OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:
- January 21, 2015
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 21, 2015
“I’m Joni Ernst. As a mother, a soldier, and a newly elected senator from the great State of Iowa, I am proud to speak with you tonight.
“A few moments ago, we heard the President lay out his vision for the year to come. Even if we may not always agree, it’s important to hear different points of view in this great country. We appreciate the President sharing his.
“Tonight though, rather than respond to a speech, I’d like to talk about your priorities. I’d like to have a conversation about the new Republican Congress you just elected, and how we plan to make Washington focus on your concerns again.
“We heard the message you sent in November — loud and clear. And now we’re getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country.
“The new Republican Congress also understands how difficult these past six years have been. For many of us, the sting of the economy and the frustration with Washington’s dysfunction weren’t things we had to read about. We felt them every day.
“We felt them in Red Oak — the little town in southwestern Iowa where I grew up, and am still proud to call home today.
“As a young girl, I plowed the fields of our family farm. I worked construction with my dad. To save for college, I worked the morning biscuit line at Hardees.
“We were raised to live simply, not to waste. It was a lesson my mother taught me every rainy morning.
“You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry.
“But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet.
“Our parents may not have had much, but they worked hard for what they did have.
“These days though, many families feel like they’re working harder and harder, with less and less to show for it.
“Not just in Red Oak, but across the country.
“We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs. We see the hurt caused by canceled healthcare plans and higher monthly insurance bills. We see too many moms and dads put their own dreams on hold while growing more fearful about the kind of future they’ll be able to leave to their children.
“Americans have been hurting, but when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare. It’s a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.
“That’s why the new Republican majority you elected started by reforming Congress to make it function again. And now, we’re working hard to pass the kind of serious job-creation ideas you deserve.
“One you’ve probably heard about is the Keystone jobs bill. President Obama has been delaying this bipartisan infrastructure project for years, even though many members of his party, unions, and a strong majority of Americans support it. The President’s own State Department has said Keystone’s construction could support thousands of jobs and pump billions into our economy, and do it with minimal environmental impact.
“We worked with Democrats to pass this bill through the House. We’re doing the same now in the Senate.
“President Obama will soon have a decision to make: will he sign the bill, or block good American jobs?
“There’s a lot we can achieve if we work together.
“Let’s tear down trade barriers in places like Europe and the Pacific. Let’s sell more of what we make and grow in America over there so we can boost manufacturing, wages, and jobs right here, at home.
“Let’s simplify America’s outdated and loophole-ridden tax code. Republicans think tax filing should be easier for you, not just the well-connected. So let’s iron out loopholes to lower rates — and create jobs, not pay for more government spending.
“The President has already expressed some support for these kinds of ideas. We’re calling on him now to cooperate to pass them.
“You’ll see a lot of serious work in this new Congress.
“Some of it will occur where I stand tonight, in the Armed Services Committee room. This is where I’ll join committee colleagues — Republicans and Democrats — to discuss ways to support our exceptional military and its mission. This is where we’ll debate strategies to confront terrorism and the threats posed by Al Qaeda, ISIL, and those radicalized by them.
“We know threats like these can’t just be wished away. We’ve been reminded of terrorism’s reach both at home and abroad; most recently in France and Nigeria, but also in places like Canada and Australia. Our hearts go out to all the innocent victims of terrorism and their loved ones. We can only imagine the depth of their grief.
“For two decades, I’ve proudly worn our nation’s uniform: today, as a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. While deployed overseas with some of America’s finest men and women, I’ve seen just how dangerous these kinds of threats can be.
“The forces of violence and oppression don’t care about the innocent. We need a comprehensive plan to defeat them.
“We must also honor America’s veterans. These men and women have sacrificed so much in defense of our freedoms, and our way of life. They deserve nothing less than the benefits they were promised and a quality of care we can be all be proud of.
“These are important issues the new Congress plans to address.
“We’ll also keep fighting to repeal and replace a health care law that’s hurt so many hardworking families.
“We’ll work to correct executive overreach.
“We’ll propose ideas that aim to cut wasteful spending and balance the budget — with meaningful reforms, not higher taxes like the President has proposed.
“We’ll advance solutions to prevent the kind of cyberattacks we’ve seen recently.
“We’ll work to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“And we’ll defend life, because protecting our most vulnerable is an important measure of any society.
“Congress is back to work on your behalf, ready to make Washington focus on your concerns again.
“We know America faces big challenges. But history has shown there’s nothing our nation, and our people, can’t accomplish.
“Just look at my parents and grandparents.
“They had very little to call their own except the sweat on their brow and the dirt on their hands. But they worked, they sacrificed, and they dreamed big dreams for their children and grandchildren.
“And because they did, an ordinary Iowan like me has had some truly extraordinary opportunities — because they showed me that you don’t need to come from wealth or privilege to make a difference. You just need the freedom to dream big, and a whole lot of hard work.
“The new Republican Congress you elected is working to make Washington understand that too. And with a little cooperation from the President, we can get Washington working again.
“Thank you for allowing me to speak with you tonight.
“May God bless this great country of ours, the brave Americans serving in uniform on our behalf, and you, the hardworking men and women who make the United States of America the greatest nation the world has ever known.”
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 20, 2015
Source: WH, 1-20-15
The White House is making the full text of the State of the Union widely available on its Medium page. The text, as prepared for delivery, is now online HERE, along with tools that allow people to follow along with the speech as they watch in real time, to view charts and infographics on key areas, to tweet their favorite lines, and to leave notes to provide feedback.
The full text of the State of the Union Address, as prepared for delivery, is posted now on Medium and can be viewed here: http://go.wh.gov/SOTUMedium
There is a ritual on State of the Union night in Washington. A little before the address, the White House sends out an embargoed copy of the President’s speech to the press (embargoed means that the press can see the speech, but they can’t report on it until a designated time). The reporters then start sending it around town to folks on Capitol Hill to get their reaction, then those people send it to all their friends, and eventually everyone in Washington can read along, but the public remains in the dark.
This year we change that.
For the first time, the White House is making the full text of the speech available to citizens around the country online. On Medium, you can follow along with the speech as you watch in real time, view charts and infographics on key areas, tweet favorite lines, and leave notes. By making the text available to the public in advance, the White House is continuing efforts to reach a wide online audience and give people a range of ways to consume the speech.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:
We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.
But tonight, we turn the page.
Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.
Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe. We are humbled and grateful for your service.
America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:
The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.
At this moment – with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production – we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.
Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?
Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing? Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet?
Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another – or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?
In two weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan. And in the months ahead, I’ll crisscross the country making a case for those ideas.
So tonight, I want to focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.
It begins with our economy.
Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds. She waited tables. He worked construction. Their first child, Jack, was on the way.
They were young and in love in America, and it doesn’t get much better than that.
“If only we had known,” Rebekah wrote to me last spring, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.”
As the crisis worsened, Ben’s business dried up, so he took what jobs he could find, even if they kept him on the road for long stretches of time. Rebekah took out student loans, enrolled in community college, and retrained for a new career. They sacrificed for each other. And slowly, it paid off. They bought their first home. They had a second son, Henry. Rebekah got a better job, and then a raise. Ben is back in construction – and home for dinner every night.
“It is amazing,” Rebekah wrote, “what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”
We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.
America, Rebekah and Ben’s story is our story. They represent the millions who have worked hard, and scrimped, and sacrificed, and retooled. You are the reason I ran for this office. You’re the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation. And it’s been your effort and resilience that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger.
We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing, and draw new jobs to our shores. And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.
We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump.
We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. And more Americans finish college than ever before.
We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices. And in the past year alone, about ten million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.
At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years.
So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto.
Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more small business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007. But here’s the thing – those of us here tonight, we need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn’t halt the progress we’re making. We need to do more than just do no harm. Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.
Because families like Rebekah’s still need our help. She and Ben are working as hard as ever, but have to forego vacations and a new car so they can pay off student loans and save for retirement. Basic childcare for Jack and Henry costs more than their mortgage, and almost as much as a year at the University of Minnesota. Like millions of hardworking Americans, Rebekah isn’t asking for a handout, but she is asking that we look for more ways to help families get ahead.
In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity. We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure and the internet – tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.
That’s what middle-class economics is – the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. We don’t just want everyone to share in America’s success – we want everyone to contribute to our success.
So what does middle-class economics require in our time?
First – middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement – and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.
Here’s one example. During World War II, when men like my grandfather went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security priority – so this country provided universal childcare. In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have – it’s a must-have. It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America – by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.
Here’s another example. Today, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave. Forty-three million. Think about that. And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own. And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.
Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned. And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.
These ideas won’t make everybody rich, or relieve every hardship. That’s not the job of government. To give working families a fair shot, we’ll still need more employers to see beyond next quarter’s earnings and recognize that investing in their workforce is in their company’s long-term interest. We still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give American workers a voice. But things like child care and sick leave and equal pay; things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage – these ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families. That is a fact. And that’s what all of us – Republicans and Democrats alike – were sent here to do.
Second, to make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills.
America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation of GIs to college, and trained the best workforce in the world. But in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to do more.
By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education. Two in three. And yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not smart for our future.
That’s why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college – to zero.
Forty percent of our college students choose community college. Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt. Understand, you’ve got to earn it – you’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time. Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible. I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today. And I want to work with this Congress, to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.
Thanks to Vice President Biden’s great work to update our job training system, we’re connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics. Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS, and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships – opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education.
And as a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every opportunity to live the American Dream they helped defend. Already, we’ve made strides towards ensuring that every veteran has access to the highest quality care. We’re slashing the backlog that had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need, and we’re making it easier for vets to translate their training and experience into civilian jobs. Joining Forces, the national campaign launched by Michelle and Jill Biden, has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get new jobs. So to every CEO in America, let me repeat: If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done, hire a veteran.
Finally, as we better train our workers, we need the new economy to keep churning out high-wage jobs for our workers to fill.
Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined. Our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs. Some of our bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming. But there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn’t even exist ten or twenty years ago – jobs at companies like Google, and eBay, and Tesla.
So no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future. But we do know we want them here in America. That’s why the third part of middle-class economics is about building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where businesses want to locate and hire.
21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure – modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.
21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas. Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.
Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense. But ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and we can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Let’s give them one more reason to get it done.
21st century businesses will rely on American science, technology, research and development. I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine – one that delivers the right treatment at the right time. In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable. Tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes – and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.
I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.
I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs – converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay. Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars. In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space. Good luck, Captain – and make sure to Instagram it.
Now, the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure and basic research, I know there’s bipartisan support in this chamber. Members of both parties have told me so. Where we too often run onto the rocks is how to pay for these investments. As Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes, as long as everybody else does, too. But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight. They’ve riddled it with giveaways the superrich don’t need, denying a break to middle class families who do.
This year, we have an opportunity to change that. Let’s close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad, and reward those that invest in America. Let’s use those savings to rebuild our infrastructure and make it more attractive for companies to bring jobs home. Let’s simplify the system and let a small business owner file based on her actual bank statement, instead of the number of accountants she can afford. And let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth. We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college. We need a tax code that truly helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve that together.
Helping hardworking families make ends meet. Giving them the tools they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy. Maintaining the conditions for growth and competitiveness. This is where America needs to go. I believe it’s where the American people want to go. It will make our economy stronger a year from now, fifteen years from now, and deep into the century ahead.
Of course, if there’s one thing this new century has taught us, it’s that we cannot separate our work at home from challenges beyond our shores.
My first duty as Commander-in-Chief is to defend the United States of America. In doing so, the question is not whether America leads in the world, but how. When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military – then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world. That’s what our enemies want us to do.
I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership. We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now – and around the globe, it is making a difference.
First, we stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists – from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris. We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we’ve done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.
At the same time, we’ve learned some costly lessons over the last thirteen years.
Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained their security forces, who’ve now taken the lead, and we’ve honored our troops’ sacrifice by supporting that country’s first democratic transition. Instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we’re partnering with nations from South Asia to North Africa to deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten America. In Iraq and Syria, American leadership – including our military power – is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.
Second, we are demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy. We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small – by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies. Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin’s aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.
That’s how America leads – not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.
In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new. Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere; removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba; stands up for democratic values; and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people. And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo. As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of “small steps.” These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba. And after years in prison, we’re overjoyed that Alan Gross is back where he belongs. Welcome home, Alan.
Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies – including Israel; while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict. There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran. But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails – alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.
Third, we’re looking beyond the issues that have consumed us in the past to shape the coming century.
No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.
In West Africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses and healthcare workers are rolling back Ebola – saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease. I couldn’t be prouder of them, and I thank this Congress for your bipartisan support of their efforts. But the job is not yet done – and the world needs to use this lesson to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.
In the Asia Pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure that other nations play by the rules – in how they trade, how they resolve maritime disputes, and how they participate in meeting common international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief. And no challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.
2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does – 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.
I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what – I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.
That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement – the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.
There’s one last pillar to our leadership – and that’s the example of our values.
As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained. It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims – the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.
As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice – so it makes no sense to spend three million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit. Since I’ve been President, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of GTMO in half. Now it’s time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down. It’s not who we are.
As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties – and we need to uphold that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and industry in our fight against terrorist networks. So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I haven’t. As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.
Looking to the future instead of the past. Making sure we match our power with diplomacy, and use force wisely. Building coalitions to meet new challenges and opportunities. Leading – always – with the example of our values. That’s what makes us exceptional. That’s what keeps us strong. And that’s why we must keep striving to hold ourselves to the highest of standards – our own.
You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America, or a conservative America; a black America or a white America – but a United States of America. I said this because I had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs; because I made Illinois my home – a state of small towns, rich farmland, and one of the world’s great cities; a microcosm of the country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.
Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision. How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever. It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws – of which there are many – but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, and naïve, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it.
I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong.
I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long. I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best. I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California; and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, and New London. I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown; in Boston, West, Texas, and West Virginia. I’ve watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains; from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home.
So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who, every day, live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper, and our sister’s keeper. And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.
So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes. I’ve served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for – arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.
Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different.
Understand – a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.
A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.
A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.
A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter, and spend more time lifting young people up, with a sense of purpose and possibility, and asking them to join in the great mission of building America.
If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments – but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country.
We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs.
Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.
We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift. Surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.
That’s a better politics. That’s how we start rebuilding trust. That’s how we move this country forward. That’s what the American people want. That’s what they deserve.
I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda for the next two years is the same as the one I’ve had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol – to do what I believe is best for America. If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, join me in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree. And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.
Because I want this chamber, this city, to reflect the truth – that for all our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common effort, and help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other side of the world.
I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: your life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids.
I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen – man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.
I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.
I want them to grow up in a country where a young mom like Rebekah can sit down and write a letter to her President with a story to sum up these past six years:
“It is amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”
My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America. We’ve laid a new foundation. A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter – together – and let’s start the work right now.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 20, 2015
Source: WH, 12-20-14
Remarks of President Barack Obama
The White House
December 20, 2014
Hi, everybody. As 2014 comes to an end, we can enter the New Year with new confidence that America is making significant strides where it counts.
The steps we took nearly six years ago to rescue our economy and rebuild it on a new foundation helped make 2014 the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s. Over the past 57 months, our businesses have created nearly 11 million new jobs. And in a hopeful sign for middle-class families, wages are on the rise again.
Our investments in American manufacturing have helped fuel its best stretch of job growth since the ‘90s. America is now the number one producer of oil and gas, saving drivers about 70 cents a gallon at the pump over last Christmas. The auto industry we rescued is on track for its strongest year since 2005. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance in the past year alone. And since I took office, we have cut our deficits by about two-thirds.
Meanwhile, around the world, America is leading. We’re leading the coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. We’re leading the global fight to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. We’re leading global efforts to address climate change, including last month’s joint announcement with China. We’re turning a new page in our relationship with the Cuban people.
And in less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over, and our war there will come to a responsible end. Today, more of our troops are home for the holidays than at any time in over a decade. Still, many of our men and women in uniform will spend this Christmas in harm’s way. And as Commander-in-Chief, I want our troops to know: your country is united in our support and gratitude for you and your families.
The six years since the financial crisis have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everyone’s part. But as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve got to show for it. More jobs. More insured. A growing economy. Shrinking deficits. Bustling industry. Booming energy.
Pick any metric you want – America’s resurgence is real. And we now have the chance to reverse the decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes. We just have to invest in the things that we know will secure even faster growth in higher-paying jobs for more Americans. We have to make sure our economy, our justice system, and our government work not only for a few, but for all of us. And I look forward to working together with the new Congress next year on these priorities.
Sure, we’ll disagree on some things. We’ll have to compromise on others. I’ll act on my own when it’s necessary. But I will never stop trying to make life better for people like you.
Because thanks to your efforts, a new foundation is laid. A new future is ready to be written. We have set the stage for a new American moment, and I’m going to spend every minute of my last two years making sure we seize it.
On behalf of the Obama family, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.
Thanks, and have a wonderful holiday season.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on December 20, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on December 20, 2014
Source: WH, 12-19-14
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:53 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. We’ve really got a full house today, huh? Well, all I want for Christmas is to take your questions. (Laughter.) But first let me say a little bit about this year.
In last year’s final press conference, I said that 2014 would be a year of action and would be a breakthrough year for America. And it has been. Yes, there were crises that we had to tackle around the world, many that were unanticipated. We have more work to do to make sure our economy, our justice system, and our government work not just for the few, but for the many. But there is no doubt that we can enter into the New Year with renewed confidence that America is making significant strides where it counts.
The steps that we took early on to rescue our economy and rebuild it on a new foundation helped make 2014 the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s. All told, over a 57-month streak, our businesses have created nearly 11 million new jobs. Almost all the job growth that we’ve seen have been in full-time positions. Much of the recent pickup in job growth has been in higher-paying industries. And in a hopeful sign for middle-class families, wages are on the rise again.
Our investments in American manufacturing have helped fuel its best stretch of job growth also since the 1990s. America is now the number-one producer of oil, the number-one producer of natural gas. We’re saving drivers about 70 cents a gallon at the pump over last Christmas. And effectively today, our rescue of the auto industry is officially over. We’ve now repaid taxpayers every dime and more of what my administration committed, and the American auto industry is on track for its strongest year since 2005. And we’ve created about half a million new jobs in the auto industry alone.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance just this past year. Enrollment is beginning to pick up again during the open enrollment period. The uninsured rate is at a near record low. Since the law passed, the price of health care has risen at its slowest rate in about 50 years. And we’ve cut our deficits by about two-thirds since I took office, bringing them to below their 40-year average.
Meanwhile, around the world, America is leading. We’re leading the coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL — a coalition that includes Arab partners. We’re leading the international community to check Russian aggression in Ukraine. We are leading the global fight to combat Ebola in West Africa, and we are preventing an outbreak from taking place here at home. We’re leading efforts to address climate change, including last month’s joint announcement with China that’s already jumpstarting new progress in other countries. We’re writing a new chapter in our leadership here in the Americas by turning a new page on our relationship with the Cuban people.
And in less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over. Today, more of our troops are home for the holidays than any time in over a decade. Still, many of our men and women in uniform will spend Christmas in harm’s way. And they should know that the country is united in support of you and grateful not only to you but also to your families.
The six years since the crisis have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everybody’s part. But as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve accomplished — more jobs; more people insured; a growing economy; shrinking deficits; bustling industry; booming energy. Pick any metric that you want — America’s resurgence is real. We are better off.
I’ve always said that recovering from the crisis of 2008 was our first order of business, and on that business, America has outperformed all of our other competitors. Over the past four years, we’ve put more people back to work than all other advanced economies combined. We’ve now come to a point where we have the chance to reverse an even deeper problem, the decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes, and to make sure that the middle class is the engine that powers our prosperity for decades to come.
To do that, we’re going to have to make some smart choices; we’ve got to make the right choices. We’re going to have to invest in the things that secure even faster growth in higher-paying jobs for more Americans. And I’m being absolutely sincere when I say I want to work with this new Congress to get things done, to make those investments, to make sure the government is working better and smarter. We’re going to disagree on some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement and we’ve got to be able to make that happen. And that’s going to involve compromise every once in a while, and we saw during this lame duck period that perhaps that spirit of compromise may be coming to the fore.
In terms of my own job, I’m energized, I’m excited about the prospects for the next couple of years, and I’m certainly not going to be stopping for a minute in the effort to make life better for ordinary Americans. Because, thanks to their efforts, we really do have a new foundation that’s been laid. We are better positioned than we have been in a very long time. A new future is ready to be written. We’ve set the stage for this American moment. And I’m going to spend every minute of my last two years making sure that we seize it.
My presidency is entering the fourth quarter; interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter. And I’m looking forward to it. But going into the fourth quarter, you usually get a timeout. I’m now looking forward to a quiet timeout — Christmas with my family. So I want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy New Year. I hope that all of you get some time to spend with your families as well, because one thing that we share is that we’re away too much from them.
And now, Josh has given me the “who’s been naughty and who’s been nice” list — (laughter) — and I’m going to use it to take some questions. And we’re going to start with Carrie Budoff Brown of Politico. There you go, Carrie.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I’ll start on North Korea — that seems to be the biggest topic today. What does a proportional response look like to the Sony hack? And did Sony make the right decision in pulling the movie? Or does that set a dangerous precedent when faced with this kind of situation?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me address the second question first. Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.
In this interconnected, digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyber assaults both in the private sector and the public sector. Now, our first order of business is making sure that we do everything to harden sites and prevent those kinds of attacks from taking place. When I came into office, I stood up a cybersecurity interagency team to look at everything that we could at the government level to prevent these kinds of attacks. We’ve been coordinating with the private sector, but a lot more needs to be done. We’re not even close to where we need to be.
And one of the things in the New Year that I hope Congress is prepared to work with us on is strong cybersecurity laws that allow for information-sharing across private sector platforms, as well as the public sector, so that we are incorporating best practices and preventing these attacks from happening in the first place.
But even as we get better, the hackers are going to get better, too. Some of them are going to be state actors; some of them are going to be non-state actors. All of them are going to be sophisticated and many of them can do some damage.
We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States. Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like, or news reports that they don’t like. Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.
So that’s not who we are. That’s not what America is about.
Again, I’m sympathetic that Sony as a private company was worried about liabilities, and this and that and the other. I wish they had spoken to me first. I would have told them, do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks. Imagine if, instead of it being a cyber-threat, somebody had broken into their offices and destroyed a bunch of computers and stolen disks. Is that what it takes for suddenly you to pull the plug on something?
So we’ll engage with not just the film industry, but the news industry and the private sector around these issues. We already have. We will continue to do so. But I think all of us have to anticipate occasionally there are going to be breaches like this. They’re going to be costly. They’re going to be serious. We take them with the utmost seriousness. But we can’t start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack; any more than Boston didn’t run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm. So let’s not get into that way of doing business.
Q Can you just say what the response would be to this attack? Wwould you consider taking some sort of symbolic step like watching the movie yourself or doing some sort of screening here that —
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve got a long list of movies I’m going to be watching. (Laughter.)
Q Will this be one of them?
THE PRESIDENT: I never release my full movie list.
But let’s talk of the specifics of what we now know. The FBI announced today and we can confirm that North Korea engaged in this attack. I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco [Franco]. (Laughter.) I love Seth and I love James, but the notion that that was a threat to them I think gives you some sense of the kind of regime we’re talking about here.
They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond. We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose. It’s not something that I will announce here today at a press conference.
More broadly, though, this points to the need for us to work with the international community to start setting up some very clear rules of the road in terms of how the Internet and cyber operates. Right now, it’s sort of the Wild West. And part of the problem is, is you’ve got weak states that can engage in these kinds of attacks, you’ve got non-state actors that can do enormous damage. That’s part of what makes this issue of cybersecurity so urgent.
Again, this is part of the reason why it’s going to be so important for Congress to work with us and get a actual bill passed that allows for the kind of information-sharing we need. Because if we don’t put in place the kind of architecture that can prevent these attacks from taking place, this is not just going to be affecting movies, this is going to be affecting our entire economy in ways that are extraordinarily significant.
And, by the way, I hear you’re moving to Europe. Where you going to be?
THE PRESIDENT: Brussels.
Q Yes. Helping Politico start a new publication.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, congratulations.
Q I’ve been covering you since the beginning.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think —
Q It’s been a long road for the both of us.
THE PRESIDENT: I think there’s no doubt that what Belgium needs is a version of Politico. (Laughter.)
Q I’ll take that as an endorsement.
THE PRESIDENT: The waffles are delicious there, by the way.
Cheryl Bolen. You’ve been naughty. (Laughter.) Cheryl, go ahead.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Looking ahead to your work with Congress next year, you’ve mentioned as an area of possible compromise tax reform. And so I am wondering, do you see a Republican Congress as presenting a better opportunity for actually getting tax reform next year? Will you be putting out a new proposal? Are you willing to consider both individual and corporate side of the tax ledger there? And also, are you still concerned about corporate inversions?
THE PRESIDENT: I think an all-Democratic Congress would have provided an even better opportunity for tax reform. But I think, talking to Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell that they are serious about wanting to get some things done. The tax area is one area where we can get things done. And I think in the coming weeks leading up to the State of Union, there will be some conversations at the staff levels about what principles each side are looking at.
I can tell you broadly what I’d like to see. I’d like to see more simplicity in the system. I’d like to see more fairness in the system. With respect to the corporate tax reform issue, we know that there are companies that are paying the full freight — 35 percent — higher than just about any other company on Earth, if you’re paying 35 percent, and then there are other companies that are paying zero because they’ve got better accountants or lawyers. That’s not fair.
There are companies that are parking money outside the country because of tax avoidance. We think that it’s important that everybody pays something if, in fact, they are effectively headquartered in the United States. In terms of corporate inversion, those are situations where companies really are headquartered here but, on paper, switch their headquarters to see if they can avoid paying their fair share of taxes. I think that needs to be fixed.
So, fairness, everybody paying their fair share, everybody taking responsibility I think is going to be very important.
Some of those principles I’ve heard Republicans say they share. How we do that — the devil is in the details. And I’ll be interested in seeing what they want to move forward. I’m going to make sure that we put forward some pretty specific proposals building on what we’ve already put forward.
One other element of this that I think is important is — and I’ve been on this hobby horse now for six years. (Audience member sneezes.) Bless you. We’ve got a lot of infrastructure we’ve got to rebuild in this country if we’re going to be competitive — roads, bridges, ports, airports, electrical grids, water systems, sewage systems. We are way behind.
And early on we indicated that there is a way of us potentially doing corporate tax reform, lowering rates, eliminating loopholes so everybody is paying their fair share, and during that transition also providing a mechanism where we can get some infrastructure built. I’d like to see us work on that issue as well. Historically, obviously, infrastructure has not been a Democratic or a Republican issue, and I’d like to see if we can return to that tradition.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I wanted to ask about Cuba. What would you say to dissidents or democracy advocates inside Cuba who fear that the policy changes you announced this week could give the Castro regime economic benefits without having to address human rights or their political system? When your administration was lifting sanctions on Myanmar you sought commitments of reform. Why not do the same with Cuba?
And if I could just follow up on North Korea. Do you have any indication that North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country, perhaps China?
THE PRESIDENT: We’ve got no indication that North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country.
With respect to Cuba, we are glad that the Cuban government have released slightly over 50 dissidents; that they are going to be allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations human rights agencies to operate more freely inside of Cuba and monitor what is taking place.
I share the concerns of dissidents there and human rights activists that this is still a regime that represses its people. And as I said when I made the announcement, I don’t anticipate overnight changes, but what I know deep in my bones is that if you’ve done the same thing for 50 years and nothing has changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome.
And this gives us an opportunity for a different outcome, because suddenly Cuba is open to the world in ways that it has not been before. It’s open to Americans traveling there in ways that it hasn’t been before. It’s open to church groups visiting their fellow believers inside of Cuba in ways they haven’t been before. It offers the prospect of telecommunications and the Internet being more widely available in Cuba in ways that it hasn’t been before.
And over time, that chips away at this hermetically sealed society, and I believe offers the best prospect then of leading to greater freedom, greater self-determination on the part of the Cuban people.
I think it will happen in fits and starts. But through engagement, we have a better chance of bringing about change then we would have otherwise.
Q Do you have a goal for where you see Cuba being at the end of your presidency?
THE PRESIDENT: I think it would be unrealistic for me to map out exactly where Cuba will be. But change is going to come to Cuba. It has to. They’ve got an economy that doesn’t work. They’ve been reliant for years first on subsidies from the Soviet Union, then on subsidies from Venezuela. Those can’t be sustained. And the more the Cuban people see what’s possible, the more interested they are going to be in change.
But how societies change is country-specific, it’s culturally specific. It could happen fast; it could happen slower than I’d like; but it’s going to happen. And I think this change in policy is going to advance that.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I had a number of questions on Cuba as well. Appreciate that. I wanted to —
THE PRESIDENT: Do I have to write all these down? How many are there? (Laughter.) “A number” sounded intimidating.
Q As quick as I can. As quick as I can. I wanted to see if you got an assurances from the Cuban government that it would not revert to the same sort of — sabotage the deal, as it has in the past when past Presidents had made similar overtures to the government.
THE PRESIDENT: Meaning? Be specific. What do you mean?
Q When the Clinton administration made some overtures, they shot down planes. They sort of had this pattern of doing provocative — provocative events.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, so just general provocative activity.
Q Provocative activities any time the U.S. has sort of reached out a hand to them. I wanted to see what is your knowledge of whether Fidel Castro — did he have any role in the talks? When you talked to President Raul Castro, did Fidel Castro’s name come up? Or did you ask about him? How he’s doing? People haven’t seen him in a while. Given the deep opposition from some Republicans in Congress to lifting the embargo, to an embassy, to any of the changes that you’re doing, are you going to personally get involved in terms of talking to them about efforts that they want to do to block money on a new embassy?
THE PRESIDENT: All right, Lesley, I think I’m going to cut you off here. (Laughter.) This is taking up a lot of time.
Q Okay, all right.
THE PRESIDENT: All right. So, with respect to sabotage, I mean, my understanding of the history, for example, of the plane being shot down, it’s not clear that that was the Cuban government purposely trying to undermine overtures by the Clinton administration. It was a tragic circumstance that ended up collapsing talks that had begun to take place. I haven’t seen a historical record that suggests that they shot the plane down specifically in order to undermine overtures by the Clinton government.
I think it is not precedented for the President of the United States and the President of Cuba to make an announcement at the same time that they are moving towards normalizing relations. So there hasn’t been anything like this in the past. That doesn’t meant that over the next two years we can anticipate them taking certain actions that we may end up finding deeply troubling either inside of Cuba or with respect to their foreign policy. And that could put significant strains on the relationship. But that’s true of a lot of countries out there where we have an embassy. And the whole point of normalizing relations is that it gives us a greater opportunity to have influence with that government than not.
So I would be surprised if the Cuban government purposely tries to undermine what is now effectively its own policy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they take at any given time actions that we think are a problem. And we will be in a position to respond to whatever actions they take the same way we do with a whole range of countries around the world when they do things we think are wrong. But the point is, is that we will be in a better position I think to actually have some influence, and there may be carrots as well as sticks that we can then apply.
The only way that Fidel’s name came up — I think I may have mentioned this in the Davie Muir article — interview that I did — was I delivered a fairly lengthy statement at the front end about how we’re looking forward to a new future in the relationship between our two countries, but that we are going to continue to press on issues of democracy and human rights, which we think are important.
My opening remarks probably took about 15 minutes, which on the phone is a pretty long time. And at the end of that, he said, Mr. President, you’re still a young man. Perhaps you have the — at the end of my remarks I apologized for taking such a long time, but I wanted to make sure that before we engaged in the conversation he was very clear about where I stood. He said, oh, don’t worry about it, Mr. President, you’re still a young man and you have still the chance to break Fidel’s record — he once spoke seven hours straight. (Laughter.)
And then, President Castro proceeded to deliver his own preliminary remarks that last at least twice as long as mine. (Laughter.) And then I was able to say, obviously it runs in the family. But that was the only discussion of Fidel Castro that we had.
I sort of forgot all the other questions. (Laughter.)
Q I have a few more if you’re — how personally involved are you going to get in —
THE PRESIDENT: With respect to Congress? We cannot unilaterally bring down the embargo. That’s codified in the Libertad Act. And what I do think is going to happen, though, is there’s going to be a process where Congress digests it. There are bipartisan supporters of our new approach, there are bipartisan detractors of this new approach. People will see how the actions we take unfold. And I think there’s going to be a healthy debate inside of Congress.
And I will certainly weigh in. I think that ultimately we need to go ahead and pull down the embargo, which I think has been self-defeating in advancing the aims that we’re interested in. But I don’t anticipate that that happens right away. I think people are going to want to see how does this move forward before there’s any serious debate about whether or not we would make major shifts in the embargo.
Q I want to follow on that by asking, under what conditions would you meet with President Castro in Havana? Would you have certain preconditions that you would want to see met before doing that? And on the hack, I know that you said that you’re not going to announce your response, but can you say whether you’re considering additional economic or financial sanctions on North Korea? Can you rule out the use of military force or some kind of cyber hit of your own?
THE PRESIDENT: I think I’m going to leave it where I left it, which is we just confirmed that it was North Korea; we have been working up a range of options. They will be presented to me. I will make a decision on those based on what I believe is proportional and appropriate to the nature of this crime.
With respect to Cuba, we’re not at a stage here where me visiting Cuba or President Castro coming to the United States is in the cards. I don’t know how this relationship will develop over the next several years. I’m a fairly young man so I imagine that at some point in my life I will have the opportunity to visit Cuba and enjoy interacting with the Cuban people. But there’s nothing specific where we’re trying to target some sort of visit on my part.
Colleen McCain Nelson.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: There you are.
Q You spoke earlier about 2014 being a breakthrough year, and you ended the year with executive actions on Cuba and immigration and climate change. But you didn’t make much progress this year on your legislative agenda. And some Republican lawmakers have said they’re less inclined to work with you if you pursue executive actions so aggressively. Are you going to continue to pursue executive actions if that creates more roadblocks for your legislative agenda? Or have you concluded that it’s not possible to break the fever in Washington and the partisan gridlock here?
THE PRESIDENT: I think there are real opportunities to get things done in Congress. As I said before, I take Speaker Boehner and Mitch McConnell at their words that they want to get things done. I think the American people would like to see us get some things done. The question is going to be are we able to separate out those areas where we disagree and those areas where we agree. I think there are going to be some tough fights on areas where we disagree.
If Republicans seek to take health care away from people who just got it, they will meet stiff resistance from me. If they try to water down consumer protections that we put in place in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I will say no. And I’m confident that I’ll be able to uphold vetoes of those types of provisions. But on increasing American exports, on simplifying our tax system, on rebuilding our infrastructure, my hope is that we can get some things done.
I’ve never been persuaded by this argument that if it weren’t for the executive actions they would have been more productive. There’s no evidence of that. So I intend to continue to do what I’ve been doing, which is where I see a big problem and the opportunity to help the American people, and it is within my lawful authority to provide that help, I’m going to do it. And I will then, side-by-side, reach out to members of Congress, reach out to Republicans, and say, let’s work together; I’d rather do it with you.
Immigration is the classic example. I was really happy when the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill. And I did everything I could for a year and a half to provide Republicans the space to act, and showed not only great patience, but flexibility, saying to them, look, if there are specific changes you’d like to see, we’re willing to compromise, we’re willing to be patient, we’re willing to work with you. Ultimately it wasn’t forthcoming.
And so the question is going to be I think if executive actions on areas like minimum wage, or equal pay, or having a more sensible immigration system are important to Republicans, if they care about those issues, and the executive actions are bothering them, there is a very simple solution, and that is: Pass bills. And work with me to make sure I’m willing to sign those bills.
Because both sides are going to have to compromise. On most issues, in order for their initiatives to become law, I’m going to have sign off. And that means they have to take into account the issues that I care about, just as I’m going to have to take into account the issues that they care about.
All right. I think this is going to be our last question. Juliet Eilperin. There you go.
Q Thanks so much. So one of the first bills that Mitch McConnell said he will send to you is one that would authorize the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. When you talked about this in the past, you’ve minimized the benefits and you highlighted some of the risks associated with that project. I’m wondering if you could tell us both what you would do when faced with that bill, given the Republican majority that we’ll have in both chambers. And also, what do you see as the benefits? And given the precipitous drop we’ve seen in oil prices recently, does that change the calculus in terms of how it will contribute to climate change, and whether you think it makes sense to go ahead with that project?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t think I’ve minimized the benefits, I think I’ve described the benefits. At issue in Keystone is not American oil. It is Canadian oil that is drawn out of tar sands in Canada. That oil currently is being shipped out through rail or trucks, and it would save Canadian oil companies and the Canadian oil industry an enormous amount of money if they could simply pipe it all the way through the United States down to the Gulf. Once that oil gets to the Gulf, it is then entering into the world market, and it would be sold all around the world.
So there’s no — I won’t say “no” — there is very little impact, nominal impact, on U.S. gas prices — what the average American consumer cares about — by having this pipeline come through. And sometimes the way this gets sold is, let’s get this oil and it’s going to come here. And the implication is, is that’s going to lower gas prices here in the United States. It’s not. There’s a global oil market. It’s very good for Canadian oil companies and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry, but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to U.S. consumers. It’s not even going to be a nominal benefit to U.S. consumers.
Now, the construction of the pipeline itself will create probably a couple thousand jobs. Those are temporary jobs until the construction actually happens. There’s probably some additional jobs that can be created in the refining process down in the Gulf. Those aren’t completely insignificant — it’s just like any other project. But when you consider what we could be doing if we were rebuilding our roads and bridges around the country — something that Congress could authorize — we could probably create hundreds of thousands of jobs, or a million jobs. So if that’s the argument, there are a lot more direct ways to create well-paying Americans construction jobs.
And then, with respect to the cost, all I’ve said is that I want to make sure that if, in fact, this project goes forward, that it’s not adding to the problem of climate change, which I think is very serious and does impose serious costs on the American people — some of them long term, but significant costs nonetheless. If we’ve got more flooding, more wildfires, more drought, there are direct economic impacts on that.
And as we’re now rebuilding after Sandy, for example, we’re having to consider how do we increase preparedness in how we structure infrastructure and housing, and so forth, along the Jersey Shore. That’s an example of the kind of costs that are imposed, and you can put a dollar figure on it.
So, in terms of process, you’ve got a Nebraska judge that’s still determining whether or not the new path for this pipeline is appropriate. Once that is resolved, then the State Department will have all the information it needs to make its decision.
But I’ve just tried to give this perspective, because I think that there’s been this tendency to really hype this thing as some magic formula to what ails the U.S. economy, and it’s hard to see on paper where exactly they’re getting that information from.
In terms of oil prices and how it impacts the decision, I think that it won’t have a significant impact except perhaps in the minds of folks — when gas prices are lower, maybe they’re less susceptible to the argument that this is the answer to lowering gas prices. But it was never going to be the answer to lowering gas prices, because the oil that would be piped through the Keystone pipeline would go into the world market. And that’s what determines oil prices, ultimately.
Q And in terms of Congress forcing your hand on this, is this something where you clearly say you’re not going to let Congress force your hand on whether to approve or disapprove of this?
THE PRESIDENT: I’ll see what they do. We’ll take that up in the New Year.
Q Any New Year’s resolutions?
THE PRESIDENT: I’ll ask — April, go ahead.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Last question, I guess. (Laughter.) Six years ago this month, I asked you what was the state of black America in the Oval Office, and you said it was the “the best of times and the worst of times.” You said it was the best of times in the sense that there was — has never been more opportunity for African Americans to receive a good education, and the worst of times for unemployment and the lack of opportunity. We’re ending 2014. What is the state of black America as we talk about those issues as well as racial issues in this country?
THE PRESIDENT: Like the rest of America, black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when I came into office. The jobs that have been created, the people who’ve gotten health insurance, the housing equity that’s been recovered, the 401 pensions that have been recovered — a lot of those folks are African American. They’re better off than they were.
The gap between income and wealth of white and black America persists. And we’ve got more work to do on that front. I’ve been consistent in saying that this is a legacy of a troubled racial past of Jim Crow and slavery. That’s not an excuse for black folks. And I think the overwhelming majority of black people understand it’s not an excuse. They’re working hard. They’re out there hustling and trying to get an education, trying to send their kids to college. But they’re starting behind, oftentimes, in the race.
And what’s true for all Americans is we should be willing to provide people a hand up — not a handout, but help folks get that good early childhood education, help them graduate from high school, help them afford college. If they do, they’re going to be able to succeed, and that’s going to be good for all of us.
And we’ve seen some progress. The education reforms that we’ve initiated are showing measurable results. We have the highest high school graduation that we’ve seen in a very long time. We are seeing record numbers of young people attending college. In many states that have initiated reforms, you’re seeing progress in math scores and reading scores for African American and Latino students as well as the broader population. But we’ve still got more work to go.
Now, obviously, how we’re thinking about race relations right now has been colored by Ferguson, the Garner case in New York, a growing awareness in the broader population of what I think many communities of color have understood for some time, and that is that there are specific instances at least where law enforcement doesn’t feel as if it’s being applied in a colorblind fashion.
The task force that I formed is supposed to report back to me in 90 days — not with a bunch of abstract musings about race relations, but some really concrete, practical things that police departments and law enforcement agencies can begin implementing right now to rebuild trust between communities of color and the police department.
And my intention is to, as soon as I get those recommendations, to start implementing them. Some of them we’ll be able to do through executive action. Some of them will require congressional action. Some of them will require action on the part of states and local jurisdictions.
But I actually think it’s been a healthy conversation that we’ve had. These are not new phenomenon. The fact that they’re now surfacing, in part because people are able to film what have just been, in the past, stories passed on around a kitchen table, allows people to make their own assessments and evaluations. And you’re not going to solve a problem if it’s not being talked about.
In the meantime, we’ve been moving forward on criminal justice reform issues more broadly. One of the things I didn’t talk about in my opening statement is the fact that last year was the first time in 40 years where we had the federal prison population go down and the crime rate go down at the same time, which indicates the degree to which it’s possible for us to think smarter about who we’re incarcerating, how long we’re incarcerating, how are we dealing with nonviolent offenders, how are we dealing with drug offenses, diversion programs, drug courts. We can do a better job of — and save money in the process by initiating some of these reforms. And I’ve been really pleased to see that we’ve had Republicans and Democrats in Congress who are interested in these issues as well.
The one thing I will say — and this is going to be the last thing I say — is that one of the great things about this job is you get to know the American people. I mean, you meet folks from every walk of life and every region of the country, and every race and every faith. And what I don’t think is always captured in our political debates is the vast majority of people are just trying to do the right thing, and people are basically good and have good intentions. Sometimes our institutions and our systems don’t work as well as they should. Sometimes you’ve got a police department that has gotten into bad habits over a period of time and hasn’t maybe surfaced some hidden biases that we all carry around. But if you offer practical solutions, I think people want to fix these problems. It’s not — this isn’t a situation where people feel good seeing somebody choked and dying. I think that troubles everybody. So there’s an opportunity of all of us to come together and to take a practical approach to these problems.
And I guess that’s my general theme for the end of the year — which is we’ve gone through difficult times. It is your job, press corps, to report on all the mistakes that are made and all the bad things that happen and the crises that look like they’re popping. And I understand that. But through persistent effort and faith in the American people, things get better. The economy has gotten better. Our ability to generate clean energy has gotten better. We know more about how to educate our kids. We solved problems. Ebola is a real crisis; you get a mistake in the first case because it’s not something that’s been seen before — we fix it. You have some unaccompanied children who spike at a border, and it may not get fixed in the time frame of the news cycle, but it gets fixed.
And part of what I hope as we reflect on the New Year this should generate is some confidence. America knows how to solve problems. And when we work together, we can’t be stopped.
And now I’m going to go on vacation. Mele Kalikimaka, everybody. (Laughter.) Mahalo. Thank you, everybody.
2:45 P.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on December 19, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 31, 2014
Source: WH, 10-4-14
WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President highlighted that six years after the Great Recession, thanks to the hard work of the American people and the President’s policies, our economy has come back further and faster than any other nation on Earth. With 10.3 million private sector jobs added over 55 straight months, America’s businesses have extended the longest streak of private-sector job gains on record. But even with this progress, too many Americans have yet to feel the benefits. The President reiterated the vision he set out earlier this week for steps that can lay a new foundation for stronger growth, rising wages, and expanded economic opportunity for middle class families.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
October 4, 2014
Hi, everybody. I’m at Millennium Steel in Princeton, Indiana, to have a town hall with workers on National Manufacturing Day. Because in many ways, manufacturing is the quintessential middle-class job. And after a decade of losing jobs, American manufacturing is once again adding them – more than 700,000 over the past four and a half years.
In fact, it’s been a bright spot as we keep fighting to recover from the great recession. Last month, our businesses added 236,000 new jobs. The unemployment rate fell to under six percent for the first time in more than six years. Over the past 55 months, our businesses have added 10.3 million new jobs. That’s the longest uninterrupted stretch of private sector job creation in our history. And we’re on pace to make 2014 the strongest year of job growth since the 1990s.
This progress has been hard, but it has been steady, and it is real. It is a direct result of the American people’s drive and determination, and decisions made by my administration.
During the last decade, people thought the decline in American manufacturing was inevitable. But we chose to invest in American auto industry and American workers. And today, an auto industry that was flatlining six years ago is building and selling new cars at the fastest pace in eight years. American manufacturing is growing almost twice as fast as the rest of the economy, with new factories opening their doors at the fastest pace in decades. That’s progress we can be proud of.
What’s also true is that too many families still work too many hours with too little to show for it. And the much longer and profound erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes isn’t something we’re going to reverse overnight. But there are ideas we should be putting into place that would grow jobs and wages faster right now. And one of the best would be to raise the minimum wage.
We’ve actually begun to see some modest wage growth in recent months. But most folks still haven’t seen a raise in over a decade. It’s time to stop punishing some of the hardest-working Americans. It’s time to raise the minimum wage. It would put more money in workers’ pockets. It would help 28 million Americans. Recent surveys show that a majority of small business owners support a gradual increase to ten dollars and ten cents an hour. The folks who keep blocking a minimum wage increase are running out of excuses. Let’s give America a raise.
Let’s do this – because it would make our economy stronger, and make sure that growth is shared. Rather than just reading about our recovery in a headline, more people will feel it in their own lives. And that’s when America does best. We do better when the middle class does better, and when more Americans have their way to climb into the middle class.
And that’s what drives me every single day. Thanks, and have a great weekend.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 5, 2014
Source: WH, 10-3-14
2:17 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! Hello, Indiana! It’s good to be back close to home. Everybody have a seat, have a seat.
Well, first of all, let me thank Henry and everybody for extending such a warm welcome. It’s good to be back in Indiana. A couple people I just want to acknowledge very quickly: Your Mayor, Bob Hurst. Where did Mayor Hurst go? (Applause.) He was here just a second — there he is right there. Give him a big round of applause. (Applause.) We’ve got your former Congressman, Brad Ellsworth, in the house. Say hi to Brad. (Applause.)
It is great to be back in Indiana. It’s great to be in Princeton. And I want to thank Millennium Steel for hosting us here today. I’m here because you might have heard that today is National Manufacturing Day. You don’t get the day off on National Manufacturing Day. (Laughter.) But factories like this one, all over the country, are opening their doors to give young people a chance to understand what opportunities exist in manufacturing in 21st century in the United States of America. So I figured, what better place to celebrate Manufacturing Day than with a manufacturer?
And instead of giving a long speech, what I want to do today is just have a conversation with folks about what’s happening in the American economy, what’s happening in your lives, what’s happening in manufacturing, and to talk a little bit about how we can continue to build an economy that works for everybody, that gives everybody who’s willing to work hard a chance.
And I wanted to do that here because, in some ways, American manufacturing is powering the American recovery. This morning, we learned that last month, our businesses added more than 236,000 jobs. (Applause.) The unemployment rate fell from 6.1 percent to 5.9 percent. (Applause.) What that means is that the unemployment rate is below 6 percent for the first time in six years. (Applause.) And we’re on pace for the strongest job growth since the 1990s — strongest job growth since the 1990s. Over the past 55 months, our businesses have now created 10.3 million new jobs. (Applause.)
Now, that happens to be the longest uninterrupted stretch of job growth in the private sector in American history. And all told, the United States has put more folks back to work than Europe, Japan, and all other advanced economies combined. All combined, we put more folks back to work right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
So this progress that we’ve been making, it’s been hard, it goes in fits and starts, it’s not always been perfectly smooth or as fast as we want, but it is real and it is steady and it is happening. And it’s making a difference in economies all across the country. And it’s the direct result of the best workers in the world, the drive and determination of the American people, the resilience of the American people bouncing back from what was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression — and it’s also got a little bit to do with some decisions we made pretty early on in my administration.
So, just to take an example, many of you know that the auto industry was really in a bad spot when I came into office. And we decided to help our automakers to rebuild, to retool, and they’re now selling new cars at the fastest rate in about eight years. And they’re great cars, too. (Applause.) And that’s helped a lot of communities all across the Midwest. And that’s just one example of what’s been happening to American manufacturing generally.
About 10, 15 years ago, everybody said American manufacturing is going downhill, everything is moving to China or other countries. And the Midwest got hit a lot harder than a lot of places because we were the backbone of American manufacturing. But because folks invested in new plants and new technologies, and there were hubs that were created between businesses and universities and community colleges so that workers could master and get trained in some of these new technologies, what we’ve now seen is manufacturing driving economic growth in a way we haven’t seen in about 20-25 years.
Because of the efforts that we’ve made, manufacturing as a whole has added about 700,000 new jobs. It’s growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy. New factories are opening their doors. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking to bring jobs back from China. Our businesses are selling more goods overseas than any time in our history. And the reason this is important is not just because of some abstract statistic. Manufacturing jobs have good pay and good benefits.
And they create a ripple effect to the whole economy because everybody who’s working here at Millennium Steel, because you’re getting paid well, because you’ve got decent benefits, that means that the restaurants in the neighborhood are doing better. It means you can afford to make your mortgage payments and buy a new car yourself, and buy some new appliances. And you get a virtuous cycle in which all businesses are doing better.
To most middle-class folks, the last decade was defined by those jobs going overseas. But if we keep up these investments, then we can define this decade as a period, instead of outsourcing, insourcing — bringing jobs back to America. And when you ask business executives around the world, what’s the number-one place to invest their money right now, for a long time it was China. Today they say, the best place to invest money is here in the United States of America. Here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
So there is a lot of good stuff happening in the economy right now. But what we all know is, is that there’s still some challenges — there’s still some challenges — because there are still a lot of families where somebody in the family is out of work, or isn’t getting as many hours as they want. There are still a lot of folks who, at the end of the month, are having trouble paying the bills. And wages and incomes have not moved up as fast as all the gains we’re making in jobs and productivity. Too much of the growth in income and wealth is going to the very top; not enough of it is being spread to the ordinary worker.
And that means that we’ve still got some more work to do to put in place policies that make sure that the economy works not just for the few, but it works for everybody; and that if you work hard you’re going to be able to pay the bills, you’re going to be able to retire with some dignity and some respect, you can send your kids to school without having to worry about it. That’s what we’ve got to be working on — making sure that no matter who you are, where you started, you can make it here in America. That’s what the American Dream is all about. (Applause.)
Now, let me just close by saying a couple of things that I know would make a difference if we were doing them right now to make the economy grow even faster, to bring the unemployment rate down even faster, and if employers are hiring more workers and the labor market gets a little bit tighter, then employers end up paying a little bit more and wages go up a little bit more, and that means people have a little more money in their pockets, and then they’re spending more of it on businesses’ products and services, which means that even more workers get hired. There are some things we could do right now that would make a difference.
We should be investing in roads and bridges and ports and infrastructure all across the country. We’ve got a lot of stuff that was built back in the ‘40s and the ‘50s that needs to be updated. And if we’re putting construction workers back to work, that means they also need some steel. They also need some concrete. It means you need engineers doing the work, and you need suppliers. And all that would give a huge boost to the economy and make it easier for businesses to deliver their products and services around the world. It would be good for our economy. That’s something that we should be doing right now.
And I’ve been putting proposals forward in front of Congress to say let’s go ahead and just start rebuilding all kinds of parts of America that need rebuilding. And nobody disagrees that they need to be rebuilt. The only thing that’s holding us up right now is politics.
We should be raising the minimum wage to make sure that more workers — (applause) — who have been working full-time shouldn’t be living in poverty. And we’ve got legislation going on right now that would call for a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, which would mean that if you work full-time you’re not living in poverty, you can raise a family. And the good news is, is about 13 states and a bunch of cities around the country have gone ahead and done it without Congress. But it would sure help if Congress went ahead and did it as well. Because right now, since I, two years ago, called for a hike in the minimum wage, about 7 million people have seen their incomes go up, but there are still about 21 million people who would stand to benefit if we had a national minimum wage.
And by the way, when you hear folks saying, well, if you raise the minimum wage that’s going to be fewer jobs — it turns out the states that have raised the minimum wage have had faster job growth than the states that haven’t raised the minimum wage. So this is something that would benefit families, but again, if folks have more money in their pockets, they’re working hard, they go out and spend it. And that ends up being good for business, not just for the workers involved.
We should be making sure that women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same work. (Applause.) That’s something, by the way, that should be a no-brainer for men, too, because — (laughter) — I remember when Michelle and I were both working, I was always happy if she got a raise. I wanted to make sure that she was getting paid fairly because it’s all one household, and the more women that get into the workforce, the more families are reliant on two incomes in order to make ends meet. Plus it’s just fair and it’s the right thing to do. (Applause.)
So there are a number of steps that we can take to make unemployment go down faster, to make sure that wages are rising faster, and that would benefit everybody. And I’ll just close with this comment. If you look at American history, the times we grow fastest and do best is when we’re growing the economy from the middle out. When middle-class families are growing, when working folks can get their way into the middle class, that’s when the whole economy does well. When you have an economy where just a few are doing well, and a lot of other folks are left, no matter how hard they work, still just scraping to get by, the economy doesn’t get the same kind of momentum.
And if you think about what America is about, what the American Dream is about, it’s always been that everybody should have opportunity. It shouldn’t matter how you started out if you’re willing to work hard, if you have good values, if you take responsibility. And that’s the kind of economy that we want to build. And we can build it, and manufacturing is going to be right smack dab in the middle of that effort, we’ve got to continue to build on the success we have. We’re not going to rest on our laurels. We’re going to keep on going until every single person who wants to find a good job out there can get a good job, and that America is competing against everybody else, so that 21st century is the American Century, just like the 20th century was.
All right? (Applause.)
Here is how we’re going to do this. I’m going to just grab this mic. Anybody who wants to ask a question or make a comment just raise your hand. There are probably some folks with mics in the audience. Wait for the mic so everybody can hear you. Stand up, introduce yourself. Try to make your questions kind of short, and I’ll try to make my answers kind of short. That way we can get more folks in. All right? All right. Who wants to go first? Oh, and I’ll go boy, girl, boy, girl — to make sure everybody — (laughter) — it’s kind of fair, kind of even. All right.
This young man right here.
Q Thank you for coming out today, President Obama. I’m with the University of Southern Indiana Manufacturing Club out here —
THE PRESIDENT: Excellent.
Q And my question for you is, can you share some specifics about the Rebuild America Act? I know you talked a little bit about that.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have about $2 trillion in deferred maintenance. I don’t have to tell you because some of you have probably hit some potholes and tried to figure out what the heck is going on, why aren’t we fixing that road? But it’s not just the traditional roads and bridges. It’s also the infrastructure we don’t see — sewer systems, water systems. A lot of them are breaking down. Gas lines that we’ve been seeing in some big cities — those things start wearing out, suddenly they actually pose a threat if they explode because they’re just not in good shape.
There’s a whole bunch of new infrastructure that we should be building. So I’ll give you a good example is our electricity grid. The way we transmit power — if we’ve got old electricity grids, what happens is a lot of the electricity leaks, a lot of the power leaks in the transmission from the power plant to, let’s say, a factory like this one. And the more it leaks, the more that’s driving up prices, because it’s not as efficient as it should be and it’s more vulnerable to blackouts.
And in fact, if we built a smarter power grid — that’s called a smart grid — means that not only is it not leaking power, but it’s also sending power in efficient ways during peak times, so that we end up using less energy, which drives down consumer prices and is good for the environment.
I’ll give you one other example that I know everybody here will appreciate. We have an old, archaic air traffic control system. Some of you heard about what happened in Chicago — some guy got mad he was being transferred to Hawaii. Now, let me tell you, I’ve been to Hawaii. I don’t know why he was mad about that. (Laughter.) He sets fire to some of the facilities there, and suddenly folks couldn’t get in and out of Chicago for a couple of days. In fact, I was in Chicago yesterday — day before yesterday. I had to land in Gary because O’Hare was still somewhat restricted.
But even setting aside that, it turns out that if we revamped our whole air traffic control system, we could reduce the number of delayed flights by about 30 percent. We could reduce the amount of fuel that airlines use by about 30 percent, which means we could lower ticket prices by a whole bunch. It means that you wouldn’t have two-hour waits in the airport. And if you’re flying for business, that’s going to save you time and money. If you’re just trying to get home to see your family, it means time spent with family instead of sitting in an airport, buying stuff that’s really expensive. (Laughter.)
The whole economy would be more efficient if we do it. So the good news is it’s the best time for us to rebuild our infrastructure because there are still a lot of construction workers out of work, a lot of contractors — it’s not like they’ve got so much business, which means they can do the work on time, under budget. Interest rates are low. If we spent, let’s say, the next 10 years just saying we’re just going to rebuild all across America, old infrastructure and new infrastructure, then not only would we give the economy a boost right now, but what we’d also do is lay the foundation for even more economic growth in the future.
It’s a smart investment, and we should be doing it. So what I’ve proposed is let’s close some tax loopholes that exist right now that in some cases are incentivizing companies to send money overseas and profits overseas instead of investing here in the United States of America. Let’s close those loopholes that aren’t good for creating jobs here. Let’s take some of that money, let’s use that to rebuild our infrastructure. Makes good sense.
But Congress hasn’t done it yet — not because it’s not a good idea. Infrastructure is not partisan. That’s not Democratic or Republican, that’s just a common-sense thing. Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System. Lincoln — first Republican President — helped build the Transcontinental Railroad. Traditionally, everybody has been in favor of infrastructure because it powers our economy. It’s part of what made us an economic superpower. We’ve got to get back to that kind of mentality.
All right. Young lady right here.
Q Mr. President, you mentioned an increase to the minimum wage. How do you counter an opinion that increasing employee wages would ultimately increase the selling price of goods and services, thus negating any increase to the employee’s standard of living?
THE PRESIDENT: No, it’s a good question. It’s interesting that if you look at the studies that have been done — first of all, most employers pay more than the minimum wage already. Typically, minimum wage are in certain sectors of the economy. They’re disproportionately women who are getting paid the minimum wage. But unlike what people think, the majority of folks getting paid the minimum wage are adults, many of them supporting families. The average age of somebody getting paid the minimum wage is 35 years old. They’re not 16.
So in those states or where you’ve had one state pass a hike in the minimum wage and the state right next door doesn’t, and you kind of look at what’s happening along the border where you think that people would be kind of influenced — maybe they shop where the prices are cheaper, or businesses would move over to the place where there isn’t a minimum wage — it turns out that actually it doesn’t have that much of an impact. It has an impact on the families. It generally does not have a huge impact in terms of prices, and it doesn’t have — another argument that’s made is folks will hire fewer people because salaries are higher. Well, it turns out actually that’s not generally what happens. It’s just that if everybody has to raise the minimum wage, then everybody adjusts. And in some cases, because of competition, they’re not going to be able to raise their prices.
But you’re getting to a larger point that I think has plagued the American economy for some time, and that is that business has learned how to be really profitable and produce a lot of goods with fewer and fewer workers, partly through automation. And sometimes that does drive down prices. The problem is it also drives down wages. And it’s driven wages down faster, in many cases, than prices.
I mean, if what you’re worried about most is low prices, then presumably we could have everything made in low-wage countries overseas. They’d get shipped back here, but it doesn’t do you any good if a pair of sneakers is really cheap and you don’t have a job. So I think the goal here should be prioritizing — number one, making sure people have work, number two, making sure that that work pays well.
And if people have good jobs and they’re getting paid a decent wage, then businesses are the ones who have to compete for your business. They’re still going to have to keep prices down relatively low because they’re going to have to compete against other businesses. If they raise their prices too much, somebody is going to come in and offer a better deal. And consumers have gotten better, partly because of the Internet. They know what prices are there.
So there’s never been greater competition out there. The problem is right now that all that competition is on the back of workers. Businesses’ profits are through the roof. There was a report this week that showed that corporate balance sheets in America are as strong as they’ve been in history. It’s part of the reason why the stock market is doing great. So it’s not as if companies don’t have some room to pay their workers more. They’re just not doing it. And a greater and greater share has been going to the corporate balance sheet, and less and less of a share is going to workers.
So don’t let folks tell you that companies right now can’t afford to provide their workers a raise. The reason they’re not giving their workers a raise is because, frankly, they don’t have to — because the labor market is still somewhat soft, and people are afraid that if I leave this job I may not find something.
The good news is, as the unemployment rate comes down, there are fewer workers looking for jobs, and that means companies have to start bidding up wages a little bit. The market will take care of some of this. But having a minimum wage that is a little bit higher, that’s also going to help.
Last example I’ll give, by the way, Costco –I assume some folks here shopped at Costco before. Costco has the best prices around, right? Starting salary for a cash register operator — $11.50, maybe it’s $11.35. Starting wage. And by the way, even before the Affordable Care Act, Costco gave everybody health care. But they’ve been growing just as fast as folks who don’t pay the minimum wage and don’t provide health care benefits. Their stock has done great. The difference is they’re spreading more of the profits to their workers, which is good for the economy as a whole. And by the way, when you walk into Costco, everybody is pretty cheerful because they’re feeling like they’re getting a fair deal and that the company cares about them.
All right? Yes.
Q I’m the general manager at Millennium Steel. We’re very honored to have you. One of the questions I had is about the health care costs. We are seeing almost a double-digit increase in health care costs every year. So do you think that trend is going to go down? And what can we do to control that trend?
THE PRESIDENT: I think that’s really interesting. You’re going to have to talk to Henry because — (laughter) — no, no, no, this is serious. The question is whether you guys are shopping effectively enough. Because it turns out that this year, and in fact over the course of the last four years, premiums have gone up at the slowest rate in 50 years. So health care premiums have actually slowed down significantly. And it is having an effect both on businesses and families and the federal debt. Because most of the federal deficit and the federal debt, when folks talk about we’ve got to drive down the debt, we’ve got to do something about the debt — it turns out that most of the federal deficit and the federal debt over the last decade has come from health care costs going up so high, which means Medicare and Medicaid costs start going up. And that’s gobbled up a bigger and bigger share of the federal budget.
Because health care costs are going up much more slowly than expected, so far we anticipate we’re going to save about $188 billion over the next 10 years and reduce health care costs.
So the issue now is what can we do to make sure that you at Millennium are shopping and seeing more competition. Because the only problem with the health care market is sometimes it’s different in different pockets of the country, depending on how many carriers there are. And what we’re trying to do is to make sure that there’s more competition driving down cost when it comes to both the businesses who are trying to buy health care for their employees, but also folks who don’t get health care on the job and are just having to buy it on their own.
That’s part of what the Affordable Care Act is all about. Now, some of you — Affordable Care Act, by the way, is also known as Obamacare. (Applause.) For a while, everybody was saying — sort of using that as kind of an insult. I’m feeling pretty good about it being called Obamacare. I suspect that about five years from now when everybody agrees that it’s working, then they won’t call it Obamacare anymore. (Laughter.) That’s okay.
But part of what we did there is we set up what’s called these marketplaces, these exchanges, where individuals can go online and shop. And as you know, the website was really bad for the first three months. It’s now in really good shape. We’ve signed up 10 million people to get health coverage many times for the first time. And we’re giving them tax credits to help lower the cost even more. But we’re also setting up a network for businesses to be able to shop for health insurance.
And what’s happened — I talked about this yesterday — right now on average across America — so it may not be true in every single market, but across America, on average, premiums have — if it had not been for this drop in health care inflation, premiums would probably be about $1,800 higher per family than they actually have turned out to be. Now, you think about that — $1,800, that’s money that’s in your pocket that otherwise would be going to you paying for your health care premiums. That’s like an $1,800 tax cut for every family that’s got health insurance. And that’s good news. But we’ve got to make sure everybody takes advantage of it.
So I’m going to make sure — are you in charge of buying health care? You are? All right, so what I’m going to do is I’m going to make sure that you talk to some of our health care market folks. I bet we can get you a better deal. All right? We’ll see if we can save you a little money. (Applause.)
All right. Young lady right here in the jacket.
Q Good afternoon. My name is Conner Perry (ph). I’m in the 8th grade at the Lexington School in Lexington, Kentucky.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s so nice to meet you.
Q Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: How old are you — you’re in 8th grade, so you’re just tall and pretty, just like Malia and Sasha. There you go.
Q I was wondering, what are some actions we could take to put people in rural America to work?
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a great question. You know, the rural economy has actually done extremely well compared to the rest of the economy over the last couple of years. The main reason for it — first of all, we’ve got the best farmers in the world and we’re the most productive agricultural system in the world. So we just — our crops are really good and we produce a lot. And the weather has been pretty decent. I just talked to my friend — where is Scates? There he is. Good buddy of mine — the Scates farm over on Illinois side. He said best crops he’s seen in a while — right? Ever. So that’s the good news.
But what’s also helped is that we have increased our agricultural exports, sending our outstanding products overseas at a record pace. And I should introduce, by the way, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is right here. That’s Penny. (Applause.) And one of Penny’s most important jobs is going around the world and trying to open up new markets for agricultural goods. One of our biggest exports.
And so we’ve got to keep on making sure that if we have the best crops, the best products at the lowest price that we can get into these markets. A lot of countries protect their markets and their farmers from competition by closing their markets — even though they’re selling stuff to us. And my general attitude about trade, I’m a big believer in trade, but my attitude is it’s got to be two-way. If we’re going to buy your cars, or we’re going to buy your TV sets, or whatever else you’re selling, then you’ve got to be able to buy American wheat and corn and beans. And Penny has done a terrific job. And that’s part of the reason why we’ve seen record exports. And that helps the agricultural economy.
That’s number one. But number two, we’ve also got to diversify the rural economy so it’s not just dependent on agriculture. And that means, for example, investing in things like biofuels and clean energy. We are at the threshold of being able to create new energy sources out of not just crops that we grow — corn and ethanol — but also stuff that we usually throw away, like the corn stalks instead of the corn. And the more we invest in biofuels, clean energy, that can make a big difference in the rural economy.
So that’s another area where we can make progress. And then the rural economy should — just like here in Princeton, we’ve got to make sure that we are offering up opportunities for manufacturers to come back in to look at some of these rural sites, where you know the people there work hard and quality of life is high, but oftentimes international investors don’t know about some of these rural communities. And so Penny has been helping to advertise. We’ve got a whole program called SelectUSA where we go around and we help towns, mayors, county chairmen, local chambers of commerce invite investors from Japan and Singapore and Germany — come invest here in the United States of America.
Because what you want is an economy that isn’t just relying on one thing, but it has a bunch of different components to it, so that if, say, you have a bad crop one year the whole economy of that area doesn’t just collapse. And that can make a big difference.
But if we’re going to be able to attract investment into rural America, there are at least two things that have to happen. Number one, we’ve got to invest in education to make sure that the young people in rural America have the skills for today’s jobs. And that includes not just K through 12, but also community colleges — which are really a crown jewel — community colleges can be so powerful in just training folks — they may not go to a four-year college, but if they can get some technical training they’re suddenly ready for that job. And that is really attractive to investors. If they know they’ve got good workers in a site, that’s one of the most important things they’re looking for.
And the second thing is the thing I talked about earlier, which is infrastructure. Part of the problem with rural communities is they’re a little more isolated. All the more important, then, that our rail, our roads, our airports, that they all work, and that they’ve got broadband connections and Internet connections in order to make sure that they can access international markets.
All right? Great question. All right, it’s a gentleman’s turn. Right here. Right here in front.
Q Hello, Mr. President. Thank you for coming. I hope I’ve got this right — it is your wedding anniversary today?
THE PRESIDENT: That is correct.
Q So happy anniversary to you and Michelle.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Twenty-two years she’s been putting up with me. (Laughter.) I had a young man, a friend of mine just got married. And I told the bride — wonderful young lady — I said it takes about 10 years to train a man properly. (Laughter.) So you’ve got to be patient with him. Because he’ll screw up a bunch, but eventually we learn. It’s just it takes us a little longer. We’re not as smart. So Michelle has been very patient with me.
Thank you very much. That’s very kind of you. (Applause.) Young lady right here.
Q Hi, President Obama. I’m from Indiana State University. Right here. (Applause.) Representing.
THE PRESIDENT: Yay, Indiana State!
Q I just had a question. Recently on the media, we have been hearing a lot about the EPA system and the war on coal. What are your feelings on that?
THE PRESIDENT: Some of that is — some of it’s hype and politics. And that’s sort of the nature of our politics these days. But there’s a real issue involved. Less and less of our power is coming from coal.
Now, a lot of people think that’s because of environmental regulations. And the truth of the matter is, is that there’s some environmental regulations that have had an impact mainly because what it’s said to the power plant operators is you’ve got to be more efficient and you can’t send as much pollution into the air. So if you’re using coal, you’ve got to figure out how can we get smart coal — smart coal technologies that capture some of the pollution that’s being sent up, put it underground, store it. Some of that technology is developing, but it’s not quite there yet.
But actually the main reason that power plants in America are using less coal is because natural gas is so cheap. So the real war on coal is natural gas, which, because of new technologies, we are now extracting at a rate that is unbelievable. There’s about a hundred years’ supply of natural gas underground here in America. We are now the number-one natural gas producer in the world. And by the way, we’re also producing more oil than we import for the first time in almost two decades. (Applause.)
Some people don’t realize — you know who the number-one oil producer in the world is? It’s us, the United States of America. So we’re producing more oil than ever. We’re producing more natural gas than ever. And natural gas, we’re producing so much that when new power plants get built, it’s cheaper for them to run on natural gas than it is on coal. So that obviously causes some hardship in communities that traditionally relied on coal.
There are two things we need to do. Number one is — and my administration has been hugely supportive — we’ve put a lot of money into developing these new technologies to make sure we can burn coal cleaner than we have. And the second thing that we need to do is make sure that some of the new opportunities in clean energy and in natural gas and other energy-related industries that they locate in places that used to have coal, or used to be primarily coal country.
Because the trend lines are going to be inevitable. Because if you burn coal in a dirty way, that’s going to cause more and more pollution, including pollution that causes climate change. You’re going to see more and more restrictions on the use of coal not just here in the United States, but around the world, which means that we’ve got to get out in front of that and make sure that we’ve got the technologies to use coal cheaply. And we’ve got to be able to send those technologies to other counties that are still burning coal.
Because there are going to be counties like China and India and others that still use coal for years to come. They’re poor, and they’re building a lot of power plants quickly. They don’t have as much natural gas as us, so they’re going to be interested in figuring how can they use their coal supplies and how can they import our coal. But if we’re doing a good job giving them technologies that allow them to burn it cleanly, then it’s a win-win for us. Not only are we able to then sell coal to them, but we’re also selling the technology to help them burn it in the cleanest way possible.
We’ve been making those investments, and we’ve got to keep on making those investments in order for us to get ahead of the curve.
Gentleman back there in the tie. There aren’t that many ties in here, so there you go.
Q Hi, Mr. President. I’m with the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association. We’re one of the founding partners of Manufacturing Day, so thank you for your support. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q I’d like to ask you about R&D. U.S. manufacturers do more R&D than any county in the world. It makes us productive. It makes us innovative. Could you talk about policies and ideas to continue to support R&D activities to promote and accelerate manufacturing? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: When we think about manufacturing, we always think about the traditional guy with the hard hat and the glasses, and there are sparks flying and it’s noisy. These days you go into a manufacturing plant like this one, first of all, it’s clean, it’s quiet, and so much of it is running on computers and automation and new systems. So if we’re going to stay competitive in manufacturing, we’ve got some terrific advantages.
Energy, by the way, is one of our biggest advantages because we have some of the cheapest energy in the world. That’s part of why a lot of companies want to relocate here in the United States. But we’ve also got to stay ahead of the curve in the new technologies for the new kinds of manufacturing. Every budget I’ve submitted has called for an increase in our R&D budget — our research and development budget. And we’ve specifically been interested in putting more money into research and development in manufacturing.
So, in fact, today I announced the fifth — the proposal for the fifth manufacturing hub that we’re creating. We want to actually create about 15 more of them after this. And what it’s doing is it’s linking manufacturers with universities and researchers to start developing some of the new technologies that we know are going to be key to the future.
So, for example, we already created a manufacturing hub around 3D printing. Everybody know what 3D printing is? It’s actually pretty interesting. So basically the idea is, is that using software you can manufacture just about anything from a remote location just by you send the program to some site and then the machine builds whatever it is that you designed on the computer from scratch. And we know that over time this is going to be more and more incorporated in the manufacturing process. But we want to make sure that all that stuff is done right here in the United States of America. So we created a hub for that.
Today, I’m announcing a $100 million competition to create a new hub around photonics — I had to ask Penny to make sure I pronounced it right. But this is basically the science, the technology around light which is used to transmit data and information, and also is used in the manufacturing process for everything from lasers to some of the stuff that the Department of Defense is doing.
And what these hubs allow us to do is instead of having a slower process where somebody in some lab coat somewhere figures something out and then writes a report on it, and then maybe five years later, some manufacturer says, huh, I wonder if I could tinker around with that and use that in my manufacturing process, you have a system where the businesses and the researchers are working on it at the same time, which speeds up the discovery process and means we’re moving from discovery to application a lot faster.
Now, Germany has about 60 of these manufacturing hubs, and so far I’ve been able to create five of them — or four of them. This is going to be the fifth. And as I said, I want us to make sure we’re doing a lot more than that.
So that’s just one example of why our investment in manufacturing research and development is going to be so critically important. It allows us to keep our lead because America has always been the top innovator in the world. That’s the reason why our economy historically has done so well, is because we invent stuff faster and better than anybody else. And if we lose that lead, we’re going to be in trouble.
Can I just say one last thing about — because I appreciate you working on this National Manufacturers Day. For the young people here, and anybody who is listening, the reason we set up this National Manufacturing Day is because too many young people do not understand the opportunities that exist in manufacturing. Because so many plants were shut down, and so much offshoring was taking place, I think a lot of people just kind of gave up on the idea of working in manufacturing. The problem is that for a lot of young people, manufacturing offers great opportunities.
I was in Wisconsin, somebody told me an amazing statistic, which is the average age of a skilled tool and die operator in Wisconsin is 59 years old. Now, these folks are making 25, 30 bucks an hour, benefits. You are solidly middle class if you have one of these jobs. And the workforce is getting older and older in that area, and the young people aren’t coming to replace them.
So the idea behind National Manufacturing Day, we got 50,000 young people going into factories all across the county and learning about — look at all the jobs that you can get in manufacturing. Engineering jobs, but also jobs on the line, technical jobs. All of them require some skills. All of them require some higher level learning. But not all of them require a four-year degree. You could make a good living. So that’s part of what we’re trying to encourage getting young people to reorient.
And we’re actually also talking to high schools, saying to them, try to encourage young people to think about manufacturing as a career option. Because not everybody wants to sit behind a desk, pushing paper all day long. And different people have different aptitudes and different talents and different interests. And if we can set up a situation where high schools are starting to connect to manufacturing, then a lot of young people can start getting apprenticeships early — realize how interesting some of that work is. Then they have a better idea, if they do end up going to college, it’s a little more focused around the things that they’re actually going to need in order to succeed in manufacturing.
So thank you for participating in that. It’s really important.
We’ve got — how much more time do we have? I just want to make sure. We’ll make it two. We’ll make it two. All right, young lady right there. Yes, right — you, yes. All right, hold on, let’s make sure we got the microphone here.
Q Hi. I am a secondary English education student at USI. And I just want to say thank you for coming here today. It’s such an honor to hear you speak.
Being in the job force in the next couple of years, I am worried about equal pay as a woman. So you’ve talked a little bit about that. How can we get there? What can we do to get equal pay for women?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s a great question. Here are the statistics, first of all. Women on average make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Now, what folks will tell you sometimes is you can’t really compare the situation because a lot of women by choice end up working less when they have kids, and decide to stay home, and so it’s not the same thing. But here’s the problem. It turns out that actually in a lot of companies sometimes it’s still the case that women are getting paid less than men for doing the exact same job.
And so one of the first bills I signed was called the Lilly Ledbetter bill. And Lilly, who is a friend of mine, she was doing a job for 25 years and about 20 years into it just happened to find out that for that whole time she had been getting paid less for doing the exact same job that a man had been doing. And when she tried to sue to get her back pay, the court said, well, it’s too late now because the statute of limitations had run out. She said, well, I just found out. That doesn’t matter.
So we changed that law, and that was the first thing that we did. And what we’ve also done is through executive action what I’ve said is any federal contractor who does business with the federal government, you’ve got to allow people to compare their salaries so that they can get information about whether they’re getting paid fairly or not.
There is a fair pay bill that is before Congress, but so far it’s been blocked by the House Republicans. It hasn’t come up for a vote. We need to keep putting pressure on them to get this done. This is just a matter of basic fairness. I don’t think my daughters should be treated any different than somebody else’s sons if they’re doing a good job. They should get paid the same.
But it’s also a matter of economics, as I said before. More and more women are the key breadwinner in their family, and if they’re getting paid less, that whole family suffers. So this is something that we have to take care.
I do want to mention, though, going back to the first argument, people saying that women make different choices when they have children — well, part of the reason they have to make different choices is because we don’t have a good child care system. (Applause.) It’s because we don’t have a good family leave policy. A child gets sick; you need to take care of a sick child. You can get unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. But what if you can’t afford to give up that paycheck that day? Or you’ve got an ailing parent — they have to go to the doctor one day. They don’t drive. You need to drive them. You need a day off. But if you take the day off, now you can’t pay your rent.
So there are family-friendly policies that we could put in place — and some states are doing so — improving child care, especially early childhood education, by the way, which we know every dollar we invest in that makes our kids do better in school the whole way. (Applause.) So it’s good for our education system, but it’s also just good for parents.
Somebody mentioned my wedding anniversary. I can tell you the toughest time when we were married was when our kids were still small and I was working and Michelle was working. And sometimes I’d be out of town, and the babysitter doesn’t show up, and suddenly Michelle is having scramble. And I promise you when I get home, it’s rough. (Laughter.)
But we were actually — we were professionals. We were both lawyers. We were in a better position to get help than most families, but it was still hard. So the more we do on early childhood education, high quality day care, making it affordable for families, family leave, those family-friendly policies that will help make sure that women are able to take care of their families and pursue their professional careers and bring home the kind of paycheck that they deserve — we need to do both. It’s not a choice between one or the other. We have to do all those things.
I got time for one more question. Gentleman, right here in the blue.
Q Mr. President, I would like to thank you also for visiting. My name is Randy Perry, this young lady’s father. I do have a small manufacturing company in rural America. But how do you speak to us small manufacturers that want to raise the minimum wage but we have to compete?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I said before, the first thing we need to do is to make sure that the economy as a whole is strong because, remember what I said, when the economy is strong as a whole, there is more demand for workers. That gives workers more leverage to get pay raises. The same is true for businesses. When demand is high for whatever product you’re producing, then you can afford to charge a little bit more.
And the truth of the matter is, is that for a lot of small businesses, there’s going to be more pressure than large businesses when it comes to wages because you just don’t have as much margin for error. But overall, our economy is going to do better, and small businesses do better when there is greater demand out there for products and services. And there’s greater demand for products and services if people have money in their pockets.
And one of the biggest problems we have in our economy right now — and this includes one of the biggest problems for small businesses — is that when a bigger and bigger share goes to folks at the top, a lot of that money, they just don’t spend.
I had lunch with Bill Gates the other day. Now, Bill Gates has ot a lot of money. (Laughter.) And he’s doing great things with it, by the way, doing great charitable work. But the truth of the matter is, is that if Bill Gates gets an extra million dollars, it’s not like he’s going to spend more money on food or go and buy an extra car, or buy a new refrigerator, because he’s already got everything he needs.
But if somebody who is a low-wage worker gets a raise, first thing they’re going to do is they’re going to spend it — maybe on a new backpack for the kids, or finally trade in that old beater, or a new car. And that drives the economy. It picks it up. It boosts it. And when that happens, then more demand exists for services and goods. And that means that all businesses are going to do better, including small businesses. And that, then, gives you the higher profits, which then allows you to pay your workers a little bit more. You get in this virtuous cycle.
And this is part of the argument that I’ve been having with my good friends in the Republican Party for quite some time. If you look at the policies we’ve been pursuing and proposing — investing in research and development, rebuilding our infrastructure, making sure that college is more affordable, improving child care, fair pay legislation, increase the minimum wage — I can point to evidence that shows that that’s going to put more money in the pockets of middle-class families. That’s going to increase growth at a faster pace, and the economy, as a whole is going to do better.
And their main response to me typically is two things. One is they’ll say we got to get rid of regulations. Except the problem is, for example, the last big crisis we had was precisely because we didn’t have enough regulations on Wall Street, and folks were selling a bunch of junk on the market and doing reckless things that ended up costing everybody something.
And then the second argument that they make is we need more tax cuts for folks like me who make a pretty good living, folks at the top. And I’ve got to tell you, there’s no evidence that that’s going to help middle-class families. There’s no evidence for this trickle-down theory that somehow another tax cut for folks who are already making out like bandits over the last 20 years is going to somehow improve the prospects for ordinary families. It just doesn’t exist. They keep on repeating it, but they don’t show that that’s actually going to help the economy. That’s not going to help you. It’s not going to help you. And it’s not going to help Millennium. And it’s not going to help your business.
I made a speech yesterday at Northwestern, and what I just said is just look at the facts. Since I’ve been President, unemployment has gone from — is down from 10 percent down to now 5.9. The deficit has been cut by more than half. Our energy production is higher than it’s ever been. Our health care costs are slowing. More people have insurance. High school dropout rate has gone down. Graduation rate has gone up. College attendance rate has gone up. Our production of clean energy has doubled. Solar energy has gone up tenfold. Wind energy has gone up threefold. Exports — we export more than we ever have in history. Corporate balance sheets are doing great. Stock market, all-time highs. Housing market beginning to recover. There’s almost no economic measure by which the economy as a whole isn’t doing significantly better than it was when I came into office. (Applause.)
Now, those are just facts. You can look them up. I’m not making it up. That’s one thing about being President — if I stand here and say it, all these folks are filming me so they’ll go and check. (Laughter.) So that’s the truth. But what is also true is that wages and incomes have continued to be flat even though the economy is growing and businesses are making more money. So what that tells me is the one thing that’s holding things back, the one thing that people are still concerned about and the one thing that if we could change would really give more confidence to the economy and boost it is if wages and incomes start going up a little bit.
If all the productivity and profits, if we start sharing that a little bit more with more folks, and ordinary families start feeling like they got a little bit of a cushion, that will be good for everybody. Because that’s the one thing that really we haven’t seen as much improvement on as we need. And so what everybody should be asking is how do we increase wages, how do we increase incomes. Because if we do that, things are going to better.
And there are pretty much just a handful of ways to do it. Number one, you make the economy grow even faster so the labor market gets tighter. Number two, you pursue policies like a higher minimum wage, or making sure that families are able to get child care, you’re driving down health care costs, the kinds of things that affect people’s pocketbooks directly. Those are the things that I’ve been pursuing since I’ve been President. And those are the things I’ll continue to pursue as long as I have this great privilege of bring President.
Thank you so much, everybody. God bless you. Appreciate you. (Applause.)
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 3, 2014
Source: WH, 10-2-14
1:11 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Evanston! (Applause.) Hello, Northwestern! (Applause.) Thank you so much. Everybody, have a seat. Have a seat. It is so good to be here. Go ‘Cats! (Applause.) I want to thank your president, Morty Schapiro, and the dean of the Kellogg Business School, Sally Blount, for having me. I brought along some guests. Your Governor, Pat Quinn, is here. (Applause.) Your Senator, Dick Durbin, is here. (Applause.) Your Congresswoman, Jan Schakowsky, is here. (Applause.) We’ve got some who represent the Chicagoland area in Congress and do a great job every day — Danny Davis, Robin Kelly, Mike Quigley, Brad Schneider. (Applause.) We’ve got your mayor, Elizabeth Tisdahl. (Applause.) Where’s Elizabeth? There she is. One of my great friends and former chief of staff — the mild-mannered Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, is here. (Laughter and applause.)
It is great to be back home. (Applause.) It’s great to be back at Northwestern. Back when I was a senator, I had the honor of delivering the commencement address for the class of 2006. And as it turns out, I’ve got a bunch of staff who graduated from here, and so they’re constantly lobbying me about stuff. And so earlier this year, I popped in via video to help kick off the dance marathon. I figured this time I’d come in person — not only because it’s nice to be so close to home, but it’s also just nice to see old friends, people who helped to form how I think about public service; people who helped me along the way. Toni Preckwinkle was my alderwoman and was a great supporter. (Applause.) Lisa Madigan, your attorney general, was my seatmate. State Senator Terry Link was my golf buddy. So you’ve got people here who I’ve just known for years and really not only helped me be where I am today, but helped develop how I think about public service.
And I’m also happy to be here because this is a university that is brimming with the possibilities of a new economy — your research and technology; the ideas and the innovation; the training of doctors and educators, and scientists and entrepreneurs. But you can’t help but visit a campus like this and feel the promise of the future.
And that’s why I’m here — because it’s going to be young people like you, and universities like this, that will shape the American economy and set the conditions for middle-class growth well into the 21st century.
And obviously, recent months have seen their fair share of turmoil around the globe. But one thing should be crystal clear: American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It’s America — our troops, our diplomats — that lead the fight to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.
It’s America — our doctors, our scientists, our know-how — that leads the fight to contain and combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
It’s America — our colleges, our graduate schools, our unrivaled private sector — that attracts so many people to our shores to study and start businesses and tackle some of the most challenging problems in the world.
When alarms go off somewhere in the world, whether it’s a disaster that is natural or man-made; when there’s an idea or an invention that can make a difference, this is where things start. This is who the world calls — America. They don’t call Moscow. They don’t call Beijing. They call us. And we welcome that responsibility of leadership, because that’s who we are. That’s what we expect of ourselves.
But what supports our leadership role in the world is ultimately the strength of our economy here at home. And today, I want to step back from the rush of global events to take a clear-eyed look at our economy, its successes and its shortcomings, and determine what we still need to build for your generation — what you can help us build.
As Americans, we can and should be proud of the progress that our country has made over these past six years. And here are the facts — because sometimes the noise clutters and I think confuses the nature of the reality out there. Here are the facts: When I took office, businesses were laying off 800,000 Americans a month. Today, our businesses are hiring 200,000 Americans a month. (Applause.) The unemployment rate has come down from a high of 10 percent in 2009, to 6.1 percent today. (Applause.) Over the past four and a half years, our businesses have created 10 million new jobs; this is the longest uninterrupted stretch of private sector job creation in our history. Think about that. And you don’t have to applaud at — because I’m going to be giving you a lot of good statistics. (Laughter.) Right now, there are more job openings than at any time since 2001. All told, the United States has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined. I want you to think about that. We have put more people back to work, here in America, than Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined.
This progress has been hard, but it has been steady and it has been real. And it’s the direct result of the American people’s drive and their determination and their resilience, and it’s also the result of sound decisions made by my administration.
So it is indisputable that our economy is stronger today than when I took office. By every economic measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office. At the same time, it’s also indisputable that millions of Americans don’t yet feel enough of the benefits of a growing economy where it matters most — and that’s in their own lives.
And these truths aren’t incompatible. Our broader economy in the aggregate has come a long way, but the gains of recovery are not yet broadly shared — or at least not broadly shared enough. We can see that homes in our communities are selling for more money, and that the stock market has doubled, and maybe the neighbors have new health care or a car fresh off an American assembly line. And these are all good things. But the stress that families feel — that’s real, too. It’s still harder than it should be to pay the bills and to put away some money. Even when you’re working your tail off, it’s harder than it should be to get ahead.
And this isn’t just a hangover from the Great Recession. I’ve always said that recovering from the crisis of 2008 was our first order of business, but I also said that our economy wouldn’t be truly healthy until we reverse the much longer and profound erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes.
So here’s our challenge. We’re creating more jobs at a steady pace. We’ve got a recovering housing market, a revitalized manufacturing sector — two things that are critical to middle-class success. We’ve also begun to see some modest wage growth in recent months. All of that has gotten the economy rolling again, despite the fact that the economies of many other countries around the world are softening. But as Americans, we measure our success by something more than our GDP, or a jobs report. We measure it by whether our jobs provide meaningful work that give people a sense of purpose, and whether it allows folks to take care of their families. And too many families still work too many hours with too little to show for it. Job growth could be so much faster and wages could be going up faster if we made some better decisions going forward with the help of Congress. So our task now is to harness the momentum that is real, that does exist, and make sure that we accelerate that momentum, that the economy grows and jobs grow and wages grow. That’s our challenge.
When the typical family isn’t bringing home any more than it did in 1997, then that means it’s harder for middle-class Americans to climb the ladder of success. It means that it’s harder for poor Americans to grab hold of the ladder into the middle class. That’s not what America is supposed to be about. It offends the very essence of who we are. Because if being an American means anything, it means we believe that even if we’re born with nothing — regardless of our circumstances, a last name, whether we were wealthy, whether our parents were advantaged — no matter what our circumstances, with hard work we can change our lives, and then our kids can too.
And that’s about more than just fairness. It’s more than just the idea of what America is about. When middle-class families can’t afford to buy the goods or services our businesses sell, it actually makes it harder for our economy to grow. Our economy cannot truly succeed if we’re stuck in a winner-take-all system where a shrinking few do very well while a growing many are struggling to get by. Historically, our economic greatness rests on a simple principle: When the middle class thrives, and when people can work hard to get into the middle class, then America thrives. And when it doesn’t, America doesn’t.
This is going to be a central challenge of our times. We have to make our economy work for every working American. And every policy I pursue as President is aimed at answering that challenge.
Over the last decade, we learned the hard way that it wasn’t sustainable to have an economy where too much of the growth was based on inflated home prices and bubbles that burst and a casino mentality on Wall Street; where the recklessness of a few could threaten all of us; where incomes at the top skyrocketed, while working families saw theirs decline. That was not a formula for sustained growth. We need an economy that’s built on a rock, and that — a rock that is durable and competitive, and that’s a steady source of good, middle-class jobs. When that’s happening, everybody does well.
So that’s why on day one, when I took office, with Rahm and Dick Durbin and others who were working with us, I said we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation for growth and prosperity. And with dedicated, persistent effort, we’ve actually been laying the cornerstones of this foundation every single day since.
So I mentioned earlier that there is not an economic measure by which we’re not better off than when we took official. But let me break down what we’ve also been doing structurally to make sure that we have a strong foundation for growth going forward.
The first cornerstone is new investments in the energy and technologies that make America a magnet for good, middle-class jobs.
So right off the bat, as soon as I came into office, we upped our investments in American energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and strengthen our own energy security. And today, the number-one oil and gas producer in the world is no longer Russia or Saudi Arabia. It’s America. (Applause.)
For the first time in nearly two decades, we now produce more oil than we buy from other countries. We’re advancing so fast in this area that two years ago I set a goal to cut our oil imports by half by — in half by 2020, and we’ve actually — we will meet that goal this year, six years ahead of schedule. (Applause.)
So that’s in the traditional fossil fuel area. But at the same time, we’ve helped put tens of thousands of people to work manufacturing wind turbines, and installing solar panels on homes and businesses. We have tripled the electricity that we harness from the wind. We have increased tenfold what we generate from the sun. We have brought enough clean energy online to power every home and business in Illinois and Wisconsin, 24/7. And that’s the kind of progress that we can be proud of and in part accounts for the progress we have also made in reducing carbon emissions that cause climate change. And I know that here at Northwestern, your researchers are working to convert sunlight into liquid fuel — which sounds impossible, or at least really hard. (Laughter.) But the good news is, if you need to get the hard or the impossible done, America and American universities are a pretty good place to start.
Meanwhile, our 100-year supply of natural gas is a big factor in drawing jobs back to our shores. Many are in manufacturing — which produce the quintessential middle-class job. During the last decade, it was widely accepted that American manufacturing was in irreversible decline. And just six years ago, its crown jewel, the American auto industry, could not survive on its own. With the help of folks like Jan and Dick and Mike Quigley and others, we helped our automakers restructure and retool. Today, they’re building and selling new cars at the fastest rate in eight years. We invested in new plants, new technologies, new high-tech hubs like the Digital Manufacturing and Design Institute that Northwestern has partnered with in Chicago.
Today, American manufacturing has added more than 700,000 new jobs. It’s growing almost twice as fast as the rest of the economy. And more than half of all manufacturing executives have said they are actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. To many in the middle class, the last decade was defined by outsourcing good jobs overseas. If we keep up these investments, we can define this decade by what’s known as “insourcing” — with new factories now opening their doors here in America at the fastest pace in decades. And in the process, we’ve also worked to grow American exports and open new markets, knock down barriers to trade, because businesses that export tend to have better-paying jobs. So today, our businesses sell more goods and services made in America to the rest of the world than ever before. Ever.
And that’s progress we can be proud of. Now, we also know that many of these manufacturing jobs have changed. You’re not just punching in and pounding rivets anymore; you’re coding computers and you’re guiding robots. You’re mastering 3D printing. And these jobs require some higher education or technical training. And that’s why the second cornerstone of the new foundation we’ve been building is making sure our children are prepared and our workers are prepared to fill the jobs of the future.
America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free. We sent a generation to college. We cultivated the most educated workforce in the world. But it didn’t take long for other countries to look at our policies and caught on to the secret of our success. So they set out to educate their kids too, so they could out-compete our kids. We have to lead the world in education once again. (Applause.)
That’s why we launched a Race to the Top in our schools, trained thousands of math and science teachers, supported states that raised standards for learning. Today, teachers in 48 states and D.C. are teaching our kids the knowledge and skills they need to compete and win in the global economy. Working with parents and educators, we’ve turned around some of the country’s lowest-performing schools. We’re on our way to connecting 99 percent of students to high-speed Internet, and making sure every child, at every seat, has the best technology for learning.
Look, let’s face it: Some of these changes are hard. Sometimes they cause controversy. And we have a long way to go. But public education in America is actually improving. Last year, our elementary and middle school students had the highest math and reading scores on record. The dropout rates for Latinos and African Americans are down. (Applause.) The high school graduation rate — the high school graduation rate is up. It’s now above 80 percent for the first time in history. We’ve invested in more than 700 community colleges — which are so often gateways to the middle class — and we’re connecting them with employers to train high school graduates for good jobs in fast-growing fields like high-tech manufacturing and energy and IT and cybersecurity.
Here in Chicago, Rahm just announced that the city will pay community college tuition for more striving high school graduates. We’ve helped more students afford college with grants and tax credits and loans. And today, more young people are graduating than ever before. We’ve sent more veterans to college on the Post-9/11 GI Bill — including several veterans here at Northwestern — and a few of them are in this hall today, and we thank them for their service. (Applause.)
So we’ve made progress on manufacturing and creating good jobs. We’ve made progress on education. Of course, even if you have the right education, for decades, one of the things that made it harder for families to make ends meet and businesses to grow was the high cost of health care. And so the third cornerstone had to be health care reform.
In the decade before the Affordable Care Act, aka, Obamacare — (laughter and applause) — in the decade before the Affordable Care Act, double-digit premium increases were common. CEOs called them one of the biggest challenges to their competitiveness. And if your employer didn’t drop your coverage to avoid these costs, they might pass them on to you and take them out of your wages.
Today, we have seen a dramatic slowdown in the rising cost of health care. When we passed the Affordable Care Act, the critics were saying, what are you doing about cost. Well, let me tell you what we’ve done about cost. If your family gets your health care through your employer, premiums are rising at a rate tied for the lowest on record. And what this means for the economy is staggering. If we hadn’t taken this on, and premiums had kept growing at the rate they did in the last decade, the average premium for family coverage today would be $1,800 higher than they are. Now, most people don’t notice it, but that’s $1,800 you don’t have to pay out of your pocket or see vanish from your paycheck. That’s like a $1,800 tax cut. That’s not for folks who signed up for Obamacare. That’s the consequences of some of the reforms that we’ve made.
And because the insurance marketplaces we created encourage insurers to compete for your business, in many of cities they’ve announced that next year’s premiums — well, something important is happening here — next year’s premiums are actually falling in some of these markets. One expert said this is “defying the law of physics.” But we’re getting it done. And it is progress we can be proud of.
So we’re slowing the cost of health care, and we’re covering more people at the same time. In just the last year, we reduced the share of uninsured Americans by 26 percent. That means one in four uninsured Americans — about 10 million people — have gained the financial security of health insurance in less than one year. And for young entrepreneurs, like many of you here today, the fact that you can compare and buy affordable plans in the marketplace frees you up to strike out on your own, chase that new idea — something I hope will unleash new services and products and enterprises all across the country. So the job lock that used to exist because you needed health insurance, you’re free from that now. You can go out and do something on your own and get affordable health care.
And meanwhile, partly because health care prices have been growing at the slowest rate in nearly 50 years, the growth in what health care costs the government is down, also. I want everybody to listen carefully here, because when we were debating the Affordable Care Act there was a lot of complaining about how we couldn’t afford this. The independent, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently reported that in 2020, Medicare and Medicaid will cost us $188 billion less than projected just four years ago. And here’s what that means in layman’s terms: Health care has long been the single biggest driver of America’s future deficits. It’s been the single biggest driver of our debt. Health care is now the single biggest factor driving down those deficits.
And this is a game-changer for the fourth cornerstone of this new foundation — getting our fiscal house in order for the long run, so we can afford to make investments that grow the middle class.
Between a growing economy, some prudent spending cuts, health care reform, and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more on their taxes, over the past five years we’ve cut our deficits by more than half. When I took office, the deficit was nearly 10 percent of our economy. Today, it’s approaching 3 percent. (Applause.) In other words, we can shore up America’s long-term finances without falling back into the mindless austerity or manufactured crises or trying to find excuses to slash benefits to seniors that dominated Washington budget debates for so long.
And finally, we’ve put in place financial reform to protect consumers and prevent a crisis on Wall Street from hammering Main Street ever again. We have new tools to prevent “too big to fail,” to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts. We made it illegal for big banks to gamble with your money. We established the first-ever consumer watchdog to protect consumers from irresponsible lending or credit card practices. We secured billions of dollars in relief for consumers who get taken advantage of. And working with states attorneys general like Lisa Madigan, we’ve seen industry practices changing.
Now, an argument you’ll hear oftentimes from critics is that the way to grow the economy is to just get rid of regulations; free folks up from the oppressive hand of the government. And you know, it turns out, truth be told, there are still some kind of dopey regulations on the books. (Laughter.) There are regulations that are outdated or are no longer serving a useful purpose. And we have scrubbed the laws out there and identified hundreds that are outdated, that don’t help our economy, that don’t make sense, and we’re saving businesses billions of dollars by gradually eliminating those unnecessary regulations. But you have to contrast that with rules that discourage a casino-style mentality on Wall Street, or rules that protect the basic safety of workers on the job, or rules that safeguard the air our children breathe and keep mercury or arsenic out of our water supply. These don’t just have economic benefits, these are rules that save lives and protect families. And I’ll always stand up for those — and they’re good for our economy.
So here’s the bottom line: For all the work that remains, for all the citizens that we still need to reach, what I want people to know is that there are some really good things happening in America. Unemployment down. Jobs up. Manufacturing growing. Deficits cut by more than half. High school graduation is up. College enrollment up. Energy production up. Clean energy production up. Financial system more stable. Health care costs rising at a slower rate. Across the board, the trend lines have moved in the right direction.
That’s because this new foundation is now in place. New investments in energy and technologies that create new jobs and new industries. New investments in education that will make our workforce more skilled and competitive. New reforms to health care that cut costs for families and businesses. New reforms to our federal budget that will promote smart investments and a stronger economy for future generations. New rules for our financial system to protect consumers and prevent the kinds of crises that we endured from happening again.
You add it all up, and it’s no surprise that for the first time in more than a decade, business leaders from around the world — these are business surveys. Kellogg, you’re familiar with these. (Laughter.) Business leaders from around the world have said the world’s most attractive place to invest is not India or China, it’s the United States of America. And that’s because the financial sector is healthier; because manufacturing is healthier; because the housing market is healthier; because health care inflation is at a 50-year low; because our energy boom is at new highs. Because of all these things, our economy isn’t just primed for steadier, more sustained growth; America is better poised to lead and succeed in the 21st century than any other nation on Earth. We’ve got the best cards.
And I will not allow anyone to dismantle this foundation. Because for the first time, we can see real, tangible evidence of what the contours of the new economy will look like. It’s an economy teeming with new industry and commerce, and humming with new energy and new technologies, and bustling with highly skilled, higher-wage workers.
It’s an America where a student graduating from college has the chance to advance through a vibrant job market, and where an entrepreneur can start a new business and succeed, and where an older worker can retool for that new job. And to fully realize this vision requires steady, relentless investment in these areas. We cannot let up and we cannot be complacent. We have to be hungry as a nation. We have to compete. When we do — if we take the necessary steps to build on the foundation that through some really hard work we have laid over the last several years — I promise you, over the next 10 years we’ll build an economy where wage growth is stronger than it was in the past three decades. It is achievable.
So let me just talk a little more specifically about what we should be doing right now.
First of all, we’ve got to realize that the trends that have battered the middle class for so long aren’t ones that we’re going to reverse overnight. The facts that I just laid out don’t mean that there aren’t a lot of folks out there who are underpaid, they’re underemployed, they’re working long hours, they’re having trouble making ends meet. I hear from them every day, I meet with them. And it’s heartbreaking — because they’re struggling hard. And there are no silver bullets for job creation or faster wage growth. Anybody who tells you otherwise is not telling the truth. But there are policies that would grow jobs and wages faster than we’re doing right now.
If we rebuild roads and bridges — because we’ve got $2 trillion of deferred maintenance on our infrastructure — we won’t just put construction workers and engineers on the job; we will revitalize entire communities, and connect people to jobs, and make it easier for businesses to ship goods around the world. And we can pay for it with tax reform that actually cuts rates on businesses, but closes wasteful loopholes, making it even more attractive for companies to invest and create jobs here in the United States. Let’s do this and make our economy stronger.
If we make it easier for first-time homebuyers to get a loan, we won’t just create even more construction jobs and speed up recovery in the housing market; we’ll speed up your efforts to grow a nest egg and start a new company, and send your own kids to college and graduate school someday. So let’s help more young families buy that first home, make our economy stronger.
If we keep investing in clean energy technology, we won’t just put people to work on the assembly lines, pounding into place the zero-carbon components of a clean energy age; we’ll reduce our carbon emissions and prevent the worst costs of climate change down the road. Let’s do this — invest in new American energy and make our economy stronger.
If we make high-quality preschool available to every child, not only will we give our kids a safe place to learn and grow while their parents go to work; we’ll give them the start that they need to succeed in school, and earn higher wages, and form more stable families of their own. In fact, today, I’m setting a new goal: By the end of this decade, let’s enroll 6 million children in high-quality preschool. That is an achievable goal that we know will make our workforce stronger. (Applause.)
If we redesign our high schools, we’ll graduate more kids with the real-world skills that lead directly to a good job in the new economy. If we invest more in job training and apprenticeships, we’ll help more workers fill more good jobs that are coming back to this country. If we make it easier for students to pay off their college loans, we’ll help a whole lot of young people breathe easier and feel freer to take the jobs they really want. (Applause.) So look, let’s do this — let’s keep reforming our education system to make sure young people at every level have a shot at success, just like folks at Northwestern do.
If we fix our broken immigration system, we won’t just prevent some of the challenges like the ones that we saw at the border this summer; we’ll encourage the best and brightest from around the world to study here and stay here, and create jobs here. Independent economists say that a big bipartisan reform bill that the House has now blocked for over a year would grow our economy, shrink our deficits, secure our borders. Let’s pass that bill. Let’s make America stronger. (Applause.)
If we want to make and sell the best products, we have to invest in the best ideas, like you do here at Northwestern. Your nanotechnology institute doesn’t just conduct groundbreaking research; that research has spun off 20 startups and more than 1,800 products — that means jobs. (Applause.)
Here’s another example. Over a decade ago, America led the international effort to sequence the human genome. One study found that every dollar we invested returned $140 to our economy. Now, I don’t have an MBA, but that’s sounds like a good return on investment. (Laughter and applause.)
Today, though, the world’s largest genomics center is in China. That doesn’t mean America is slipping. It does mean America isn’t investing. We can’t let other countries discover the products and businesses that will shape the next century and the century after that. So we’ve got to invest more in the kinds of basic research that led to Google and GPS, and makes our economy stronger.
If we raise the minimum wage, we won’t just put — (applause) — we won’t just put more money in workers’ pockets; they’ll spend that money at local businesses, who in turn will hire more people.
In the two years since I first asked Congress to raise the national minimum wage, 13 states and D.C. went and raised theirs. And more business owners are joining them on their own. It’s on the ballot in five states this November, including Illinois. (Applause.) And here’s the thing — recent surveys show that a majority of small business owners support a gradual increase to $10.10 an hour. A survey just last week showed that nearly two-thirds of employers thought the minimum wage should go up in their state — and more than half of them think it should be at least $10. So what’s stopping us? Let’s agree that nobody who works full-time in America should ever have to raise a family in poverty. Let’s give America a raise. It will make the economy stronger. (Applause.)
If we make sure a woman is paid equal to a man for her efforts — (applause) — that is not just giving women a boost. Gentlemen, you want your wife making that money that she has earned. (Laughter.) It gives the entire family a boost and it gives the entire economy a boost. Women now outpace men in college degrees and graduate degrees, but they often start their careers with lower pay. And that gap grows over time, and that affects their families. It’s stupid. (Laughter and applause.) Let’s inspire and support more women, especially in fields like science and technology and engineering and math. (Applause.) Let’s catch up to 2014, pass a fair pay law, make our economy stronger.
And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of the barriers that keep more moms who want to work from entering the workforce. Let’s do what Dean Blount did here at Kellogg. She’s been working with us at the White House, helping business and political leaders who recognize that flexibility in the workplace and paid maternity leave are actually good for business. And let’s offer those deals to dads, too. (Applause.) Because we want to make sure that they can participate in child-rearing. And let’s make sure work pays for parents who are raising young kids. It’s a good investment.
California adopted paid leave, which boosted work and earnings for moms with young kids. Let’s follow their lead. Let’s make our economy stronger.
Now, none of these policies I just mentioned on their own will entirely get us to where we want to be. But if we do these things systematically, the cumulative impact will be huge. Unemployment will drop a little faster, which means workers will gain a little more leverage when it comes to wages and salaries, which means consumer confidence will go up, which means families will be able to spend a little more and save a little more, which means our economy grows stronger, and growth will be shared. More people will feel this recovery, rather than just reading about it in the newspapers. That’s the truth.
And I’m going to keep making the argument for these policies, because they are right for America. They are supported by the facts. And I’m always willing to work with anyone, Democrat or Republican, to get things done. And every once in a while, we actually see a bill land on my desk from Congress. (Laughter.) And we do a bill signing and I look at the members, and I say — I tell them, look how much fun this is. Let’s do this again. Let’s do it again. (Laughter and applause.)
But if gridlock prevails, if cooperation and compromise are no longer valued, but vilified, then I’ll keep doing everything I can on my own if it will make a difference for working Americans. (Applause.)
I will keep teaming up with governors and mayors and CEOs and philanthropists who want to help. Here’s an example. There are 28 million Americans who would benefit from a minimum wage increase — 28 million. Over the past two years, because we’ve teamed up with cities and states and businesses, and went around Congress, 7 million of them have gotten a raise. So until Congress chooses to step up and help all of them, I’ll keep fighting to get an extra million here and an extra million there with a raise. We’ll keep fighting for this.
And let me just say one other thing about the economy — because oftentimes you hear this from the critics: The notion is that the agenda I’ve just outlined is somehow contrary to pro-business, capitalist, free-market values. And since we’re here at a business school, I thought it might be useful to point out that Bloomberg, for example, I think came out with an article today saying that corporate balance sheets are the strongest just about that they’ve ever been. Corporate debt is down. Profits are up. Businesses are doing good.
So this idea that somehow any of these policies — like the minimum wage or fair pay or clean energy — are somehow bad for business is simply belied by the facts. It’s not true. And if you talk to business leaders, even the ones who really don’t like to admit it because they don’t like me that much — (laughter) — they’ll admit that actually their balance sheets look really strong, and that this economy is doing better than our competitors around the world. So don’t buy this notion that somehow this is an anti-business agenda. This is a pro-business agenda. This is a pro-economic growth agenda.
Now, I am not on the ballot this fall. Michelle is pretty happy about that. (Laughter.) But make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot — every single one of them. This isn’t some official campaign speech, or political speech, and I’m not going to tell you who to vote for — although I suppose it is kind of implied. (Laughter and applause.) But what I have done is laid out my ideas to create more jobs and to grow more wages. And I’ve also tried to correct the record — because, as I said, there’s a lot of noise out there. Every item I ticked off, those are the facts. It’s not conjecture. It’s not opinion. It’s not partisan rhetoric. I laid out facts.
So I laid out what I know has happened over the six years of my presidency so far, and I’ve laid out an agenda for what I think should happen to make us grow even better, grow even faster. A true opposition party should now have the courage to lay out their agenda, hopefully also grounded in facts.
There’s a reason fewer Republicans are preaching doom on deficits — it’s because the deficits have come down at almost a record pace, and they’re now manageable. There’s a reason fewer Republicans you hear them running about Obamacare — because while good, affordable health care might seem like a fanged threat to the freedom of the American people on Fox News — (laughter) — it’s turns out it’s working pretty well in the real world. (Applause.)
Now, when push came to shove this year, and Republicans in Congress actually had to take a stand on policies that would help the middle class and working Americans — like raising the minimum wage, or enacting fair pay, or refinancing student loans, or extending insurance for the unemployed — the answer was “no.” But one thing they did vote “yes” on was another massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. In fact, just last month, at least one top Republican in Congress said that tax cuts for those at the top are — and I’m quoting here — “even more pressing now” than they were 30 years ago. More pressing. When nearly all the gains of the recovery have gone to the top 1 percent, when income inequality is at as high a rate as we’ve seen in decades, I find that a little hard to swallow that they really desperately need a tax cut right now, it’s urgent. ]
Why? (Laughter.) What are the facts? What is the empirical data that would justify that position? Kellogg Business School, you guys are all smart. You do all this analysis. You run the numbers. Has anybody here seen a credible argument that that is what our economy needs right now? Seriously. (Laughter.)
But this is the — if you watch the debate, including on some of the business newscasts — (laughter) — and folks are just pontificating about how important this is. Based on what? What’s the data? What’s the proof? If there were any credible argument that says when those at the top do well and eventually everybody else will do well, it would have borne itself out by now. We’d see data that that was true. It’s not.
American economic greatness has never trickled down from the top. It grows from a rising, thriving middle class and opportunity for working people. That’s what makes us different. (Applause.)
So I just want to be clear here — because you guys are going to be business leaders of the future, and you’re going to be making decisions based on logic and reason and facts and data. And right now you’ve got two starkly different visions for this country. And I believe, with every bone in my body, that there’s one clear choice here because it’s supported by facts.
And this is our moment to define what the next decade and beyond will look like. This is our chance to set the conditions for middle-class growth in the 21st century. The decisions we make this year, and over the next few years, will determine whether or not we set the stage for America’s greatness in this century just like we did in the last one — whether or not we restore the link between hard work and higher wages; whether or not we continue to invest in a skilled, educated citizenry; whether or not we rebuild an economy where everyone who works hard can get ahead.
And some of that depends on you. There is a reason why I came to a business school instead of a school of government. I actually believe that capitalism is the greatest force for prosperity and opportunity the world has ever known. And I believe in private enterprise — not government, but innovators and risk-takers and makers and doers — driving job creation.
But I also believe in a higher principle, which is we’re all in this together. (Applause.) That’s the spirit that made the American economy work. That’s what made the American economy not just the world’s greatest wealth creator, but the world’s greatest opportunity generator. And because you’re America’s future business leaders and civic leaders, that makes you the stewards of America’s greatest singlet asset — and that’s our people.
So as you engage in the pursuit of profits, I challenge you to do so with a sense of purpose. As you chase your own success, I challenge you to cultivate more ways to help more Americans chase their success.
It is the American people who’ve made the progress of the last six years possible. It is the American people who will make our future progress possible. It is the American people that make American business successful. And they should share in that success. It’s not just for you. It’s for us. Because it’s the American people that made the investments over the course of generations to allow you and me to be here and experience this success. That’s the story of America. America is a story of progress — sometimes halting, sometimes incomplete, sometimes harshly challenged. But the story of America is a story of progress.
And it has now been six long years since our economy nearly collapsed. Despite that shock, through the pain that so many fellow Americans felt; for all the gritty, grueling work required to come back, all the work that’s left to be done — a new foundation is laid. A new future is yet to be written. And I am as confident as ever that that future will be led by the United States of America.
Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless America.
2:06 P.M. CDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 2, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on September 5, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on September 3, 2014
Source: WH, 8-28-14
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
4:09 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. I want to say a few words on a number of topics and take a few questions before the long Labor Day weekend.
First, beginning with the number one thing most Americans care about — the economy. This morning, we found out that our economy actually grew at a stronger clip in the 2nd quarter than we originally thought. Companies are investing. Consumers are spending. Over the past four and a half years, our businesses have now created nearly 10 million new jobs. So there are reasons to feel good about the direction we’re headed.
But as everybody knows, there’s a lot more that we should be doing to make sure that all Americans benefit from the progress that we’ve made. And I’m going to be pushing Congress hard on this when they return next week.
Second, in Iraq, our dedicated pilots and crews continue to carry out the targeted strikes that I authorized to protect Americans there and to address the humanitarian situation on the ground.
As Commander-in-Chief, I will always do what is necessary to protect the American people and defend against evolving threats to our homeland. Because of our strikes, the terrorists of ISIL are losing arms and equipment. In some areas, Iraqi government and Kurdish forces have begun to push them back.
And we continue to be proud and grateful to our extraordinary personnel serving in this mission.
Now, ISIL poses an immediate threat to the people of Iraq and to people throughout the region. And that’s why our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader, comprehensive strategy to protect our people and to support our partners who are taking the fight to ISIL. And that starts with Iraq’s leaders building on the progress that they’ve made so far and forming an inclusive government that will unite their country and strengthen their security forces to confront ISIL.
Any successful strategy, though, also needs strong regional partners. I’m encouraged so far that countries in the region — countries that don’t always agree on many things — increasingly recognize the primacy of the threat that ISIL poses to all of them. And I’ve asked Secretary Kerry to travel to the region to continue to build the coalition that’s needed to meet this threat. As I’ve said, rooting out a cancer like ISIL will not be quick or easy, but I’m confident that we can — and we will — working closely with our allies and our partners.
For our part, I’ve directed Secretary Hagel and our Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare a range of options. I’ll be meeting with my National Security Council again this evening as we continue to develop that strategy. And I’ve been consulting with members of Congress and I’ll continue to do so in the days ahead.
Finally, I just spoke with Chancellor Merkel of Germany on the situation in Ukraine. We agree — if there was ever any doubt — that Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine. The violence is encouraged by Russia. The separatists are trained by Russia. They are armed by Russia. They are funded by Russia. Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. And the new images of Russian forces inside Ukraine make that plain for the world to see. This comes as Ukrainian forces are making progress against the separatists.
As a result of the actions Russia has already taken, and the major sanctions we’ve imposed with our European and international partners, Russia is already more isolated than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Capital is fleeing. Investors are increasingly staying out. Its economy is in decline. And this ongoing Russian incursion into Ukraine will only bring more costs and consequences for Russia.
Next week, I’ll be in Europe to coordinate with our closest allies and partners. In Estonia, I will reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the defense of our NATO allies.
At the NATO Summit in the United Kingdom, we’ll focus on the additional steps we can take to ensure the Alliance remains prepared for any challenge. Our meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission will be another opportunity for our alliance to continue our partnership with Ukraine. And I look forward to reaffirming the unwavering commitment of the United States to Ukraine and its people when I welcome President Poroshenko to the White House next month.
So with that, I’m going to take a few questions. And I’m going to start with somebody who I guess is now a big cheese — he’s moved on. But I understand this is going to be his last chance to ask me a question in the press room. So I want to congratulate Chuck Todd and give him first dibs.
Q I’m glad you said “in the press room.” Let me start with Syria. The decision that you have to make between — first of all, is it a “if” or “when” situation about going after ISIL in Syria? Can you defeat ISIL or ISIS without going after them in Syria? And then how do you prioritize? You have said that Assad has lost legitimacy to lead. Defeating ISIS could help Assad keep power. Talk about how you prioritize those two pieces of your foreign policy.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I want to make sure everybody is clear on what we’re doing now, because it is limited. Our focus right now is to protect American personnel on the ground in Iraq; to protect our embassy, to protect our consulates, to make sure that critical infrastructure that could adversely affect our personnel is protected.
Where we see an opportunity that allows us with very modest risk to help the humanitarian situation there as we did in Sinjar Mountain, we will take those opportunities after having consulted with Congress. But our core priority right now is just to make sure that our folks are safe and to do an effective assessment of Iraqi and Kurdish capabilities.
As I said I think in the last press conference, in order for us to be successful, we’ve got to have an Iraqi government that is unified and inclusive. So we are continuing to push them to get that job done. As soon as we have an Iraqi government in place, the likelihood of the Iraqi security forces being more effective in taking the fight to ISIL significantly increases. And the options that I’m asking for from the Joint Chiefs focuses primarily on making sure that ISIL is not overrunning Iraq.
What is true, though, is that the violence that’s been taking place in Syria has obviously given ISIL a safe haven there in ungoverned spaces. And in order for us to degrade ISIL over the long term, we’re going to have to build a regional strategy. Now, we’re not going to do that alone. We’re going to have to do that with other partners, and particularly Sunni partners, because part of the goal here is to make sure that Sunnis both in Syria and in Iraq feel as if they’ve got an investment in a government that actually functions, a government that can protect them, a government that makes sure that their families are safe from the barbaric acts that we’ve seen in ISIL. And right now, those structures are not in place.
And that’s why the issue with respect to Syria is not simply a military issue, it’s also a political issue. It’s also an issue that involves all the Sunni states in the region and Sunni leadership recognizing that this cancer that has developed is one that they have to be just as invested in defeating as we are.
And so to cut to the chase in terms of what may be your specific concerns, Chuck, my priority at this point is to make sure that the gains that ISIL made in Iraq are rolled back, and that Iraq has the opportunity to govern itself effectively and secure itself.
But when we look at a broader strategy that is consistent with what I said at West Point, that’s consistent with what I said at the National Defense College, clearly ISIL has come to represent the very worst elements in the region that we have to deal with collectively. And that’s going to be a long-term project. It’s going to require us to stabilize Syria in some fashion, and stabilizing Syria in some fashion means that we’ve got to get moderate Sunnis who are able to govern and offer a real alternative and competition to what ISIL has been doing in some of these spaces.
Now, the last point with respect to Assad, it’s not just my opinion — I think it would be international opinion — that Assad has lost legitimacy in terms of dropping barrel bombs on innocent families and killing tens of thousands of people. And right now, what we’re seeing is the areas that ISIL is occupying are not controlled by Assad anyway. And, frankly, Assad doesn’t seem to have the capability or reach to get into those areas. So I don’t think this is a situation where we have to choose between Assad or the kinds of people who carry on the incredible violence that we’ve been seeing there. We will continue to support a moderate opposition inside of Syria, in part because we have to give people inside of Syria a choice other than ISIL or Assad.
And I don’t see any scenario in which Assad somehow is able to bring peace and stability to a region that is majority Sunni and has not so far shown any willingness to share power with them or in any kind of significant way deal with the longstanding grievances that they have there.
Q Do you need Congress’s approval to go into Syria?
THE PRESIDENT: I have consulted with Congress throughout this process. I am confident that as Commander-in-Chief I have the authorities to engage in the acts that we are conducting currently. As our strategy develops, we will continue to consult with Congress. And I do think that it will be important for Congress to weigh in, or that our consultations with Congress continue to develop so that the American people are part of the debate.
But I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet. I think what I’ve seen in some of the news reports suggests that folks are getting a little further ahead of where we’re at than we currently are. And I think that’s not just my assessment, but the assessment of our military as well. We need to make sure that we’ve got clear plans, that we’re developing them. At that point, I will consult with Congress and make sure that their voices are heard. But there’s no point in me asking for action on the part of Congress before I know exactly what it is that is going to be required for us to get the job done.
Colleen McCain Nelson.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Do you consider today’s escalation in Ukraine an invasion? And when you talk about additional costs to Russia, are you ready at this point to impose broader economic sanctions? Or are you considering other responses that go beyond sanctions?
THE PRESIDENT: I consider the actions that we’ve seen in the last week a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now. As I said in my opening statement, there is no doubt that this is not a homegrown, indigenous uprising in eastern Ukraine. The separatists are backed, trained, armed, financed by Russia. Throughout this process, we’ve seen deep Russian involvement in everything that they’ve done.
I think in part because of the progress that you had seen by the Ukrainians around Donetsk and Luhansk, Russia determined that it had to be a little more overt in what it had already been doing. But it’s not really a shift.
What we have seen, though, is that President Putin and Russia have repeatedly passed by potential off-ramps to resolve this diplomatically. And so in our consultations with our European allies and partners, my expectation is, is that we will take additional steps primarily because we have not seen any meaningful action on the part of Russia to actually try to resolve this in diplomatic fashion.
And I think that the sanctions that we’ve already applied have been effective. Our intelligence shows that the Russians know they’ve been effective, even though it may not appear on Russian television. And I think there are ways for us to deepen or expand the scope of some of that work.
But ultimately, I think what’s important to recognize is the degree to which Russian decision-making is isolating Russia. They’re doing this to themselves. And what I’ve been encouraged by is the degree to which our European partners recognize even though they are bearing a cost in implementing these sanctions, they understand that a broader principle is at stake. And so I look forward to the consultations that we’ll have when I see them next week.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Last year, you said that you believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress. In response to Chuck’s question you said you don’t have a strategy yet, but you’ll reconsider that going forward. But why didn’t you go to Congress before this current round of strikes in Iraq? Do you not believe that that’s the case anymore, what you said last year? And throughout your career you’ve also said that — you raised concerns with the expansion of powers of the executive. Are you concerned that your recent actions, unilaterally, had maybe — have cut against that?
THE PRESIDENT: No. And here’s why: It is not just part of my responsibility, but it is a sacred duty for me as Commander-in-Chief to protect the American people. And that requires me to act fast, based on information I receive, if an embassy of ours or a consulate of ours is being threatened. The decisions I made were based on very concrete assessments about the possibility that Erbil might be overrun in the Kurdish region and that our consulate could be in danger. And I can’t afford to wait in order to make sure that those folks are protected.
But throughout this process, we’ve consulted closely with Congress, and the feedback I’ve gotten from Congress is, is that we’re doing the right thing. Now, as we go forward — as I’ve described to Chuck — and look at a broader regional strategy with an international coalition and partners to systematically degrade ISIL’s capacity to engage in the terrible violence and disruptions that they’ve been engaging in not just in Syria, not just in Iraq, but potentially elsewhere if we don’t nip this at the bud, then those consultations with Congress for something that is longer term I think become more relevant.
And it is my intention that Congress has to have some buy-in as representatives of the American people. And, by the way, the American people need to hear what that strategy is. But as I said to Chuck, I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. And in some of the media reports the suggestion seems to have been that we’re about to go full scale on an elaborate strategy for defeating ISIL, and the suggestion, I guess, has been that we’ll start moving forward imminently and somehow Congress — still out of town — is going to be left in the dark. That’s not what’s going to happen.
We are going to continue to focus on protecting the American people. We’re going to continue, where we can, to engage in the sort of humanitarian acts that saved so many folks who were trapped on a mountain. We are going to work politically and diplomatically with folks in the region. And we’re going to cobble together the kind of coalition that we need for a long-term strategy as soon as we are able to fit together the military, political and economic components of that strategy. There will be a military aspect to that, and it’s going to be important for Congress to know what that is, in part because it may cost some money.
I’ll just take a couple more. Yes.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Do you regret not moving on ISIS earlier? There are some reports indicating that most of the weapons, the U.S. weapons that they have, they got it or they acquired it after the fall of Mosul. And also, the Iraqi President said today that the Iraqi forces are in no position to stand up to ISIS. What makes you think that forming a new government will change the situation?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, once ISIL got into Mosul that posed a big problem, because there’s no doubt that they were able to capture some weapons and resources that they then used to finance additional operations.
And at that stage, we immediately contacted the Iraqi government. Keep in mind we had been in communications with the Iraqi government for more than a year indicating that we saw significant problems in the Sunni areas. Prime Minister Maliki was not as responsive perhaps as we would have liked to some of the underlying political grievances that existed at the time.
There is no doubt that in order for Iraq security forces to be successful, they’re going to need help. They’re going to need help from us. They’re going to need help from our international partners. They’re going to need additional training. They’re going to need additional equipment. And we are going to be prepared to offer that support.
There may be a role for an international coalition providing additional air support for their operations. But the reason it’s so important that an Iraqi government be in place is this is not simply a military problem. The problem we have had consistently is a Sunni population that feels alienated from Baghdad and does not feel invested in what’s happening, and does not feel as if anybody is looking out for them.
If we can get a government in place that provides Sunnis some hope that a national government serves their interest, if they can regain some confidence and trust that it will follow through on commitments that were made way back in 2006 and 2007 and 2008 and earlier about how you arrive at, for example, de-Baathification laws and give people opportunities so they’re not locked out of government positions — if those things are followed through on, and we are able to combine it with a sound military strategy, then I think we can be successful. If we can’t, then the idea that the United States or any outside power would perpetually defeat ISIS I think is unrealistic.
As I’ve said before — I think I said in the previous press conference — our military is the best in the world. We can route ISIS on the ground and keep a lid on things temporarily. But then as soon as we leave, the same problems come back again. So we’ve got to make sure that Iraqis understand in the end they’re going to be responsible for their own security. And part of that is going to be the capacity for them to make compromises.
It also means that states in the region stop being ambivalent about these extremist groups. The truth is that we’ve had state actors who at times have thought that the way to advance their interests is, well, financing some of these groups as proxies is not such a bad strategy. And part of our message to the entire region is this should be a wake-up call to Sunni,to Shia — to everybody — that a group like ISIS is beyond the pale; that they have no vision or ideology beyond violence and chaos and the slaughter of innocent people. And as a consequence, we’ve got to all join together — even if we have differences on a range of political issues — to make sure that they’re rooted out.
Q Mr. President, despite all of the actions the West has taken to get Russia to pull back from Ukraine, Russia seems intent on taking one step after another — convoys, transports of arms. At what point do sanctions no longer work? Would you envisage the possibility of a necessity of military action to get Russia to pull back from Ukraine?
THE PRESIDENT: We are not taking military action to solve the Ukrainian problem. What we’re doing is to mobilize the international community to apply pressure on Russia. But I think it is very important to recognize that a military solution to this problem is not going to be forthcoming. Now, the fact that Russia has taken these actions in violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukrainians has resulted, I believe, in a weakening of Russia, not a strengthening of Russia. That may not be apparent immediately, but I think it will become increasingly apparent.
What it’s also done is isolated Russia from its trading partners, its commercial partners, international business in ways that I think are going to be very difficult to recover from. And we will continue to stand firm with our allies and partners that what is happening is wrong, that there is a solution that allows Ukraine and Russia to live peacefully. But it is not in the cards for us to see a military confrontation between Russia and the United States in this region.
Keep in mind, however, that I’m about to go to a NATO conference. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but a number of those states that are close by are. And we take our Article 5 commitments to defend each other very seriously, and that includes the smallest NATO member, as well as the largest NATO member. And so part of the reason I think this NATO meeting is going to be so important is to refocus attention on the critical function that NATO plays to make sure that every country is contributing in order to deliver on the promise of our Article 5 assurances.
Part of the reason I’ll be going to Estonia is to let the Estonians know that we mean what we say with respect to our treaty obligations. We don’t have those treaty obligations with Ukraine. We do, however, stand shoulder to shoulder with them, and we’re doing not just a lot of work diplomatically but also financially in order to make sure that they have the best chance at dealing with what is admittedly a very difficult situation.
Thank you very much, everybody.
Q On immigration?
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, guys. Thank you.
Q Mr. President, how are external events and your executive decision-making going to impact your decision on immigration reform? Some people say you’re going to delay this.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me just say this: I’ve been very clear about the fact that our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed. And my preference continues to be that Congress act. I don’t think anybody thinks that Congress is going to act in the short term, but hope springs eternal that after the midterm elections they may act.
In the meantime, what I’ve asked Jeh Johnson to do is to look at what kinds of executive authorities we have in order to make the system work better. And we’ve had a lot of stakeholder discussions; that set of proposals is being worked up.
And the one thing that I think has happened was the issue with unaccompanied children that got so much attention a couple of months back. And part of the reason that was important was not because that represented a huge unprecedented surge in overall immigration at the border, but I do think that it changed the perception of the American people about what’s happening at the borders.
And so one of the things we’ve had — have had to do is to work through systematically to make sure that that specific problem in a fairly defined area of the border, that we’re starting to deal with that in a serious way. And the good news is we’ve started to make some progress. I mean, what we’ve seen so far is that throughout the summer the number of apprehensions have been decreasing — maybe that’s counterintuitive, but that’s a good thing because that means that fewer folks are coming across. The number of apprehensions in August are down from July, and they’re actually lower than they were August of last year. Apprehensions in July were half of what they were in June. So we’re seeing a significant downward trend in terms of these unaccompanied children.
And what that I think allows us to do is to make sure that those kids are being taken care of properly, with due process. At the same time, it’s allowed us to then engage in a broader conversation about what we need to do to get more resources down at the border. It would have been helped along if Congress had voted for the supplemental that I asked for; they did not. That means we’ve got to make some administrative choices and executive choices about, for example, getting more immigration judges down there.
So that has kept us busy, but it has not stopped the process of looking more broadly about how do we get a smarter immigration system in place while we’re waiting for Congress to act. And it continues to be my belief that if I can’t see congressional action, that I need to do at least what I can in order to make the system work better.
But some of these things do affect timelines, and we’re just going to be working through as systematically as possible in order to get this done. But have no doubt, in the absence of congressional action, I’m going to do what I can to make sure the system works better.
Thank you, guys.
END 4:39 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on August 28, 2014
Source: WH, 8-1-14
2:45 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Happy Friday. I thought I’d take some questions, but first, let me say a few words about the economy.
This morning, we learned that our economy created over 200,000 new jobs in July. That’s on top of about 300,000 new jobs in June. So we are now in a six-month streak with at least 200,000 new jobs each month. That’s the first time that has happened since 1997. Over the past year, we’ve added more jobs than any year since 2006. And all told, our businesses have created 9.9 million new jobs over the past 53 months. That’s the longest streak of private sector job creation in our history.
And as we saw on Wednesday, the economy grew at a strong pace in the spring. Companies are investing. Consumers are spending. American manufacturing, energy, technology, autos — all are booming. And thanks to the decisions that we’ve made, and the grit and resilience of the American people, we’ve recovered faster and come farther from the recession than almost any other advanced country on Earth.
So the good news is the economy clearly is getting stronger. Things are getting better. Our engines are revving a little bit louder. And the decisions that we make right now can sustain and keep that growth and momentum going.
Unfortunately, there are a series of steps that we could be taking to maintain momentum, and perhaps even accelerate it; there are steps that we could be taking that would result in more job growth, higher wages, higher incomes, more relief for middle-class families. And so far, at least, in Congress, we have not seen them willing or able to take those steps.
I’ve been pushing for common-sense ideas like rebuilding our infrastructure in ways that are sustained over many years and support millions of good jobs and help businesses compete. I’ve been advocating on behalf of raising the minimum wage, making it easier for working folks to pay off their student loans; fair pay, paid leave. All these policies have two things in common: All of them would help working families feel more stable and secure, and all of them so far have been blocked or ignored by Republicans in Congress. That’s why my administration keeps taking whatever actions we can take on our own to help working families.
Now, it’s good that Congress was able to pass legislation to strengthen the VA. And I want to thank the chairmen and ranking members who were involved in that. It’s good that Congress was able to at least fund transportation projects for a few more months before leaving town — although it falls far short of the kind of infrastructure effort that we need that would actually accelerate the economy. But for the most part, the big-ticket items, the things that would really make a difference in the lives of middle-class families, those things just are not getting done.
Let’s just take a recent example: Immigration. We all agree that there’s a problem that needs to be solved in a portion of our southern border. And we even agree on most of the solutions. But instead of working together — instead of focusing on the 80 percent where there is agreement between Democrats and Republicans, between the administration and Congress — House Republicans, as we speak, are trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable versions of a bill that they already know is going nowhere, that can’t pass the Senate and that if it were to pass the Senate I would veto. They know it.
They’re not even trying to actually solve the problem. This is a message bill that they couldn’t quite pull off yesterday, so they made it a little more extreme so maybe they can pass it today — just so they can check a box before they’re leaving town for a month. And this is on an issue that they all insisted had to be a top priority.
Now, our efforts administratively so far have helped to slow the tide of child migrants trying to come to our country. But without additional resources and help from Congress, we’re just not going to have the resources we need to fully solve the problem. That means while they’re out on vacation I’m going to have to make some tough choices to meet the challenge — with or without Congress.
And yesterday, even though they’ve been sitting on a bipartisan immigration bill for over a year, House Republicans suggested that since they don’t expect to actually pass a bill that I can sign, that I actually should go ahead and act on my own to solve the problem. Keep in mind that just a few days earlier, they voted to sue me for acting on my own. And then when they couldn’t pass a bill yesterday, they put out a statement suggesting I should act on my own because they couldn’t pass a bill.
So immigration has not gotten done. A student loan bill that would help folks who have student loan debt consolidate and refinance at lower rates — that didn’t pass. The transportation bill that they did pass just gets us through the spring, when we should actually be planning years in advance. States and businesses are raising the minimum wage for their workers because this Congress is failing to do so.
Even basic things like approving career diplomats for critical ambassadorial posts aren’t getting done. Last night, for purely political reasons, Senate Republicans, for a certain period of time, blocked our new ambassador to Russia. It raised such an uproar that finally they went ahead and let our Russian ambassador pass — at a time when we are dealing every day with the crisis in Ukraine.
They’re still blocking our ambassador to Sierra Leone, where there’s currently an Ebola outbreak. They’re blocking our ambassador to Guatemala, even as they demand that we do more to stop the flow of unaccompanied children from Guatemala. There are a lot of things that we could be arguing about on policy — that’s what we should be doing as a democracy — but we shouldn’t be having an argument about placing career diplomats with bipartisan support in countries around the world where we have to have a presence.
So the bottom line is this: We have come a long way over the last five and a half years. Our challenges are nowhere near as daunting as they were when I first came into office. But the American people demand and deserve a strong and focused effort on the part of all of us to keep moving the country forward and to focus on their concerns. And the fact is we could be much further along and we could be doing even better, and the economy could be even stronger, and more jobs could be created if Congress would do the job that the people sent them here to do.
And I will not stop trying to work with both parties to get things moving faster for middle-class families and those trying to get into the middle class. When Congress returns next month, my hope is, is that instead of simply trying to pass partisan message bills on party lines that don’t actually solve problems, they’re going to be willing to come together to at least focus on some key areas where there’s broad agreement. After all that we’ve had to overcome, our Congress should stop standing in the way of our country’s success.
So with that, let me take a couple of questions. And I will start with Roberta Rampton of Reuters.
Q Thanks. I want to ask about the situation in the Middle East. And why do you think Israel should embrace a cease-fire in Gaza when one of its soldiers appears to have been abducted and when Hamas continues to use its network of tunnels to launch attacks? And also, have you seen Israel act at all on your call to do more to protect civilians?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think it’s important to note that we have — and I have — unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions that were responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third almost minutes after a cease-fire had been announced. And the U.N. has condemned them as well.
And I want to make sure that they are listening: If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible.
I have been very clear throughout this crisis that Israel has a right to defend itself. No country can tolerate missiles raining down on its cities and people having to rush to bomb shelters every 20 minutes or half hour. No country can or would tolerate tunnels being dug under their land that can be used to launch terrorist attacks.
And so, not only have we been supportive of Israel in its right to defend itself, but in very concrete terms — for example, in support for the Iron Dome program that has intercepted rockets that are firing down on Israeli cities — we’ve been trying to cooperate as much as we can to make sure that Israel is able to protect its citizens.
Now, at the same time, we’ve also been clear that innocent civilians in Gaza caught in the crossfire have to weigh on our conscience and we have to do more to protect them. A cease-fire was one way in which we could stop the killing, to step back and to try to resolve some of the underlying issues that have been building up over quite some time. Israel committed to that 72-hour cease-fire, and it was violated. And trying to put that back together is going to be challenging, but we will continue to make those efforts.
And let me take this opportunity, by the way, to give Secretary John Kerry credit. He has been persistent. He has worked very hard. He has endured on many occasions really unfair criticism simply to try to get to the point where the killing stops and the underlying issues about Israel’s security but also the concerns of Palestinians in Gaza can be addressed.
We’re going to keep working towards that. It’s going to take some time. I think it’s going to be very hard to put a cease-fire back together again if Israelis and the international community can’t feel confident that Hamas can follow through on a cease-fire commitment.
And it’s not particularly relevant whether a particular leader in Hamas ordered this abduction. The point is, is that when they sign onto a cease-fire they’re claiming to speak for all the Palestinian factions. And if they don’t have control of them, and just moments after a cease-fire is signed you have Israeli soldiers being killed and captured, then it’s hard for the Israelis to feel confident that a cease-fire can actually be honored.
I’m in constant consultation with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Our national security team is in constant communication with the Israel military. I want to see everything possible done to make sure that Palestinian civilians are not being killed. And it is heartbreaking to see what’s happening there, and I think many of us recognize the dilemma we have. On the one hand, Israel has a right to defend itself and it’s got to be able to get at those rockets and those tunnel networks. On the other hand, because of the incredibly irresponsible actions on the part of Hamas to oftentimes house these rocket launchers right in the middle of civilian neighborhoods, we end up seeing people who had nothing to do with these rockets ending up being hurt.
Part of the reason why we’ve been pushing so hard for a cease-fire is precisely because it’s hard to reconcile Israel’s legitimate need to defend itself with our concern with those civilians. And if we can pause the fighting, then it’s possible that we may be able to arrive at a formula that spares lives and also ensures Israel’s security. But it’s difficult. And I don’t think we should pretend otherwise.
Q Mr. President, like that cease-fire, you’ve called for diplomatic solutions not only in Israel and Gaza but also in Ukraine, in Iraq, to very little effect so far. Has the United States of America lost its influence in the world? Have you lost yours?
THE PRESIDENT: Look, this is a common theme that folks bring up. Apparently people have forgotten that America, as the most powerful country on Earth, still does not control everything around the world. And so our diplomatic efforts often take time. They often will see progress and then a step backwards. That’s been true in the Middle East. That’s been true in Europe. That’s been true in Asia. That’s the nature of world affairs. It’s not neat, and it’s not smooth.
But if you look at, for example, Ukraine, we have made progress in delivering on what we said we would do. We can’t control how Mr. Putin thinks. But what we can do is say to Mr. Putin, if you continue on the path of arming separatists with heavy armaments that the evidence suggests may have resulted in 300 innocent people on a jet dying, and that violates international law and undermines the integrity — territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, then you’re going to face consequences that will hurt your country.
And there was a lot of skepticism about our ability to coordinate with Europeans for a strong series of sanctions. And each time we have done what we said we would do, including this week, when we put in place sanctions that have an impact on key sectors of the Russian economy — their energy, their defense, their financial systems.
It hasn’t resolved the problem yet. I spoke to Mr. Putin this morning, and I indicated to him, just as we will do what we say we do in terms of sanctions, we’ll also do what we say we do in terms of wanting to resolve this issue diplomatically if he takes a different position. If he respects and honors the right of Ukrainians to determine their own destiny, then it’s possible to make sure that Russian interests are addressed that are legitimate, and that Ukrainians are able to make their own decisions, and we can resolve this conflict and end some of the bloodshed.
But the point is, though, Bill, that if you look at the 20th century and the early part of this century, there are a lot of conflicts that America doesn’t resolve. That’s always been true. That doesn’t mean we stop trying. And it’s not a measure of American influence on any given day or at any given moment that there are conflicts around the world that are difficult. The conflict in Northern Ireland raged for a very, very long time until finally something broke, where the parties decided that it wasn’t worth killing each other.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been going on even longer than you’ve been reporting. (Laughter.) And I don’t think at any point was there a suggestion somehow that America didn’t have influence just because we weren’t able to finalize an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
You will recall that situations like Kosovo and Bosnia raged on for quite some time, and there was a lot more death and bloodshed than there has been so far in the Ukrainian situation before it ultimately did get resolved.
And so I recognize with so many different issues popping up around the world, sometimes it may seem as if this is an aberration or it’s unusual. But the truth of the matter is, is that there’s a big world out there, and that as indispensable as we are to try to lead it, there’s still going to be tragedies out there and there are going to be conflicts. And our job is to just make sure that we continue to project what’s right, what’s just, and that we’re building coalitions of like-minded countries and partners in order to advance not only our core security interests but also the interests of the world as a whole.
Q Do you think you could have done more?
THE PRESIDENT: On which one?
Q On any of them? Ukraine?
THE PRESIDENT: Well look, I think, Bill, that the nature of being President is that you’re always asking yourself what more can you do. But with respect to, let’s say, the Israeli-Palestinian issue, this administration invested an enormous amount to try to bring the parties together around a framework for peace and a two-state solution. John Kerry invested an enormous amount of time. In the end, it’s up to the two parties to make a decision. We can lead them to resolve some of the technical issues and to show them a path, but they’ve got to want it.
With respect to Ukraine, I think that we have done everything that we can to support the Ukrainian government and to deter Russia from moving further into Ukraine. But short of going to war, there are going to be some constraints in terms of what we can do if President Putin and Russia are ignoring what should be their long-term interests.
Right now, what we’ve done is impose sufficient costs on Russia that, objectively speaking, they should — President Putin should want to resolve this diplomatically, get these sanctions lifted, get their economy growing again, and have good relations with Ukraine. But sometimes people don’t always act rationally, and they don’t always act based on their medium- or long-term interests. That can’t deter us, though. We’ve just got to stay at it.
Q Mr. President, Republicans point to some of your executive orders as reason, they say, that they can’t trust you to implement legislation that they pass. Even if you don’t buy that argument, do you hold yourself totally blameless in the inability it appears to reach agreement with the Republican-led House?
THE PRESIDENT: Wendell, let’s just take the recent example of immigration. A bipartisan bill passed out of the Senate, co-sponsored by not just Democrats but some very conservative Republicans who recognize that the system currently is broken and if, in fact we put more resources on the border, provide a path in which those undocumented workers who’ve been living here for a long time and may have ties here are coming out of the shadows, paying their taxes, paying a fine, learning English — if we fix the legal immigration system so it’s more efficient, if we are attracting young people who may have studied here to stay here and create jobs here, that that all is going to be good for the economy, it’s going to reduce the deficit, it might have forestalled some of the problems that we’re seeing now in the Rio Grande Valley with these unaccompanied children.
And so we have a bipartisan bill, Wendell, bipartisan agreement supported by everybody from labor to the evangelical community to law enforcement. So the argument isn’t between me and the House Republicans. It’s between the House Republicans and Senate Republicans, and House Republicans and the business community, and House Republicans and the evangelical community. I’m just one of the people they seem to disagree with on this issue.
So that’s on the comprehensive bill. So now we have a short-term crisis with respect to the Rio Grande Valley. They say we need more resources, we need tougher border security in this area where these unaccompanied children are showing up. We agree. So we put forward a supplemental to give us the additional resources and funding to do exactly what they say we should be doing, and they can’t pass the bill. They can’t even pass their own version of the bill. So that’s not a disagreement between me and the House Republicans; that’s a disagreement between the House Republicans and the House Republicans.
The point is that on a range of these issues, whether it’s tax reform, whether it’s reducing the deficit, whether it’s rebuilding our infrastructure, we have consistently put forward proposals that in previous years and previous administrations would not have been considered radical or left wing; they would have been considered pretty sensible, mainstream approaches to solving problems.
I include under that, by the way, the Affordable Care Act. That’s a whole other conversation.
And in circumstances where even basic, common-sense, plain, vanilla legislation can’t pass because House Republicans consider it somehow a compromise of their principles, or giving Obama a victory, then we’ve got to take action. Otherwise, we’re not going to be making progress on the things that the American people care about.
Q On the border supplemental — can you act alone?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m going to have to act alone because we don’t have enough resources. We’ve already been very clear — we’ve run out of money. And we are going to have to reallocate resources in order to just make sure that some of the basic functions that have to take place down there — whether it’s making sure that these children are properly housed, or making sure we’ve got enough immigration judges to process their cases — that those things get done. We’re going to have to reallocate some resources.
But the broader point, Wendell, is that if, in fact, House Republicans are concerned about me acting independently of Congress — despite the fact that I’ve taken fewer executive actions than my Republican predecessor or my Democratic predecessor before that, or the Republican predecessor before that — then the easiest way to solve it is passing legislation. Get things done.
On the supplemental, we agreed on 80 percent of the issues. There were 20 percent of the issues that perhaps there were disagreements between Democrats and Republicans. As I said to one Republican colleague who was down here that I was briefing about some national security issues, why wouldn’t we just go ahead and pass the 80 percent that we agree on and we’ll try to work to resolve the differences on the other 20 percent? Why wouldn’t we do that? And he didn’t really have a good answer for it.
So there’s no doubt that I can always do better on everything, including making additional calls to Speaker Boehner, and having more conversations with some of the House Republican leadership. But in the end, the challenge I have right now is that they are not able to act even on what they say their priorities are, and they’re not able to work and compromise even with Senate Republicans on certain issues. And they consider what have been traditionally Republican-supported initiatives, they consider those as somehow a betrayal of the cause.
Take the example of the Export-Import Bank. This is an interesting thing that’s happened. This is a program in which we help to provide financing to sell American goods and products around the world. Every country does this. It’s traditionally been championed by Republicans. For some reason, right now the House Republicans have decided that we shouldn’t do this — which means that when American companies go overseas and they’re trying to close a sale on selling Boeing planes, for example, or a GE turbine, or some other American product, that has all kinds of subcontractors behind it and is creating all kinds of jobs, and all sorts of small businesses depend on that sale, and that American company is going up against a German company or a Chinese company, and the Chinese and the German company are providing financing and the American company isn’t, we may lose that sale.
When did that become something that Republicans opposed? It would be like me having a car dealership for Ford, and the Toyota dealership offers somebody financing and I don’t. We will lose business and we’ll lose jobs if we don’t pass it.
So there’s some big issues where I understand why we have differences. On taxes, Republicans want to maintain some corporate loopholes I think need to be closed because I think that we should be giving tax breaks to families that are struggling with child care or trying to save for a college education. On health care, obviously their view is, is that we should not be helping folks get health care, even though it’s through the private marketplace. My view is, is that in a country as wealthy as ours, we can afford to make sure that everybody has access to affordable care.
Those are legitimate policy arguments. But getting our ambassadors confirmed? These are career diplomats, not political types. Making sure that we pass legislation to strengthen our borders and put more folks down there? Those shouldn’t be controversial. And I think you’d be hard-pressed to find an example of where I wouldn’t welcome some reasonable efforts to actually get a bill passed out of Congress that I could sign.
Last question, Michelle Kosinski.
Q You made the point that in certain difficult conflicts in the past, both sides had to reach a point where they were tired of the bloodshed. Do you think that we are actually far from that point right now? And is it realistic to try to broker a cease-fire right now when there are still tunnel operations allowed to continue? Is that going to cause a change of approach from this point forward?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, keep in mind that the cease-fire that had been agreed to would have given Israel the capability to continue to dismantle these tunnel networks, but the Israelis can dismantle these tunnel networks without going into major population centers in Gaza. So I think the Israelis are entirely right that these tunnel networks need to be dismantled. There is a way of doing that while still reducing the bloodshed.
You are right that in past conflicts, sometimes people have to feel deeply the costs. Anybody who has been watching some of these images I’d like to think should recognize the costs. You have children who are getting killed. You have women, defenseless, who are getting killed. You have Israelis whose lives are disrupted constantly and living in fear. And those are costs that are avoidable if we’re able to get a cease-fire that preserves Israel’s ability to defend itself and gives it the capacity to have an assurance that they’re not going to be constantly threatened by rocket fire in the future, and, conversely, an agreement that recognizes the Palestinian need to be able to make a living and the average Palestinian’s capacity to live a decent life.
But it’s hard. It’s going to be hard to get there. I think that there’s a lot of anger and there’s a lot of despair, and that’s a volatile mix. But we have to keep trying.
And it is — Bill asked earlier about American leadership. Part of the reason why America remains indispensable, part of the essential ingredient in American leadership is that we’re willing to plunge in and try, where other countries don’t bother trying. I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that in all these crises that have been mentioned, there may be some tangential risks to the United States. In some cases, as in Iraq and ISIS, those are dangers that have to be addressed right now, and we have to take them very seriously. But for the most part, these are not — the rockets aren’t being fired into the United States. The reason we are concerned is because we recognize we’ve got some special responsibilities.
We have to have some humility about what we can and can’t accomplish. We have to recognize that our resources are finite, and we’re coming out of a decade of war and our military has been stretched very hard, as has our budget. Nevertheless, we try. We go in there and we make an effort.
And when I see John Kerry going out there and trying to broker a cease-fire, we should all be supporting him. There shouldn’t be a bunch of complaints and second-guessing about, well, it hasn’t happened yet, or nitpicking before he’s had a chance to complete his efforts. Because, I tell you what, there isn’t any other country that’s going in there and making those efforts.
And more often than not, as a consequence of our involvement, we get better outcomes — not perfect outcomes, not immediate outcomes, but we get better outcomes. And that’s going to be true with respect to the Middle East. That’s going to be true with respect to Ukraine. That’s going to be certainly true with respect to Iraq.
And I think it’s useful for me to end by just reminding folks that, in my first term, if I had a press conference like this, typically, everybody would want to ask about the economy and how come jobs weren’t being created, and how come the housing market is still bad, and why isn’t it working. Well, you know what, what we did worked. And the economy is better. And when I say that we’ve just had six months of more than 200,000 jobs that hasn’t happened in 17 years that shows you the power of persistence. It shows you that if you stay at it, eventually we make some progress. All right?
Q What about John Brennan?
Q The Africa summit — Ebola?
THE PRESIDENT: I thought that you guys were going to ask me how I was going to spend my birthday. What happened to the happy birthday thing?
Q Happy birthday.
Q What about John Brennan?
Q Africa summit?
THE PRESIDENT: I will address two points. I’ll address —
Q And Flight 17?
THE PRESIDENT: Hold on, guys. Come on. There’s just —
Q And Africa.
THE PRESIDENT: You’re not that pent up. I’ve been giving you questions lately.
On Brennan and the CIA, the RDI report has been transmitted, the declassified version that will be released at the pleasure of the Senate committee.
I have full confidence in John Brennan. I think he has acknowledged and directly apologized to Senator Feinstein that CIA personnel did not properly handle an investigation as to how certain documents that were not authorized to be released to the Senate staff got somehow into the hands of the Senate staff. And it’s clear from the IG report that some very poor judgment was shown in terms of how that was handled. Keep in mind, though, that John Brennan was the person who called for the IG report, and he’s already stood up a task force to make sure that lessons are learned and mistakes are resolved.
With respect to the larger point of the RDI report itself, even before I came into office I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.
I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this. And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.
But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that’s what that report reflects. And that’s the reason why, after I took office, one of the first things I did was to ban some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques that are the subject of that report.
And my hope is, is that this report reminds us once again that the character of our country has to be measured in part not by what we do when things are easy, but what we do when things are hard. And when we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line. And that needs to be — that needs to be understood and accepted. And we have to, as a country, take responsibility for that so that, hopefully, we don’t do it again in the future.
Q Mr. President —
THE PRESIDENT: Now, I gave you a question.
Q All right.
Q The summit — the U.S.-Africa —
THE PRESIDENT: We’ve got a U.S.-Africa Summit coming up next week. It is going to be an unprecedented gathering of African leaders. The importance of this for America needs to be understood. Africa is one of the fastest-growing continents in the world. You’ve got six of the 10 fastest-growing economies in Africa. You have all sorts of other countries like China and Brazil and India deeply interested in working with Africa — not to extract natural resources alone, which traditionally has been the relationship between Africa and the rest of the world — but now because Africa is growing and you’ve got thriving markets and you’ve got entrepreneurs and extraordinary talent among the people there.
And Africa also happens to be one of the continents where America is most popular and people feel a real affinity for our way of life. And we’ve made enormous progress over the last several years in not just providing traditional aid to Africa, helping countries that are suffering from malnutrition or helping countries that are suffering from AIDS, but rather partnering and thinking about how can we trade more and how can we do business together. And that’s the kind of relationship that Africa is looking for.
And I’ve had conversations over the last several months with U.S. businesses — some of the biggest U.S. businesses in the world — and they say, Africa, that’s one of our top priorities; we want to do business with those folks, and we think that we can create U.S. jobs and send U.S. exports to Africa. But we’ve got to be engaged, and so this gives us a chance to do that. It also gives us a chance to talk to Africa about security issues — because, as we’ve seen, terrorist networks try to find places where governance is weak and security structures are weak. And if we want to keep ourselves safe over the long term, then one of the things that we can do is make sure that we are partnering with some countries that really have pretty effective security forces and have been deploying themselves in peacekeeping and conflict resolution efforts in Africa. And that, ultimately, can save us and our troops and our military a lot of money if we’ve got strong partners who are able to deal with conflicts in these regions.
So it’s going to be a terrific conference. I won’t lie to you, traffic will be bad here in Washington. (Laughter.) I know that everybody has been warned about that, but we are really looking forward to this and I think it’s going to be a great success.
Now, the last thing I’m going to say about this, because I know that it’s been on people’s minds, is the issue of Ebola. This is something that we take very seriously. As soon as there’s an outbreak anywhere in the world of any disease that could have significant effects, the CDC is in communication with the World Health Organization and other multilateral agencies to try to make sure that we’ve got an appropriate response.
This has been a more aggressive Ebola outbreak than we’ve seen in the past. But keep in mind that it is still affecting parts of three countries, and we’ve got some 50 countries represented at this summit. We are doing two things with respect to the summit itself. We’re taking the appropriate precautions. Folks who are coming from these countries that have even a marginal risk or an infinitesimal risk of having been exposed in some fashion, we’re making sure we’re doing screening on that end — as they leave the country. We’ll do additional screening when they’re here. We feel confident that the procedures that we’ve put in place are appropriate.
More broadly, the CDC and our various health agencies are going to be working very intently with the World Health Organization and some of our partner countries to make sure that we can surge some resources down there and organization to these countries that are pretty poor and don’t have a strong public health infrastructure so that we can start containing the problem.
Keep in mind that Ebola is not something that is easily transmitted. That’s why, generally, outbreaks dissipate. But the key is identifying, quarantining, isolating those who contract it and making sure that practices are in place that avoid transmission. And it can be done, but it’s got to be done in an organized, systematic way, and that means that we’re going to have to help these countries accomplish that.
All right? Okay.
Q Happy Birthday, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: There you go, April. (Laughter.) That’s what I was talking about — somebody finally wished me happy birthday — although it isn’t until Monday, you’re right.
Thank you so much.
END 3:34 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on August 1, 2014
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
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
Source: WH, 7-12-14
WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President recapped his visits with folks who have written him letters about their own American stories — their successes and struggles. While Congressional Republicans are blocking meaningful measures that would strengthen the middle class, the President continues looking for ways to grow the economy and expand opportunity for more hardworking Americans. The President again urged Congress to join him, as they were elected to do, in working on behalf of everyday Americans – including those the President spent time with this week – by investing in our infrastructure to support American jobs, and ensuring that the Highway Trust Fund does not expire.
The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, July 12, 2014.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
The White House
July 12, 2014
Hi, everybody. This week, I spent some time in Colorado and Texas, talking with people about what’s going on in their lives.
One of them was Elizabeth Cooper, who’ll be a college junior this fall. She wrote to tell me something I hear often: how hard it is for middle-class families like hers to afford college. And she shared something I know many of you feel when you wonder what’s going on in Washington. She said she feels “not significant enough to be addressed, not poor enough for people to worry [about], and not rich enough to be cared about.”
I ran for President to fight for Americans just like Elizabeth – people who work hard, do everything right, and just want a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their families.
And after the worst economic crisis in generations, our businesses have now created nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months. The unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest point since 2008. By almost every measure, our economy is better off than it was five years ago.
But while we’ve created more jobs at this point of the year than any year since 1999, too many families barely earn what they did in 1999. It’s harder to pay for college, save, or retire, because people’s wages and incomes have not gone up. Nearly all the gains of the recovery are going to the very top – and aren’t making a difference in your lives.
And I believe America does better when the middle class does better. And I’ve laid out an opportunity agenda to create jobs, train workers, educate our kids, and make sure hard work actually pays off.
These are the things we should be doing to grow the middle class and help folks work their way into the middle class. And it’s pretty uncontroversial stuff. I hope we can work together on it. And I’m always willing to compromise if folks have other ideas or if it advances generally the interests of working Americans.
But so far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked every serious idea to strengthen the middle class. Lifting the minimum wage, fair pay, student loan reform – they’ve said no to all of it. And that’s when I’ve acted this year to help working Americans on my own– when Congress won’t act.
I’ve taken actions to attract new jobs, lift workers’ wages, help students pay off their loans, and more. And the Republican plan right now is not to do some of this work with me – instead, it’s to sue me. That’s actually what they’re spending their time on. It’s a political stunt that’s going to waste months of America’s time. And by the way, they’re going to pay for it using your hard-earned tax dollars.
I have a better idea: do something, Congress. Do anything to help working Americans. Join the rest of the country. Join me, I’m looking forward to working with you.
You know, on Tuesday, I met with Carolyn Reed and her husband David, who own six Silver Mine Sub shops in Colorado. Two days later, they announced they’re giving their hourly employees a raise to ten dollars and ten cents an hour.
They’re not waiting for Congress. Carolyn said, “We are happy to be a part of what I hope will be a growing voluntary trend in increased wages.”
Carolyn and Americans like her all across the country are happy to do their part. Congress now needs to step up and do its part. And next week, I’ll travel to a couple of job sites to talk about how Democrats and Republicans can work together to grow the economy and protect nearly 700,000 jobs by passing a highway bill by the end of the summer.
I’m here because hardworking Americans like Elizabeth and Carolyn. That’s something I’ll never forget – it’s something I’ll never stop fighting for. Thanks, and have a great weekend.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 12, 2014
Source: WH, 7-10-14
12:48 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Austin! (Applause.) Hey! Hello, Austin! (Applause.) All right, everybody have a seat, have a seat.
It’s good to be in Austin, Texas. (Applause.) Can everybody please give Kinsey a big round of applause for the great introduction? (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: That’s because I love you. (Applause.) Everybody knows I love Austin, Texas. (Applause.) Every time I come here I tell you how much I love you. I love Austin. I love the people. I love the barbecue — which I will get right after this. (Laughter.) I like the music. (Applause.) I’ve got good memories here, I’ve got good friends.
I was telling somebody the last time I walked a real walk where I was kind of left alone was in Austin, Texas. (Applause.) Right before the debate here during the primary in 2007? 2008? It must have been 2008. And I was walking along the river and nobody noticed me, and I felt great. (Laughter.) And then on the way back somebody did notice me and Secret Service started coming around and — (laughter) — but that first walk was really good. So let’s face it, I just love Austin. (Applause.) Love the people of Austin.
I want to thank a proud Texan, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, for being here today. We appreciate her. (Applause.)
It is great to play at the Paramount. I think I finally made it. I finally arrived. (Applause.) I’ve enjoyed the last couple of days, just getting out of Washington. And we started in Colorado, in Denver, and then went to Dallas and then came down here. And at each stop I’ve been able to just meet people and talk about people’s lives — their hopes, their dreams.
I just had some coffee, as Kinsey may have mentioned, at the Magnolia Café, which is very nice. (Applause.) It was fun, too, because I had a chance to — there were a bunch of folks there and some EMT folks were there on their break after the shift, and there were a group of high school kids who were getting together — they were about to go on a two-weeklong service trip to Peru — which, by the way, reminds you, you should be optimistic whenever you meet young people because they’re full of energy and idealism. And so they were going to do this service trip and they were going to go for two days, then, to Machu Picchu — the old Inca ruins in Peru. And I said, I always wanted to go there. And they said, well, you can come with us if you want. (Laughter.) And I said, I’m really tempted, but I think there are some things I’ve got to do. (Laughter.)
But I got them — in exchange for a selfie with them, they promised that they would send me a picture of them when they get there. So I’m going to hold them to it. We got their email and if I don’t get it I’ll be upset. (Laughter.)
Anyway, so I was talking to Kinsey because she wrote me a letter and I wanted to reply in person. Because, as some of you may know, every day, we get tens of thousands of letters or correspondence, emails at the White House. And ever since the first day I was in office, what I’ve asked our Correspondence Office to do is to select 10 of them for me to read every night. And in these letters, people tell me their stories. They talk about losing a job, or finding a job. They talk about trying to finance a college education. They talk about challenges because maybe they’re the children of immigrants and they’re worried about their status. They talk about the hardships they’re going through, successes they’ve had, things they hope for, things that they’re afraid of when it comes to the future and their lives.
Sometimes people say thank you for something I’ve done or a position I’ve taken, and some people say, “You’re an idiot.” (Laughter.) And that’s how I know that I’m getting a good representative sampling because — (laughter) — half the letters are less than impressed with me.
So Kinsey wrote me to tell me about her family. Her mom was a preschool teacher, her dad was an engineer. Together, obviously, they worked really hard, raised a family. They were responsible, did all the right things, were able to put their kids through college. Then they lost their jobs. And because they lost their jobs as mid-career persons, a lot of their resumes didn’t get answered. And their savings started to dwindle. And Kinsey works to pay for school, but it’s not enough.
And she told me that she’s always been passionate about politics and the issues of the day, but after last year’s government shutdown, all this stuff that’s happened with her family, it doesn’t seem like anybody in Washington is thinking about them. She wrote, “I became a disgruntled citizen. I felt as if my government, my beloved government that’s supposed to look out for the needs of all Americans had failed me. My parents have always supported my siblings and me,” she wrote, “now it’s my turn to help them. I want to be involved. President Obama, what can I do?”
So I wanted to meet with Kinsey to let her know that I had heard her, that I listened to what was happening with her family, and I was thinking about her parents and I was thinking about her and her sisters. And I’m here today because of Kinsey. And I’m here today because of every American who is working their tail off and does everything right and who believes in the American Dream and just wants a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their families.
And you and folks like Kinsey are the reason I ran for President in the first place — (applause) — because your lives are the lives that I lived. When I listen to Kinsey I think about me and Michelle trying to finance our college education. When I think about somebody who didn’t have health care, I think about my mom when she had cancer that would ultimately end her life at about the age I am now. When I think about equal pay, I think about my grandmother working her way up at a bank with nothing but a high school education and becoming the vice president of the bank, but always being kind of passed over for the next stage by men who were less qualified than she was.
So the stories that I hear in these letters, they’re my story, and they’re Michelle’s story, and they’re the story that we had before I became senator — worrying about child care, trying to figure out how to have a balanced life so that if Malia or Sasha got sick we could take time off, and how do you manage all that.
So that’s why these letters are so important to me. And that’s why whenever I’m out of Washington, part of what I want to do is just to remember and to connect with your stories so that you know that what I’m trying to do every single day is based on that experience.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: And when you see the trajectory of Kinsey’s family, in some ways, it’s a little bit a story of what’s happened to America.
The crisis in 2008 hurt us all badly — worse financial crisis since the Great Depression. But you think about the progress we’ve made. Today, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months. (Applause.) Our housing is rebounding. Our auto industry is booming. Manufacturing is adding more jobs than any time since the 1990s. The unemployment rate is the lowest point it’s been since September of 2008. (Applause.) Kinsey’s dad found a new job that he loves in the field he was trained for. (Applause.) So a lot of this was because of the resilience and hard work of the American people. That’s what happens — Americans bounce back.
But some of it had to do with decisions we made to build our economy on a new foundation. And those decisions are paying off. We’re more energy independent. For the first time in nearly 20 years, we produce more oil here at home than we buy from abroad. (Applause.) The world’s largest oil and gas producer isn’t Russia; it’s not Saudi Arabia — it’s the United States of America. (Applause.)
At the same time, we’ve reduced our total carbon pollution over the past eight years more than any country on Earth. (Applause.) We’ve tripled the amount of electricity we generate from wind. We’ve increased the amount of solar energy we have by 10 times. We’re creating jobs across the country in clean energy. (Applause.)
In education, our high school graduation rate is at a record high; the Latino dropout rate has been cut in half since 2000. (Applause.) More young people are graduating from college than ever before.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Si se puede!
THE PRESIDENT: Si se peude. (Laughter.)
The Affordable Care Act has given millions more families peace of mind. They won’t go broke just because they get sick. (Applause.) Our deficits have been cut by more than half.
We have come farther and recovered faster, thanks to you, than just about any other nation on Earth. (Applause.) And so we’ve got a lot to be encouraged by, just as the story of Kinsey’s family makes us feel more encouraged. For the first time in a decade, business leaders around the world have said the number-one place to invest is not China, it’s the United States of America. So we’re actually seeing companies bring jobs back. (Applause.) So there’s no doubt that we are making progress. By almost every measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office. (Applause.)
But the fact is we’ve still got a long way to go. We’ve still got a long way to go, because while we’re creating more jobs faster these first six months of this year than any time since 1999, we know there are still a lot of folks out there who are looking for work or looking for more full-time work or looking for a better-paying job. Corporate profits are higher than ever. CEOs make more than ever. But you’re working harder than ever just to get by and pay the bills.
So, as a whole, the country is doing better. But the problem is, is that so much of the improved productivity and profits have gone to the folks at the very top, and the average person, their wages and incomes haven’t really gone up at all, and in some cases, haven’t kept up with the rising cost of health care or college or all the basic necessities that people need.
And so, Austin, I’m here to say that this country is not going to succeed if just a few are doing well. This country succeeds when everybody has got a shot. (Applause.) The country does better when the middle class does better, and when there are more ladders of opportunity into the middle class. (Applause.) That’s the kind of economy that works here in America. And that’s what’s at stake right now.
Now, that’s why we’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that creates more good jobs and creates more good wages — jobs in American manufacturing, jobs in construction. We should be rebuilding infrastructure all across America, putting people back to work rebuilding roads and bridges and schools, creating a smart grid to transmit clean energy across the country more efficiently. (Applause.)
We can create good jobs in American energy — (sneezes) — bless me — and innovation. (Laughter.) I’m okay, just haven’t had enough sleep. (Laughter.)
We’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that trains more workers with the skills to fill the jobs that are being created. I was talking to some folks from a community college before I came out here. We’ve learned that if we reach out to businesses and help them design the training programs in the community colleges, then when somebody finishes that training, they know they can get a job right away. (Applause.)
We’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that guarantees every child a world-class education from the time that they are three until the time that they graduate from college.
We’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that makes sure your hard work pays off with higher wages and equal pay for equal work, and workplace flexibility, and the overtime pay you’ve earned. (Applause.)
We’re fighting for opportunity for all and the idea that no matter who you are and what you look like and where you come from and who you love, if you work hard in America, if you work hard in Austin, if you work hard in Texas, you can make it here. (Applause.) You can make it. (Applause.)
So that’s what we’re working for. And the good news is, is that the things that we need to do are well within our capabilities, our grasp. We know we can — we know how to build roads. We know how to put people back to work on infrastructure. We know that if we invest in early childhood education, every dollar we put in, we get seven dollars back, and fewer dropouts and fewer teen pregnancies, and fewer folks going into the criminal justice system. (Applause.)
We know that if we do some basic things, if we make some basic changes, we’ll see more jobs, faster economic growth, lift more incomes, strengthen the middle class. They are common-sense things. They’re not that radical. We know it’s what we should be doing. And what drives me nuts — and I know drives you nuts — is Washington isn’t doing it. (Applause.)
And let me be clear about why Washington is broken, because sometimes everybody says, well, you know what, all politicians are the same, he parties — the Democrats, Republicans, it doesn’t matter. Look, Democrats are not perfect, I promise you. I know a lot of them. (Laughter.) And, yes, every member of Congress, they’re thinking about, I’d like to be reelected and I’d like to keep my job. That’s human nature. We all understand that. But let me be clear. On the common-sense agenda that would help middle-class families, the overwhelming number of Democrats are in favor of these things.
They’re in favor of minimum wage. They’re in favor of equal pay. (Applause.) They’re in favor of extending unemployment benefits. They’re in favor of infrastructure. They’re in favor of investing in research and development. They’re in favor of making college more affordable. They’ve got specific proposals. They’re willing to compromise. They’re prepared to go forward.
So when folks say they’re frustrated with Congress, let’s be clear about what the problem is. (Applause.) I’m just telling the truth now. I don’t have to run for office again, so I can just let her rip. (Applause.) And I want to assure you, I’m really not that partisan of a guy. My favorite President is the first Republican President, a guy named Abraham Lincoln. You look at our history, and we had great Republican Presidents who — like Teddy Roosevelt started the National Park System, and Dwight Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System, and Richard Nixon started the EPA.
The statement I’m making is not a partisan statement, it is a statement of fact. (Applause.) So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every serious idea to strengthen the middle class. They have said no —
THE PRESIDENT: Don’t boo now, because what I want you to do is vote. (Applause.)
They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage. They’ve said no to fair pay. They said no to unemployment insurance for hardworking folks like Kinsey’s parents who have paid taxes all their lives and never depended on anything and just needed a little help to get over a hump. They said no to fixing our broken immigration system that we know would strengthen our borders and our businesses and help families. (Applause.)
Instead of investing in education that helps working families, they voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans. Instead of creating jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our ports that help every business, they’ve decided to protect tax loopholes for companies that are shifting jobs overseas and profits overseas.
The best thing you can say about this Congress — the Republicans in Congress, and particularly the House of Representatives — the best you can say for them this year is that so far they have not shut down the government — (laughter) — or threatened to have America welch on our obligations and ruin our credit rating. That’s the best you can say. But of course, it’s only July — (laughter) — so who knows what they may cook up in the next few months.
So even as they’re blocking policies that would help middle-class families, they keep on offering these theories of the economy that have failed over and over again. They say, well, if we give more tax breaks to folks at the top that’s going to be good. If we make fewer investments in things like education, everything will work out. If we loosen the rules for big banks and credit card companies and polluters and insurers, somehow that’s going to make the economy better. If we shrink the safety net and cut Medicaid and cut food stamps, and make sure that folks who are vulnerable and trying to get back on their suffer more hardship, somehow that’s going to improve the economy.
Now, they believe these things — sincerely, I assume — that if they — if we do these things, if we just take care of folks at the top, or at least if we don’t empower our government to be able to help anybody, that somehow jobs and prosperity will trickle down and we’ll all be better off.
And that may work just fine for folks at the top. It worked fine for me. I don’t need government. (Laughter.) Michelle and I now are in a position where we can pretty much finance Malia and Sasha’s college education. But I remember when Michelle’s parents couldn’t, they needed help. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe in pulling up the ladder once I’m up. I believe in extending it down and making sure that everybody has a chance to climb up. (Applause.)
The status quo certainly works for the special interests in Washington who like things just as they are. They’ll be fine whether Congress ever passes a bill again or not. But it doesn’t help you. It doesn’t help your neighbors. It doesn’t help your friends. It doesn’t help your communities.
And what it does, is it just feeds people’s cynicism about Washington. It just makes people think, well, nothing can happen, and people start feeling hopeless. And we have to understand, in the face of all evidence to the contrary in Washington, we can do better than we’re doing right now. (Applause.) We can do better than what we’re doing right now.
We know from our history, our economy does not grow from the top down, it grows from the middle up. It grows from a rising, thriving middle class. It grows when we got ladders of opportunity for everybody, and every young person in America is feeling hopeful and has a chance to do what they can with the God-given talents that they have. That’s what we’re fighting for. That is what you should be fighting for. (Applause.)
And I will always look — I’ll always look for ways to get Republicans and Democrats together in this effort. But I’m not — I can’t stand by with partisan gridlock that’s the result of cynical political games that threaten the hard work of millions of Americans. I’m not just going to stand by and say, okay, that’s — I guess that’s the way it is. Whenever and wherever I have the power, the legal authority to help families like yours, even if Congress is not doing anything, I will take that opportunity. I will try to make something happen. (Applause.)
And that’s the reason — that’s the reason why my administration has taken more than 40 different actions just this year to help working Americans — because Congress won’t.
Congress won’t act to make sure a woman gets equal pay for equal work. So I made sure more women have the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace — because I think when women succeed America succeeds. So we went ahead and did that. (Applause.)
Congress won’t act to create jobs in manufacturing or construction. Well, I went ahead and speeded up permits for big projects. We launched a new hub to attract more high-tech manufacturing jobs to America. I want to make sure the next revolution in manufacturing is right here in America; it’s an American revolution, not a German or a Chinese revolution. I want it happening right here in Austin, Texas. (Applause.)
Congress so far hasn’t acted to help more young people manage their student loan debt. So I acted with my lawful authority to give nearly 5 million Americans the chance to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income so they can manage it better, so that if they go into teaching, or they go into social work, or they’re doing something at a non-for-profit, that they’re not encumbered by mountains of debt. I don’t want our future leaders saddled with debt before they start out in life. (Applause.)
And Republicans in Congress so far have refused to raise workers’ wages with a higher minimum wage. So I acted to require that federal contractors pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour — (applause) — which would give hundreds of thousands of workers a raise. I asked business owners and governors and mayors and state legislators — anybody I could work with — do what you can on your own, I told them.
Since the first time I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, Congress hasn’t done anything, but 13 states have gone ahead and raised theirs. (Applause.) And, by the way — this is important to remember just because folks are always trying to run the okey doke on you — (laughter) — the states that have increased their minimum wages this year have seen higher job growth than the states that have not increased their minimum wage. (Applause.) And more and more business owners are choosing to lift the wages for their workers because they understand that it’s going to be good to have productive workers, loyal workers, invested workers.
Just yesterday, before I came down to Texas, when I was in Denver, I met with Carolyn Reed. She owns six Silver Mine sub shops. She started her own business. She was working at UPS and decided she wanted to be a business owner, got her first franchise. Her and her husband mortgaged their house. Eventually, they got an SBA loan. Now, she’s got six stores. A wonderful woman. And today, she decided to raise her hourly employees’ wages to a minimum of $10.10 an hour. (Applause.) She just went ahead and did it on her own, because she realized that she’ll have less turnover and she’s going to have more productive workers.
As long as Congress will not increase wages for workers, I will go and talk to every business in America if I have to. (Applause.) There’s no denying a simple truth: America deserves a raise, and if you work full-time in this country, you shouldn’t live in poverty. That’s something that we all believe. (Applause.)
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. There are a number of Republicans, including a number in the Texas delegation, who are mad at me for taking these actions. They actually plan to sue me. (Laughter.) Now, I don’t know which things they find most offensive — me helping to create jobs, or me raising wages, or me easing the student loan burdens, or me making sure women can find out whether they’re getting paid the same as men for doing the same job. I don’t know which of these actions really bug them. (Laughter.)
The truth is, even with all the actions I’ve taken this year, I’m issuing executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years. So it’s not clear how it is that Republicans didn’t seem to mind when President Bush took more executive actions than I did. (Applause.) Maybe it’s just me they don’t like. I don’t know. Maybe there’s some principle out there that I haven’t discerned, that I haven’t figure out. (Laughter.) You hear some of them — “sue him,” “impeach him.” Really? (Laughter.) Really? For what? (Applause.) You’re going to sue me for doing my job? Okay. (Applause.)
I mean, think about that. You’re going to use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job — (laughter) — while you don’t do your job. (Applause.)
There’s a great movie called “The Departed” — a little violent for kids. But there’s a scene in the movie where Mark Wahlberg — they’re on a stakeout and somehow the guy loses the guy that they’re tracking. And Wahlberg is all upset and yelling at the guy. And the guy looks up and he says, “Well, who are you?” And Wahlberg says, “I’m the guy doing my job. You must be the other guy.” (Laughter and applause.) Sometimes, I feel like saying to these guys, I’m the guy doing my job, you must be the other guy. (Applause.)
So rather than wage another political stunt that wastes time, wastes taxpayers’ money, I’ve got a better idea: Do something. (Applause.) If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, let’s team up. Let’s pass some bills. Let’s help America together. (Applause.)
It is lonely, me just doing stuff. I’d love if the Republicans did stuff, too. (Laughter.) On immigration issues, we’ve got — and to their credit, there are some Republicans in the Senate who actually worked with Democrats, passed a bill, would strengthen the borders, would help make the system more fair and more just. But the House Republicans, they haven’t even called the bill. They won’t even take a vote on the bill. They don’t have enough energy or organization or I don’t know what to just even vote no on the bill. (Laughter.) And then they’re made at me for trying to do some things to make the immigration system work better. So it doesn’t make sense.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: I’m sorry, what are you yelling about now? Sit down, guys. I’m almost done. Come on, sit down. I’ll talk to you afterwards, I promise. I’ll bring you back. I’m wrapping things up here.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: I understand. See, everybody is going to start — I’m on your side, man. Sit down, guys, we’ll talk about it later, I promise.
So, look, here’s what we could do. We could do so much more — you don’t have to escort them out. They’ll sit down. I promise, I’ll talk to you afterwards.
We could do so much more if Republicans in Congress would focus less on stacking the deck for those on the top and focus more on creating opportunity for everybody. And I want to work with them. I don’t expect them to agree with me on everything, but at least agree with me on the things that you used to say you were for before I was for them. (Applause.)
You used to be for building roads and infrastructure. Nothing has changed. Let’s go ahead and do it. (Applause.) Ronald Reagan passed immigration reform, and you love Ronald Reagan. Let’s go ahead and do it. (Applause.)
I mean, what changed? I’m just saying. (Laughter.) That’s what made our country great, a sense of common purpose, a sense we’re all in it together as one nation, as one people. We can debate the issues, we can have our differences, but let’s do something. (Applause.) Let’s rally around an economic patriotism that says, instead of giving more tax breaks to millionaires, let’s give tax breaks to working families to help pay for child care or college.
Instead of protecting tax loopholes that let corporations keep their profits overseas, let’s put some of that money to work right here in the United States rebuilding America. (Applause.) We can rebuild our airports, create the next generation of good manufacturing jobs, make sure those are made in America.
Let’s rally around a patriotism that says we’re stronger as a nation when we cultivate the ingenuity and talent of every American, and give every 4-year-old in America access to high-quality education — good-quality preschool. (Applause.) Let’s redesign our high schools to make them more relevant to the 21st century economy. Let’s make college more affordable. Let’s make sure every worker, if you lose your job, you can get a good job training that gives you an even better job. (Applause.)
Let’s embrace the patriotism that says it’s a good thing when our fellow citizens have health care. It’s not a bad thing. (Applause.) That’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing when women earn what men do for the same work. That’s an all-American principle. (Applause.) Everybody has got a mom out there or a wife out there or a daughter out there. They don’t want them to not get treated fairly. Why would you be against that?
It’s a good thing when parents can take a day off to care for a sick child without losing their job or losing pay and they can’t pay their bills at the end of the month. It’s a good thing when nobody who works full-time is living in poverty. That is not radical. It’s not un-American. It’s not socialist. That’s how we built this country. It’s what America is all about, us working together. (Applause.)
So let me just wrap up by saying this: The hardest thing to change in politics is a stubborn status quo. Our democracy is designed where folks who have power, who have clout — they can block stuff, they can keep things as they are. It’s hard. It’s even harder when Washington seems focused on everything but your concerns, Kinsey’s concerns.
There are plenty of people who count on you getting cynical and count on you not getting involved so that you don’t vote, so you give up. And you can’t give into that. America is making progress, despite what the cynics say. (Applause.) Despite unyielding opposition and a Congress that can’t seem to do anything, there are workers with jobs who didn’t have them before; there are families with health insurance who didn’t have them before; there are students in college who couldn’t afford it before; there are troops who served tour after tour who are home with their families today. (Applause.)
Cynicism is popular. Cynicism is popular these days. It’s what passes off as wisdom. But cynics didn’t put a man on the moon. Cynics never won a war. Cynics didn’t cure a disease, or start a business, or feed a young mind. Cynicism didn’t bring about the right for women to vote, or the right for African Americans to be full citizens. Cynicism is a choice.
Hope is a better choice. Hope is what gave young soldiers the courage to storm a beach. Hope is what gave young people the strength to march for women’s rights and civil rights and voting rights and gay rights and immigrant rights. (Applause.)
Hope is what compelled Kinsey to sit down and pick up a pen, and ask “what can I do,” and actually think maybe the President might read that story and it might make a difference. (Applause.) And her voice rang out here in the Paramount Theatre. And it’s her voice and your voice that’s going to change this country. That’s how we’re going to make sure that we remain the greatest nation on Earth — not by asking what we can do for ourselves, but what we can do for each other and what we can do for our country.
And so, as President, I’m going to keep a promise that I made when I first ran: Every day, I will keep asking the same question, and that is, how can I help you? And I’ll keep treating your cares and your concerns as my own. And I will keep fighting to restore the American Dream for everybody who’s willing to work for it.
And I am going to need you to be right there with me. (Applause.) Do not get cynical. Hope is the better choice.
Thank you, Texas. Thank you, Austin. God bless you. (Applause.)
1:28 P.M. CDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 10, 2014
Source: WH, 7-9-14
10:27 A.M. MDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! (Applause.) Hello, Denver!
THE PRESIDENT: Everybody have a seat. So I think we should just stay here all afternoon and have a picnic. (Applause.) This is really nice around here. Wow! What a gorgeous day.
Can everybody please give Alex a big round of applause for that great introduction? (Applause.) It is so good to be back in Denver. It is great to be back in Colorado. As all of you know, I spent a lot of time here in my last campaign. I have been itching to get back.
I got to have dinner last night with Alex and four other Coloradans — Elizabeth Cooper, Leslie Gresham, Carolyn Reed and her husband David — at the Wazee Supper Club. (Applause.) It was tasty. That was some good pizza. (Laughter.) And then I walked down the block to shoot some pool with Governor Hickenlooper at his old bar, the Wynkoop Brewing Company. You should not ask him who won. (Laughter.) No, no, really, don’t ask Governor Hickenlooper who won at pool. (Laughter.) And it’s a great time to be in this beautiful park with my friend, Ken Salazar — (applause) — who I love and I haven’t seen in a while. There he is right there. (Applause.) As well as your Congressman, Ed Perlmutter. Yay, Ed. (Applause.)
So let me tell you why I’m here. Every day, we get thousands of letters and emails at the White House. I think it’s something like 40,000 a day of some sort of correspondence. And every night, our Correspondence Office selects 10 letters for me to read. And I’ve been doing that since I first came into office. And it’s one of the most important things I do — it’s right there next to my national security briefing and whatever policy issues that we’re supposed to be working on — because it reminds me of why I ran for office.
And so I have a chance just to hear from people as they tell their stories. They talk about the hardships that they’re going through; sometimes they talk about a success that they’ve had. Kids write to me, asking questions about what I’m doing about climate change, or how old is Bo. (Laughter.) So people describe to me their fears and their hopes not just for themselves, but also for their children and their grandchildren and for the country. And sometimes they thank me for taking a position on an issue. And sometimes they say, how dare you take that position on an issue. And sometimes people say they’re proud of the work that I’ve done, and sometimes people call me an idiot — or worse than an idiot — which is how I know that I’m getting a good sample. (Laughter.)
So Alex wrote to tell me that the day after my State of the Union address, her boss gave her a raise to $10.10 an hour. Alex actually, last night, confessed she actually didn’t watch my State of the Union address. (Laughter.) Which, hey, I understand. (Laughter.) When I was her age, I’m sure I missed a whole bunch of State of the Union addresses. But her boss caught it, and he decided, let me make sure I’m paying my employees a fair wage.
Carolyn, from up in Wellington, wrote to say she and David used an SBA loan from the Recovery Act to open the third of their six Silver Mine Subs shops. (Applause.) Oh, you know Silver Mine? All right. Everybody is happy about that. It was a wonderful story because both her and her husband were Teamsters. See, she worked at UPS, and he worked for Bud. And they just knew that they wanted to start something of their own. And she described to us last night what it was like to take the risk to mortgage the house and make a business for herself, and then now to have a hundred employees and to be giving those folks an opportunity. They’re hiring, by the way — (laughter) — in case people are interested.
Leslie, from Parker, wrote to say she’d been teaching preschool for 26 years and was an Early Childhood education — Educator of the Year, just a wonderful teacher. But she described the difference she could see in children who had that early exposure to the kind of classroom education that she’s providing.
And Elizabeth, who’s going to be a junior this fall at the University of Northern Colorado, wrote to tell me how hard it is for middle-class families like hers to afford college. And she shared something I know many of you feel when you wonder what the heck is going on in Washington. She wrote she feels “not significant enough to be addressed, not poor enough for people to worry about, and not rich enough to be cared about.” That’s what she wrote.
So part of the reason I wanted to have dinner with these folks is because they reminded me of why I ran for office and what I’m supposed to be doing every single day. And the reason I’m here today is very simple: I’m here because of Elizabeth, and Alex, and Carolyn, and Leslie. And I’m here for every American who works their tail off and does everything right and who believes in the American Dream — (applause) — and asks for nothing but a chance at a decent life for themselves and their families. That’s why I’m here. (Applause.) And to tell all of you that I hear you.
I mean, sometimes it’s as simple as that — that I am listening and paying attention, partly because when I listen to Alex or I listen to Carolyn or I listen to any of the folks that I met with, I see myself in them. Because I remember my first minimum wage job — at Baskin Robbins, by the way — (laughter) — I had to wear a cap and an apron — and how like a little raise would have really helped. I think about what it was like for me to finance college. I think about childcare costs when Michelle and I were first starting out with Malia and Sasha. Your stories are ours. You’re why I ran.
And so what I want to make sure of is, is that as screwed up sometimes as Washington gets, that everybody here understands that there’s progress to be made, and that there’s somebody out there who’s fighting for them, even if it sometimes feels like the system is rigged against them.
The other thing I want to make sure people understand is, is that we are making progress, as bad as the news looks, if all you were doing was watching cable TV all day long. Yes, the crisis that hit towards the end of my first campaign hit us all really badly; 2007, 2008, that was rough. But today, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months. (Applause.) Construction and housing are rebounding. Our auto industry is booming. Manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the ‘90s. The unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest point since September of 2008 — the fastest one-year drop in nearly 30 years. (Applause.)
And, look, most of this is attributable to you, the American people — starting businesses, and paying down debt, and tightening belts, and doing all kinds of stuff just to make sure that you kept on and were able to look after your families. But the decisions we made early on not only stopped the slide, but also built a new foundation for our economy, and they’re paying off now.
We’re more energy independent. We’ve tripled the electricity we generate from the wind, ten times from the sun, creating jobs across the country — (applause) — while producing more oil at home than we buy abroad for the first time in nearly 20 years. Our energy sector is booming. (Applause.) And, by the way, we’re doing that while reducing our carbon emissions more than any other country over the last five years. So we’re making progress on climate change as well. (Applause.)
In education — our high school graduation rate is at a record high. (Applause.) The Latino dropout rate has dropped in half. More young people are graduating from college than ever before. (Applause.) We’ve made our tax code fairer. We cut our deficits by more than half. We’ve given millions more Americans the security of health care that means you won’t go broke just because you get sick. (Applause.)
So thanks to the hard work of you — and some actually pretty smart policies by us — (laughter) — we have come farther and recovered faster than almost any other advanced nation on Earth. More companies are choosing to bring back jobs from overseas. Thanks to our leadership in technology and innovation, for the first time in more than a decade, business leaders around the world have declared China is not number one when it comes to the place to invest, the United States is. And our lead is growing. (Applause.)
So despite what you may hear, there is no doubt we are making progress. By almost every measure, we are better off than when I took office — by almost every measure. (Applause.) But here’s the thing — and this is why I’ve got to get out more and have lunch with — and pizza with my friends — because the fact is, we know we’ve still got a long way to go.
Here’s the challenge: We’ve created more jobs at this point of the year than any year since 1999. More jobs have been created in the first half of this year than we have since the ‘90s. But many families barely earn what they did in the ‘90s. Corporate profits are higher than ever. CEOs make more than ever. But most people are working harder than ever just to get by. Wages, incomes have flat-lined. They have not gone up.
So as a whole, the country is doing better, but too much improvement goes to the folks at the top and not enough of it is making a difference in the lives of ordinary Americans. (Applause.) And that’s what we should be spending all our time talking about, how do we reverse some of those trends. That’s what I came to Denver to talk about, that issue — how do we make sure if you work hard, do the right thing you can get ahead. Washington may chase whatever political story they think will get attention, but to me the only story that matters is your story. And I am here to say that this country does not succeed when just a few at the top do well and everybody else is treading water. America does better when the middle class does better, when folks who work hard can afford to buy what they make and provide for our families and leave something better for our kids. (Applause.)
So this is what I’m spending time on. This is what I’m fighting for. This is my opportunity agenda. I’m focused on how do we create good jobs that pay good wages — jobs in American manufacturing and construction, in American energy and innovation.
I’m fighting for an opportunity agenda that trains more workers with the skills to fill those jobs at community colleges and in apprenticeships and internships that give young people a solid start.
We’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that guarantees every child a world-class education, from high-quality pre-K, to a redesigned high school, to colleges and a rewarding career that’s affordable and you’re not loaded up with debt. (Applause.)
We’re fighting to make sure your hard work pays off with higher wages that you can live on and savings you can retire on — workplace flexibility, so if your kids get sick or you’ve got an ailing parent you’re not looking at losing your job; overtime pay that you’ve earned; affordable health care that’s there when you get sick and you need it most.
We’re fighting for the idea that everybody gets opportunity — no matter what you look like, or where you come from, or who you love, or how you grew up, or what your last name is. America is a place where you should be able to make it if you try. (Applause.)
And the good news is we actually know how to do some of these things. If we make just some modest changes — we don’t need revolutionary changes. If we made some modest changes, made some sensible decisions we’d create more jobs, we’d lift more income, we’d strengthen the middle class. We wouldn’t solve every problem overnight, but we’d be making more progress even than we’re already making. That’s what we should be doing. And of course, that’s what drives you nuts about Washington, because that’s not what it’s doing. (Laughter.)
After everything we’ve been through together, you’d think that these challenges would absorb the attention of folks in Washington. But these days, basic common-sense ideas cannot get through Congress. Basic stuff — stuff that used to be uncontroversial. It used to be that Republicans, Democrats, everybody said, you know what, America, it’s a good thing when we build roads and bridges and a smart grid to transmit energy — all those things are good for business, they’re good for workers, it helps — now they can’t seem to pass a bill, just to fund basic projects that we know are good for our economy.
We have evidence that early childhood education, every dollar we spend there, you get seven bucks back — (applause) — because kids to better in school, they don’t drop out, they’re less likely to get in trouble. They’re less likely to go to jail. They’re more likely to be taxpayers later on. But you look at Congress — they can’t do it.
Think about it. So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every serious idea to strengthen the middle class. They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage. They said no to fair pay legislation so that women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same work. They said no to unemployment insurance for Americans who are out there looking for a new job. I know, because I get letters from them every day — folks who have worked all their lives, paid taxes all their lives. And now, right when they’re having a tough time because of an unprecedented recession that we just went through, and they need a little help so they don’t lose their house or they don’t lose their car, suddenly Congress can’t do it.
Congress just said no to fixing our broken immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders and our businesses — despite the fact that everybody from law enforcement to corporations to evangelicals — there’s a coalition around immigration reform that’s unprecedented. These guys still can’t get their act together.
Rather than invest in education that lets working families get ahead, they voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans. Rather than invest in roads and bridges to create construction jobs and help our businesses succeed, they’ve chosen to preserve and protect tax loopholes for companies that shift their profits overseas that don’t do anybody any good.
Republicans in Congress right now have shown over and over they’ll do anything to rig the system for those at the top or to try to score political points on me, even if the obstruction keeps the system rigged against the middle class. The best thing you can say for them this year is they haven’t yet shut down the government or threatened to go deadbeat on America’s obligations. But it is still early, so — (applause.)
Now, I always have to say this: I don’t think that they’re all terrible people. I think they love their families. They love the country. They’ve got a different economic theory. Maybe they don’t know what ordinary folks are going through. But maybe it’s not that they don’t get it. Maybe it’s just because the theory they have is, is that if the economy is doing good for folks at the very top, then it’s going to help everybody else — despite the fact that we have evidence over and over again that those theories have failed the middle class.
More tax breaks to those at the top. Fewer investments in things like education. Looser rules for big banks, or credit card companies, or polluters, or insurers — they believe all that stuff really makes the economy hum and prosperity trickles down.
Just because they believe it doesn’t mean the rest of us believe it — because we know from our history it doesn’t work. Our economy grows best from the middle out, when everybody has a shot, everybody is doing well. (Applause.) And with a slight change of priorities, we could do it. We could help a lot more Americans get ahead. And folks at the top will do well too. (Applause.) Everybody will do better. (Applause.)
And, by the way, Republicans used to understand this. This is not like a crazy Democratic, socialist idea. (Laughter.) My favorite President is a Republican: Abraham Lincoln, who helped build a Transcontinental Railroad and invested in the Homestead Act that helped people get land; and invested in our first major federal scientific research; understood that you make these common investments — land-lease colleges — or land-grant colleges, that all these things would end up giving people tools to improve themselves and thereby improve the country. And we couldn’t all do it alone. We had to do it with each other.
This wasn’t just a Democratic idea. Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System. Teddy Roosevelt started our national parks. These are basic ideas that made America work. They’re not partisan. So I’m going to keep on working with Republicans and Democrats to try to get things moving over there.
In the meantime, I’m not going to stand by while partisan gridlock or political games threaten the hard work of millions of Americans. (Applause.) So wherever and whenever I can go ahead and help families like yours, I’ve got the legal authority to do it, I’m going to do it. (Applause.) I’m not going to wait. Not going to wait. (Applause.)
That’s why I’ve taken a bunch of actions this year just to help working Americans while still reaching out to Congress. What I’ve said to them is, if you’re not acting, I’m going to go ahead and do what I can.
So if Congress won’t act to make sure women have the ability to get equal pay for equal work, I made sure that women had the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace. (Applause.) I think when women succeed, America succeeds. We’re going to keep on investing in that. (Applause.)
If Congress won’t act to create jobs in construction or manufacturing, we’re going to go ahead and speed up permits for big projects that are already funded, and launch new hubs to attract more high-tech manufacturing jobs — because I want to make sure the next revolution in manufacturing and technology is an American revolution, right here in the United States. I don’t want it going to France or Germany or China. I want it to happen here. (Applause.)
If Congress won’t act to help more young people manage their student loan debt — and Republicans voted against a bill that would have allowed young people to refinance at lower rates — I went ahead and gave nearly 5 million Americans the opportunity to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income. (Applause.) I don’t want them saddled with debt before they start out in life. I want to make sure that they’re able to pursue a career in teaching or social work, or work in a non-for- profit, and they can still afford it. (Applause.)
Republicans so far refuse to raise workers’ wages. I did what I could — it turns out I’m a pretty big employer. (Laughter.) So I said any federal worker — anybody who works for federal contractors, they’re going to have to pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour. (Applause.) And I asked business owners and governors and mayors and state legislators to do what they could on their own. (Applause.)
And, by at way, since I first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, 13 states have gone ahead and raised theirs — and those states have seen higher job growth than the states that haven’t raised their minimum wage. (Applause.) And more and more business owners are choosing to lift wages for workers like Alex. America needs a raise. And, by the way, when America needs a raise — I was telling Carolyn, our sub owner, last night, and she made the simple point, look, I want tax cuts and raises for my workers and for others who don’t have a lot because that means they’re going to buy more sandwiches. I can already afford a sub sandwich. If you give me a tax cut I’m not going to spend — I’m not going to buy more sub sandwiches; I can only eat so many. (Laughter.) But that’s true about the economy generally. When you give tax breaks and you give raises, you raise the minimum wage, you give a bigger chance to folks who are climbing the ladder, working hard, don’t have a lot at the end of the month, that money gets churned back into the economy. And the whole economy does better, including the businesses.
Now, I gather that some of the Republicans in Congress are mad at me for going ahead and doing things. (Laughter.) And I don’t know which things they find most offensive, whether it’s creating jobs, or easing student loan burdens, or raising wages, but it’s really bothering them. They have a plan to sue me. They have plans to sue me for taking executive actions that are within my authority — while they do nothing.
I have a better idea. They should do something. (Applause.) I will work with them. Rather than engage in political stunts that waste time and taxpayer money, join me. Let’s do some things together. Let’s build some roads. Let’s give America a raise. Let’s help families with childcare costs. There are all kinds of things we can do. Don’t be mad at me for doing something. How about teaming up with me. Let’s all do something. (Applause.) Let’s all get America working.
We are better than this. Gosh, doesn’t it get you just frustrated? (Laughter.) We could do so much more if Republicans in Congress focused less on protecting the folks who’ve got the lobbyists and all that soft money out there. Stop worrying about the folks who already got — are doing just fine. Focus more on stoking opportunity for all people. Work with me. That’s the American way. That’s what makes this country great — a sense of common purpose and patriotism, an economic patriotism that says we fall and we rise as one nation, as one people.
So we can rally America around an economic patriotism that says, don’t give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, let’s give more tax breaks to help working families pay for childcare or college. (Applause.)
Let’s rally around a patriotism that says, don’t give tax loopholes to corporations shifting jobs overseas, let’s put people back to work here rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our airports, making sure the next generation of manufacturing is made in America. That’s patriotism. (Applause.) That’s patriotism.
Don’t stack the deck in favor of those who’ve already succeeded. We’re stronger when we’re helping everybody succeed, cultivating every talent of every child — every 4-year-old in America, give them high-quality preschool so they’re safe and taught well while we go to work and redesign our high schools to better prepare our kids for the 21st century. And tell every American, you know, if your job was stamped “obsolete,” if it was shipped overseas, we’re going to train you for an even better one.
We need an economic patriotism that says it’s a good thing that everybody gets health insurance. That’s not a bad thing. (Applause.) That’s a good thing. It’s a good thing when women are paid the same as men for doing the same work. (Applause.) That’s not un-American. It’s a good thing when parents have some flexibility when their kids are sick. It will make the employees more loyal; they’re more productive. It’s a good thing when nobody who works full-time is living in poverty. That’s not un-American. (Applause.) That’s not radical. It’s right. It’s what built this country.
I know that sometimes it must be frustrating watching what’s going on. I guarantee I get frustrated. There are some things that I have to mutter under my breath sometimes. (Laughter.) And the hardest thing to change in politics is a stubborn status quo. And it’s harder when Washington seems distracted by everything except the things you care about. And there’s a cottage industry in Washington that counts on you just being cynical about stuff, so that you don’t vote, you don’t get involved, you get discouraged, you say a plague on both your houses. But you can’t give into that cynicism. Do not let them win by you being cynical, because despite everything that’s happened, despite all the obstruction, America is making progress. (Applause.)
We’re better off now than we were five years ago. We’re going to be better off five years from now than we are right now. Despite the unyielding opposition of a few, there are workers who have jobs who didn’t have them before. There are families who have health insurance who didn’t have it before. There are students who can afford to go to college who couldn’t afford to go before. There are troops who are home with their families after serving tour after tour of war. (Applause.) Don’t get cynical. (Applause.) Don’t do it.
Cynicism is a popular choice these days. It’s what passes off for wisdom. (Laughter.) But cynicism isn’t wise. And remember that it is a choice. Cynicism is a choice, and hope is a better choice. And it’s a choice that I make every time I sit down with these incredible people that I had dinner with last night. They make me hopeful.
It’s the hope that Alex has when she sits down and she picks up a pen and she writes to the President hoping that the system still works; hoping maybe the letter gets there; hoping that I’ll listen; hoping that even when Washington seems tone deaf, your voice might reach a President, your voice might reach a crowd in a park, your voice might move fellow citizens to change what needs changing.
Every day I receive these thousands of acts of hope from you. I’m listening. It’s why I ran for office. It’s why I’m fighting for you. I will keep treating your cares and concerns as my own. I will keep trying to restore the American Dream for everybody who is willing to work for it.
Thank you, Denver. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
10:57 A.M. MDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 9, 2014
Source: WH, 7-3-14
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
Source: WH, 7-1-14
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
Source: WH, 7-1-14
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
Source: WH, 6-28-14
WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President discussed his recent trip to Minneapolis where he met a working mother named Rebekah, who wrote the President to share the challenges her family and many middle class Americans are facing where they work hard and sacrifice yet still can’t seem to get ahead. But instead of focusing on growing the middle class and expanding opportunity for all, Republicans in Congress continue to block commonsense economic proposals such as raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance and making college more affordable. The President will keep fighting his economic priorities in the weeks and months ahead, because he knows the best way to expand opportunity for all hardworking Americans and continue to strengthen the economy is to grow it from the middle-out.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
The White House
June 28, 2014
Hi, everybody. This week, I spent a couple days in Minneapolis, talking with people about their lives – their concerns, their successes, and their hopes for the future.
I went because of a letter I received from a working mother named Rebekah, who shared with me the hardships her young family has faced since the financial crisis. She and her husband Ben were just newlyweds expecting their first child, Jack, when the housing crash dried up his contracting business. He took what jobs he could, and Rebekah took out student loans and retrained for a new career. They sacrificed – for their kids, and for each other. And five years later, they’ve paid off debt, bought their first home, and had their second son, Henry.
In her letter to me, she wrote, “We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.” And in many ways, that’s America’s story these past five years. We are a strong, tight-knit family that’s made it through some very tough times.
Today, over the past 51 months, our businesses have created 9.4 million new jobs. By measure after measure, our economy is doing better than it was five years ago.
But as Rebekah also wrote in her letter, there are still too many middle-class families like hers who do everything right – who work hard and who sacrifice – but can’t seem to get ahead. It feels like the odds are stacked against them. And with just a small change in our priorities, we could fix that.
The problem is, Republicans in Congress keep blocking or voting down almost every serious idea to strengthen the middle class. This year alone, they’ve said no to raising the minimum wage, no to fair pay, no to student loan reform, no to extending unemployment insurance. And rather than invest in education that helps working families get ahead, they actually voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.
This obstruction keeps the system rigged for those at the top, and rigged against the middle class. And as long as they insist on doing it, I’ll keep taking actions on my own – like the actions I’ve taken already to attract new jobs, lift workers’ wages, and help students pay off their loans. I’ll do my job. And if it makes Republicans in Congress mad that I’m trying to help people out, they can join me, and we’ll do it together.
The point is, we could do so much more as a country – as a strong, tight-knit family – if Republicans in Congress were less interested in stacking the deck for those at the top, and more interested in growing the economy for everybody.
So rather than more tax breaks for millionaires, let’s give more tax breaks to help working families pay for child care or college. Rather than protect tax loopholes that let big corporations set up tax shelters overseas, let’s put people to work rebuilding roads and bridges right here in America. Rather than stack the decks in favor of those who’ve already succeeded, let’s realize that we are stronger as a nation when we offer a fair shot to every American.
I’m going to spend some time talking about these very choices in the week ahead. That’s because we know from our history that our economy doesn’t grow from the top-down, it grows from the middle-out. We do better when the middle class does better. That’s the American way. That’s what I believe in. And that’s what I’ll keep fighting for.
Have a great Fourth of July, everybody – and good luck to Team USA down in Brazil.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 28, 2014
Source: WH, 6-27-14
Lake Harriet Band Shell
10:15 A.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Minneapolis! (Applause.) How is everybody doing today? You look good. (Applause.) It is good to see all of you. I miss Minneapolis. I missed you guys. Go ahead and have a seat, I’m going to be talking for a while. (Laughter.)
So we’ve got some wonderful folks here today. I want to acknowledge a few of them. First of all, your outstanding Governor, Mark Dayton. (Applause.) Your wonderful senators, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar. (Applause.) Congressman Keith Ellison. (Applause.) Your Mayor, Betsy Hodges. (Applause.) And all of you are here, and that’s special.
I want to thank Rebekah for not just the introduction and for sharing her story, but for letting me hang out with her and her family for the last couple of days. I really like her. (Laughter.) And her husband is like the husband of the year. Generally, you don’t want your wife to meet Rebekah’s husband, because she’ll be like, well, why don’t you do that? (Laughter.) Why aren’t you like that?
I’ve been wanting to visit a place where all the women are strong and the men are good-looking, and the children above average. (Applause.) And this clearly is an example of what Minnesota produces. So yesterday, Rebekah and I had lunch at Matt’s Bar, had a “Jucy Lucy” — (applause) — which was quite tasty. We had a town hall at Minnehaha Park, although I did not take a kayak over the falls, which seemed dangerous. (Laughter.) We got ice cream at Grand Ole Creamery — very good, very tasty.
And then this morning, Al Franken and I and Secretary Tom Perez, our Secretary of Labor who’s here — Tom, stand up — (applause) — we stopped by a community organization that helps with a lot of job programs and job placement programs. And this program in particular was focused on young moms. It was really interesting talking to them, because there are teenage mothers, 16 to 18, and it was a great pleasure for me to be able to say to all of them that my mom was a teenage mom, and she was 18 when she had me — and to be able to say to all of them that here in this country, it is possible for the child of a teenage mom, a single mom, to end up being President of the United States. (Applause.) And I think that it maybe gave them something to think about.
So you guys have been great hosts, Minnesota.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you!
THE PRESIDENT: You’re welcome. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. (Laughter and applause.)
So I want to give you a sense of how this visit came up. As some of you know, every day we get tens of thousands of correspondence at the White House. And we have a big correspondence office, and every night the folks who manage the correspondence office select 10 letters for me to read.
And the job of these letters is not to just puff me up — so it’s not like they only send me letters saying, Mr. President, you’re doing great. (Laughter.) Sometimes the letters say thank you for something I may have done. Sometimes the letters say, you are an idiot and the worst President ever. (Laughter.) And most of the stories, though, are stories of hardship, or hard-won success, or hopes that haven’t been met yet. Some appreciate a position that I may have taken; some disagree with what I’m doing. Some consider policies like the Affordable Care Act to be socialism; some tell stories about the difference that same policy may have made in folks’ lives.
So I’m getting a good sample of what’s happening around the country. And last month, three young girls wrote to me that boys aren’t fair because they don’t pass the ball in gym class. (Laughter.) So there’s a wide spectrum — and I’m going to prepare an executive order on that.
But the letter that Rebekah sent stood out — first of all, because she’s a good writer, and also because she’s a good person. And the story that she told me reminded Michelle and I of some of our own experiences when we were Rebekah and her husband’s age. And in many ways, her story for the past five years is our story, it’s the American story.
In early 2009, Rebekah and Ben, her husband, they were newly married, expecting their first son, Jack. She was waiting tables, he was in construction. Like millions of middle-class families who got hammered by the Great Recession — the worst recession since the Great Depression — life was about to get pretty hard. “If only we had known,” she wrote, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.”
Ben’s business dried up. But as a new husband and dad, he did what he had to, so he took whatever jobs he could, even if it forced him to be away from his family for days at a time. Rebekah realized she needed to think about how her career would unfold, so she took out student loans and enrolled in St. Paul College, and retrained for a new career as an accountant.
And it’s been a long, hard road for them. They had to pay off debt. They had to sacrifice for their kids and for one another. But then last year, they were able to buy their first home, and they’ve got a second son. And they love where they work, and Ben’s new job lets him be home for dinner each night. (Applause.) And so what Rebekah wrote was, “It’s amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to. We’re a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”
And that describes the American people. We, too, are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times. And today, over the past 51 months, our businesses have created 9.4 million new jobs. Our housing market is rebounding. Our auto industry is booming. Our manufacturing sector is adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. We’ve made our tax code fairer. We’ve cut our deficits by more than half. More than 8 million Americans have signed up for private insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act. (Applause.) So here in Minnesota, you can now say that the women are strong, the men are good-looking, the children are above average, and 95 percent of you are insured. (Applause.)
And it’s thanks to the hard work of citizens like Rebekah and Ben and so many of you that we’ve come farther, we’ve recovered faster than just about any other advanced economy on Earth. More and more companies are deciding that the world’s number-one place to create jobs and invest is once again the United States of America. (Applause.) That’s the good news. And you don’t hear it very often.
By every economic measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office. (Applause.) You wouldn’t know it, but we are. We’ve made some enormous strides. But that’s not the end of the story. We have more work to do.
It wasn’t the end of Rebekah’s story, because she went on to write in her letter, “We did everything right. The truth is, in America, where two people have done everything they can to succeed and fight back from the brink of financial ruin -– through job loss and retraining, and kids, and credit card debts that are set up to keep you impoverished forever, and the discipline to stop spending any money on yourselves or take a vacation in five years — it’s virtually impossible to live a simple middle-class life.” That’s what Rebekah wrote. Because their income is eaten up by childcare for Jack and Henry that costs more each month than their mortgage. And as I was telling Rebekah — Michelle and I, when we were their age, we had good jobs and we still had to deal with childcare issues and couldn’t figure out how to some months make ends meet.
They forego vacations so they can afford to pay off student loans and save for retirement. “Our big splurge,” Rebekah wrote, “is cable TV, so we can follow our beloved Minnesota Wild, and watch Team USA in the Olympics!” (Applause.) They go out once a week for pizza or a burger. But they’re not splurging. And at the end of the month, things are tight. And this is like this wonderful young couple, with these wonderful kids, who are really working hard.
And the point is, all across this country, there are people just like that, all in this audience. You’re working hard, you’re doing everything right. You believe in the American Dream. You’re not trying to get fabulously wealthy. You just want a chance to build a decent life for yourselves and your families, but sometimes it feels like the odds are rigged against you.
And I think sometimes what it takes for somebody like Rebekah to sit down and write one of these letters. And I believe that even when it’s heartbreaking and it’s hard, every single one of those letters is by definition an act of hope.
Because it’s a hope that the system can listen, that somebody is going to hear you; that even when Washington sometimes seems tone deaf to what’s going on in people’s lives and around kitchen tables, that there’s going to be somebody who’s going to stand up for you and your family.
And that’s why I’m here — because I want to let Rebekah know, and I wanted to let all of you know that — because you don’t see it on TV sometimes. It’s not what the press and the pundits talk about. I’m here to tell you I’m listening, because you’re the reason I ran for President. (Applause.) Because those stories are stories I’ve lived. The same way that when I saw those young teenage moms, I thought of my mother. And when I see Rebekah and Ben, I think of our struggles when Malia and Sasha were young. And they’re not distant from me and everything we do.
I ran for President because I believe this country is at its best when we’re all in it together and when everybody has a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share. (Applause.) And the reason I believe that is because that’s how I came here. That’s how I got here. That’s how Michelle and I were able to succeed. (Applause.) And I haven’t forgotten.
And so even though you may not read about it or see it on TV all the time, our agenda, what we’re fighting for every day, is designed not to solve every problem, but to help just a little bit. To create more good jobs that pay good wages — jobs in manufacturing and construction; energy and innovation. That’s why we’re fighting to train more workers to fill those jobs. That’s why we’re fighting to guarantee every child a world-class education, including early childhood education and better childcare. (Applause.) That’s why we’re fighting to make sure hard work pays off with a wage you can live on and savings you can retire on, and making sure that women get paid the same as men for the same job, and folks have flexibility to look after a sick child or a sick parent. (Applause.)
That’s what we’re fighting for. We’re fighting so everybody has a chance. We’re fighting to vindicate the idea that no matter who you are, or what you look like, or how you grew up, or who you love, or who your parents were, or what your last name is, it doesn’t matter — America is a place where if you’re doing the right thing, like Ben and Rebekah are, and you’re being responsible and you’re taking care of your family, that you can make it.
And the fact is, we can do that. If we do some basic things, if we make some basic changes, we can create more jobs and lift more incomes and strengthen the middle class. And that’s what we should be doing. And I know it drives you nuts that Washington isn’t doing it. And it drives me nuts. (Applause.) And the reason it’s not getting done is, today, even basic commonsense ideas can’t get through this Congress.
And sometimes I’m supposed to be politic about how I say things — (laughter) — but I’m finding lately that I just want to say what’s on my mind. (Applause.) So let me just be clear — I want you think about this — so far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every single serious idea to strengthen the middle class. You may think I’m exaggerating, but let me go through the list. They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage. They’ve said no to fair pay. Some of them have denied that there’s even a problem, despite the fact that women are getting paid 77 cents for every dollar a man is getting paid.
They’ve said no to extending unemployment insurance for more than three million Americans who are out there looking every single day for a new job, despite the fact that we know it would be good not just for those families who are working hard to try to get back on their feet, but for the economy as a whole. Rather than invest in working families getting ahead, they actually voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: Don’t boo, by the way. I want you to vote. (Laughter and applause.) I mean, over and over again, they show that they’ll do anything to keep in place systems that really help folks at the top but don’t help you. And they don’t seem to mind. And their obstruction is keeping a system that is rigged against families like Ben’s and Rebekah’s.
Now, I’m not saying these are all bad people; they’re not. When I’m sitting there just talking to them about family, we get along just fine. Many of them will acknowledge when I talk to them — yes, I know, I wish we could do something more, but I can’t — but they can’t be too friendly towards me because they’d be run out of town by the tea party. (Laughter.)
But sometimes I get a sense they just don’t know what most folks are going through. They keep on offering a theory of the economy that time and again failed for the middle class. They think we should give more tax breaks to those at the top. They think we should invest less in things like education. They think we should let big banks, and credit card companies, and polluters, and insurers do only whatever is best for their bottom line without any responsibility to anybody else. They want to drastically reduce or get rid of the safety net for people trying to work their way into the middle class.
And if we did all these things, they think the economy will thrive and jobs will prosper, and everything will trickle down.
And just because they believe it, it doesn’t mean the rest of us should be believing it — because we’ve tried what they’re peddling, and it doesn’t work. We know from our history that our economy does not grow from the top down, it grows from the middle out. We do better when the middle class does better. We do better when workers are getting a decent salary. We do better when they’ve got decent benefits. (Applause.) We do better when a young family knows that they can get ahead. And we do better when people who are working hard know that they can count on decent childcare at an affordable cost, and that if they get sick they’re not going to lose their homes.
We do better when if somebody is stuck in a job that is not paying well enough, they know they can go get retrained without taking on huge mountains of debt. That’s when things hum. And with just a few changes in priorities, we could get a lot of that done right now if Congress would actually just think about you and not about getting reelected, not about the next election, not about some media sound bite, but just focus on you. (Applause.)
So that’s why I’ve said, look, I want to work with Democrats and Republicans. My favorite President, by the way, was the first Republican President — a guy named Abraham Lincoln. So this is not a statement about partisanship. This is a statement about America and what we’re fighting for. And I’m not going to let gridlock and inaction and willful indifference and greed threaten the hard work of families like yours. And so we can’t afford to wait for Congress right now. And that’s why I’m going ahead and moving ahead without them wherever I can. (Applause.)
That’s why I acted to raise more workers’ wages by requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour. (Applause.) That’s why I acted to help nearly five million Americans make student loan payments cap those payments at 10 percent of their income. That’s why I made sure more women have the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace. (Applause.) That’s why we went ahead and launched new hubs to attract more high-tech manufacturing jobs to America.
And, now, some of you may have read — so we take these actions and then now Republicans are mad at me for taking these actions. They’re not doing anything, and then they’re mad that I’m doing something. I’m not sure which of the things I’ve done they find most offensive, but they’ve decided they’re going to sue me for doing my job. I mean, I might have said in the heat of the moment during one of these debates, “I want to raise the minimum wage, so sue me when I do.” (Laughter.) But I didn’t think they were going to take it literally.
But giving more working Americans a fair shot is not about simply what I can do — it’s about what we can do together. So when Congress doesn’t act, not only have I acted, I’ve also tried to rally others to help. I told CEOs, and governors, and mayors, and state legislatures, for example, they don’t have to wait for Congress to raise the minimum wage. Go ahead and raise your workers’ wages right now. And since I first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, 13 states and D.C. have raised theirs, including Minnesota, where more than 450,000 of your neighbors are poised to get a raise. (Applause.)
When Gap raised wages for its employees, job applications went up through the roof. It was good for business. I even got a letter from a proud mom right here in Minneapolis who just wanted me to know that her son starts his employees at $15 an hour, at Aaron’s Green Cleaning here in town. (Applause.) There they are! (Applause.) So the letter said, “We are very proud of his people-centered business philosophy! Three cheers for a decent living wage!”
So we don’t have to wait for Congress to do some good stuff. On Monday, we held the first-ever White House Summit on Working Families, and we heard from a lot of other families like Ben and Rebekah. They count on policies like paid leave and workplace flexibility to juggle everything. We had business owners who came and told me they became more profitable when they made family life easier for their employees.
So more companies are deciding that higher wages and workplace flexibility is good for business — it reduces turnover, more productive workers, more loyal workers. More cities and states are deciding this is good policy for families. So the only holdout standing in the way of change for tens of millions of Americans are some Republicans in Congress.
Because I just want to be real blunt: If you watch the news, you just see, okay, Washington is a mess, and the basic attitude is everybody is just crazy up there. But if you actually read the fine print, it turns out that the things you care about right now Democrats are promoting. (Applause.) And we’re just not getting enough help.
And my message to Republicans is: Join us. Get on board. If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, then why don’t you join me and we’ll do it together? (Applause.) We’ll do it together. I’m happy to share the credit. You’re mad at me for doing some things to raise the minimum wage, let’s pass a law — Republicans and Democrats giving America a raise.
If you’re mad at me for taking executive action to make it easier for women to find out if they’re not getting treated fairly in the workplace, let’s do it together. You can share the credit. (Applause.) You’re worried about me trying to fix a broken immigration system, let’s hold hands and go ahead and make sure that this country continues to be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. I want to work with you, but you’ve got to give me something. You’ve got to try to deliver something — anything. (Applause.)
They don’t do anything — (laughter) — except block me. And call me names. It can’t be that much fun. (Laughter.) It’d be so much more fun if they said, you know what, let’s do something together. If they were more interested in growing the economy for you, and the issues that you’re talking about, instead of trying to mess with me — (laughter) — then we’d be doing a lot better. That’s what makes this country great, is when we’re all working together. That’s the American way.
Now more than ever, with the 4th of July next week, Team USA moving on down in Brazil — (applause) — we should try to rally around some economic patriotism that says we rise or fall as one nation and one people. Let’s rally around the idea that instead of giving tax breaks for millionaires, let’s give more tax breaks for working families to help pay for childcare or college. (Applause.)
Instead of protecting companies that are shifting profits overseas to avoid paying their fair share, let’s put people to work rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our airports. (Applause.) Let’s invest in manufacturing startups so that we’re creating good jobs making products here in America, here in Minnesota. (Applause.) Rather than stack the deck in favor of those who have already got an awful lot, let’s help folks who have huge talent and potential and ingenuity but just need a little bit of a hand up so that we can tap the potential of every American.
I mean, this isn’t rocket science. There are some things that are complicated — this isn’t one of them. Let’s make sure every 4-year-old in America has access to high school — high-quality preschool — (applause) — so that moms like Rebekah and dads like Ben know their kids are getting the best quality care and getting a head start on life. Let’s redesign our high schools to make sure that our kids are better prepared for the 21st century economy. Let’s follow the lead of Senator Franken and Secretary Perez and give more apprenticeships that connect young people to rewarding careers. (Applause.)
Let’s tell every American if they’ve lost their job because it was shipped overseas, we’re going to train you for an even better one. (Applause.) Let’s rally around the patriotism that says our country is stronger when every American can count on affordable health insurance and Medicare and Social Security, and women earn pay equal to their efforts, and family can make ends meet if their kid get sick, and when nobody who works full-time is living in poverty. We can do all these things.
And so let me just — let me wrap up by saying this. I know sometimes things get kind of discouraging. And I know that our politics looks profoundly broken, and Washington looks like it’s never going to deliver for you. It seems like they’re focused on everything but your concerns. And I know that when I was elected in 2008 and then reelected in 2012, so many of you were hoping that we could get Washington to work differently, and sometimes when I get stymied you’d think, oh, maybe not; maybe it’s just too tough, maybe things won’t change. And I get that frustration. And the critics and the cynics in Washington, they’ve written me off more times than I can count.
But I’m here to tell you, don’t get cynical. Despite all of the frustrations, America is making progress. Despite the unyielding opposition, there are families who have health insurance now who didn’t have it before. And there are students in college who couldn’t afford it before. And there are workers on the job who didn’t have jobs before. And there are troops home with their families after serving tour after tour. (Applause.) Don’t think that we’re not making progress.
So, yes, it’s easy to be cynical; in fact, these days it’s kind of trendy. Cynicism passes off for wisdom. But cynicism doesn’t liberate a continent. Cynicism doesn’t build a transcontinental railroad. Cynicism doesn’t send a man to the moon. Cynicism doesn’t invent the Internet. Cynicism doesn’t give women the right to vote. Cynicism doesn’t make sure that people are treated equally regardless of race.
Cynicism is a choice, and hope is a better choice. And every day I’m lucky to receive thousands of acts of hope — every time somebody sits down and picks up a pen, and writes to me and shares their story, just like Rebekah did. And Rebekah said in her letter — she ended it, she said, “I’m pretty sure this is a silly thing to do to write a letter to the President, but on some level I know that staying silent about what you see and what needs changing, it never makes any difference. So I’m writing to you to let you know what it’s like for us out here in the middle of the country, and I hope you will listen.”
And I’m here because Rebekah wrote to me and I want her to know I’m listening. I’m here as President, because I want you all to know that I’m listening. (Applause.) I ran for office to make sure that anybody who is working hard to meet their dreams has somebody in Washington that is listening. And I’m always going to keep listening. And I’m always going to keep fighting. (Applause.)
And your cares and your concerns are my own, and your hopes for your kids and your grandkids are my own. And I’m always going to be working to restore the American Dream for everybody who’s willing to work for it. (Applause.) And I am not going to get cynical; I’m staying hopeful, and I hope you do too.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
10:50 A.M. CDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 27, 2014
Source: WH, 6-21-14
WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President previewed Monday’s first-ever White House Summit on Working Families where he will bring together businesses leaders and workers to discuss the challenges that working parents face every day and lift up solutions that are good for these families and American businesses. Many working families can’t afford basic needs like childcare or receive simple benefits such as paid family leave that are common in most countries around the world. When hardworking Americans are forced to choose between work and family, America lags behind in a global economy. To stay competitive and economically successful, America needs to bring our workplace policies into the 21st century.
In addition to the address, the White House is also releasing a new report by the Council of Economic Advisers that examines economic benefits that paid family leave policies can have for workers and employers. A copy of that report, which is also embargoed until 6:00 am EDT Saturday June 21st, can be found here.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
The White House
June 21, 2014
Hi, everybody. As President, my top priority is rebuilding an economy where everybody who works hard has the chance to get ahead.
That’s what I’ll spend some time talking about on Monday, at the White House Summit on Working Families. We’re bringing together business leaders and workers to talk about the challenges that working parents face every day, and how we can address them together.
Take paid family leave. Many jobs don’t offer adequate leave to care for a new baby or an ailing parent, so workers can’t afford to be there when their family needs them the most. That’s wrong. And it puts us way behind the times. Only three countries in the world report that they don’t offer paid maternity leave. Three. And the United States is one of them. It’s time to change that. A few states have acted on their own to give workers paid family leave, but this should be available to everyone, because all Americans should be able to afford to care for a family member in need.
Childcare is another challenge. Most working families I know can’t afford thousands a year for childcare, but often that’s what it costs. That leaves parents scrambling just to make sure their kids are safe while they’re at work – forget about giving them the high-quality early childhood education that helps kids succeed in life.
Then there’s the issue of flexibility – the ability to take a few hours off for a parent-teacher conference or to work from home when your kid is sick. Most workers want it, but not enough of them have it. What’s more, it not only makes workers happier – studies show that flexibility can make workers more productive and reduce worker turnover and absenteeism. That’s good for business.
At a time when women make up about half of America’s workforce, outdated workplace policies that make it harder for mothers to work hold our entire economy back. But these aren’t just problems for women. Men also care about who’s watching their kids. They’re rearranging their schedules to make it to soccer games and school plays. Lots of sons help care for aging parents. And plenty of fathers would love to be home for their new baby’s first weeks in the world.
In fact, in a new study, nearly half of all parents – women and men – report that they’ve said no to a job, not because they didn’t want it, but because it would be too hard on their families. When that many talented, hard-working people are forced to choose between work and family, something’s wrong. Other countries are making it easier for people to have both. We should too, if we want American businesses to compete and win in the global economy.
Family leave. Childcare. Flexibility. These aren’t frills – they’re basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses – they should be the bottom line.
The good news is, some businesses are embracing family-friendly policies, because they know it’s key to attracting and retaining talented employees. And I’m going to keep highlighting the businesses that do. Because I take this personally. I take it personally as the son and grandson of some strong women who worked hard to support my sister and me. As the husband of a brilliant woman who struggled to balance work and raising our young ladies when my job often kept me away. And as the father of two beautiful girls, whom I want to be there for as much as I possibly can – and whom I hope will be able to have families and careers of their own one day.
We know from our history that our economy grows best from the middle-out; that our country does better when everybody participates; when everyone’s talents are put to use; when we all have a fair shot. That’s the America I believe in. That’s the America I’ll keep fighting for every day. Thanks, and have a great weekend.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 21, 2014