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



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



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 —


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.)


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.)


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



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.

2:06 P.M. CDT

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





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

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With President Barack Obama returning home from the NATO conference in Wales, Vice President Joe Biden took over and delivered the weekly address released on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014. In the address, Biden attempted to turn around the disappointing August…Continue

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





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

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With President Barack Obama returning home from the NATO conference in Wales, Vice President Joe Biden took over and delivered the weekly address released on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014. In the address, Biden attempted to turn around the disappointing August…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency September 6, 2014: Vice President Joe Biden’s Weekly Address: Time to Give the Middle Class a Chance



Weekly Address: Time to Give the Middle Class a Chance

Source: WH, 9-6-14 

WASHINGTON, DC —In this week’s address, the Vice President discusses our continued economic recovery, with 10 million private sector jobs created over the past 54 months. Yet even with this good news, too many Americans are still not seeing the effects of our recovery. As the Vice President explains, there’s more that can be done to continue to bolster our economy and ensure that middle class families benefit from the growth they helped create, including closing tax loopholes, expanding education opportunities, and raising the minimum wage.

Remarks of Vice President Joe Biden
Weekly Address
The White House
September 6, 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Joe Biden, I’m filling in for President Obama, while he addresses the NATO summit in Wales.

When the President and I took office in January of 2009, this nation was in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the great depression. Our economy had plummeted at a rate of 8% in a single quarter – part of the fastest economic decline any time in the last half century. Millions of families were falling underwater on their homes and threatened with foreclosure. The iconic American automobile industry was under siege.

But yesterday’s jobs report was another reminder of how far we’ve come. We’ve had 54 straight months of job creation. And that’s the longest streak of uninterrupted job growth in the United States’ history.

We’ve gone from losing 9 million jobs during the financial crisis to creating 10 million jobs. We’ve reduced the unemployment rate from 10% in October of 2009 to 6.1% today. And for the first time since the 1990s, American manufacturing is steadily adding jobs – over 700,000 since 2010. And surveys of both American and foreign business leaders confirm that America once again is viewed as the best place in the world to build and invest.

That’s all good news. But an awful lot of middle class Americans are still not feeling the effects of this recovery. Since the year 2000, Gross Domestic Product – our GDP – has risen by 25%. And productivity in America is up by 30%. But middle class wages during that same time period have gone up by only fourteen cents.

Folks, it’s long past time to cut the middle class back into the deal, so they can benefit from the economic growth they helped create. Folks, there used to be a bargain in this country supported by Democrats and Republicans, business and labor. The bargain was simple. If an employee contributed to the growth and profitability of the company, they got to share in the profits and the benefits as well. That’s what built the middle class. It’s time to restore the bargain, to deal the middle class back in. Because, folks, when the middle class does well, everybody does well – the wealthy get wealthier and the poor have a way up.

You know, the middle class is not a number. It’s a value set. It means being able to own your home; raise your children in a safe neighborhood; send them to a good school where if they do well they can qualify to go to college and if they get accepted you’d be able to find a way to be able to send them to college. And in the meantime, if your parents need help, being able to take care of them, and hope to put aside enough money so that your children will not have to take care of you.

That’s the American dream. That’s what this country was built on. And that’s what we’re determined to restore.

In order to do that, it’s time to have a fair tax structure, one that values paychecks as much as unearned income and inherited wealth, to take some of the burden off of the middle class. It’s time to close tax loopholes so we can reduce the deficit, and invest in rebuilding America – our bridges, our ports, our highways, rails, providing good jobs.

With corporate profits at near record highs, we should encourage corporations to invest more in research and development and the salaries of their employees. It’s time for us to invest in educational opportunity to guarantee that we have the most highly skilled workforce in the world, for 6 out of every 10 jobs in the near term is going to require some education beyond high school. Folks, it’s long past due to increase the minimum wage that will lift millions of hardworking families out of poverty and in the process produce a ripple effect that boosts wages for the middle class and spurs economic growth for the United States of America. Economists acknowledge that if we do these and other things, wages will go up and we’ll increase the Gross Domestic Product of the United States.

My fellow Americans, we know how to do this. We’ve done it before. It’s the way we used to do business and we can do it that way again. All the middle class in this country want is a chance. No guarantee, just a chance.

Americans want to work. And when given a fair shot, the American worker has never, ever, ever, let his country down. Folks, it’s never a good bet to bet against the American people.

Thanks for listening.

May God bless you, and may God protect our troops.

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



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

Source: WH, 6-28-14 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Full Text Obama Presidency June 23, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the White House Summit on Working Families



Remarks by President Obama at the White House Summit on Working Families | June 23, 2014

Source: WH, 6-23-14 

Omni Shoreham Hotel
Washington, D.C.

1:51 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  This crowd looks fired up.  (Applause.)  Already, everybody have a seat.  Have a seat.  You look like you’ve been busy.


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We’re just waiting on you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I know that’s right.  (Applause.)  I know that’s right.  (Laughter.)  Good afternoon, everybody.  Have a seat, have a seat.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I love you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Applause.)  I do.  Well, welcome to the White House Summit on Working Families.  (Applause.)  And thanks to all of you for joining us.  I know that for most of you, you are taking time off of work or family, or both, to be here.  And I know that’s a sacrifice.  And I know just juggling schedules can be tough.  And in fact, that’s one of the reasons that we are here today.

I want to thank our co-hosts, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez — give him a big round of applause — as well as Neera Tanden and everyone at the Center for American Progress for the great work that they did.  (Applause.)  Thanks as well to all the members of Congress who are participating, especially Nancy Pelosi and the members of the Democratic Women’s Working Group.  (Applause.)  And a long-time friend and champion of families and women and veterans, Connie Milstein — we could not have pulled this off without Connie’s great assistance, so we want to thank Connie.  (Applause.)

So I just walked over to Chipotle for lunch.  (Laughter.)  I caused a lot of havoc, as you might expect.  (Laughter.)  It had been a while since I had the burrito bowl, and it was good.  (Laughter.)  And I went there with four new buddies of mine.  One of them is a father of a four year old and a two month old who has worked with his wife to come up with a flexible plan where he works three or four days a week.  She works three or four days a week.  And the reason is because, as Roger put it, he thinks it’s important that he is able to bond with this kids just as much as his wife is.

Lisa you just heard from, who had twins who were prematurely born.  And because her company was supportive, she was able to not just thrive and watch her kids grow up, but she’s also been able to be promoted and continue to succeed in her company without being on a slower track while maintaining that life-family balance, which is terrific — worth applauding.

Shirley Young from New York works at a nursing home, and she’s got older children.  And she was most interested in talking about the fact that when her son — it was discovered had curvature of the spine, that she had health care that she could count on.  Otherwise, there was no way that she could deal with it.  And her benefits on the job were good enough that she could use her vacation time when he had to go to the doctor.

And then Shelby from Denver — (applause) — Shelby has got a little fan club here.  Shelby talked about the fact that on her job it’s been a little more challenging.  Her kids are older and she’s going back to school.  And it is wonderful that she is actually now taking some classes with her children and they’re helping explain math to her.  (Laughter.)  On the other hand, she’s also got an aging parent.  And when he had to go to the doctor, they don’t have a policy of paid family leave.  And since it’s hard making ends meet in the first place, her dad had to end up getting on a bus for eye surgery and come back on his own, because she couldn’t afford to take the time off.

Now, each of these folks come from different parts of the country.  They have different occupations, different income levels.  And yet, what bound all of us together was a recognition that work gives us a sense of place and dignity, as well as income.  And it is critically important, but family is also the bedrock of our lives and we don’t want a society in which folks are having to make a choice between those two things.  And there are better decisions that we can make and there are not-so-good decisions that we can make as a society to support this balance between work and family.

Most of our days consist of work, family, and not much else.   And those two spheres are constantly interacting with each other.  When we’re with our family, sometimes we’re thinking about work, and when we’re at work, we’re thinking about family.  That’s a pretty universal experience.  It’s true when you are President of the United States.  (Laughter.)

Now, I am lucky that my daughters were a bit older by the time I became President, so I never had to meet a world leader with Cheerios stuck to my pants.  (Laughter.)  That has not happened.  And I’m also lucky, because we live above the store, so to speak.  (Laughter.)  I have a very short commute.  (Laughter.)  And as a consequence, we’ve been able to organize ourselves to have dinner with Michelle and the girls almost every night.  And that’s pretty much the first time we’ve been able to do that in our lives.  (Applause.)

But before I moved into the White House, I was away a lot sometimes with work, sometimes with campaigning.  Michelle was working full-time and was at home with the responsibility all too often of dealing with everything that the girls needed.  And so, I understand how lucky we are now, because there was a big chunk of time when we were doing what so many of you have to deal with every day, and that is figuring out how do we make this whole thing work.

A lot of Americans are not as lucky as we have been.  It is hard sometimes just to get by.  Our businesses have created jobs for 51 consecutive months — 9.4 [million] new jobs in all.  (Applause.)  But we all know somebody out there who is still looking for work.  And there are a whole lot of people who are working harder than ever, but can’t seem to get ahead and pay all the bills at the end of the month.  Despite the fact that our economy has grown and those of us at the very top have done very well, the average wage, the average income hasn’t gone up in 15 years in any meaningful way.  And that means that relative to 15 years ago, a lot of families just aren’t that much better off.  And the sacrifices they make for their families go beyond just missing family dinner.

You look at something like workplace flexibility.  This was so important to our family when I was away, because if Malia or Sasha got sick, or the babysitter did not show up, it was Michelle who got the call.  And, fortunately, she had an employer who understood if she needed to leave work in the middle of the day or change her schedule suddenly.  In fact, actually when she applied for the job, she brought Sasha, who was then about six months, in her car seat into the interview — (applause) — just to kind of explain this is what you will be dealing with if you hire me.  (Laughter.)

And so, they signed up for that.  And that flexibility made all the difference to our families.  But a lot of working moms and dads can’t do that.  They don’t have the leverage.  They’re not being recruited necessarily where they can dictate terms of employment.  And as a consequence, if they need to bring their mom to the doctor or take an afternoon off to see their kid’s school play, it would mean them losing income that they can’t afford to lose.  And even when working from home from time to time is doable, it’s often not an option — even though studies show that flexibility makes workers happier and helps companies lower turnover and raise productivity.

The same goes with paid family leave.  A lot of jobs do not offer it.  So when a new baby arrives or an aging parent gets sick, workers have to make painful decisions about whether they can afford to be there when their families need them the most.  Many women can’t even get a paid day off to give birth.  Now, that’s a pretty low bar.  (Laughter.)  You would think — that we should be able to take care of.  (Laughter and applause.)

For many hourly workers, taking just a few days off can mean losing their job.  And even though unpaid family leave is available, if you can’t pay the bills already the idea of taking a couple days off unpaid may mean you can’t make the mortgage payment or the rent payment at the end of the month.

Or look at childcare.  In most countries, it costs — in most parts of the country, it costs thousands of dollars a year.  In fact, in 31 states, decent childcare costs more than in-state college tuition — in 31 states, in more than half the states.  I recently got a letter from a woman in Minnesota whose kids’ preschool is so expensive, it costs more than her monthly mortgage payment.  Now, she’s made a determination to make that sacrifice for her kids, but a lot of working families can’t make that sacrifice.  And, by the way, there are other countries that know how to do childcare well.  I mean, this isn’t rocket science.

Or look at the minimum wage.  Low-wage occupations disproportionately represented by women.  Nearly 28 million Americans would benefit if we raised the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)  And we’re not just talking about young people on their first job.  The average worker who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage is 35 years old.  Many have kids, a majority are women.  And right now, many full-time minimum wage workers are not making enough to keep their children out of poverty.

So these are just a few of the challenges that working parents face.  And every day, I hear from parents all across the country.  They are doing everything right — they are working hard, they are living responsibly, they are taking care of their children, they’re participating in their community — and these letters can be heartbreaking, because at the end of the day it doesn’t feel like they’re getting ahead.  And all too often, it feels like they’re slipping behind.  And a lot of the time, they end up blaming themselves thinking, if I just work a little harder — if I plan a little better, if I sleep a little bit less, if I stretch every dollar a little bit farther — maybe I can do it.  And that thought may have crossed the minds of some of the folks here from time to time.

Part of the purpose of this summit is to make clear you’re not alone.  Because here’s the thing:  These problems are not typically the result of poor planning or too little diligence on the parts of moms or dads, and they cannot just be fixed by working harder or being an even better parent.  (Applause.)  All too often, they are the results of outdated policies and old ways of thinking.  Family leave, childcare, workplace flexibility, a decent wage — these are not frills, they are basic needs.  They shouldn’t be bonuses.  They should be part of our bottom line as a society.  That’s what we’re striving for.  (Applause.)

Parents who work full-time should earn enough to pay the bills, and they should be able to head off to work every day knowing that their children are in good hands.  Workers who give their all should know that if they need a little flexibility, they can have it — because their employers understand that it’s hard to be productive if you’ve got a sick kid at home or a childcare crisis.

Talented, hard-working people should be able to say yes to a promotion or a great new opportunity without worrying about the price that their family will pay.  There was a new poll by Nielsen’s that found that nearly half of all working parents say they have turned down a job not because they didn’t want it, but because it would put too much of a burden on their families.  When that many members of our workforce are forced to choose between a job and their family, something’s wrong.

And here is a critical point:  All too often, these issues are thought of as women’s issues, which I guess means you can kind of scoot them aside a little bit.  At a time when women are nearly half of our workforce, among our most skilled workers, are the primary breadwinners in more families than ever before, anything that makes life harder for women makes life harder for families and makes life harder for children.  (Applause.)  When women succeed, America succeeds, so there’s no such thing as a women’s issue.  (Applause.)  There’s no such thing as a women’s issue.  This is a family issue and an American issue — these are commonsense issues.  (Applause.)

This is about you too, men.  (Laughter.)  Men care about having high-quality childcare.  Dad’s rearrange their schedules to make it to teacher meetings and school plays, just like moms.  Although somebody pointed out to me — this is a useful insight — that when dads say, yes, I’ve got to leave early to go to the parent-teacher conference, everybody in the office says, oh, isn’t that nice.  (Laughter.)  And then, when women do it, everybody is all like, is she really committed to the job?  So there can be a double standard there.  (Applause.)  But sons help care for aging parents.  A whole lot of fathers would love to be home for their new baby’s first weeks in the world.

People ask me what do I love most about being President, and it’s true Air Force One is on the list.  (Laughter.)  The Truman Balcony has a really nice view.  (Laughter.)  But one of the — I was telling folks the other day that one of the best perks about being President is anybody will hand you their baby — here.  (Laughter.)

So I get this baby fix like two or three times a week.  (Laughter.)  But the reason it’s so powerful is because I remember taking the night shift when Malia was born and when Sasha was born, and being up at two in the morning changing diapers and burping them, and singing to them and reading them stories, and watching Sports Center once in a while, which I thought was good for their development.  (Laughter.)  It was.  We want them to be well-rounded.  (Laughter.)

But the point is, I was lucky enough to be able to take some time off so that I was there for the 2:00 a.m. feeding and the soothing, and just getting to know them and making sure they knew me.  And that bond is irreplaceable.  And I want every father and every child to have that opportunity.  But that requires a society that makes it easier for us to give folks that opportunity.  (Applause.)

So the bottom line is 21st-century families deserve 21st-century workplaces.  (Applause.)  And our economy demands them, because it’s going to help us compete.  It’s going to help us lead.  And that means paid family leave, especially paid parental leave.  (Applause.)  There is only one developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave, and that is us.  And that is not the list you want to be on by your lonesome.  It’s time to change that, because all Americans should be able to afford to care for their families.  (Applause.)

It means high-quality early education.  We know that the investment we make in those early years pays off over a child’s entire lifetime.  And these programs give parents a great place to know that their kids are thriving while they’re at work.  Other countries know how to do this.  If France can figure this out, we can figure it out.  (Laughter and applause.)  All our kids need to benefit from that early enrichment.

It means treating pregnant workers fairly, because too many are forced to choose between their health and their job.  (Applause.)  Right now, if you’re pregnant you could potentially get fired for taking too many bathroom breaks — clearly from a boss who has never been pregnant — or forced unpaid leave.  That makes no sense.  Congress should pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act without delay.  (Applause.)

Speaking of Congress, by the way — (laughter) —


THE PRESIDENT:  No, don’t boo, vote.  (Applause.)  As long as Congress refuses to act on these policies, we’re going to need you to raise your voices.  We need you to tell Congress don’t talk about how you support families, actually support families.  Don’t talk the talk.  We want you to walk the walk.

In the meantime, if Congress will not act, we’re going to need mayors to act.  We’ll need governors and state legislators to act.  We need CEOs to act.  And I will promise you, you will have a President who will take action to support working families.  (Applause.)

The good news is you don’t have to do it alone and I don’t have to do it alone.  Now that’s part of the purpose of this summit is to recognize that there’s all kinds of exciting stuff going on around the country.  We just have to make sure that we lift up conversations that are taking place at the kitchen table every single day.  Some businesses are already taking the lead, knowing that family-friendly policies are good business practices.  It’s how you keep talented employees.  That’s how you build loyalty and inspire your workers to go the extra mile for your company.

Some of those businesses are represented here today.  So JetBlue, for example, has a flexible, work-from-home plan in place for its customer service representatives.  They found it led to happier and more productive employees, and it lowered their costs, which translated into higher profits and lower ticket prices for their customers.  It was good business.

In 2007, Google realized that women were leaving the company at twice the rate that men left — and one of the reasons was that the maternity leave policy wasn’t competitive enough.  So they increased paid leave for new parents — moms and dads — to five months.  And that helped to cut the rate of women leaving the company in half.  Good business sense.

Cisco estimates that by letting their employees telecommute, they save more than $275 million each year.  They say it’s the main reason why they’re rated one of the best places to work in America.

So it’s easy to see how policies like this make for better places to work.  There’s also a larger economic case for it.  The strength of our economy rests on whether we’re getting the most out of our nation’s talent, whether we’re making it possible for every citizen to contribute to our growth and prosperity.  We do better when we field an entire team, not just part of a team.

And the key to staying competitive in the global economy is your workforce, is your talent.  Right now, too many folks are on the sidelines who have the desire and the capacity to work, but they’re held back by one obstacle or another.  So it’s our job to remove those obstacles — help working parents, improve job training, improve early childhood education, invest in better infrastructure so people are getting to work safely.  Just about everything I do as President is to make sure that we’re not leaving any of our nation’s talent behind.  That’s what this summit is all about.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Working families love you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you.  (Applause.)  So we’re seeing businesses set a good examples.  We’ve got states who are setting a good example.  California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey all gave workers paid family leave.  Connecticut offers paid sick days and so does New York City.  (Applause.)  Since I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage last year — they’ve been a little slow, shockingly, but 13 states have taken steps to raise it on their own.  (Applause.)  In my State of the Union address this year, I asked mayors and governors and CEOs — do what you can to raise your workers’ wages, and a lot of them are.  A lot of them are doing it.

Because even if Republicans in Congress refuse to budge on this issue this year, everybody knows America deserves a raise, including Republican voters out there.  There are a lot of them who support it.  And I’ve said I will work with anybody — Democrat or Republican — to increase opportunities for American workers.  And Nancy Pelosi is ready to work.  (Applause.)

Now, many of these issues, they’re not partisan until they get to Washington.  Back home, to folks sitting around the kitchen table, this isn’t partisan.  Nobody says, I don’t know, I’m not sure whether the Republican platform agrees with paid family leave.  They’re thinking, I could really use a couple of paid days off to take care of dad, regardless of what their party affiliation is.

So even as we’re waiting for Congress, whenever I can act on my own, I’m going to.  That’s why we raised the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors.  (Applause.)  Nobody who cooks our troops’ meals or washes their dishes should have to live in poverty.  That’s a disgrace.  That’s why I ordered Tom Perez, our Secretary of Labor, to review overtime protections for millions of workers to make sure they’re getting the pay that they deserve.  (Applause.)

That’s why I signed an executive order preventing retaliation against federally contracted workers who share their salary information or raise issues of unequal compensation –because I think if you do the same work, you should get the same pay and you should be able to enforce it, which is why Congress should pass the Paycheck Fairness Act today for all workers and not just federally-contracted workers.  (Applause.)

And yes, that’s why I fought to pass the Affordable Care Act, to give every American access to high-quality affordable care no matter where they work.  (Applause.)  So far, over 8 million people have enrolled in plans through the ACA.  Millions with preexisting conditions have been prevented or have been confident that their insurance companies have not been able to block them from getting health insurance.  And by the way, women are no longer charged more for being women.

They’re getting the basic care they need, including reproductive care.  And millions are now free to take the best job for their families without worrying about losing their health care.  Today, I’m going to sign a presidential memorandum directing every agency in the federal government to expand access to flexible work schedules, and giving employees the right to request those flexible work schedules.  (Applause.)

Because whether it’s the public sector or the private sector, if there’s a way to make our employees more productive and happier, every employer should want to find it.  And to help parents trying to get ahead, I’m going to direct my Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, to invest $25 million in helping people who want to enroll in jobs programs, but don’t currently have access to the childcare that they need to enroll in those job training programs.  (Applause.)  We’re going to make it easier for parents to get the training they need to get a good job.  (Applause.)

So we’re going to do everything we can to create more jobs and more opportunity for Americans.  And then, let me just close by saying that I was interviewed in the run up to this on Friday.  Somebody asked, well, it’s well-known that women are more likely to vote for Democrats — to which I said, women are smarter.  This is true.  (Applause.)

But they said, so isn’t this Working Families Summit political?  And I said, no, I take this personally.  I was raised by strong women who worked hard to support my sister and me.  (Applause.)  I saw what it was like for a single mom who was trying to go to school and work at the same time.  And I remember her coming home and having to try to fix us dinner, and me saying, are we eating that again?  (Laughter.)  And she saying, you know what, buddy, I really don’t want to hear anything out of you right now, because I’ve got to go do some homework after this.

And I remember times where my mom had to take some food stamps to make sure that we had enough nutritious food in the house, and I know what she went through.  I know what my grandmother went through, working her way up from a secretary to the vice president of a bank.  But she should have run the bank, except she hit a glass ceiling and was training people who would leapfrog ahead of her year after year.  I know what that’s like.  I’ve seen it.

I take this personally, because I’m the husband of a brilliant woman who struggled to balance work and raising our girls when I was away.  And I remember the stresses that were on Michelle, which I’m sure she’ll be happy to share with you later today.  (Laughter.)  And most of all, I take it personally, because I am the father of two unbelievable young ladies.  (Applause.)  And I want them to be able to have families.  And I want them to be able to have careers.  And I want them to go as far as their dreams will take them.  And I want a society that supports that.

And I take this personally as the President of the country that built the greatest middle class the world has ever known and inspired people to reach new heights and invent, and innovate, and drew immigrants from every corner of the world because they understood that no matter what you look like or where you come from, here in America you can make it.  That’s the promise of America.  That’s what we’re going to keep on fighting for.  That’s what you’re fighting for.  That’s what this summit is all about.

Let’s go out there and get to work.  Thank you, guys.  I love you.  God bless you.  God bless America.

2:21 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines August 7, 2013: President Obama’s Talks Housing & Mortgage Reform at Town Hall on Real Estate Site Zillow





Obama ‘Would Save Some Money’ by Refinancing Chicago Home


President Obama personalized the promotion of his housing agenda Wednesday, saying he would save money by refinancing his family’s home in Chicago.

“I would probably benefit from refinancing right now. I would save some money,” the president said in an online forum hosted by real estate website Zillow….READ MORE

Political Musings August 7, 2013: President Barack Obama unveils mortgage plan to restore housing market in Phoenix, Arizona speech




Obama unveils mortgage plan to restore housing market in Phoenix, Arizona speech (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman



President Barack Obama announced his mortgage reform plan in a speech at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Arizona on August 6, 2013. The plan includes ending government run Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s role in mortgages and…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency August 6, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Mortgage Reform, Housing Market and the Economy at Vista High School in Arizona — Transcript



Obama speech in Arizona: Full transcript of President’s speech at Desert Vista High School

During a speech on the housing market in Phoenix, Arizona, President Obama outlined a plan to repair the hurting industry. 

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been visiting towns like this talking about what we need to do as a country to secure a better bargain for the middle class – a national strategy to make sure everyone who works hard has a chance to succeed in the 21 st century economy.

For the past four and a half years, we’ve been fighting our way back from a devastating recession that cost millions of Americans their jobs, their homes, and their savings – a recession that laid bare the long erosion of middle-class security.

Together, we took on a broken health care system and a housing market in freefall.  We invested in new American technologies to reverse our addiction to foreign oil. We changed a tax code that had become tilted in favor of the wealthiest at the expense of working families.  We saved the auto industry, and now GM plans to hire 1,000 new workers right next door in Chandler to make sure we build some of the most high-tech cars in the world right here in America.

Today, our businesses have created 7.3 million new jobs over the last 41 months.  We now sell more products made in America to the rest of the world than ever before.  We produce more renewable energy than ever, and more natural gas than anyone.  Health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years.  And our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years.

Thanks to the grit and resilience of the American people, we’ve cleared away the rubble from the financial crisis, and begun to lay a new foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth.  But as any middle-class family will tell you, we’re not where we need to be yet.  Even before the crisis hit, we were living through a decade where a few at the top were doing better and better, while most families were working harder and harder just to get by.

Reversing this trend must be Washington’s highest priority.  It’s certainly my highest priority.  But for most of this year, an endless parade of distractions, political posturing, and phony scandals have shifted focus from what we need to do to shore up the middle class.  And as Washington heads towards another budget debate, the stakes could not be higher.

That’s why I’m laying out my ideas for how we must build on the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America.  A good job with good wages.  A home to call your own.  A good education.  Affordable health care that’s there for you when you get sick.  A secure retirement even if you’re not rich.  And more chances for folks to earn their way into the middle class as long as they’re willing to work for it.

Last Tuesday, I went to Tennessee to talk about that first cornerstone, and lay out a grand bargain for middle-class jobs. And today, I’ve come to Phoenix to talk about that second, most tangible cornerstone at the heart of middle-class life: the chance to own your own home.

A home is supposed to be our ultimate evidence that in America, hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.  I think of my grandparents’ generation.  After my grandfather served in World War II, this country gave him the chance to go to college on the GI Bill, and buy his first home with a loan from the FHA.  To him, and to generations of Americans before and since, a home was more than just a house.  A home was a source of pride and security.  It was a place to raise children, put down roots, and build up savings for college, or a business, or retirement.  And buying a home required responsibility on everyone’s part – banks were supposed to give you a fair deal, with terms you could understand, and buyers were supposed to live within their means.  In my grandfather’s America, houses weren’t for flipping – they were for living in.

But over time, responsibility too often gave way to recklessness – on the part of lenders who sold loans to people who couldn’t afford them, and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them.  And when the housing bubble burst, triggering the recession, millions of Americans who had done everything right were hurt badly by the actions of others.  By the time I took office, home values had fallen almost 20% from the year before.  New housing starts had fallen nearly 80% from their peak. Hundreds of thousands of construction workers had lost their jobs.  A record number of people were behind on their mortgages.  And the storm hit harder here in Phoenix than almost anywhere.

So less than a month after I took office, I came here to Arizona and laid out steps to stabilize the housing market and help responsible homeowners get back on their feet.  And while it’s been a long, slow process that’s taken longer than any of us would like, we’ve helped millions of Americans save an average of $3,000 each year by refinancing at lower rates, and we’ve helped millions of responsible homeowners stay in their homes.


where Congress wouldn’t act, we did.  Over the past few years, the Department of Justice stood up for buyers who were discriminated against or conned by predatory lenders, winning more money for victims of discrimination last year alone than in the previous 23 combined.  We worked with states to force big banks to repay more than $50 billion dollars to more than 1.5 million families – the largest lending settlement in history.  We’ve extended the time folks who’ve lost their jobs can delay payments on their mortgages while they keep looking for work.  And we’ve cracked down on the bad practices that led to the crisis in the first place – because if something is called a “liar’s loan,” it’s probably a bad idea.

Today, our housing market is healing.  Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in 7 years.  Sales are up nearly 50%.  Construction is up nearly 75%.  New foreclosures are down by nearly two-thirds.  Millions of families have been able to come up for air, because they’re no longer underwater on their mortgages.  And even though we’re not where we were need to be yet, Phoenix has led one of the biggest comebacks in the country.  Home prices have risen by nearly 20% over the last year.  New home sales are up by more than 25%.  A company I visited this morning, Erickson Construction, shrank to less than 100 workers during the worst years of the crisis.  Today they employ 580 people – and they’re hiring even more.

Now we have to build on this progress. We give to more hard-working Americans the chance to buy their first home.  We have to help more responsible homeowners refinance their mortgage. And above all, we have to turn the page on the bubble-and-bust mentality that created this mess, and build a housing system that’s durable and fair and rewards responsibility for generations to come.

Some of the ideas I put forward today will be new.  Some will be old ideas Congress hasn’t acted on yet.  But like the other actions we’ve taken, these will not help the neighbors down the street who bought a house they couldn’t afford, then walked away and left a foreclosed home behind.  It won’t help speculators who bought multiple homes just to make a quick buck.

What these ideas will do is help millions of responsible, middle-class homeowners who still need relief, and working Americans who dream of owning their own home fair and square.  And there are immediate actions we can take, right now, that would make a difference.

Step one is for Congress to pass a good, bipartisan idea, and allow every homeowner to save thousands of dollars a year by refinancing their mortgage at today’s rates.  Let’s get that done.

Step two: now that we’ve made it harder for reckless buyers to buy homes they can’t afford, let’s make it easier for qualified buyers to buy homes they can.  We should simplify overlapping regulations and cut red tape for responsible families who want to get a mortgage, but who keep getting rejected by banks.  And we should give well-qualified Americans who lost their jobs during the crisis a fair chance to get a loan if they’ve worked hard to repair their credit.

Step three is something you don’t always hear about when it comes to the housing market – and that’s fixing a broken immigration system.  It’s pretty simple: when more people buy homes, and play by the rules, home values go up for everybody.  According to one recent study, the average homeowner has already seen the value of their home boosted by thousands of dollars, just because of immigration.  Now, with the help of your Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, the Senate has already passed a bipartisan immigration bill that’s got the support of CEOs, labor, and law enforcement.  And considering what this bill can do for homeowners, that’s just one more reason Republicans in the House should stop dragging their feet and get this done.

Step four: we should address the uneven recovery by rebuilding the communities hit hardest by the housing crisis, including many right here in Arizona.  Let’s put construction workers back to work repairing rundown homes and tearing down vacant properties.  Places facing a longer road back from the crisis should have their country’s help to get there.

Step five: we should make sure families that don’t want to buy a home, or can’t yet afford to buy one, have a decent place to rent.  In the run-up to the crisis, banks and the government too often made everyone feel like they had to own a home, even if they weren’t ready.  That’s a mistake we shouldn’t repeat.  Instead, let’s invest in affordable rental housing.  And let’s bring together cities and states to address local barriers that drive up rent for working families.

Helping more Americans refinance.  Helping qualified families get a mortgage.  Reforming our immigration system.  Rebuilding the hardest-hit communities.  Making sure folks have a decent place to rent.  These steps will give more middle-class families the chance to buy their own home, more relief

to responsible homeowners, and more options for families who aren’t yet ready to buy.  But as home prices rise, we can’t just re-inflate a housing bubble.  That’s the second thing I’m here to talk about today: laying a rock-solid foundation to make sure the kind of crisis we just went through never happens again.

That begins with winding down the companies known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  For too long, these companies were allowed to make big profits buying mortgages, knowing that if their bets went bad, taxpayers would be left holding the bag.  It was “heads we win, tails you lose.”  And it was wrong.

The good news is that there’s a bipartisan group of Senators working to end Fannie and Freddie as we know them.  I support these kinds of efforts, and today I want to lay out four core principles for what I believe this reform should look like.

First, private capital should take a bigger role in the mortgage market.  I know that must sound confusing to the folks who call me a raging socialist every day.  But just like the health care law that set clear rules for insurance companies to protect consumers and make it more affordable for millions to buy coverage on the private market, I believe that while our housing system must have a limited government role, private lending should be the backbone of the housing market, including community-based lenders who view their borrowers not as a number, but as a neighbor.

Second, no more leaving taxpayers on the hook for irresponsibility or bad decisions.  We encourage the pursuit of profit – but the era of expecting a bailout after your pursuit of profit puts the whole country at risk is over.

Third, we should preserve access to safe and simple mortgage products like the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage.  That’s something families should be able to rely on when they make the most important purchase of their lives.

Fourth, we have to keep housing affordable for first-time homebuyers and families working to climb into the middle class.  We need to strengthen the FHA so it gives today’s families the same kind of chance it gave my grandparents, and preserves that rung on the ladder of opportunity.  And we need to support affordable rental housing and keep up our fight against homelessness.  Since I took office we’ve helped bring one in four homeless veterans off the streets. Here in Phoenix, thanks to the hard work of everyone from Mayor Stanton to the local United Way to US Airways, you’re on track to end chronic homelessness for veterans by 2014.  But we have to keep going, because nobody in America, and certainly no veteran, should be left to live on the street.

Putting these principles in place will protect our entire economy, but we also need to do more to give individual homeowners the tools they need to protect themselves.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau we created is laying down new rules of the road that every family can count on when they’re shopping for a mortgage.  They’re designing a new, simple mortgage form in plain English, with no fine print, so you know before you owe.  And I’m glad the Senate finally confirmed Richard Cordray as the head watchdog at the CFPB, so he can aggressively protect homeowners and consumers.

But when it comes to some of the other leaders we need to look out for the American people, the Senate still has to do its job.  Months ago, I nominated a man named Mel Watt to be our nation’s top housing regulator.  Mel’s represented the people of North Carolina in Congress for 20 years, and in that time, he worked with banks and borrowers to protect consumers and help responsible lenders provide credit.  He’s the right person for the job, and Congress should give his nomination an up-or-down vote without any more obstruction or delay.

Now I want to be clear: no program or policy will solve all the problems in a multi-trillion dollar housing market.  The heights the housing bubble reached before it burst were unsustainable, and it will take time to fully recover.  But if we take the steps I put forward today, then I know we will restore not just our home values, but our common values.  We’ll make owning a home a symbol of responsibility and a source of security for generations to come, just like it was for my grandparents, and just like I want it to be for our grandchildren.

And if we follow the strategy I am laying out for our entire economy: for jobs, housing, education, healthcare, retirement, and climbing the ladders of opportunity, then I have no doubt we will secure that better bargain where hard work is once again rewarded with a shot at a middle-class life.  More Americans will know the pride of that first paycheck.  More will know the satisfaction of flipping the sign to “Open” on their own business.  More will know the joy of etching a child’s height into the door of their new home.

We can do all this if we work together.  It won’t be easy, but if we’re willing to take a few bold steps – and if Washington will just end

the gridlock and set aside the kind of slash-and-burn partisanship we’ve seen these past few years – our economy will be stronger a year from now.  And five years from now.  And ten years from now.  And as long as I have the privilege of serving as your President, I’ll spend every minute of every day I have left in this office doing everything I can to build that better bargain for the middle class and make this country a place where everyone who works hard can get ahead.

Thank you, Arizona.  God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Full Text Obama Presidency August 3, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Pitching a ‘Grand Bargain’ for the Middle Class



Obama’s Weekly Address: Pitching a ‘Grand Bargain’ for the Middle Class

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Highlighting his new “grand bargain” offer to Republicans, President Obama says his plan to couple corporate tax reform with investments in programs to create middle class jobs has the potential to break through the “Washington logjam.”…READ MORE

Weekly Address: Securing a Better Bargain for the Middle Class

Source: WH, 8-3-13

In this week’s address, President Obama told the American people that his plan for creating a better bargain for the middle class builds on the progress we’ve made, fighting our way back from the worst economic recession of our lifetimes. The President underscored the need for Congress to end the logjam in Washington and act on his plan that strengthens the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America: a good job, a home that is your own, affordable health care, and a secure retirement.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
August 3, 2013

Hi, everybody.  This week, I went down to an Amazon warehouse in Tennessee to talk more about what we need to do to secure a better bargain for the middle class – to make sure that anyone who works hard can get ahead in the 21st century economy.

Over the past four and a half years, we’ve fought our way back from the worst recession of our lifetimes and begun to lay a foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth.  Today, our businesses have created 7.3 million new jobs over the last 41 months.  We now sell more products made in America to the rest of the world than ever before.  Health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years, and our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years.

But as any middle-class family will tell you, we’re not where we need to be yet.  Even before the crisis hit, we were living through a decade where a few at the top were doing better and better, while most families were working harder and harder just to get by.

Reversing this trend must be Washington’s highest priority.  It’s certainly mine.  But too often over the past two years, Washington has taken its eye off the ball.  They’ve allowed an endless parade of political posturing and phony scandals to distract from growing our economy and strengthening the middle class.

That’s why I’m laying out my ideas for how we can build on the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America.  A good education.  A home of your own.  Health care when you get sick.  A secure retirement even if you’re not rich.  And the most important cornerstone of all: a good job in a durable, growing industry.

When it comes to creating more good jobs that pay decent wages, the problem is not a lack of ideas.  Plenty of independent economists, business owners and people from both parties agree on what we have to do.  I proposed many of these ideas two years ago in the American Jobs Act.  And this week, I put forward common-sense proposals for how we can create more jobs in manufacturing; in wind, solar and natural gas; and by rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

What we’re lacking is action from Washington.  And that’s why, in addition to proposing ideas that we know will grow our economy, I’ve also put forward a strategy for breaking through the Washington logjam – a “grand bargain” for the middle class.

I’m willing to work with Republicans to simplify our tax code for businesses large and small, but only if we take the money we save by transitioning to a simpler tax system and make a significant investment in creating good, middle-class jobs.  We can put construction workers back on the job rebuilding our infrastructure.  We can boost manufacturing, so more American companies can sell their products around the world.  And we can help our community colleges arm our workers with the skills they need in a global economy – all without adding a dime to the deficit.

I’ll keep laying out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot in the 21st century, and I’ll keep reaching out to Republicans for theirs.  But gutting critical investments in our future and threatening national default on the bills that Congress has already racked up – that’s not an economic plan.  Denying health care to millions of Americans, or shutting down the government just because I’m for keeping it open – that won’t help the middle class.

The truth is, there are no gimmicks when it comes to creating jobs.  There are no tricks to grow the economy.  Reversing the long erosion of middle-class security in this country won’t be easy.  But if we work together and take a few bold steps – and if Washington is willing to set aside politics and focus on what really matters – we can grow our economy and give the middle class a better bargain.  And together, we can make this country a place where everyone who works hard can get ahead.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.


Full Text Obama Presidency July 30, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Jobs for the Middle Class Unveils “Grand Bargain”



Remarks by the President on Jobs for the Middle Class

Source: WH, 7-30-13

President Obama Speaks on Jumpstarting Job Growth

President Obama Speaks on Jumpstarting Job Growth

Amazon Chattanooga Fulfillment Center
Chattanooga, Tennessee

2:00 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Chattanooga! (Applause.) It is good to be back in Tennessee. (Applause.) It’s great to be here at Amazon. (Applause.)

I want to thank Lydia for the introduction and sharing her story. Give Lydia a big round of applause. (Applause.) So this is something here. I just finished getting a tour of just one little corner of this massive facility — size of 28 football fields. Last year, during the busiest day of the Christmas rush, customers around the world ordered more than 300 items from Amazon every second, and a lot of those traveled through this building. So this is kind of like the North Pole of the south right here. (Applause.) Got a bunch of good-looking elves here.

Before we start, I want to recognize your general manager, Mike Thomas. (Applause.) My tour guide and your vice president, Dave Clark. (Applause.) You’ve got the Mayor of Chattanooga, Andy Berke. (Applause.) And you’ve got one of the finest gentlemen I know, your Congressman, Jim Cooper. (Applause.) So thank you all for being here.

So I’ve come here today to talk a little more about something I was discussing last week, and that’s what we need to do as a country to secure a better bargain for the middle class -– a national strategy to make sure that every single person who’s willing to work hard in this country has a chance to succeed in the 21st century economy. (Applause.)

Now, you heard from Lydia, so you know — because many of you went through it — over the past four and a half years, we’ve been fighting our way back from the worst recession since the Great Depression, and it cost millions of Americans their jobs and their homes and their savings. And part of what it did is it laid bare the long-term erosion that’s been happening when it comes to middle-class security.

But because the American people are resilient, we bounced back. Together, we’ve righted the ship. We took on a broken health care system. We invested in new American technologies to reverse our addiction to foreign oil. Changed a tax code that had become tilted too much in favor of the wealthy at the expense of working families. Saved the auto industry, and thanks to GM and the UAW working together, we’re bringing jobs back here to America, including 1,800 autoworkers in Spring Hill. (Applause.) 1,800 workers in Spring Hill are on the job today where a plant was once closed.

Today, our businesses have created 7.2 million new jobs over the last 40 months. This year, we’re off to our best private-sector jobs growth since 1999. We now sell more products made in America to the rest of the world than ever before. (Applause.) We produce more renewable energy than ever. We produce more natural gas than anybody else in the world. (Applause.) Health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years. Our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years. (Applause.)

So thanks to hardworking folks like you, thanks to the grit and resilience of the American people, we’ve been able to clear away some of the rubble from the financial crisis. We’ve started to lay a new foundation for a stronger, more durable America — the kind of economic growth that’s broad-based, the foundation required to make this century another American century.

But as I said last week, and as any middle-class family will tell you, we’re not there yet. Even before the financial crisis hit, we were going through a decade where a few at the top were doing better and better, but most families were working harder and harder just to get by. And reversing that trend should be Washington’s highest priority. (Applause.) It’s my highest priority.

But so far, for most of this year, we’ve seen an endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals. And we keep on shifting our way — shifting our attention away from what we should be focused on, which is how do we strengthen the middle class and grow the economy for everybody. (Applause.) And as Washington heads towards yet another budget debate, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

And that’s why I’m visiting cities and towns like this -– to lay out my ideas for how we can build on the cornerstone of what it means to be middle class in America. A good job with good wages. A good education. (Applause.) A home to call your own. (Applause.) Affordable health care that’s there for you when you get sick. (Applause.) A secure retirement even if you’re not rich. (Applause.) More chances for folks to earn their way into the middle class as long as they’re willing to work for it. And, most importantly, the chance to pass on a better future for our kids. (Applause.)

So I’m doing a series of speeches over the next several weeks, but I came to Chattanooga today to talk about the first and most important cornerstone of middle-class security, and that’s a good job in a durable, growing industry. (Applause.)

It’s hard to get the other stuff going if you don’t have a good job. And the truth is everything I’m going to be talking about over the next several weeks really is about jobs. Because preparing our children and our workers for the global competition they’ll face, that’s about jobs. A housing finance system that makes it easier and safer to buy and build new homes, that’s about jobs in the construction industry. Health care that frees you from the fear of losing everything after you’ve worked so hard, and then having the freedom to maybe start your own business because you know you’ll be able to get health care, that’s about jobs. And, obviously, retirement benefits speak to the quality of our jobs.

And let me say this, it’s something everybody here understands: Jobs are about more than just paying the bills. Jobs are about more than just statistics. We’ve never just defined having a job as having a paycheck here in America. A job is a source of pride, is a source of dignity. It’s the way you look after your family. (Applause.) It’s proof that you’re doing the right things and meeting your responsibilities and contributing to the fabric of your community and helping to build the country. That’s what a job is all about. It’s not just about a paycheck. It’s not just about paying the bills. It’s also about knowing that what you’re doing is important, that it counts.

So we should be doing everything we can as a country to create more good jobs that pay good wages. Period. (Applause.)

Now, here’s the thing, Chattanooga, the problem is not that we don’t have ideas about how we could create even more jobs. We’ve got a lot of ideas out there. There are plenty of independent economists, plenty of business owners, people from both parties agree on some of the ingredients that we need for creating good jobs. And you’ve heard them debated again and again over these past few years. I proposed a lot of these ideas myself. Just two years ago, I announced the American Jobs Act — full of ideas that every independent economist said would create more jobs. Some were passed by Congress. But I got to admit, most of them weren’t. Sometimes there were ideas that historically had Republican support and for some reason suddenly Republicans didn’t want to support them anymore.

Putting people back to work rebuilding America’s infrastructure. Equipping our kids and our workers with the best skills. Leading the world in scientific research that helps to pave the way for new jobs in new industries. Accelerating our clean energy and natural gas revolutions. Fixing a broken immigration system so that American workers aren’t undercut, undermined because some businesses are unscrupulous and hiring folks and not paying them decent wages. (Applause.)

Independent economists say immigration reform would boost our economy by more than a trillion dollars. So we’ve got ideas out there we know can work. And if we don’t make these investments, if we don’t make these reforms, then we might as well be waving the white flag to the rest of the world, because they’re moving forward. They’re not slowing down. China, Germany, India — they’re going. And we can’t just sit by and do nothing. Doing nothing doesn’t help the middle class. (Applause.)

So today, I came here to offer a framework that might help break through some of the political logjam in Washington and try to get Congress to start moving on some of these proven ideas. But let me briefly outline some of the areas I think we need to focus on if we want to create good jobs, with good wages, in durable industries -– areas that will fuel our future growth.

Number one — jobs in American manufacturing. (Applause.) Over the past four years, for the first time since the 1990s, the number of manufacturing jobs in America hasn’t gone down, it’s actually gone up. (Applause.) So the trend lines are good; now we’ve got to build on that progress. I want to offer new incentives for manufacturers not to ship jobs overseas, but to bring them back here to America. (Applause.) I want new tax credits so communities hit hardest by plant closures can attract new investment. (Applause.)

In my State of the Union address, I asked Congress to build on a successful pilot program we’ve set up. We want to create not just 15 manufacturing innovation institutes that connect businesses and universities and federal agencies to help communities left behind by global competition to become centers of high-tech jobs. Today, I’m asking Congress to build on this bipartisan support and triple that number from 15 to 45 — these hubs — where we’re getting businesses, universities, communities all to work together to develop centers of high-tech industries all throughout the United States that allow us to be at the forefront of the next revolution of manufacturing. I want it made here in the United States of America. I don’t want that happening overseas. (Applause.)

Number two — I talked about this last week — jobs rebuilding our infrastructure. I look at this amazing facility and you guys, you don’t miss a beat. I mean, you’ve got these packages coming out. You’ve got dog food and Kindles and beard trimmers. (Laughter.) I mean, there’s all kinds of stuff around here. But once it’s packed up, it’s got to get to the customer. And how quickly and how dependably it gets to the customer depends on do we have good roads, do we have good bridges, do we have state-of-the-art airports.

We’ve got about $2 trillion of deferred maintenance here in this country. So let’s put more construction workers back on the job doing the work America needs done. (Applause.) These are vital projects that Amazon needs, businesses all across the country need, like widening Route 27 here in Chattanooga — (applause) — deepening the Jacksonville Port that I visited last week. These are projects vital to our national pride.

We’re going to be breaking ground this week at the St. Louis Arch. Congress should pass what I’ve called my “Fix-It-First” plan to put people to work immediately on our most urgent repairs, like the 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare. That will create good middle-class jobs right now. (Applause.) And we should partner with the private sector to upgrade what businesses like Amazon need most. We should have a modern air traffic control system to keep planes running on time. We should have modern power grids and pipelines to survive a storm. We should have modern schools to prepare our kids for the jobs of tomorrow. (Applause.)

Number three, we need to keep creating good jobs in energy — in wind and solar and natural gas. Those new energy sources are reducing energy costs. They’re reducing dangerous carbon pollution. They’re reducing our dependence on foreign oil. So now is not the time to gut investments in American technology. Now is the time to double down on renewable energy and biofuels and electric vehicles, and to put money into the research that will shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. (Applause.)

And let me tell you, cheaper costs of natural gas is a huge boost to our businesses here in America, so we should develop it even more. We’ve got to do it in a way that protects our air and our water for our children and future generations. But we can do that. We’ve got the technology to do it.

Number four, we’ve got to export more. We want to send American goods all around the world. (Applause.) A year ago, I signed a new trade agreement with Korea, because they were selling a lot of Hyundais here, but we weren’t selling a lot of GM cars over there. Since we signed that deal, our Big Three automakers are selling 18 percent more cars in Korea than they were. (Applause.)

So now we’ve got to help more of our businesses do the same thing. I’m asking Congress for the authority to negotiate the best trade deals possible for our workers, and combine it with robust training and assistance measures to make sure our workers have the support and the skills they need for this new global competition. And we’re going to have to sharpen our competitive edge in the global job marketplace.

Two years ago, we created something called SelectUSA. This is a coordinated effort to attract foreign companies looking to invest and create jobs here in the United States. And today I’m directing my Cabinet to expand these efforts. And this October, I’m going to bring business leaders from around the world, and I’m going to connect them to state leaders and local leaders like your mayor who are ready to prove there’s no better place to do business than right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)

Number five — let’s do more to help the more than 4 million long-term unemployed Americans that are out there. (Applause.) One of the problems is a lot of folks, they lose their jobs during this really bad recession through no fault of their own. They’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but because they’ve been out of work so long employers won’t even give their application a fair look. (Applause.)

So I’m challenging CEOs to do more to get these Americans back on their feet. And I’m going to bring together the CEOs and companies that are putting in place some of the best practices for recruiting and training and hiring workers who have been out of work for a long time, but want the chance to show that they’re ready to go back to work. (Applause.)

And at the same time, I’m calling on our businesses to do more for their workers. (Applause.) Amazon is a great example of what’s possible. What you’re doing here at Amazon with your Career Choice Program pays 95 percent of the tuition for employees who want to earn skills in fields with high demand — not just, by the way, jobs here at Amazon, but jobs anywhere — computer-aided design or nursing. I talked to Jeff Bezos yesterday, and he was so proud of the fact that he wants to see every employee at Amazon continually upgrade their skills and improve. And if they’ve got a dream they want to pursue, Amazon wants to help them pursue it. (Applause.)

That’s the kind of approach that we need from America’s businesses. Offering training programs, health care, retirement plans, paying better wages — that’s not just the right thing to do, it’s actually good for your bottom line. A recent study shows that when a company makes the list of the “100 Best Companies to Work for in America,” its share price outperforms its competitors, because the stock market and investors, they know if a company has employees that are motivated and happy, that business is more likely to succeed. (Applause.) That business is more likely to succeed.

And because nobody who works full-time in America should have to live in poverty, I’m going to keep on making the case and fighting for the fact that we need to raise our minimum wage, because right now it’s in lower terms than it was when Ronald Reagan took office. (Applause.) When folks have more money in their pockets, that’s good for Amazon; it means your customers have a little more money. They can order a little more of that protein powder. (Laughter.) I noticed a lot of folks were ordering protein power. Everybody is trying to get bulked up. (Laughter.)

So here’s — those are some of the ideas that we’re out there, we’re promoting. We’re not lacking for ideas, we’re just lacking action, especially out of Washington. (Applause.)

For most of the past two years, Washington has just taken its eye off the ball when it comes to the middle class. And I’ll tell you — look, there are a growing number of — the good news is there are a growing number of Republican senators who are trying to work with Democrats to get some stuff done. (Applause.) That’s good news.

The bad news is that rather than keep our focus on what should be our priority — which is growing our economy and creating good middle-class jobs — we’ve seen a certain faction of Republicans in Congress hurt a fragile recovery by saying that they wouldn’t pay the very bills that Congress racked up in the first place, threatening to shut down the people’s government if they can’t get rid of Obamacare. Instead of reducing our deficits with a scalpel to get rid of programs we don’t need, but keep vital investments that we do, this same group has kept in place this meat cleaver called the sequester that is just slashing all kinds of important investments in education and research and our military. All the things that are needed to make this country a magnet for good middle-class jobs, those things are being cut.

And these moves don’t just hurt our economy in the long term; they hurt our middle class right now. The independent Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cuts that are being made right now in Washington will cost our economy 750,000 jobs this year; 900,000 fewer jobs next year. And a lot of the jobs at risk are at small businesses that contract with our military or our federal agencies.

Over the past four years, another 700,000 workers at the federal, state, and local levels of government have lost their jobs. These are cops and firefighters, and about half of them are people who work in our schools. Those are real jobs. It doesn’t help a company like Amazon when a teacher or a cop or a firefighter loses their job. They don’t have money to place an order. That’s hundreds of thousands of customers who have less money to spend.

If those layoffs had not happened, if public sector employees grew like they did in the past two recessions, the unemployment rate would be 6.5 percent instead of 7.5 percent. Our economy would be much better off, and the deficit would still be going down because we’d be getting more tax revenue.

So the point is, if Washington spent as much time and energy these past two years figuring out how to grow our economy and grow our middle class as it’s spent manufacturing crises in pursuit of a cut-at-all-costs approach to deficits, we’d be much better off. We’d be much better off. (Applause.)

And it’s not like we don’t have to cut our deficits. As a share of the economy, we’ve cut our deficits by nearly half since I took office. Half. And they’re projected to go down even further, but there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. And we should do it in a way that actually helps middle-class families instead of hurts them. (Applause.)

I’ve told Republicans that if they’re serious about a balanced, long-term fiscal plan that replaces harmful budget cuts that would get serious about a long-term plan that prevents those 900,000 jobs from being lost, that helps grow the economy, that helps the middle class, I am ready to go. But we can’t lose sight of our North Star. We can’t allow an impasse over long-term fiscal challenges to distract us from what the middle class needs right now.

So here’s the bottom line: If folks in Washington really want a grand bargain, how about a grand bargain for middle-class jobs? (Applause.) How about a grand bargain for middle-class jobs?

I don’t want to go through the same old arguments where I propose an idea and the Republicans just say, no, because it’s my idea. (Applause.) So I’m going to try offering something that serious people in both parties should be able to support: a deal that simplifies the tax code for our businesses and creates good jobs with good wages for middle-class folks who work at those businesses.

Right now, everybody knows this — our tax code is so riddled with loopholes and special interest tax breaks that a lot of companies who are doing the right thing and investing in America pay 35 percent in their taxes; corporations who have got fancy accountants and stash their money overseas, they pay little or nothing in taxes. That’s not fair, and it’s not good for the economy here.

So I’m willing to simplify our tax code — closes those loopholes, ends incentives to ship jobs overseas, lowers the rate for businesses that are creating jobs right here in America, provides tax incentives for manufacturers that bring jobs home to the United States. Let’s simplify taxes for small business owners, give them incentives to invest so they can spend less time filling out complicated forms, more time expanding and hiring.

I’m willing to do all that that should help businesses and help them grow. But if we’re going to give businesses a better deal, then we’re also going to have to give workers a better deal, too. (Applause.) I want to use some of the money that we save by closing these loopholes to create more good construction jobs with infrastructure initiatives that I already talked about. We can build a broader network of high-tech manufacturing hubs that leaders from both parties can support. We can help our community colleges arm our workers with the skills that a global economy demands. All these things would benefit the middle class right now and benefit our economy in the years to come.

So, again, here’s the bottom line: I’m willing to work with Republicans on reforming our corporate tax code, as long as we use the money from transitioning to a simpler tax system for a significant investment in creating middle-class jobs. That’s the deal. (Applause.)

And I’m just going to keep on throwing ideas out there to see if something takes. (Laughter.) I’m going to lay out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot. But now it’s time for Republicans to lay out their ideas.

If they’ve got a better plan to bring back more manufacturing jobs here to Tennessee and around the country, then let them know — let me know. I want to hear them. If they’ve got a better plan to create jobs rebuilding our infrastructure or to help workers earn the high-tech skills that they need, then they should offer up these ideas.

But I’ve got to tell you, just gutting our environmental protection, that’s not a jobs plan. Gutting investments in education, that’s not a jobs plan. They keep on talking about this — an oil pipeline coming down from Canada that’s estimated to create about 50 permanent jobs — that’s not a jobs plan. Wasting the country’s time by taking something like 40 meaningless votes to repeal Obamacare is not a jobs plan. That’s not a jobs plan. (Applause.)

So let’s get serious. Look, I want to tell everybody here the truth. And you know, look, I know that the politics for Obama aren’t always great in Tennessee. I understand that. But I want everybody to just hear the honest truth. I’ve run my last campaign, so I don’t need to spin. (Applause.)

And here’s the truth — there are no gimmicks that create jobs. There are no simple tricks to grow the economy. Growing the economy, making sure that the middle class is strong is like getting in shape. You can’t just go on the muffin and doughnut diet and the latest fad and lose weight. You’ve got to work out and you’ve got to eat better. Well, the same is true for our economy. The same is true for helping the middle class.

We’ve got to have a serious, steady, long-term American strategy to reverse the long-term erosion of middle-class security and give everybody a fair shot. (Applause.) And we know what we have to do. It involves education. It involves infrastructure. It involves research. It involves good energy policy. And we just have to stay at it — more good jobs that pay decent wages, a better bargain for the middle class, an economy that grows from the middle out. That’s got to be our focus.

We can’t be getting into a whole bunch of fads and pretend like you roll back Obamacare and suddenly all these jobs are going to be created, because the middle class was struggling before I came into office. (Applause.) The middle class was losing ground before I came into office. (Applause.) Jobs were getting shipped overseas before Obamacare was in place. So we’ve got to be honest. We’ve got to be honest about the challenges we face, but also the opportunities that are out there.

And that’s what I’m going to be focused on not just for the next few months. I’m going to be focused for every one of the 1,270 days I’ve got left in my presidency on how to make sure that we’ve got more opportunity and more security for everybody who is willing to work hard in this country. That’s where I believe America needs to go. (Applause.) And we can do it if we work together, Chattanooga. Let’s get to work.

Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

2:32 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines July 24, 2013: President Barack Obama Starts Economic Campaign, Accuses GOP of Obstruction





Obama Starts Economic Campaign, Accuses GOP of Obstruction

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Seeking to force the public debate back to the economy, President Obama slammed Republicans on Wednesday for standing in the way of his efforts to boost the middle class, as he launched a campaign to highlight his second-term priorities.

“With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball.  And I am here to say this needs to stop,” the president said in a speech at Knox College, the site of his first economic address on the national stage in 2005….READ MORE

Political Headlines July 24, 2013: President Barack Obama Focuses on Economy, Vowing to Help Middle Class in Knox College Speech





Obama Focuses on Economy, Vowing to Help Middle Class

Source: NYT, 7-24-13

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

President Obama spoke about the economy On Wednesday at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.

President Obama tried to move past months of debate over guns, surveillance and scandal on Wednesday and reorient his administration behind a program to lift a middling economy and help middle-class Americans who are stuck with stagnant incomes and shrinking horizons….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





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’





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

Political Headlines February 16, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: The Plan for a Strong Middle Class





President Obama’s Weekly Address: the Plan for a Strong Middle Class

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-16-13


President Obama spent much of this week traveling the country promoting his State of the Union message — what he calls a “Plan for a Strong Middle Class.” Now in his weekly address, the president’s message is the same, urging lawmakers to act on the proposals he laid out in his Tuesday speech before a joint session of Congress.

Speaking from Hyde Park Academy in his hometown Chicago, the president says he wants to reignite the “true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.”….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 15, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Strengthening the Economy For The Middle Class & Gun Violence at Hyde Park Career Academy Chicago, Illinois

Giving Every Child a Chance in Life

Source: WH, 2-15-13

President Obama at the Hyde Park Career Academy Chicago, Illinois, Feb. 15, 2013President Barack Obama delivers remarks to discuss proposals unveiled in the State of the Union Address that focus on strengthening the economy for the middle class and those striving to get there, at Hyde Park Academy, Chicago, Ill., Feb. 15, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama was in Chicago on Friday to talk about the importance of making sure every child in America has every chance in life to succeed. Speaking at the Hyde Park Career Academy, which is less than a mile from the Obama’s home in that city, the President discussed the recent death of Hadiyah Pendleton, a Chicago teenager who was shot just days after attending the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, DC.

Hadiyah’s parents were guests of First Lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address on Tuesday, where President Obama discussed the need to prevent this kind of senseless violence and protect American children. But the important goal of  keeping guns out of the hands of criminals is not enough to ensure a bright future for all of our children, and the President also laid out a plan to rebuild ladders of opportunity for every American who is willing to work hard and climb them. This includes making sure every child in America has access to high-quality pre-K, and raising the minimum wage so that no family that works hard and relies on a minimum wage is living in poverty. But creating a path into the middle class also means transforming high-poverty communities into places of opportunity that can attract private investment, improve education, and create jobs, and President Obama talked about his plan to make that happen:

And that’s why on Tuesday I announced — and that’s part of what I want to focus on here in Chicago and across the country — is my intention to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit communities in America to get them back in the game — get them back in the game.

First, we’ll work with local leaders to cut through red tape and improve things like public safety and education and housing. And we’ll bring all the resources to bear in a coordinated fashion so that we can get that tipping point where suddenly a community starts feeling like things are changing and we can come back.

Second of all, if you’re willing to play a role in a child’s education, then we’ll help you reform your schools. We want to seed more and more partnerships of the kind that Rahm is trying to set up.

Third, we’re going to help bring jobs and growth to hard-hit neighborhoods by giving tax breaks to business owners who invest and hire in those neighborhoods.

Fourth, and specific to the issue of violence — because it’s very hard to develop economically if people don’t feel safe. If they don’t feel like they can walk down the street and shop at a store without getting hit over head or worse, then commerce dries up, businesses don’t want to locate, families move out, you get into the wrong cycle. So we’re going to target neighborhoods struggling to deal with violent crime and help them reduce that violence in ways that have been proven to work. And I know this is a priority of your Mayor’s; it’s going to be a priority of mine.

And finally, we’re going to keep working in communities all across the country, including here in Chicago, to replace run-down public housing that doesn’t offer much hope or safety with new, healthy homes for low- and moderate-income families.

Learn more about President Obama’s plan for a strong middle class and a strong America:

Remarks By The President On Strengthening The Economy For The Middle Class

Hyde Park Career Academy Chicago, Illinois

3:31 P.M. CST

THE PRESIDENT: Hey, Chicago! (Applause.) Hello, Chicago! Hello, everybody. Hello, Hyde Park! (Applause.) It is good to be home! It is good to be home. Everybody have a seat. You all relax. It’s just me. You all know me. It is good to be back home.

A couple of people I want to acknowledge — first of all, I want to thank your Mayor, my great friend, Rahm Emanuel for his outstanding leadership of the city and his kind introduction. (Applause.) I want to thank everybody here at Hyde Park Academy for welcoming me here today. (Applause.)

I want to acknowledge your principal and your assistant principal — although, they really make me feel old, because when I saw them — (laughter) — where are they? Where are they? Stand up. Stand up. (Applause.) They are doing outstanding work. We’re very, very proud them. But you do make me feel old. Sit down. (Laughter.)

A couple other people I want to acknowledge — Governor Pat Quinn is here doing great work down in Springfield. (Applause.) My great friend and senior Senator Dick Durbin is in the house. (Applause.) Congressman Bobby Rush is here. (Applause.) We’re in his district. Attorney General and former seatmate of mine when I was in the state senate, Lisa Madigan. (Applause.) County Board President — used to be my alderwoman — Tony Preckwinkle in the house. (Applause.)

And I’ve got — I see a lot of reverend clergy here, but I’m not going to mention them, because if I miss one I’m in trouble. (Laughter.) They’re all friends of mine. They’ve been knowing me.

Some people may not know this, but obviously, this is my old neighborhood. I used to teach right around the corner. This is where Michelle and I met, where we fell in love —


THE PRESIDENT: This is where we raised our daughters, in a house just about a mile away from here — less than a mile. And that’s really what I’ve come here to talk about today — raising our kids.

AUDIENCE: We love you!

THE PRESIDENT: I love you, too. (Applause.) I love you, too.

I’m here to make sure that we talk about and then work towards giving every child every chance in life; building stronger communities and new ladders of opportunity that they can climb into the middle class and beyond; and, most importantly, keeping them safe from harm.

Michelle was born and raised here — a proud daughter of the South Side. (Applause.) Last weekend, she came home, but it was to attend the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton. And Hadiya’s parents, by the way, are here — and I want to just acknowledge them. They are just wonderful, wonderful people. (Applause.)

And as you know, this week, in my State of the Union, I talked about Hadiya on Tuesday night and the fact that unfortunately what happened to Hadiya is not unique. It’s not unique to Chicago. It’s not unique to this country. Too many of our children are being taken away from us.

Two months ago, America mourned 26 innocent first-graders and their educators in Newtown. And today, I had the high honor of giving the highest civilian award I can give to the parent — or the families of the educators who had been killed in Newtown. And there was something profound and uniquely heartbreaking and tragic, obviously, about a group of 6-year-olds being killed. But last year, there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city, and 65 of those victims were 18 and under. So that’s the equivalent of a Newtown every four months.

And that’s precisely why the overwhelming majority of Americans are asking for some common-sense proposals to make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. And as I said on Tuesday night, I recognize not everybody agrees with every issue. There are regional differences. The experience of gun ownership is different in urban areas than it is in rural areas, different from upstate and downstate Illinois. But these proposals deserve a vote in Congress. They deserve a vote. (Applause.) They deserve a vote. And I want to thank those members of Congress who are working together in a serious way to try to address this issue.

But I’ve also said no law or set of laws can prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. When a child opens fire on another child, there’s a hole in that child’s heart that government can’t fill — only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole. In too many neighborhoods today — whether here in Chicago or the farthest reaches of rural America — it can feel like for a lot of young people the future only extends to the next street corner or the outskirts of town; that no matter how much you work or how hard you try, your destiny was determined the moment you were born. There are entire neighborhoods where young people, they don’t see an example of somebody succeeding. And for a lot of young boys and young men, in particular, they don’t see an example of fathers or grandfathers, uncles, who are in a position to support families and be held up and respected.

And so that means that this is not just a gun issue. It’s also an issue of the kinds of communities that we’re building. And for that, we all share a responsibility, as citizens, to fix it. We all share a responsibility to move this country closer to our founding vision that no matter who you are, or where you come from, here in America, you can decide your own destiny. You can succeed if you work hard and fulfill your responsibilities. (Applause.)

Now, that means we’ve got to grow our economy and create more good jobs. It means we’ve got to equip every American with the skills and the training to fill those jobs. And it means we’ve got to rebuild ladders of opportunity for everybody willing to climb them.

Now, that starts at home. There’s no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families — which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood. (Applause.) Don’t get me wrong — as the son of a single mom, who gave everything she had to raise me with the help of my grandparents, I turned out okay. (Applause and laughter.) But — no, no, but I think it’s — so we’ve got single moms out here, they’re heroic in what they’re doing and we are so proud of them. (Applause.) But at the same time, I wish I had had a father who was around and involved. Loving, supportive parents — and, by the way, that’s all kinds of parents — that includes foster parents, and that includes grandparents, and extended families; it includes gay or straight parents. (Applause.)

Those parents supporting kids — that’s the single most important thing. Unconditional love for your child — that makes a difference. If a child grows up with parents who have work, and have some education, and can be role models, and can teach integrity and responsibility, and discipline and delayed gratification — all those things give a child the kind of foundation that allows them to say, my future, I can make it what I want. And we’ve got to make sure that every child has that, and in some cases, we may have to fill the gap and the void if children don’t have that.

So we should encourage marriage by removing the financial disincentives for couples who love one another but may find it financially disadvantageous if they get married. We should reform our child support laws to get more men working and engaged with their children. (Applause.) And my administration will continue to work with the faith community and the private sector this year on a campaign to encourage strong parenting and fatherhood. Because what makes you a man is not the ability to make a child, it’s the courage to raise one. (Applause.)

We also know, though, that there is no surer path to success in the middle class than a good education. And what we now know is that that has to begin in the earliest years. Study after study shows that the earlier a child starts learning, the more likely they are to succeed — the more likely they are to do well at Hyde Park Academy; the more likely they are to graduate; the more likely they are to get a good job; the more likely they are to form stable families and then be able to raise children themselves who get off to a good start.

Chicago already has a competition, thanks to what the Mayor is doing, that rewards the best preschools in the city — so Rahm has already prioritized this. But what I’ve also done is say, let’s give every child across America access to high-quality, public preschool. Every child, not just some. (Applause.) Every dollar we put into early childhood education can save $7 down the road by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, reducing violent crime, reducing the welfare rolls, making sure that folks who have work, now they’re paying taxes. All this stuff pays back huge dividends if we make the investment. So let’s make this happen. Let’s make sure every child has the chance they deserve. (Applause.)

As kids go through school, we’ll recruit new math and science teachers to make sure that they’ve got the skills that the future demands. We’ll help more young people in low-income neighborhoods get summer jobs. We’ll redesign our high schools and encourage our kids to stay in high school, so that the diploma they get leads directly to a good job once they graduate. (Applause.)

Right here in Chicago, five new high schools have partnered with companies and community colleges to prepare our kids with the skills that businesses are looking for right now. And your College to Careers program helps community college students get access to the same kinds of real-world experiences. So we know what works. Let’s just do it in more places. Let’s reach more young people. Let’s give more kids a chance.

So we know how important families are. We know how important education is. We recognize that government alone can’t solve these problems of violence and poverty, that everybody has to be involved. But we also have to remember that the broader economic environment of communities is critical as well. For example, we need to make sure that folks who are working now, often in the hardest jobs, see their work rewarded with wages that allow them to raise a family without falling into poverty. (Applause.)

Today, a family with two kids that works hard and relies on a minimum wage salary still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong, and we should fix it. We should reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. And that’s why we should raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour and make it a wage you can live on. (Applause.)

And even though some cities have bounced back pretty quickly from the recession, we know that there are communities and neighborhoods within cities or in small towns that haven’t bounced back. Cities like Chicago are ringed with former factory towns that never came back all the way from plants packing up; there are pockets of poverty where young adults are still looking for their first job.

And that’s why on Tuesday I announced — and that’s part of what I want to focus on here in Chicago and across the country — is my intention to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit communities in America to get them back in the game — get them back in the game. (Applause.)

First, we’ll work with local leaders to cut through red tape and improve things like public safety and education and housing. And we’ll bring all the resources to bear in a coordinated fashion so that we can get that tipping point where suddenly a community starts feeling like things are changing and we can come back.

Second of all, if you’re willing to play a role in a child’s education, then we’ll help you reform your schools. We want to seed more and more partnerships of the kind that Rahm is trying to set up.

Third, we’re going to help bring jobs and growth to hard-hit neighborhoods by giving tax breaks to business owners who invest and hire in those neighborhoods. (Applause.)

Fourth, and specific to the issue of violence — because it’s very hard to develop economically if people don’t feel safe. If they don’t feel like they can walk down the street and shop at a store without getting hit over head or worse, then commerce dries up, businesses don’t want to locate, families move out, you get into the wrong cycle. So we’re going to target neighborhoods struggling to deal with violent crime and help them reduce that violence in ways that have been proven to work. And I know this is a priority of your Mayor’s; it’s going to be a priority of mine. (Applause.)

And finally, we’re going to keep working in communities all across the country, including here in Chicago, to replace run-down public housing that doesn’t offer much hope or safety with new, healthy homes for low- and moderate-income families. (Applause.)

And here in Woodlawn, you’ve seen some of the progress that we can make when we come together to rebuild our neighborhoods, and attract new businesses, and improve our schools. Woodlawn is not all the way where it needs to be, but thanks to wonderful institutions like Apostolic Church, we’ve made great progress. (Applause.)

So we want to help more communities follow your example. And let’s go even farther by offering incentives to companies that hire unemployed Americans who have got what it takes to fill a job opening, but they may have been out of work so long that nobody is willing to give them a chance right now. Let’s put our people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in need of repair. Young people can get experience — apprenticeships, learn a trade. And we’re removing blight from our community. (Applause.)

If we gather together what works, we can extend more ladders of opportunity for anybody who’s working to build a strong, middle-class life for themselves. Because in America, your destiny shouldn’t be determined by where you live, where you were born. It should be determined by how big you’re willing to dream, how much effort and sweat and tears you’re willing to put in to realizing that dream.

When I first moved to Chicago — before any of the students in this room were born — (laughter) — and a whole lot of people who are in the audience remember me from those days, I lived in a community on the South Side right up the block, but I also worked further south where communities had been devastated by some of the steel plants closing. And my job was to work with churches and laypeople and local leaders to rebuild neighborhoods, and improve schools, and help young people who felt like they had nowhere to turn.

And those of you who worked with me, Reverend Love, you remember, it wasn’t easy. Progress didn’t come quickly. Sometimes I got so discouraged I thought about just giving up. But what kept me going was the belief that with enough determination and effort and persistence and perseverance, change is always possible; that we may not be able to help everybody, but if we help a few then that propels progress forward. We may not be able to save every child from gun violence, but if we save a few, that starts changing the atmosphere in our communities. (Applause.) We may not be able to get everybody a job right away, but if we get a few folks a job, then everybody starts feeling a little more hopeful and a little more encouraged. (Applause.) Neighborhood by neighborhood, one block by one block, one family at a time.

Now, this is what I had a chance to talk about when I met with some young men from Hyde Park Academy who were participating in this B.A.M. program. Where are the guys I talked to? Stand up you all, so we can all see you guys. (Applause.) So these are some — these are all some exceptional young men, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. And the reason I’m proud of them is because a lot of them have had some issues. That’s part of the reason why you guys are in the program. (Laughter.)

But what I explained to them was I had issues too when I was their age. I just had an environment that was a little more forgiving. So when I screwed up, the consequences weren’t as high as when kids on the South Side screw up. (Applause.) So I had more of a safety net. But these guys are no different than me, and we had that conversation about what does it take to change. And the same thing that it takes for us individually to change, I said to them, well, that’s what it takes for communities to change. That’s what it takes for countries to change. It’s not easy.

But it does require us, first of all, having a vision about where we want to be. It requires us recognizing that it will be hard work getting there. It requires us being able to overcome and persevere in the face of roadblocks and disappointments and failures. It requires us reflecting internally about who we are and what we believe in, and facing up to our own fears and insecurities, and admitting when we’re wrong. And that same thing that we have to do in our individual lives that these guys talked about, that’s what we have to do for our communities. And it will not be easy, but it can be done.

When Hadiya Pendleton and her classmates visited Washington three weeks ago, they spent time visiting the monuments — including the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial just off the National Mall. And that memorial stands as a tribute to everything Dr. King achieved in his lifetime. But it also reminds us of how hard that work was and how many disappointments he experienced. He was here in Chicago fighting poverty, and just like a lot of us, there were times where he felt like he was losing hope. So in some ways, that memorial is a testament not to work that’s completed, but it’s a testament to the work that remains unfinished.

His goal was to free us not only from the shackles of discrimination, but from the shadow of poverty that haunts too many of our communities, the self-destructive impulses, and the mindless violence that claims so many lives of so many innocent young people.

These are difficult challenges. No solution we offer will be perfect. But perfection has never been our goal. Our goal has been to try and make whatever difference we can. Our goal has been to engage in the hard but necessary work of bringing America one step closer to the nation we know we can be.

If we do that, if we’re striving with every fiber of our being to strengthen our middle class, to extend ladders of opportunity for everybody who is trying as hard as they can to create a better life for themselves; if we do everything in our power to keep our children safe from harm; if we’re fulfilling our obligations to one another and to future generations; if we make that effort, then I’m confident — I’m confident that we will write the next great chapter in our American story. I’m not going to be able to do it by myself, though. Nobody can. We’re going to have to do it together.

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

END        3:58 P.M. CST

Political Headlines February 9, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: A ‘Balanced Approach’ to Averting the Sequester





Obama’s Address: A ‘Balanced Approach’ to Averting the Sequester

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-9-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

With deep budget cuts looming, President Obama is accusing Republicans of putting tax loopholes for the wealthy ahead of the needs of the middle class.

In his weekly address, the president urges lawmakers to pass a short-term package of spending cuts and tax revenue to head off across-the-board cuts set to kick-in on March 1.

Political Headlines December 21, 2012: Congress in Recess, President Barack Obama Still ‘Optimist’ On Fiscal Cliff Deal





Congress in Recess, Obama Still ‘Optimist’ On Fiscal Cliff Deal

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-21-12

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Ten days remain before the mandatory spending cuts and tax increases known as the “fiscal cliff” take effect, but President Obama says that he is still a “hopeless optimist” that a federal budget deal can be reached before the year-end deadline that economists agree would plunge the country back into recession.

“Even though Democrats and Republicans are arguing about whether those rates should go up for the wealthiest individuals, all of us — every single one of us — agrees that tax rates shouldn’t go up for the other 98 percent of Americans, which includes 97 percent of small businesses,” he said, adding there was “no reason” not to move forward on that aspect of theoretical legislation, and that it was “within our capacity” to resolve.

The question of whether to raise taxes on incomes over $250,000 remains at an impasse, but is only one aspect of nuanced legislative wrangling that has left the parties at odds….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 21, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Discusses the Fiscal Cliff & Urges Congress to Reconsider Minimal Deal — Calls for Stopgap Tax Bill



President Obama Discusses the Fiscal Cliff

Source: WH, 12-21-12

President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the press in the Brady Press Briefing Room (December 21, 2012)President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the press in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Dec. 21, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

After a week of negotiation and debate around the fiscal cliff, President Obama took to the James S. Brady Briefing Room in the White House to talk about where we are in the fight to keep middle-class taxes from going up.

“I just spoke to Speaker Boehner and I also met with Senator Reid,” he said. “In the next few days, I’ve asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction. That’s an achievable goal. That can get done in 10 days. Once this legislation is agreed to, I expect Democrats and Republicans to get back to Washington and have it pass both chambers. And I will immediately sign that legislation into law, before January 1st of next year. It’s that simple.”

He urged lawmakers to use the Christmas holiday to give the issue due consideration, and return to Washington ready to work on a solution.

“Everybody can cool off; everybody can drink some eggnog, have some Christmas cookies, sing some Christmas carols, enjoy the company of loved ones,” said President Obama. “And then I’d ask every member of Congress while they’re back home to think about that. Think about the obligations we have to the people who sent us here.”

Read the full remarks here.

Statement by the President on the Fiscal Cliff

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

5:34 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been working with leaders of both parties on a proposal to get our deficit under control, avoid tax cuts — or avoid tax hikes on the middle class, and to make sure that we can spur jobs and economic growth — a balanced proposal that cuts spending but also asks the wealthiest Americans to pay more; a proposal that will strengthen the middle class over the long haul and grow our economy over the long haul.

During the course of these negotiations, I offered to compromise with Republicans in Congress.  I met them halfway on taxes, and I met them more than halfway on spending.  And in terms of actual dollar amounts, we’re not that far apart.

As of today, I am still ready and willing to get a comprehensive package done.  I still believe that reducing our deficit is the right thing to do for the long-term health of our economy and the confidence of our businesses.  I remain committed to working towards that goal, whether it happens all at once or whether it happens in several different steps.

But in 10 days, we face a deadline.  In 10 days, under current law, tax rates are scheduled to rise on most Americans.  And even though Democrats and Republicans are arguing about whether those rates should go up for the wealthiest individuals, all of us — every single one of us — agrees that tax rates shouldn’t go up for the other 98 percent of Americans, which includes 97 percent of small businesses.  Every member of Congress believes that.  Every Democrat, every Republican.  So there is absolutely no reason — none — not to protect these Americans from a tax hike.  At the very least, let’s agree right now on what we already agree on.  Let’s get that done.

I just spoke to Speaker Boehner and I also met with Senator Reid.  In the next few days, I’ve asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction.  That’s an achievable goal.  That can get done in 10 days.

Once this legislation is agreed to, I expect Democrats and Republicans to get back to Washington and have it pass both chambers.  And I will immediately sign that legislation into law, before January 1st of next year.  It’s that simple.

Averting this middle-class tax hike is not a Democratic responsibility or a Republican responsibility.  With their votes, the American people have determined that governing is a shared responsibility between both parties.  In this Congress, laws can only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans.  And that means nobody gets 100 percent of what they want.  Everybody has got to give a little bit, in a sensible way.  We move forward together, or we don’t move forward at all.

So, as we leave town for a few days to be with our families for the holidays, I hope it gives everybody some perspective.  Everybody can cool off; everybody can drink some eggnog, have some Christmas cookies, sing some Christmas carols, enjoy the company of loved ones.  And then I’d ask every member of Congress while they’re back home to think about that.  Think about the obligations we have to the people who sent us here.  Think about the hardship that so many Americans will endure if Congress does nothing at all.

Just as our economy is really starting to recover and we’re starting to see optimistic signs, and we’ve seen actually some upside statistics from a whole range of areas including housing, now is not the time for more self-inflicted wounds — certainly not those coming from Washington.  And there’s so much more work to be done in this country — on jobs and on incomes, education and energy.  We’re a week away from one of the worst tragedies in memory, so we’ve got work to do on gun safety, a host of other issues.  These are all challenges that we can meet.  They’re all challenges that we have to meet if we want our kids to grow up in an America that’s full of opportunity and possibility, as much opportunity and possibility as the America that our parents and our grandparents left for us.

But we’re only going to be able to do it together.  We’re going to have to find some common ground.  And the challenge that we’ve got right now is that the American people are a lot more sensible and a lot more thoughtful and much more willing to compromise, and give, and sacrifice, and act responsibly than their elected representatives are.  And that’s a problem.

There’s a mismatch right now between how everybody else is thinking about these problems– Democrats and Republicans outside of this town — and how folks are operating here.  And we’ve just got to get that aligned.  But we’ve only got 10 days to do it.

So I hope that every member of Congress is thinking about that.  Nobody can get 100 percent of what they want.  And this is not simply a contest between parties in terms of who looks good and who doesn’t.  There are real-world consequences to what we do here.

And I want next year to be a year of strong economic growth. I want next year to be a year in which more jobs are created, and more businesses are started, and we’re making progress on all the challenges that we have out there — some of which, by the way, we don’t have as much control over as we have in terms of just shaping a sensible budget.

This is something within our capacity to solve.  It doesn’t take that much work.  We just have to do the right thing.  So call me a hopeless optimist, but I actually still think we can get it done.

And with that, I want to wish every American a merry Christmas.  And because we didn’t get this done, I will see you next week.


5:43 P.M. EST

Political Headlines December 19, 2012: President Barack Obama at Press Conference Urges GOP to ‘Take The Deal’ & Avoid Fiscal Cliff





Obama Urges GOP to ‘Take The Deal’

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-19-12

Alex Wong/Getty Images

With just 12 days until tax increases and steep spending cuts kick in, President Obama on Wednesday urged Republicans to “peel off the partisan war paint” and compromise on a deal to avoid going over the “fiscal cliff.”

Speaking at a White House news conference, Obama told House Republicans to “take the deal” and said it was puzzling that they have not accepted what he described as a “fair” offer.

“They will be able to claim that they have worked with me over the last two years to reduce the deficit more than any other deficit reduction package, that we will have stabilized it for 10 years. That is a significant achievement for them. They should be proud of it. But they keep on finding ways to say no, as opposed to finding ways to say yes,” he said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 18, 2012: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney on Possible Fiscal Cliff Deal Between President Barack Obama & Speaker John Boehner & Gun-Control Legislation





Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 12/18/2012

Source: WH, 12-18-12

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:48 P.M. EST

MR. CARNEY:  Okay.  Welcome to the White House.  I have no announcements.  I am here to answer your questions.

Mr. Feller.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  A lot to cover on the fiscal cliff.  I just want to focus on the tax rates portion.  During the election, repeatedly, and then after the election in his first extended comments the President underscored again his central promise to the American people that tax rates have to go up on households making over $250,000.  In the East Room he said, I’m not going to ask students and seniors and middle-class families to pay down the deficit while people like me making over $200,000 aren’t asked to pay a dime more in taxes.  Now the White House proposal is in fact to let people making up to $400,000 go without a tax increase.  How do you justify that broken promise?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I certainly wouldn’t put it that way.  I would say that the President, demonstrating —

Q    You wouldn’t call it a broken promise?

MR. CARNEY:  — his desire — no, I would not.  I would say that the President, demonstrating his belief that a balanced, large deficit reduction package is a worthwhile goal, has shown evident willingness to meet the Republicans halfway.

If you think about where he started, his initial proposal from his plan that he put forward to the so-called super committee was to achieve a goal of $1.6 trillion in revenue.  He has now come down to $1.2 trillion, as you know.  The Republicans started at $800 trillion and have moved up to $1 trillion.  The President has come halfway.  He hopes that the Republicans will do the same.  That is the essence of compromise, coming halfway.

On revenue, the President has come more than halfway in an effort to try to reach an agreement with the Republicans in the House and broadly in Congress because it’s the right thing to do. But he will not accept a deal that, in order to protect some of the wealthiest Americans from having their taxes go up, shifts the burden unduly onto seniors and the middle class.

So the fact that he’s willing to compromise and have rates go up on those making $400,000 and above, as opposed to $250,000 and above, demonstrates his good-faith effort here to reach a compromise and still have a package that is balanced and asks the wealthiest to pay more, enacts significant spending cuts, and puts us on a fiscally sustainable path.

I mean, the alternative here, if you think about it and the so-called plan B makes no sense.  There is an historic opportunity here to do something that has been set as a goal for a long time in Washington, which is reach a bipartisan compromise on significant deficit reduction on the order of $4 trillion when you take all the pieces of it and put them together.

We are very close to being able to achieve that, and the President has demonstrated an obvious willingness to compromise and to move more than halfway towards the Republicans.  To leave that offer on the table, including the trillion — the $1.22 trillion in spending cuts that the President has put forward because you don’t want to ask someone making $950,000 a year to pay more in taxes would be a shame and it would be bad policy.

So the President believes that the opportunity is there, the parameters of a deal are clear, the path to a compromise is clear, and he hopes that the Republicans will meet him on that path and do something that would be very good for the American people, for the middle class, and for our economy.

Q    Jay, there’s another alternative here, and we’re hearing some of the members of the President’s party say today, which is that for the entire campaign he talked about raising taxes on the top 2 percent.  He said that was the central theme and it was adjudicated in the election.  And you talked about it standing here yesterday, the top 2 percent.  If you go to $400,000, you’re not the top 2 percent, you’re not even the top 1 percent.  It’s less than that.  So isn’t the alternative for him to craft a deal in which he stands by his principle and sticks by his promise?

MR. CARNEY:  The President does have — did have a proposal that we have put forward that achieves that, and in an effort to meet the Republicans halfway he has put forward a proposal that still asks the wealthiest Americans, those, in this case, making over $400,000, to pay more in income taxes.  His overall proposal, by the way, includes other pieces, elements to it to achieve the revenue goal of $1.2 trillion, that includes asking the wealthiest to pay more through cap deductions and other reforms.

But the point I’m making I think is consistent with your question, which is, yes, he has demonstrated a willingness to move towards the Republicans in order to achieve a deal, but do so in a way that maintains his principles.  And the alternative, the fallback, so-called plan B that’s been put out there achieves nothing like what a bigger deal would do and it would — you would lose, by just cutting taxes — by just extending current law for those making under a million dollars, you would lose hundreds of billions of dollars of revenue relative to the decoupling the President has proposed.

And most of that money, or a significant portion of that money if not most, would go to millionaires, because everybody gets — when you extend tax cuts for those making under $250,000 or those making under $400,000, everybody who makes more than that benefits from those tax cuts, right?  If you only extend — if you extend the tax cuts for everybody making up to a million dollars, that means everybody making more than that gets a significant tax cut on their first million dollars in earning.  So millionaires, billionaires, everybody makes a lot of money out of this proposal.

So the proposal essentially is to give another big tax cut to the wealthiest Americans at a time when we cannot afford it.  And that, as you saw in my statement, would not pass the Senate. You saw Leader Pelosi say that Democrats would not vote for it.  It’s not a credible alternative.  If we’re not going to do a grand bargain, a bigger deal, the one that the President seeks, then there’s an option to deal with the tax portion of this that has already passed the Senate that the House ought to take up.  And he would certainly support that as he has said all along.

Q    Last one on this and I’ll let somebody else have a run at this.  You keep making it sound like the choice is between what the President proposed and plan B that Speaker did, but I keep going back to what he said before he was elected and he called the central promise, which was never $250,000 until I win, and then we’ll see what they offer and move the number up.  It was $250,000 —

MR. CARNEY:  But, Ben, I don’t — if you’re making the point that he has —

Q    My point is, can’t — is it the President’s view that he can’t get a big deal unless he goes up?

MR. CARNEY:  I think that’s clear that the Republicans — that this requires compromise, and that’s why we have moved and reduced our revenue target and moved from $250,000 to $400,000.

The point that the President had always made is that it is not his preferred option, but he knew that he would have to compromise in order to reach an agreement without sacrificing the principles that are clear, and that is that we have to have balance.  It has to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay more so that the burden isn’t unduly placed on seniors and students and families who have children with disabilities and others.  And that’s what his current proposal maintains are those principles.
And all told, as you know, the proposal still, with its one-to-one — within this proposal, one-to-one ration of revenues to spending cuts, achieves, combined with the $1.1 trillion that he signed into law in discretionary spending cuts last year, close to $4 trillion in deficit reduction.

And if I could go back to the first point here — Republicans say their goal is to reduce the deficit and to reduce spending.  There is an opportunity on the table here to achieve $1.2 trillion in additional spending cuts.  It seems like folly to walk away from that opportunity because you don’t want to ask somebody making $995,000 a year to pay a dime more in income taxes.  It seems like terrible folly.  And I don’t think the American people would support that.  Certainly the President doesn’t believe that.

Did you have something?

Q    I did.

MR. CARNEY:  It seemed like all your questions had been answered.

Q    They haven’t.

MR. CARNEY:  Okay.

Q    My first question is, are negotiations still active?

MR. CARNEY:  Lines of communication remain open.  The President continues to hope that a compromise can be reached, as I said at the top.  The parameters of a deal are clear.  When you look at the offers, proposals and the counterproposals, a path to an agreement is clear.  And he hopes that the Republicans will join him on that path and achieve this — take advantage of this opportunity and lock in a plan that would achieve significant deficit reduction, would protect the middle class, and would help our economy.  So the answer is lines of communication remain open and we hope that this opportunity is not wasted.

Q    You used that phrase a lot last week.

MR. CARNEY:  And it was always true.

Q    Right, but does that mean you’re talking and negotiations —

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have any specific conversations or meetings to read out to you.  But as was the case in the past, it is the case today that lines of communication remain open and there is an opportunity here.  And you’ve clearly seen the President put forward an offer that represents him moving halfway towards the Republicans on revenue and moving more than halfway to the Republicans on spending cuts as part of a balanced package that still adheres to his principles.  And that’s very important. And we hope that the Republicans understand that it would be a terrible waste to walk away from this opportunity.

Q    We’ve seen some, obviously, progress since yesterday’s briefing; I’d just like to ask the question again:  Has the shooting in Connecticut affected the tone at all, and has it affected the ability for both sides to negotiate?

MR. CARNEY:  These are excellent questions and there’s been some good reporting on this, but it’s obviously hard to know what the impact of an event like that is on the way that lawmakers and others in Washington approach other issues.  As the President said in Newtown, a tragedy as unfathomable, unimaginable as what happened in Newtown reminds us of what really matters.  And he certainly believes that it is his responsibility — and the responsibility of everyone here in Washington — to work together to try to do important things for the American people and the American economy.  And that’s on issues related to gun violence and it’s on issues related to the economy and to people’s livelihoods.

So to the extent that an event like that, as tragic as it is, brings us a little closer together both in the nation and in Washington, that would be a good thing.  But it’s hard to measure an impact like that.

Q    Jay, as an Illinois state legislator, the President supported quite restrictive gun measures, but as President he’s only signed into law legislation that allows guns in National Parks and on Amtrak trains as checked luggage.  Is he reassessing his more recent record on gun control?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, the President’s positions have been beyond what you cited — I’m sure that was an oversight — but including his support for reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, his support —

Q    But actions versus words —

MR. CARNEY:  — his support for closing the so-called gun show loophole, which allows people to buy weapons without going through the background checks that are standard when you purchase from a retail —

Q    But I’m talking about what was actually done —

MR. CARNEY:  Let me — could I finish?

Q    — not just what he has said he supports.

MR. CARNEY:  Could I finish?  Could I finish, Brianna?  I appreciate it.  Thanks.

It’s clear that as a nation we haven’t done enough to address the scourge of gun violence in this country.  It’s a complex problem that requires more than one solution.  It calls for not only reexamining our gun laws and how well we enforce them, but also for engaging mental health professionals, law enforcement officials, educators, parents and communities to find those solutions.

And while, as I said, there’s no one answer to this problem, it is clear that we cannot once again retreat to our separate corners and to our stale talking points, because that inevitably leads to an impasse.  That’s why, as I think you saw reported, the President yesterday afternoon had discussions with members of his Cabinet, members of his senior staff and the Vice President to begin looking for ways — or at ways that the country can move forward and respond to the tragedy in Newtown.  And I think that if you look at the Cabinet members the President met with — Secretary Duncan, Attorney General Holder and Secretary Sebelius — they underscore — their participation underscores the comprehensive way in which the President views this problem.

So he will, as he said in Newtown on Sunday night, two nights ago, in coming weeks, engage with the American people; engage with lawmakers, with members of his administration, with mental health professionals, with law enforcement officials, with parents, communities, to try to find answers to this problem.  And that includes his support for legislation that, like the assault weapons ban, that addresses issues of access to guns.  It will include other issues that he thinks are part of the scourge of gun violence.

Q    But is he right now actively considering measures, be it gun laws or mental health measures — right now?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, he is actively supportive of, for example, Senator Feinstein’s stated intent to revive a piece of legislation that would reinstate the assault weapons ban.  He supports, and would support, legislation that addresses the problem of the so-called gun show loophole.  And there are other elements of gun law — gun legislation that he could support.  People have talked about high-capacity gun — ammunition clips, for example, and that is something certainly that he would be interested in looking at.  My point is that it goes beyond that.

He is heartened, I should mention, by what we have all heard from some members of Congress who have been long-time opponents of gun control measures, common-sense gun control measures like the assault weapons ban and the like.  He, in fact, not long before I came out here was on the phone with Senator Manchin discussing just this issue.

Q    So this sounds like very much a shift from yesterday.  I mean, there were really no specifics yesterday, and today you’re talking about his support for Senator Feinstein’s reinstatement.  You were —

MR. CARNEY:  Brianna, I think I said yesterday that he supported —

Q    Yesterday you were talking about his support for the ban, but you wouldn’t actually say whether he would support Senator Feinstein’s effort.  And today it sounds like you’re saying that he will.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, let me be clear that, again, we are less than 48 hours from the President’s participation in the vigil.

Q    But he supports her legislation initiatives?

MR. CARNEY:  And the President is moving forward, as he said he would, in having discussions here at the White House with members of his team, having discussions moments ago with Senator Manchin and others who have introduced important ideas about how we can move forward and whose decision to break from past positions and — in how they look at this is heartening, and perhaps harbors an opportunity to move forward in a constructive way.  But we are still early in a process.

And I just want to be clear that, in addition to his support for a renewal of the assault weapons ban, which has long been stated and if it does take form in legislation that Senator Feinstein introduces, then that would obviously be something that would win his support, but it goes beyond that.  His view is that we need to address this in a way that, as I said yesterday, acknowledges that no single piece of legislation, no single restriction on access to a certain type of weapon will solve this problem and that we need to address it more broadly.

Q    Sure, but why the change?  Because — I mean, he hadn’t even said “gun” in his public comments.  And then you have, for instance, Republicans like Steve LaTourette talking about a majority of Republicans — this is what he told us today — being open to discussing gun control.  Did the President feel like he was behind on this?

MR. CARNEY:  I think you’re trying to turn this into, like, a political theater thing.  That’s not how the President views it.  He went to Newtown in his role as President and met with family members of victims.  He met with first responders and with others in that community, and then he spoke to that community, and tried to convey the grief and the pain that the American people are feeling and share with those who are suffering so deeply in Connecticut.

And at that time he spoke about the fact that we cannot tolerate these kinds of tragedies and that we have to act, and it would be unforgivable not to try to take steps that address the problem, that address our fundamental responsibility to take care of our children in the first instance.  And he is, as he said and true to his word, moving forward on that process.  And the conversation he had — the meeting he had yesterday, the conversation I just mentioned with the Senator from West Virginia and other conversations he will have going forward will reflect the approach that he’s taking.

He does want to move.  As he said on Sunday night, he wants to move in the coming weeks, which is a fairly short period of time.  And while he supports, and strongly, renewal of the assault weapons ban, and strongly other measures, he wants to expand the conversation beyond those specific areas of legislation to look at other ways we can address this problem.

Let me move in the back.  Sam.

Q    Yes, Jay, a lot of top Democrats on the Hill, and I think President Obama, spent the campaign season saying, let’s not touch Social Security — it doesn’t add to the deficit; we can resolve this issue without going to that entitlement program. What is the President’s message to those lawmakers who promised constituents that Social Security would not be touched after the President now has put chain CPI on the table for Republicans?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, let’s be clear about one thing:  The President didn’t put it on the table.  This is something that Republicans want.  And it is —

Q    But the Republicans —

MR. CARNEY:  — part of his — if I could please answer Sam’s question, I’d appreciate it.  And the President did include it in his counterproposal, his counteroffer, as part of this process, as part of the negotiation process.  I would note that this is a technical change — would be if instated — to the way that economists calculate inflation, and it would affect every program that has — that uses the CPI in its calculations.  And so it’s not directed at one particular program; it would affect every program that uses CPI.  There are also — as part of the President’s proposals, he would make sure that the most vulnerable were exempted out from this change.

But let’s be clear, this is something that the Republicans have asked for, and as part of an effort to find common ground with the Republicans, the President has agreed to put this in his proposal — agreed to have this as part of a broad deficit reduction package that includes asking the wealthiest to pay more so that we can achieve the kind of revenue targets that are necessary for a balanced approach to deficit reduction.

Q    Right, but there’s a lot — again, my question was there’s a lot of people who voted for these lawmakers on a promise that —

MR. CARNEY:  You heard the President say every time he talked about this —

Q    Can I finish my question?

MR. CARNEY:  Sure, yes.

Q    A lot of people — I’ll let you answer — a lot of people voted for these lawmakers for reelection not too long ago on a promise that Social Security wouldn’t be touched, and if it was touched, it would be done separately from these fiscal cliff negotiations.  What do those people — what are these people now supposed to believe about the promises that their lawmakers made, including the President?

MR. CARNEY:  Let me again make clear two things.  One, the President has always said as part of this process when we’re talking about the spending cuts side of this that it would require tough choices by both sides.  And that is certainly the case if you want to reach an agreement.

Secondly, this is a technical adjustment that supporters of it and economists — outside economists say is meant to make the government’s estimates of inflation more accurate.  Thirdly, as part of the President’s proposal, there is a clause that would protect vulnerable communities including the very elderly when it comes to Social Security recipients.

So there’s no question that it represents an effort to compromise, but it is also not — this is a technical adjustment that economists believe is about getting the proper measure of inflation, and it is one sought by Republicans.

So, again, we’re not going to get everything we want.  We knew that the President’s proposal that he put forward to the super committee that we put forward in the beginning of these negotiations would not pass unchanged.  But I think your question demonstrates the absolute fact that the President has shown enormous good faith in trying to reach a compromise here.  And it would be shocking if Republicans passed up this opportunity for what they say they seek, which is significant deficit reduction, significant spending cuts, simply to protect those just shy of being millionaires from having to pay a dime extra in income taxes.


Q    Do you acknowledge the Speaker’s criticism of the counterproposal yesterday that it really isn’t one to one —

MR. CARNEY:  I do not.

Q    — because the saved interest payment is not a spending cut?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I find that an interesting charge because every budget proposal that’s been made since we’ve been here includes interest payments as spending cuts when they’re reduced. The Bowles-Simpson proposal included it.

Q    Well, nobody disputes that it’s part of deficit reduction, but this idea of one to one on tax hikes to a spending cut —

MR. CARNEY:  Again, when they — in the Budget Control Act and their assertions that they wanted one to one, it was only achievable — only achievable — because they counted saved interest as spending cut.  So a practice that they participated in regularly up until this moment to abandon now, to say that it doesn’t represent one-to-one spending cuts for revenue, is just  — doesn’t pass the plausibility test.

The fact is that spending on interest payments is one of the big problems that we face when it comes to our budget deficits, and reducing those payments is a significant achievement when it comes to reducing spending.  So including those reductions as part of the overall reductions in spending is in keeping with past practice by both Republicans and Democrats, including the Speaker of the House, including House Republican leadership, past practice as represented in the Simpson-Bowles proposal and other proposals that have been out there.

So I do reject that charge that somehow that this is a novelty that doesn’t represent actual savings, because that has always been the practice, including by the Republicans who are now complaining about it.

Q    So at 10 o’clock this morning, 9 o’clock this morning, the markets open; they all see the different proposals the President has given on the CPI and Social Security, Boehner’s given on tax rates over a million dollars.  And the public up on Wall Street and the business community sees — oh, look, they’re about to come to a deal.  Boehner puts out his plan B, and you guys decide to publicly go after it.  Why?  Why antagonize the situation?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, what the Speaker —

Q    I’m just curious.  You guys — on one hand, you don’t want to negotiate through the press; this clearly is a decision to negotiate through the press.

MR. CARNEY:  No.  The Speaker also made clear that he has not abandoned hope for a bigger deal, and that we see as a good thing.  And we certainly have not either.  And I think our objections to plan B is simply to point that it is such a far cry from what’s possible here — and not only that, it wouldn’t pass the Senate, it wouldn’t get any Democratic votes in the House, might not pass the House.

Q    But you seem to be intent on sending that message when that’s a way of antagonizing the situation, isn’t it?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I’m certainly not trying to antagonize the —

Q    Are you trying to disrupt talks?  Make it harder?

MR. CARNEY:  Absolutely not.  Absolutely not.  I think that we would — we, as I said at the beginning — and let me make clear, that I’m — the President hopes that Speaker Boehner and others remain open to what is a clear path to achieve a bipartisan compromise here.  And in the details that have come out about the President’s proposal, I think it is clear that he has demonstrated good faith and a willingness to meet Speaker Boehner and the Republicans halfway in an effort to achieve what would be a very significant agreement that would be of benefit both to the middle class and to the economy.

Q    — move further.  It was pretty clear from talking to some Democrats that that wasn’t your final offer.

MR. CARNEY:  Look, I think that a path to a legitimate, balanced compromise is clear.  But the room for movement here is not large, because the President’s principles are what they are and the President has already moved exactly halfway on revenue and more than halfway on spending cuts.  So that is by definition what compromise is about — I’ll meet you halfway.  The President is here.  Republicans are here.  The President has come halfway, maybe a little bit more.  Republicans have come about this far.  So we’re close.

The President has demonstrated his reasonableness.  And his principles here are ones that are broadly supported by the American public.  So he hopes that we can get this deal.

My point about plan B is that it’s not a great alternative. It’s not a great fallback.

Q    Your plan B?  Do you think your plan is a good alternative?

MR. CARNEY:  We would prefer a bigger —

Q    — good alternative, your plan B, the $250,000 —

MR. CARNEY:  One, it’s already passed the Senate.  So if we —

Q    Why are you so sure the other one doesn’t pass the Senate?  Has Harry Reid assured you he just won’t put it on the floor?

MR. CARNEY:  I think Senator Reid has said that it wouldn’t pass the Senate.  The point is —

Q    Would he put the —

MR. CARNEY:  Again, you should speak with Senator Reid about Senate procedure and upcoming actions.  But the point is neither of these options is preferable to a balanced, broad deficit reduction package, which would be healthy, good for the economy, good for the American people, would protect the middle class as we move forward.

The President has said now for months that at the very least the House ought to follow the Senate’s action and pass tax cuts for 98 percent of the American people.  That bill is there.  It could be passed tomorrow.  We have always sought more than that. We have always sought the opportunity to achieve significant deficit reduction, because it’s good for the economy if it’s done well and right, and in a way that’s fair and balanced.

Let me move around.  Yes, Leslie.

Q    Jay, can you comment at all on the Pentagon? Investigators have concluded that a senior defense official has  leaked restricted information to the makers of the bin Laden film.  Peter King’s office is out and says they’re quite troubled by it.

MR. CARNEY:  I have seen those reports, but I can only refer you to the Pentagon.  I don’t have anything on it from here.

Q    But the fact that it went beyond and into a criminal investigation seems to suggest that it’s a little bit worse than you had led us to believe.  I think King’s office said that it’s an indication that our security was placed at risk by people who wanted to help Hollywood make a movie.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, first of all, I think that that’s not — your memory of the discussions that we had from here had to do with charges by that Congressman and others about White House — what the White House’s role in informing people who are doing stories on or other things on the bin Laden raid was.  Again, on this particular matter, I would refer you to the Pentagon.  I just don’t have anything for you on it.


Q    If Speaker Boehner’s idea of just taxing people making a million dollars or more is so bad and unbalanced, why did the President propose that in September of 2011 — he had the millionaire’s tax, when he came out in the Rose Garden?

MR. CARNEY:  First of all, that’s an entirely different proposal.  The President has always supported expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for those making more than $250,000.  That is a position he has held since the time he took office.

There have been other proposals including the so-called Buffett Rule that would address the problem of millionaires and billionaires not paying, for example — and this goes to other — this goes beyond issues of income tax, because one of the reasons why the Buffett Rule, for example, was something the President supports — supported and supports — is because we have the issue of carried interests, which enables billionaires to pay a lower tax rate if they’re hedge fund managers or private equity investors, to pay at a much lower rate than probably you and I pay.

Q    The New York Times at the time said, “his idea” — the President’s idea — “of a millionaire’s minimum tax would be prominent in the broad plan for long-term deficit reduction that he will outline at the White House.”  So the President thought that a millionaire’s tax was —

MR. CARNEY:  You’re really confusing policies here.  The fact that you support a minimum tax for millionaires tax rate does not alter the fact that you also support returning tax rates for those making under a million dollars to what they were prior to the Bush-era tax cuts.  I think that has been established many times.

Q    Senator Schumer brought that up for a vote in 2010 —

MR. CARNEY:  It was actually a different — you really need to check your —

Q    There’s a lot of different versions of it —

MR. CARNEY:  Well, no, but —

Q    It was a million-dollar threshold is the point.

MR. CARNEY:  On the tax rates.  Again, you’re confusing a lot of different tax proposals.  And our position then is what it is now, which is that we support expiration of the tax cuts for the top 2 percent.  In his proposal for a bigger package with the Republicans, he has agreed to move that threshold from $250,000 to $400,000.

What we do know, instead of talking about things that got votes two years ago in the Senate, is that two months ago the Senate passed a bill that extends tax cuts for 98 percent of the American people — tax cuts that everyone in Washington, Republicans and Democrats alike say they support, and that the House, if it fails to do anything else, has the opportunity to pass that legislation to ensure that most Americans out there don’t have their taxes go up next year.  The only thing preventing them from that when you look at the proposals here is their insistence thus far on the idea that people making $995,000 should not have their income tax rates go up.

Q    Quick question on another subject.  There’s this 27-year-old former Marine who, as you know, is in a Mexican prison. His family is urging the administration to do something about it. We don’t know all the facts of the case and what he did, what he didn’t do, but his family is asking the White House to look into it.  Is there anything going on to ascertain the facts to see whether he’s innocent or not?  Because again we don’t know what really happened.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I’ll have to take the question because I don’t know the facts myself on that, so I’ll have to take the question.


Q    The President’s close friend and advisor, David Axelrod, on Sunday evening, after watching the President’s speech was watching a football game, and an ad came on for a violent video game, and he tweeted, shouldn’t we quit — he tweeted an expression of support for banning certain kinds of weapons or regulating certain kinds of weapons, but then he said shouldn’t we also quit marketing murder as a game.  And this touches on the cultural aspect that you seem to be alluding to also being part of the solution.  And I’m wondering if the President has any views on it, because we haven’t really heard him talk that much about these cultural issues in his time as President.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I was asked about this — well, I have seen reports on it, and I don’t have any proposals to tell you that the President thinks or we think should be moved on.  I think that there are cultural issues — and every expert on this issue would, I think, agree with that — that there are cultural issues that contribute to the broader problem with gun violence.

One of the reasons why the President wants to expand the net beyond considerations of gun laws is because he recognizes that and agrees with it that we need to look broadly at all of the potential contributors to the scourge of gun violence in this country.

So on that particular area of inquiry, I don’t have a specific proposal to tell you about, or even that there will be one.  But it’s certainly — he wants to have these conversations with people who have worked on this issue and people who are affected by it to explore all the possibilities, to move forward with a broad approach that addresses gun violence, that includes sensible legislation to deal with things like assault weapons and gun show loopholes, magazine capacity, potentially, as well as other issues — mental health issues, education issues, and perhaps cultural issues.

Q    Speaking of mental health issues, the National Alliance for Mental Illness — or of Mental Illness reports that during the recession states trimming their budgets cut almost $2 billion from mental health services.  This seems to be an area where the President could take immediate action, working with Congress to help fill the gap of the — for those states.  Has the President — is he aware of this statistic?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not sure if he’s aware of this statistic.  The issue of mental health is something that both the President and others in this administration who have broadly addressed health care issues, including Secretary Sibelius, believes is very important.  And that is why the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, contains within it assurances that those who will gain coverage that they have not had in the past will gain medical health services, including a set of services that will be available without copays or deductibles.  Because mental health issues are health issues, and the President believes that firmly.

Again, in terms of potential areas that could be addressed through action at the federal level or at the state level, he wants to hear about proposals that might help address this problem.  It is, as he said, an issue that the mental health aspect of this is an important aspect.

Q    According to the book by Daniel Klaidman, from Newsweek, the Daily Beast, about the Obama administration, in the first year of the Obama administration, Attorney General Holder was going to take action regulating guns, and the President’s Chief of Staff told him to shut up — he actually added a couple of words in there — about guns.  The issue being the fact that there were a number of Democrats in vulnerable districts where gun rights were popular that would — politically it was not wise.  Does the President know about this?  Does the President regret that that took place?  Has Attorney General Holder been told since Aurora or Fort Hood or Sikh Temple or Newtown or any of the other many, many shootings that have taken place while Mr. Obama has been President, has Mr. Holder been told to resume what he was planning on doing before the White House Chief of Staff told him to stop?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, that’s an anecdote that I’m not familiar with.

Q    It was reported —

MR. CARNEY:  — I know the author.  I confess from the podium that I didn’t read his book.  But the —

Q    Does that mean it didn’t happen?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t know, so I certainly haven’t had a discussion with the President about it.  I can tell you that the President believes, as he, I think, made very clear on Sunday night, and as I reiterated both yesterday and today, that we have not done enough as a country to address this problem and we need to do more, and that what happened in Newtown hopefully will catalyze the process of doing more.  And he will use the power of his office to move that along.  And that has begun already with the conversations he’s had here internally with — a conversation that he had today with one senator, I’m sure he’ll have with other lawmakers.

And as I think we’ve heard from a number of people both in Washington and elsewhere, the enormity of what happened on Friday I think has caused everyone — or many people to reassess where we are when it comes to the ways that we address this problem, and hopefully that that reassessment will lead to action.

Q    But, Jay, why are these conversations not taking place on a national level?  Why are —

MR. CARNEY:  Jake, can I just remind you that the shooting happened four days ago.

Q    This one did, Jay.  But there have been a lot that have taken place over the last four years.  It’s not as though gun violence became a problem on Friday.

MR. CARNEY:  I completely agree with that.  And I can only  —

Q    But it’s as though you’re completely oblivious to the fact that there have been shootings for years.

MR. CARNEY:  That’s not true.  I mean, the President — it is a fact that we have taken action — and the Department of Justice can fill you in on this — to enhance background checks. And background checks — when we talk about the fundamental issue of making sure that those who should not have weapons do not acquire them or cannot acquire them, enhancing our background check system is an important step that addresses specifically the problem.

So it is the case that we have taken action in this President’s first term.  And he made clear on Sunday evening that he believes we need to take more action.  And he looks forward to working with Congress and working with communities beyond Washington to help bring that about.


Q    Jay, the President said and you’ve repeated that the nation has not done enough.  It sounds like what — previous Presidents used the formulation “mistakes were made,” sort of a passive construction.  Is he saying that he thinks that he has not done enough as President, personally?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think he made clear on Sunday that we as a nation, and he as a member and leader of this nation need to do more; that we cannot tolerate these kinds of tragic incidents. And he committed himself in the coming weeks to taking steps that use the power of his office to help try to bring about changes that will address this problem, recognizing the complexity of the problem and the obstacles to potential solutions to the problem.

He also said — and it’s important to remember that he said this — if whatever action we take saves one child’s life, we should take it, because what would we say to ourselves if we haven’t.  And then I think that recognizes, again, that this is a problem that cannot be solved by a single action or necessarily even a series of actions, but it should be and can be addressed.
Q    Big part of the question is, does he regret — it’s one thing to regret that Congress hasn’t done what he thinks they ought to do.  But does he regret that he hasn’t done something that he wishes now, in light of Friday, that he had done prior to that?

MR. CARNEY:  I haven’t heard him say it in terms other than the way he said it on Sunday night.  And I think you heard from him in a very passionate way what his reaction is to Newtown, and his reaction to Newtown as part of a series of events and incidents like it that have occurred since he’s been President, and that on too many occasions he has been in the situation that he was in in Newtown of consoling family members who have lost innocent loved ones in events like this.  So I think he spoke very passionately about his views on this and the fact that we need to take action.

Q    And one quick question.  If this compromise were to go forward that the President’s proposed, the $400,000 be the cutoff — would that be it?  Or would the President still, at some point at a later date as part of some future negotiations and future legislative initiative, try again at $250,000?  Is this the end of it from his perspective, or just one —

MR. CARNEY:  Well, he seeks, as part of this process, to make permanent tax cuts for those making below the threshold.  It is also in his proposal to fast-track processes for both corporate and individual tax reform.  But the revenue achieved through a potential compromise here, at least the one that he put forward, would be locked in, and then the reform would be essentially revenue-neutral.

How that plays out in terms of tax rates would obviously be up to those who negotiate it and worked on the tax reform in that fast track process, both on the Hill and working with administration officials.

Q    So he’s not closing off the possibility of raising rates at some later date —

MR. CARNEY:  Well, again, he’s not — his proposal here is to achieve the revenue that would be gained from extending tax cuts permanently for those making under $400,000, allowing rates to rise to their Clinton-era levels for those making above $400,000.  There are a series of other pieces of his revenue proposal that deal with some reform measures, like capping deductions and other issues, and then there would be a separate or additional tax reform process that is something that both sides have sought in a so-called two-stage deal.

But the revenue achieved — the $1.2 trillion in revenue part of this proposal would be achieved at the outset.  Then the reform process could go forward.

Major, and then Roger.

Q    You may accuse me of being unduly mathematical.  I’m  not trying to be unduly mathematical.

MR. CARNEY:  I want to be wowed by your numbers.

Q    No, no, it has nothing to do with numbers, but I asked you yesterday if there was any task force work.  Obviously, there was a meeting yesterday on this subject post-Newtown.  So if it’s possible to convey to the nation after that meeting and in the intervening days since, proportionally, does the President view this as mostly a gun-control issue, or a 50-50 gun control, mental health, personal responsibility?  And can you give the nation a sense that whatever he proposes, whenever he proposes it, will be inclusive of all of those things?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think that’s a good question and I appreciate it.  The President believes that there are multiple elements that need to be addressed that are part of the problem of gun violence.  And as any expert on this subject I think would tell you gun laws would not alone solve this problem and he recognizes that.  He would, however, support and has supported some gun control legislation like the assault weapons ban, like closure of the gun show loophole.

What the proportion is, is hard to say, but I think you break it down to issues of law enforcement, issues of — and then law enforcement can mean not just gun legislation, but other issues of law enforcement, obviously, like background checks and the like.  Then there’s mental health and broader health care issues.  There’s education issues.  I think those are three pockets; whether that’s 33, 33, 33 is hard to say.

But it is simply a fact that legislation that addresses access to certain types of weapons or magazines or how we perform background checks, while they have merit and the President supports the ones that I’ve mentioned, would not alone address this problem.  What I can’t tell you — to go to the second part of your question — is what the rollout of the President’s ideas, what form that will take, whether it will be things of — pieces of legislation that exist that he supports and has made that clear, I have also, or other things that might come up that he supports.

I think at some point you’ll hear from him more broadly on this issue, but I don’t have a timeframe for you on that.  So this is a process that has just begun and includes the meeting he had yesterday.  But beyond that, I just don’t have more for you.

Q    All right, more mathematics.  Based on briefings here and reaction from the Hill, there are some differences, but the revenue differences, which heretofore have been a significant impediment, are down to $1.2 trillion versus $1 trillion.  And there are a lot of other issues, I acknowledge that.  My question to you is, does this bill, and does the President believe there is an intrinsic, larger value to resolving this during this week as the country mourns a larger national tragedy in providing some evidence that all the rhetoric about the future of the children and everything else has actual meaning as related to our fiscal future?

MR. CARNEY:  I hesitate to make grand pronouncements about the connection that some of you have made between what happened in Connecticut and other work that is taking place here.  I do think that the President —

Q    But you know and I know —

MR. CARNEY:  No, I understand —

Q    — here that it reverberates.

MR. CARNEY:  It certainly does.  And I think that at its core, tragedies like that at their core bring us as Americans together in our grief, and in our resolve, and in our neighborliness.  They remind us of all that we share as opposed to the differences that we have.

And out of the ashes of a tragedy like that, as the President I think spoke to in Newtown, we should take heart from that — from the spirit of the community there, the spirit of communities that have been affected elsewhere.  When first responders rush into a situation like that to try to save lives, nobody is thinking about political differences.  So I think that any reminder of what binds us together is helpful and useful as we try to do the country’s business here.  I think the President —

Q    Would you acknowledge it has catalyzed the process?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I just don’t know because I can’t speak to everyone’s motivations.  I think that —

Q    Does the President think it’s catalyzed the process?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, he has been committed to this process for a long time.  He has been committed to seeking a broad deficit-reduction deal, one that protects the middle class, one that achieves balance and is good for our economy.

It is certainly — I think the events in Connecticut are a reminder to him, as he spoke about in Newtown, of what’s most important in our lives, what our greatest responsibilities are.  And if to the extent that that is a motivation to do more and do better for all of us, I think, then that’s worth recognizing.

Roger, I think I said I’d call on you.

Q    In the Biden meeting yesterday on guns, did the President give the Vice President a specific due date for this report or recommendations?

MR. CARNEY:  No.  And I don’t have a further readout of the meeting that included not just the Vice President, but the secretaries — Cabinet Secretaries that I mentioned and some senior staff here at the White House.  It’s the beginning of a process where they’re looking for — we will look for ways to address this problem in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown.

Q    And one other quick follow-up on chained CPI.  You said the most vulnerable would be exempted out.  What do you mean by that?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I don’t have the technical details for you.  But this is something that can be and has been done before in an effort to make sure that — one example, the oldest of Social Security recipients would be potentially protected from the impact of a change like this.  But I don’t have more details for you on that.

Q    Jay, to be determined, in other words?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, there are processes that this has been done in the past and can be done.

Q    I guess what threw me was when you said “exempted out.”  It means they would be taken off —

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I appreciate the question, because it gives me the opportunity to refine my language — because I think what I meant to say is that there would be protections for most vulnerable populations and perhaps “exempted out” is not the proper way to describe it.

Q    Jay, does the President have concerns about the dramatic increase, the upsurge in weapons sales just obviously based on the specter of the prospect of new gun control laws?

MR. CARNEY:  I haven’t asked him about that.  I think that’s a phenomenon we’ve seen in the past.  But I haven’t got a response from him for you.

Q    Would he like to see retailers — as one, at least one already has — voluntarily stop selling the type of weapon that was used in Newtown?

MR. CARNEY:  I haven’t had that discussion with him either.  I know that he supports some legislation that we’ve already talked about and is certainly interested in hearing about other ideas and other possible proposals, mindful of the fact that gun control legislation alone will not sufficiently address this problem.

Thanks very much.

1:42 P.M. EST

Political Headlines December 17, 2012: President Barack Obama, White House Make New Offer to Speaker John Boehner in Talks To Avoid Fiscal Cliff — Deal Close





White House Makes New Offer in Talks To Avoid Fiscal Cliff

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-17-12


They are getting closer.

The White House presented a new offer to Speaker of the House John Boehner Monday that makes some important concessions in the talks to work out a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, a mixture of tax rate hikes and spending cuts that go into effect in January if a deficit reduction agreement is not reached. This White House package comes in response to the offer Boehner made to allow tax rates rise on those making $1 million.

The new offer from the White House includes fewer tax increases and more limits on the entitlement spending — including limits on cost of living adjustments for Social Security recipients — than the President’s previous offers.

Speaker of the House John Boehner will present this latest White House offer to House Republicans Tuesday morning. Here are some of the key concessions….READ MORE

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