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

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WH, 10-4-14 

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President highlighted that six years after the Great Recession, thanks to the hard work of the American people and the President’s policies, our economy has come back further and faster than any other nation on Earth. With 10.3 million private sector jobs added over 55 straight months, America’s businesses have extended the longest streak of private-sector job gains on record. But even with this progress, too many Americans have yet to feel the benefits. The President reiterated the vision he set out earlier this week for steps that can lay a new foundation for stronger growth, rising wages, and expanded economic opportunity for middle class families. 

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
Princeton, Indiana
October 4, 2014

Hi, everybody.  I’m at Millennium Steel in Princeton, Indiana, to have a town hall with workers on National Manufacturing Day.  Because in many ways, manufacturing is the quintessential middle-class job.  And after a decade of losing jobs, American manufacturing is once again adding them – more than 700,000 over the past four and a half years.

In fact, it’s been a bright spot as we keep fighting to recover from the great recession.  Last month, our businesses added 236,000 new jobs.  The unemployment rate fell to under six percent for the first time in more than six years.  Over the past 55 months, our businesses have added 10.3 million new jobs.  That’s the longest uninterrupted stretch of private sector job creation in our history.  And we’re on pace to make 2014 the strongest year of job growth since the 1990s.

This progress has been hard, but it has been steady, and it is real.  It is a direct result of the American people’s drive and determination, and decisions made by my administration.

During the last decade, people thought the decline in American manufacturing was inevitable.  But we chose to invest in American auto industry and American workers. And today, an auto industry that was flatlining six years ago is building and selling new cars at the fastest pace in eight years.  American manufacturing is growing almost twice as fast as the rest of the economy, with new factories opening their doors at the fastest pace in decades.  That’s progress we can be proud of.

What’s also true is that too many families still work too many hours with too little to show for it.  And the much longer and profound erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes isn’t something we’re going to reverse overnight.  But there are ideas we should be putting into place that would grow jobs and wages faster right now.  And one of the best would be to raise the minimum wage.

We’ve actually begun to see some modest wage growth in recent months.  But most folks still haven’t seen a raise in over a decade.  It’s time to stop punishing some of the hardest-working Americans.  It’s time to raise the minimum wage.  It would put more money in workers’ pockets.  It would help 28 million Americans.  Recent surveys show that a majority of small business owners support a gradual increase to ten dollars and ten cents an hour.  The folks who keep blocking a minimum wage increase are running out of excuses.  Let’s give America a raise.

Let’s do this – because it would make our economy stronger, and make sure that growth is shared.  Rather than just reading about our recovery in a headline, more people will feel it in their own lives.  And that’s when America does best.  We do better when the middle class does better, and when more Americans have their way to climb into the middle class.

And that’s what drives me every single day.  Thanks, and have a great weekend.

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Political Musings May 2, 2014: Obama vows to fight on to raise the minimum wage for all Americans

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

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

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

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

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

Source: WH, 3-5-14

Central Connecticut State University
New Britain, Connecticut

2:20 P.M. EST

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

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

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

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

STUDENT:  We love you, Mr. President!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE:  They spend it!

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  It’s common sense!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
2:50 P.M. EST

Political Musings February 22, 2014: Obama continues push to raise minimum wage in weekly address, governors meeting

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For the second week in a row President Barack Obama dedicated his weekly address released Saturday morning, Feb. 22, 2014 to raising the minimum wage, and urging Congress to pass legislation to that would lift the wage up from $7…Continue

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

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

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

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

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

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

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

The Economic Case for Raising the Minimum Wage

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

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

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

 

Remarks by the President on Signing of Executive Order

Source: WH, 2-12-14

East Room

2:18 P.M. EST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END  
2:30 P.M. EST

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

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

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

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

Political Musings February 1, 2014: Obama follows through with economic opportunity tour after State of the Union

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama follows through with economic opportunity tour after State of the Union

By Bonnie K. Goodman

For two day after his State of Union on Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 29 and 30, 2014 President Barack Obama embarked on a policy tour to sell his economic agenda. On Wednesday, Jan. 29 Obama spoke at the Costco store…

READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency January 29, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Raising Minimum Wage at Costco in Lanham, MD

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Minimum Wage — Lanham, MD

Source: WH, 1-29-14

Costco
Lanham, Maryland

10:15.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Maryland!  (Applause.)  It’s good to see you.  I love getting outside the Beltway, even if it is just a few hundred feet away.  (Laughter.)

Well, first of all, give Teressa a great big round of applause for the great job she did.  (Applause.)  It is good to be here with all of you.  I want to acknowledge a champion for working families right here in Maryland — Governor Martin O’Malley.  (Applause.)  Some folks who go to bat for working people every single day:  Senator Ben Cardin is here.  (Applause.)  Congresswoman Donna Edwards is here.  (Applause.)   And all of you are here.  (Applause.)

Teressa’s story proves that treating workers well is not just the right thing to do — it is an investment.  And Teressa’s 27 years of hard work at Costco proves that investment pays off.

I talked a little bit about this last night in my State of the Union address.  Now, I only finished 12 hours ago, so these remarks will be quicker.  (Laughter.)  And I needed some time to pick up a snow shovel and one of those 50-pound bags of dog food for Bo and Sunny.  (Applause.)  I was told I’d get a big-screen TV, too, for the Super Bowl coming up — 80-inch.  (Laughter.)   So 60 is not enough?  Got to go 80.  (Laughter.)

It is funny, though — I was looking — you can buy a sofa, chocolate chip cookies and a snorkel set all in the same — (laughter and applause.)  The sofa didn’t surprise me, but the snorkel set — (laughter) — that was impressive.  Although I do want to ask, who’s snorkeling right now?  (Laughter.)  How many of those are you guys selling?  You never know.  (Laughter.)

But what I talked about last night was a simple but profound idea — and it’s an idea that’s at the heart of who we are as Americans:  Opportunity for everybody.  Giving everybody a fair chance.  If they’re willing to work hard, take responsibility, give them a shot.  The idea that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, what your last name is, if you work hard, you live up to your responsibilities, you can succeed; you can support a family.  (Applause.)  That’s what America should be about.  Nobody is looking for a free lunch, but give people a chance.  If they’re working hard, make sure they can support a family.

Now, we’re at a moment where businesses all across the country, businesses like Costco have created 8 million new jobs over the last four years.  Our unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in more than five years.  Our deficits have been cut in half.  Housing is rebounding.  Manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the ‘90s.  We sell more of what we make here in America to other places than ever before.  Business leaders are deciding that China’s not the best place to invest and create jobs — America is.

So this could be a breakthrough year for America.  After five years of hard work, overcoming the worst recession in our lifetimes, we’re better-positioned for this young century than anybody else.  But the question for folks in Washington is whether they’re going to help that progress or hinder that progress; whether they’re going to waste time creating new crises for people and new uncertainty — like the shutdown — or are we going to spend time creating new jobs and new opportunities.

And I know what I’m choosing to do because it’s what you do — I’m choosing this to be a year of action.  (Applause.)   Because too many Americans are working harder than ever just to get by, much less get ahead.  The scars of the recession are real.  The middle class has been taking it on the chin since before the recession.  The economy has been growing for four years now, and corporate profits, stock prices have all soared.  But the wages and incomes of ordinary people haven’t gone up in over a decade.

So that’s why last night, I laid out some steps that we can take, concrete, common-sense proposals to speed up economic growth, strengthen the middle class, build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.

And this opportunity agenda has four parts.  Number one, we need more new jobs.  Number two, we need to train more Americans with the skills that they need to fill those jobs.  Number three, we should guarantee every child access to a world-class education.  (Applause.)  And number four, let’s make sure hard work pays off.  (Applause.)

Now, some of my ideas I’ll need Congress.  But America can’t just stand still if Congress isn’t doing anything.  I’m not going to stand still either.  Wherever I can take steps to expand opportunity for more families, I’m going to do it — with or without Congress.  (Applause.)  Because the defining project of our time, of our generation, is to restore opportunity for everybody.

And so I’m here at Costco today to talk about the fourth part of the opportunity agenda, and that is making hard work pay off for every single American.

Five years ago I signed my first bill into law.  I didn’t have any gray hair.  (Laughter.)  You think it’s distinguished?  Okay.  (Laughter.)  That’s the guy with the gray beard saying — (Laughter).  So this first bill that I signed was called the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  (Applause.)  Lilly was at my speech last night.  And it’s a law to help protect a woman’s right to fair pay.  But at a time when women make up about half of the workforce, but still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns -– we’ve got to finish the job and give women the tools they need to fight for equal pay.  Women deserve equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)  They deserve — if they’re having a baby, they shouldn’t have to sacrifice their job.  A mom deserves a day off to care for a sick child or a sick parent -– and a father does, too.

As I said last night, we got to get rid of some of these workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode, belong back in the ‘50s.  We’ve got to give every woman the opportunity she deserves.  Because when women succeed, America succeeds.  (Applause.)

Now, women happen to hold a majority of lower-wage jobs in America.  But they’re not the only ones who are stifled when wages aren’t going up.  As Americans, we understand some people are going to earn more than other people, and we don’t resent those who because they work hard, because they come up with a new idea, they achieve incredible success.  We want our kids to be successful.

And it’s funny — Michelle and I sometimes talk — Michelle’s dad was a blue-collar worker; her mom was a secretary. I was raised by a single mom.  We didn’t go around when we were growing up being jealous about folks who had made a lot of money — as long as if we were working hard, we could have enough.

So Americans overwhelmingly agree nobody who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.  (Applause.)  And that is why I firmly believe it’s time to give America a raise.  (Applause.)

A hundred years ago, Henry Ford started Ford Motor Company. Model T — you remember all that?  Henry Ford realized he could sell more cars if his workers made enough money to buy the cars. He had started this — factories and mass production and all that, but then he realized, if my workers aren’t getting paid, they won’t be able to buy the cars.  And then I can’t make a profit and reinvest to hire more workers.  But if I pay my workers a good wage, they can buy my product, I make more cars.  Ultimately, I’ll make more money, they’ve got more money in their pockets — so it’s a win-win for everybody.

And leaders today, business leaders today, some of them understand this same concept.  Costco’s CEO, Craig Jelinek, he understands this.  He feels the same way.  He knows that Costco is going to do better, all our businesses do better when customers have more money to spend.  And listen, Craig is a wonderful guy, but he’s not in this for philanthropy.  He’s a businessman.  He’s looking at the bottom line.  But he sees that if he’s doing right by Costco’s workers, then they can buy that 80-inch TV, too.  (Laughter and applause.)  Right?

Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as a smart way to boost productivity and to reduce turnover.  So entry-level employees here -– stock associates, cashiers –- start out at $11.50 an hour.  (Applause.)  Start at $11.50.

AUIDENCE MEMBER:  Mr. President, we love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

The average hourly wage is more than $20, not including overtime or benefits.  And Costco’s commitment to fairness doesn’t stop at the checkout counter; it extends down the supply chain, including to many of the farmworkers who grow the product — the produce that you sell.  (Applause.)

Now, what this means is that that Costco has some of the lowest employee turnover in your industry.  So you’re not constantly retraining folks because they quit.  You got people like Teressa who has been here 27 years — because it’s a company that’s looking out for workers.

And I got to tell you, when I walk around, just — I had a little tour of the produce section, the bakery — you could just tell people feel good about their job and they feel good about the company, and you have a good atmosphere, and the managers and people all take pride in what you do.

Now, folks who work at Costco understand that, but there are a lot of Americans who don’t work somewhere like Costco, and they’re working for wages that don’t go as far as they once did. Today, the minimum wage — the federal minimum wage doesn’t even go as far as it did back in the 1950s.  And as the cost of living goes up, the value of the minimum wage goes down over time.  Just last year alone, workers earning the minimum wage basically got the equivalent of a $200 pay cut because the minimum wage stayed the same but costs of everything else are going up.

I don’t need to tell you this.  You go shopping.  (Laughter.)  So you’re like, mm-hmm.  (Laughter.)  For a typical minimum-wage worker, that’s a month’s worth of groceries.  It’s two months of electricity.  It’s a big deal to a lot of families.

So I brought a guy here today who knows a little bit about this — Tom Perez is America’s Secretary of Labor — (applause)  — works for working families every day.  I stole him from Governor O’Malley.  (Laughter.)  He came here from Maryland.  But when he was Governor O’Malley’s labor secretary here in Maryland, he helped implement the country’s first statewide living wage law.  And that helped a lot of Maryland families.  But there are more families in Maryland and across the country who put in long days, they’ve got hard jobs — they deserve higher wages.

In the year since I first asked Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, five states have passed laws to raise theirs.  Governor O’Malley is trying to do it here in Maryland, and lift the minimum wage to $10.10.  He says, “We all do better when we’re all doing better.”  He’s right.  Prince George’s County, Montgomery County are banding together with D.C. to raise the regional minimum wage.  And I’m here to support your efforts. (Applause.)  I’m here to support your efforts.  And as I said last night, to every governor, mayor, state legislator out there, if you want to take the initiative to raise your minimum wage laws to help more hardworking Americans make ends meet, then I’m going to be right there at your side.

While Congress decides whether it’s going to raise the minimum wage or not, people outside Washington are not waiting for Congress.  And I’m not, either.  So as a chief executive, I’m going to lead by example.  In the coming weeks, I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees on new contracts a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)  Because if you cook our troops’ meals and wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.

So there’s some steps businesses are taking on their own.  There are steps that certain states and counties and cities are taking on their own.  There are steps I’m going to take as President.  But ultimately, Congress does have to do its part to catch up to the rest of the country on this.

And there’s a reason why a wide majority of Americans support increasing the minimum wage.  Look, most Americans who are working make more than the minimum wage.  So it’s interesting that the overwhelming number of Americans support raising the minimum wage.  It’s not that it’s going to necessarily affect them personally right now; it’s that they know, they understand the value behind the minimum wage.  If you work hard, you should be able to pay your rent, buy your groceries, look after your kids.  (Applause.)  If you put in a hard day’s work, you deserve decent pay for it.  That’s a principle everybody understands, everybody believes.

So right now in Congress, there’s a bill that would lift the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour — 10.10 — 10.10, it’s easy.  It will give more businesses more customers with more money to spend.  I guarantee you, if workers have a little more money in their pocket, they’ll spend more at Costco.  (Applause.) And if Costco is seeing more customers, they’ll hire some more folk.  Everybody does better.

And the thing about it is raising the minimum wage doesn’t require new spending by the federal government.  It doesn’t require a big bureaucratic program.  It would help a lot of Americans make ends meet.

So I need everybody here and everybody who’s going to be watching, tell Congress to make this happen.  Give America a raise.  Making work pay means doing more to help Americans all across this country, but it also means improving the economy — because one of the things that’s been holding our economy back is wages and incomes being flat, which means consumers aren’t spending as much, which means businesses don’t have as many customers, which means they don’t hire as much and they don’t invest as much, and we don’t get that liftoff on the economy that we could.

If we want to make work pay, we also have to help Americans save for retirement — and I’m going to be flying up to Pittsburgh this afternoon to talk about that.  (Applause.)  Making work pay means access to health care that’s there when you get sick.  And the Affordable Care Act means nobody can ever be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma or cancer.  (Applause.)  You can’t be charged more if you’re a woman.  You can’t be charged just because your job makes your back hurt sometimes.  Those days are over.  (Laughter.)

More Americans are signing up for new private health insurance plans every day.  Already 3 million people have signed up.  So if you know somebody who isn’t covered, who doesn’t have health insurance, call them up, sit them down, help them get covered at healthcare.gov by March 31st.

So this is the opportunity agenda that I’m going to be talking about this year.  I don’t know — I hope Congress will be talking about it, too.  But I’m not going to wait.  Because we’ve got to restore some economic security in a 21st century economy, and that means jobs that are more plentiful, skills that are more employable, savings that are more portable, health care that’s yours and can’t be canceled if you get sick.

I just focused on one piece of that opportunity agenda today — raising the minimum wage.  But these are real, practical, achievable solutions that can help shift the odds back in favor of working and middle-class Americans who haven’t been seeing some of the benefits of growth that we’ve seen over the last four years.

And before I grab a 10-pound barrel of pretzels and — (laughter) — 500 golf balls — (laughter) — let me just leave you with something I heard from Costco’s founder, Jim Sinegal, who’s been a great friend of mine and somebody who I greatly admire.  And Jim is rightly proud of everything he’s accomplished.  “But,” he said, “here’s the thing about the Costco story.  We did not build our company in a vacuum.  We built it in the greatest country on Earth.  We built our company in a place where anyone can make it with hard work, a little luck, and a little help from their neighbors and their country.”

That’s what Jim said — a place where anyone can make it.  That’s who we are.  That’s our story.  If we pull together, work together, put our shoulder to the wheel, keep moving forward, that’s going to be our future as well, and the future for our kids and grandkids.

Thanks so much, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
10:34 A.M. EST

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

POLITICAL BUZZ


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Manufacturing — Asheville, NC

Source: WH, 2-13-13

Linamar Corporation
Asheville, North Carolina

12:10 P.M. EST

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Come on down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
12:30 P.M. EST

Full Text December 15, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Minimum Wage and Overtime Protections for In-Home Care Workers

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Ensuring Fair Pay for Homecare Workers

Source: WH, 12-15-11

20111215 President Obama with Pauline BeckPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks on new minimum wage/overtime protections for in-home care workers at a “We Can’t Wait” event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, Dec. 15, 2011. Among the workers joining the President was Pauline Beck, right, a home care worker from California who, in 2007, was shadowed by then Senator Obama as part of an event called “Walk a Day in My Shoes.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Four years ago, President Obama spent the day with Pauline Beck, a home health care worker. He followed her throughout her day — as she got up at 5:00 in the morning to care for an 86-year-old amputee. He saw first-hand the demands of her work.

Their business is a growing industry — one of the fastest in America. As the population of this country gets older, more Americans are turning to people like Pauline Beck to help make sure they have the care they need. And as the President said this morning, “As the homecare business has changed over the years, the law hasn’t changed to keep up.” In the eyes of the law, homecare workers fall into the same category as a teenaged babysitter.

20111215 President Obama on Home Care Workers President Barack Obama delivers remarks on new minimum wage/overtime protections for in-home care workers at a “We Can’t Wait” event in Room 430 of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, Dec. 15, 2011. Attendees include: Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Karen Kulp, President & CEO Home Care Associates; and home care workers: Pauline Beck, Thelma Reta, Iterra Blackshear, Tracy Dudzinski, Manuela Butler, Elma Wauneetta Phillips, Bertie Caraway, Margaret Glover, Elva Munoz, Michelle Wise, Olive Nanette Lyons, April Jones-Britt, Martha Cobos, and Gilda Brown; and home care employers: Sascha M. Bittner and Robin L. Shaffert. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

So today, the President did something to help homecare workers like Pauline Beck. He announced his support of a law to extend overtime pay protections and a guaranteed minimum wage to those who do this work:

We are going to make sure that over a million men and women in one of the fastest-growing professions in the country don’t slip through the cracks. We’re going to make sure that companies who do right by their workers aren’t undercut by companies who don’t. We’re going to do what’s fair, and we’re going to do what’s right.

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (73MB) | mp3 (7MB)

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President on Minimum Wage and Overtime Protections for In-Home Care Workers

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

12:13 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  As I said in Kansas last week, the defining issue of our time is whether we can build an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.  It’s whether this is going to be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family and build a modest savings and own a home, secure their own retirement, look after their kids.  That’s the test of our time.

In some cases, building this kind of economy is going to require some action from Congress.  And right now, Congress needs to make sure that 160 million working Americans don’t see their taxes go up on January 1st.  None of the workers who’ve joined us here today can afford a $1,000 tax increase next year.  And it wouldn’t be good for the economy.  Every economist indicates that it’s important for us to extend the payroll tax cut and make sure that unemployment insurance is extended.  So this Congress cannot and should not leave for vacation until that — until they have made sure that that tax increase doesn’t happen.  Let me repeat that:  Congress should not and cannot go on vacation before they have made sure that working families aren’t seeing their taxes go up by $1,000 and those who are out there looking for work don’t see their unemployment insurance expire.

There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to extend these items — the payroll tax cut, UI — before the holidays.  There’s no reason the government should shut down over this.  And I expect all of us to do what’s necessary in order to do the people’s business and make sure that it’s done before the end of the year.

Now, only Congress can prevent the payroll tax from going up next year.  But there are also some things that we can do without Congress to help make sure that hard work pays off.  And that’s why we’re here today.

Right behind me here is my friend Pauline Beck.  One day, back in 2007, Pauline was my boss.  I was in California to take part in an event called “Walk a Day in My Shoes,” where you’d spend the day working the job of someone who was in the service industry.  And I was lucky enough to be paired up with Pauline, and I have tell you, it ended up being one of my favorite days of the entire campaign.

Pauline is a home health care worker.  When we met, she was getting up every day at 5:00 a.m. to go to work taking care of an 86-year-old amputee named “Mr. John.”  And each day, she’d dress Mr. John and help him into his wheelchair.  She’d make him breakfast.  She’d scrub his floors.  She’d clean his bathroom.  She was his connection to the outside world.  And when the workday was done, she would go home to take care of a grandnephew and two foster children who didn’t have families of their own.  Heroic work, and hard work.  That’s what Pauline was all about.

And one of the things I remember about Pauline was her patience.  She was patient with me even when I didn’t wring out the mop properly or didn’t shake out the sheets before putting them in the laundry bin.  But I also remember listening to her talk about the hardships in her life, and she did so without any self-pity.  She was glad to be working hard and she was glad to be helping someone.  All she wanted in return for a hard day’s work was enough to take care of those kids she was going home to, enough to save a little bit for retirement, maybe take a day off once in a while to rest her aching back.

Each of the folks who are here today has a story like Pauline’s.  They represent nearly 1.8 million homecare workers across the country — hardworking professionals, mostly women, who work around the clock so that folks who need help, including many of our family members, can live independently in their own home.  Right now, homecare is one of the fastest-growing industries in America, partly because we’re getting older as a society.  And as the baby boom generation heads into retirement, more and more Americans are going to need the services of these outstanding workers.

But here’s the thing:  As the homecare business has changed over the years, the law hasn’t changed to keep up.  So even though workers like Pauline do everything from bathing to cooking, they’re still lumped in the same category as teenage babysitters when it comes to how much they make.  That means employers are allowed to pay these workers less than minimum wage with no overtime.  That’s right — you can wake up at 5:00 in the morning, care for somebody every minute of the day, take the late bus home at night, and still make less than the minimum wage.  And this means that many homecare workers are forced to rely on things like food stamps just to make ends meet.

That’s just wrong.  In this country, it’s unexcusable.  I can tell you firsthand that these men and women, they work their tails off, and they don’t complain.  They deserve to be treated fairly.  They deserve to be paid fairly for a service that many older Americans couldn’t live without.  And companies who do pay fair wages to these women shouldn’t be put at a disadvantage.

Four years ago, a homecare worker named Evelyn Coke took her case all the way up to the Supreme Court.  And Evelyn was working up to 70 hours a week with no overtime pay.  But the Court ruled against her, saying that to change the law would require action from Congress or the Department of Labor.  I’m sure many of you won’t be surprised to know that Congress hasn’t acted on this issue so far.

Today, I will.  Today, we’re guaranteeing homecare workers minimum wage and overtime pay protection.  And that’s thanks to the hard work of my Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis.  We are going to make sure that over a million men and women in one of the fastest-growing professions in the country don’t slip through the cracks.  We’re going to make sure that companies who do right by their workers aren’t undercut by companies who don’t.  We’re going to do what’s fair, and we’re going to do what’s right.

Evelyn Coke didn’t live to see this day.  But the truth is, Americans like Evelyn and Pauline and the rest of the workers who are here today, they’re one of the reasons that I ran for President.  They work hard.  They play by the rules.  In exchange, they just want to see that their hard work and their responsibility is rewarded.  It’s that simple.  Americans all deserve a fair shake and a fair shot.  And as long as I have the honor of serving as President, I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that those very modest expectations are fulfilled.  I’m going to make sure that they are treated right.  I’m going to make sure that every American is treated fairly.

Thanks very much, everybody.  Thank you.

END
12:20 P.M. EST

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