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

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

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

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WH, 10-11-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Political Musings October 6, 2014: Long-term jobless rate remains high Obama, Boehner ignore unemployment extension

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Long-term jobless rate remains high Obama, Boehner ignore unemployment extension

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The main headline for the September jobs report released on Friday, Oct. 3, 2014 was for the first time in six years the unemployment rate is under six percent, coming in at 5.9 percent. What was lost in the…READ MORE

Political Musings October 5, 2014: Obama praises September jobs report pitches raising minimum wage in midterm push

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama praises September jobs report pitches raising minimum wage in midterm push

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The economy is rebounding, the September jobs report released on Friday, Oct. 3, 2014 shows that for the first time in six years the unemployment rate is under six percent, coming in at 5.9 percent. President Barack Obama did…READ MORE

Political Musings October 5, 2014: GOP make midterms referendum on Obama, as president refocuses on the economy

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

GOP make midterms referendum on Obama, as president refocuses on the economy

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With just a month to the midterm elections, President Barack Obama decided to help the Democrats, and ultimately himself by delivering a speech about the state of the economy on Thursday, Oct. 2, at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: We Do Better When the Middle Class Does Better — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: We Do Better When the Middle Class Does Better

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
Weekly Address
Princeton, Indiana
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.

Full Text Obama Presidency October 3, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Town Hall on Manufacturing at Millennium Steel — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at a Town Hall on Manufacturing

Source: WH, 10-3-14 

Millennium Steel
Princeton, Indiana

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.

Great question.

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.)

END
P.M. CDT

Full Text Obama Presidency October 2, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy at Northwestern University — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy — Northwestern University

Source: WH, 10-2-14 

Northwestern University
Evanston, Illinois

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.

END
2:06 P.M. CDT

Political Musings September 18, 2014: Weekly jobless claims drops, Congress recesses, unemployment extension ignored

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Weekly jobless claims drops, Congress recesses, unemployment extension ignored

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Congress is about to recess yet again, and once more, they ignored the unemployment benefits extension, while world crises overwhelmed their legislative priorities amidst reports of weekly jobs claims falling. On Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014, the Department of Labor released…READ MORE

University Musings March 14, 2014: Bachelor’s degree value rises becomes new high school diploma

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Bachelor’s degree value rises becomes new high school diploma

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Two recent surveys one released in the United States the other in Canada indicate that even with recent high unemployment rates for college and university graduates, getting a college degree is definitely worth the cost. In the U.S. the…READ MORE

Political Musings April 19, 2014: Obama and Biden announce 500 million in economic opportunity job training grants

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama and Biden announce 500 million in economic opportunity job training grants

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama with the help of Vice President Joe Biden announced the latest effort in his economy opportunity program a competition for $500 million in grants for job training programs on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at Community College of…READ MORE
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Political Musings April 7, 2014: Senate passes unemployment benefits extension bill 59-38, now moves to House

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Senate passes unemployment benefits extension bill 59-38, now moves to House

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The Senate passed on Monday, April 7, 2014 the full and final vote on the long-term jobless unemployment benefits extension bill with 59 votes for and 38 against with six Republicans joining the Democrats to pass the bill, while…READ MORE

Political Musings March 23, 2014: Obama pushes equal pay for women and raising the minimum wage in weekly address

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Political Musings March 22, 2014: Obama promotes economic opportunity for women urges equal pay for equal work

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Believing something needs to be done to ensure equal pay for equal work, President Barack Obama promoted on Thursday, March 20, 2014 women’s economic problems and “a women’s economic agenda that grows our economy for…Continue

Political Musings February 28, 2014: Emotional Obama launches My Brother’s Keeper program to help minority youth

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Emotional Obama launches My Brother’s Keeper program to help minority youth

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama launched the most personal program to date when on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 27, 2014 he announced in the White House’s East Room another part of his economic opportunity program, called “My Brother’s Keeper…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 27, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech Launching My Brother’s Keeper, His New Initiative to Help Young Men of Color

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President Obama Launches My Brother’s Keeper, His New Initiative to Help Young Men of Color

Source: WH, 2-27-14

This afternoon, in the East Room of the White House, President Obama delivered remarks at the launch event for My Brother’s Keeper — his new initiative aimed at helping young men and boys of color facing tough odds reach their full potential. The initiative will bring together private philanthropies, businesses, governors, mayors, faith leaders, and nonprofit organizations that are committed to helping them succeed….READ MORE

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an event to highlight "My Brother's Keeper," an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color, in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 27, 2014.President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an event to highlight “My Brother’s Keeper,” an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color, in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 27, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Remarks by the President on “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative

Source: WH, 2-27-14

East Room

3:43 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Well, good afternoon, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Good afternoon.

THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House.  And thank you, Christian, for that outstanding introduction.  And thank you for cheering for the White Sox, which is the right thing to do.  (Laughter.)  Like your parents and your teachers, I could not be prouder of you.  I could not be prouder of the other young men who are here today.  But just so we’re clear — you’re only excused for one day of school.  (Laughter.)  And I’m assuming you’ve got your assignments with you so that you can catch up — perhaps even on the flight back.  (Laughter.)

As Christian mentioned, I first met Christian about a year ago.  I visited the Hyde Park Academy in Chicago, which is only about a mile from my house.  And Christian was part of this program called “Becoming a Man.”  It’s a program that Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced to me.  And it helps young men who show a lot of potential but may have gotten in some trouble to stay on the right path.

They get help with schoolwork, but they also learn life skills like how to be a responsible citizen, and how to deal with life’s challenges, and how to manage frustrations in a constructive way, and how to set goals for themselves.  And it works.  One study found that, among young men who participate in the BAM program, arrests for violent crimes dropped 44 percent, and they were more likely to graduate from high school.  (Applause.)

So as Christian mentioned, during my visit, they’re in a circle and I sat down in the circle, and we went around, led by their counselor, and guys talked about their lives, talked about their stories.  They talked about what they were struggling with, and how they were trying to do the right thing, and how sometimes they didn’t always do the right thing.  And when it was my turn, I explained to them that when I was their age I was a lot like them.  I didn’t have a dad in the house.  And I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time.  I made bad choices.  I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do.  I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have.  I made excuses.  Sometimes I sold myself short.

And I remember when I was saying this — Christian, you may remember this — after I was finished, the guy sitting next to me said, “Are you talking about you?”  (Laughter.)  I said, yes.

And the point was I could see myself in these young men.  And the only difference is that I grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving, so when I made a mistake the consequences were not as severe.  I had people who encouraged me — not just my mom and grandparents, but wonderful teachers and community leaders — and they’d push me to work hard and study hard and make the most of myself.  And if I didn’t listen they said it again.  And if I didn’t listen they said it a third time. And they would give me second chances, and third chances.  They never gave up on me, and so I didn’t give up on myself.

I told these young men my story then, and I repeat it now because I firmly believe that every child deserves the same chances that I had.  And that’s why we’re here today — to do what we can, in this year of action, to give more young Americans the support they need to make good choices, and to be resilient, and to overcome obstacles, and achieve their dreams.

This is an issue of national importance — it’s as important as any issue that I work on.  It’s an issue that goes to the very heart of why I ran for President — because if America stands for anything, it stands for the idea of opportunity for everybody; the notion that no matter who you are, or where you came from, or the circumstances into which you are born, if you work hard, if you take responsibility, then you can make it in this country.  (Applause.)  That’s the core idea.

And that’s the idea behind everything that I’ll do this year, and for the rest of my presidency.  Because at a time when the economy is growing, we’ve got to make sure that every American shares in that growth, not just a few.  And that means guaranteeing every child in America has access to a world-class education.  It means creating more jobs and empowering more workers with the skills they need to do those jobs.  It means making sure that hard work pays off with wages you can live on and savings you can retire on and health care that you can count on.  It means building more ladders of opportunity into the middle class for anybody who’s willing to work hard to climb them.

Those are national issues.  They have an impact on everybody.  And the problem of stagnant wages and economic insecurity and stalled mobility are issues that affect all demographic groups all across the country.  My administration’s policies — from early childhood education to job training, to minimum wages — are designed to give a hand up to everybody, every child, every American willing to work hard and take responsibility for their own success.  That’s the larger agenda.
But the plain fact is there are some Americans who, in the aggregate, are consistently doing worse in our society — groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions; groups who’ve seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations.  And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color.

Now, to say this is not to deny the enormous strides we’ve made in closing the opportunity gaps that marred our history for so long.  My presence is a testimony to that progress.  Across this country, in government, in business, in our military, in communities in every state we see extraordinary examples of African American and Latino men who are standing tall and leading, and building businesses, and making our country stronger.  Some of those role models who have defied the odds are with us here today — the Magic Johnsons or the Colin Powells who are doing extraordinary things — the Anthony Foxxes.

Anthony, yesterday he and I were talking about how both of us never knew our dads, and shared that sense of both how hard that had been but also how that had driven us to succeed in many ways.  So there are examples of extraordinary achievement.  We all know that.  We don’t need to stereotype and pretend that there’s only dysfunction out there.  But 50 years after Dr. King talked about his dream for America’s children, the stubborn fact is that the life chances of the average black or brown child in this country lags behind by almost every measure, and is worse for boys and young men.

If you’re African American, there’s about a one in two chance you grow up without a father in your house — one in two. If you’re Latino, you have about a one in four chance.  We know that boys who grow up without a father are more likely to be poor, more likely to underperform in school.

As a black student, you are far less likely than a white student to be able to read proficiently by the time you are in 4th grade.  By the time you reach high school, you’re far more likely to have been suspended or expelled.  There’s a higher chance you end up in the criminal justice system, and a far higher chance that you are the victim of a violent crime.  Fewer young black and Latino men participate in the labor force compared to young white men.  And all of this translates into higher unemployment rates and poverty rates as adults.

And the worst part is we’ve become numb to these statistics.  We’re not surprised by them.  We take them as the norm.  We just assume this is an inevitable part of American life, instead of the outrage that it is.  (Applause.)  That’s how we think about it.  It’s like a cultural backdrop for us — in movies and television.  We just assume, of course, it’s going to be like that.  But these statistics should break our hearts.  And they should compel us to act.

Michelle and I are blessed with two beautiful daughters.  We don’t have a son.  But I know if I had a son, on the day he was born I would have felt everything I felt with Malia and Sasha — the awe, the gratitude, the overwhelming sense of responsibility to do everything in my power to protect that amazing new life from this big world out there.  And just as our daughters are growing up into wonderful, beautiful young women, I’d want my son to feel a sense of boundless possibility.  And I’d want him to have independence and confidence.  And I’d want him to have empathy and compassion.  I’d want him to have a sense of diligence and commitment, and a respect for others and himself — the tools that he’d need to succeed.

I don’t have a son, but as parents, that’s what we should want not just for our children, but for all children.  (Applause.)  And I believe the continuing struggles of so many boys and young men — the fact that too many of them are falling by the wayside, dropping out, unemployed, involved in negative behavior, going to jail, being profiled — this is a moral issue for our country.  It’s also an economic issue for our country.

After all, these boys are a growing segment of our population.  They are our future workforce.  When, generation after generation, they lag behind, our economy suffers.  Our family structure suffers.  Our civic life suffers.  Cycles of hopelessness breed violence and mistrust.  And our country is a little less than what we know it can be.  So we need to change the statistics — not just for the sake of the young men and boys, but for the sake of America’s future.

That’s why, in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin verdict, with all the emotions and controversy that it sparked, I spoke about the need to bolster and reinforce our young men, and give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them.  (Applause.)  And I’m grateful that Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina and Tracy, are here with us today, along with Jordan Davis’s parents, Lucy and Ron.

In my State of the Union address last month, I said I’d pick up the phone and reach out to Americans willing to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds to stay on track and reach their full potential, so America can reach its full potential.  And that’s what today is all about.

After months of conversation with a wide range of people, we’ve pulled together private philanthropies and businesses, mayors, state and local leaders, faith leaders, nonprofits, all who are committed to creating more pathways to success.  And we’re committed to building on what works.  And we call it “My Brother’s Keeper.”

Now, just to be clear — “My Brother’s Keeper” is not some big, new government program.  In my State of the Union address, I outlined the work that needs to be done for broad-based economic growth and opportunity for all Americans.  We have manufacturing hubs, infrastructure spending — I’ve been traveling around the country for the last several weeks talking about what we need to do to grow the economy and expand opportunity for everybody.  And in the absence of some of those macroeconomic policies that create more good jobs and restore middle-class security, it’s going to be harder for everyone to make progress.  And for the last four years, we’ve been working through initiatives like Promise Zones to help break down the structural barriers — from lack of transportation to substandard schools — that afflict some of this country’s most impoverished counties, and we’ll continue to promote these efforts in urban and rural counties alike.

Those are all government initiatives, government programs that we think are good for all Americans and we’re going to keep on pushing for them.  But what we’re talking about here today with “My Brother’s Keeper” is a more focused effort on boys and young men of color who are having a particularly tough time.  And in this effort, government cannot play the only — or even the primary — role.  We can help give every child access to quality preschool and help them start learning from an early age, but we can’t replace the power of a parent who’s reading to that child. We can reform our criminal justice system to ensure that it’s not infected with bias, but nothing keeps a young man out of trouble like a father who takes an active role in his son’s life.  (Applause.)

In other words, broadening the horizons for our young men and giving them the tools they need to succeed will require a sustained effort from all of us.  Parents will have to parent — and turn off the television, and help with homework.  (Applause.) Teachers will need to do their part to make sure our kids don’t fall behind and that we’re setting high expectations for those children and not giving up on them.  Business leaders will need to create more mentorships and apprenticeships to show more young people what careers are out there.  Tech leaders will need to open young eyes to fields like computer science and engineering. Faith leaders will need to help our young men develop the values and ethical framework that is the foundation for a good and productive life.

So we all have a job to do.  And we can do it together — black and white, urban and rural, Democrat and Republican.  So often, the issues facing boys and young men of color get caught up in long-running ideological arguments about race and class, and crime and poverty, the role of government, partisan politics. We’ve all heard those arguments before.  But the urgency of the situation requires us to move past some of those old arguments and focus on getting something done and focusing on what works.  It doesn’t mean the arguments are unimportant; it just means that they can’t paralyze us.  And there’s enough goodwill and enough overlap and agreement that we should be able to go ahead and get some things done, without resolved everything about our history or our future.

Twenty years ago, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson started a program in the Miami public school system — feel free to stand up.  (Applause.)  To help young boys at risk of dropping out of school.  Today, it serves thousands of students in dozens of schools.

As Mayor of New York, Mayor Bloomberg — Michael Bloomberg, who’s here today, started a “Young Men’s Initiative” for African-American and Latino boys, because he understood that in order for America to compete we need to make it easier for all our young people to do better in the classroom and find a job once they graduate.

A bipartisan group of mayors called “Cities United” has made this issue a priority in communities across the country.  Senator Mike Lee — a leader of the tea party — has been working with Senator Dick Durbin — a Democrat from my home state of Illinois — to reduce disparities in our criminal justice system that have hit the African American and Latino communities especially hard.

So I want to thank everybody who’s been doing incredible work — many of the people who are here today, including members of Congress, who have been focused on this and are moving the needle in their communities and around the country.

They understand that giving every young person who’s willing to work hard a shot at opportunity should not be a partisan issue.  Yes, we need to train our workers, invest in our schools, make college more affordable — and government has a role to play.  And, yes, we need to encourage fathers to stick around, and remove the barriers to marriage, and talk openly about things like responsibility and faith and community.  In the words of Dr. King, it is not either-or; it is both-and.

And if I can persuade Sharpton and O’Reilly to be in the same meeting — (laughter and applause) — then it means that there are people of good faith who want to get some stuff done, even if we don’t agree on everything.  And that’s our focus.

While there may not be much of an appetite in Congress for sweeping new programs or major new initiatives right now, we all know we can’t wait.  And so the good news is folks in the private sector who know how important boosting the achievement of young men of color is to this country — they are ready to step up.

Today, I’m pleased to announce that some of the most forward-looking foundations in America are looking to invest at least $200 million over the next five years — on top of the $150 million that they’ve already invested — to test which strategies are working for our kids and expand them in cities across the country.  (Applause.)

Many of these folks have been on the front lines in this fight for a long time.  What’s more, they’re joined by business leaders, corporate leaders, entrepreneurs who are stepping forward to support this effort as well.  And my administration is going to do its part.  So today after my remarks are done, I’m going to pen this presidential memorandum directing the federal government not to spend more money, but to do things smarter, to determine what we can do right now to improve the odds for boys and young men of color, and make sure our agencies are working more effectively with each other, with those businesses, with those philanthropies, and with local communities to implement proven solutions.

And part of what makes this initiative so promising is that we actually know what works — and we know when it works. Now, what do I mean by that?  Over the years, we’ve identified key moments in the life of a boy or a young man of color that will, more often than not, determine whether he succeeds, or falls through the cracks.  We know the data.  We know the statistics.  And if we can focus on those key moments, those life-changing points in their lives, you can have a big impact; you can boost the odds for more of our kids.

First of all, we know that during the first three years of life, a child born into a low-income family hears 30 million fewer words than a child born into a well-off family.  And everybody knows babies are sponges, they just soak that up.  A 30-million-word deficit is hard to make up.  And if a black or Latino kid isn’t ready for kindergarten, he’s half as likely to finish middle school with strong academic and social skills.  So by giving more of our kids access to high-quality early education — and by helping parents get the tools they need to help their children succeed — we can give more kids a better shot at the career they’re capable of, and the life that will make us all better off.  So that’s point number one right at the beginning.

Point number two, if a child can’t read well by the time he’s in 3rd grade, he’s four times less likely to graduate from high school by age 19 than one who can.  And if he happens to be poor, he’s six times less likely to graduate.  So by boosting reading levels, we can help more of our kids make the grade, keep on advancing, reach that day that so many parents dream of — until it comes close and then you start tearing up — and that’s when they’re walking across the stage, holding that high school diploma.

Number three, we know that Latino kids are almost twice as likely as white kids to be suspended from school.  Black kids are nearly four times as likely.  And if a student has been suspended even once by the time they’re in 9th grade they are twice as likely to drop out.

That’s why my administration has been working with schools on alternatives to the so-called “zero tolerance” guidelines — not because teachers or administrators or fellow students shold have to put up with bad behavior, but because there are ways to modify bad behavior that lead to good behavior — as opposed to bad behavior out of school.  We can make classrooms good places for learning for everybody without jeopardizing a child’s future. (Applause.)   And by building on that work, we can keep more of our young men where they belong — in the classroom, learning, growing, gaining the skills they need to succeed.

Number four, we know that students of color are far more likely than their white classmates to find themselves in trouble with the law.  If a student gets arrested, he’s almost twice as likely to drop out of school.  By making sure our criminal justice system doesn’t just function as a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, we can help young men of color stay out of prison, stay out of jail.  And that means then, they’re more likely to be employable, and to invest in their own families, and to pass on a legacy of love and hope.

And finally, we know young black men are twice as likely as young white men to be “disconnected” — not in school, not working.  We’ve got to reconnect them.  We’ve got to give more of these young men access to mentors.  We’ve got to contine to encourage responsible fatherhood.  We’ve got to provide more pathways to apply to college or find a job.  We can keep them from falling through the cracks, and help them lay a foundation for a career and a family and a better life.

In the discussion before we came in, General Powell talked about the fact that there are going to be some kids who just don’t have a family at home that is functional, no matter how hard we try.  But just an adult, any adult who’s paying attention can make a difference.  Any adult who cares can make a difference.

Magic was talking about being in a school in Chicago, and rather than going to the school he brought the school to the company, All-State, that was doing the work.  And suddenly, just that one conversation meant these young men saw something different.  A world opened up for them.  It doesn’t take that much.  But it takes more than we’re doing now.

And that’s what “My Brother’s Keeper” is all about — helping more of our young people stay on track; providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future;  building on what works, when it works, in those critical life-changing moments.  And when I say, by the way, building on what works, it means looking at the actual evidence of what works.  There are a lot of programs out there that sound good, are well-intentioned, well-inspired, but they’re not actually having an impact.  We don’t have enough money or time or resources to invest in things that don’t work, so we’ve got to be pretty hard-headed about saying if something is not working, let’s stop doing it.  Let’s do things that work.  And we shouldn’t care whether it was a Democratic program or a Republican program, or a fait-based program or — if it works, we should support it.  If it doesn’t, we shouldn’t.

And all the time recognizing that “my neighbor’s child is my child” — that each of us has an obligation to give every child the same chance this country gave so many of us.

So, in closing, let me just say this.  None of this is going to be easy.  This is not a one-year proposition.  It’s not a two-year proposition.  It’s going to take time.  We’re dealing with complicated issues that run deep in our history, run deep in our society, and are entrenched in our minds.  And addressing these issues will have to be a two-way bargain.  Because no matter how much the community chips in, it’s ultimately going to be up to these young men and all the young men who are out there to step up and seize responsibility for their own lives.  (Applause.)

And that’s why I want to close by speaking directly to the young men who are here today and all the boys and young men who are watching at home.  Part of my message, part of our message in this initiative is “no excuses.”  Government and private sector and philanthropy and all the faith communities — we all have a responsibility to help provide you the tools you need; we’ve got to help you knock down some of the barriers that you experience. That’s what we’re here for.  But you’ve got responsibilities, too.

And I know you can meet the challenge — many of you already are — if you make the effort.  It may be hard, but you will have to reject the cynicism that says the circumstances of your birth or society’s lingering injustices necessarily define you and your future.  It will take courage, but you will have to tune out the naysayers who say the deck is stacked against you, you might as well just give up — or settle into the stereotype.

It’s not going to happen overnight, but you’re going to have to set goals and you’re going to have to work for those goals.  Nothing will be given to you.  The world is tough out there, there’s a lot of competition for jobs and college positions, and everybody has to work hard.  But I know you guys can succeed.  We’ve got young men up here who are starting to make those good choices because somebody stepped in and gave them a sense of how they might go about it.

And I know it can work because of men like Maurice Owens, who’s here today.  I want to tell Moe’s story just real quick.

When Moe was four years old, he moved with his mom Chauvet from South Carolina to the Bronx.  His mom didn’t have a lot of money, and they lived in a tough neighborhood.  Crime was high.  A lot of young men ended up in jail or worse.  But she knew the importance of education, so she got Moe into the best elementary school that she could find.  And every morning, she put him on a bus; every night, she welcomed him when he came home.

She took the initiative, she eventually found a sponsorship program that allowed Moe to attend a good high school.  And while many of his friends got into trouble, some of it pretty serious, Moe just kept on getting on the bus, and kept on working hard and reaching for something better.  And he had some adults in his life that were willing to give him advice and help him along the way.  And he ended up going to college.  And he ended up serving his country in the Air Force.  And today, Moe works in the White House, just two doors down from the Oval Office, as the Special Assistant to my Chief of Staff.  (Applause.)  And Moe never misses a chance to tell kids who grew up just like he did that if he can make it, they can, too.

Moe and his mom are here today, so I want to thank them both for this incredible example.  Stand up, Moe, and show off your mom there.  (Applause.)  Good job, Moe.

So Moe didn’t make excuses.  His mom had high expectations. America needs more citizens like Moe.  We need more young men like Christian.  We will beat the odds.  We need to give every child, no matter what they look like, where they live, the chance to reach their full potential.  Because if we do — if we help these wonderful young men become better husbands and fathers, and well-educated, hardworking, good citizens — then not only will they contribute to the growth and prosperity of this country, but they will pass on those lessons on to their children, on to their grandchildren, will start a different cycle.  And this country will be richer and stronger for it for generations to come.

So let’s get going.  Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
4:17 P.M. EST

Political Musings February 2, 2014: Obama urges CEOs to hire long-term unemployed after benefits extension fails

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama urges CEOs to hire long-term unemployed after benefits extension fails

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In effort to compensate for Congress not extending unemployment benefits to the long-term jobless, on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 President Barack Obama urged CEOs of 20 major companies to not “discriminate” and give them an equal chance…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency January 15, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy, Unemployment Benefits Extension and the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation in North Carolina

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

North Carolina Is Home to America’s Newest High-Tech Manufacturing Hub

Remarks by the President on the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation

Source: WH, 1-15-14

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks on the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation
January 15, 2014 6:02 PM

President Obama Speaks on the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on manufacturinPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks on manufacturing at the J.W. Isenhour Tennis Center at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., Jan. 15, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

J.W. Isenhour Tennis Center
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina

1:14 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Raleigh!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Well, it is good to be back in North Carolina.  (Applause.)  If you have a seat, go ahead and have a seat.  Now, if you don’t have a seat, don’t.  (Laughter.)

It is good to be here at the home of the Wolfpack.  (Applause.)  I want to thank your chancellor, Randy Woodson, for the introduction and the great work that he’s doing on behalf of students all across the system.  I want to recognize my Secretary of Energy, Ernie Moniz, who is here.  Give him a big round of applause — he’s doing good work.  (Applause.)  Your Governor, Pat McCrory, is here.  (Applause.)  The Mayor of Raleigh, Nancy McFarlane.  (Applause.)  The Mayor of Chapel Hill, Mark Kleinschmidt.  (Applause.)  The Mayor of Durham, Bill Bell.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got Congressman Mike McIntyre doing great work.  (Applause.)  Your Senator, Kay Hagan, couldn’t be here, but I wanted to thank her publicly for the great work she’s doing.  (Applause.)

And I want to thank all the students for coming out.  We’re doing this event nice and early so it doesn’t run up against the Wake game.  (Applause.)  I’ve learned a few things as President, and one of them is not to compete with college basketball down here on Tobacco Road.  You don’t do that.  (Applause.)

Now, this is actually my second stop in Raleigh-Durham.  I just took a tour of a company called Vacon, where workers design the drives that power everything from elevators to the giant fans that help cool buildings like this one — although I think we’re kind of saving money on this — (laughter) — which is the smart thing to do.

So this company is making these engines and these systems more efficient, saving businesses big bucks on energy costs, improving the environment.  Those savings get passed on to customers, puts money in people’s pockets.  And growing companies that need the products that Vacon makes, they’re benefitting enormously.  So it’s a good-news story.  But in a global economy, that company, just like every company in America, has to keep inventing and innovating in order to stay on the cutting edge.  And that’s where all of you come in.

Here at NC State, you know something about innovation.  You’ve got one of the largest undergraduate engineering programs in the country.  That’s worth cheering for.  (Applause.)  I’m a lawyer by training, and that is nice.  But we need more engineers.  (Applause.)

Companies like Cisco and IBM, they come to this school when they’re looking to hire because of the quality of the engineering program.  And over at Centennial Campus — (applause) — some very smart people experiment in state-of-the-art facilities to figure out everything from how to design better fireproof fabrics to how to better protect our computer systems.

So the reason I came here today is because we’ve got to do more to connect universities like NC State with companies like Vacon to make America the number-one place in the world to open new businesses and create new jobs.  We want to do that here in North Carolina, and we want to do this all across America.  (Applause.)

Now, it’s been more than five years since a devastating recession cost this country millions of jobs, and it hurt North Carolina pretty tough.  But everyone here knows that even before the recession hit, the middle class had been hitting — getting hit on the chin for years before that.  Here in North Carolina, factories were shutting their doors, jobs were getting shipped overseas.  Wages and incomes were flat-lining, so even if you had a job you didn’t see your standard of living going up very much. Meanwhile the cost of everything from college tuition to groceries did go up.

So when I took office, we decided to focus on the hard work of rebuilding our economy on a new foundation for growth and prosperity, and to make sure that everybody had a chance to get ahead.  And thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of the American people, the good news is the economy is growing stronger.  (Applause.)  Our businesses have now created more than 8 million new jobs since we hit bottom.  Because of an all-of-the-above strategy for American energy, for the first time in nearly two decades we produce more oil here in the United States than we buy from the rest of the world.  That hasn’t happened in a very long time.  (Applause.)  We now generate more renewable energy than ever before, more natural gas than anybody on the planet.  (Applause.)  We’re lowering energy costs, reducing pollution.

Health care costs are growing at their slowest rate in 50 years.  For the first time since the 1990s, health care costs eat up a smaller chunk of our economy, and part of that, yes, has to do with the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.)  And so over time, that means bigger paychecks for middle-class families, bigger savings for companies that are looking to hire.  And along with all this, since I took office we’ve cut our deficits by more than half.  (Applause.)

So we’ve made progress.  And that’s what I mean when I say this can be a breakthrough year for America.  The pieces are all there to start bringing back more of the jobs that we’ve lost over the past decade.  A lot of companies around the world are starting to talk about bringing jobs back to the United States, bringing jobs back to places like North Carolina — partly because we got cheap energy costs, we’ve got the best workers in the world, we’ve got the best university systems in the world — (applause) — and we’ve got the largest market in the world.

So the pieces are there to restore some of the ground that the middle class has lost in recent decades, start raising wages for American families.  But it requires us to take action.  This has to be a year of action.

And here in North Carolina, you’re doing your part to create good jobs that pay good wages.  Congress has to do its part, too — because restoring the American Dream of opportunity for everyone who’s willing to work for it is something that should unite the country.  That shouldn’t divide the country.  That’s what we should be aspiring to — that everybody has a shot if they’re willing to work hard and take responsibility.  (Applause.)

So in the short term, one thing Congress could do is listen to the majority of the American people and restore the unemployment insurance for Americans who need it.   (Applause.)  And let me just make an aside here.  North Carolina still has a higher-than-average unemployment rate, so this is important to this state.  Folks aren’t looking for a handout.  They’re not looking for special treatment.  There are a lot of people who are sending our resumes every single day, but the market — the job market is still tough in pockets around the country, and people need support, a little help, so they can look after their families while they’re looking for a new job.  (Applause.)  So Congress should do the right thing and extend this vital lifeline for millions of Americans.

Of course, that’s just short term.  Long term, the challenge of making sure everybody who works hard can get ahead in today’s economy is so important that we can’t wait for Congress to solve it.  Where I can act on my own without Congress, I’m going to do so.

And today, I’m here to act — to help make Raleigh-Durham, and America, a magnet for the good, high-tech manufacturing jobs that a growing middle class requires and that are going to continue to keep this country on the cutting edge.  (Applause.)

So we’ve already got some success to build on.  Manufacturing is a bright spot in this economy.  For decades we’d been losing manufacturing jobs.  But now our manufacturers have added over the last four years more than 550,000 new jobs, including almost 80,000 manufacturing jobs in the last five months alone.  So we want to keep that trend going.  We want to build on the kind of work that’s being done in places like NC State to develop technology that leads to new jobs and entire new industries.

So a little over a year ago, we launched America’s first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio.  And what it was is a partnership; it includes companies and colleges.  They came up with a joint plan.  They were focusing on developing 3D printing technology and training workers with the skills required to master that technology.

Now, that was a great start.  We got one going and some of the folks from Youngstown are here today, and we congratulate them on the great work they’re doing.  But here’s the problem:  We created one; in Germany, they’ve already got about 60 of these manufacturing innovation hubs.  So we’ve got some catching up to do.  I don’t want the next big job-creating discovery, the research and technology to be in Germany or China or Japan.  I want it to be right here in the United States of America.  I want it to be right here in North Carolina.  (Applause.)

So what I said was in my State of the Union address last year, I said to Congress, let’s set up a network of at least 15 of these manufacturing hubs all across America, focusing on different opportunities where we can get manufacturing innovation going, create jobs, make sure that the research is tied to businesses that are actually hiring, and those synergies are going to grow the economy regionally and ultimately across the whole country.

And last summer, as part of our push to create middle-class jobs, I said, you know what, let’s not settle on 15, let’s just go ahead and do 45.  Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate introduced bills that would get this going — that’s good.  But they haven’t passed the bills yet.  So I want to encourage them to continue to pass the bills that would create 45 of these manufacturing hubs.  In the meantime, I’m directing my administration to move forward where we can on our own.

So today, after almost a year of competition, I’m pleased to announce America’s newest high-tech manufacturing hub — which is going to be focused on the next generation of power electronics  — is going to be based right here in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Applause.)  That’s good news.  That’s good news.  (Applause.)   That’s good news.  It’s great.  (Applause.)

So just like the hub in Youngstown, what we’re calling the Next Generation Power Electronics Innovation Institute is bringing together leading companies, universities, and federal research all together under one roof.  Folks at this hub are going to develop what are called “wide bandgap semiconductors.”

Now, I was just schooled on all this.  (Laughter.)  I’m not sure that I’m fully qualified to describe the technical elements of this.  Raise your hand if you know what that is.  (Laughter.) See, we’ve got some.  (Laughter.)  For all you non-engineers out there, here’s what it means in the simplest terms.  Semiconductors, obviously, are at the heart of every piece of the electronics that we use every day — your smartphone, your television set, these days everything.  Public research helped develop them decades ago, and then that research allowed commercialization, new products, new services, and obviously not only improved the economy, but greatly enhanced our lives.  So we want companies to run with the ball also, but first we’ve got to make sure that we’re also doing the research and linking it up to those companies.

Wide bandgap semiconductors, they’re special because they lose up to 90 percent less power; they can operate at higher temperatures than normal semiconductors.  So that means they can make everything from cell phones to industrial motors to electric cars smaller, faster, cheaper.  There are going to be still applications for the traditional semiconductors, but these can be focused on certain areas that will vastly improve energy efficiency, vastly improve the quality of our lives.  And the country that figures out how to do this first, and the companies that figure how to do this best, they’re the ones that are going to attract the jobs that come with it.

So this manufacturing hub, right here, focused in North Carolina —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  GoPack!

THE PRESIDENT:  GoPack!  (Laughter and applause.)  This hub is going to make it easier for these wide bandgap semiconductors to go from the drawing board to the factory floor to the store shelves — or not necessarily the store shelves, because what I just saw, for example, were these really big pieces of equipment that are attached to utility companies or help windmills translate the power they’re generating actually get transmitted to where they’re going to be finally used.  It’s going to bring together chip designers and manufacturers with companies like Vacon and Delphi that stand to benefit from these new technologies.  And this will help big companies, but it’s also going to help small companies, because they’re going to be able to use equipment they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to test and prototype new products.  And of course, American workers will be able to come right here, to North Carolina, to learn the skills that companies are looking for.  And the next generation of manufacturing will be an American revolution.

So in the coming weeks, we’re going to be launching two more of these innovation hubs; we’ve already got them all planned out. One is going to focus on digital design and manufacturing; another is going to be developing lightweight metals that could transform everything from wind turbines to military vehicles.  And together, they’re going to help build new partnerships in areas that show potential.  They’ll help to lift up our communities.  They’ll help spark the technology and research that will create the new industries, the good jobs required for folks to punch their ticket into the middle class.

And that’s what America is all about.  We have always been about research, innovation, and then commercializing that research and innovation so that everybody can benefit.  And then we start selling our stuff all around the world, we start exporting it.  And we create good jobs, and middle-class families then are able to buy the products that result from this innovation.  And you get a virtuous cycle where everybody is doing better, and nobody is left behind.  And that’s what we can do if we pull together the way those companies and universities have pulled together as part of this bid.

Now, this is going to be a long haul.  We’re not going to turn things around overnight.  A lot of jobs were lost in the textile industry and furniture-making.  But the great news is, is that ultimately, because our people are good and smart and hardworking and willing to take risks, we are going to be able to start bringing those jobs back to America.  And that’s what we do.  (Applause.)  When times get tough, we don’t give up.  We get up.  We innovate.  We adapt.  We keep going.  We look to the future.  (Applause.)

And I want all of you to know, North Carolina, that as long as we keep working together and fighting together and doing what it takes to widen the circle of opportunity for more Americans so nobody is left behind — if you work hard, if you are responsible, then you can go out there, get a skill, train yourself, find a job, support a family.  If we work together, and that’s our focus, there’s nothing we can’t achieve.  (Applause.) There’s no limit to how far we can go.

So congratulations, North Carolina State.  Congratulations, Raleigh.  Let’s get to work.  God bless you.  God bless America. (Applause.)

END
1:31 P.M. EST

Political Musings January 7, 2014: Obama speech urges Congress to extend unemployment benefits, Senate votes 60-37

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Just before President BarackObama delivered a speech on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 urging Congress to extend unemployment benefits for long term jobless Americans, the Senate with the help of some Republicans passed the bill’s first procedural vote…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency January 7, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Importance of Extending Emergency Unemployment Insurance Benefits

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Extending Emergency Unemployment Insurance: “More Than One Million Americans Across the Country Will Feel A Little Hope Right Away.”

Source: WH, 1-8-14

Remarks by the President on the Importance of Extending Emergency Unemployment Insurance

Source: WH, 1-7-14 

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on emergency unemployment insurance in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 7, 2014.President Barack Obama delivers remarks on emergency unemployment insurance in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

East Room

11:55 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Please, everybody, have a seat.  (Applause.)  Well, Happy New Year, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Happy New Year!

THE PRESIDENT:  I hope you’re keeping warm.  A few weeks ago, I said that 2014 could be a breakthrough year for America.  Think about it:  Five years ago this month our economy was shedding 800,000 jobs just in one month.  But as Americans buckled down and worked hard and sacrificed, we began to come back.

And our businesses have created more than 8 million new jobs since we hit the bottom.  Our auto industry has gone from bust to boom.  Manufacturing is rebounding.  The housing market is rebounding.  Stock markets are restoring retirement accounts.  The promise of energy independence is actually in sight.  Health care costs eat up less of our economy; over the past four years, costs have grown at the slowest rate on record.  And since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by more than half.

So America is getting stronger and we’ve made progress.  And the economy is growing, and we’ve got to do more to make sure that all Americans share in that growth.  We’ve got to help our businesses create more jobs.  We’ve got to make sure those jobs offer the wages and benefits that let families rebuild a little security.  In other words, we’ve got to make sure that this recovery leaves nobody behind.  And we’ve got a lot of work to do on that front.  The good news is I’m optimistic we can do it if we do it together.

Now, before the holidays, both parties compromised on a budget that lifts some of the drag that’s been on the economy from these indiscriminate cuts we call sequester.  And as a consequence, this year we may see more stability when it comes to economic growth.  And I think I’m not alone in saying that we are all grateful in the New Year that we won’t have another partisan shutdown, hopefully, going forward.  (Applause.)

So that was a good sign.  And we should build on that progress with what I said should be the first order of business in 2014, and that is extending insurance for the unemployed.  (Applause.)  The good news is this morning the Senate took a very important step in that direction.

For the Americans who have joined me at the White House today and millions like them who were laid off in the recession through no fault of their own, unemployment insurance has been a vital economic lifeline.  For a lot of people, it’s the only source of income they’ve got to support their families while they look for a new job.  These aren’t folks who are just sitting back waiting for things to happen.  They’re out there actively looking for work.  They desperately want work.

But although the economy has been growing and we’ve been adding new jobs, the truth of the matter is, is that the financial crisis was so devastating that there’s still a lot of people who are struggling.  And, in fact, if we don’t provide unemployment insurance it makes it harder for them to find a job.

You heard Katherine’s story.  And she’s far more eloquent than I could ever be.  She wrote me last month to say, “Please let those who think I am sitting at home enjoying being unemployed know that I would much rather be working.”  And I had a chance to talk to Katherine, and I think it’s pretty clear that that’s the case.  Katherine went on to say, “I have applied to everything for which I am possibly qualified to no avail.  I have worked hard all my life, paid taxes, voted, engaged in political discussion, and made the ultimate sacrifice:  My two sons serve in the U.S. military.  Job loss is devastating, and if I could fix it myself, I would.  I challenge any lawmaker to live without an income.”  That’s what Katherine said.  It’s hard.  (Applause.)

So when we’ve got the mom of two of our troops, who is working hard out there, but is having to wear a coat inside the house, we’ve got a problem.  And it’s one that can be fixed.  And Katherine is not alone.

Devlin Smith, who’s watching today from her home in California, wrote me about her hunt for a new job.  Since she was laid off 13 months ago, she has sent out hundreds of résumés, she has volunteered, she has done seasonal work.  She doesn’t want to just be sitting around the house.  She’s been taking online courses to learn new skills.  Without unemployment insurance, though, she won’t be able to pay for her car or her cellphone, which makes the job hunt that much harder.  And Devlin wrote to me and said, “I’ve wanted nothing more than to find a new full-time job and have dedicated every day to that mission.  I’m asking you to advocate for me and the millions like me who need our extended unemployment benefits to make ends meet.”

So I just want everybody to understand this is not an abstraction.  These are not statistics.  These are your neighbors, your friends, your family members.  It could at some point be any of us.  That’s why we set up a system of unemployment insurance.  The notion was everybody is making a contribution because you don’t know when the business cycle or an economic crisis might make any of us vulnerable.

And this insurance helps keep food on the table while Dad is sending out résumés.  It helps Mom pay the rent while she’s learning new skills to earn that new job.  It provides that extra bit of security so that losing your job doesn’t mean that you have to lose your house, or everything you’ve worked so hard to build for years.  We make this promise to our fellow Americans who are working hard to get back on their feet, because when times get tough, we are not a people who say, you’re on your own.  We’re a people who believe that we’re all in it together.  And we know, “there but the grace of God go I.”  (Applause.)

So that’s the values case for this.  That’s the moral case for this.  But there’s an economic case for it, as well.  Independent economists have shown that extending emergency unemployment insurance actually helps the economy, actually creates new jobs.  When folks like Katherine have a little more to spend to turn up the heat in her house or buy a few extra groceries, that means more spending with businesses in her local community, which in turn may inspire that business to hire one more person — maybe Kathy.

That’s why, in the past, both parties have repeatedly put partisanship and ideology aside to offer some security for job-seekers with no strings attached.  It’s been done regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans were in the White House.  It’s been done regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans controlled Congress.  And, by the way, it’s been done multiple times when the unemployment rate was significantly lower than it is today.

And what’s important to keep in mind also is that the recovery in a big country like the United States is going to be somewhat uneven.  So there are some states that have a 2.5 unemployment rate, and then there are some places that may still have a 7, 8, 9 percent unemployment rate.  The people living in those respective states may be working equally hard to find a job, but it’s going to be harder in some places than others.

Now, two weeks ago, Congress went home for the holidays and let this lifeline expire for 1.3 million Americans.  If this doesn’t get fixed, it will hurt about 14 million Americans over the course of this year:  5 million workers along with 9 million of their family members — their spouses, their kids.

Now, I’ve heard the argument that says extending unemployment insurance will somehow hurt the unemployed because it zaps their motivation to get a new job.  I really want to go at this for a second.  (Laughter and applause.)  That really sells the American people short.  I meet a lot of people as President of the United States, and as a candidate for President of the United States, and as a U.S. senator, and as a state senator — I meet a lot of people.  And I can’t name a time where I met an American who would rather have an unemployment check than the pride of having a job.  (Applause.)

The long-term unemployed are not lazy.  They’re not lacking in motivation.  They’re coping with the aftermath of the worst economic crisis in generations.  In some cases, they may have a skills mismatch.  They may have been doing a certain job for 20 years; suddenly they lose that job.  They may be an older worker, may have to get retrained.  It’s hard — sometimes employers will discriminate if you’ve been out of work for a while; they decide, well, we’re not sure we want to hire you, we’d rather hire somebody who’s still working right now.

So it’s hard out there.  There are a lot of our friends, a lot of our neighbors who have lost their jobs and they’re working their tails off every single day trying to find a new job.  Now, as the job market keeps getting better, more and more of these folks will find work.  But, in the meantime, the insurance keeps them from falling off a cliff.  It makes sure they can pay their car note to go to that interview.  It makes sure they can pay their cell phone bills so that if somebody calls back for an interview, they can answer it.  (Laughter.)

And Katherine explained this.  Katherine, in the letter that she wrote to me, said, do folks really think that “cutting this benefit will make someone hire me?”  I mean, that’s not how employers are thinking.

So letting unemployment insurance expire for millions of Americans is wrong.  Congress should make things right.  I am very appreciative that they’re on their way to doing just that thanks to the bipartisan work of two senators.  You had a Democrat from Rhode Island, Senator Reed, and you had a conservative Republican from Nevada, Senator Heller.  And despite their political differences, they worked together on a plan to extend unemployment insurance at least for three months temporarily while we figure out a longer-term solution.  And this morning, a bipartisan majority of senators agreed to allow this common-sense provision to at least move forward in the process.

The Senate is a complicated place.  (Laughter.)  So just because they agreed on this vote, all they’ve agreed to so far is that we’re actually going to be able to have a vote on it.  They haven’t actually passed it.  So we’ve got to get this across the finish line without obstruction or delay, and we need the House of Representatives to be able to vote for it as well.  (Applause.)  That’s the bottom line.

Voting for unemployment insurance helps people and creates jobs, and voting against it does not.  Congress should pass this bipartisan plan right away, and I will sign it right away.  And more than 1 million Americans across the country will feel a little hope right away.  And hope is contagious.  (Applause.)

When Katherine has a little bit more confidence about her situation, when she finds a job, she is going to be able to help somebody down the line maybe who is also down on their luck.  When Congress passes a bipartisan effort starting here right at the beginning of the New Year, who knows — we might actually get some things done this year.  (Laughter.)  So after all the hard work and sacrifice of the past five years to recover and rebuild from the crisis, what I think the American people are really looking for in 2014 is just a little bit of stability.  Let’s just do the common-sense thing.  Let’s do what’s right.

We’re going to have to see action, though, on the part of Congress.  And I’ll be willing to work with them every step of the way — action to help our businesses create more of the good jobs that a growing middle class requires; action to restore economic mobility and reduce inequality; action to open more doors of opportunity for everybody who is willing to work hard and walk through those doors.

When I was listening to Katherine, I was just so struck by her strength and dignity.  And I think people when they bump into some tough times, like Katherine, they’re not looking for pity.  They just want a shot.  (Applause.)  And they just want to feel as if — as a part of this country, as a part of their communities, that if misfortune strikes, all the things that they’ve done in the past, all the hard work they’ve done raising children and paying taxes and working hard, that that counts for something, and that folks aren’t suddenly just going to dismiss their concerns, but we’re going to rally behind them.  That’s not too much to ask.  That’s who we are as Americans.  That’s what built this country.  That’s what I want to promote.  (Applause.)

So thank you very much, everybody.  Let’s get to work.  Let’s get this done.  (Applause.)

END
12:11 P.M. EST

Political Musings January 6, 2014: Obama pushes unemployment benefits extension in weekly address, Tuesday speech

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

In his first weekly address of the New Year President Barack Obama focuses on his number one priority urging Congress to pass an extension of unemployment benefits for Americans out of work for more than 26 weeks. His address released…READ MORE

Political Headlines May 9, 2013: President Barack Obama Declares Economy is ‘Poised for Progress’ on “Middle Class Jobs & Opportunity Tour” in Austin, Texas

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Declares Economy is ‘Poised for Progress’

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-9-13

File photo. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Speaking before a group of high school students and teachers at Manor New Tech High School near Austin, Texas, on Thursday, President Obama said that the innovation and persistence of the American people has fostered an economy that is “poised for progress.”….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 5, 2013: President Barack Obama to Start ‘Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tours’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama to Start ‘Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tours’

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-5-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama will kick off a series of Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tours with a trip Thursday to Austin, Texas, a White House spokesman announced Sunday.

“In his State of the Union, the president laid out his belief that the middle class is the engine of economic growth. To reignite that engine, there are three areas we need to invest in: 1) jobs, 2) skills 3) opportunity,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 13, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Manufacturing at Linamar Corporation in Asheville, North Carolina

POLITICAL BUZZ


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Manufacturing — Asheville, NC

Source: WH, 2-13-13

Linamar Corporation
Asheville, North Carolina

12:10 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Hello, North Carolina!  (Applause.)  It is good to be back.  I love coming to Asheville.  (Applause.)  Love coming to Asheville.  Michelle and I always talk about how after this whole presidency thing, we’re looking for a little spot to — (applause) —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Come on down.

THE PRESIDENT:  Come on down?  (Applause.)  Play a little golf, do a little hiking, fishing, barbecue.  There are two things that keep bringing me back here.  Number one is I really like the people.  And number two is 12 Bones, which I will be stopping on the way back to the airport.  (Laughter and applause.)

Now, I want to start off by thanking Stratton for the wonderful introduction.  And what made it wonderful was not only did he do a great job, but it was really brief.  (Laughter.)  And I also want to thank Frank and Jim and everybody at Linamar for hosting us and giving me this terrific tour of the plant.

I want to point out two elected officials who are with us here today –- first of all, your Mayor, Terry Bellamy.  (Applause.)  Where is Mayor Bellamy?  There she is.  Good to see you.  Plus, you got a wonderful mayor.  I like that in you, too. And also, Congressman Mel Watt is here.  So give Congressman Watt a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

So last night, I delivered the State of the Union Address.  (Applause.)  And I talked about steps we can take right now to strengthen our recovery, but also to build up our middle class.  And I said that while we’re seeing some signs of solid progress — car sales are up, housing is starting to recover — we’re still a ways away from where we need to be.  There are still too many Americans who are out there every day.  They’re pounding the pavement.  They’re looking for work.  You guys probably know friends or family members who are still pretty strapped, having a difficult time.  And while it’s true that corporate profits have rocketed to an all-time high, it’s also true that for more than a decade now, wages and incomes haven’t gone up at all just about.
So we’ve got a lot of work to do.  And our job — and this is a job for everybody; it’s not a Democratic thing or a Republican thing.  Our job as Americans is to restore that basic bargain that says if you work hard, if you’re willing to meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead.  You can get ahead.  (Applause.)  It doesn’t matter what you look like.  It doesn’t matter where you come from.  That’s what we should be focused on: How do we make sure that people who are willing to work hard can make a decent living and look after their family?

Because the true engine of America’s economic growth has always been our middle class.  Now, there are a lot of countries that have folks at the top who are doing real well, and a bunch of folks at the bottom, but part of what set America apart was ordinary folks, if they worked hard, they could do well.  Our middle class when it’s growing, when it’s thriving, when there are ladders of opportunity for people to do a little bit better each year and then make sure that their kids are doing even better than them — that’s the American Dream.  That’s what we got to fight for.  That has to be the North Star that guides everything we do.

And as I said last night, we should be asking ourselves three questions every single day.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re in North Carolina or Texas or California or Oregon.  It doesn’t matter.  Wherever we are, three things we should be asking.  Number one — how do we bring more jobs to America?  Number two — how do we equip people with the skills they need to do those jobs?  And number three — how do we make sure that once they have a job, it leads to a decent living?

I believe we reward effort and determination with wages that allow working families to raise their kids and get ahead.  (Applause.)  And that’s part of the reason why I said last night that it’s time for an increase in the minimum wage, because if you work full-time, you shouldn’t be in poverty.  (Applause.)

I also believe we provide our people skills and training by investing in education, and that has to start early.  It has to start early.  So I talked about making sure that kids are getting an early childhood education, making sure that our high schools are preparing our children for a high-tech economy, and making sure that colleges are affordable and accessible to every single American.  (Applause.)

And I believe we attract new jobs to America by investing in new sources of energy and new infrastructure and the next generation of high-wage, high-tech American manufacturing.  I believe in manufacturing.  I think it makes our country stronger.  (Applause.)

So that’s what we can do together.  And that’s why I wanted to come down here to Asheville, because there’s a good story to tell here.  I know that a few years ago, manufacturing comebacks in North Carolina, a manufacturing comeback in Asheville may not have seemed real likely, because Volvo had just left town.  This plant had gone dark — 228 jobs had vanished.  And that was a big blow for this area, because part of what happens is when those manufacturing jobs go away, then suddenly the restaurant has fewer customers, and suppliers for the plant start withering.  And it’s hard for everybody.  It has a ripple effect.

But then local officials started reaching out to companies, offering new incentives to take over this plant.  Some of the workers who got laid off, like Stratton, went back to school and they learned new skills.  And then, a year later, Linamar showed up.  They were looking for a place to build some big parts.  And these parts are big, I got to say — (laughter) — hubs and wheels and anchors for 400-ton mining trucks.  And while they could have gone any place in the world, they saw this incredible potential right here in Asheville.  They saw the most promise in this workforce, so they chose to invest in Asheville, in North Carolina, in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

So to date, Linamar has hired 160 workers.  It will be 200 by the end of the year, and it’s just going to keep on going after that.  (Applause.)  So the folks at Linamar said, they came to Asheville to grow their business.  They came here to stay and put down some roots.

And the good news is what’s happening here is happening all around the country.  Because just as it’s becoming more and more expensive to do business in places like China, America is getting more competitive and more productive.

After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have now added about 500,000 jobs over the past three years.  (Applause.)  And I mentioned this last night — Caterpillar, which I know you guys supply, they’re bringing jobs back from Japan.  Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico.  After placing plants in other countries like China, Intel is opening its most advanced plant here in the United States.  Apple is starting to make Macs in America again.  (Applause.)

So we’re seeing this trend of what we call insourcing, not just outsourcing.  And the reason is because America has got outstanding workers.  We’re starting to produce more homegrown energy, which is driving down our energy costs.  And, obviously, we’ve still got the biggest market in the world.  And if we try to improve our infrastructure a little bit more, then we’re going to be even that much more competitive.

Now, I want to be honest with you.  We’re not going to bring back every job that’s been lost to outsourcing and automation over the last decade.  I was talking to some of the guys who were showing me their facilities who had been in manufacturing for 20 years, and they explained how things had changed.  It used to be you had to — you wanted to do the kind of stuff you guys are doing here — everything was done manually.  Now you’ve got a computer and you’re punching in stuff.  So it’s changed, and that means that you can just produce a lot more with fewer people.

But there are things we can do right now to accelerate the resurgence of American manufacturing.

Number one — we can create more centers for high-tech manufacturing in America.  Last year, my administration created our first manufacturing innovation institute.  We put it in Youngstown, Ohio, which had been really hard-hit when manufacturing started going overseas.  And so you have a once-shuttered warehouse — it’s now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering what’s called 3-D printing, which has the potential to revolutionize the way we make everything.  That’s the future.  And there’s no reason that those same kinds of projects can’t take root in other cities and towns.

So last night, I announced the launch of three more institutes.  And I’m calling on Congress to help us set up 15 institutes –- global centers of high-tech jobs and advanced manufacturing around the country.  (Applause.)

The second thing we need to do is make our tax code more competitive.  Right now, companies get all kinds of tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas, but companies that stay here get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world.  That doesn’t make any sense.  So what I’m proposing is that we reform our tax code, stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, reward companies that are creating jobs right here in the United States of America.  That makes sense.  (Applause.)

Number three — if you’re a manufacturing town, especially one that’s taken a hit — that’s seen a company close up shop or a plant shut down — I want to partner with local leaders to help you attract new investment.  Because once that investment starts coming in, things can start turning around.  And that means infrastructure gets modernized and research facilities get built, and suddenly a community that was knocked down is getting back up, and they’re attracting new manufacturers who want to come and expand and hire.

So I want us to focus on — if a place like — when Asheville lost the Volvo plant, we’ve got to come in here real quick and help them figure out, all right, what is it that we need to attract a new employer.

Number four — we’ve got to help our workers get the training to compete for the industries of tomorrow.  At least a couple of the guys that I had a chance to meet as we were taking the tour told me they were out of work for a year — in one case, two years — in part because we kept unemployment insurance in place so folks could get back on their feet, they were able to go back to school, and now are gainfully employed.  No job in America should go unfilled because somebody doesn’t have the right skills to get that job — nobody.  (Applause.)

So if there is a job open, we should train those folks right away, so that they can do the job.  And that’s why I’m proposing a national goal of training 2 million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job.  And we know this works.  After Linamar came to town, they started working with AB-Tech, one of the community colleges here in Asheville.  (Applause.)  And AB-Tech and Linamar worked together to do something that is really smart.  Rather than have kids just — or in some cases not kids, older workers — show up and they’re taking a bunch of classes but they don’t know how this is directly going to lead to a job, what you do is you customize the class to train people so they can come and work at the plant and they’re getting experience that’s directly applicable to what’s being done here at the job.  (Applause.)

That’s good for the community.  It’s good for Linamar, because they’re getting workers who they know can do the job.  It’s good for the folks who are going to the community college, because they know if they work hard and they do well in the class there’s a job waiting for them.  It’s good for the economy as a whole.

So those are four common-sense steps that we can take right now to strengthen manufacturing in America.  There’s no magic bullet here.  It’s just some common-sense stuff.  People still have to work hard.  Companies like Linamar still have to make good products.  But the point is, is that if we can just do a few things, then over time what happens is we start rebuilding our manufacturing base in a way that strengthens our economy as a whole.

Now, I’m doing what I can just through administrative action, but I need Congress to help.  I need Congress to do their part.  (Applause.)  I need Congress to take up these initiatives, because we’ve come too far and we’ve worked too hard to turn back now.

And you think about all that this city and all of you have been through over the last few years.  Think about folks like Jeff Brower.  Now, Jeff was in the trucking industry for over a decade.  Two years ago, he got laid off.  He lost his job as a diesel mechanic.  That’s a tough thing to go through, even though Jeff is a pretty tough guy.  But he bounced back.  He decided it was time for him to change careers.  He decided it was time to get some new skills.  He went to AB-Technology, took a class in automated machining.  A few months ago, Jeff got his diploma.  He graduated on a Wednesday, interviewed at this plant on Thursday. By Friday, he was working as a machine operator.  (Applause.)

Where’s Jeff?  There he is, right here.  (Applause.)  Now, obviously, Jeff is pretty good at interviews — (laughter) — because he just got hired like that.  I hope he can give me some advice.  (Laughter.)

But here’s the thing.  The reason Jeff did all that — obviously, a lot of it was to support himself and his family — but it wasn’t just to punch a clock at a new plant or pick up a paycheck from a new company.  It was to make sure he could have a better future for his family and for his community and his country.  Jeff said, “Getting my foot in the door has opened my eyes to bigger horizons.  And I want to keep on going.”  I want to keep on going.  (Applause.)

So that’s our story.  That’s the American story.  We don’t give up.  We get up.  We innovate.  We adapt.  We learn new skills.  We keep going.  And I just want everybody here to know at this plant, but everybody in Asheville, everybody in North Carolina and everybody all across the country — I want you to know as long as you’re out here fighting every day to better your lives and to better the lives of your children, then I’ll be back in Washington fighting for you.  (Applause.)  I will be back there fighting for you — because there’s nothing we can’t do and no possibilities we can’t reach when we’re working together.  We just have to work together.

And we’ve got to stop with some of the politics that we see in Washington, sometimes that’s focused on who’s up and who’s down.  Let’s just focus on the same kind of common sense and cooperation that we’re seeing at this plant and we see all across the country.

So thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  Thank you.

END
12:30 P.M. EST

State of the Union 2013 February 13, 2013: President Obama Urges Action on Expansive Agenda

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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PRESIDENT OBAMA — STATE OF THE UNION 2013:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Urges Action on Expansive Agenda

Source: Wall Street Journal, 2-13-13

President Barack Obama outlined an ambitious agenda in his State of the Union address Tuesday that included raising the minimum wage, increasing spending on infrastructure, attacking climate change and passing gun-control legislation….READ MORE

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