’t be satisfied with just recovering the jobs that were lost during the recession.  We’ve got to rebuild our economy so it’s creating a steady supply of good jobs today and well into the future -– jobs in high-tech manufacturing, and in energy, and in exports, and in American innovation.  So that’s job number one.

Job number two is training more Americans with the skills they need to fill those good jobs, so that our workforce is prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.

Part three:  guaranteeing every young person in this country access to a world-class education -– from pre-K all the way to a college education like the one you’re getting here.  (Applause.)

And that’s why over the past five years, working with the outstanding congressional delegation from Connecticut, we’ve been able to make sure that grant dollars are going farther than before.  We took on a student loan system that gave billions of taxpayer dollars to the big banks, and we said let’s use those to give more students directly the help they need to afford to go to college.  (Applause.)

That’s why — that’s why we’re offering millions of young people the chance to cap their monthly student loan payments at 10 percent of their income.  So you need to check that out.  (Laughter.)  Go to the website of the Department of Education and find out how you may be eligible for that.

And today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before.  (Applause.)  Of course — and I know your president won’t disagree with this — we’ve also got to do more to rein in the soaring cost of college and help more Americans who are trapped by student loan debt.  (Applause.)

The bottom line though is whether it’s technical training, community college, or four-year university, no young person should be priced out of a higher education.  Shouldn’t happen. (Applause.)

Now, there is a fourth part of this agenda.  By the way, I just noticed, if you’ve got chairs, feel free to sit down.  (Laughter.)  I know the folks here don’t have chairs, but I don’t want you — and if you’re standing up, make sure to bend your knees so you don’t faint.  (Laughter.)  All right, I just wanted to check on you.  (Laughter and applause.)

Now, point number four, the fourth component of this opportunity agenda is making sure that if you are working hard — if you’re working hard, then you get ahead.  And that means making sure women receive equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)  When women succeed, America succeeds.  (Applause.)  I believe that.  You happy with that, Rosa?  Rosa agrees with that.  (Laughter.)

It means making sure that you can save and retire with dignity.  It means health insurance that’s there when you’re sick and you need it most.  (Applause.)  And you guys are doing a great job implementing the Affordable Care Act here in Connecticut.  If any of you know a young person who is uninsured, help them get covered at healthcare.gov.  The website works just fine now.  (Laughter.)  They’ve got until March 31st to sign up, and in some cases it’s going to cost less than your cellphone bill.  So check it out, healthcare.gov.

And making work pay means wages and paychecks that let you support a family.  (Applause.)  A wage, a paycheck that lets you support a family.  (Applause.)

Now, I want to be clear about this because sometimes in our debates with our friends on the other side of the political spectrum, this may not be clear, so let me just repeat it once again, as Americans, we understand that some folks are going to earn more than others.  We don’t resent success; we are thrilled with the opportunities that America affords.  Somebody goes out there, starts a business, invents a new product, provides a new service, that’s what drives our economy.  That’s why this free-market economy is the most dynamic on Earth.  We’re thrilled with that.  Everybody agrees on that.  But what we also believe is that nobody who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.  (Applause.)  That violates a basic sense of who we are.  And that’s why it’s time to give America a raise.   (Applause.)  It is time to give America a raise.  Now is the time.  Now is the time.  (Applause.)

A year ago I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, the federal minimum wage.  Since that time six states have passed laws to raise theirs, including right here in Connecticut.  (Applause.)

On January 1st, tens of thousands of folks across this state got a raise –- and Governor Malloy is working to lift their wages even higher.  (Applause.)  Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington State, other states, counties, cities across the country are working to raise their minimum wage as we speak.

The governors here today –- Governor Chafee of Rhode Island;, Governor Malloy; Governor Patrick of Massachusetts; Governor Shumlin of Vermont; and a Governor who couldn’t be here today, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire –- all are fighting to give hardworking folks in these great New England states a raise of their own.  And they’ve formed a regional coalition to raise the minimum wage.  If they succeed in their efforts, New England will have some of the highest minimum wages in the country.  (Applause.)

And they’re not stopping there -– these four governors are here in support of raising America’s minimum wage, the federal minimum wage, to $10.10 an hour — $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)

Now, raising wages is not just a job for elected officials.  In my State of the Union address, I asked more business leaders to do what they can to raise their workers’ wages -– because profitable companies like Costco have long seen higher wages as good business.  It’s a smart way to boost productivity, to reduce turnover, to instill loyalty in your employees.  And, by the way, they do great.  Their stocks do great.  They are highly profitable.  It’s not bad business to do right by your workers, it’s good business.  (Applause.)  It’s good business.  (Applause.)

Two weeks ago, the Gap decided to raise its base wages, and that’s going to boost wages for 65,000 workers in the United States.  (Applause.)  Last week, I read about Jaxson’s, it’s an ice cream parlor in Florida that’s been in business since 1956.  They just announced they would lift workers’ wages to at least $10.10 an hour, without cutting back on hiring.  (Applause.)  Two weeks ago, an Atlanta small business owner named Darien Southerland wrote me to share a lesson his Granny taught him:  If you treat your employees right, they’ll treat you right.  (Applause.)  Vice President Biden paid Darien’s business a visit just yesterday.  You got to listen to your grandmother.  (Laughter.)  That is some wise advice.

And I agree with these business leaders as well.  So what I did as President, I issued an executive order requiring federal contractors — if you’re doing business with the federal government — pay your employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour, which will be good for America’s bottom line.  (Applause.)

And let me tell you who was affected.  When I was signing the bill, or the executive order, we had some of the workers who were going to be affected.  You’ve got folks who are cooking the meals of our troops, or washing their dishes, or cleaning their clothes.  This country should pay those folks a wage you can live on.  (Applause.)

So this is good for business, it is good for America.  Because even though we’re bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States, creating more good jobs in education and health care and business services, there will always be airport workers, there are always going to be fast-food workers, there are always going to be hospital workers, there are going to be retail salespeople, hospitality workers — people who work their tails off every day.  (Applause.)  People working in nursing homes, looking after your grandparents or your parents.  (Applause.)  Folks who are doing all the hard jobs that make our society work every single day.  They don’t have anything flashy out there.  And you know what, they’re not expecting to get rich, but they do feel like if they’re putting in back-breaking work every day, then at least at the end of the month they can pay their bills.  (Applause.)  They deserve an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.

Working Americans have struggled through stagnant wages for too long, so my goal is — and the goal of everybody on this stage — is to help lift wages, help lift take-home pay in any way I can.  And that’s why I’ve done everything I can to lift wages for hardworking federal contractors, it’s why I’ve asked business owners to raise their wages, it’s why I’m supporting elected officials at the local level, governors.  What every American wants is a paycheck that lets them support their families, know a little economic security, pass down some hope and optimism to their kids.  And that’s worth fighting for.  (Applause.)

But I want to make one last point.  If we’re going to finish the job, Congress has to get on board.  (Applause.)  Congress has to get on board.  And this is interesting — this should not be that hard, you’d think.  (Laughter.)  Because nearly three in four Americans, about half of all Republicans, support raising the minimum wage.  The problem is, Republicans in Congress oppose raising the minimum wage — now I don’t know if that’s just because I proposed it.  (Laughter.)  Maybe I should say I oppose raising the minimum wage and they’d be for it, that’s possible.  (Laughter.)

But right now, there’s a bill in front of both the House and the Senate that would boost America’s minimum wage to $10.10.  It’s easy to remember — $10.10 — ten dollars, ten cents an hour.  Just passing this bill would help not only minimum wage workers; it would lift wages for about 200,000 people just right here in Connecticut.  (Applause.)  It would lift wages for about one million New Englanders.  (Applause.)  It would lift wages for nearly 28 million Americans across this country.  (Applause.)  It would immediately raise millions of people out of poverty.  It would help millions more work their way out of poverty, and it doesn’t require new taxes, doesn’t require new spending, doesn’t require some new bureaucracy.  And here’s one last point.  It turns out — what happens if workers got a little more money in their pockets?

AUDIENCE:  They spend it!

THE PRESIDENT:  They spend a little more money, which means that suddenly businesses have more customers, which means they make more profits, which means they can hire more workers, which means you get a virtuous cycle —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  It’s common sense!

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s common sense — that’s what I’m trying to say.  (Laughter and applause.)  Common sense, exactly.  It’s just common sense — that’s all it is.  It’s common sense.  (Applause.)  Common sense.  It’s just common sense.  (Applause.)  That’s all I’m saying.  (Laughter.)

Now, right now, Republicans in Congress don’t want to vote on raising the minimum wage.  Some have actually said they just want to scrap the minimum wage.  One of them said, “I think it’s outlived its usefulness…I’d vote to repeal the minimum wage.”  One of them said it’s never worked.  Some even said it only helps young people, as if that’s a bad thing.  I think we should want to help young people.  (Laughter and applause.)  I’d like to see them try putting themselves through college on a low wage work-study job.  (Applause.)  But actually — or I’d like to see them supporting a family, making less than $15,000 a year.

But here’s the truth about who it would help.  Most people who would get a raise if we raise the minimum wage are not teenagers on their first job — their average age is 35.  A majority of lower-wage jobs are held by women.  These Americans are workiong full-time, often supporting families, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with our economy’s productivity, they’d already be earning well over $10 an hour today.  Instead, it’s stuck at $7.25.  Every time Congress refuses to raise it, it loses value because the cost of living goes higher, minimum wage stays the same.  Right now, it’s worth 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan took office.  And over the last year, since I asked Congress to do something and they didn’t do it, that was an equivalent of a $200 pay cut for the average minimum wage worker, because it didn’t keep pace with inflation.  That’s a month of groceries for the average minimum wage worker.  That’s two months’ worth of electricity.  This is not a small thing, this is a big deal.  It makes a big difference in the lives of a lot of families.  (Applause.)

So members of Congress have a choice to make, it is a clear choice:  Raise workers’ wages, grow our economy — or let wages stagnate further, give workers what amounts to another pay cut.

Fortunately, folks in Connecticut have really good delegations, so your senators and representatives are already on board.  (Applause.)  They’re all on board.  They’re fighting the good fight.  (Applause.)  But anybody who is watching at home, you deserve to know where your elected official stands.  So just ask them, “Do you support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour?”  If they say yes, say, “thanks.”  (Laughter.)  “Great job.”  We need encouragement too, elected officials.  (Laughter.)  If they say no, you should be polite — (laughter) — but you should say, “why not?”  Ask them to reconsider.  Ask them to side with the majority of Americans.  Instead of saying no, for once, say yes.  It’s time for $10.10.  It’s time to give America a raise.  (Applause.)

I want to close by sharing a story of a guy named Doug Wade, who is here today.  Where’s Doug?  I’m going to embarrass Doug.  Stand up.  This is Doug, right here.  (Applause.)

Doug had a chance to meet Secretary Perez in Hartford last week.  Doug is the president of Wade’s Dairy down in Bridgeport.  (Applause.)  His great-grandfather, Frank — is that right?  Frank? — started the family business in 1893 — 1893.  One of the secrets to their success is that they treat their employees like part of the family.  So Doug pays his own workers fairly.

But he goes a step further than that — he writes editorials, he talks to fellow business leaders, he meets with elected officials to make the case for a higher minimum wage for everybody.  And keep in mind, Doug spent most of his life as a registered Republican.  This is not about politics.  This is about common sense.  (Applause.)  It’s about business sense.  (Applause.)  And Doug, we were talking backstage, Doug showed me a paystub because it describes his own story.  When he was flipping burgers back in 1970, his employer paid him the minimum wage — but it went 25 percent farther than it does today.   So Doug speaks from experience when he says that, “Things like the minimum wage raise the bar for everybody.”  And he’s still got that paycheck.  And it looks like the paycheck I got when I was working at Baskin-Robbins.  (Laughter and applause.)

The point that Doug and his family, and his business represents is we believe in hard work, we believe in responsibility, we believe in individual initiative, but we also come together to raise the bar for everybody; to make sure our fellow citizens can pursue their own dreams as well; that they can look after their kids and lift them up.  We look out for each other.  That’s who we are.  That is our story.  (Applause.)

There are millions of Americans like Doug, and like all of you, who are tired of old political arguments, ready to raise the bar a little higher.  Let’s move this country forward.  Let’s move it up.  Let’s go further.  That’s what I’m going to do as President as long as I have the honor of serving in this office, and I need your help.  Let’s go out there and give America a raise.

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

END
2:50 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency March 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech Announcing his Fiscal Year 2015 Budget

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Announces His 2015 Budget

Source: WH, 3-4-14
President Barack Obama signs copies of the FY 2015 Budget as Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director, Office of Management and Budget, and OMB staff look on in the Oval OfficPresident Barack Obama signs copies of the FY 2015 Budget as Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director, Office of Management and Budget, and OMB staff look on in the Oval Office, March 4, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, after sending his 2015 budget to Congress, President Obama visited a local elementary school to discuss what he called a “roadmap” for the agenda he laid out in his State of the Union address to restore opportunity for all Americans….READ MORE

President Barack Obama talks with students during a classroom visit at Powell Elementary School in Washington, D.CPresident Barack Obama talks with students during a classroom visit at Powell Elementary School in Washington, D.C. March 4, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Remarks by the President Announcing the FY2015 Budget

Source: WH, 3-4-14

Powell Elementary School
Washington, D.C.

11:38 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  I’m here at Powell Elementary School, and just had a chance to see some of the outstanding students here.  And I thought it was appropriate for me to say a few words about the budget that I sent to Congress this morning — because obviously the budget is not just about numbers, it’s about our values and it’s about our future, and how well we are laying the groundwork for those young children that I was with just a few moments ago to be able to succeed here in America.  These kids may not be the most excited people in town on budget day, but my budget is designed with their generation and future generations in mind.

In my State of the Union address, I laid out an agenda to restore opportunity for all people — to uphold the principle that no matter who you are, no matter where you started, you can make it if you try here in America.

This opportunity agenda is built on four parts — more good jobs and good wages; making sure that we’re training workers with the skills they need to get those good jobs; guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education; and making sure that our economy is one in which hard work is rewarded.

The budget I sent Congress this morning lays out how we’ll implement this agenda in a balanced and responsible way.  It’s a roadmap for creating jobs with good wages and expanding opportunity for all Americans.  And at a time when our deficits have been cut in half, it allows us to meet our obligations to future generations without leaving them a mountain of debt.  This budget adheres to the spending levels that both parties in both houses of Congress already agreed to.  But it also builds on that progress with what we’re calling an Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative that invests in our economic priorities in a smart way that is fully paid for by making smart spending cuts and closing tax loopholes that right now only benefit the well-off and the well-connected.

I’ll give you an example.  Right now, our tax system provides benefits to wealthy individuals who save, even after they’ve amassed multimillion dollar retirement accounts.  By closing that loophole, we can help create jobs and grow our economy, and expand opportunity without adding a dime to the deficit.

We know that the country that wins the race for new technologies will win the race for new jobs, so this budget creates 45 high-tech manufacturing hubs where businesses and universities will partner to turn groundbreaking research into new industries and new jobs made in America.

We know — and this is part of the reason why we’re here today — that education has to start at the earliest possible ages.  So this budget expands access to the kind of high-quality preschool and other early learning programs to give all of our children the same kinds of opportunities that those wonderful children that we just saw are getting right here at Powell.

We know that while not all of today’s good jobs are going to require a four-year college degree, more and more of them are going to require some form of higher education or specialized training.  So this budget expands apprenticeships to connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.  And we know that future generations will continue to deal with the effects of a warming planet, so this budget proposes a smarter way to address the costs of wildfires.  And it includes over $1 billion in new funding for new technologies to help communities prepare for a changing climate today, and set up incentives to build smarter and more resilient infrastructure.

We also know that the most effective and historically bipartisan ways to reduce poverty and help hardworking families pull themselves up is the earned income tax credit.  Right now, it helps about half of all parents in America at some point in their lives.  This budget gives millions more workers the opportunity to take advantage of the tax credit.  And it pays for it by closing loopholes like the ones that let wealthy individuals classify themselves as a small business to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

This budget will also continue to put our fiscal house in order over the long-term — not by putting the burden on folks who can least afford it, but by reforming our tax code and our immigration system and building on the progress that we’ve made to reduce health care costs under the Affordable Care Act.  And it puts our debt on a downward path as a share of our total economy, which independent experts have set as a critical target for fiscal responsibility.

As I said at the outset, our budget is about choices.  It’s about our values.  As a country, we’ve got to make a decision if we’re going to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, or if we’re going to make smart investments necessary to create jobs and grow our economy, and expand opportunity for every American.  At a time when our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years, we’ve got to decide if we’re going to keep squeezing the middle class, or if we’re going to continue to reduce the deficits responsibly, while taking steps to grow and strengthen the middle class.

The American people have made clear time and again which approach they prefer.  That’s the approach that my budget offers.  That’s why I’m going to fight for it this year and in the years to come as President.  Thank you very much, everybody.

END
11:52 A.M. EST

 

RELATED LINKS

Political Musings February 15, 2014: Obama revisits urging Congress to raise the minimum wage in his weekly address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama revisits urging Congress to raise the minimum wage in his weekly address

By Bonnie K. Goodman

 
For his weekly address released Saturday morning, Feb. 15, 2014 President Barack Obama revisited his executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors from $7.25 to $10.10 and urged Congress to complete his effort by universally raising…

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Full Text Obama Presidency February 14, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at House Democratic Issues Conference the Congressional Democrats Retreat on Economic Opportunity Program

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at House Democratic Issues Conference

Source: WH, 2-14-14 

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks at the House Democratic Issues Conference
February 14, 2014 4:40 PM

President Obama Speaks at the House Democratic Issues Conference

Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay
Cambridge, Maryland

10:43 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you, guys.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Everybody, have a seat.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Well, it is good to see you.  Joe, thank you for the wonderful introduction.  Let me be the first to say, Happy Valentine’s Day to our fearless leader, Nancy Pelosi.  (Applause.)  Paul will hopefully get you more than just a thank-you.

To Steny, to Jim, Xavier, Steve Israel — who’s doing an extraordinary job under very difficult circumstances — (applause) — Debbie Wasserman Shultz, who is putting in more miles than just about anybody I know — (applause) — and all of you.  It’s great to see you.

We just saw each other at the White House fairly recently, so I’m not going to give a long speech here.  I want to spend most of my time answering some more questions.  But let me just make a couple observations since we saw each other.  First of all, I stated in our State of the Union that the single most important thing we have to do — not just as a party, but as a country — is make sure that there’s opportunity for every single person; that we are focused every single day in this town — or in Washington — on making sure that if you’re willing to work hard, if you’re willing to take responsibility, that you can get ahead.  It doesn’t matter where you live, what circumstances you were born into, what you look like, who you love, you should be able to make it here in America.

And as I said at the State of the Union, I want to work with Congress to make that happen, but I’m not going to wait, because there’s too much to do.  (Applause.)  And America does not believe in standing still.  America insists on moving forward.

We laid out some very specific ways that we can move the country forward, breaking them down into a few categories:  Number one, creating more good jobs that pay good wages.  Number two, making sure that folks are trained to fill those good jobs. Number three, making sure that our kids have the best education  in the world.  And number four, making sure that hard work pays off, that people aren’t poor if they’re working full-time, that they have some semblance of retirement security, that they can count on health care if, heaven forbid, something happens to them.

And already, just in the last couple of weeks, we’ve put forward a range of executive actions that are going to make a difference.  So, yesterday, for example, I had a chance to be with a group of minimum wage workers for federal contractors — these are folks who are washing dishes, or cleaning clothes on military bases or facilities — and sometimes the debates on Capitol Hill get so abstract, and to be next to folks — the average age, by the way, 35.  These aren’t teenagers, these are folks who are looking after families and trying to raise kids.  And to see what it would mean to them for us to have a federal minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, and how much relief that would give them, and how committed they were to the American Dream and getting ahead and just hoping that somebody was standing up for them — it reminded me of why I’m a Democrat.  (Applause.)  and it reminded me of why I’m so proud of this caucus, because you’re standing up on behalf of them.

And so we signed the executive order — these folks are going to get a raise.  And what I said yesterday is that now it’s time for Congress to act because America deserves a raise.  (Applause.)

I pointed out yesterday, as I pointed out at the State of the Union, that the majority of low-wage workers are women, which is why we’re going to keep on pushing to make sure that we have equal pay for equal work — (applause) — and we have sensible family policies.  Because as I said at the State of the Union, when women succeed America succeeds.  I still believe that.  (Applause.)

We’ve traveled to manufacturing plants up in Wisconsin to talk about how we can continue to accelerate advanced manufacturing and technology in this country.  And we’ve got some great possibilities to create hubs that keep us on the cutting-edge.  We’ve signed executive orders to advance the kind of job training that is going to help people train for the jobs that actually exist and link up businesses with our community colleges.

We’ve already through executive action set up a new retirement account, MyRA, that allows folks to get a starter retirement, because a whole lot of people don’t have 401(k)s to save.

Across the board, we’re moving.  But as I said at the State of the Union, and I want to repeat today, we can get a whole lot more done if we’ve got Congress working with us.  And this caucus has shown time and time again under the most difficult circumstances the kind of courage and unity and discipline that has made me very, very proud.

And I was just talking to Nancy before I came out here.  The fact that we are no longer going to see, I believe, anybody try to hold our government hostage and threaten the full faith and credit of the United States of America in order to contract policy concessions, the fact that we were able to pass a clean debt limit is just one example of why when you guys are unified, you guys stick together, this country is better off.  And I could not be more thankful and more appreciative and prouder of what you’re doing.  (Applause.)

Just a couple of more points.  Number one, you’ve seen reports over the last couple of days that we actually slightly exceeded our targets for ACA signups and enrollments this past month, in the month of January.  (Applause.)  We now have well over 3.5 million people who have signed up and are getting insurance through the marketplaces for the first time.  That does not count the close to 7 million folks who have signed up for Medicaid because of the law that you passed, or the 3 million young people who are staying on their parents’ plans.  We’re starting to see data already that the uninsured rate is coming down.  We are going to keep on pushing on this to make sure that here in America, everybody can enjoy the kind of financial security and peace of mind that good quality health insurance provides.  (Applause.)

And I just want to say thank you for all of you hanging in there tough on an issue that I think 10 years from now, five years from now, we’re going to look back and say this was a monumental achievement that could not have happened had it not been for this caucus.

And, finally, there are some big things that we have to do that I cannot do through executive action where we have to get Congress and where the American people are on our side.  A federal minimum wage law is one of them.  Another, though, is making sure that we’ve got a smart immigration policy in this country that grows our economy — (applause) — gets people out of the shadows, makes sure that our businesses are thriving.  That’s got to be a top priority.  We’re going to have to keep on working on that.

And I believe, frankly, that there are folks on the other side of the aisle who genuinely want to see this done, but they’re worried and they’re scared about the political blowback. And, look, everybody here is an elected official and we can all appreciate the maneuverings that take place, particularly in an election year.  But when it comes to immigration reform, we have to remind ourselves that there are people behind the statistics, that there are lives that are being impacted — that punting and putting things off for another year, another two years, another three years, it hurts people.  It hurts our economy.  It hurts families.

And part of what I’d like to think makes us Democrats is not simply some abstract ideological set of beliefs, but the fact that we’re reminded every single day that we’re here to help a whole bunch of folks out there — our neighbors, our friends, our communities — who are struggling still and need our help.  And they’re counting on us.  The good thing is they’ve got some outstanding members of Congress who are willing to fight for them regardless of the political cost, starting with your leader Nancy Pelosi.

I’m grateful for you.  And I’m looking forward to making sure that this year we keep on making progress even if we continue to get a little resistance from the other side.  The American people know that we could be breaking out if Washington gets its act together, and it’s important for us to lead that process.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
11:02 A.M. EST

Political Musings February 13, 2014: Obama signs executive order raises federal minimum wage urges Congress to follow

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama signs executive order raises federal minimum wage urges Congress to follow

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Full Text Obama Presidency February 12, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Signing of Executive Order to Raise the Federal Contract Minimum Wage

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

The Economic Case for Raising the Minimum Wage

 
Source: WH, 2-12-14
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the importance of raising the federal minimum wage for all workers

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the importance of raising the federal minimum wage for all workers, during an event in the in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 12, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama announced his intention to move forward using his own authority and raise the minimum wage for workers on new and replacement Federal service contracts to $10.10 an hour. As the President said, “If you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.” Today, the President will sign an Executive Order making this vision a reality….READ MORE

 

Remarks by the President on Signing of Executive Order

Source: WH, 2-12-14

East Room

2:18 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, welcome to the White House, everybody. I know you had to come here before you go buy some shovels and some salt.  (Laughter.)  It sounds like we may get a little snow. But I very much appreciate everybody being here.  I want to thank, first and foremost, the workers who are with me here this afternoon.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank two champions for all hardworking Americans:  We’ve got Secretary of Labor Tom Perez — (applause) — he’s in the house.  Where is Tom?  Right here.  Tom is right here.  (Applause.)  I didn’t know where he was.  And we’ve got an outstanding Congressman — who’s used to snow because he’s from Minnesota — Congressman Keith Ellison.  (Applause.)
 
Now, it’s been just over two weeks since I delivered my State of the Union address, and I said this year would be a year of action, and I meant it.  Over the past 14 days I’ve ordered an across-the-board reform of our job training programs to train folks with the skills that employers need, and then match them up with good jobs that are ready to be filled right now. 

I’ve directed the Treasury to create something we’re calling “MyRA” — sort of like an IRA, but it’s MyRA.  And that’s a new way for Americans to start saving for retirement.  And you can start with as little as $25, $50 and start building up a little bit of a nest egg and get tax benefits for doing it so. 

We’ve rallied the leaders of some of America’s biggest high-tech companies to help us make sure that all of our kids have access to high-speed Internet and up-to-date technology in their classroom so that they’re learning the skills that they need for the new economy.

We’ve brought together business leaders who are committed to hiring more unemployed Americans, particularly long-term unemployed who oftentimes are discriminated against.  They’re in a Catch-22 — they haven’t had a job for a while and then the employer is not willing to look at their resume because they haven’t had a job for a while. 

So the point is I’m eager to work with Congress whenever I can find opportunities to expand opportunity for more families.  But wherever I can act on my own, without Congress, by using my pen to take executive actions, or picking up the phone and rallying folks around a common cause, that’s what I’m going to do.  (Applause.)  

And so that brings me to the issue we’re going to talk about today.  After the worst economic crisis in generations, our economy has been growing for the past four years.  (Applause.)   And our businesses have created 8.5 million new jobs.  Unemployment rate has come down.  But while those at the top are doing better than ever, — corporate profits have been high, the stock market has been high — average wages have barely budged.  So you’ve got too many Americans who are working harder than ever before just to get by, but they can’t seem to get ahead, can’t seem to make all the ends meet. 

And that’s been true since long before the recession hit.  We’ve got to reverse those trends.  We’ve got to build an economy that works for everybody, not just the fortunate few.  And we’ve got to restore opportunity for everybody, so that no matter who you are, no matter how you started out, no matter what you look like, no matter what your last name is, you can get ahead in America if you’re willing to work hard and take responsibility for your life.  (Applause.)  Right? 

So the opportunity agenda I’ve laid out is going to help us do just that.  Part one of this agenda is more new jobs that pay a good wage — jobs in manufacturing, and exports, and energy, and innovation.  Part two:  We’ve got to train the folks with the skills to fill those jobs.  Part three:  We’ve got to make sure every child gets a world-class education.  And part four:  We’ve got to make sure that the economy rewards hard work for every American.

Making hard work pay off with economic security and decent wages and benefits is what we’re about here today.  It means making sure women earn equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)   It means making sure workers have the chance to save for a dignified retirement.  (Applause.)  It means access to affordable health insurance that gives you the freedom to change jobs or be your own boss, and the peace of mind that it will be there for you when you get sick and you need it most.  (Applause.) 

So if you know anybody who doesn’t have health insurance right now — (laughter) — send them to healthcare.gov.  The website is working.  (Laughter.)  Sign them up.  You can get health care for less than your cellphone bill for a lot of folks.

But it also means that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, nobody who works full-time should have to live in poverty.  (Applause.)  Nobody.  Not here in America.  (Applause.)

Now, it was one year ago today — one year ago today — that I first asked Congress to raise the federal minimum wage — a federal minimum wage that in real terms is worth about 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan took office — 20 percent less, a fifth less. 

So this afternoon, I’ve invited some of the folks who would see a raise if we raised that federal minimum wage.  They happened to join me here at the White House.  And like most workers in their situation, they’re not teenagers — they look like teenagers, some of them are very young looking.  (Laughter.) But they’re not teenagers taking on their first job.  They’re adults — average age is 35 years old.  A majority of lower-wage jobs are held by women.  Many of them have children that they’re supporting.  These are Americans who work full-time, often to support a family, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with our economic productivity, they’d already be getting paid well over $10 an hour. 

Instead, the minimum wage is still just $7.25.  And when Congress refuses to raise it, it loses value — because there’s a little bit inflation, everything else starts costing a little bit more — even though inflation has been pretty low, it’s still costing a little bit more each year.  That means each dollar isn’t going as far and they’ve got a little bit less.  So over the past year, the failure of Congress to act was the equivalent of a $200 pay cut for these folks — for a typical minimum wage worker.  That’s a month worth of groceries, maybe two months’ worth of electricity.  It makes a big difference for a lot of families.

Now, the good news is that in the year since I first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, six states went ahead and passed laws to raise theirs.  (Applause.)  We appreciate that. You got more states and cities and counties that are taking steps to raise their minimum wage as we speak.  And a lot of companies are doing it, too — not out of charity, but because they’ve discovered it’s good business. 

Two weeks ago, I visited a Costco store in Maryland.  Now, Costco is a very profitable company.  Its stock has done great.  It’s expanding all over the place.  But their philosophy is higher wages are a smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover.  If employees are happy and feel like the company is invested in them, then they’re going to do more for the company. They’re going to go above and beyond. 

And when I was over at the Costco store I was meeting folks who had started off at the cash register and now were in supervisory positions, and had been there for 20 years, and you could see the kind of pride that they had in the company because the company cared about them.  I even received a letter the next day from a woman who saw my visit on TV — she decided to apply for a job at Costco.  (Laughter.)  She said, let me apply for a job at Costco.  They look like they can do a good job. 

So across the country, owners of small and large businesses are recognizing that fair wages and higher profits go hand in hand; it’s good for the bottom line.

And as America’s chief executive, I agree.  So while Congress decides what it’s going to do — and I hope this year, and I’m going to work this year and urge this year that they actually pass a law — today, I’m going to do what I can to help raise working Americans’ wages.  (Applause.) 

So today, I’m issuing an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour — (applause) — $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)

This will make a difference for folks.  Right now, there’s a dishwasher at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas making $7.76 an hour — $7.76 an hour.  There’s a fast-food worker at Andrews, right down the street, making $8.91 an hour.  There’s a laundry worker at Camp Dodge in Iowa making $9.03 an hour.  Once I sign this order, starting next year, as their contracts come up, each of them and many of their fellow coworkers are going to get a raise.  And by the way, that includes folks who get paid in tips — they’ll get a raise, too.  (Applause.)  A tip wage has gone up even slower than the regular minimum wage.

So just as it’s good for companies across the country, this will be good for America’s bottom line — for contractors and for taxpayers.  The opponents of the minimum wage have been using the same arguments for years, and time and again they’ve been proven wrong.  Raising the minimum wage is good for business, and it’s good for workers, and it’s good for the economy.  Put more money in these folks’ pockets, that means they got some money to go shopping, which in turn means the business has more customers — (applause) — which means they may hire more workers and make more of a profit.  (Applause.) 

And let’s not forget — not only is it good for the economy, it’s the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  There’s a simple moral principle at stake — if you take responsibility and you work as hard as these folks work, if you work full-time, you shouldn’t be living in poverty.  Not in America.  We believe that.  (Applause.)  

And this executive order will cover Americans with disabilities — (applause) — because this principle doesn’t just apply to some of us; it applies to all of us.  (Applause.) 

So I’m going to keep doing whatever I can to raise working Americans’ wages.  And I would ask any business leader out there, any governor, any mayor, any local leader listening, do what you can to raise your employees’ wages; to work to raise the wages of citizens in your jurisdiction.  They’ll support these efforts.  A majority of Americans — not just Democrats, not just independents, but Republicans, too — support raising the minimum wage.  (Applause.)  It’s the right thing to do.  So that’s something Congress should keep in mind this year. 

There’s a bill right now in front of both the House and the Senate that would boost America’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour — just like I’m doing with this executive action.  It’s easy to remember:  10-10 — 10-10.  Let’s get that done.  Raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 wouldn’t just raise wages for minimum-wage workers, its effect would lift wages for about 28 million Americans.  It would lift millions of Americans out of poverty immediately.  (Applause.)  It would help millions more work their way out of poverty — without requiring a single dollar in new taxes or spending.  (Applause.)  It’s the right thing to do.

Just last month, 600 economists, including seven Nobel Prize winners, wrote the leaders of houses of Congress to remind them that the bill before Congress would have little or no negative effect on hiring, on jobs.  So it’s not going to depress the economy.  It will boost the economy.  (Baby says, “Yes!”)  Yes!  (Laughter and applause.)  It will give more businesses more customers with more money to spend.  It will grow the economy for everybody.  So — yeah!  (Laughter.)  He’s excited about it.  (Laughter.) 

So members of Congress have a pretty clear choice to make right now:  Raise our workers’ wages, grow our economy — or let wages stagnate further, and give workers what amounts to another pay cut this year.  Restore unemployment insurance for Americans still looking for that job — (applause) — or expose them further to hardship.  (Applause.)  Members of Congress, you can help people make progress in their own lives, or you can hinder that progress.

And every American deserves to know where your elected representative stands on this issue.  So ask your senator; ask your representative in the House:  Do you support raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour?  If they say, yes, tell them “good job.”  (Laughter.)  They don’t hear that that often so — (laughter) — give them a pat on the back, give them a hug, let them know “way to go.”  That’s the right thing to do.  If they say, no — be polite, I mean, don’t just yell at them, but say, “Well, why not?”  Ask them to reconsider siding with an overwhelming majority of Americans.  Encourage them to say yes.  Give America a raise.  

So I’m about to sign this executive order.  When you hear me talking about my pen and my phone to make a difference for middle-class Americans and those working to get into the middle class, this is exactly what I mean.  I’m doing to do what I can. Congress should do what it needs to do.  I will not give up on this fight, no matter how long it takes.  America deserves a raise.  (Applause.)  Working families deserve to know some more economic security in their own lives.  (Applause.) 

We’ve got to create new jobs, strengthen the middle class, build new ladders of opportunity for folks working their way into the middle class — just like these folks are doing right here.  There are millions of Americans who could just use a little bit of boost — millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of the old, stale political arguments, or tired of folks just looking out for people who can afford big lobbyists and big campaign contributions.  There are folks out there who want to see us restore an economy that works for everybody, and get back to our founding vision of opportunity for all.

So I know you guys will work with me.  But go out there and organize some more.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Let’s give Americans a raise right now.  I’m going to sign this.  (Applause.)

END  
2:30 P.M. EST

Political Musings February 10, 2014: Obama focuses on economic opportunity through executive orders in weekly address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama focuses on economic opportunity through executive orders in weekly address

By Bonnie K. Goodman

For the second week in a row President Barack Obama centered his weekly address on the economic opportunity program he introduced in his State of Union Address, outlining both the economic initiatives and his “go-it-alone strategy”….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Education and ConnectED Wireless Internet Access Initiative

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Visits a Middle School Classroom

Source: WH, 2-4-14

Watch on YouTube

President Barack Obama records video on an iPad

President Barack Obama records video on an iPad using an app from NASA during a classroom visit at Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Md., February 4, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Earlier today, President Obama visited Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Maryland to announce major progress on his ConnectED initiative. Before his remarks, however, he stopped by one of the school’s math classes to chat with students – and have some fun with their technology….READ MORE

Remarks by the President on ConnectED

Source: WH, 2-4-14

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks on ConnectED
February 04, 2014 5:14 PM

President Obama Speaks on ConnectED

Buck Lodge Middle School
Adelphi, Maryland

11:37 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Well, can everybody please give Nelson a big round of applause for the outstanding job that he did?  (Applause.)  So Nelson just told me backstage he plans on being a Navy SEAL.  So I was really nice to him now so he doesn’t mess with me later.  (Laughter.)  We are very proud of him, proud of all the students who are here today.

I want to thank Principal Richardson for the great job that he’s doing.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank all the wonderful teachers who are here at Buck Lodge Middle School.  Go, Vikings!  (Applause.)

I brought along some people who very much care about the future of these young people.  We’ve got America’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, in the house.  (Applause.)  We’ve got the FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and two of his fellow commissioners who are here, doing great work.  (Applause.)  Congressman Steny Hoyer is in the house.  (Applause.)  County Executive Rushern Baker is here.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got some business leaders who’ve made some very big commitments today — because they know that your education is the very best investment that all of us can make in America.

Now, last week, in my State of the Union address, I spent some time talking about opportunity for everybody, which is at the heart of this country — the idea that no matter who you are, no matter what you look like — if you have a chair feel free to sit down.  (Laughter.)  That wasn’t actually my line, but I thought — (laughter.)  But at the core of America, the essence of it, what makes us exceptional is this idea, no matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is, if you’re willing to work hard, if you’re willing to live up to your responsibilities, you can make it here in America.

But each generation has to work hard to make sure that dream of opportunity stays alive for the next generation.  And the opportunity agenda that I laid out last week will help us do that.  It’s focused on four areas:  Number one, more new jobs; number two, training folks with the skills to fill those jobs;  number three, making sure our economy rewards hard work with decent wages and economic security; and number four, the piece I’m here to talk about today — guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education.  Every child.  Not just some, but everybody.  (Applause.)

Now, I’m only standing here today because my education gave me a chance.  I’m not so different than a lot of these young people.  I was raised by a single mom, with the help of my grandma and my grandpa.  We didn’t have a lot of money, and for a while my mother was working and going to school at the same time as she was raising a couple of kids.  And there were times where times were tight.  But with a family who loved me, and with some hard work on my part — although it wasn’t always consistent — as my mother and my grandparents would point out.  And then, ultimately, with the help of scholarships and student loans, I was able to go to college.  I was able to go to law school.  And entire worlds of opportunity opened up to me that might not otherwise have been available.

So the country invested in me.  My parents invested in me, my grandparents invested in me, but my country invested in me.  And I want America to now invest in you — because in the faces of these students, these are future doctors and lawyers and engineers, scientists, business leaders.  We don’t know what kinds of products, services, good work that any of these students may do.  But I’m betting on them, and all of us have to bet on them.

So five years ago, we set out to change the odds on all of our kids.  Our Race to the Top challenge has helped raise expectations and performance in states all across the country.  Our high school graduation rate is the highest that it’s been in more than 30 years.  (Applause.)  That’s an achievement.  The dropout rate among Latino students has been cut in half since 2000 — a really big deal.  (Applause.)  We reformed our student loan programs, so that more young people are able to afford to go to college, and now we’ve got more young people earning a college degree than ever before.

Teachers and principals across the country are working hard to prepare students like you with the skills you need for a new economy — not just the basics of reading and writing and arithmetic, but skills like science and technology, engineering, critical thinking, creativity — asking, what do you think about that idea, and how would you do things differently.

Now, we still have more work to do to reach more kids and reach them faster.  And some of the ideas that I’ve presented will require Congress to act.  But while Congress decides what it’s going to do, I said at the State of the Union — and I want to repeat here today — I will act on my own.  Wherever I have the opportunity to expand opportunity for more young people, wherever I have a chance to make a difference in their lives, I’m going to act.  I’m going to act.  (Applause.)

So in this Year of Action, we’re going to work with states and communities to help them make high-quality pre-K available to more young children.  We know it’s a good investment.  (Applause.)  We want to keep working to partner high schools with colleges and employers to offer real-world education experiences that can lead directly to jobs and careers.  And we want to do more to make sure no middle-class kid is priced out of a college education and, obviously, no poor kid is priced out of a college education.  That’s got to be a priority for us.  (Applause.)

But today, we’re here to announce some big strides that we’re making to put the world and outer space at every child’s fingertips — whether they live in a big city or a quiet suburb or in rural America.

Last year, I launched something called ConnectED — a new initiative to close the technology gap in our schools and connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed broadband Internet within five years.  Now, this is something we can do without waiting for Congress.  We do need some help, though.  So we picked up the phone and we started asking some outstanding business leaders to help bring our schools and libraries into the 21st century.  Today, thanks to the leadership of some of these companies, we’ve got some big announcements to make.

But first, I want you to know why it matters that we make sure technology is available to every child.  Technology is not the entire answer, by the way, when it comes to educational excellence.  We’ve got to make sure we’ve got outstanding teachers.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to make sure that parents are doing what they need to do.  (Applause.)  We need young people to make the effort and to have high expectations for themselves.  (Applause.)  But technology can help; t’s a tool, it’s just one more tool.

So today, the average American school has about the same Internet bandwidth as the average American home, but it serves 200 times as many people.  Think about it.  So you’ve got the same bandwidth, but it’s a school — it’s not your house.  Only around 30 percent of our students have true high-speed Internet in the classroom.  In countries like South Korea, that’s 100 percent.  We shouldn’t give that kind of competitive advantage over to other countries.  We want to make sure our young people have the same advantages that some child in South Korea has right now.  In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, we should definitely demand it in our schools.  (Applause.)

Now, here at Buck Lodge, you are showing how we can use technology to teach our young people in innovative ways.  And by the way, the principal told me that part of how this got started was some of the stimulus dollars that we put in place almost five years ago now.  But every student here has access to their own iPad.  And you don’t just write papers or take tests; they’re animating movies, they’re designing blogs, they’re collaborating on multimedia projects.  In the word of an 8th grader, Annie Gomez, she says, “You can learn even more, you can take in more, and then you know more about the world.”

And new technologies are helping teachers.  So in Mr. Jeter’s science class, students take quizzes on their tablets; he then can check the answers in real time and he can figure out who needs extra help. In Ms. Galinat’s language arts class, students learn vocabulary not just with flashcards, but with online video. In Ms. Stover’s math class — I was just over with Ms. Stover — students bring their tablets home to watch lectures about concepts like ratios and rational numbers, and then use the next day’s classroom time applying those concepts to the real world.  So technology allows teachers here to spend more time being creative, less time teaching to the test, giving continual feedback, being able to pinpoint where a young person is having trouble because they’re able to see their work right away in a pretty efficient way.

And I will say, I was just in a classroom — there was a lesson plan that was organized around the Curiosity Rover on Mars.  And the young people there were doing some amazing stuff  — making their own iBooks with video and multimedia.  And as I was walking out, I was talking to Steny Hoyer about how I remember using gluesticks — (laughter) — and scissors to cut stuff out and it didn’t look very good.  (Laughter.)  These guys were making books you could publish.  (Laughter.)

But it makes learning exciting, it makes it interesting.  If you’re studying science and you are actually seeing the engineers who built Rover talk about what it is — or the Curiosity Rover  — talking about what they’re doing and how they did it, and being able to see the Rover on the Martian landscape, it makes vivid and real math and science in a way that is more interesting to students, which means that they’re more likely to be engaged and can potentially do better.

And this is how it should be for every student and every teacher at every school and library in the country.  That’s how it should be for everbody, not just some.  (Applause.)

Today, almost eight months after we launched ConnectED, we can announce some very big commitments that are going to go a long way towards realizing that vision where every child has the access to the technology that they can use to help them learn.  So, under Tom Wheeler’s leadership, the FCC is announcing a down payment of $2 billion to connect more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students to high-speed broadband over the next two years — (applause) — 15,000 schools, 20 million students.  (Applause.)  It won’t require a single piece of legislation from Congress.  It won’t add a single dime to the deficit.

And even better, some of America’s biggest tech companies have decided to join this effort, with commitments worth more than three-quarters of a billion dollars.  So let me just give you some examples.

Apple will donate $100 million worth of iPads, MacBooks, and other products to schools across the country.  (Applause.)  That’s an enormous commitment.
Sprint will provide free wireless service for up to 50,000 low-income high school students over the next four years, so their 21st century education isn’t confined to the classroom.  (Applause.)

AT&T will donate over $100 million worth of wireless service to middle-school students, so that they can continue to do homework when they get home.  (Applause.)

Autodesk will make its 3D-design software available for free to every high school in the country.  (Applause.)

Microsoft will offer products like Windows to students and teachers at a deep discount, and provide 12 million free copies of Office to our schools.  (Applause.)

O’Reilly Media and Safari Books Online will donate more than $100 million worth of eBooks that will help students learn technology skills like coding and web design.  (Applause.)

And finally, because no technology will ever be as important as a great teacher, Verizon will expand a program to help train educators to use all these new tools in all 50 states.  (Applause.)

So I want to thank all the business leaders who are here today for stepping up.  Why don’t you stand up?  Let’s give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  We’re very proud of them. Thank you.  (Applause.)

Now, this is an extraordinary commitment by these business leaders, but they’re business leaders, so they’re not just doing it out of the goodness of their heart.  They want the country to do well, but they also understand that they want educated customers.  They want customers who are able to get good jobs, who are going to be using these tools in the future.  They want that next young architect coming out of here to be familiar with using that iPad so that they’re designing buildings and using their products.

They know that the entire economy will be lifted if more of our young people are doing better.  So they’re doing good, but it will also help them succeed from a bottom-line perspective by this kind of participation.  They are united in their support of young people like you, even though sometimes they compete against each other — because all of us have a stake in your education and in your future.

And that’s why we have to build on this progress together.  Later this year, I’m going to ask Congress to do its part and give teachers using cutting-edge technologies the training they deserve.  (Applause.)  Because it’s important — as I said before, technology is not a silver bullet.  It’s only as good as the teachers who are there using it as one more tool to help inspire and teach and work through problems.

And although I’ve noticed that these days when I visit schools, most teachers are much younger than I am — (laughter)  — I’m getting on in years, obviously, which means that I’m not always as familiar with iPads and technology as I need to be.  We want every teacher in every school to understand from soup to nuts how you can potentially use this technology.  And that oftentimes requires a training component that makes sure that the technology is not just sitting there, but is actually used and incorporated in the best way possible.

So I’m going to ask every business leader across America to join us in this effort.  Ask yourself what you can do to help us connect our students to the 21st century.  Ask yourselves what you can do to support our teachers and our parents and give every young people every shot at success.

And we can make this happen.  And just imagine what it will mean for our country when we do.  Imagine what it could mean for a girl growing up on a farm to be able to take AP Biology or AP Physics even if her school is too small to offer it, because she’s got the access to technology that allows her to take those classes online.  Imagine what it means for a boy with an illness that confines him sometimes to home where he can join his classmates for every lesson with FaceTime or Skype.  Imagine what it means for educators to spend less time grading tests and papers, more time helping young people learn.  Imagine more businesses starting here and hiring here, because they know for a fact that the young people here are going to be equipped with the skills that are better than anybody else on Earth.

That’s the future we’re building.  That’s what these companies are investing in.  And if America pulls together now — if we do our part to make sure every young person can go as far as their passion and their hard work will take them, whether it’s to Mars or to the bottom of the ocean or to anywhere on this planet where you’ve got an Internet connection — if we commit ourselves to restoring opportunity for everybody, then we can keep the American Dream alive for generations to come.

That’s our main project.  That’s our main obligation.  That’s why I ran for President.  That’s what I’m going to be working on for the next three years.  (Applause.)

Thank you for all the work that you’re doing here at this outstanding school.  God bless you.  God bless America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
12:04 P.M. EST

Political Musings February 2, 2014: Obama recaps State of the Union in three-minute weekly address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama recaps State of the Union in three-minute weekly address

By Bonnie K. Goodman

For his weekly address released on Saturday morning, Feb. 1, 2014 President Barack Obama decided to revisit his State of the Union, and it the most important program he introduced promising to improve economic opportunity. The President also recapped his…READ MORE
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