All posts tagged Economic Opportunity
Political Musings September 22, 2014: Obama continues promise to help Americas youth realize their dreams
Posted by bonniekgoodman on September 22, 2014
Political Musings September 7, 2014: Biden campaigns for Democrats on the economy helping the middle class in address
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
- September 7, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on September 7, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency September 6, 2014: Vice President Joe Biden’s Weekly Address: Time to Give the Middle Class a Chance
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Weekly Address: Time to Give the Middle Class a Chance
Source: WH, 9-6-14
WASHINGTON, DC —In this week’s address, the Vice President discusses our continued economic recovery, with 10 million private sector jobs created over the past 54 months. Yet even with this good news, too many Americans are still not seeing the effects of our recovery. As the Vice President explains, there’s more that can be done to continue to bolster our economy and ensure that middle class families benefit from the growth they helped create, including closing tax loopholes, expanding education opportunities, and raising the minimum wage.
Remarks of Vice President Joe Biden
The White House
September 6, 2014
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Joe Biden, I’m filling in for President Obama, while he addresses the NATO summit in Wales.
When the President and I took office in January of 2009, this nation was in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the great depression. Our economy had plummeted at a rate of 8% in a single quarter – part of the fastest economic decline any time in the last half century. Millions of families were falling underwater on their homes and threatened with foreclosure. The iconic American automobile industry was under siege.
But yesterday’s jobs report was another reminder of how far we’ve come. We’ve had 54 straight months of job creation. And that’s the longest streak of uninterrupted job growth in the United States’ history.
We’ve gone from losing 9 million jobs during the financial crisis to creating 10 million jobs. We’ve reduced the unemployment rate from 10% in October of 2009 to 6.1% today. And for the first time since the 1990s, American manufacturing is steadily adding jobs – over 700,000 since 2010. And surveys of both American and foreign business leaders confirm that America once again is viewed as the best place in the world to build and invest.
That’s all good news. But an awful lot of middle class Americans are still not feeling the effects of this recovery. Since the year 2000, Gross Domestic Product – our GDP – has risen by 25%. And productivity in America is up by 30%. But middle class wages during that same time period have gone up by only fourteen cents.
Folks, it’s long past time to cut the middle class back into the deal, so they can benefit from the economic growth they helped create. Folks, there used to be a bargain in this country supported by Democrats and Republicans, business and labor. The bargain was simple. If an employee contributed to the growth and profitability of the company, they got to share in the profits and the benefits as well. That’s what built the middle class. It’s time to restore the bargain, to deal the middle class back in. Because, folks, when the middle class does well, everybody does well – the wealthy get wealthier and the poor have a way up.
You know, the middle class is not a number. It’s a value set. It means being able to own your home; raise your children in a safe neighborhood; send them to a good school where if they do well they can qualify to go to college and if they get accepted you’d be able to find a way to be able to send them to college. And in the meantime, if your parents need help, being able to take care of them, and hope to put aside enough money so that your children will not have to take care of you.
That’s the American dream. That’s what this country was built on. And that’s what we’re determined to restore.
In order to do that, it’s time to have a fair tax structure, one that values paychecks as much as unearned income and inherited wealth, to take some of the burden off of the middle class. It’s time to close tax loopholes so we can reduce the deficit, and invest in rebuilding America – our bridges, our ports, our highways, rails, providing good jobs.
With corporate profits at near record highs, we should encourage corporations to invest more in research and development and the salaries of their employees. It’s time for us to invest in educational opportunity to guarantee that we have the most highly skilled workforce in the world, for 6 out of every 10 jobs in the near term is going to require some education beyond high school. Folks, it’s long past due to increase the minimum wage that will lift millions of hardworking families out of poverty and in the process produce a ripple effect that boosts wages for the middle class and spurs economic growth for the United States of America. Economists acknowledge that if we do these and other things, wages will go up and we’ll increase the Gross Domestic Product of the United States.
My fellow Americans, we know how to do this. We’ve done it before. It’s the way we used to do business and we can do it that way again. All the middle class in this country want is a chance. No guarantee, just a chance.
Americans want to work. And when given a fair shot, the American worker has never, ever, ever, let his country down. Folks, it’s never a good bet to bet against the American people.
Thanks for listening.
May God bless you, and may God protect our troops.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on September 6, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency July 30, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on the Economy in Kansas, City, Missouri
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the President on the Economy — Kansas, City, MO
Source: WH, 7-30-14
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.”
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.)
11:39 A.M. CDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 30, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency July 24, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the President on the Economy — Los Angeles, CA
Source: WH, 7-24-14
Los Angeles Trade-Technical College
Los Angeles, California
1:15 P.M. PDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, L.A.! (Applause.) Good to see you! Hello, Los Angeles! (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody. Now, if you’ve got a seat, sit down. I know that a couple people have been getting overheated. A tip for you — if you’ve got some water, then drink. Standing in the sun is rough. Bend your knees a little bit. And I’m going to try to be fast.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: God Almighty, Jesus Christ — (inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: That’s okay.
AUDIENCE: Obama! Obama! Obama!
THE PRESIDENT: All right. (Applause.) Thank you. Now, I have to admit that I’ve actually met that guy before. (Laughter.) That’s a couple of years ago and he had the same line. He needs to update his material.
All right, everybody, settle down for a second. First of all, I’d like everybody to say thank you to Katrice not only for the great introduction, but for the great work she’s doing helping to train people to get the kinds of jobs that we want and opportunity for people that don’t have it. So, Katrice, thank you so much. (Applause.) We’re proud of you.
My understanding — we understand we also have — Congresswoman Karen Bass is here. Where’s Karen? (Applause.) We love Karen. There’s Karen Bass. We’ve got — America’s Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, is here. Give Tom a big round of applause. (Applause.)
And we want to thank L.A. Trade Technical College for your hospitality. (Applause.) This is a school that does good work helping the unemployed retrain for new careers. And that’s one of the things I want to talk about today.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. (Applause.)
I always love being in California. I spent a couple good years here in college myself.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Occi Tigers!
THE PRESIDENT: Occi — that’s right, Occi Tigers. Earlier today, I sat down at Canter’s with Katrice and a few Californians who wrote to me. I get letters from folks all across the country and I read them every night. And folks tell me their stories — about their worries and their hopes and hardships and successes. Some say I’m doing a good job. Some say I’m an idiot — which let’s me know that I’m getting a representative sample. (Laughter.)
But in addition to Katrice, a young woman named Kati Koster was there, and she told me about her life. She grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Wisconsin. Her parents taught her to value education, that that was going to be the ticket to the middle class. First in her family to go to college; moved on to get her master’s degree from Pepperdine, stayed out in California. (Applause.)
And she wrote to tell me that she’s always played by the rules, valued education, worked hard but she felt “trapped” because no matter how hard she worked it seemed like she couldn’t get ahead. And she said, “If earning an education doesn’t open doors for someone like me to rise above my socioeconomic class…what does that say about our country?” “What does it say about our values,” she asked. She said, “I try not to be cynical, but one shouldn’t have to be rich or from a wealthy family in order to pay their bills, save some money, have fun, enjoy life.” She said, “I didn’t write this letter to complain. I wrote because I don’t know what else to do, and as the President of my country I hoped you would listen to my story.”
So, L.A., I’m here because I am listening to Kati’s story. I’m listening to Americans all across the country, everybody who works their tail off, is doing the right thing, who believes in the American Dream, just wants a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their family. You are why I ran for President in the first place. And I am always going to be listening to you. (Applause.)
Now, the crisis that hit near the end of that campaign back in 2008 cost millions of Americans their jobs, their homes, their sense of security. But today, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months. The unemployment rate is at its lowest point since September of 2008. (Applause.) And this past year, we saw one of the fastest drops in nearly 30 years in the unemployment rate. (Applause.) The decisions we made not only to rescue the economy, rescue the auto industry, but to rebuild it on a new foundation — those decisions are paying off.
We’re more energy independent. The world’s number-one oil and gas producer is not Russia, it’s not Saudi Arabia — it’s the United States of America. (Applause.) We’ve reduced our carbon pollution over the past eight years more than any country on Earth. You saw an L.A. Times headline the other day that said “2014 off to the hottest start on record for California.” That’s why we have to worry about climate change.
We’ve tripled the electricity we’re getting from wind power, generating enough last year to power every home in California. We now generate 10 times the solar electricity, creating tens of thousands of jobs across the country. California is so far ahead of the rest of the country in solar that earlier this year, solar power met 18 percent of your total power demand one day. That’s the kind of progress, kind of leadership we need. (Applause.)
But it’s not just the energy sector. In education, our high school graduation rate is at a record high. The Latino dropout rate has been cut in half since 2008. (Applause.) More young people are earning their college degrees than ever before. Meanwhile, 401(k)s have restored their value. Fewer homes are underwater. Millions more families have the peace of mind of affordable health care when you need it because we did pass the Affordable Care Act. (Applause.)
None of this was an accident. We made some good decisions, but we also saw the resilience and the resolve of the American people. And because of that, we’ve recovered faster, we’ve gone farther than almost any country on Earth since the economic crisis. For the first time in more than a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that the number-one place to invest is not China; it’s the United States of America. And our lead is growing. (Applause.)
So — USA!
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE PRESIDENT: So there are reasons — we’ve got every reason to be optimistic about America. We hold all the best cards. We’ve got the best hand. But the decisions we make now are going to determine whether or not working Americans like Kati continue to feel trapped, or whether they get ahead; whether the economic gains that we make just go to a few at the top, or they help to grow an economy and grow incomes and growing middle-opportunities for everybody.
And that’s what’s at stake right now — making sure our economy works for every working American. That’s why I ran for President. That’s what I’m focused on every day. (Applause.) This is the challenge of our time. We can’t be distracted. And if you’re in public office, and you don’t have an answer for somebody like Kati, if you’re not thinking about her and folks who are working hard but still struggling every day, why are you in public service? (Applause.)
So today, I’m here to focus on one thing that we should be doing, which is training more Americans to fill the jobs we’re creating. Right now, there are more job openings in America than any time since 2007. That doesn’t always make headlines, it’s not sexy so the news doesn’t report it, but it’s a big deal. And the job training programs can help folks who fell on hard times in the recession, help them find a solid path back to the middle class.
And I’m always impressed by people who have the courage to go back to school, especially later in life. (Applause.) Last month, in Minnesota, I met a woman named Rebekah, a wonderful young woman. A few years ago, she was waiting tables. She enrolled in a community college, retrained for a new career; today, she loves her job as an accountant. Joe Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, teaches at a community college. A lot of her students are in their 30s. One of the women I met with this morning, Joan Waddell, wrote me to say she’s ready to get back in the game at age 60, after caring for a sick husband, but older workers like her need a little support. And she wrote, “We are a great investment and we want to be part of the workforce.” And if you’d met Joan you’d want to hire her because she is sharp.
So Americans are the best workers in the world — if we’re given a chance. If we work together, we can help more of our fellow citizens learn the skills that growing fields require — in high-tech manufacturing, in clean energy, in information technology, and in health care.
Now, the good news is, earlier this week, I signed a bipartisan bill into law that would help communities update and invest in job training programs like these. And I got to say I had so much fun actually signing a bipartisan bill from Congress — I said, why don’t you all do it more often? (Laughter and applause.) Why don’t you focus on getting some stuff done for the American people? It feels good. (Applause.)
So my administration has taken some steps on our own. We’ve rallied employers to give the long-term unemployed a fair shot at a job. We’re offering grants to community colleges that work with companies to expand apprenticeships. We’re helping cities identify fields with job openings, and custom-tailor programs to help workers earn the skills employers are looking for right now, whether it’s welding metal or coding computers. If your job has been stamped “obsolete” and shipped overseas, or displaced by new technology, your country should help train you to land an even better job in the future. And that’s something we can do if we work together. (Applause.)
So this is just some of what we should be doing to help strengthen the middle class and help Americans who are working to join the middle class. And what I keep hearing from folks across the country is that if Congress had the same priorities most Americans did, if they felt the same urgency that you feel in your own lives, we’d be helping a lot more families right now.
I mean, think about what Congress hasn’t done, despite the fact that I’ve been pushing them to do it. Congress won’t act to make sure a woman gets fair pay. Why not? I went ahead and made sure more women have the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace — because I believe equal pay shouldn’t mean equal work — (applause.) And when women succeed, America succeeds. Why isn’t Congress doing something?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I get you, I understand that.
Congress won’t act to help more young people like Kati manage their student loan debt. I acted to give nearly five million Americans the chance to cap their payments at 10 percent of their income. I don’t want future leaders saddled with debt they can’t pay before they’ve even started off in life. Why don’t we see House Republicans working with Democrats who’ve already said, we’re behind making student loans more affordable? (Applause.)
Today marks exactly five years since the last time the minimum wage went up in this country. That’s too long between raises for a lot of Americans. I’ve done what I can by requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of $10.10 an hour. And since the first time I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, 13 states and D.C. have gone ahead and raised theirs. (Applause.) And here is something interesting — states that have increased the minimum wages this year have seen higher job growth than those who didn’t raise the minimum wage. (Applause.) America deserves a raise. It will be good for those workers and good for business.
So I’m not going to stop trying to work with Democrats and Republicans to make a difference in your lives. But I’ve got to call things as they are. What’s really going on is that Republicans in Congress are directly blocking policies that would help millions of Americans. They are promoting policies that millions of Americans. Just this year, on the other hand, they voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: Just last week, they actually voted to gut the rules we put in place to make sure big banks and credit card companies couldn’t hurt consumers and cause another crisis. They’re going in the wrong direction. Our economy does not grow from the top down; it grows from the middle class out. We do better when middle-class families and folks who are working hard to get into the middle class have a chance. (Applause.)
So just in case some Republicans are listening, let me give you an example of a place where Democrats and Republicans should be able to work together to make a difference. I want everybody to pay attention to this. Right now, our businesses are creating jobs, more companies are choosing to bring jobs back to America. But there’s another trend that is a threat to us. Even as corporate profits are higher than ever, there’s a small but growing group of big corporations that are fleeing the country to get out of paying taxes.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, hold on a second. I want you — I say fleeing the country, but they’re not actually do that. They’re not actually going anywhere. They’re keeping most of their business here. They’re keeping usually their headquarters here in the U.S. They don’t want to give up the best universities and the best military, and all the advantages of operating in the United States. They just don’t want to pay for it. So they’re technically renouncing their U.S. citizenship. They’re declaring they’re based someplace else even though most of their operations are here. Some people are calling these companies “corporate deserters.”
And it’s only a few big corporations so far. The vast majority of American businesses play by the rules. But these companies are cherry-picking the rules. And it damages the country’s finances. It adds to the deficit. It makes it harder to invest in things like job training that help keep America growing. It sticks you with the tab to make up for what they’re stashing offshore through their evasive tax policies.
Now, the problem is this loophole they’re using in our tax laws is actually legal. It’s so simple and so lucrative, one corporate attorney said it’s almost like “the Holy Grail” of tax avoidance schemes. My attitude is I don’t care if it’s legal — it’s wrong. (Applause.) And my attitude is, is that nobody begrudges our companies from turning a profit — we want them to be profitable. And in a global economy, there’s nothing wrong with companies expanding to foreign markets. But you don’t get to pick the tax rate you pay. Folks, if you’re a secretary or you’re a construction worker, you don’t say, you know what, I feel like paying a little less, so let me do that. You don’t get a chance to do that. These companies shouldn’t either.
And the practice they’re engaging is the same kind of behavior that keeps middle-class and working-class families working harder and harder just to keep up.
So the good news is there’s a way to change this. We could end this through tax reform that lowers the corporate rate, closes wasteful loopholes, simplifies the tax code so people can’t game it.
And over the past two years, I’ve put forward plans that would have cut corporate taxes and made our tax system more competitive — but Congress hasn’t done anything — as usual. Now, some members of Congress, in both parties, have been working together on responsible corporate tax reform so we don’t have to keep playing whack-a-mole, trying to chase folks around, we’d finally start dealing with these special interest tax loopholes. But that’s going to take some time. And in the meantime, we need to stop companies from renouncing their citizenship just to get out of paying their fair share of taxes. We can’t wait for that. You shouldn’t get to call yourself an American company only when you want a handout from American taxpayers. (Applause.)
That’s why, in my budget earlier this year, I proposed closing this unpatriotic tax loophole for good. Democrats in Congress have advanced a proposal that would do the same thing. A couple of Republicans have said they want to address it, too. Let’s everybody get together, Democrats and Republicans, to deter companies from rushing to take advantage of this tax loophole. And let’s make sure that we’re rewarding companies that are investing and paying their fair share here in the United States.
And this is not a partisan issue. Just 10 years ago, a Republican-led Congress cracked down on corporations moving to offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands. We should do it again.
I’m not interested in punishing these companies. But I am interested in economic patriotism. Instead of doubling down on top-down economics, I want an economic patriotism that says we rise or fall together, as one nation, and as one people. (Applause.)
Economic patriotism says it’s a good thing when we close wasteful tax loopholes and invest in education, and invest in job training that helps the economy for everybody. Instead of tax breaks for millionaires, let’s give tax breaks to families to help on child care or college. (Applause.) Let’s stop rewarding companies that ship jobs overseas; give tax breaks to companies that are bringing jobs back to the United States. (Applause.) Let’s put America back to work rebuilding roads and bridges and airports. Let’s make sure the next generation of good manufacturing is happening right here in Los Angeles, and in Wisconsin, and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Economic patriotism says it’s a good thing when our fellow citizens have access to preschool, and college, and, yes, health care that is affordable. (Applause.) It’s a good thing when women earn the same as men for doing the same work. It’s a good thing when nobody who’s working full-time has to raise a family in poverty. (Applause.) That’s not un-American. It’s how we built America — together. That’s what economic patriotism is.
So let me just close by saying this. The hardest thing in politics is to change a stubborn status quo. It’s even harder when Washington seems focused on everything but the concerns of you. There are plenty of folks out there who count on you being cynical and say you’re not going to vote, you’re not going to get involved. And that just gives more power to the special interests who already benefit from the status quo.
Cynicism is fashionable these days. But I got to tell you, cynicism didn’t put a man on the moon. Cynicism did not create the opportunity for all our citizens to vote. Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or started a business, or fed young minds.
I believe in optimism. I believe in hope.
THE PRESIDENT: I believe in America making progress. And despite unyielding opposition, there are workers with jobs who didn’t have them before because of what we’ve done. There are families who have health insurance because of what we’ve done. There are students who are going to college who weren’t going before because of what we’ve done. There are troops who have finally come home after serving tour after tour overseas because of what we’ve done. (Applause.)
Don’t let the cynics get you down. Cynicism is a choice — and hope is a better choice. And if we can work together, I promise you there’s no holding America back.
Thank you, Los Angeles. I love you. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
1:37 P.M. PDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 24, 2014
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the President on the Economy
Source: WH, 7-3-14
Watch the Video
11:57 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: So we’re going into the 4th of July weekend and what more appropriate place to be than 1776. (Applause.) This is an incubator for all sorts of tech startups, a lot of them focused on social change issues, on education, on health care. And so we’ve got a range of entrepreneurs who are trying to figure out how can we do well by doing good, in many cases.
And I just have to say that the young people — and some not so young people — (laughter) — that I spoke to, coming from a wide range of backgrounds — we had former Army Rangers; we had lawyers; we had former HR folks, transportation experts, engineers — all of them had the kind of energy and drive and creativity and innovation that has been the hallmark of the American economy.
And part of the reason I wanted to come here today is to focus on what’s happened in the U.S. economy over the last several months and last several years. We just got a jobs report today showing that we’ve now seen the fastest job growth in the United States in the first half of the year since 1999. (Applause.) So this is also the first time we’ve seen five consecutive months of job growth over 200,000 since 1999. (Applause.) And we’ve seen the quickest drop in unemployment in 30 years.
So it gives you a sense that the economy has built momentum, that we are making progress. We’ve now seen almost 10 million jobs created over the course of the last 52 months. And it should be a useful reminder to people all across the country that given where we started back in 2008, we have made enormous strides, thanks to the incredible hard work of the American people and American businesses that have been out there competing, getting smarter, getting more effective. And it’s making a difference all across the country.
Now, what we also know is, as much progress as has been made, there are still folks out there who are struggling. We still have not seen as much increase in income and wages as we’d like to see. A lot of folks are still digging themselves out of challenges that arose out of the Great Recession.
Historically, financial crises take a longer time to recover from. We’ve done better than the vast majority of other countries over the last five years, but that drag has still meant a lot of hardship for a lot of folks. And so it’s really important for us to understand that we could be making even stronger process, we could be growing even more jobs, we could be creating even more business opportunities for smart, talented folks like these if those of us here in Washington were focused on them, focused on you, the American people, rather than focused on politics.
And I’ve given a number of examples over the last several months of things we know would work if we are investing in rebuilding our infrastructure — that doesn’t just put construction workers back to work, that puts engineers back to work, that puts landscape architects back to work, it puts folks who are manufacturing concrete or steel back to work. It makes a difference and it has huge ripple effects all across the economy.
If we are serious about increasing the minimum wage, that puts more money in the pockets of people who are most likely to spend it. They, in turn, are most likely to hire more people because they now have more customers who are frequenting their businesses. If we are making sure that there’s equal pay for equal work, that’s helping families all across the country. If we’re focused on making sure that childcare is accessible and affordable and high-quality, that frees up a whole bunch of potential entrepreneurs, as well as people who are just going to work every single day, doing the right thing, being responsible, but often are hampered by difficult situations in terms of trying to manage parenting and families.
And so there are just a series of specific things we can do right now — many of them I’m doing on my own because we have the administrative authority to do it, but some of them we can’t do without Congress. We can’t fix a broken immigration system that would allow incredibly talented folks who want to start businesses here and create jobs here in the United States, would allow them to stay and make those investments. That’s something that we need Congress to help us on. (Applause.) We’re not going to be able to fund the Highway Trust Fund and to ramp up our investment in infrastructure without acts of Congress.
So my hope is, is the American people look at today’s news and understand that, in fact, we are making strides. We have not seen more consistent job growth since the ‘90s. But we can make even more progress if Congress is willing to work with my administration and to set politics aside, at least occasionally — (laughter) — which I know is what the American people are urgently looking for.
It’s a sort of economic patriotism where you say to yourself, how is it that we can start rebuilding this country to make sure that all of the young people who are here but their kids and their grandkids are going to be able to enjoy the same incredible opportunities that this country offers as we have. That’s our job. That’s what we should be focused on. And it’s worth remembering as we go into Independence Day.
Thanks, everybody. Appreciate it. Thanks. (Applause.)
12:04 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 3, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency July 1, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy at the Georgetown Waterfront
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the President on the Economy
Source: WH, 7-1-14
Watch the Video
2:22 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, hello, everybody. Have a seat, have a seat. It’s hot. (Laughter.) It’s hot out — Anthony, take off your coat, man. (Laughter.) It is hot and Team USA takes the pitch in a couple hours, so we’ve got to get down to business. (Applause.) We don’t have time for a lot of small talk — am I right, Mr. Mayor? We’ve got to get going.
Behind me is one of the busiest bridges in Washington. And, with the 4th of July on Friday — also Malia’s birthday, for those of you who are interested, she will be 16, a little worrisome — I would note that this bridge is named for the man who wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner” –- Francis Scott Key.
Three years ago, I came here to this very spot, to the Key Bridge, to talk about how two of the five major bridges connecting D.C. and Virginia –- including this one -– were rated “structurally deficient.” And with almost 120,000 vehicles crossing them every day, I said it was important to fix them.
And today, that’s exactly what we’re doing. So, soon, construction workers will be on the job making the Key Bridge safer for commuters and for families, and even for members of Congress to cross. (Laughter.) This is made possible by something called the Highway Trust Fund, which Congress established back in the 1950s, and which helps states repair and rebuild our infrastructure all across the country. It’s an example of what can happen when Washington just functions the way it was supposed to.
Back then, you had Eisenhower, a Republican President; over time you would have Democratic Presidents, Democratic and Republican members of Congress all recognizing building bridges and roads and levees and ports and airports — that none of that is a partisan issue. That’s making sure that America continues to progress.
Now, here is the problem. Here is the reason we’re here in the heat. If this Congress does not act by the end of the summer, the Highway Trust Fund will run out. There won’t be any money there. All told, nearly 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year. That would be like Congress threatening to lay off the entire population of Denver, or Seattle, or Boston. That’s a lot of people. It would be a bad idea. Right now, there are more than 100,000 active projects across the country where workers are paving roads, and rebuilding bridges, and modernizing our transit systems. And soon, states may have to choose which projects to continue and which ones to put the brakes on because they’re running out of money. Some have already done just that, just because they’re worried that Congress will not get its act together in time.
Now, earlier this year, I put forward a plan not just to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, I put forward a plan to rebuild our transportation infrastructure across the country in a responsible way. And I want to thank Secretary Anthony Foxx, who is here today, for his hard work in putting this plan together. (Applause.) Because we are not spending enough on the things that help our economy grow, the things that help businesses move products, the thing that help workers get to the job, the things that help families get home to see their loved ones at night. We spend significantly less as a portion of our economy than China does, than Germany does, than just about every other advanced country. They know something that I guess we don’t, which is that’s the path to growth, that’s the path to competitiveness.
So the plan we put together would support millions of jobs. It would give cities, and states, and private investors the certainty they need to plan ahead. It would help small businesses ship their goods faster, help parents get home to their kids faster. And it wouldn’t add to the deficits –- because we’d pay for it in part by closing tax loopholes for companies that are shipping their profits overseas to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Seems like a sensible thing to do. (Applause.)
It’s not crazy, it’s not socialism. (Laughter.) It’s not the imperial presidency — no laws are broken. We’re just building roads and bridges like we’ve been doing for the last, I don’t know, 50, 100 years. But so far, House Republicans have refused to act on this idea. I haven’t heard a good reason why they haven’t acted — it’s not like they’ve been busy with other stuff. (Laughter.) No, seriously. (Laughter.) I mean, they’re not doing anything. Why don’t they do this?
Now, Republican obstruction is not just some abstract political stunt; it has real and direct consequences for middle-class families all across the country.
We went through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we’ve climbed back. Since then, we’ve created 9.4 million new jobs over the past 51 months. Corporate profits are up, stock market is up, housing is improving. (Applause.) Unemployment is down. The deficits have been cut in half. We’re making progress, but we still have a situation where those at the top are doing as well as ever but middle-class families all across the country are still struggling to get by. There are people who are working hard, they believe in the American Dream — it feels sometimes like the system is rigged against them.
And they have good reason to think that way. So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every serious idea to strengthen the middle class. Not ideas that are unique to me, they’re not — this isn’t Obama bridge. (Laughter.) It’s Key Bridge. But the Republicans have said no to raising the minimum wage, they’ve said no to fair pay, they’ve said no to extending unemployment insurance for over 3 million Americans looking for a new job.
And this obstruction keeps the system rigged for those who are doing fine at the top. It prevents us from helping more middle-class families. And as long as they insist on taking no action whatsoever that will help anybody, I’m going to keep on taking actions on my own that can help the middle class — like the actions I’ve already taken to speed up construction projects, and attract new manufacturing jobs, and lift workers’ wages, and help students pay off their loans. (Applause.)
And they criticize me for this. Boehner sued me for this. And I told him, I’d rather do things with you, pass some laws, make sure the Highway Trust Fund is funded so we don’t lay off hundreds of thousands of workers. It’s not that hard. Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff. So sue me. (Laughter.) As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something. (Applause.)
And look, I just want to be clear — Republicans in Congress, they’re patriots, they love their country, they love their families. They just have a flawed theory of the economy that they can’t seem to get past. They believe that all we should be doing is giving more tax breaks to those at the top, eliminating regulations that stop big banks or polluters from doing what they want, cut the safety net for people trying to work their way into the middle class, and then somehow the economy is going to get stronger and jobs and prosperity trickle down to everybody. That’s their worldview. I’m sure they sincerely believe it. It’s just not accurate. It does not work.
We know from our history our economy doesn’t grow from the top down; it grows from the middle out. We do better when you’ve got some construction workers on the job. They then go to a restaurant and they buy a new car. That means the workers there start doing better. Everybody does better. And we could be doing so much more if Republicans in Congress were less interested in stacking the deck in favor of those at the top or trying to score political points, or purposely trying to gridlock Washington, and just tried to get some things done to grow the economy for everybody. We could do so much more if we just rallied around an economic patriotism, a sense that our job is to get things done as one nation and as one people.
Economic patriotism would say that instead of protecting corporations that are shipping jobs overseas, let’s make sure they’re paying their fair share of taxes, let’s reward American workers and businesses that hire them. Let’s put people to work rebuilding America. Let’s invest in manufacturing, so the next generation of good manufacturing jobs are right here, made in the USA. (Applause.) That would be something to celebrate on the 4th of July. (Applause.)
Economic patriotism says that instead of stacking the deck in the favor of folks just at the top, let’s harness the talents and ingenuity of every American and give every child access to quality education, and make sure that if your job was stamped obsolete or shipped overseas, you’re going to get retrained for an even better job. (Applause.)
Economic patriotism says that instead of making it tougher for middle-class families to get ahead, let’s reward hard work for every American. Let’s make sure women earn pay that’s equal to their efforts. (Applause.) Let’s make sure families can make ends meet if their child gets sick and they need to take a day off. Let’s make sure no American who works full-time ever has to live in poverty. (Applause.)
Let’s tell everybody they’re worth something. No matter who you are, no matter what you look like, where you come from, who you love, if you work hard, if you’re responsible, you can make it here in America. That’s what this country was founded on, that idea. That’s why I ran for this office. I think sometimes about what we could be accomplishing, what we could have accomplished this past year, what we could have accomplished the year before that. And typically what gets reported on is just the politics — well, you know, they’re not doing this because they don’t want to give Obama a victory or oh, well, we don’t want to do this right now because maybe the midterm election is coming up and, oh, well, what’s happening with the polls. People don’t care about that. People just want to see some results. And objectively, if you look at the agenda I’m putting forward, the things that we’re trying to get done like just fixing bridges and roads, it really shouldn’t be controversial. It hasn’t been controversial in the past.
And so part of the reason that I’m going to be spending a lot of time over the next several weeks and months getting out there with ordinary folks is just to report to you it’s not as if I don’t know that you could use some help. I know. It’s not as if we don’t have good plans to put more people back to work and raise their incomes and improve the quality of education. We know how to do it. That’s not the reason it’s not happening. It’s not happening because of politics.
And the only folks that can fix that are going to be you — the American people and voters. Sometimes in our culture right now we just get cynical about stuff and we just assume things can’t change because nothing seems to change in this town. But that’s not true. It can change as long as everybody gets activated, as long as people still feel hopeful and we don’t fall prey to cynicism.
And so I just want everybody here to understand that as frustrating as it may be sometimes, as stuck as Congress may be sometimes, if the American people put pressure on this town to actually get something done and everybody is looking at some commonsense agenda items that we should be able to do because Democrats and Republicans were able to do them in the past, we can grow our economy, we can lift people’s incomes, we can make sure that people who are fighting hard can get into the middle class and stay there. But it’s going to take you. It’s going to take you. This is not going to happen on its own. And I’m confident if that’s what we do, if all of you are fighting alongside me every single day instead of just giving up on this place, then we’re going to make America better than ever. That’s a promise.
Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. Go Team USA! Let’s build some bridges!
2:37 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 1, 2014
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the President Before Cabinet Meeting
Source: WH, 7-1-14
Watch the Video
11:04 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I thought I’d get the Cabinet together this morning because we all know that America will be busy this afternoon. (Laughter.) Go, Team USA.
About the halfway point through this year, we can look back and see some enormous progress that we’ve been able to make on the economy. We continue to create jobs with over 9.4 million created over the last several years. We’re continuing to see improvement in the housing market. We’re continuing to see real progress in terms of the energy sectors. But what we also know is, is that there’s so much more that’s possible.
And part of the reason that I wanted to bring the Cabinet together today is to underscore for them my belief I think shared by most Americans that we can’t wait for Congress to actually get going on issues that are vital to the middle class.
We’ve already seen the power of some of our executive actions in making a real difference for ordinary families — whether it’s on minimum wage for federal workers — or for workers who are with federal contractors; equal pay; and the terrific work that’s being done around climate change so we’re transitioning to a clean-energy economy.
But what I’m going to be urging all of you to do, and what I’m going to be continually pushing throughout this year and for the next couple of years is that if Congress can’t act on core issues that would actually make a difference in helping middle-class families get ahead, then we’re going to have to be creative about how we can make real progress.
Keep in mind that my preference is always going to be to work with Congress and to actually get legislation done. That’s how we get some more of the permanent fixes. And as I mentioned yesterday with respect to immigration, whatever we do administratively is not going to be sufficient to solve a broken immigration system.
The same is true when it comes to infrastructure. We’ll be talking a little bit about how we need to renew the Highway Trust Fund. But, more importantly, we could potentially put people to work all across the country, rebuilding roads and bridges, putting construction workers back to work. That could boost our economy enormously. And now is the time to do it, but that requires congressional action.
And so we’re always going to prefer working on a bipartisan basis to get things done. That’s what folks expect out of Washington. They’re not looking for excuses and they’re not looking for a lot of partisan sniping. But if Congress is unable to do it, then all of our Cabinet members here — and the head of big agencies that touch people’s live in all sorts of ways — and I’m going to be continuing looking for ways in which we can show some real progress.
And the second topic that we’re going to be spending a lot of time talking about is how to do we continue to improve the functioning of government to make it more customer-friendly. This is something that we’ve been working on since Sylvia was head of OMB. This is something that Shaun will be prioritizing. I expect every agency to look and see how can we get more bang for the buck in the agencies that we operate. And I know that many of you can report some significant progress in reducing paperwork and bureaucracy and red tape for projects and initiatives around the country in education, in energy, in housing and in transportation. But I think we can do even better.
So I’m looking forward to getting a report from you on the progress that has been made. And hopefully we can share some ideas to see if we can make even more progress.
The bottom line is this: I went to Minnesota — many of the press here accompanied me — and had a wonderful conversation with folks around the country who are doing their jobs every single day — raising families, working hard, contributing to their communities. And their hopes and aspirations are my primary focus and should be the primary focus of this town. They are extraordinarily cynical about Washington right now, and rightfully so. They just don’t see any capacity by Congress to do anything. We’ve seen a Congress that said no to increasing the minimum wage; said no to immigration reform; has said no to equal pay legislation. The only thing they seem to say yes to, the Republican in the House at least, is more tax breaks for folks at the top. And as a consequence, the people who sent us here, they just don’t feel as if anybody is fighting for them and working for them.
We’re not always going to be able to get things through Congress, at least this Congress, the way we want to. But we sure as heck can make sure that the folks back home know that we’re pushing their agenda and that we’re working hard on their behalf and we’re doing every single thing we can do to make a difference in their lives. So I want to make sure that we emphasize not what we can’t do, but what we can do in the coming months.
Thank you very much, everybody.
11:10 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 1, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency June 26, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Town Hall on the Economy Minneapolis, Minnesota
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the President in Town Hall
Source: WH, 6-26-14
2:24 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Minneapolis! (Applause.) Good to see you. Good to see you. Everybody have a seat. It is good to be back in Minnesota. (Applause.) Last time I was here it was colder. (Laughter.) Here’s just a tip for folks who are not from Minnesota — if you come here and the Minnesotans are complaining about how cold it is it’s really cold. (Laughter.) Because these are some pretty tough folks. They don’t get phased with cold. But it was cold, so it’s nice to be back when it’s a little warmer.
And I have to begin by congratulating our U.S. soccer team, Team USA — (applause) — for advancing to the next round of the World Cup. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE PRESIDENT: USA!
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. We were in what’s called the “Group of Death.” (Laughter.) And even though we didn’t win today, we were in the toughest grouping and we got through. And so we’ve still got a chance to win the World Cup. (Applause.) And we could not be prouder of them. They are defying the odds and earned a lot of believers in the process. And I want everybody on the team to know that all of us back home are really proud of them.
Let me tell you something. I’ve been really looking forward to getting out of D.C. (Laughter.) But I’ve also been looking forward to spending a couple days here in the Twin Cities. Our agenda is still a little loose. I might pop in for some ice cream, visit a small business. I don’t know. I’m just going to make it up as I go along. The Secret Service — I always tease them. I’m like a caged bear, and every once in a while I break loose. And I’m feeling super loose today. (Applause.) So you don’t know what I might do. You don’t know what I might do. Who knows? (Applause.)
But the main reason I wanted to be here is I just wanted to have a chance to talk to folks about their lives and their hopes and their dreams and what they’re going through. I want to spend some time listening and answering your questions and just having a conversation about what’s going well in your lives and in your neighborhoods and communities right now, but also what kinds of struggles folks are going through, and what things are helping and what things aren’t.
Now, before I do I just want to mention our Governor, Mark Dayton, is here. (Applause.) And Mark gave me an update on the flooding that’s been going on all across the state and I know some folks here are probably affected by it as well. We made sure that FEMA is already on the ground here. The Army Corps of Engineers is helping to build up a levee up in Warroad. I told the Governor that we will be there as we get some clarity about the damage and what needs to be done, and you should feel confident that you’re going to have a strong partner in FEMA and the federal government in the process of cleaning up. (Applause.)
And you can also feel confident because if we didn’t help out, then I’d have Mayor Coleman and Mayor Hodges and Congressman Keith Ellison giving me a hard time. So they’re going to hold me to it. They do a great job on behalf of their constituents every day. (Applause.)
I also wanted to mention that up the road there’s a memorial service for a person that many of you knew and loved, and that’s Jim Oberstar, who served so long in Congress. I had a chance to know Jim; we overlapped before he came back home. He was a good man. He was a good public servant. He was somebody who never forgot the folks in the Iron Range that he was fighting for. And in a lot of ways, what he represented was a time when folks went to Washington, but they understood that they were working on behalf of hardworking middle-class families and people who were trying to get into the middle class.
And that fight continues. We’ve made progress. And the one thing that I always remind people of is by just about every economic measure, we are significantly better off than we were when I came into office. (Applause.) Unemployment is down; the deficits have been cut in half; the housing market has improved; 401(k)s have gotten more solid. The number of people who are uninsured are down. Our exports are up, our energy production is up. So, in the aggregate, when you look at the country as a whole, by pretty much every measure, the economy is doing better than it was when I came into office — and in most cases significantly better.
We’ve created now 9.4 million new jobs over the last 51 months. (Applause.) The unemployment rate here in Minnesota is the lowest it’s been since 2007. (Applause.) But here’s the thing — and I’m not telling you anything that you don’t know. There are still a lot of folks struggling out there.
We’ve got an economy that, even when it grows and corporate profits are high and the stock market is doing well, we’re still having trouble producing increases in salary and increases in wages for ordinary folks. So we’ve seen wages and incomes sort of flat-line, even though the costs of food and housing and other things have gone up. And so there are a lot of people who work really hard, do the right thing, are responsible, but still find at the end of the month that they’re not getting ahead. And that is the central challenge that drives me every single day when I think about what kinds of policies would help.
So I’ve put forward an opportunity agenda that is a continuation of things I’ve been talking about since I came into the United States Senate and served with Mark and things that I’ve been working on since I became President — making sure that hard work pays off; making sure that if you work hard your kid can go to a good school and end up going to college without a huge amount of debt; that you’re not going to go broke if you get sick; that you’re able to have a home of your own; and that you’re able to retire with some dignity and some respect, maybe a vacation once in a while. That’s what people are looking for. And that means that we’ve got to reverse this mindset that somehow if everybody at the top does really well then somehow benefits all automatically trickle down — because that’s not what’s been happening for the last 20, 30 years.
We had — on Monday we had what we called a White House Working Families Summit. And we just talked about bread-and-butter issues that everybody talks about around the kitchen table but, unfortunately, don’t make it on the nightly news a lot. So we talked about childcare and the fact that it’s prohibitive for too many young families. (Applause.) We talked about paid family leave, so that if a child was sick or a parent was sick, that you could actually go help and take care of them — which is, by the way, what every other developed country does. We’re the only one that doesn’t have it.
We talked about workplace flexibility, so that if you wanted to go to a parent-teacher conference with your family — or for your kid, or a school play, that you could balance that. And in fact, those companies we discovered at the summit who provide that kind of flexibility usually have more productive workers, harder-working workers, more loyal workers, lower turnover, and the companies end up being more profitable.
We talked about increasing the minimum wage, which would benefit millions of people all across the country. (Applause.) We talked about equal pay for equal work, because I want my daughters getting paid the same as men do. (Applause.)
All of these things are achievable, but we’ve got to make Washington work for you — not for special interests, not for lobbyists. We don’t need a politics that’s planned to some — the most fringe elements of politics. We just need folks who are having a common-sense conversation about what’s happening in your lives and how can we help, and then try to take some concrete actions that makes a difference.
So that’s what I want to talk about. And I’m hoping that some people in Washington are going to be listening. Some of them will be and they’ll probably be saying I’m crazy or a socialist or something — (laughter) — but hopefully hearing from you, some of this stuff will sink in. All right?
So with that, I’m just going to take some questions. I’ve got my little hot tea here to make sure I don’t lose my voice. And I think we’ve got microphones in the audience and I’m just going to call on folks. The only rule I’ve got is when I call on you, you’ve got to wait for the microphone, introduce yourself. If you keep your question relatively short I’ll try to keep my answers relatively short. And I’m going to go boy, girl, boy, girl to make sure it’s fair, all right? (Laughter.)
All right. Let’s start it off. All right, who wants to go first? This young lady right here. Tell me your name.
Q Hello, I’m Cheryl Hill.
THE PRESIDENT: Hey, Cheryl.
Q And I admire you so much and your office for the support we’ve received. I’m the founder of ClearCause. I work to protect our students abroad. I support hundreds of students who worked their way up through college — our best and our brightest — are not well-protected by any surveillance or laws. They are robbed, raped, starved, abandoned and killed. I’m here because of my son, Tyler Hill.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, so this is like an exchange programs?
Q Study abroad.
THE PRESIDENT: Study abroad program. Generally, study abroad programs are coordinated by the universities and colleges that sponsor them. There should be interaction between those educational institutions and the State Department. There are obviously some countries that are particularly dangerous, and in those cases, I think making sure that everybody has good information going in is important.
Tragedies happen when folks travel overseas. Unfortunately, tragedies happen here as well. But what I’d like to do is — let me find out more about the nature of the coordination that happens between the State Department and study abroad programs and see if there are some things that we can do to tighten them up. And it sounds like you’ve been thinking about it, so you may have some ideas. Excellent.
Gentleman in the cool sunglasses there.
Q Good morning, Mr. President — or afternoon, Mr. President. My name is Dan Morette (ph). And my question is — you spoke about tragedies at home — how we can reduce gun violence in this nation and what we can do to team up together and really make a difference. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, on my way over here I was talking to a mom that I had lunch with — who’s wonderful, by the way, and she’s here but I’m not going to embarrass her. And she’s got a couple of young sons. And we talked about a whole bunch of issues — the cost of childcare, the fact that wages don’t go up to meet the cost of living. But one thing she talked about was Newtown. And I described how the day that Sandy Hook happened was probably the worst day of my presidency, and meeting those families just a couple of days after they lost these beautiful six-year-olds — 20 of them — and then some of the parents — or some of the teachers and administrators who had been affected as well.
I was sure after that happened, there’s no way that Congress isn’t going to do some common-sense stuff. I thought that the issue of gun safety and common-sense legislation has been controversial for some time, but I thought that was going to be a breakthrough moment. The fact that it wasn’t was probably the most disappointing moment that I’ve had with Congress.
What we’ve done is we’ve developed 24 executive actions, things that were in our power, to really try to tighten tracking where guns go, making sure that we’re sifting through and separating out responsible gun owners from folks who really shouldn’t be having a weapon.
So we’ve probably made some progress. We’ve probably saved a few lives. But I will tell you this is the only advanced country that tolerates something like this. We have what’s basically a mass shooting, it seems like, happening once every couple weeks — kids on college campuses, kids at home. And we’re not going to eliminate all of that violence, and there’s a strong tradition of gun ownership and there are wonderful folks who are sportsman and hunters, and I respect all of that. But we should be able to take some basic common-sense steps that are, by the way, supported by most responsible gun owners — like having background checks so you can’t just walk into a store and buy a semiautomatic — (applause.)
Something I’m going to keep on talking about that I was asked about this a few weeks ago, and I said, honestly, this is not going to change unless the people who want to prevent these kinds of mass shootings from taking place feel at least as passionate and are at least as mobilized and well-funded and organized as the NRS and the gun manufacturers are. Because the politics in Congress are such where even members of Congress who know better are fearful that if they vote their conscience and support common-sense gun legislation like background checks, they’re worried that they’re going to lose their seat. And frankly, there’s a number who have because the other side is very well organized.
So I will keep on talking about it. We’re going to continue to work with law enforcement and community groups and others to try to take steps locally and at the state level. But if we’re going to do something nationally, then we’re going to have to mobilize ordinary folks — moms, dads, families, responsible gun owners, law enforcement — and they’re going to have to get organized and be able to counter the pressure that’s coming from the other side in a sustained way — not in a one-week or two-week or one-month situation right after a tragedy occurs; it’s going to have to just keep on going for several years before we’re able to make progress. (Applause.)
All right. Young lady right there. The one in the orange — got a mic right next to you.
Q I’m an educator in a public school, and I have a son in college who’s struggling through college with student loans. I’ve been an educator for 27-plus years. (Applause.) And I know you’re into sports and I hear they generate a lot of money. We generate a lot of minds. And it really bothers me that I can’t pay for his education. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I’m just curious what your son’s circumstances are. Is he going to a state school? Is he going to a private school?
Q He’s going to a community college.
THE PRESIDENT: He’s going to a community college.
Q And wants to go to college in New York, in fashion design.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. But he’s in community college here in Minnesota right now?
THE PRESIDENT: And is he eligible for the federal student loans programs? Or is he finding that because of your income or your family’s income that it’s hard to get some of the lower-interest loans?
Q Both. He’s kind of both.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Well, look, this is something we’ve been spending a lot of time on. There are a couple components to the problem. And, by the way, this is something near and dear to my heart because I was not born into a wealthy family. I’m only here because of my education, but the reason I was able to get that education was because grants, loans, work during the summer — all of those things allowed me to pay the bills.
But college costs were lower then when I was going to school. I know you can’t tell from my gray hair, but I’m getting a little older now. (Laughter.) And so I started college in 1979, and when I graduated — I was able to get a four-year college education — I had some debt, but I could pay it off after one year. Now, the average student that does have debt is seeing $30,000 worth of debt. And even if they’re able to take out loans, that’s a burden that they’re carrying with them in their first job; it may prevent them from buying their first home; if they’ve got a business idea, that’s money that is going to take them a while before they’re able to start a business, and, as a consequence, it effects the whole economy.
Now, it is really important just to remind everybody a college education is still a great investment as long as you graduate. (Applause.) As long as you graduate. So when you go into college, you’ve got to be determined, “I’m going to graduate.” It’s a great investment, but it’s not a great investment if you take out $20,0000 worth of debt and you don’t graduate, you don’t get the degree, which is why we’re spending a lot of time talking to colleges about what are you doing to retain students.
But the things that we need to do are, number one, try to keep costs of student loans down. We’ve been working with colleges and universities, telling them if the federal government is going to help subsidize your universities essentially with the student loan program, you need to show us that you’re informing students ahead of time how much they’re going to owe; that you are describing for them what their repayment plans would be; that you are keeping tuition low and that you’re graduating folks at a high rate.
So we’ve got to work with the colleges and universities to lower costs. We’ve got to keep the interest rates on student loans low. Right now, there’s legislation that was presented in the Senate — Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren sponsored it — and what it does is it just allows student loans that you already have to be consolidated, and you can refinance them at a lower rate just like you could your mortgage if the rates go down. Republicans all voted against it — I don’t know why. You will have to ask them. But that’s an example of a tool we can use.
We’ve also put in place — this is something that I passed a while back and now I’ve expanded — a program whereby you never have to pay more than 10 percent of your current income to pay back your student loans, so that if you decide you want to go into teaching or you want to go into social work — something that may not be a high-paying profession but a satisfying profession — that the fact that you’ve had some student debt is not going to preclude you from taking that position.
So there are a number of different steps that we’re taking.I will tell you, though, in addition to what we do at the federal level, you’re going to need to talk to your state legislators. Part of the reason that tuition has gone up is because state legislatures across the country have consistently lowered the support that they provide public universities and community colleges, and then the community colleges and the public universities feel obliged to increase tuition rates. And that obviously adds the burden to students.
The bottom line is your son is doing the right thing. The fact that he’s starting at a community college will save him money. Even if he wants to graduate from a four-year institution eventually, it will still be a good investment. So he should shop around, get the right information. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we keep it as affordable as possible. And I’m sure he’s going to do wonderfully, and then he’s going to look after his mom. (Applause.)
Okay, it’s a guy’s turn. This gentleman right here.
Q Mr. President, like you, I’m the father of two beautiful, intelligent girls.
THE PRESIDENT: Can’t beat daughters. No offense, sons. (Laughter.)
Q And they’re both in STEM careers. I’m wondering what we can do to promote and encourage more girls to go into STEM careers.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, this is a great question. (Applause.) First of all, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
America became an economic superpower in large part because we were the most innovative economy. We are a nation of inventors and tinkerers, and we expand the boundaries of what’s possible through science. And that continues to be the case. We still have the most cutting-edge technology, the most patents. But if we’re not careful, we’ll lose our lead. And if things aren’t being invented here, then they’re not being produced here. And if they’re not being produced here, that means the jobs aren’t being created here. And over time, other countries catch up.
So what do we have to do? Number one, we’ve got to make sure that we’re investing in basic science. Sometimes people say, I don’t know what the federal government spends the money on; they’re all just wasting it. You know, one of the things that the federal government does is it invests in basic research that companies won’t invest in. And if it wasn’t for the investment in basic research, then things like the Internet, things like GPS that everybody uses every day, things that result in cures for diseases that have touched probably every family that’s represented here in some fashion — that stuff never happens.
You do the basic research and then you move on to commercialize it, and that’s oftentimes when the private sector gets involved. But they’re not willing or able a lot of times to finance basic research. So that’s number one.
Number two, we’ve got to make sure that we’re investing in working with companies who are doing, let’s say, advanced manufacturing, the next phases of manufacturing, linking them up with universities so that once we have a good idea, a good invention — whether it’s clean energy or a new way to build a car — that the next phase of production and innovation is done here in the United States. And we’ve opened up four what we call advanced manufacturing hubs around the country — I actually want 15 — where we link private sector and universities so that they become centers of innovation and jobs get created here in the United States.
But the third thing we need is we need more folks in engineering, math, science, technology, computer science. (Applause.) And that means we’ve got to have a school system generally that encourages those subjects. And, by the way, I was a political science and English major, and you need to know how to communicate, and I loved the liberal arts, so this is no offense, but we’ve got enough lawyers like me. We need more engineers. (Applause.) We need more scientists.
Generally speaking, we’re not doing good enough educating kids and encouraging them into these kinds of careers. We’re particularly bad when it comes to girls. And my whole thing is
— somebody said I was a sports fan. I am. And one rule of sports is you don’t play as well if you’ve only got half the team. We don’t have everybody on the field right now if our young women are not being encouraged the same way to get into these fields. So this starts at an early age.
What we’ve done is I’ve used my Office of Science and Technology to partner with elementary schools to, first of all, train teachers better in STEM,’ then to really focus on populations that are under-represented in STEM — not only young women but also African Americans, Latinos, others — getting them interested early. In some cases, for example, we know that young girls — I know as a father — they oftentimes do better if they’re in a team and social environment, so making sure that the structure of science classes, for example, have collaboration involved and there’s actual experience doing stuff, as opposed to just it being a classroom exercise. There are certain things that can end up making it a better experience for them, boosting their confidence, and encouraging them to get into the fields.
So we’re going to continue to really spend a lot of time on this. I’ll just close by saying every year now I have a science fair at the White House, because my attitude is if I’m bringing the top football and basketball teams to the White House, I should also bring the top scientists. I want them to feel — (applause) — that they get the spotlight just like athletes do. And these kids are amazing — except they make you feel really stupid. (Laughter.)
The first student who I met — she’s now — she just graduated. When she was 12, she was diagnosed with a rare liver cancer. Fortunately, she had health insurance. They caught it early enough, she responded to treatment. Lovely young lady — it didn’t come back. But by the time she got into high school and she was taking biology and chemistry, she became interested in why was it that I got this thing at 12 years old?
So she talks to her teachers, and she designs a study where she goes to the surgeon who took out the cancer from her liver, takes samples, identifies the genetic profile and the chromosomes that might have led to this particular kind of cancer, writes up the research in Science Magazine, and now has a scholarship to Harvard to pursue her interest in bio-medicine. And as you might imagine, her parents are pretty proud of her. (Laughter.) I was really proud of her.
But it gives you a sense of the possibilities for young people and young women if somebody is sparking that interest in them, and telling them this is something that they can do and they should pursue their interests. (Applause.)
Young lady right here in the yellow.
Q Hi, my name is Joelle Stangle. I’m the University of Minnesota student body president. And so I have a question about higher education. And I also have a softball question after this hardball question.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, I love the softball questions.
Q My first question is, the House Republicans recently released their recommendations for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, and so I want to know where you think that Republicans and Democrats can work together and what the top priorities should be for reauthorization. And my softball question is how do you get a President to be your commencement speaker? Kids want to know. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, you have to invite me. (Laughter.) So that’s always a good start. I just did my last commencement at UC Irvine. I have to say, they had a campus-wide letter-writing campaign; I think we ended up getting, like, 10,000 letters, was it, from — something like that. They also have a very cute mascot. It’s an anteater. I guess that’s their sign; that’s supposed to be the anteater.
PARTICIPANT: We’ve got a gopher.
THE PRESIDENT: Gophers are cool. (Laughter.) Gophers are cool.
But the invitation is a good place to start, and then we’ll work from there.
In terms of the higher education reauthorization act, that’s a big bill, there’s a lot of complexities to it. I will just focus on an area that I think should be the focus — and we’ve already talked about — and that is student loan costs, and how we can hold schools more accountable for informing young people as they’re starting their education what exactly it’s going to mean for them.
Now, we’ve already started this. I mentioned a few things. One thing I didn’t mention is the Consumer Finance Protection Board that we set up that, in response to what had happened during the Great Recession, when people were taking out mortgages they couldn’t afford and predatory lenders were getting folks in a whole lot of trouble. And we said, the same way that you should be protected from a faulty appliance or a faulty car, you should be protected from a faulty financial instrument, make sure it doesn’t explode in your face. (Applause.)
And one of the goals of CFPB, is what it’s called, was to tackle the student loan issue. And what we’ve done is created what we call a Know What You Owe program, which pushes colleges and universities not to do the financial counseling on the exit interview where suddenly they hand you a packet and says, here, this is what you’re going to owe — hand it to folks at the beginning, break it down for them. And that will allow young people I think to make better decisions, and their parents to work with them to make better decisions about what college expenses are going to be.
But as I said before — this is true for education generally — the federal government can help, but states and local governments have to do their part as well. In public education, the federal government accounts for about 7 percent of total costs. The rest of it comes from state and local taxes. And what we’ve tried to do is leverage the little bit of money that the federal government gives to this to modify how — to incentivize reform, and to get folks to experiment with new ways of learning.
For example, can we use online classes more effectively to help keep college costs down? Can we get more high school students to get transferable college credits while they’re in high school so that they can maybe graduate in three years instead of two? We’re trying to encourage folks to experiment in those ways.
All of that we hope can get embodied in the higher education act. I will tell you, sometimes if I’m for it, then the other side is against it even if originally it was their idea. So I can’t guarantee you that we’ll get bipartisan support for these ideas, but there’s nothing that should prevent us from doing it because this is just about making a college education a better value for families. And that’s something that should transcend party; it shouldn’t be a Democrat or a Republican issue.
All right. Gentleman right here in the uniform.
Q All right, my name is — well, good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon.
Q My name is John Martinez. I’m a recent EMT graduate from the Freedom House EMS Academy in St. Paul. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, there you go.
Q Currently I’m teaching at the Academy, and I just got hired at Allina — I applied for St. Paul Fire. My question is have you considered starting any other organizations such as the Freedom House for law enforcement or fire or other establishments that could get programs like that going for low-income or minorities?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I’ll confess to you I don’t know enough about Freedom House — so I’m considering it right now. (Laughter.) But you’ve got to tell me more about it. Since you’re an instructor there and a graduate from there, why don’t you tell me how it works?
Q You go through an interviewing process and the leaders — there’s fire chiefs that interview the candidates. You get paid, but it is an interviewing process. You wear a unifor;, it’s a strict program. And it’s a 14-week or a 10-week program, depending on what time of the year. It’s intensive. Everything is compacted, all the information that we learn. And you learn skills — all the skills that you need to be an EMT. You meet, you network, you meet fire chiefs, police. I know people that are going into med school. It started in 1967 in Philadelphia.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it sounds like a great program.
THE PRESIDENT: And who’s eligible for it? Is it young people who have already graduated from high school but haven’t yet gone to college? If I’m 30 years old and I’m thinking let me try a new career — who is it that can participate?
Q Anyone from the ages of 17 to 30 is eligible. You have to meet the income requirements. And it’s open to anyone who wants to get into EMS or fire.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s a great idea. See, you just gave me a good idea. (Laughter.) So now I’m considering expanding it. (Applause.)
It’s a good example, though, of a broader issues, which is not everybody is going to go to a four-year university, but everybody is going to need some advanced training. And so the question is how do we set up systems — whether it’s apprenticeships, whether it’s programs like Freedom House that you just described, whether it’s through the community colleges
— where whatever stage in your life, if you feel as if you’re stuck in your existing occupation, you want to do better, or you lose your job and you’ve got to transition to a new industry, that you are able to get training that fits you. Understanding that for a lot of folks they may be working at the same time as they are looking after their kids, and so there’s got to be some flexibility. The programs have to be more compact. Most importantly, they have to be job-training programs or technical programs that actually produce the skills you need to get jobs that are there.
And so what we’ve been trying to do is to — which seems like common sense but, unfortunately, for a long time wasn’t done — going to the businesses first that are hiring and asking them, well, what exactly are you looking for, and why don’t you work with the community college, or why don’t you work with the nonprofit to help design the actual training program so that you’ll have the benefit of knowing if somebody has gone through the program, they’re prepared for the job. Conversely, the person who’s gone through the training program, they know if they complete it, that there’s a job at the other end. And that’s how we’re actually trying to redesign a lot of the job training programs that are out there.
But as I said before, you’ve also got to make sure that you structure it so that a working mom who can’t afford to just quit her job and go to school — maybe she’s a waitress right now — she’s interested in being a nurse’s assistant that has slightly better pay and benefits, and then wants to become a nurse, that she has the opportunity to work around her schedule, make sure that we’ve got the ability to take classes at night, or on weekends, or online.
That’s how — in the future, we’re going to have to redesign a lot of this stuff, getting away from thinking that all the training that’s going to take place is just for 18 and 19-year-olds who’ve got all day and are supported by their parents, because that’s not the model that our economy is going to be in for the foreseeable future.
Young lady. Yes, in the stripes.
Q Hi, my name is Erin. I just left a corporation in Minnesota, a Fortune 500 corporation, where I had my four-year degree, my male counterpart did not, and he was making $3 more an hour than I was. My question for you is what are we going to do about it so as I grow up and other women grow up we are not experiencing the wage gap anymore? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’ve got all kinds of opinions on this. (Laughter.)
First of all — I told this story at the Working Families Summit — my mom was a single mom. She worked, went to school, raised two kids with the help of my grandparents. And I remember what it was like for her — coming home, she’s dead tired, she’s trying to fix a healthy meal for me and my sister, which meant there were only really like five things in the rotation because she didn’t have time to be practicing with a whole bunch of stuff. And sometimes, because you’re a kid, you’re stupid, so you’re all like, I don’t want to eat that again. (Laughter.) And she’s like, really? (Laughter.) What did you make? Eat your food. (Laughter.)
But I remember the struggles that she would go through when she did finally get her advanced degree, got a job, and she’d experience on-the-job discrimination because of her gender.
My grandmother, she was Rosie the Riveter. When my grandfather went to fight in World War II, part of Patton’s Army, she stayed home because — my mom was born in Kansas, at Fort Leavenworth, and my grandmother worked at a bomber assembly line. And she was whip smart. I mean, in another era, she would have ended up running a company. But at the time, she didn’t even get her college degree — worked as a secretary. She was smart enough that she worked her way up to be a vice president at the local bank where we lived — which is why sometimes when I watch Mad Men, there’s Peggy and Joan, the two women there, I’m always rooting for them because I imagine them — that’s what it was like for my grandmother, kind of working her way up.
But as smart as she was, she got to a certain point and then she stopped advancing. And then she would train guys how to do the job and they would end up being her boss. And it happened three or four times.
So this is something that I care a lot about not just because of my past, but also because of my future. I’ve got two daughters. The idea that they would not be paid the same or not have the same opportunities as somebody’s sons is infuriating. And even if you’re not a dad, those of you who have partners, spouses — men — this is not a women’s issue. Because if they’re not getting paid, that means they’re not bringing home as much money, which means your family budget is tighter. (Applause.) So this is a family issue and not a gender issue.
So what can we do? First bill I signed was called the Lily Ledbetter Act, that allowed folks to sue if they found out that they had been discriminated against, like you found out. Back then, Lilly Ledbetter, this wonderful woman, she had been paid less than her male counterparts for the same job for over a decade. When she finally finds out, she sues, and the Supreme Court says, well, the statute of limitations has run out; you can’t sue for all of that back pay. She says, well, I just found out — well, that doesn’t matter. So we reversed that law, allowing people to sue based on when you find out.
Most recently what I did was we made it against the law, at least for federal contractors, to retaliate against employees for sharing job — or salary information. Because part of the problem — part of the reason that it’s hard to enforce equal pay for equal work is most employers don’t let you talk, or discourage talk about what everybody else is getting paid. And what we’ve said is women have a right to know what the guy sitting next to them who’s doing the exact same job is getting paid. So that’s something we were able to do.
But ultimately, we’re going to need Congress to act. There have been repeated efforts by us to get what we call the Paycheck Fairness Act through Congress and Republicans have blocked it. Some have denied that it’s a problem. What they’ve said is, you know what, women make different choices. That explains the wage gap. That’s the reason that women on average make 77 cents to every dollar that a man earns — is because they’re making different choices.
Well, first of all, that’s not true in your case because you were doing the same job. You didn’t make a different choice; you just were getting paid less. But let’s even unpack this whole idea of making different choices. What they’re really saying is, because women have to bear children, and a company doesn’t give them enough maternity leave or doesn’t give them enough flexibility, that they should be punished.
And our whole point is that this is a family issue and that if we structure the workplace to actually be family-friendly, which everybody always talks about but we don’t always actually practice, then women won’t have to make different choices. Then if they’re pregnant and have a child, it’s expected that they’re going to have some time off. By the way, the dads should, too. They should have some flexibility in the workplace. (Applause.) They should be able to take care of a sick kid without getting docked for pay.
And there are some wonderful companies who are doing this. And as I said before, it turns out that when companies adopt family-friendly policies their productivity goes up, they have lower turnover — which makes sense. Look, if you have a family emergency, and you go to your boss and you say, can I have a week off, I’ve got to take care of a sick child or a dad — or can I leave early this afternoon because my kid is in a school play and I really think this is important, and they say, of course, nothing is more important than family — how hard are you going to work for that person when you get back on the job? You’re going to feel invested in them. You’re going to say to yourself, man, these folks care about me, which means I care about you. And if I have to take some extra time on a weekend, or I’ve got to do some work late at night when I’m not under an emergency situation, I’m going to do that.
So this makes good business sense. But the problem is, is that we haven’t done enough to encourage these new models. And this is part of the reason why we did this Family Summit — we wanted to lift this stuff up, show companies that are doing the right thing, encourage others to adopt the same practices, and maybe get some legislation that incentivizes better policies.
In the meantime, though, if you’re doing the same job you should make the same pay — period; full stop. (Applause.) That should be a basic rule. That shouldn’t be subject to confusion. (Applause.)
Let’s see — this young man back here, right there.
Q Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. What’s your name?
Q My name is Quinn Graham. I’m an intern with Right Track.
THE PRESIDENT: What’s Right Track? Tell me about it.
Q It’s a youth jobs program through the city of St. Paul.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great. Now, what grade are you going into next year?
Q I’m going to be a senior next year.
THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. How did junior year go?
THE PRESIDENT: How did junior year go?
THE PRESIDENT: It was okay? What do you mean, yeah? No, how did junior year go?
Q Oh, it went well.
THE PRESIDENT: It went well?
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. I just wanted — because Malia is going into her junior year and I hear it’s pretty busy your junior year.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah? Well, you look like you survived it.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. You wanted to get to your question. Please go ahead. (Laughter.)
Q I was wondering how you would propose to address the growing issue of climate change. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, as it just so happens — now, this young man was not a plant. (Laughter.) But as it just so happens, last year yesterday, I announced my Climate Action Plan. And let me just set the stage by saying that the science here is settled — (applause) — carbon dioxide is released by a whole bunch of manmade activities.
When you release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere it traps heat. We are seeing the highest levels of carbon dioxide, and as a consequence, some of the warmest temperatures that we’ve seen in hundreds of thousands of years. They’re going up. And this is not just a problem of polar bears — although I really like polar bears — and the ice caps melting. What happens is, is that when temperatures on average go up it throws weather patterns into a whole bunch of different directions.
So it may mean that snowcaps on mountains diminish. And out West, entire states get their water from snowcaps. If you’re not getting the same amount of water you now have the potential for more severe drought. Agriculture is impacted, which means your food bills go up. California is going through the worst drought it’s gone through in a very, very long time. That raises the price of all the fruits and vegetables that are grown in California, so it hits you in your pocketbook.
Wildfires may increase. And in fact, we’ve seen record wildfires. We’re having to spend more money fighting fires now than we ever have. It makes hurricanes potentially more frequent and potentially more powerful. So Hurricane Sandy may not be as unusual as it used to be. You see higher incidents of flooding. Coastal states like Florida, there are neighborhoods where now every time there’s a high tide there’s a flood in these neighborhoods.
And the problem is it’s getting worse. Because as folks in China and India and other places decide they want to have cars, too, and they want to have electricity and the things that we’ve got, they start building more power plants and they start driving more — all of that adds to more carbon dioxide and it starts compounding.
So this is something we have to deal with. Now, the good news is there are things we can do. So we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. By the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks are going to go twice as far on a gallon of gas. That’s going to save you money in your pocketbook, but it’s also taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. (Applause.)
We’ve invested in clean energy. Since I came into office we’re producing three times as much energy through wind power and we’re producing about 10 times as much energy through solar power, and we’re creating jobs here in the United States — folks installing wind turbines and solar panels. So it’s good economics and it’s also good for the environment.
Most recently, what I’ve done is I’ve said — about 40 percent of the carbon that we emit comes from power plants. So what we’ve said is, through the Environmental Protection Agency, we’re going to set standards. We set standards for the amount of mercury and arsenic and sulfur that’s pumped out by factories and power plants into our air and our water. Right now we don’t have a cap on the amount of carbon pollution. So we said we’re going to cap it.
And we’re going to let states work with their private sector and local governments to come up with what’s going to be best for them. Not every state is going to do the same thing. Nevada might emphasize solar power. South Dakota might emphasize wind power. Whatever it is that you’re going to do you’ve got to start bringing down your carbon pollution.
Now, this has some controversy. Oil companies, not wild about it; coal companies, not crazy about it. These traditional sources of fuel — fossil fuels — we’re going to use for a while, but we can’t just keep on using them forever. We’ve got to develop new ways of producing energy so that your generation isn’t seeing a planet that is starting to break down, with all the costs associated with it.
Last point I’ll make — one of the benefits of asking power plants to produce energy that’s cleaner is that when they control their carbon dioxide they’re also putting less soot in the air. They’re also putting less particulates in the air. And what that means is your child is less likely to get asthma and those with respiratory diseases are less likely to be impacted. So it has a public health effect that is good as well.
We can have an environment that is cleaner, that is healthy for us, and at the same time, develop entire new industries in clean energy. But we’re going to have to get started now. And that’s why, despite some of the pushback from some of the special interests out there, we’re going to just keep on going at this, because we don’t have a choice. This is something that we’re going to have to tackle during this generation to make sure we’re giving a good future for the next generation. (Applause.) Great question.
Last question — last question. This young lady in the pink, go ahead.
Q Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon.
Q My name is Katie Peterson. And my coworker here and friend, we’ve been working for the federal government for almost 29 years. And we feel really privileged that we’ve been able to serve that way.
THE PRESIDENT: Where do you work?
Q For Defense Contract Management Agency.
THE PRESIDENT: Excellent.
Q But it’s been a great career, we love it, but lately, as you know, there’s been a few rough patches with three years of pay freeze and sequestration and furloughs. And we’re just kind of wondering what you foresee for the next fiscal year for government workers.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me make a couple of points. First of all, folks in the federal government, the overwhelming majority, they work really hard doing really important stuff. And I don’t know why it is that — (applause) — I don’t know when it was that somehow working for government — whether the state or local or federal level — somehow became not a real job. When you listen to some of the Republican rhetoric sometimes you think, well, this is really important work that we depend on.
We’ve got floods right here right now. The federal government is coming in and it’s going to be working with local communities that are overwhelmed to try to make sure that people get help rebuilding. Those are federal workers. If they weren’t around after a tornado or a hurricane, communities would be in a world of hurt.
When you check the weather, even on your smartphone, that information didn’t just come from some Silicon Valley office. That came from the National Weather Service. We put out the data developed by the federal government to our satellites that are paid for, and then it’s commercialized. And people use it to set up things like the Weather Channel and Weather.com and websites.
The folks who help our men and women in uniform make sure that they’ve got proper equipment, those are federal workers. Fighting fires — a lot of times those are federal workers in the Forest Service.
So it frustrates me when I hear people acting as if somebody who’s working for the federal government somehow is less than somebody working on the private sector — if they’re doing a good job and carrying on an important function, we should praise them. (Applause.)
The same is true, by the way, at the local level. The same is true at the local level. I don’t know a job more important than teaching. Those are all government workers. In fact, one of the biggest problems we had in coming out of this recession, in addition to it being the worst recession since the Great Depression, was that states and local governments were cutting back on their hiring at an unprecedented rate. We still haven’t seen state and local government hiring get back to where it was back in 2007-2008. If we had, if we hadn’t lost so many teachers and teachers’ aides in a lot of communities, the unemployment rate would be much lower and the economy would be much stronger.
So I say all this just to make a general point, which is, historically, it’s been the private sector that drove the economy, but it was also a whole bunch of really great work done by agricultural extension workers and engineers at NASA and researchers at our labs that helped to create the platform and the wealth that we enjoy. And so this whole idea that somehow government is the enemy or the problem is just not true.
Now, are there programs that the government does that are a waste of money or aren’t working as well as they should be? Of course. But I tell you, if you work in any company in America, big company, you’ll find some things that they’re doing that aren’t all that efficient either. Are there some federal workers who do bone-headed things? Absolutely. I remember the first week I was on the job I talked to my Defense Secretary, Bob Gates, who’s older and had been there a long time. I said, do you have advice for me, Bob? He says, one thing you should know, Mr. President, is that at any given moment, on any given day, somebody in the federal government is screwing up. (Laughter.) Which is true, because there are 2 million employees. Somebody out there — if 99 percent of the folks are doing the right thing and only 1 percent aren’t, that’s still a lot of people.
So my job as President, working with Congress, is to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and efficiently. We shouldn’t be wasting a dime. And where we see waste, where we see things not working the way they should — like recently, these long waits for folks trying to get in the VA health care program — we’ve got to crack down and we’ve got to reform it. But we can’t paint in a broad brush and just say somehow stuff is not working — because even in the VA health care system, once people get in, the quality of care, the satisfaction rates for customers are actually better than in private sector health care. (Applause.) So we can’t generalize like this.
Now, the last point I’ll make — going to your question — federal workers generally have not gotten raises. And you remember during the government shutdown, they were getting pressed having to pay bills like everybody else, but not having a paycheck coming in. It’s very disruptive for them. And what’s called sequestration and furloughs meant that they might only be able to come to work three days a week instead of the full five. And this all put a strain on their budgets.
We’ve been able to stabilize it, but when we go into the budget talks with Republicans next year, we may go through some of the same problems, in part because the other side has said they want to cut funding for education; they’ve said that they want to cut support for vulnerable families; they want to cut Medicaid, which would have an impact on the elderly and families that have folks with disabilities. And I’ve said no.
I’ve said why would I — by the way, the deficit has come down by more than half since I came into office. (Applause.) It hasn’t gone up. Federal spending has not gone up. The deficit has gone down. And if we want to do more to reduce the deficit further, why am I going to take it out on the most vulnerable in our society and programs we need to grow when we’ve got a tax system where you’ve got corporations taking advantage of loopholes — in some cases, they’re paying no taxes, when a teacher or a secretary are paying taxes themselves? Why wouldn’t I close those loopholes first to generate additional revenues before I started cutting education spending or spending on basic research? (Applause.)
It will be a tough negotiation just because everything is a tough negotiation in Washington right now — which I guess brings me just to my last point. I don’t watch TV news generally, or cable shows, but I suspect if you’re out here and going to work, and picking up your kids and taking them to soccer, or at night sitting there paying the bills, and you just turn on the TV, sometimes it must feel kind of discouraging because it doesn’t feel like what’s being talked about in Washington has anything to do with what’s going on in your lives day to day. And it must feel as if sometimes you’re just forgotten.
And sometimes the news that’s being reported on is really important. I mean, what’s happening in Iraq is relevant. We’ve got to pay attention to the threats that are emanating from the chaos in the Middle East. Although I want to be very clear we’re not sending combat troops into Iraq, because that’s — (applause) — we’ve done that and we’ve given them an opportunity. And they’re going to have to contribute to solving their own problems here, although we’ll protect our people and we’ll make sure that we’re going after terrorists who could do us harm.
But sometimes the news that’s coming off is just — these are just Washington fights. They’re fabricated issues. They’re phony scandals that are generated. It’s all geared towards the next election or ginning up a base. It’s not on the level. And that must feel frustrating, and it makes people cynical and it makes people turned off from the idea that anything can get done.
And if I’ve got one message today, it’s the same message that I gave to that young mom that I mentioned who I had lunch with before I came here, who wrote me a letter just talking about how she had done everything right, her and her husband, and she’s working hard and raising two beautiful kids and she has a great life, but it’s a struggle and wondering if anybody in Washington knows it. What I told her is the same thing I want to tell all of you, which is: I know it. You’re the reason I ran for office. You’re — (applause) — no, no, I’m not looking for applause. I want to make this point. I grew up not in tough circumstances, but I was you guys. Somebody out here is going through what my mom went through. Somebody out here is growing through what my grandma went through. Somebody out here is going through what Michelle and I went through when we were first married and our kids were first born. It’s not like I forget.
That was just 20 years ago that we were trying to figure out how to buy our first home. This is 10 years ago when we finished off paying our student loans.
You guys are the reason I ran. You’re who I’m thinking about every single day. And just because it’s not reported in the news, I don’t want you to think that I’m not fighting for you. And I’m not always going to get it done as fast as I want, because right now we’ve got a Congress that’s dysfunctional. And I’ll be honest with you — you’ve got a party on the other side whose only rationale — motivation seems to be opposing me.
But despite all that, we’re making progress. Despite all that, some folks have health care that didn’t have it before. (Applause.) Despite all that, some students are able to afford their education better. Despite all that, some folks have jobs that didn’t have it. Despite all that, the Green Line got built here in Minnesota. (Applause.) Despite all that, we can make life a little better for American families who are doing their best, working hard, meeting their responsibilities.
And I don’t want you to ever forget that. And I don’t want you to be cynical. Cynicism is popular these days, but hope is better.
Thanks, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you.
3:36 P.M. CDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 26, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency June 23, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the White House Summit on Working Families
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by President Obama at the White House Summit on Working Families | June 23, 2014
Source: WH, 6-23-14
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Omni Shoreham Hotel
1:51 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: This crowd looks fired up. (Applause.) Already, everybody have a seat. Have a seat. You look like you’ve been busy.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Yes!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We’re just waiting on you.
THE PRESIDENT: I know that’s right. (Applause.) I know that’s right. (Laughter.) Good afternoon, everybody. Have a seat, have a seat.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. (Applause.) I do. Well, welcome to the White House Summit on Working Families. (Applause.) And thanks to all of you for joining us. I know that for most of you, you are taking time off of work or family, or both, to be here. And I know that’s a sacrifice. And I know just juggling schedules can be tough. And in fact, that’s one of the reasons that we are here today.
I want to thank our co-hosts, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez — give him a big round of applause — as well as Neera Tanden and everyone at the Center for American Progress for the great work that they did. (Applause.) Thanks as well to all the members of Congress who are participating, especially Nancy Pelosi and the members of the Democratic Women’s Working Group. (Applause.) And a long-time friend and champion of families and women and veterans, Connie Milstein — we could not have pulled this off without Connie’s great assistance, so we want to thank Connie. (Applause.)
So I just walked over to Chipotle for lunch. (Laughter.) I caused a lot of havoc, as you might expect. (Laughter.) It had been a while since I had the burrito bowl, and it was good. (Laughter.) And I went there with four new buddies of mine. One of them is a father of a four year old and a two month old who has worked with his wife to come up with a flexible plan where he works three or four days a week. She works three or four days a week. And the reason is because, as Roger put it, he thinks it’s important that he is able to bond with this kids just as much as his wife is.
Lisa you just heard from, who had twins who were prematurely born. And because her company was supportive, she was able to not just thrive and watch her kids grow up, but she’s also been able to be promoted and continue to succeed in her company without being on a slower track while maintaining that life-family balance, which is terrific — worth applauding.
Shirley Young from New York works at a nursing home, and she’s got older children. And she was most interested in talking about the fact that when her son — it was discovered had curvature of the spine, that she had health care that she could count on. Otherwise, there was no way that she could deal with it. And her benefits on the job were good enough that she could use her vacation time when he had to go to the doctor.
And then Shelby from Denver — (applause) — Shelby has got a little fan club here. Shelby talked about the fact that on her job it’s been a little more challenging. Her kids are older and she’s going back to school. And it is wonderful that she is actually now taking some classes with her children and they’re helping explain math to her. (Laughter.) On the other hand, she’s also got an aging parent. And when he had to go to the doctor, they don’t have a policy of paid family leave. And since it’s hard making ends meet in the first place, her dad had to end up getting on a bus for eye surgery and come back on his own, because she couldn’t afford to take the time off.
Now, each of these folks come from different parts of the country. They have different occupations, different income levels. And yet, what bound all of us together was a recognition that work gives us a sense of place and dignity, as well as income. And it is critically important, but family is also the bedrock of our lives and we don’t want a society in which folks are having to make a choice between those two things. And there are better decisions that we can make and there are not-so-good decisions that we can make as a society to support this balance between work and family.
Most of our days consist of work, family, and not much else. And those two spheres are constantly interacting with each other. When we’re with our family, sometimes we’re thinking about work, and when we’re at work, we’re thinking about family. That’s a pretty universal experience. It’s true when you are President of the United States. (Laughter.)
Now, I am lucky that my daughters were a bit older by the time I became President, so I never had to meet a world leader with Cheerios stuck to my pants. (Laughter.) That has not happened. And I’m also lucky, because we live above the store, so to speak. (Laughter.) I have a very short commute. (Laughter.) And as a consequence, we’ve been able to organize ourselves to have dinner with Michelle and the girls almost every night. And that’s pretty much the first time we’ve been able to do that in our lives. (Applause.)
But before I moved into the White House, I was away a lot sometimes with work, sometimes with campaigning. Michelle was working full-time and was at home with the responsibility all too often of dealing with everything that the girls needed. And so, I understand how lucky we are now, because there was a big chunk of time when we were doing what so many of you have to deal with every day, and that is figuring out how do we make this whole thing work.
A lot of Americans are not as lucky as we have been. It is hard sometimes just to get by. Our businesses have created jobs for 51 consecutive months — 9.4 [million] new jobs in all. (Applause.) But we all know somebody out there who is still looking for work. And there are a whole lot of people who are working harder than ever, but can’t seem to get ahead and pay all the bills at the end of the month. Despite the fact that our economy has grown and those of us at the very top have done very well, the average wage, the average income hasn’t gone up in 15 years in any meaningful way. And that means that relative to 15 years ago, a lot of families just aren’t that much better off. And the sacrifices they make for their families go beyond just missing family dinner.
You look at something like workplace flexibility. This was so important to our family when I was away, because if Malia or Sasha got sick, or the babysitter did not show up, it was Michelle who got the call. And, fortunately, she had an employer who understood if she needed to leave work in the middle of the day or change her schedule suddenly. In fact, actually when she applied for the job, she brought Sasha, who was then about six months, in her car seat into the interview — (applause) — just to kind of explain this is what you will be dealing with if you hire me. (Laughter.)
And so, they signed up for that. And that flexibility made all the difference to our families. But a lot of working moms and dads can’t do that. They don’t have the leverage. They’re not being recruited necessarily where they can dictate terms of employment. And as a consequence, if they need to bring their mom to the doctor or take an afternoon off to see their kid’s school play, it would mean them losing income that they can’t afford to lose. And even when working from home from time to time is doable, it’s often not an option — even though studies show that flexibility makes workers happier and helps companies lower turnover and raise productivity.
The same goes with paid family leave. A lot of jobs do not offer it. So when a new baby arrives or an aging parent gets sick, workers have to make painful decisions about whether they can afford to be there when their families need them the most. Many women can’t even get a paid day off to give birth. Now, that’s a pretty low bar. (Laughter.) You would think — that we should be able to take care of. (Laughter and applause.)
For many hourly workers, taking just a few days off can mean losing their job. And even though unpaid family leave is available, if you can’t pay the bills already the idea of taking a couple days off unpaid may mean you can’t make the mortgage payment or the rent payment at the end of the month.
Or look at childcare. In most countries, it costs — in most parts of the country, it costs thousands of dollars a year. In fact, in 31 states, decent childcare costs more than in-state college tuition — in 31 states, in more than half the states. I recently got a letter from a woman in Minnesota whose kids’ preschool is so expensive, it costs more than her monthly mortgage payment. Now, she’s made a determination to make that sacrifice for her kids, but a lot of working families can’t make that sacrifice. And, by the way, there are other countries that know how to do childcare well. I mean, this isn’t rocket science.
Or look at the minimum wage. Low-wage occupations disproportionately represented by women. Nearly 28 million Americans would benefit if we raised the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. (Applause.) And we’re not just talking about young people on their first job. The average worker who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage is 35 years old. Many have kids, a majority are women. And right now, many full-time minimum wage workers are not making enough to keep their children out of poverty.
So these are just a few of the challenges that working parents face. And every day, I hear from parents all across the country. They are doing everything right — they are working hard, they are living responsibly, they are taking care of their children, they’re participating in their community — and these letters can be heartbreaking, because at the end of the day it doesn’t feel like they’re getting ahead. And all too often, it feels like they’re slipping behind. And a lot of the time, they end up blaming themselves thinking, if I just work a little harder — if I plan a little better, if I sleep a little bit less, if I stretch every dollar a little bit farther — maybe I can do it. And that thought may have crossed the minds of some of the folks here from time to time.
Part of the purpose of this summit is to make clear you’re not alone. Because here’s the thing: These problems are not typically the result of poor planning or too little diligence on the parts of moms or dads, and they cannot just be fixed by working harder or being an even better parent. (Applause.) All too often, they are the results of outdated policies and old ways of thinking. Family leave, childcare, workplace flexibility, a decent wage — these are not frills, they are basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses. They should be part of our bottom line as a society. That’s what we’re striving for. (Applause.)
Parents who work full-time should earn enough to pay the bills, and they should be able to head off to work every day knowing that their children are in good hands. Workers who give their all should know that if they need a little flexibility, they can have it — because their employers understand that it’s hard to be productive if you’ve got a sick kid at home or a childcare crisis.
Talented, hard-working people should be able to say yes to a promotion or a great new opportunity without worrying about the price that their family will pay. There was a new poll by Nielsen’s that found that nearly half of all working parents say they have turned down a job not because they didn’t want it, but because it would put too much of a burden on their families. When that many members of our workforce are forced to choose between a job and their family, something’s wrong.
And here is a critical point: All too often, these issues are thought of as women’s issues, which I guess means you can kind of scoot them aside a little bit. At a time when women are nearly half of our workforce, among our most skilled workers, are the primary breadwinners in more families than ever before, anything that makes life harder for women makes life harder for families and makes life harder for children. (Applause.) When women succeed, America succeeds, so there’s no such thing as a women’s issue. (Applause.) There’s no such thing as a women’s issue. This is a family issue and an American issue — these are commonsense issues. (Applause.)
This is about you too, men. (Laughter.) Men care about having high-quality childcare. Dad’s rearrange their schedules to make it to teacher meetings and school plays, just like moms. Although somebody pointed out to me — this is a useful insight — that when dads say, yes, I’ve got to leave early to go to the parent-teacher conference, everybody in the office says, oh, isn’t that nice. (Laughter.) And then, when women do it, everybody is all like, is she really committed to the job? So there can be a double standard there. (Applause.) But sons help care for aging parents. A whole lot of fathers would love to be home for their new baby’s first weeks in the world.
People ask me what do I love most about being President, and it’s true Air Force One is on the list. (Laughter.) The Truman Balcony has a really nice view. (Laughter.) But one of the — I was telling folks the other day that one of the best perks about being President is anybody will hand you their baby — here. (Laughter.)
So I get this baby fix like two or three times a week. (Laughter.) But the reason it’s so powerful is because I remember taking the night shift when Malia was born and when Sasha was born, and being up at two in the morning changing diapers and burping them, and singing to them and reading them stories, and watching Sports Center once in a while, which I thought was good for their development. (Laughter.) It was. We want them to be well-rounded. (Laughter.)
But the point is, I was lucky enough to be able to take some time off so that I was there for the 2:00 a.m. feeding and the soothing, and just getting to know them and making sure they knew me. And that bond is irreplaceable. And I want every father and every child to have that opportunity. But that requires a society that makes it easier for us to give folks that opportunity. (Applause.)
So the bottom line is 21st-century families deserve 21st-century workplaces. (Applause.) And our economy demands them, because it’s going to help us compete. It’s going to help us lead. And that means paid family leave, especially paid parental leave. (Applause.) There is only one developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave, and that is us. And that is not the list you want to be on by your lonesome. It’s time to change that, because all Americans should be able to afford to care for their families. (Applause.)
It means high-quality early education. We know that the investment we make in those early years pays off over a child’s entire lifetime. And these programs give parents a great place to know that their kids are thriving while they’re at work. Other countries know how to do this. If France can figure this out, we can figure it out. (Laughter and applause.) All our kids need to benefit from that early enrichment.
It means treating pregnant workers fairly, because too many are forced to choose between their health and their job. (Applause.) Right now, if you’re pregnant you could potentially get fired for taking too many bathroom breaks — clearly from a boss who has never been pregnant — or forced unpaid leave. That makes no sense. Congress should pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act without delay. (Applause.)
Speaking of Congress, by the way — (laughter) —
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: No, don’t boo, vote. (Applause.) As long as Congress refuses to act on these policies, we’re going to need you to raise your voices. We need you to tell Congress don’t talk about how you support families, actually support families. Don’t talk the talk. We want you to walk the walk.
In the meantime, if Congress will not act, we’re going to need mayors to act. We’ll need governors and state legislators to act. We need CEOs to act. And I will promise you, you will have a President who will take action to support working families. (Applause.)
The good news is you don’t have to do it alone and I don’t have to do it alone. Now that’s part of the purpose of this summit is to recognize that there’s all kinds of exciting stuff going on around the country. We just have to make sure that we lift up conversations that are taking place at the kitchen table every single day. Some businesses are already taking the lead, knowing that family-friendly policies are good business practices. It’s how you keep talented employees. That’s how you build loyalty and inspire your workers to go the extra mile for your company.
Some of those businesses are represented here today. So JetBlue, for example, has a flexible, work-from-home plan in place for its customer service representatives. They found it led to happier and more productive employees, and it lowered their costs, which translated into higher profits and lower ticket prices for their customers. It was good business.
In 2007, Google realized that women were leaving the company at twice the rate that men left — and one of the reasons was that the maternity leave policy wasn’t competitive enough. So they increased paid leave for new parents — moms and dads — to five months. And that helped to cut the rate of women leaving the company in half. Good business sense.
Cisco estimates that by letting their employees telecommute, they save more than $275 million each year. They say it’s the main reason why they’re rated one of the best places to work in America.
So it’s easy to see how policies like this make for better places to work. There’s also a larger economic case for it. The strength of our economy rests on whether we’re getting the most out of our nation’s talent, whether we’re making it possible for every citizen to contribute to our growth and prosperity. We do better when we field an entire team, not just part of a team.
And the key to staying competitive in the global economy is your workforce, is your talent. Right now, too many folks are on the sidelines who have the desire and the capacity to work, but they’re held back by one obstacle or another. So it’s our job to remove those obstacles — help working parents, improve job training, improve early childhood education, invest in better infrastructure so people are getting to work safely. Just about everything I do as President is to make sure that we’re not leaving any of our nation’s talent behind. That’s what this summit is all about.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Working families love you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you. (Applause.) So we’re seeing businesses set a good examples. We’ve got states who are setting a good example. California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey all gave workers paid family leave. Connecticut offers paid sick days and so does New York City. (Applause.) Since I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage last year — they’ve been a little slow, shockingly, but 13 states have taken steps to raise it on their own. (Applause.) In my State of the Union address this year, I asked mayors and governors and CEOs — do what you can to raise your workers’ wages, and a lot of them are. A lot of them are doing it.
Because even if Republicans in Congress refuse to budge on this issue this year, everybody knows America deserves a raise, including Republican voters out there. There are a lot of them who support it. And I’ve said I will work with anybody — Democrat or Republican — to increase opportunities for American workers. And Nancy Pelosi is ready to work. (Applause.)
Now, many of these issues, they’re not partisan until they get to Washington. Back home, to folks sitting around the kitchen table, this isn’t partisan. Nobody says, I don’t know, I’m not sure whether the Republican platform agrees with paid family leave. They’re thinking, I could really use a couple of paid days off to take care of dad, regardless of what their party affiliation is.
So even as we’re waiting for Congress, whenever I can act on my own, I’m going to. That’s why we raised the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors. (Applause.) Nobody who cooks our troops’ meals or washes their dishes should have to live in poverty. That’s a disgrace. That’s why I ordered Tom Perez, our Secretary of Labor, to review overtime protections for millions of workers to make sure they’re getting the pay that they deserve. (Applause.)
That’s why I signed an executive order preventing retaliation against federally contracted workers who share their salary information or raise issues of unequal compensation –because I think if you do the same work, you should get the same pay and you should be able to enforce it, which is why Congress should pass the Paycheck Fairness Act today for all workers and not just federally-contracted workers. (Applause.)
And yes, that’s why I fought to pass the Affordable Care Act, to give every American access to high-quality affordable care no matter where they work. (Applause.) So far, over 8 million people have enrolled in plans through the ACA. Millions with preexisting conditions have been prevented or have been confident that their insurance companies have not been able to block them from getting health insurance. And by the way, women are no longer charged more for being women.
They’re getting the basic care they need, including reproductive care. And millions are now free to take the best job for their families without worrying about losing their health care. Today, I’m going to sign a presidential memorandum directing every agency in the federal government to expand access to flexible work schedules, and giving employees the right to request those flexible work schedules. (Applause.)
Because whether it’s the public sector or the private sector, if there’s a way to make our employees more productive and happier, every employer should want to find it. And to help parents trying to get ahead, I’m going to direct my Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, to invest $25 million in helping people who want to enroll in jobs programs, but don’t currently have access to the childcare that they need to enroll in those job training programs. (Applause.) We’re going to make it easier for parents to get the training they need to get a good job. (Applause.)
So we’re going to do everything we can to create more jobs and more opportunity for Americans. And then, let me just close by saying that I was interviewed in the run up to this on Friday. Somebody asked, well, it’s well-known that women are more likely to vote for Democrats — to which I said, women are smarter. This is true. (Applause.)
But they said, so isn’t this Working Families Summit political? And I said, no, I take this personally. I was raised by strong women who worked hard to support my sister and me. (Applause.) I saw what it was like for a single mom who was trying to go to school and work at the same time. And I remember her coming home and having to try to fix us dinner, and me saying, are we eating that again? (Laughter.) And she saying, you know what, buddy, I really don’t want to hear anything out of you right now, because I’ve got to go do some homework after this.
And I remember times where my mom had to take some food stamps to make sure that we had enough nutritious food in the house, and I know what she went through. I know what my grandmother went through, working her way up from a secretary to the vice president of a bank. But she should have run the bank, except she hit a glass ceiling and was training people who would leapfrog ahead of her year after year. I know what that’s like. I’ve seen it.
I take this personally, because I’m the husband of a brilliant woman who struggled to balance work and raising our girls when I was away. And I remember the stresses that were on Michelle, which I’m sure she’ll be happy to share with you later today. (Laughter.) And most of all, I take it personally, because I am the father of two unbelievable young ladies. (Applause.) And I want them to be able to have families. And I want them to be able to have careers. And I want them to go as far as their dreams will take them. And I want a society that supports that.
And I take this personally as the President of the country that built the greatest middle class the world has ever known and inspired people to reach new heights and invent, and innovate, and drew immigrants from every corner of the world because they understood that no matter what you look like or where you come from, here in America you can make it. That’s the promise of America. That’s what we’re going to keep on fighting for. That’s what you’re fighting for. That’s what this summit is all about.
Let’s go out there and get to work. Thank you, guys. I love you. God bless you. God bless America.
2:21 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 23, 2014
Political Musings May 5, 2014: Obama’s year of action weekly address attacks GOP for unemployment extension
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
- President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: The President’s Year of Action, May 3, 2014 — Transcript | mp4 | mp3
- Year of Action White House Report: See What President Obama Has Done This Year To Help Ensure Opportunity For All Ameicans, May 3, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on May 5, 2014
Political Musings April 27, 2014: Obama urges Congress to raise minimum wage pass unemployment benefits extension
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Posted by bonniekgoodman on April 27, 2014
Political Musings April 19, 2014: Obama and Biden announce 500 million in economic opportunity job training grants
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Posted by bonniekgoodman on April 19, 2014
Political Musings April 8, 2014: Obama announces economic opportunity agenda Youth CareerConnect Education grants
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Posted by bonniekgoodman on April 8, 2014
Political Musings March 30, 2014: Obama meets with Pope Francis, exchange gifts and bond over economic inequality
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
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Posted by bonniekgoodman on March 30, 2014
Political Musings March 23, 2014: Obama pushes equal pay for women and raising the minimum wage in weekly address
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
Posted by bonniekgoodman on March 23, 2014
Political Musings March 22, 2014: Obama promotes economic opportunity for women urges equal pay for equal work
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
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Posted by bonniekgoodman on March 22, 2014
Political Musings March 20, 2014: Obama screens Cesar Chavez at White House pushes economic opportunity program
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
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- March 20, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on March 20, 2014
Political Musings March 15, 2014: Obama dedicates weekly address to extending overtime pay eligibility
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- March 15, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on March 15, 2014
Political Musings March 14, 2014: Obama signs presidential memorandum to expand overtime pay eligibility
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Posted by bonniekgoodman on March 14, 2014
Political Musings March 10, 2014: Obamas promote education, college opportunity and financial aid initiatives
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Posted by bonniekgoodman on March 10, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency March 1, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Investing in Technology and Infrastructure to Create Jobs
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Weekly Address: Investing in Technology and Infrastructure to Create Jobs
Source: WH, 3-1-14
WASHINGTON, DC — In his weekly address, President Obama said he took action this week to launch new manufacturing hubs and expand a competition to fund transformative infrastructure projects. Both are policies aimed at expanding economic opportunity for all by creating jobs and ensuring the long-term strength of the American economy. Congress can boost this effort by passing a bipartisan proposal to create a nationwide network of high-tech manufacturing hubs and taking steps to invest in our nation’s infrastructure — rebuilding our transportation system, creating new construction jobs, and better connecting Americans to economic opportunities.
Video Remarks of President Barack Obama
The White House
March 1, 2014
Hi everybody. In my State of the Union Address, I said that the best measure of opportunity is access to a good job. And after the worst recession of our lifetimes, our businesses have created eight and a half million new jobs in the last four years.
But we need to do more to make America a magnet for good jobs for the future. And in this year of action, where Congress won’t do that, I will do whatever I can to expand opportunity for more Americans. This week, I took two actions to attract new jobs to America – jobs in American manufacturing, and jobs rebuilding America’s infrastructure.
Here’s why this is important. In the 2000s alone, we lost more than one-third of all American manufacturing jobs. One in three. And when the housing bubble burst, workers in the construction industry were hit harder than just about anybody. The good news is, today, our manufacturers have added more than 620,000 jobs over the last four years – the first sustained growth in manufacturing jobs since the 1990s.
Still, the economy has changed. If we want to attract more good manufacturing jobs to America, we’ve got to make sure we’re on the cutting edge of new manufacturing technologies and techniques. And in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure.
That’s why, on Tuesday, I launched two new high-tech manufacturing hubs – places where businesses and universities will partner to turn groundbreaking research into real-world goods Made in America. So far, we’ve launched four of these hubs, where our workers can master 3-D printing, energy-efficient electronics, lightweight metals, and digital manufacturing – all technologies that can help ensure a steady stream of good jobs well into the 21st century.
Then on Wednesday, I launched a new competition to build 21st century infrastructure – roads and bridges, mass transit, more efficient ports, and faster passenger rail. Rebuilding America won’t just attract new businesses; it will create good construction jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.
Of course, Congress could make an even bigger difference in both areas. Thanks to the leadership of a bipartisan group of lawmakers, there’s a bill in Congress right now that would create an entire network of high-tech manufacturing hubs all across the country. And next week, I’ll send Congress a budget that will rebuild our transportation systems and support millions of jobs nationwide.
There’s a lot we can do if we work together. And while Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’m going to keep doing everything in my power to rebuild an economy where everyone who works hard has the chance to get ahead – where we’re restoring our founding vision of opportunity for all.
Thanks, everybody, and have a great weekend.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on March 1, 2014
Political Musings February 28, 2014: Emotional Obama launches My Brother’s Keeper program to help minority youth
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Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 28, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency February 27, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech Launching My Brother’s Keeper, His New Initiative to Help Young Men of Color
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
President Obama Launches My Brother’s Keeper, His New Initiative to Help Young Men of Color
Source: WH, 2-27-14
This afternoon, in the East Room of the White House, President Obama delivered remarks at the launch event for My Brother’s Keeper — his new initiative aimed at helping young men and boys of color facing tough odds reach their full potential. The initiative will bring together private philanthropies, businesses, governors, mayors, faith leaders, and nonprofit organizations that are committed to helping them succeed….READ MORE
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an event to highlight “My Brother’s Keeper,” an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color, in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 27, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Remarks by the President on “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative
Source: WH, 2-27-14
3:43 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Everybody, please have a seat. Well, good afternoon, everybody.
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House. And thank you, Christian, for that outstanding introduction. And thank you for cheering for the White Sox, which is the right thing to do. (Laughter.) Like your parents and your teachers, I could not be prouder of you. I could not be prouder of the other young men who are here today. But just so we’re clear — you’re only excused for one day of school. (Laughter.) And I’m assuming you’ve got your assignments with you so that you can catch up — perhaps even on the flight back. (Laughter.)
As Christian mentioned, I first met Christian about a year ago. I visited the Hyde Park Academy in Chicago, which is only about a mile from my house. And Christian was part of this program called “Becoming a Man.” It’s a program that Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced to me. And it helps young men who show a lot of potential but may have gotten in some trouble to stay on the right path.
They get help with schoolwork, but they also learn life skills like how to be a responsible citizen, and how to deal with life’s challenges, and how to manage frustrations in a constructive way, and how to set goals for themselves. And it works. One study found that, among young men who participate in the BAM program, arrests for violent crimes dropped 44 percent, and they were more likely to graduate from high school. (Applause.)
So as Christian mentioned, during my visit, they’re in a circle and I sat down in the circle, and we went around, led by their counselor, and guys talked about their lives, talked about their stories. They talked about what they were struggling with, and how they were trying to do the right thing, and how sometimes they didn’t always do the right thing. And when it was my turn, I explained to them that when I was their age I was a lot like them. I didn’t have a dad in the house. And I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short.
And I remember when I was saying this — Christian, you may remember this — after I was finished, the guy sitting next to me said, “Are you talking about you?” (Laughter.) I said, yes.
And the point was I could see myself in these young men. And the only difference is that I grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving, so when I made a mistake the consequences were not as severe. I had people who encouraged me — not just my mom and grandparents, but wonderful teachers and community leaders — and they’d push me to work hard and study hard and make the most of myself. And if I didn’t listen they said it again. And if I didn’t listen they said it a third time. And they would give me second chances, and third chances. They never gave up on me, and so I didn’t give up on myself.
I told these young men my story then, and I repeat it now because I firmly believe that every child deserves the same chances that I had. And that’s why we’re here today — to do what we can, in this year of action, to give more young Americans the support they need to make good choices, and to be resilient, and to overcome obstacles, and achieve their dreams.
This is an issue of national importance — it’s as important as any issue that I work on. It’s an issue that goes to the very heart of why I ran for President — because if America stands for anything, it stands for the idea of opportunity for everybody; the notion that no matter who you are, or where you came from, or the circumstances into which you are born, if you work hard, if you take responsibility, then you can make it in this country. (Applause.) That’s the core idea.
And that’s the idea behind everything that I’ll do this year, and for the rest of my presidency. Because at a time when the economy is growing, we’ve got to make sure that every American shares in that growth, not just a few. And that means guaranteeing every child in America has access to a world-class education. It means creating more jobs and empowering more workers with the skills they need to do those jobs. It means making sure that hard work pays off with wages you can live on and savings you can retire on and health care that you can count on. It means building more ladders of opportunity into the middle class for anybody who’s willing to work hard to climb them.
Those are national issues. They have an impact on everybody. And the problem of stagnant wages and economic insecurity and stalled mobility are issues that affect all demographic groups all across the country. My administration’s policies — from early childhood education to job training, to minimum wages — are designed to give a hand up to everybody, every child, every American willing to work hard and take responsibility for their own success. That’s the larger agenda.
But the plain fact is there are some Americans who, in the aggregate, are consistently doing worse in our society — groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions; groups who’ve seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations. And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color.
Now, to say this is not to deny the enormous strides we’ve made in closing the opportunity gaps that marred our history for so long. My presence is a testimony to that progress. Across this country, in government, in business, in our military, in communities in every state we see extraordinary examples of African American and Latino men who are standing tall and leading, and building businesses, and making our country stronger. Some of those role models who have defied the odds are with us here today — the Magic Johnsons or the Colin Powells who are doing extraordinary things — the Anthony Foxxes.
Anthony, yesterday he and I were talking about how both of us never knew our dads, and shared that sense of both how hard that had been but also how that had driven us to succeed in many ways. So there are examples of extraordinary achievement. We all know that. We don’t need to stereotype and pretend that there’s only dysfunction out there. But 50 years after Dr. King talked about his dream for America’s children, the stubborn fact is that the life chances of the average black or brown child in this country lags behind by almost every measure, and is worse for boys and young men.
If you’re African American, there’s about a one in two chance you grow up without a father in your house — one in two. If you’re Latino, you have about a one in four chance. We know that boys who grow up without a father are more likely to be poor, more likely to underperform in school.
As a black student, you are far less likely than a white student to be able to read proficiently by the time you are in 4th grade. By the time you reach high school, you’re far more likely to have been suspended or expelled. There’s a higher chance you end up in the criminal justice system, and a far higher chance that you are the victim of a violent crime. Fewer young black and Latino men participate in the labor force compared to young white men. And all of this translates into higher unemployment rates and poverty rates as adults.
And the worst part is we’ve become numb to these statistics. We’re not surprised by them. We take them as the norm. We just assume this is an inevitable part of American life, instead of the outrage that it is. (Applause.) That’s how we think about it. It’s like a cultural backdrop for us — in movies and television. We just assume, of course, it’s going to be like that. But these statistics should break our hearts. And they should compel us to act.
Michelle and I are blessed with two beautiful daughters. We don’t have a son. But I know if I had a son, on the day he was born I would have felt everything I felt with Malia and Sasha — the awe, the gratitude, the overwhelming sense of responsibility to do everything in my power to protect that amazing new life from this big world out there. And just as our daughters are growing up into wonderful, beautiful young women, I’d want my son to feel a sense of boundless possibility. And I’d want him to have independence and confidence. And I’d want him to have empathy and compassion. I’d want him to have a sense of diligence and commitment, and a respect for others and himself — the tools that he’d need to succeed.
I don’t have a son, but as parents, that’s what we should want not just for our children, but for all children. (Applause.) And I believe the continuing struggles of so many boys and young men — the fact that too many of them are falling by the wayside, dropping out, unemployed, involved in negative behavior, going to jail, being profiled — this is a moral issue for our country. It’s also an economic issue for our country.
After all, these boys are a growing segment of our population. They are our future workforce. When, generation after generation, they lag behind, our economy suffers. Our family structure suffers. Our civic life suffers. Cycles of hopelessness breed violence and mistrust. And our country is a little less than what we know it can be. So we need to change the statistics — not just for the sake of the young men and boys, but for the sake of America’s future.
That’s why, in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin verdict, with all the emotions and controversy that it sparked, I spoke about the need to bolster and reinforce our young men, and give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them. (Applause.) And I’m grateful that Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina and Tracy, are here with us today, along with Jordan Davis’s parents, Lucy and Ron.
In my State of the Union address last month, I said I’d pick up the phone and reach out to Americans willing to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds to stay on track and reach their full potential, so America can reach its full potential. And that’s what today is all about.
After months of conversation with a wide range of people, we’ve pulled together private philanthropies and businesses, mayors, state and local leaders, faith leaders, nonprofits, all who are committed to creating more pathways to success. And we’re committed to building on what works. And we call it “My Brother’s Keeper.”
Now, just to be clear — “My Brother’s Keeper” is not some big, new government program. In my State of the Union address, I outlined the work that needs to be done for broad-based economic growth and opportunity for all Americans. We have manufacturing hubs, infrastructure spending — I’ve been traveling around the country for the last several weeks talking about what we need to do to grow the economy and expand opportunity for everybody. And in the absence of some of those macroeconomic policies that create more good jobs and restore middle-class security, it’s going to be harder for everyone to make progress. And for the last four years, we’ve been working through initiatives like Promise Zones to help break down the structural barriers — from lack of transportation to substandard schools — that afflict some of this country’s most impoverished counties, and we’ll continue to promote these efforts in urban and rural counties alike.
Those are all government initiatives, government programs that we think are good for all Americans and we’re going to keep on pushing for them. But what we’re talking about here today with “My Brother’s Keeper” is a more focused effort on boys and young men of color who are having a particularly tough time. And in this effort, government cannot play the only — or even the primary — role. We can help give every child access to quality preschool and help them start learning from an early age, but we can’t replace the power of a parent who’s reading to that child. We can reform our criminal justice system to ensure that it’s not infected with bias, but nothing keeps a young man out of trouble like a father who takes an active role in his son’s life. (Applause.)
In other words, broadening the horizons for our young men and giving them the tools they need to succeed will require a sustained effort from all of us. Parents will have to parent — and turn off the television, and help with homework. (Applause.) Teachers will need to do their part to make sure our kids don’t fall behind and that we’re setting high expectations for those children and not giving up on them. Business leaders will need to create more mentorships and apprenticeships to show more young people what careers are out there. Tech leaders will need to open young eyes to fields like computer science and engineering. Faith leaders will need to help our young men develop the values and ethical framework that is the foundation for a good and productive life.
So we all have a job to do. And we can do it together — black and white, urban and rural, Democrat and Republican. So often, the issues facing boys and young men of color get caught up in long-running ideological arguments about race and class, and crime and poverty, the role of government, partisan politics. We’ve all heard those arguments before. But the urgency of the situation requires us to move past some of those old arguments and focus on getting something done and focusing on what works. It doesn’t mean the arguments are unimportant; it just means that they can’t paralyze us. And there’s enough goodwill and enough overlap and agreement that we should be able to go ahead and get some things done, without resolved everything about our history or our future.
Twenty years ago, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson started a program in the Miami public school system — feel free to stand up. (Applause.) To help young boys at risk of dropping out of school. Today, it serves thousands of students in dozens of schools.
As Mayor of New York, Mayor Bloomberg — Michael Bloomberg, who’s here today, started a “Young Men’s Initiative” for African-American and Latino boys, because he understood that in order for America to compete we need to make it easier for all our young people to do better in the classroom and find a job once they graduate.
A bipartisan group of mayors called “Cities United” has made this issue a priority in communities across the country. Senator Mike Lee — a leader of the tea party — has been working with Senator Dick Durbin — a Democrat from my home state of Illinois — to reduce disparities in our criminal justice system that have hit the African American and Latino communities especially hard.
So I want to thank everybody who’s been doing incredible work — many of the people who are here today, including members of Congress, who have been focused on this and are moving the needle in their communities and around the country.
They understand that giving every young person who’s willing to work hard a shot at opportunity should not be a partisan issue. Yes, we need to train our workers, invest in our schools, make college more affordable — and government has a role to play. And, yes, we need to encourage fathers to stick around, and remove the barriers to marriage, and talk openly about things like responsibility and faith and community. In the words of Dr. King, it is not either-or; it is both-and.
And if I can persuade Sharpton and O’Reilly to be in the same meeting — (laughter and applause) — then it means that there are people of good faith who want to get some stuff done, even if we don’t agree on everything. And that’s our focus.
While there may not be much of an appetite in Congress for sweeping new programs or major new initiatives right now, we all know we can’t wait. And so the good news is folks in the private sector who know how important boosting the achievement of young men of color is to this country — they are ready to step up.
Today, I’m pleased to announce that some of the most forward-looking foundations in America are looking to invest at least $200 million over the next five years — on top of the $150 million that they’ve already invested — to test which strategies are working for our kids and expand them in cities across the country. (Applause.)
Many of these folks have been on the front lines in this fight for a long time. What’s more, they’re joined by business leaders, corporate leaders, entrepreneurs who are stepping forward to support this effort as well. And my administration is going to do its part. So today after my remarks are done, I’m going to pen this presidential memorandum directing the federal government not to spend more money, but to do things smarter, to determine what we can do right now to improve the odds for boys and young men of color, and make sure our agencies are working more effectively with each other, with those businesses, with those philanthropies, and with local communities to implement proven solutions.
And part of what makes this initiative so promising is that we actually know what works — and we know when it works. Now, what do I mean by that? Over the years, we’ve identified key moments in the life of a boy or a young man of color that will, more often than not, determine whether he succeeds, or falls through the cracks. We know the data. We know the statistics. And if we can focus on those key moments, those life-changing points in their lives, you can have a big impact; you can boost the odds for more of our kids.
First of all, we know that during the first three years of life, a child born into a low-income family hears 30 million fewer words than a child born into a well-off family. And everybody knows babies are sponges, they just soak that up. A 30-million-word deficit is hard to make up. And if a black or Latino kid isn’t ready for kindergarten, he’s half as likely to finish middle school with strong academic and social skills. So by giving more of our kids access to high-quality early education — and by helping parents get the tools they need to help their children succeed — we can give more kids a better shot at the career they’re capable of, and the life that will make us all better off. So that’s point number one right at the beginning.
Point number two, if a child can’t read well by the time he’s in 3rd grade, he’s four times less likely to graduate from high school by age 19 than one who can. And if he happens to be poor, he’s six times less likely to graduate. So by boosting reading levels, we can help more of our kids make the grade, keep on advancing, reach that day that so many parents dream of — until it comes close and then you start tearing up — and that’s when they’re walking across the stage, holding that high school diploma.
Number three, we know that Latino kids are almost twice as likely as white kids to be suspended from school. Black kids are nearly four times as likely. And if a student has been suspended even once by the time they’re in 9th grade they are twice as likely to drop out.
That’s why my administration has been working with schools on alternatives to the so-called “zero tolerance” guidelines — not because teachers or administrators or fellow students shold have to put up with bad behavior, but because there are ways to modify bad behavior that lead to good behavior — as opposed to bad behavior out of school. We can make classrooms good places for learning for everybody without jeopardizing a child’s future. (Applause.) And by building on that work, we can keep more of our young men where they belong — in the classroom, learning, growing, gaining the skills they need to succeed.
Number four, we know that students of color are far more likely than their white classmates to find themselves in trouble with the law. If a student gets arrested, he’s almost twice as likely to drop out of school. By making sure our criminal justice system doesn’t just function as a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, we can help young men of color stay out of prison, stay out of jail. And that means then, they’re more likely to be employable, and to invest in their own families, and to pass on a legacy of love and hope.
And finally, we know young black men are twice as likely as young white men to be “disconnected” — not in school, not working. We’ve got to reconnect them. We’ve got to give more of these young men access to mentors. We’ve got to contine to encourage responsible fatherhood. We’ve got to provide more pathways to apply to college or find a job. We can keep them from falling through the cracks, and help them lay a foundation for a career and a family and a better life.
In the discussion before we came in, General Powell talked about the fact that there are going to be some kids who just don’t have a family at home that is functional, no matter how hard we try. But just an adult, any adult who’s paying attention can make a difference. Any adult who cares can make a difference.
Magic was talking about being in a school in Chicago, and rather than going to the school he brought the school to the company, All-State, that was doing the work. And suddenly, just that one conversation meant these young men saw something different. A world opened up for them. It doesn’t take that much. But it takes more than we’re doing now.
And that’s what “My Brother’s Keeper” is all about — helping more of our young people stay on track; providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future; building on what works, when it works, in those critical life-changing moments. And when I say, by the way, building on what works, it means looking at the actual evidence of what works. There are a lot of programs out there that sound good, are well-intentioned, well-inspired, but they’re not actually having an impact. We don’t have enough money or time or resources to invest in things that don’t work, so we’ve got to be pretty hard-headed about saying if something is not working, let’s stop doing it. Let’s do things that work. And we shouldn’t care whether it was a Democratic program or a Republican program, or a fait-based program or — if it works, we should support it. If it doesn’t, we shouldn’t.
And all the time recognizing that “my neighbor’s child is my child” — that each of us has an obligation to give every child the same chance this country gave so many of us.
So, in closing, let me just say this. None of this is going to be easy. This is not a one-year proposition. It’s not a two-year proposition. It’s going to take time. We’re dealing with complicated issues that run deep in our history, run deep in our society, and are entrenched in our minds. And addressing these issues will have to be a two-way bargain. Because no matter how much the community chips in, it’s ultimately going to be up to these young men and all the young men who are out there to step up and seize responsibility for their own lives. (Applause.)
And that’s why I want to close by speaking directly to the young men who are here today and all the boys and young men who are watching at home. Part of my message, part of our message in this initiative is “no excuses.” Government and private sector and philanthropy and all the faith communities — we all have a responsibility to help provide you the tools you need; we’ve got to help you knock down some of the barriers that you experience. That’s what we’re here for. But you’ve got responsibilities, too.
And I know you can meet the challenge — many of you already are — if you make the effort. It may be hard, but you will have to reject the cynicism that says the circumstances of your birth or society’s lingering injustices necessarily define you and your future. It will take courage, but you will have to tune out the naysayers who say the deck is stacked against you, you might as well just give up — or settle into the stereotype.
It’s not going to happen overnight, but you’re going to have to set goals and you’re going to have to work for those goals. Nothing will be given to you. The world is tough out there, there’s a lot of competition for jobs and college positions, and everybody has to work hard. But I know you guys can succeed. We’ve got young men up here who are starting to make those good choices because somebody stepped in and gave them a sense of how they might go about it.
And I know it can work because of men like Maurice Owens, who’s here today. I want to tell Moe’s story just real quick.
When Moe was four years old, he moved with his mom Chauvet from South Carolina to the Bronx. His mom didn’t have a lot of money, and they lived in a tough neighborhood. Crime was high. A lot of young men ended up in jail or worse. But she knew the importance of education, so she got Moe into the best elementary school that she could find. And every morning, she put him on a bus; every night, she welcomed him when he came home.
She took the initiative, she eventually found a sponsorship program that allowed Moe to attend a good high school. And while many of his friends got into trouble, some of it pretty serious, Moe just kept on getting on the bus, and kept on working hard and reaching for something better. And he had some adults in his life that were willing to give him advice and help him along the way. And he ended up going to college. And he ended up serving his country in the Air Force. And today, Moe works in the White House, just two doors down from the Oval Office, as the Special Assistant to my Chief of Staff. (Applause.) And Moe never misses a chance to tell kids who grew up just like he did that if he can make it, they can, too.
Moe and his mom are here today, so I want to thank them both for this incredible example. Stand up, Moe, and show off your mom there. (Applause.) Good job, Moe.
So Moe didn’t make excuses. His mom had high expectations. America needs more citizens like Moe. We need more young men like Christian. We will beat the odds. We need to give every child, no matter what they look like, where they live, the chance to reach their full potential. Because if we do — if we help these wonderful young men become better husbands and fathers, and well-educated, hardworking, good citizens — then not only will they contribute to the growth and prosperity of this country, but they will pass on those lessons on to their children, on to their grandchildren, will start a different cycle. And this country will be richer and stronger for it for generations to come.
So let’s get going. Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
4:17 P.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 27, 2014
Political Musings February 26, 2014: Obama and Boehner have rare and constructive White House meeting
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 26, 2014