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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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.

Thanks.

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Full Text Obama Presidency June 27, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy in Minneapolis, MN — Attacking GOP for Not Passing Economic Agenda

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy — Minneapolis, MN

Source: WH, 6-27-14 

Lake Harriet Band Shell
Minneapolis, Minnesota

10:15 A.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Minneapolis!  (Applause.)  How is everybody doing today?  You look good.  (Applause.)  It is good to see all of you.  I miss Minneapolis.  I missed you guys.  Go ahead and have a seat, I’m going to be talking for a while.  (Laughter.)

So we’ve got some wonderful folks here today.  I want to acknowledge a few of them.  First of all, your outstanding Governor, Mark Dayton.  (Applause.)  Your wonderful senators, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar.  (Applause.)  Congressman Keith Ellison.  (Applause.)  Your Mayor, Betsy Hodges.  (Applause.)  And all of you are here, and that’s special.

I want to thank Rebekah for not just the introduction and for sharing her story, but for letting me hang out with her and her family for the last couple of days.  I really like her.  (Laughter.)  And her husband is like the husband of the year.  Generally, you don’t want your wife to meet Rebekah’s husband, because she’ll be like, well, why don’t you do that?  (Laughter.)  Why aren’t you like that?

I’ve been wanting to visit a place where all the women are strong and the men are good-looking, and the children above average.  (Applause.)  And this clearly is an example of what Minnesota produces.  So yesterday, Rebekah and I had lunch at Matt’s Bar, had a “Jucy Lucy” — (applause) — which was quite tasty.  We had a town hall at Minnehaha Park, although I did not take a kayak over the falls, which seemed dangerous.  (Laughter.)  We got ice cream at Grand Ole Creamery — very good, very tasty.

And then this morning, Al Franken and I and Secretary Tom Perez, our Secretary of Labor who’s here — Tom, stand up — (applause) — we stopped by a community organization that helps with a lot of job programs and job placement programs.  And this program in particular was focused on young moms.  It was really interesting talking to them, because there are teenage mothers, 16 to 18, and it was a great pleasure for me to be able to say to all of them that my mom was a teenage mom, and she was 18 when she had me — and to be able to say to all of them that here in this country, it is possible for the child of a teenage mom, a single mom, to end up being President of the United States.  (Applause.)  And I think that it maybe gave them something to think about.

So you guys have been great hosts, Minnesota.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you!

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re welcome.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Laughter and applause.)

So I want to give you a sense of how this visit came up.  As some of you know, every day we get tens of thousands of correspondence at the White House.  And we have a big correspondence office, and every night the folks who manage the correspondence office select 10 letters for me to read.

And the job of these letters is not to just puff me up — so it’s not like they only send me letters saying, Mr. President, you’re doing great.  (Laughter.)  Sometimes the letters say thank you for something I may have done.  Sometimes the letters say, you are an idiot and the worst President ever.  (Laughter.)  And most of the stories, though, are stories of hardship, or hard-won success, or hopes that haven’t been met yet.  Some appreciate a position that I may have taken; some disagree with what I’m doing.  Some consider policies like the Affordable Care Act to be socialism; some tell stories about the difference that same policy may have made in folks’ lives.

So I’m getting a good sample of what’s happening around the country.  And last month, three young girls wrote to me that boys aren’t fair because they don’t pass the ball in gym class.  (Laughter.)  So there’s a wide spectrum — and I’m going to prepare an executive order on that.

But the letter that Rebekah sent stood out — first of all, because she’s a good writer, and also because she’s a good person.  And the story that she told me reminded Michelle and I of some of our own experiences when we were Rebekah and her husband’s age.  And in many ways, her story for the past five years is our story, it’s the American story.

In early 2009, Rebekah and Ben, her husband, they were newly married, expecting their first son, Jack.  She was waiting tables, he was in construction.  Like millions of middle-class families who got hammered by the Great Recession — the worst recession since the Great Depression — life was about to get pretty hard.  “If only we had known,” she wrote, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.”

Ben’s business dried up.  But as a new husband and dad, he did what he had to, so he took whatever jobs he could, even if it forced him to be away from his family for days at a time.  Rebekah realized she needed to think about how her career would unfold, so she took out student loans and enrolled in St. Paul College, and retrained for a new career as an accountant.

And it’s been a long, hard road for them.  They had to pay off debt.  They had to sacrifice for their kids and for one another.  But then last year, they were able to buy their first home, and they’ve got a second son.  And they love where they work, and Ben’s new job lets him be home for dinner each night.  (Applause.)  And so what Rebekah wrote was, “It’s amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to.  We’re a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

And that describes the American people.  We, too, are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.  And today, over the past 51 months, our businesses have created 9.4 million new jobs.  Our housing market is rebounding.  Our auto industry is booming.  Our manufacturing sector is adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s.  We’ve made our tax code fairer.  We’ve cut our deficits by more than half.  More than 8 million Americans have signed up for private insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.)  So here in Minnesota, you can now say that the women are strong, the men are good-looking, the children are above average, and 95 percent of you are insured.  (Applause.)

And it’s thanks to the hard work of citizens like Rebekah and Ben and so many of you that we’ve come farther, we’ve recovered faster than just about any other advanced economy on Earth.  More and more companies are deciding that the world’s number-one place to create jobs and invest is once again the United States of America.  (Applause.)  That’s the good news.  And you don’t hear it very often.

By every economic measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office.  (Applause.)  You wouldn’t know it, but we are.  We’ve made some enormous strides.  But that’s not the end of the story.  We have more work to do.

It wasn’t the end of Rebekah’s story, because she went on to write in her letter, “We did everything right.  The truth is, in America, where two people have done everything they can to succeed and fight back from the brink of financial ruin -– through job loss and retraining, and kids, and credit card debts that are set up to keep you impoverished forever, and the discipline to stop spending any money on yourselves or take a vacation in five years — it’s virtually impossible to live a simple middle-class life.”  That’s what Rebekah wrote.  Because their income is eaten up by childcare for Jack and Henry that costs more each month than their mortgage.  And as I was telling Rebekah — Michelle and I, when we were their age, we had good jobs and we still had to deal with childcare issues and couldn’t figure out how to some months make ends meet.

They forego vacations so they can afford to pay off student loans and save for retirement.  “Our big splurge,” Rebekah wrote, “is cable TV, so we can follow our beloved Minnesota Wild, and watch Team USA in the Olympics!”  (Applause.)  They go out once a week for pizza or a burger.  But they’re not splurging.  And at the end of the month, things are tight.  And this is like this wonderful young couple, with these wonderful kids, who are really working hard.

And the point is, all across this country, there are people just like that, all in this audience.  You’re working hard, you’re doing everything right.  You believe in the American Dream.  You’re not trying to get fabulously wealthy.  You just want a chance to build a decent life for yourselves and your families, but sometimes it feels like the odds are rigged against you.

And I think sometimes what it takes for somebody like Rebekah to sit down and write one of these letters.  And I believe that even when it’s heartbreaking and it’s hard, every single one of those letters is by definition an act of hope.
Because it’s a hope that the system can listen, that somebody is going to hear you; that even when Washington sometimes seems tone deaf to what’s going on in people’s lives and around kitchen tables, that there’s going to be somebody who’s going to stand up for you and your family.

And that’s why I’m here — because I want to let Rebekah know, and I wanted to let all of you know that — because you don’t see it on TV sometimes.  It’s not what the press and the pundits talk about.  I’m here to tell you I’m listening, because you’re the reason I ran for President.  (Applause.)  Because those stories are stories I’ve lived.  The same way that when I saw those young teenage moms, I thought of my mother.  And when I see Rebekah and Ben, I think of our struggles when Malia and Sasha were young.  And they’re not distant from me and everything we do.

I ran for President because I believe this country is at its best when we’re all in it together and when everybody has a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share.  (Applause.)  And the reason I believe that is because that’s how I came here.  That’s how I got here.  That’s how Michelle and I were able to succeed.  (Applause.)  And I haven’t forgotten.

And so even though you may not read about it or see it on TV all the time, our agenda, what we’re fighting for every day, is designed not to solve every problem, but to help just a little bit.  To create more good jobs that pay good wages — jobs in manufacturing and construction; energy and innovation.  That’s why we’re fighting to train more workers to fill those jobs.  That’s why we’re fighting to guarantee every child a world-class education, including early childhood education and better childcare.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’re fighting to make sure hard work pays off with a wage you can live on and savings you can retire on, and making sure that women get paid the same as men for the same job, and folks have flexibility to look after a sick child or a sick parent.  (Applause.)

That’s what we’re fighting for.  We’re fighting so everybody has a chance.  We’re fighting to vindicate the idea that no matter who you are, or what you look like, or how you grew up, or who you love, or who your parents were, or what your last name is, it doesn’t matter — America is a place where if you’re doing the right thing, like Ben and Rebekah are, and you’re being responsible and you’re taking care of your family, that you can make it.

And the fact is, we can do that.  If we do some basic things, if we make some basic changes, we can create more jobs and lift more incomes and strengthen the middle class.  And that’s what we should be doing.  And I know it drives you nuts that Washington isn’t doing it.  And it drives me nuts.  (Applause.)  And the reason it’s not getting done is, today, even basic commonsense ideas can’t get through this Congress.

And sometimes I’m supposed to be politic about how I say things — (laughter) — but I’m finding lately that I just want to say what’s on my mind.  (Applause.)  So let me just be clear — I want you think about this — so far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every single serious idea to strengthen the middle class.  You may think I’m exaggerating, but let me go through the list.  They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage.  They’ve said no to fair pay.  Some of them have denied that there’s even a problem, despite the fact that women are getting paid 77 cents for every dollar a man is getting paid.

They’ve said no to extending unemployment insurance for more than three million Americans who are out there looking every single day for a new job, despite the fact that we know it would be good not just for those families who are working hard to try to get back on their feet, but for the economy as a whole.  Rather than invest in working families getting ahead, they actually voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Don’t boo, by the way.  I want you to vote.  (Laughter and applause.)  I mean, over and over again, they show that they’ll do anything to keep in place systems that really help folks at the top but don’t help you.  And they don’t seem to mind.  And their obstruction is keeping a system that is rigged against families like Ben’s and Rebekah’s.

Now, I’m not saying these are all bad people; they’re not.  When I’m sitting there just talking to them about family, we get along just fine.  Many of them will acknowledge when I talk to them — yes, I know, I wish we could do something more, but I can’t — but they can’t be too friendly towards me because they’d be run out of town by the tea party.  (Laughter.)

But sometimes I get a sense they just don’t know what most folks are going through.  They keep on offering a theory of the economy that time and again failed for the middle class.  They think we should give more tax breaks to those at the top.  They think we should invest less in things like education.  They think we should let big banks, and credit card companies, and polluters, and insurers do only whatever is best for their bottom line without any responsibility to anybody else.  They want to drastically reduce or get rid of the safety net for people trying to work their way into the middle class.
And if we did all these things, they think the economy will thrive and jobs will prosper, and everything will trickle down.

And just because they believe it, it doesn’t mean the rest of us should be believing it — because we’ve tried what they’re peddling, and it doesn’t work.  We know from our history that our economy does not grow from the top down, it grows from the middle out.  We do better when the middle class does better.  We do better when workers are getting a decent salary.  We do better when they’ve got decent benefits.  (Applause.)  We do better when a young family knows that they can get ahead.  And we do better when people who are working hard know that they can count on decent childcare at an affordable cost, and that if they get sick they’re not going to lose their homes.

We do better when if somebody is stuck in a job that is not paying well enough, they know they can go get retrained without taking on huge mountains of debt.  That’s when things hum.  And with just a few changes in priorities, we could get a lot of that done right now if Congress would actually just think about you and not about getting reelected, not about the next election, not about some media sound bite, but just focus on you.  (Applause.)

So that’s why I’ve said, look, I want to work with Democrats and Republicans.  My favorite President, by the way, was the first Republican President — a guy named Abraham Lincoln.  So this is not a statement about partisanship.  This is a statement about America and what we’re fighting for.  And I’m not going to let gridlock and inaction and willful indifference and greed threaten the hard work of families like yours.   And so we can’t afford to wait for Congress right now.  And that’s why I’m going ahead and moving ahead without them wherever I can.  (Applause.)

That’s why I acted to raise more workers’ wages by requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)  That’s why I acted to help nearly five million Americans make student loan payments cap those payments at 10 percent of their income.  That’s why I made sure more women have the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace.  (Applause.)  That’s why we went ahead and launched new hubs to attract more high-tech manufacturing jobs to America.

And, now, some of you may have read — so we take these actions and then now Republicans are mad at me for taking these actions.  They’re not doing anything, and then they’re mad that I’m doing something.  I’m not sure which of the things I’ve done they find most offensive, but they’ve decided they’re going to sue me for doing my job.  I mean, I might have said in the heat of the moment during one of these debates, “I want to raise the minimum wage, so sue me when I do.”  (Laughter.)  But I didn’t think they were going to take it literally.

But giving more working Americans a fair shot is not about simply what I can do — it’s about what we can do together.  So when Congress doesn’t act, not only have I acted, I’ve also tried to rally others to help.  I told CEOs, and governors, and mayors, and state legislatures, for example, they don’t have to wait for Congress to raise the minimum wage.  Go ahead and raise your workers’ wages right now.  And since I first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, 13 states and D.C. have raised theirs, including Minnesota, where more than 450,000 of your neighbors are poised to get a raise.  (Applause.)

When Gap raised wages for its employees, job applications went up through the roof.  It was good for business.  I even got a letter from a proud mom right here in Minneapolis who just wanted me to know that her son starts his employees at $15 an hour, at Aaron’s Green Cleaning here in town.  (Applause.)  There they are!  (Applause.)  So the letter said, “We are very proud of his people-centered business philosophy!  Three cheers for a decent living wage!”

So we don’t have to wait for Congress to do some good stuff.  On Monday, we held the first-ever White House Summit on Working Families, and we heard from a lot of other families like Ben and Rebekah.  They count on policies like paid leave and workplace flexibility to juggle everything.  We had business owners who came and told me they became more profitable when they made family life easier for their employees.

So more companies are deciding that higher wages and workplace flexibility is good for business — it reduces turnover, more productive workers, more loyal workers.  More cities and states are deciding this is good policy for families.  So the only holdout standing in the way of change for tens of millions of Americans are some Republicans in Congress.

Because I just want to be real blunt:  If you watch the news, you just see, okay, Washington is a mess, and the basic attitude is everybody is just crazy up there.  But if you actually read the fine print, it turns out that the things you care about right now Democrats are promoting.  (Applause.)  And we’re just not getting enough help.

And my message to Republicans is:  Join us.  Get on board.  If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, then why don’t you join me and we’ll do it together?  (Applause.)  We’ll do it together.  I’m happy to share the credit.  You’re mad at me for doing some things to raise the minimum wage, let’s pass a law — Republicans and Democrats giving America a raise.

If you’re mad at me for taking executive action to make it easier for women to find out if they’re not getting treated fairly in the workplace, let’s do it together.  You can share the credit.  (Applause.)  You’re worried about me trying to fix a broken immigration system, let’s hold hands and go ahead and make sure that this country continues to be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.  I want to work with you, but you’ve got to give me something.  You’ve got to try to deliver something — anything.  (Applause.)

They don’t do anything — (laughter) — except block me.  And call me names.  It can’t be that much fun.  (Laughter.)  It’d be so much more fun if they said, you know what, let’s do something together.  If they were more interested in growing the economy for you, and the issues that you’re talking about, instead of trying to mess with me — (laughter) — then we’d be doing a lot better.  That’s what makes this country great, is when we’re all working together.  That’s the American way.

Now more than ever, with the 4th of July next week, Team USA moving on down in Brazil — (applause) — we should try to rally around some economic patriotism that says we rise or fall as one nation and one people.  Let’s rally around the idea that instead of giving tax breaks for millionaires, let’s give more tax breaks for working families to help pay for childcare or college.  (Applause.)

Instead of protecting companies that are shifting profits overseas to avoid paying their fair share, let’s put people to work rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our airports.  (Applause.)  Let’s invest in manufacturing startups so that we’re creating good jobs making products here in America, here in Minnesota.  (Applause.)  Rather than stack the deck in favor of those who have already got an awful lot, let’s help folks who have huge talent and potential and ingenuity but just need a little bit of a hand up so that we can tap the potential of every American.

I mean, this isn’t rocket science.  There are some things that are complicated — this isn’t one of them.  Let’s make sure every 4-year-old in America has access to high school — high-quality preschool — (applause) — so that moms like Rebekah and dads like Ben know their kids are getting the best quality care and getting a head start on life.  Let’s redesign our high schools to make sure that our kids are better prepared for the 21st century economy.  Let’s follow the lead of Senator Franken and Secretary Perez and give more apprenticeships that connect young people to rewarding careers.  (Applause.)

Let’s tell every American if they’ve lost their job because it was shipped overseas, we’re going to train you for an even better one.  (Applause.)  Let’s rally around the patriotism that says our country is stronger when every American can count on affordable health insurance and Medicare and Social Security, and women earn pay equal to their efforts, and family can make ends meet if their kid get sick, and when nobody who works full-time is living in poverty.  We can do all these things.

And so let me just — let me wrap up by saying this.  I know sometimes things get kind of discouraging.  And I know that our politics looks profoundly broken, and Washington looks like it’s never going to deliver for you.  It seems like they’re focused on everything but your concerns.  And I know that when I was elected in 2008 and then reelected in 2012, so many of you were hoping that we could get Washington to work differently, and sometimes when I get stymied you’d think, oh, maybe not; maybe it’s just too tough, maybe things won’t change.  And I get that frustration.  And the critics and the cynics in Washington, they’ve written me off more times than I can count.

But I’m here to tell you, don’t get cynical.  Despite all of the frustrations, America is making progress.  Despite the unyielding opposition, there are families who have health insurance now who didn’t have it before.  And there are students in college who couldn’t afford it before.  And there are workers on the job who didn’t have jobs before.  And there are troops home with their families after serving tour after tour.  (Applause.)  Don’t think that we’re not making progress.

So, yes, it’s easy to be cynical; in fact, these days it’s kind of trendy.  Cynicism passes off for wisdom.  But cynicism doesn’t liberate a continent.  Cynicism doesn’t build a transcontinental railroad.  Cynicism doesn’t send a man to the moon.  Cynicism doesn’t invent the Internet.  Cynicism doesn’t give women the right to vote.  Cynicism doesn’t make sure that people are treated equally regardless of race.

Cynicism is a choice, and hope is a better choice.  And every day I’m lucky to receive thousands of acts of hope — every time somebody sits down and picks up a pen, and writes to me and shares their story, just like Rebekah did.  And Rebekah said in her letter — she ended it, she said, “I’m pretty sure this is a silly thing to do to write a letter to the President, but on some level I know that staying silent about what you see and what needs changing, it never makes any difference.  So I’m writing to you to let you know what it’s like for us out here in the middle of the country, and I hope you will listen.”

And I’m here because Rebekah wrote to me and I want her to know I’m listening.  I’m here as President, because I want you all to know that I’m listening.  (Applause.)  I ran for office to make sure that anybody who is working hard to meet their dreams has somebody in Washington that is listening.  And I’m always going to keep listening.  And I’m always going to keep fighting.  (Applause.)

And your cares and your concerns are my own, and your hopes for your kids and your grandkids are my own.  And I’m always going to be working to restore the American Dream for everybody who’s willing to work for it.  (Applause.)  And I am not going to get cynical; I’m staying hopeful, and I hope you do too.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
10:50 A.M. CDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 26, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Town Hall on the Economy Minneapolis, Minnesota

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Town Hall

Source: WH, 6-26-14 

Minnehaha Park
Minneapolis, Minnesota

2:24 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Minneapolis!  (Applause.)  Good to see you.  Good to see you.  Everybody have a seat.  It is good to be back in Minnesota.  (Applause.)  Last time I was here it was colder.  (Laughter.)  Here’s just a tip for folks who are not from Minnesota — if you come here and the Minnesotans are complaining about how cold it is it’s really cold.  (Laughter.) Because these are some pretty tough folks.  They don’t get phased with cold.  But it was cold, so it’s nice to be back when it’s a little warmer.

And I have to begin by congratulating our U.S. soccer team, Team USA — (applause) — for advancing to the next round of the World Cup.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

THE PRESIDENT:  USA!

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  We were in what’s called the “Group of Death.”  (Laughter.)  And even though we didn’t win today, we were in the toughest grouping and we got through.  And so we’ve still got a chance to win the World Cup.  (Applause.)  And we could not be prouder of them.  They are defying the odds and earned a lot of believers in the process.  And I want everybody on the team to know that all of us back home are really proud of them.

Let me tell you something.  I’ve been really looking forward to getting out of D.C.  (Laughter.)  But I’ve also been looking forward to spending a couple days here in the Twin Cities.  Our agenda is still a little loose.  I might pop in for some ice cream, visit a small business.  I don’t know.  I’m just going to make it up as I go along.  The Secret Service — I always tease them.  I’m like a caged bear, and every once in a while I break loose.  And I’m feeling super loose today.  (Applause.)  So you don’t know what I might do.  You don’t know what I might do.  Who knows?  (Applause.)

But the main reason I wanted to be here is I just wanted to have a chance to talk to folks about their lives and their hopes and their dreams and what they’re going through.  I want to spend some time listening and answering your questions and just having a conversation about what’s going well in your lives and in your neighborhoods and communities right now, but also what kinds of struggles folks are going through, and what things are helping and what things aren’t.

Now, before I do I just want to mention our Governor, Mark Dayton, is here.  (Applause.)  And Mark gave me an update on the flooding that’s been going on all across the state and I know some folks here are probably affected by it as well.  We made sure that FEMA is already on the ground here.  The Army Corps of Engineers is helping to build up a levee up in Warroad.  I told the Governor that we will be there as we get some clarity about the damage and what needs to be done, and you should feel confident that you’re going to have a strong partner in FEMA and the federal government in the process of cleaning up. (Applause.)

And you can also feel confident because if we didn’t help out, then I’d have Mayor Coleman and Mayor Hodges and Congressman Keith Ellison giving me a hard time.  So they’re going to hold me to it.  They do a great job on behalf of their constituents every day.  (Applause.)

I also wanted to mention that up the road there’s a memorial service for a person that many of you knew and loved, and that’s Jim Oberstar, who served so long in Congress.  I had a chance to know Jim; we overlapped before he came back home.  He was a good man.  He was a good public servant.  He was somebody who never forgot the folks in the Iron Range that he was fighting for.  And in a lot of ways, what he represented was a time when folks went to Washington, but they understood that they were working on behalf of hardworking middle-class families and people who were trying to get into the middle class.

And that fight continues.  We’ve made progress.  And the one thing that I always remind people of is by just about every economic measure, we are significantly better off than we were when I came into office.   (Applause.)  Unemployment is down; the deficits have been cut in half; the housing market has improved; 401(k)s have gotten more solid.  The number of people who are uninsured are down.  Our exports are up, our energy production is up.  So, in the aggregate, when you look at the country as a whole, by pretty much every measure, the economy is doing better than it was when I came into office — and in most cases significantly better.

We’ve created now 9.4 million new jobs over the last 51 months.  (Applause.)  The unemployment rate here in Minnesota is the lowest it’s been since 2007.  (Applause.)  But here’s the thing — and I’m not telling you anything that you don’t know.  There are still a lot of folks struggling out there.

We’ve got an economy that, even when it grows and corporate profits are high and the stock market is doing well, we’re still having trouble producing increases in salary and increases in wages for ordinary folks.  So we’ve seen wages and incomes sort of flat-line, even though the costs of food and housing and other things have gone up.  And so there are a lot of people who work really hard, do the right thing, are responsible, but still find at the end of the month that they’re not getting ahead.  And that is the central challenge that drives me every single day when I think about what kinds of policies would help.

So I’ve put forward an opportunity agenda that is a continuation of things I’ve been talking about since I came into the United States Senate and served with Mark and things that I’ve been working on since I became President — making sure that hard work pays off; making sure that if you work hard your kid can go to a good school and end up going to college without a huge amount of debt; that you’re not going to go broke if you get sick; that you’re able to have a home of your own; and that you’re able to retire with some dignity and some respect, maybe a vacation once in a while.  That’s what people are looking for.  And that means that we’ve got to reverse this mindset that somehow if everybody at the top does really well then somehow benefits all automatically trickle down — because that’s not what’s been happening for the last 20, 30 years.

We had — on Monday we had what we called a White House Working Families Summit.  And we just talked about bread-and-butter issues that everybody talks about around the kitchen table but, unfortunately, don’t make it on the nightly news a lot.  So we talked about childcare and the fact that it’s prohibitive for too many young families.  (Applause.)  We talked about paid family leave, so that if a child was sick or a parent was sick, that you could actually go help and take care of them — which is, by the way, what every other developed country does.  We’re the only one that doesn’t have it.

We talked about workplace flexibility, so that if you wanted to go to a parent-teacher conference with your family — or for your kid, or a school play, that you could balance that.  And in fact, those companies we discovered at the summit who provide that kind of flexibility usually have more productive workers, harder-working workers, more loyal workers, lower turnover, and the companies end up being more profitable.

We talked about increasing the minimum wage, which would benefit millions of people all across the country.  (Applause.)  We talked about equal pay for equal work, because I want my daughters getting paid the same as men do.  (Applause.)

All of these things are achievable, but we’ve got to make Washington work for you — not for special interests, not for lobbyists.  We don’t need a politics that’s planned to some — the most fringe elements of politics.  We just need folks who are having a common-sense conversation about what’s happening in your lives and how can we help, and then try to take some concrete actions that makes a difference.

So that’s what I want to talk about.  And I’m hoping that some people in Washington are going to be listening.  Some of them will be and they’ll probably be saying I’m crazy or a socialist or something — (laughter) — but hopefully hearing from you, some of this stuff will sink in.  All right?
So with that, I’m just going to take some questions.  I’ve got my little hot tea here to make sure I don’t lose my voice.  And I think we’ve got microphones in the audience and I’m just going to call on folks.  The only rule I’ve got is when I call on you, you’ve got to wait for the microphone, introduce yourself.  If you keep your question relatively short I’ll try to keep my answers relatively short.  And I’m going to go boy, girl, boy, girl to make sure it’s fair, all right?  (Laughter.)

All right.  Let’s start it off.  All right, who wants to go first?  This young lady right here.  Tell me your name.

Q    Hello, I’m Cheryl Hill.

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey, Cheryl.

Q    And I admire you so much and your office for the support we’ve received.  I’m the founder of ClearCause.  I work to protect our students abroad.  I support hundreds of students who worked their way up through college — our best and our brightest — are not well-protected by any surveillance or laws. They are robbed, raped, starved, abandoned and killed.  I’m here because of my son, Tyler Hill.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, so this is like an exchange programs?

Q    Study abroad.

THE PRESIDENT:  Study abroad program.  Generally, study abroad programs are coordinated by the universities and colleges that sponsor them.  There should be interaction between those educational institutions and the State Department.  There are obviously some countries that are particularly dangerous, and in those cases, I think making sure that everybody has good information going in is important.

Tragedies happen when folks travel overseas.  Unfortunately, tragedies happen here as well.  But what I’d like to do is — let me find out more about the nature of the coordination that happens between the State Department and study abroad programs and see if there are some things that we can do to tighten them up.  And it sounds like you’ve been thinking about it, so you may have some ideas.  Excellent.

Gentleman in the cool sunglasses there.

Q    Good morning, Mr. President — or afternoon, Mr. President.  My name is Dan Morette (ph).  And my question is — you spoke about tragedies at home — how we can reduce gun violence in this nation and what we can do to team up together and really make a difference.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, on my way over here I was talking to a mom that I had lunch with — who’s wonderful, by the way, and she’s here but I’m not going to embarrass her.  And she’s got a couple of young sons.  And we talked about a whole bunch of issues — the cost of childcare, the fact that wages don’t go up to meet the cost of living.  But one thing she talked about was Newtown.  And I described how the day that Sandy Hook happened was probably the worst day of my presidency, and meeting those families just a couple of days after they lost these beautiful six-year-olds — 20 of them — and then some of the parents — or some of the teachers and administrators who had been affected as well.

I was sure after that happened, there’s no way that Congress isn’t going to do some common-sense stuff.  I thought that the issue of gun safety and common-sense legislation has been controversial for some time, but I thought that was going to be a breakthrough moment.  The fact that it wasn’t was probably the most disappointing moment that I’ve had with Congress.

What we’ve done is we’ve developed 24 executive actions, things that were in our power, to really try to tighten tracking where guns go, making sure that we’re sifting through and separating out responsible gun owners from folks who really shouldn’t be having a weapon.

So we’ve probably made some progress.  We’ve probably saved a few lives.  But I will tell you this is the only advanced country that tolerates something like this.  We have what’s basically a mass shooting, it seems like, happening once every couple weeks — kids on college campuses, kids at home.  And we’re not going to eliminate all of that violence, and there’s a strong tradition of gun ownership and there are wonderful folks who are sportsman and hunters, and I respect all of that.  But we should be able to take some basic common-sense steps that are, by the way, supported by most responsible gun owners — like having background checks so you can’t just walk into a store and buy a semiautomatic — (applause.)

Something I’m going to keep on talking about that I was asked about this a few weeks ago, and I said, honestly, this is not going to change unless the people who want to prevent these kinds of mass shootings from taking place feel at least as passionate and are at least as mobilized and well-funded and organized as the NRS and the gun manufacturers are.  Because the politics in Congress are such where even members of Congress who know better are fearful that if they vote their conscience and support common-sense gun legislation like background checks, they’re worried that they’re going to lose their seat.  And frankly, there’s a number who have because the other side is very well organized.

So I will keep on talking about it.  We’re going to continue to work with law enforcement and community groups and others to try to take steps locally and at the state level.  But if we’re going to do something nationally, then we’re going to have to mobilize ordinary folks — moms, dads, families, responsible gun owners, law enforcement — and they’re going to have to get organized and be able to counter the pressure that’s coming from the other side in a sustained way — not in a one-week or two-week or one-month situation right after a tragedy occurs; it’s going to have to just keep on going for several years before we’re able to make progress.  (Applause.)

All right.  Young lady right there.  The one in the orange — got a mic right next to you.

Q    I’m an educator in a public school, and I have a son in college who’s struggling through college with student loans.  I’ve been an educator for 27-plus years.  (Applause.)  And I know you’re into sports and I hear they generate a lot of money.  We generate a lot of minds.  And it really bothers me that I can’t pay for his education.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m just curious what your son’s circumstances are.  Is he going to a state school?  Is he going to a private school?

Q    He’s going to a community college.

THE PRESIDENT:  He’s going to a community college.

Q    And wants to go to college in New York, in fashion design.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  But he’s in community college here in Minnesota right now?

Q    Correct.

THE PRESIDENT:  And is he eligible for the federal student loans programs?  Or is he finding that because of your income or your family’s income that it’s hard to get some of the lower-interest loans?

Q    Both.  He’s kind of both.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Well, look, this is something we’ve been spending a lot of time on.  There are a couple components to the problem.  And, by the way, this is something near and dear to my heart because I was not born into a wealthy family.  I’m only here because of my education, but the reason I was able to get that education was because grants, loans, work during the summer — all of those things allowed me to pay the bills.

But college costs were lower then when I was going to school.  I know you can’t tell from my gray hair, but I’m getting a little older now.  (Laughter.)  And so I started college in 1979, and when I graduated — I was able to get a four-year college education — I had some debt, but I could pay it off after one year.  Now, the average student that does have debt is seeing $30,000 worth of debt.  And even if they’re able to take out loans, that’s a burden that they’re carrying with them in their first job; it may prevent them from buying their first home; if they’ve got a business idea, that’s money that is going to take them a while before they’re able to start a business, and, as a consequence, it effects the whole economy.

Now, it is really important just to remind everybody a college education is still a great investment as long as you graduate.  (Applause.)  As long as you graduate.  So when you go into college, you’ve got to be determined, “I’m going to graduate.”  It’s a great investment, but it’s not a great investment if you take out $20,0000 worth of debt and you don’t graduate, you don’t get the degree, which is why we’re spending a lot of time talking to colleges about what are you doing to retain students.

But the things that we need to do are, number one, try to keep costs of student loans down.  We’ve been working with colleges and universities, telling them if the federal government is going to help subsidize your universities essentially with the student loan program, you need to show us that you’re informing students ahead of time how much they’re going to owe; that you are describing for them what their repayment plans would be; that you are keeping tuition low and that you’re graduating folks at a high rate.

So we’ve got to work with the colleges and universities to lower costs.  We’ve got to keep the interest rates on student loans low.  Right now, there’s legislation that was presented in the Senate — Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren sponsored it — and what it does is it just allows student loans that you already have to be consolidated, and you can refinance them at a lower rate just like you could your mortgage if the rates go down.  Republicans all voted against it — I don’t know why.  You will have to ask them.  But that’s an example of a tool we can use.

We’ve also put in place — this is something that I passed a while back and now I’ve expanded — a program whereby you never have to pay more than 10 percent of your current income to pay back your student loans, so that if you decide you want to go into teaching or you want to go into social work — something that may not be a high-paying profession but a satisfying profession — that the fact that you’ve had some student debt is not going to preclude you from taking that position.

So there are a number of different steps that we’re taking.I will tell you, though, in addition to what we do at the federal level, you’re going to need to talk to your state legislators.  Part of the reason that tuition has gone up is because state legislatures across the country have consistently lowered the support that they provide public universities and community colleges, and then the community colleges and the public universities feel obliged to increase tuition rates.  And that obviously adds the burden to students.

The bottom line is your son is doing the right thing.  The fact that he’s starting at a community college will save him money.  Even if he wants to graduate from a four-year institution eventually, it will still be a good investment.  So he should shop around, get the right information.  We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we keep it as affordable as possible.  And I’m sure he’s going to do wonderfully, and then he’s going to look after his mom.  (Applause.)

Okay, it’s a guy’s turn.  This gentleman right here.

Q    Mr. President, like you, I’m the father of two beautiful, intelligent girls.

THE PRESIDENT:  Can’t beat daughters.  No offense, sons.  (Laughter.)

Q    And they’re both in STEM careers.  I’m wondering what we can do to promote and encourage more girls to go into STEM careers.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, this is a great question.  (Applause.)  First of all, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

America became an economic superpower in large part because we were the most innovative economy.  We are a nation of inventors and tinkerers, and we expand the boundaries of what’s possible through science.  And that continues to be the case.  We still have the most cutting-edge technology, the most patents.  But if we’re not careful, we’ll lose our lead.  And if things aren’t being invented here, then they’re not being produced here. And if they’re not being produced here, that means the jobs aren’t being created here.  And over time, other countries catch up.

So what do we have to do?  Number one, we’ve got to make sure that we’re investing in basic science.  Sometimes people say, I don’t know what the federal government spends the money on; they’re all just wasting it.  You know, one of the things that the federal government does is it invests in basic research that companies won’t invest in.  And if it wasn’t for the investment in basic research, then things like the Internet, things like GPS that everybody uses every day, things that result in cures for diseases that have touched probably every family that’s represented here in some fashion — that stuff never happens.

You do the basic research and then you move on to commercialize it, and that’s oftentimes when the private sector gets involved.  But they’re not willing or able a lot of times to finance basic research.  So that’s number one.

Number two, we’ve got to make sure that we’re investing in working with companies who are doing, let’s say, advanced manufacturing, the next phases of manufacturing, linking them up with universities so that once we have a good idea, a good invention — whether it’s clean energy or a new way to build a car — that the next phase of production and innovation is done here in the United States.  And we’ve opened up four what we call advanced manufacturing hubs around the country — I actually want 15 — where we link private sector and universities so that they become centers of innovation and jobs get created here in the United States.

But the third thing we need is we need more folks in engineering, math, science, technology, computer science.  (Applause.)  And that means we’ve got to have a school system generally that encourages those subjects.  And, by the way, I was a political science and English major, and you need to know how to communicate, and I loved the liberal arts, so this is no offense, but we’ve got enough lawyers like me.  We need more engineers.  (Applause.)  We need more scientists.

Generally speaking, we’re not doing good enough educating kids and encouraging them into these kinds of careers.  We’re particularly bad when it comes to girls.  And my whole thing is
— somebody said I was a sports fan.  I am.  And one rule of sports is you don’t play as well if you’ve only got half the team.  We don’t have everybody on the field right now if our young women are not being encouraged the same way to get into these fields.  So this starts at an early age.

What we’ve done is I’ve used my Office of Science and Technology to partner with elementary schools to, first of all, train teachers better in STEM,’ then to really focus on populations that are under-represented in STEM — not only young women but also African Americans, Latinos, others — getting them interested early.  In some cases, for example, we know that young girls — I know as a father — they oftentimes do better if they’re in a team and social environment, so making sure that the structure of science classes, for example, have collaboration involved and there’s actual experience doing stuff, as opposed to just it being a classroom exercise.  There are certain things that can end up making it a better experience for them, boosting their confidence, and encouraging them to get into the fields.

So we’re going to continue to really spend a lot of time on this.  I’ll just close by saying every year now I have a science fair at the White House, because my attitude is if I’m bringing the top football and basketball teams to the White House, I should also bring the top scientists.  I want them to feel — (applause) — that they get the spotlight just like athletes do. And these kids are amazing — except they make you feel really stupid.  (Laughter.)

The first student who I met — she’s now — she just graduated.  When she was 12, she was diagnosed with a rare liver cancer.  Fortunately, she had health insurance.  They caught it early enough, she responded to treatment.  Lovely young lady — it didn’t come back.  But by the time she got into high school and she was taking biology and chemistry, she became interested in why was it that I got this thing at 12 years old?

So she talks to her teachers, and she designs a study where she goes to the surgeon who took out the cancer from her liver, takes samples, identifies the genetic profile and the chromosomes that might have led to this particular kind of cancer, writes up the research in Science Magazine, and now has a scholarship to Harvard to pursue her interest in bio-medicine.  And as you might imagine, her parents are pretty proud of her.  (Laughter.)  I was really proud of her.

But it gives you a sense of the possibilities for young people and young women if somebody is sparking that interest in them, and telling them this is something that they can do and they should pursue their interests.  (Applause.)

Young lady right here in the yellow.

Q    Hi, my name is Joelle Stangle.  I’m the University of Minnesota student body president.  And so I have a question about higher education.  And I also have a softball question after this hardball question.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, I love the softball questions.

Q    My first question is, the House Republicans recently released their recommendations for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, and so I want to know where you think that Republicans and Democrats can work together and what the top priorities should be for reauthorization.  And my softball question is how do you get a President to be your commencement speaker?  Kids want to know.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, you have to invite me.  (Laughter.)  So that’s always a good start.  I just did my last commencement at UC Irvine.  I have to say, they had a campus-wide letter-writing campaign; I think we ended up getting, like, 10,000 letters, was it, from — something like that.  They also have a very cute mascot.  It’s an anteater.  I guess that’s their sign; that’s supposed to be the anteater.

PARTICIPANT:  We’ve got a gopher.

THE PRESIDENT:  Gophers are cool.  (Laughter.)  Gophers are cool.

But the invitation is a good place to start, and then we’ll work from there.

In terms of the higher education reauthorization act, that’s a big bill, there’s a lot of complexities to it.  I will just focus on an area that I think should be the focus — and we’ve already talked about — and that is student loan costs, and how we can hold schools more accountable for informing young people as they’re starting their education what exactly it’s going to mean for them.

Now, we’ve already started this.  I mentioned a few things. One thing I didn’t mention is the Consumer Finance Protection Board that we set up that, in response to what had happened during the Great Recession, when people were taking out mortgages they couldn’t afford and predatory lenders were getting folks in a whole lot of trouble.  And we said, the same way that you should be protected from a faulty appliance or a faulty car, you should be protected from a faulty financial instrument, make sure it doesn’t explode in your face.  (Applause.)

And one of the goals of CFPB, is what it’s called, was to tackle the student loan issue.  And what we’ve done is created what we call a Know What You Owe program, which pushes colleges and universities not to do the financial counseling on the exit interview where suddenly they hand you a packet and says, here, this is what you’re going to owe — hand it to folks at the beginning, break it down for them.  And that will allow young people I think to make better decisions, and their parents to work with them to make better decisions about what college expenses are going to be.

But as I said before — this is true for education generally — the federal government can help, but states and local governments have to do their part as well.  In public education, the federal government accounts for about 7 percent of total costs.  The rest of it comes from state and local taxes.  And what we’ve tried to do is leverage the little bit of money that the federal government gives to this to modify how — to incentivize reform, and to get folks to experiment with new ways of learning.

For example, can we use online classes more effectively to help keep college costs down?  Can we get more high school students to get transferable college credits while they’re in high school so that they can maybe graduate in three years instead of two?  We’re trying to encourage folks to experiment in those ways.

All of that we hope can get embodied in the higher education act.  I will tell you, sometimes if I’m for it, then the other side is against it even if originally it was their idea.  So I can’t guarantee you that we’ll get bipartisan support for these ideas, but there’s nothing that should prevent us from doing it because this is just about making a college education a better value for families.  And that’s something that should transcend party; it shouldn’t be a Democrat or a Republican issue.

All right.  Gentleman right here in the uniform.

Q    All right, my name is — well, good afternoon, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.

Q    My name is John Martinez.  I’m a recent EMT graduate from the Freedom House EMS Academy in St. Paul.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, there you go.

Q    Currently I’m teaching at the Academy, and I just got hired at Allina — I applied for St. Paul Fire.  My question is have you considered starting any other organizations such as the Freedom House for law enforcement or fire or other establishments that could get programs like that going for low-income or minorities?

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, I’ll confess to you I don’t know enough about Freedom House — so I’m considering it right now.  (Laughter.)  But you’ve got to tell me more about it.  Since you’re an instructor there and a graduate from there, why don’t you tell me how it works?

Q    You go through an interviewing process and the leaders — there’s fire chiefs that interview the candidates.  You get paid, but it is an interviewing process.  You wear a unifor;, it’s a strict program.  And it’s a 14-week or a 10-week program, depending on what time of the year.  It’s intensive.  Everything is compacted, all the information that we learn.  And you learn skills — all the skills that you need to be an EMT.  You meet, you network, you meet fire chiefs, police.  I know people that are going into med school.  It started in 1967 in Philadelphia.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it sounds like a great program.

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  And who’s eligible for it?  Is it young people who have already graduated from high school but haven’t yet gone to college?  If I’m 30 years old and I’m thinking let me try a new career — who is it that can participate?

Q    Anyone from the ages of 17 to 30 is eligible.  You have to meet the income requirements.  And it’s open to anyone who wants to get into EMS or fire.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s a great idea.  See, you just gave me a good idea.  (Laughter.)  So now I’m considering expanding it.  (Applause.)

It’s a good example, though, of a broader issues, which is not everybody is going to go to a four-year university, but everybody is going to need some advanced training.  And so the question is how do we set up systems — whether it’s apprenticeships, whether it’s programs like Freedom House that you just described, whether it’s through the community colleges
— where whatever stage in your life, if you feel as if you’re stuck in your existing occupation, you want to do better, or you lose your job and you’ve got to transition to a new industry, that you are able to get training that fits you.  Understanding that for a lot of folks they may be working at the same time as they are looking after their kids, and so there’s got to be some flexibility.  The programs have to be more compact.  Most importantly, they have to be job-training programs or technical programs that actually produce the skills you need to get jobs that are there.

And so what we’ve been trying to do is to — which seems like common sense but, unfortunately, for a long time wasn’t done — going to the businesses first that are hiring and asking them, well, what exactly are you looking for, and why don’t you work with the community college, or why don’t you work with the nonprofit to help design the actual training program so that you’ll have the benefit of knowing if somebody has gone through the program, they’re prepared for the job.  Conversely, the person who’s gone through the training program, they know if they complete it, that there’s a job at the other end.  And that’s how we’re actually trying to redesign a lot of the job training programs that are out there.

But as I said before, you’ve also got to make sure that you structure it so that a working mom who can’t afford to just quit her job and go to school — maybe she’s a waitress right now — she’s interested in being a nurse’s assistant that has slightly better pay and benefits, and then wants to become a nurse, that she has the opportunity to work around her schedule, make sure that we’ve got the ability to take classes at night, or on weekends, or online.

That’s how — in the future, we’re going to have to redesign a lot of this stuff, getting away from thinking that all the training that’s going to take place is just for 18 and 19-year-olds who’ve got all day and are supported by their parents, because that’s not the model that our economy is going to be in for the foreseeable future.

Young lady.  Yes, in the stripes.

Q    Hi, my name is Erin.  I just left a corporation in Minnesota, a Fortune 500 corporation, where I had my four-year degree, my male counterpart did not, and he was making $3 more an hour than I was.  My question for you is what are we going to do about it so as I grow up and other women grow up we are not experiencing the wage gap anymore?  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ve got all kinds of opinions on this.  (Laughter.)

First of all — I told this story at the Working Families Summit — my mom was a single mom.  She worked, went to school, raised two kids with the help of my grandparents.  And I remember what it was like for her — coming home, she’s dead tired, she’s trying to fix a healthy meal for me and my sister, which meant there were only really like five things in the rotation because she didn’t have time to be practicing with a whole bunch of stuff.  And sometimes, because you’re a kid, you’re stupid, so you’re all like, I don’t want to eat that again.  (Laughter.)  And she’s like, really?  (Laughter.)  What did you make?  Eat your food.  (Laughter.)

But I remember the struggles that she would go through when she did finally get her advanced degree, got a job, and she’d experience on-the-job discrimination because of her gender.

My grandmother, she was Rosie the Riveter.  When my grandfather went to fight in World War II, part of Patton’s Army, she stayed home because — my mom was born in Kansas, at Fort Leavenworth, and my grandmother worked at a bomber assembly line. And she was whip smart.  I mean, in another era, she would have ended up running a company.  But at the time, she didn’t even get her college degree — worked as a secretary.  She was smart enough that she worked her way up to be a vice president at the local bank where we lived — which is why sometimes when I watch Mad Men, there’s Peggy and Joan, the two women there, I’m always rooting for them because I imagine them — that’s what it was like for my grandmother, kind of working her way up.

But as smart as she was, she got to a certain point and then she stopped advancing.  And then she would train guys how to do the job and they would end up being her boss.  And it happened three or four times.

So this is something that I care a lot about not just because of my past, but also because of my future.  I’ve got two daughters.  The idea that they would not be paid the same or not have the same opportunities as somebody’s sons is infuriating.  And even if you’re not a dad, those of you who have partners, spouses — men — this is not a women’s issue.  Because if they’re not getting paid, that means they’re not bringing home as much money, which means your family budget is tighter.  (Applause.)  So this is a family issue and not a gender issue.

So what can we do?  First bill I signed was called the Lily Ledbetter Act, that allowed folks to sue if they found out that they had been discriminated against, like you found out.  Back then, Lilly Ledbetter, this wonderful woman, she had been paid less than her male counterparts for the same job for over a decade.  When she finally finds out, she sues, and the Supreme Court says, well, the statute of limitations has run out; you can’t sue for all of that back pay.  She says, well, I just found out — well, that doesn’t matter.  So we reversed that law, allowing people to sue based on when you find out.

Most recently what I did was we made it against the law, at least for federal contractors, to retaliate against employees for sharing job — or salary information.  Because part of the problem — part of the reason that it’s hard to enforce equal pay for equal work is most employers don’t let you talk, or discourage talk about what everybody else is getting paid.  And what we’ve said is women have a right to know what the guy sitting next to them who’s doing the exact same job is getting paid.  So that’s something we were able to do.

But ultimately, we’re going to need Congress to act.  There have been repeated efforts by us to get what we call the Paycheck Fairness Act through Congress and Republicans have blocked it.  Some have denied that it’s a problem.  What they’ve said is, you know what, women make different choices.  That explains the wage gap.  That’s the reason that women on average make 77 cents to every dollar that a man earns — is because they’re making different choices.

Well, first of all, that’s not true in your case because you were doing the same job.  You didn’t make a different choice; you just were getting paid less.  But let’s even unpack this whole idea of making different choices.  What they’re really saying is, because women have to bear children, and a company doesn’t give them enough maternity leave or doesn’t give them enough flexibility, that they should be punished.

And our whole point is that this is a family issue and that if we structure the workplace to actually be family-friendly, which everybody always talks about but we don’t always actually practice, then women won’t have to make different choices.  Then if they’re pregnant and have a child, it’s expected that they’re going to have some time off.  By the way, the dads should, too.  They should have some flexibility in the workplace.  (Applause.) They should be able to take care of a sick kid without getting docked for pay.

And there are some wonderful companies who are doing this.  And as I said before, it turns out that when companies adopt family-friendly policies their productivity goes up, they have lower turnover — which makes sense.  Look, if you have a family emergency, and you go to your boss and you say, can I have a week off, I’ve got to take care of a sick child or a dad — or can I leave early this afternoon because my kid is in a school play and I really think this is important, and they say, of course, nothing is more important than family — how hard are you going to work for that person when you get back on the job?  You’re going to feel invested in them.  You’re going to say to yourself, man, these folks care about me, which means I care about you.  And if I have to take some extra time on a weekend, or I’ve got to do some work late at night when I’m not under an emergency situation, I’m going to do that.

So this makes good business sense.  But the problem is, is that we haven’t done enough to encourage these new models.  And this is part of the reason why we did this Family Summit — we wanted to lift this stuff up, show companies that are doing the right thing, encourage others to adopt the same practices, and maybe get some legislation that incentivizes better policies.

In the meantime, though, if you’re doing the same job you should make the same pay — period; full stop.  (Applause.)  That should be a basic rule.  That shouldn’t be subject to confusion. (Applause.)

Let’s see — this young man back here, right there.

Q    Good afternoon, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Quinn Graham.  I’m an intern with Right Track.

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s Right Track?  Tell me about it.

Q    It’s a youth jobs program through the city of St. Paul.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.  Now, what grade are you going into next year?

Q    I’m going to be a senior next year.

THE PRESIDENT:  Fantastic.  How did junior year go?

Q    What?

THE PRESIDENT:  How did junior year go?

Q    Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  It was okay?  What do you mean, yeah?  No, how did junior year go?

Q    Oh, it went well.

THE PRESIDENT:  It went well?

Q    Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  I just wanted — because Malia is going into her junior year and I hear it’s pretty busy your junior year.

Q    Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah?  Well, you look like you survived it.

Q    Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  You wanted to get to your question.  Please go ahead.  (Laughter.)

Q    I was wondering how you would propose to address the growing issue of climate change.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, as it just so happens — now, this young man was not a plant.  (Laughter.)  But as it just so happens, last year yesterday, I announced my Climate Action Plan. And let me just set the stage by saying that the science here is settled — (applause) — carbon dioxide is released by a whole bunch of manmade activities.

When you release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere it traps heat.  We are seeing the highest levels of carbon dioxide, and as a consequence, some of the warmest temperatures that we’ve seen in hundreds of thousands of years.  They’re going up.  And this is not just a problem of polar bears — although I really like polar bears — and the ice caps melting.  What happens is, is that when temperatures on average go up it throws weather patterns into a whole bunch of different directions.

So it may mean that snowcaps on mountains diminish.  And out West, entire states get their water from snowcaps.  If you’re not getting the same amount of water you now have the potential for more severe drought.  Agriculture is impacted, which means your food bills go up.  California is going through the worst drought it’s gone through in a very, very long time.  That raises the price of all the fruits and vegetables that are grown in California, so it hits you in your pocketbook.

Wildfires may increase.  And in fact, we’ve seen record wildfires.  We’re having to spend more money fighting fires now than we ever have.  It makes hurricanes potentially more frequent and potentially more powerful.  So Hurricane Sandy may not be as unusual as it used to be.  You see higher incidents of flooding. Coastal states like Florida, there are neighborhoods where now every time there’s a high tide there’s a flood in these neighborhoods.

And the problem is it’s getting worse.  Because as folks in China and India and other places decide they want to have cars, too, and they want to have electricity and the things that we’ve got, they start building more power plants and they start driving more — all of that adds to more carbon dioxide and it starts compounding.

So this is something we have to deal with.  Now, the good news is there are things we can do.  So we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars.  By the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks are going to go twice as far on a gallon of gas. That’s going to save you money in your pocketbook, but it’s also taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.  (Applause.)

We’ve invested in clean energy.  Since I came into office we’re producing three times as much energy through wind power and we’re producing about 10 times as much energy through solar power, and we’re creating jobs here in the United States — folks installing wind turbines and solar panels.  So it’s good economics and it’s also good for the environment.

Most recently, what I’ve done is I’ve said — about 40 percent of the carbon that we emit comes from power plants.  So what we’ve said is, through the Environmental Protection Agency, we’re going to set standards.  We set standards for the amount of mercury and arsenic and sulfur that’s pumped out by factories and power plants into our air and our water.  Right now we don’t have a cap on the amount of carbon pollution.  So we said we’re going to cap it.

And we’re going to let states work with their private sector and local governments to come up with what’s going to be best for them.  Not every state is going to do the same thing.  Nevada might emphasize solar power.  South Dakota might emphasize wind power.  Whatever it is that you’re going to do you’ve got to start bringing down your carbon pollution.

Now, this has some controversy.  Oil companies, not wild about it; coal companies, not crazy about it.  These traditional sources of fuel — fossil fuels — we’re going to use for a while, but we can’t just keep on using them forever.  We’ve got to develop new ways of producing energy so that your generation isn’t seeing a planet that is starting to break down, with all the costs associated with it.

Last point I’ll make — one of the benefits of asking power plants to produce energy that’s cleaner is that when they control their carbon dioxide they’re also putting less soot in the air.  They’re also putting less particulates in the air.  And what that means is your child is less likely to get asthma and those with respiratory diseases are less likely to be impacted.  So it has a public health effect that is good as well.

We can have an environment that is cleaner, that is healthy for us, and at the same time, develop entire new industries in clean energy.  But we’re going to have to get started now.  And that’s why, despite some of the pushback from some of the special interests out there, we’re going to just keep on going at this, because we don’t have a choice.  This is something that we’re going to have to tackle during this generation to make sure we’re giving a good future for the next generation.  (Applause.)  Great question.

Last question — last question.  This young lady in the pink, go ahead.

Q    Good afternoon, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.

Q    My name is Katie Peterson.  And my coworker here and friend, we’ve been working for the federal government for almost 29 years.  And we feel really privileged that we’ve been able to serve that way.

THE PRESIDENT:  Where do you work?

Q    For Defense Contract Management Agency.

THE PRESIDENT:  Excellent.

Q    But it’s been a great career, we love it, but lately, as you know, there’s been a few rough patches with three years of pay freeze and sequestration and furloughs.  And we’re just kind of wondering what you foresee for the next fiscal year for government workers.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me make a couple of points.  First of all, folks in the federal government, the overwhelming majority, they work really hard doing really important stuff.  And I don’t know why it is that — (applause) — I don’t know when it was that somehow working for government — whether the state or local or federal level — somehow became not a real job. When you listen to some of the Republican rhetoric sometimes you think, well, this is really important work that we depend on.

We’ve got floods right here right now.  The federal government is coming in and it’s going to be working with local communities that are overwhelmed to try to make sure that people get help rebuilding.  Those are federal workers.  If they weren’t around after a tornado or a hurricane, communities would be in a world of hurt.

When you check the weather, even on your smartphone, that information didn’t just come from some Silicon Valley office.  That came from the National Weather Service.  We put out the data developed by the federal government to our satellites that are paid for, and then it’s commercialized.  And people use it to set up things like the Weather Channel and Weather.com and websites.

The folks who help our men and women in uniform make sure that they’ve got proper equipment, those are federal workers.  Fighting fires — a lot of times those are federal workers in the Forest Service.

So it frustrates me when I hear people acting as if somebody who’s working for the federal government somehow is less than somebody working on the private sector — if they’re doing a good job and carrying on an important function, we should praise them. (Applause.)

The same is true, by the way, at the local level.  The same is true at the local level.  I don’t know a job more important than teaching.  Those are all government workers.  In fact, one of the biggest problems we had in coming out of this recession, in addition to it being the worst recession since the Great Depression, was that states and local governments were cutting back on their hiring at an unprecedented rate.  We still haven’t seen state and local government hiring get back to where it was back in 2007-2008.  If we had, if we hadn’t lost so many teachers and teachers’ aides in a lot of communities, the unemployment rate would be much lower and the economy would be much stronger.

So I say all this just to make a general point, which is, historically, it’s been the private sector that drove the economy, but it was also a whole bunch of really great work done by agricultural extension workers and engineers at NASA and researchers at our labs that helped to create the platform and the wealth that we enjoy.  And so this whole idea that somehow government is the enemy or the problem is just not true.

Now, are there programs that the government does that are a waste of money or aren’t working as well as they should be?  Of course.  But I tell you, if you work in any company in America, big company, you’ll find some things that they’re doing that aren’t all that efficient either.  Are there some federal workers who do bone-headed things?  Absolutely.  I remember the first week I was on the job I talked to my Defense Secretary, Bob Gates, who’s older and had been there a long time.  I said, do you have advice for me, Bob?  He says, one thing you should know, Mr. President, is that at any given moment, on any given day, somebody in the federal government is screwing up.  (Laughter.)  Which is true, because there are 2 million employees.  Somebody out there — if 99 percent of the folks are doing the right thing and only 1 percent aren’t, that’s still a lot of people.

So my job as President, working with Congress, is to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and efficiently.  We shouldn’t be wasting a dime.  And where we see waste, where we see things not working the way they should — like recently, these long waits for folks trying to get in the VA health care program — we’ve got to crack down and we’ve got to reform it.  But we can’t paint in a broad brush and just say somehow stuff is not working — because even in the VA health care system, once people get in, the quality of care, the satisfaction rates for customers are actually better than in private sector health care. (Applause.)  So we can’t generalize like this.

Now, the last point I’ll make — going to your question — federal workers generally have not gotten raises.  And you remember during the government shutdown, they were getting pressed having to pay bills like everybody else, but not having a paycheck coming in.  It’s very disruptive for them.  And what’s called sequestration and furloughs meant that they might only be able to come to work three days a week instead of the full five. And this all put a strain on their budgets.

We’ve been able to stabilize it, but when we go into the budget talks with Republicans next year, we may go through some of the same problems, in part because the other side has said they want to cut funding for education; they’ve said that they want to cut support for vulnerable families; they want to cut Medicaid, which would have an impact on the elderly and families that have folks with disabilities.  And I’ve said no.

I’ve said why would I — by the way, the deficit has come down by more than half since I came into office.  (Applause.)  It hasn’t gone up.  Federal spending has not gone up.  The deficit has gone down.  And if we want to do more to reduce the deficit further, why am I going to take it out on the most vulnerable in our society and programs we need to grow when we’ve got a tax system where you’ve got corporations taking advantage of loopholes — in some cases, they’re paying no taxes, when a teacher or a secretary are paying taxes themselves?  Why wouldn’t I close those loopholes first to generate additional revenues before I started cutting education spending or spending on basic research?  (Applause.)

It will be a tough negotiation just because everything is a tough negotiation in Washington right now — which I guess brings me just to my last point.  I don’t watch TV news generally, or cable shows, but I suspect if you’re out here and going to work, and picking up your kids and taking them to soccer, or at night sitting there paying the bills, and you just turn on the TV, sometimes it must feel kind of discouraging because it doesn’t feel like what’s being talked about in Washington has anything to do with what’s going on in your lives day to day.  And it must feel as if sometimes you’re just forgotten.

And sometimes the news that’s being reported on is really important.  I mean, what’s happening in Iraq is relevant.  We’ve got to pay attention to the threats that are emanating from the chaos in the Middle East.  Although I want to be very clear we’re not sending combat troops into Iraq, because that’s — (applause) — we’ve done that and we’ve given them an opportunity.  And they’re going to have to contribute to solving their own problems here, although we’ll protect our people and we’ll make sure that we’re going after terrorists who could do us harm.

But sometimes the news that’s coming off is just — these are just Washington fights.  They’re fabricated issues.  They’re phony scandals that are generated.  It’s all geared towards the next election or ginning up a base.  It’s not on the level.  And that must feel frustrating, and it makes people cynical and it makes people turned off from the idea that anything can get done.
And if I’ve got one message today, it’s the same message that I gave to that young mom that I mentioned who I had lunch with before I came here, who wrote me a letter just talking about how she had done everything right, her and her husband, and she’s working hard and raising two beautiful kids and she has a great life, but it’s a struggle and wondering if anybody in Washington knows it.  What I told her is the same thing I want to tell all of you, which is:  I know it.  You’re the reason I ran for office.  You’re — (applause) — no, no, I’m not looking for applause.  I want to make this point.  I grew up not in tough circumstances, but I was you guys.  Somebody out here is going through what my mom went through.  Somebody out here is growing through what my grandma went through.  Somebody out here is going through what Michelle and I went through when we were first married and our kids were first born.  It’s not like I forget.

That was just 20 years ago that we were trying to figure out how to buy our first home.  This is 10 years ago when we finished off paying our student loans.

You guys are the reason I ran.  You’re who I’m thinking about every single day.  And just because it’s not reported in the news, I don’t want you to think that I’m not fighting for you.  And I’m not always going to get it done as fast as I want, because right now we’ve got a Congress that’s dysfunctional.  And I’ll be honest with you — you’ve got a party on the other side whose only rationale — motivation seems to be opposing me.

But despite all that, we’re making progress.  Despite all that, some folks have health care that didn’t have it before.  (Applause.)  Despite all that, some students are able to afford their education better.  Despite all that, some folks have jobs that didn’t have it.  Despite all that, the Green Line got built here in Minnesota.  (Applause.)  Despite all that, we can make life a little better for American families who are doing their best, working hard, meeting their responsibilities.

And I don’t want you to ever forget that.  And I don’t want you to be cynical.  Cynicism is popular these days, but hope is better.

Thanks, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END
3:36 P.M. CDT

Full Text Obama Presidency February 4, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Preventing Gun Violence & on Gun Control in Minneapolis, Minnesota

POLITICAL BUZZ


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Preventing Gun Violence in Minneapolis, MN

Source:  WH, 2-4-13

Special Operations Center
Minneapolis Police Department
Minneapolis, Minnesota

1:46 P.M. CST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  Please have a seat.  Have a seat.

Well, it is good to be back in Minnesota.  (Applause.)  It is good to be back.  Although I was commenting that they don’t really have winter in Washington, D.C.  (Laughter.)  So I’ve gotten soft over these last four years.  When I was in Chicago, this was nothing.  Now it’s something.  (Laughter.)  But I’m grateful for all of you being here today.  I want to thank Chief Harteau and the entire Minneapolis Police Department for having me here today.

There are a number of other people that I just want to acknowledge here.  First of all, a wonderful man and one of America’s greatest public servants is here — Walter Mondale, former Vice President.  (Applause.)  Your outstanding Governor, Mark Dayton, is here.  (Applause.)  Two great Mayors — Mayor R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis, and Mayor Chris Coleman of St. Paul.  (Applause.)  And your outstanding congressional delegation — Senator Amy Klobuchar — (applause) — Senator Al Franken —  (applause) — Representative Keith Ellison — (applause) — and Representative Betty McCullough.  (Applause.)

And I should acknowledge my outstanding Attorney General — what’s your name again?  (Laughter.)  He does a great job every single day, and I could not be prouder of Eric Holder for his leadership on this issue in particular.  (Applause.)

Now, I just had a chance to sit down with some local police officers but also community leaders, as well as folks who themselves had been victims or whose families had been victims of gun violence, to hear their ideas about how we can protect our kids and address the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country.  Because if we’re serious about preventing the kinds of tragedies that happened in Newtown, or the tragedies that happen every day in places like Chicago or Philadelphia or Minneapolis, then law enforcement and other community leaders must have a seat at the table.

All the folks standing here behind me today, they’re the ones on the front line of this fight.  They see the awful consequences — the lives lost, the families shattered.  They know what works, they know what doesn’t work, and they know how to get things done without regard for politics.

So we’ve had a very productive discussion.  And one of the things that struck me was that even though those who were sitting around that table represented very different communities, from big cities to small towns, they all believe it’s time to take some basic, common-sense steps to reduce gun violence.  We may not be able to prevent every massacre or random shooting.  No law or set of laws can keep our children completely safe.  But if there’s even one thing we can do, if there’s just one life we can save, we’ve got an obligation to try.

That’s been the philosophy here in Minneapolis.  A few years back, you suffered a spike in violent crime involving young people.  So this city came together.  You launched a series of youth initiatives that have reduced the number of young people injured by guns by 40 percent — 40 percent.  So when it comes to protecting our children from gun violence, you’ve shown that progress is possible.  We’ve still got to deal with the 60 percent that remains, but that 40 percent means lives saved — parents whose hearts aren’t broken, communities that aren’t terrorized and afraid.

We don’t have to agree on everything to agree it’s time to do something.  (Applause.)  That’s my main message here today.

And each of us has a role to play.  A few weeks ago, I took action on my own to strengthen background checks, to help schools get more resource officers if they want them, and to direct the Centers for Disease Control to study the causes of violence.  Because for a long time, even looking at the evidence was considered somehow tough politics.  And so Congress had taken the approach that, we don’t want to know.  Well, that’s never the answer to a problem — is not wanting to know what is going on.

So we’ve been able to take some steps through administrative action.  But while these steps are important, real and lasting change also requires Congress to do its part and to do it soon, not to wait.  The good news is that we’re starting to see a consensus emerge about the action Congress needs to take.

The vast majority of Americans — including a majority of gun owners — support requiring criminal background checks for anyone trying to buy a gun.  (Applause.)  So right now, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are working on a bill that would ban anyone from selling a gun to somebody legally prohibited from owning one.  That’s common sense.  There’s no reason we can’t get that done.  That is not a liberal idea or a conservative idea; it’s not a Democratic or Republican idea — that is a smart idea. We want to keep those guns out of hands of folks who shouldn’t have them.

Senators from both parties have also come together and proposed a bill that would crack down on people who buy guns only to turn them around and sell them to criminals.  It’s a bill that would keep more guns off the street and out of the hands of people with the intent of doing harm.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, in addition to reducing violence on the streets, it would also make life a lot easier and a lot safer for the people standing behind me here today.  (Applause.)

We shouldn’t stop there.  We should restore the ban on military-style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines.  (Applause.)  And that deserves a vote in Congress — because weapons of war have no place on our streets, or in our schools, or threatening our law enforcement officers.  Our law enforcement officers should never be out-gunned on the streets.  (Applause.)

But we also know that if we’re going to solve the problem of gun violence, then we’ve got to look at root causes as well.  That means we should make it easier for young people to get access to mental health treatment.  (Applause.)  We should help communities like this one keep more cops on the beat.  (Applause.)  And since Congress hasn’t confirmed a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in six years, they should confirm your U.S. Attorney from Minnesota, Todd Jones, who is here today and who I’ve nominated for this post.  (Applause.)

These are common-sense measures supported by Democrats, Republicans and independents, and many of them are responsible gun owners.  And we’re seeing members of Congress from both parties put aside their differences and work together to make many of them a reality.

But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the last four years, it’s that you can’t count on anything in Washington until it’s done.  And nothing is done yet.  There’s been a lot of talk, a lot of conversation, a lot of publicity, but we haven’t actually taken concrete steps yet.

Last week, the Senate held its first hearing since Newtown on the need to address gun violence and the best way to move forward, and the first people to offer testimony were Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly.  They talked about how a complex problem like this has no single solution, but if we still had a 10-round limit on magazines, for example, the gunman who shot Gabby may never have been able to inflict 33 gunshot wounds in 15 seconds.  Fifteen seconds, 33 rounds fired.  Some of the six people who lost their lives that day in Tucson might still be with us.

Now, changing the status quo is never easy.  This will be no exception.  The only way we can reduce gun violence in this country is if the American people decide it’s important.  If you decide it’s important.  If parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, hunters and sportsmen, Americans of every background stand up and say this time it’s got to be different — we’ve suffered too much pain to stand by and do nothing.

And by the way, it’s really important for us to engage with folks who don’t agree with us on everything, because we hope that we can find some areas where we do agree.  And we have to recognize that there are going to be regional differences and geographic differences.  The experience that people have of guns in an urban neighborhood may not be the same as in a rural community.

But we know, for example, from polling that universal background checks are universally supported just about, by gun owners.  The majority of gun owners, overwhelming majority of gun owners think that’s a good idea.  So if we’ve got lobbyists in Washington claiming to speak for gun owners saying something different, we need to go to the source and reach out to people directly.  We can’t allow those filters to get in the way of common sense.

That’s why I need everybody who’s listening to keep the pressure on your member of Congress to do the right thing.  Ask them if they support common-sense reforms like requiring universal background checks, or restoring the ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.  Tell them there’s no legislation to eliminate all guns; there’s no legislation being proposed to subvert the Second Amendment.  Tell them specifically what we’re talking about — things that the majority of Americans, when they’re asked, support.

And tell them now is the time for action.  That we’re not going to wait until the next Newtown or the next Aurora.  We’re not going to wait until after we lose more innocent Americans on street corners all across the country.  We’re not going to wait until somebody else’s father or son are murdered.

Some of the officers here today know what it’s like to look into the eyes of a parent or a grandparent, a brother or a sister who has just lost a loved one to an act of violence; to see the pain and the heartbreak from wondering why this precious life, this piece of your heart was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It changes you.  You’re not the same afterwards.

And obviously whatever that experience is like is nothing compared to the experience that those families are actually going through.  And it makes you realize that if there’s even one thing we can do to keep our children and our community safe, if there’s just one step we can take to prevent more families from feeling what they feel after they’ve lost a loved one, we’ve got an obligation to take that step.  We’ve got an obligation to give our police officers and our communities the tools they need to make some of the same progress that’s been made here in Minneapolis.

There won’t be perfect solutions.  We’re not going to save every life.  But we can make a difference.  And that’s our responsibility as Americans.  And that’s what I’ll do every single day as long I’ve got the honor of serving as your President.

So thank you.  God bless you.  God bless these United States of America.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
2:02 P.M. CST

Political Headlines June 9, 2012: GOP Weekly Address: Rep. Erik Paulsen Urges Full Repeal of Affordable Care Act

POLITICAL HEADLINES

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

GOP Address: Rep. Paulsen Urges Full Repeal of Affordable Care Act

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-9-12

House of Representatives

In this week’s Republican address, Minnesota Congressman Erik Paulsen underscores the House’s focus on job creation, and says President Obama’s policies are only making things worse.

With the U.S. unemployment rate at 8.2 percent, and small businesses finding it more difficult to create jobs, Rep. Paulsen says President Obama’s health care law may be the worst of what is “standing in the way of a stronger economy.”

“His health care law well may be the worst offender, driving up costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire workers,” Paulsen says in the address. “It’s making things worse in our economy, and it needs to be fully repealed.”

But Republicans in Congress, Paulsen contends, are working at “removing government barriers to job creation.”

“One of those initiatives, passed just this week, repeals a massive job killing tax increase on medical device manufacturers that is in the president’s health care law,” he says.

Paulsen claims this particular tax is just another “vivid demonstration of why we need to fully repeal this health care law.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 2, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Tells Congress It’s Time to Get to Work on Creating Jobs for Veterans

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Obama’s Weekly Address: Congress, ‘Get to Work’

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-2-12

On the heels of Friday’s disappointing jobs report, the president is asking lawmakers to put politics aside and act on his agenda to boost the economy and create jobs.

“My message to Congress is, get to work,” Obama says in his weekly address.

The president admits the economy is not creating jobs “fast enough,” citing “some serious headwinds” that are continuing to stall growth, including high gas prices and the European debt crisis.

The economy added just 69,000 jobs last month, far below expectations of 150,000, and the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.2 percent, the Labor Department announced Friday….READ MORE

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

President Obama speaks to the American people about his proposal to make it easier for companies to hire our returning service members for jobs that utilize their skills and help grow our economy.

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address., White House Photo, Pete Souza, 6/1/12

Weekly Address: It’s Time for Congress to Get to Work

Source: WH, 6-2-12

President Obama speaks to the American people from a Honeywell manufacturing facility in Minnesota about his proposal to make it easier for companies to hire our returning service members for jobs that utilize their skills and help grow our economy.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

WEEKLY ADDRESS: It’s Time for Congress to Get to Work

In this week’s address, President Obama spoke to the American people from a Honeywell manufacturing facility in Minnesota about his proposal to make it easier for companies to hire our returning service members for jobs that utilize their skills and help grow our economy.  This week, the President called on Congress to get to work on his proposals to grow the economy and create jobs like getting our construction workers back on the job, giving small business owners a tax break for hiring more workers, giving responsible homeowners the opportunity to refinance their mortgages, and ensuring that women have equal pay for equal work.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Jobs for America’s Veterans
Golden Valley, Minnesota
June 2, 2012

Today I’m at one of Honeywell’s manufacturing facilities in Golden Valley, Minnesota, where I just announced a step that will make it easier for companies to hire returning service members who have the skills our country needs right now.  It’s another part of our effort to make sure that no American who fights for this country abroad has to fight for a job when they come home.  That’s why businesses like Honeywell are answering our challenge to hire 100,000 post-9/11 veterans and their spouses by the end of next year.  That’s why I’ve directed the government to hire over 200,000 veterans so far – because our economy needs their tremendous talent, and because millions of Americans are still looking for a job.

Right now, this country is still fighting our way back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  The economy is growing again, but it’s not growing fast enough.  Our businesses have created almost 4.3 million new jobs over the last twenty-seven months, but as we learned in this week’s jobs report, we’re not creating them fast enough.  And just like last year at this time, our economy faces some serious headwinds.  Gas prices are starting to come down again, but when they spiked over the last few months, it hit people’s wallets pretty hard.  The crisis in Europe’s economy has cast a shadow on our own.  And all of this makes it even more challenging to fully recover and lay the foundation for an economy that’s built to last.

But from the moment we first took action to prevent another depression, we knew the road to recovery wouldn’t be easy.  We knew it would take time, that there would be ups and downs along the way.  But we also knew that if we were willing to act wisely, and boldly, and together; if we were willing to keep at it, and never quit, we would come back stronger.

Nothing has shaken my faith in that belief.  We will come back stronger.  We do have better days ahead.  And that’s because of you.  I would place my bet on American workers and American businesses any day of the week.  You’re the reason our auto industry has come roaring back.  You’re the reason manufacturing is hiring at its fastest pace since the 1990s.  You work hard. You play by the rules. And what you deserve are leaders who will do the same; who will do whatever it takes to fight for the middle-class and grow this economy faster.  Because while we can’t fully control everything that happens in other parts of the world, there are plenty of things we can control here at home.  There are plenty of steps we can take right now to help create jobs and grow this economy.

I sent Congress a jobs bill last September full of the kinds of bipartisan ideas that would have put our fellow Americans back to work and helped reinforce our economy against those outside shocks.  I sent them a plan that would have reduced the deficit by $4 trillion in a way that’s balanced – that pays for the job-creating investments we need by cutting unnecessary spending and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes.

Since then, Congress has only passed a few parts of that jobs bill, like a tax cut that’s allowing working Americans to keep more of your paycheck every week.  That was important.  But Congress hasn’t acted on enough of the other ideas in that bill that would make a difference and help create jobs right now. And there’s no excuse for that.  Not when so many people are looking for work.  Not when so many people are struggling to pay the bills.

So my message to Congress is, get to work.

Right now, Congress should pass a bill to help states prevent more layoffs, so we can put thousands of teachers and firefighters and police officers back on the job.  Congress should have passed a bill a long time ago to put thousands of construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our runways.  Instead of just talking a good game about job creators, Congress should give small business owners a tax break for hiring more workers and paying them higher wages.  Let’s get that done.

Right now, Congress should give every responsible homeowner the opportunity to save an average of $3,000 a year by refinancing their mortgage.  Next week, there’s a vote in Congress on a bill that would give working women the tools they need to demand equal pay for equal work.  Ensuring paycheck fairness for women should be a no brainer.  And they need to pass that bill.

Right now, Congress also needs to extend the tax credits for clean energy manufacturers that are set to expire at the end of the year – so that we don’t walk away from 40,000 good jobs.  And it’s long past time for Congress to end the tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, and use that money to cover moving expenses for companies that are bringing jobs back to America.

It’s not lost on anyone, least of all me, that this is an election year.  But we’ve got responsibilities that are bigger than an election.  We’ve got responsibilities to you.  With so many people struggling to get by, now is not the time to play politics.  Now is not the time for Congress to sit on its hands.  The American people expect their leaders to work hard, no matter what year it is.  That’s what I intend to do.  And I expect Democrats and Republicans to join me.

Campaign Buzz February 7, 2012: Rick Santorum Sweeps GOP Missouri, Minnesota & Colorado Primaries & Caucuses Claims Victory for Conservatism — Puts Conservative Support for Mitt Romney for the Republican Presidential Nomination in Question

CAMPAIGN 2012

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012


Dilip Vishwanat for The New York Times
Rick Santorum addressed his supporters with his wife, Karen, at the St. Charles Convention Center in St. Charles, Mo., on Tuesday night. More Photos »

IN FOCUS: RICK SANTORUM SWEEPS MISSOURI, MINNESOTA & COLORADO PRIMARIES & CAUCUSES QUESTIONING CONSERVATIVE SUPPORT OF MITT ROMNEY FOR THE GOP’S PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION

Caucus Results
10:05 AM ET 2:00

Minnesota »
Candidate Votes Pct.
Santorum 21,436 44.8%
Paul 13,030 27.2
Romney 8,096 16.9
Gingrich 5,134 10.7
95% reporting
Colorado »
Santorum 26,372 40.2%
Romney 22,875 34.9
Gingrich 8,394 12.8
Paul 7,713 11.8
100% reporting

The Missouri primary is nonbinding and has no effect on delegates.

Santorum Upsets G.O.P. Race With Three Victories: Rick Santorum won the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses and a nonbinding primary in Missouri on Tuesday, raising fresh questions about Mitt Romney’s ability to corral conservative support…. – NYT, 2-8-12 Full Results and Recap

Jubilant Santorum wins Minn., challenges in Colo.: A resurgent Rick Santorum won Minnesota’s Republican presidential caucuses with ease Tuesday night and challenged Mitt Romney in Colorado, raising fresh questions about the front-runner’s appeal among the ardent conservatives at the core of the party’s political base.
Santorum triumphed, as well, in a nonbinding Missouri primary that was worth bragging rights but no delegates…. – AP, 2-7-12

Rick Santorum wins Colorado caucuses to claim clean sweep: Rick Santorum had a breakthrough night Tuesday, winning GOP presidential contests in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado. Santorum solidly defeated Romney in Minnesota and Missouri, and he narrowly edged the former Massachusetts governor in Colorado, according to state GOP officials…. – Read more at:

AP: Rick Santorum wins Minnesota GOP caucuses: Victory is former Pennsylvania senator’s second of the night, coming after a win in Missouri’s non-binding primary…. – WaPo, 2-7-12

AP declares Rick Santorum winner in Missouri: Missouri’s primary awards no delegates, but the victory gives a boost to the former Pennsylvania senator’s efforts to slow Mitt Romney’s march to the Republican presidential nomination. Newt Gingrich did not compete in Missouri…. – WaPo, 2-7-12

Rick Santorum Wins Minnesota Republican Caucus: Rick Santorum has won Minnesota’s Republican caucus, giving him a second big win on Tuesday night and adding to the headache for Mitt Romney and his hopes of quickly wrapping up the Republican presidential nomination.
Mr. Santorum’s victory in Minnesota — a state that Mr. Romney won easily in 2008 — came shortly after he was declared the easy victor in Missouri, where he trounced his rivals in the Republican primary.
He is also leading in early returns in Colorado’s Republican caucus…. – NYT, 2-7-12

“Conservatism is alive and well in Missouri and Minnesota.” — Rick Santorum

“This was a good night for Rick Santorum. I want to congratulate Sen. Santorum, but I expect to become the nominee with your help.” — Mitt Romney

  • Live blog: Santorum wins Missouri primary: We’re live-blogging the results from GOP presidential contests in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado. Rick Santorum has scored the first victory of the night with a win in Missouri. He’s battling with Mitt Romney in Minnesota … – USA Today, 2-7-12
  • Live: Santorum proclaims victory for ‘conservatism’: Rick Santorum scored two victories Tuesday night in the GOP presidential race, easily defeating Mitt Romney in Missouri and Ron Paul in Minnesota. In Colorado, a state that will be among those hotly contested in the general … – USA Today, 2-7-12
  • After 3-state sweep, Santorum ready for Romney: Fresh from his three-state sweep, a confident Rick Santorum said he is prepared for an onslaught from Mitt Romney as he tries to make his case that he’s the best conservative to take on President Obama…. – USA Today, 2-8-12
  • In Santorum’s Sweep, Sign of GOP Unease With Romney: Rick Santorum’s sweep of Mitt Romney in Tuesday’s three Republican presidential contests sets the stage for a new and bitter round of intraparty acrimony as Mr. Romney once again faces a surging conservative challenge to his claim on the party’s nomination… – NYT, 2-8-12
  • Voters in Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri choose Santorum: The Republican presidential candidates made last-minute campaign stops before the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses and the Missouri primary. Tuesday was a breakthrough night for Rick Santorum, who swept all three states…. – WaPo, 2-8-12
  • Santorum sweep slows Romney’s drive: Rick Santorum shook up the race for the Republican presidential nomination by sweeping three contests yesterday, casting doubt on front-runner Mitt Romney’s hold over the party’s core voters…. – Bloomberg, 2-8-12
  • What went wrong for Mitt Romney in Colorado?: Mitt Romney downplayed expectations going into Tuesday night, and it was predicted he could lose to Rick Santorum in Minnesota and Missouri. But his loss in Colorado was a shocker…. – CS Monitor, 2-8-12
  • Another Twist for GOP as Santorum Fares Well: His candidacy all but dismissed just days ago, Rick Santorum won the Minnesota caucuses and a nonbinding primary in Missouri on Tuesday, raising fresh questions about Mitt Romney’s ability to corral conservative support. Mr. Santorum was also running … – NYT, 2-7-12
  • Voter turnout slides in GOP contests: Rick Santorum may have scored a political hat trick Tuesday night, but voter turnout was down in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. That continues a trend that began in Florida and occurred again in Nevada…. – USA Today, 2-8-12
  • Santorum victories in Missouri, Minnesota bolster his case: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who says he’s on a clear path to the Republican presidential nomination, hit a speed bump Tuesday night as rival Rick Santorum scored easy victories in the Minnesota caucuses and the Missouri primary… – USA Today, 2-7-12
  • Santorum rips Obama, Romney in victory speech: After being declared the winner in both the Missouri presidential primary and Minnesota’s caucuses, Santorum addressed a cheering crowd in St. Charles, Mo., branding himself as the best candidate to take on President Obama in the fall … – LAT, 2-7-12
  • Rick Santorum triumphant as election takes another unpredictable swing: Rick Santorum has been declared the winner in Minnesota and Missouri – by wide margins – and could yet upset Mitt Romney in Colorado. But bigger contests lie ahead…. – CS Monitor, 2-7-12
  • Facing a sweep, humbled Romney congratulates Santorum: It was a grim election night party for Mitt Romney. First came word that he lost Missouri. Next came news of his defeat in Minnesota. With early returns showing the potential for a third loss in Colorado, Romney declined to wait for … – LAT, 2-7-12
  • Colorado looks like a solid purple state for fall election: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s ability to attract thousands to his stump speeches here may make it look as if Colorado is destined to return to a red state in 2012, but Republicans and Democrats here … – USA Today, 2-7-12
  • Santorum declared winner in Missouri: Rick Santorum had a breakthrough night on Tuesday by winning the Missouri primary and making strong showings in the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses, breathing life into his struggling campaign and slowing Mitt Romney’s march to the Republican … – WaPo, 2-7-12
  • Missouri’s meaningless primary? Not anymore: The Missouri primary is the only so-called “beauty contest” in the Republican presidential race this year. But it might be remembered as where things got a little ugly for Mitt Romney. Rick Santorum’s win in the meaningless Show Me State primary on … – WaPo, 2-7-12
  • Santorum deals Romney a setback by winning Missouri: Rick Santorum dealt Mitt Romney a setback Tuesday night, winning the presidential primary in Missouri as Republicans in three states voted on a day that could produce a shift in the momentum of the 2012 race…. – LAT, 2-7-12
  • Rick Santorum wins Missouri ‘beauty contest’: Rick Santorum won Missouri’s presidential primary Tuesday, according to an Associated Press projection, but the only thing he can claim as a result is some newfound momentum. Because of a scheduling dispute within the state … – LAT, 2-7-12
  • Santorum wins Missouri primary, getting bragging rights but no delegates for GOP Nomination: Rick Santorum has won the Missouri Republican primary, a nonbinding election that carries bragging rights but does not award any delegates in the race for the presidential nomination. Missouri will pick its delegates at caucuses … – WaPo, 2-7-12
  • In Minnesota, Santorum ahead in early returns in statewide GOP caucuses for President: With 9 percent of Minnesota’s precincts reporting, former Sen. Rick Santorum is jumping to a lead, with 44 percent support, hoping to extinguish front-runner Mitt Romney’s modest winning streak and launch a comeback of his own…. – WaPo, 2-7-12
  • Voters in Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri head to the polls: The Republican presidential candidates made last-minute campaign stops before the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses and the Missouri primary. Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) poses for a photo as he visits a caucus site in Coon … – WaPo, 2-7-12
  • Campaign 2012: Santorum at center stage as three states vote: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who says he’s on a clear path to the Republican presidential nomination, braced for a speed bump Tuesday night amid signs of strength by rival Rick Santorum in two of the three states … – USA Today, 2-7-12

White House Recap August 13-19, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — Obama Embarks on Economic Rural Tour to the Midwest States of Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois — Job Plan Will be Announced After Labor Day

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: AUGUST 13-19, 2011

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at a town hall
White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 8/17/11

Weekly Wrap Up: On the Road

Source: WH, 8-19-11

This week most of the action took place far away from the West Wing, as the President and many of his senior advisors hit the road to talk with Americans in rural towns and communities in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.

Rural Road Trip: From August 15-18, President Obama traveled through the Midwest, meeting with Americans in rural towns and communities in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. The purpose of his trip, dubbed the Economic Rural Tour 2011, was to have conversations with people from different walks of life about what is happening in our country right now. The President was there to talk, but also to listen. His message at the end of his trip? There’s nothing wrong with our country that can’t be fixed.

Summer Tour: The President was not the only member of the Administration on the road this week. In fact, this summer there are more than 100 events being held across the country in support of the White House’s Rural Economic Council, which this week released a Jobs and Economic Security report. The Council held a Rural Economic Forum in Iowa, where the President announced several new initiatives to help create jobs and grow the economy in rural communities.

VP in Asia: Vice President Joe Biden logged even more miles than the President this week, as he headed to China for the first stop on his three country trip through Asia. In addition to meeting with Chinese leaders in Beijing, the VP also attended a U.S.-China business roundtable and chatted with locals at a snack shop in the city. You can follow his travels live on Twitter – #VPin Asia.

Historic Appointments, Historic Delays: The President’s nominations for federal judges embody an unprecedented commitment to expanding the racial, gender and experiential diversity of the men and women who enforce our laws and deliver justice. Unfortunately, the delays these nominees are encountering on Capitol Hill are equally unprecedented. Check out this infographic to understand what this means for Americans seeking justice.

Immigration Update: The Department of Homeland Security announced a new strategy that focuses immigration resources in a way that puts public safety and national security first. Cecilia Muñoz, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, held Office Hours via Twitter to explain the change and what it means.

Super Bowl Champs in the House: On August 12, the Green Bay Packers paid a visit to the President, where he congratulated the team on their championship season. Team members took a tour of the White House and gave a shout out to the First Lady, whose work with Let’s Move inspires their own Fit Kids program, which helps educate Wisconsin children about good health and smart eating habits.

Political Buzz August 15-17, 2011: Recap — President Obama’s 3 Day Economic Bus Tour in the Midwest; Minnesota, Iowa & Illinois

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at a town hall
White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 8/17/11

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT OBAMA’S 3 DAY ECONOMIC BUS TOUR IN THE MIDWEST; MINNESOTA, IOWA, & ILLINOIS

President Obama to Travel to Minnesota, Begin Three-Day Economic Bus Tour: On Monday August 15th, the President will travel to Minnesota to begin his three-day economic bus tour in the Midwest. After arriving in Minnesota, the President will host a town hall event in Cannon Falls, Minnesota at Lower Hannah’s Bend Park.
The economic bus tour will also feature events in Iowa including a Rural Economic Forum in Peosta as well as events in western Illinois. While in the Midwest, the President will discuss ways to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class and accelerate hiring in communities and towns across the nation and hear directly from Americans, including small business owners, local families, private sector leaders, rural organizations, and government o fficials. The President knows we must do everything we can to promote economic growth, restore confidence in our nation’s future and enhance the sense of optimism for future generations. — White House Press Release, 8-11-11

“What is needed is action by Congress. It’s time for the games to stop. It’s time to put country first.” — President Barack Obama in Cannon Falls, Minn

“Obviously, with the markets going up and down last week and this downgrade, a lot of folks were feeling a little anxious and distressed and feeling like, boy, we’ve been working so hard over the last two and a half years to get this economy back out of recession, and some folks worry that we might be slipping back. I want all of you to understand: There is nothing that we’re facing that we can’t solve with some spirit of America first; a willingness to say, we’re going to choose party — we’re going to choose country over party, we’re going to choose the next generation over the next election.” — President Barack Obama

“Creating jobs and economic opportunity in rural America is a priority for the Obama administration, and the White House Rural Council has used an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to leverage resources across the federal government to achieve that goal.” — Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

“He is doing what Presidents do, which is go out in the country and engage with the American people. To suggest that any time the President leaves Washington it’s a political trip would mean that Presidents could never leave unless they were physically campaigning on their own behalf, and he’s not. He’s out here doing his job.” — Press Secretary Jay Carney

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

 

THE HEADLINES….

DAY 3

 

  • Obama to Press Committee on Jobs: President Obama will deliver a major address soon after Labor Day seeking to pressure a special Congressional committee to propose new measures to promote job creation as well as larger long-term deficit cuts than mandated … – NYT, 8-17-11
  • Obama to issue new proposals on job creation, debt reduction: President Obama plans to make a major speech in early September laying out new proposals for job creation and taming the federal debt, according to the White House. … – WaPo, 8-17-11
  • Obama set to go beyond $1.5 trln budget cuts-official: US President Barack Obama is preparing a detailed deficit-cutting plan that goes beyond the $1.5 trillion target a congressional committee is aiming for, White House officials said on Wednesday. … – Reuters, 8-17-11
  • Obama’s jobs package may include school renovations and a tax break for hiring: The president’s proposal would mean construction work and an incentive for businesses to add employees. It’s expected to come with a plan to reduce federal budget deficits…. – LAT, 8-17-11
  • Obama’s Job No. 1: Create jobs: Democrats are finally up for a fight — with President Obama. Having despaired that Obama gave in to the Tea Party on the debt deal, they now criticize him as too cautious in his proposals to boost American jobs. … – WaPo, 8-17-11
  • Obama turns focus to job creation: President Barack Obama isn’t on the panel tasked with slashing the national debt — but he hopes to help set the supercommittee’s agenda by presenting members with a limited but substantial new spending measure to create jobs. … – Politico, 8-17-11
  • Obama still wants taxes on the table: When he outlines a plan to boost the economy in what’s being described as a major speech after Labor Day, President Barack Obama is also expected to unveil a proposal to reduce the nation’s debt…. – AP, 8-17-11
  • President Weighs Asking Panel for Stimulus Measures: President Barack Obama is considering recommending that lawmakers on a deficit committee back new measures to stimulate the lagging economy, people familiar with White House discussions said Tuesday. … – WSJ, 8-16-11
  • Obama bus tour provides glimpse of reelection strategy: During a three-day tour by bus of the Midwest, President Obama provided an early snapshot of his reelection strategy, one in which he’ll try to convince voters that his approach offers the rational path and seek to define Republicans as so unwilling to compromise they would risk financial chaos.
    And despite alarming levels of unemployment and a volatile market, the president has also revived a theme from his first campaign — optimism — in a manner that paints Republicans as cynical and disinterested in solutions…. – LAT, 8-17-11
  • Obama previews campaign?: In tour, he revived theme from his first campaign: Optimism in US amid GOP cynicism. President Obama on Wednesday jumped onto the stage in Atkinson, Ill., where he said: “I need you to send a message to folks in Washington: It’s time to put country first…. – Minneapolis Star Tribune, 8-17-11
  • Obama slogan should channel Larry the Cable Guy: We know what to do – I’ll be putting forward specific plan in September to boost the economy. My attitude is get it done – if they don’t get it done, I’ll be running against Congress not doing anything for the American people. … – Chicago Tribune, 8-17-11
  • Obama’s three-day jobs tour: Did he connect with rural America?: Obama’s three-day bus tour of the Midwest wrapped up in front of mostly friendly audiences in small rural Illinois communities. The president talked of jobs, political pledges, and county fairs… – CS Monitor, 8-17-11
  • Far From Capital, Obama Still Finds Its Woes: It has been like that across the Midwest this week, where the president wrapped up his three-day bus tour in two Illinois farm hamlets: the welcome mat was out, but the mood was somber. Even here, in the state where he began his political career and makes his home, Mr. Obama got tough questions from people who said they were fearful about their future, frustrated by the paralyzed job market and fed up with a political culture in Washington that produced the debt-ceiling imbroglio…. – NYT, 8-17-11
  • Obama Wraps Up Bus Tour in Illinois: In Iowa on Tuesday he spoke with local business owners and farmers, and encouraged supporters to send a message to Washington and say it is time to put country first. Mitt Romney spoke on Tuesday and criticized the President…. – 9&10 News, 8-17-11
  • Obama wraps up bus tour in Illinois today: In this small Illinois farming community not far from the Iowa border, a shiny new fire station being built is testament to the stimulus plan that the Obama administration hoped would rescue the nation’s economy.
    The construction job, which won a $1.3 million grant, was the kind of project the White House thought would create jobs in small towns across the nation, all the better if the locals gave Obama a little of the credit.
    In the midst of a political storm over the state of the economy on his watch, Obama will find out if that’s the case when he holds one of two Illinois town halls in the community Wednesday as he wraps up a three-cay, campaign-style bus tour in the Midwest. The town of 1,000 is rolling out the red carpet for him by lining parts of its main thoroughfares with more than 900 donated American flags…. – Chicago Tribune, 8-17-11
  • President Wraps Up Bus Tour in Illinois: President Obama is now back in Washington and in vacation mode as he wrapped up his three-day Midwest bus tour in Illinois…. – WIFR, 8-17-11
  • Obama talks estate tax at final bus tour stop: The final stop on President Obama’s three-state Midwest bus tour was at the Country Corner Farm Market in the small town of Alpha, Illinois. The president was roughly an hour behind schedule due mostly to a visit with the Galesburg High School football team… – CNN, 8-17-11
  • Obama visits Illinois fair as bus tour rolls on: President Barack Obama has gotten off the bus for another surprise stop in the Midwest – this time, at a county fair.
    The president was making a quick visit Wednesday morning at the Whiteside County Fair in northwest Illinois, a local celebration that has been taking place for more than 140 years…. – AP, 8-17-11
  • Obama’s Warm Welcome in the Midwest Stands in Stark Contrast to Road Ahead: President Obama spent the last three days traveling throughout the Midwest promoting his proposals to get the economy moving again and telling Americans that he shares their frustration with partisan gridlock in Washington…. – ABC News, 8-17-11
  • ‘Ground Force One’ Makes Its Midwest Debut With Obama: As President Obama sets off on the last day of his three-day road trip across the Midwest, his high-tech, black, armored bus has become a familiar presence on the highways and byways here…. – NYT, 8-17-11

    DAY 2

  • Obama works to connect with Midwesterners: On the second day of his Midwestern economic tour, President Obama bussed through the idyllic landscapes of rural Iowa and came armed with several measures he said would boost the economy here…. – WaPo, 8-16-11
  • Day Two for Obama’s “Non-Political” Tour: White House officials had insisted that President Obama’s current bus trip through the Midwest would be non-political, designed to harvest impressions about America’s mood and allow him to explain his agenda…. – U.S. News & World Report, 8-16-11
  • Obama visits Midwest on bus tour: President Obama’s motorcade heads to Guttenberg, Iowa, for a breakfast stop. He is on a three-day, economy-oriented bus tour…. – USA Today, 8-16-11
  • Obama Getting Favorable Weather, Crowds on Midwest Tour: President Obama is waking up in Iowa this morning, hoping for more great weather, more friendly crowds and plenty of press coverage. So far, he’s getting his wish…. – FOX 9 News
  • Obama lauds rural America, announces growth initiatives in Iowa: On the second day of his Midwestern economic tour, President Obama spoke less about the particulars of policy and more about what Washington could learn from rural America…. – WaPo, 8-16-11
  • Obama works to connect with Midwesterners: On the second day of his Midwestern economic tour, President Obama bussed through the idyllic landscapes of rural Iowa and came armed with several measures he said would boost the economy here. … – WaPo, 8-16-11
  • Obama Continues Bus Tour In Iowa: As President Barack Obama continues his bus tour in Iowa, he’s seeking input from people directly affected by the tough economy. The president reassured farmers, businessmen and others taking part in an economic forum at Northeast Iowa…. – KCCI Des Moines, 8-16-11
  • In Iowa, Obama seeks ideas for jolting economy: President Barack Obama on Tuesday implored Iowans to share ideas with him about how leaders can give an economic jolt to the nation’s heartland. He promised better days in a time of relentless joblessness…. – Kansas City Star, 8-16-11
  • President Obama’s Iowa trip had feel of campaigning: With a back-drop of straw bales, a John Deere tractor and cowboy hats, President Barack Obama gave a healthy dose of campaign speak at rural economic forum Tuesday in Peosta, Iowa…. – KSDK, 8-16-11
  • Obama dares Republicans to block his coming jobs package: The president, visiting the Midwest, pledges to send Congress a plan in September and challenges Republicans to block it. Not all Democrats are comfortable with his hard-line stance…. – LAT, 8-17-11
  • Obama, 2012 Republicans clash on jobs: President Barack Obama has told Republicans to stop playing games that hurt the US economy, but his foes mocked his “Magical Misery” tour by bus through key Midwest swing states. Reeling from one of the bleakest patches of his crisis-strewn presidency, Obama on Monday boarded his new $1.1 million Secret Service armored bus for a three-day, three-state bus trip at a time of deep national gloom over the economy…. – AFP, 8-16-11
  • Obama tour a long way from ‘hope and change’ as he attacks Congress: “Frustration and bitterness” doesn’t exactly have the same ring as “hope and change,” but nonetheless it’s the message US President Barack Obama is hammering home on a swing through the Midwest that’s being derided as a taxpayer-funded campaign trip…. – Winnipeg Free Press, 8-16-11
  • Tea party, GOP lash out at Obama business plans: President Barack Obama’s reception in the Hawkeye State has been a mixed bag, as he travels across rural Iowa announcing different business-related growth initiatives specific to the state’s rural and farming … – Iowa Independent, 8-16-11
  • Iowa Republicans/Obama find something to agree on: A trade deal: Several key Iowa Republicans agree on at least one goal outlined by President Obama: A trade deal with South Korea. Obama broadly spoke about trade agreements but didn’t specifically mention the South Korea trade deal. However, it is one he supports … – DesMoines Register, 8-16-11
  • Obama Support Among White Voters Slumps: President Barack Obama’s Midwest trip this week has allowed him to address a central challenge for his reelection: His popularity has slumped among white voters—particularly young, poor and working-class…. – WSJ, 8-16-11
  • bus tour panned: This is what happens when a middle-aged rocker goes out on the road with no new material. Hecklers show up. Reviewers slam him. He gets irritable. And so too with President Obama: His Midwest bus tour is bombing. … – WaPo, 8-16-11
  • Midwest economy’s shine is wearing thin: As President Obama stumps his jobs message across the Midwest this week, he is encountering a regional economy that has lost some of its post-recession luster…. – Minneapolis Star Tribune, 8-16-11
  • Obama preaches compromise in the Midwest: As he travels past the farms, churches and corner stores of rural America, President Obama is crystallizing the differences between his style of government and those of the Republicans who want to replace him…. – USA Today, 8-16-11
  • Pres. Obama: “Ultimately the buck stops with me. I’m going to be accountable.”: CNN’s Wolf Blitzer sat down with President Barack Obama today in Peosta, Iowa. In this one-on-one interview, on the second day of the president’s bus tour across the Midwest, Blitzer and the president discussed a variety of topics from domestic to foreign policy…. – CNN, 8-16-11
  • Obama strikes realist tone in CNN interview: President Barack Obama acknowledged Tuesday that he may be a one-term president if voters’ patience with the pace of the economic recovery runs out by next November. “The mess has been bigger than a lot of people anticipated at the time,” Obama said…. – Politico, 8-16-11
  • Iowa no easy harvest for Obama in 2012: Once, Iowa highlighted Barack Obama’s soaring potential, but now the fabled swing state is a lens for his liabilities and challenges as he begins to ask voters for a second term in the White House…. – AFP, 8-17-11
  • Obama dares Republicans to block his coming jobs package: The president, visiting the Midwest, pledges to send Congress a plan in September and challenges Republicans to block it. Not all Democrats are comfortable with his hard-line stance. President Obama, visiting Decorah, Iowa, as part of his Midwest bus…. – LAT, 8-17-11
  • Obama Presses His Case in Crucial Iowa, but Perry Is Close on His Heels: President Obama pulled up to a bucolic community college here in his $1.1 million black armored bus on Tuesday and spent much of the day closeted in a conference with farmers and small-business owners…. – NYT, 8-17-11
  • His Anger Is a Start: Faced with a divided Congress and an economy in desperate straits, President Obama tried bargaining with Republicans, he tried adopting some of their ideas and he pleaded with them for reasonable policies to help stave off disaster. … – NYT, 8-17-11
  • Obama blasts GOP ‘rigidity’ in CNN interview: President Barack Obama placed the blame for Washington’s current political paralysis squarely at the feet of his Republican opponents Tuesday, telling CNN that the GOP’s “ideological rigidity” is standing in the way of compromises…. – CNN, 8-16-11
  • White House gives Obama big bullhorn and campaign advantages over Republicans: The presidency and all the attention it commands are giving Barack Obama a chance to frame the national story line this week, to try to put his imprint and spin on the economic and political wind shear that has been battering him…. – AP, 8-16-11

    DAY 1

  • The Presidential Planner: Obama Launches Midwest Bus TourABC News, 8-15-11
  • Obama Embarks on Midwest Tour: WSJ, 8-15-11
  • Obama fences, parries at start of Midwestern tour: President Barack Obama’s Midwestern tour is offering a mix of offense and defense that signals both his governing approach for the remainder of his term and the evolution of a campaign message for his re-election bid. … – AP, 8-15-11
  • Obama Tries to Reclaim Momentum With Midwest Bus Tour: For most of the summer, President Obama has been under siege in the White House. On Monday, he became a road warrior, kicking off a three-day bus tour of the Midwest that provided him campaign-style opportunities to strike back at Republicans in a region vital to his re-election. Traveling in a black bus with dark tinted windows and flashing red and blue lights that looked like something out of a “Mad Max” movie, the president urged audiences in Minnesota and Iowa to tell their elected officials they would no longer tolerate the partisan gridlock on display in the recent debt-ceiling talks…. – NYT, 8-15-11
  • Obama Bus Tour – Listening or Campaigning?: While the White House bills it as an opportunity for the president to talk about job growth and economic policy, some say the tour is nothing more than a campaign event. President Obama visited Minnesota and Iowa Monday, part of a three-day bus tour to … OzarksFirst.com, 8-16-11
  • In the Midwest, Obama Grapples for an Economic Fix and a Political Narrative: Barack Obama hit the road Monday for his three-day Midwestern bus tour toting an array of political baggage: a downgraded national credit rating, a faltering economy, a stretch of wild market … – Time, 8-16-11
  • Obama to talk of job creation and economic growth in three day tour: Barack Obama has embarked on a three day bus tour of Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota – the three Midwestern states that he will need to carry if he is to win re-election…. – New Statesman, 8-15-11
  • Obama, on tour, declares he has a jobs plan: Pushing back in Iowa against criticism that he’s not standing up to congressional Republicans, the president says he will campaign against lawmakers who refuse to pass his economic package…. – LAT, 8-16-11
  • Obama talks jobs, takes jabs at GOP: President Obama launched the first leg of his three-day bus tour of the Midwest on Monday with a stinging criticism of Republican politics and a wide-ranging promotion of his administration’s efforts to boost the ailing economy. … – Minneapolis Star Tribune, 8-16-11
  • President to voters: I’m still the man for the job: With jobs on the minds of most Americans, President Obama is working to keep his on a three day midwest bus tour full of promise, and promises…. – KARE, 8-16-11
  • Obama sets tone for governing, campaigning at beginning of three-day Midwest tour: President Barack Obama’s Midwestern tour is offering a mix of offense and defense that signals both his governing approach for the remainder of his term and the evolution of a campaign message for his re-election bid. … – AP, 8-16-11
  • Obama defends government action in Midwest bus tour: President Obama kicked off a three-day Midwest bus tour Monday by pledging to present Congress with a detailed jobs plan and warned that “if they don’t get it done, then we’ll be running against a Congress that won’t work for the American people.”
    It was the president’s most direct threat to Republicans who control the House and can block action in the Senate against a jobs package that already includes a payroll tax cut, extended unemployment benefits and a new public works program.
    Obama’s heated rhetoric was welcomed at his second town-hall-style meeting of the day, coming after several people asked why he wasn’t being tougher with Congress…. – USA Today, 8-17-11
  • Obama takes heat from Tea Partiers at Iowa town hall: President Obama got a little dose of Tea Party town hall anger on Monday during his three-day tour of the Midwest…. – CBS News, 8-16-11
  • Obama clashes with Tea Party member: President Obama came face-to-face with the Tea Party last night in Iowa, clashing with a member during and after a town hall last night. Ryan Rhodes, a group leader in the Hawkeye State, stood up and shouted a question … – USA Today, 8-16-11
  • Iowa Tea Party organizer interrupts Obama’s event; president shuts him down: Michele Bachmann supporter – stood up and screamed questions to President Obama today after he said the president ignored him. Obama firmly yet calmly told Ryan Rhodes that he can’t speak out of turn. “Sir, hold on a second,” Obama said. … – DesMoines Register, 8-16-11
  • Rick Perry On Obama: ‘We’ve Kind Of Got Competing Job Tours’: “I guess we’ve kind of got competing jobs tours, if you want to know the truth of the matter.” Perry criticized President Obama’s approach to returning the campaign trail…. – ABC News, 8-15-11
  • GOP hopeful Mitt Romney rips Obama, calling President’s heartland trip a ‘Magical Misery bus tour’: President Obama launched a stealth campaign in the heartland Monday in an unmarked black bus, complete with dark tinted windows – and apparently paid for by taxpayers.
    The White House insisted Obama was on an official meet-and-greet to reassure Midwesterners about the struggling economy, but his first stop was Minnesota – home of Rep. Michele Bachmann, one of the Republican presidential front-runners…. – NY Daily News, 8-16-11
  • Obama Checks In: You Can Now Follow Our President On Foursquare: First Facebook, then Twitter and now Foursquare; Obama sure gets around (social platforms). As announced today on the White House blog, Obama will be checking in to the location-based service as he hits stops on his economic bus tour…. – WaPo, 8-15-11
  • Obama’s bus tour: Like an aging rocker with plenty of visible gray hair and filled with hope that nostalgia will bring out the crowds, President Obama is on a bus trip…. – WaPo, 8-16-11
  • Obama talks economy, jobs and politics in Cannon Falls: President Obama speaks to crowds on Monday in Cannon Falls, Minn. The event kicked off a three-day bus tour of the Midwest…. – Twin Cities Planet, 8-16-11
  • New presidential bus attracts attention, criticism: Republicans criticize the cost and origin of the high-security bus used in President Obama’s Midwest tour. The Secret Service defends the $1.1-million vehicle, and says the GOP nominee will use one too…. – LAT, 8-17-11
  • Bus made in Canada nothing new for president: “[The president] will continue the ‘Yes, America Can’ bus tour with three stops in Iowa and Wisconsin. The president will participate in events focused on strength, optimism and resolve of the American people in … strengthening our economy, … – Chicago Sun-Times, 8-17-11

Full Text August 15, 16, 17, 2011: President Obama’s Midwestern Bus Tour Promoting Economic & Job Growth Plans

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

The Economic Bus Tour

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

President Obama holds a town hall in Decorah, Iowa

President Obama’s Town Hall Meetings this Week

map of President Obama's Rural Tour 2011

President Obama wants to hear from Americans about how national economic policies are affecting life in your communities. He is spending the next three days on the road in the Midwest, and will participate in four town hall meetings, two on Monday and two on Wednesday. Each of the question and answer sessions will be live streamed on whitehouse.gov/live.

The President kicks off his three day rural tour today in Cannon Falls, Minnesota with a meeting at Lower Hannah’s Bend Park at 1:05 pm EDT. Later this afternoon, he will be in Decorah, Iowa for another town hall session with locals at the Seed Savers Exchange, which starts at 6:15 EDT.

On Tuesday, the President will be in Peosta, Iowa, where he will hold a Rural Economic Forum with members of the White House Rural Council, which was created in June to report on the economic climate in rural America. The President’s opening remarks will be live streamed at 12:50 pm EDT, as will his closing remarks at 3:30 pm EDT.

The President will travel to his home state of Illinois on Wednesday, where he will hold two more town hall meetings, the first will be in Atkinson at 12:30 pm EDT, at the Wyffels Hybrids Atkinson Production Facility, followed by another that afternoon at the Country Corner Farm in Alpha at 4:30 pm EDT.

While on the road, the President will be discussing ways to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class and accelerate hiring in communities and towns across the nation. He wants to hear directly from small business owners, local families, private sector leaders, rural organizations and government officials.  The President knows we must do everything we can to promote economic growth, restore confidence in our nation’s future and enhance the sense of optimism for future generations.

Live Stream Schedule for Town Hall Meetings at whitehouse.gov/live

Monday August 15, 2011

1:05 pm EDT — Town Hall at Lower Hannah’s Bend Park, Cannon Falls, MN

6:15 pm EDT — Town Hall at Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, Iowa

Wednesday August 17, 2011

12:30 pm EDT — Townhall at Wyffels Hybrids Atkinson Production Facility, Atkinson, IL

4:30 pm EDT — Townhall at Country Corner Farm, Alpha, IL

Live Stream Schedule for the Rural Economic Forum at whitehouse.gov/live

Tuesday August 16, 2011

12:50 pm EDT — Opening Remarks at White House Rural Economic Forum, Peosta, Iowa
.

SPEECHES & QUOTES

FROM THE WHITE HOUSE BLOG

  • Watch This: Highlights of the President’s Tour through Rural Iowa

    President Obama headed to Decorah, IA on Monday afternoon, where he joined a crowd of 500 locals for a town hall meeting. Topics covered ranged from the difference between divided government and dysfunctional government, America’s proud history as a nation of innovation and the importance of agriculture in the American economy. The next day, he was in Peosta for the White House Rural Economic Forum. Along the way, he enjoyed some of the state’s beautiful scenery.
    Go behind the scenes with the President as he meets with the people of Decorah and Peosta, attends the Rural Economic Forum, and travels through rural Iowa.

    Interested in seeing more of the President’s rural road trip? Take a look at how he spent his morning in Minnesota.

  • Watch This: Highlights of the President’s Tour through Rural Minnesota

    On Monday, President Obama visited Cannon Falls, Minnesota where he talked with a crowd of 500 locals at Hannah’s Bend Park. During the town hall meeting, the President discussed the challenges that Americans have faced over the past year and reiterated his belief that there is “nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed; what’s broken is our politics.” Later, the President traveled to the Old Market Deli where he had lunch with a group of veterans and was welcomed to the state by a local cowboy.
    Go behind the scenes with the President as he meets with the people of Cannon Falls, eats at the Old Market Deli and travels through rural Minnesota.

    Interested in more White House video? Take a look at  the highlights of the President’s trip through Iowa.

  • Rural Tour Day Three: Last Stop, Alpha Illinois

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (469MB) | mp3 (45MB)

    President Obama ended his three day tour of the Midwest at a town hall meeting on a farm in rural Illinois, where he took questions that ranged from enhanced protection for law enforcement officers to the shrinking size of local county fairs. The President’s last day was filled with opportunities to enjoy the rural landscape and attractions of his home state, and included stops at the Whiteside County Fair and a Galesburg High School football practice, in addition to an earlier town hall meeting in Atkinson.

    The President told the crowd of 250 people  gathered at Alpha’s Country Corner Farm that they can expect to hear about new proposals that will put Americans back to work in the next few weeks.

    When folks tell you that we’ve got a choice between jobs now or dealing with our debt crisis, they’re wrong.  They’re wrong.  We can’t afford to just do one or the other.  We’ve got to do both.  And the way to do it is to make some — reform the tax code, close loopholes, make some modest modifications in programs like Medicare and Social Security so they’re there for the next generation, stabilize those systems.  And you could actually save so much money that you could actually pay for some of the things like additional infrastructure right now.

    We can close the deficit and put people to work, but what’s required is that folks work together.  That’s the big challenge.  That’s the big challenge.

    And over the course of the next few weeks, I’m going to be putting out more proposals to put people to work right now.  And some of them — yes, some of them cost money.  And the way we pay for it is by doing more on deficit reduction than the plan that we had to come up with right at the last minute in order to avoid default.  We didn’t do as much as we could have.

    The President also laid out a series of steps that Congress can take as soon as they return to Washington that will put money in people’s pockets and create good jobs, including

    • Extending the payroll tax cut that was passed in December that put $1,000 in the typical family’s pocket
    • Passing trade deals that have the support of both business and the United Auto Workers, deals that will help realize the President’s dream of seeing more products overseas that carry the stamp, “Made in America.”
    • Passing the America Invents Act which makes it easier to get patents for  new products, services or  inventions, they can turn it around without a lot of red tape and bureaucracy and start businesses that hire workers

    As his three day trip through rural America drew to a close, the President told the crowd why his time on the road, meeting Americans in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois, had been so rewarding, “It inspires you, because it reminds you about what makes this country so great, why I love this country so much, and why we’ve got to be doing every single thing we can every minute of every day to make sure that you can continue to achieve your American Dream and pass it on to your kids and your grandchildren.”

    Use the jump links below to skip to the answers to questions you’re most interested in.The questions below are paraphrased from the questions asked by participants during the townhall:

    You can watch events throughout the economic bus tour live at WhiteHouse.gov/live and follow the White House page on Foursquare to keep up with the President’s trip.
  • Rural Tour Day Three: Encouraging Job Growth

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (604MB) | mp3 (58MB)

    The final day of President Obama’s bus tour across America’s heartland was jam packed with meetings and spontaneous stops to enjoy the local landscape. On his way to a town hall in Atkinson, Illinois to talk about strengthening the economy, the President pulled in to the Whiteside County Fair and checked out the dairy cow judging.

    President Barack Obama stops by the Whiteside County Fair in Morrison, Ill.

    President Barack Obama talks with people watching the dairy cow judging during a stop at the Whiteside County Fair in Morrison, Ill., , Aug. 17, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

    During the town hall, President Obama discussed how inspiring the conversations he’s having with Americans have been:

    Now, what’s been striking as I’ve been traveling through over the last few days — you guys, you’re all fulfilling your responsibilities.  You’re working hard, you’re looking after your families, you’re volunteering at church, you’re coaching Little League — you’re doing everything right.  And all you’re asking for, if I’m not mistaken, is that your political representatives take their responsibilities just as seriously.

    And part of that means that you have to put politics aside sometimes to do what’s right for the country.  People have been asking me, well, why didn’t you call Congress back after this whole debt ceiling thing?  Why’d you let them leave town?  I say, well, I don’t think it would be good for business confidence and certainty just to see members of Congress arguing all over again.  I figured it was time for them to spend a little time back in their districts, hear your frustrations, hear your expectations.

    As I’ve been driving on this bus, just seeing all those flags on the way in, seeing folks waving, little kids ready to go back to school, and grandparents in their lawn chairs, and folks out in front of the machine shop and out in front of the fire stations — you go through small towns all throughout America, and it reminds you how strong we are and how resilient we are and how decent we are.  And that should be reflected in our politics; that should be reflected in our government.

  • Last Stop on the Rural Tour: Alpha, Illinois

    Alpha, Illinois

    After a surprise stop at the Whiteside County Fair, President Obama is heading to the Country Corner Farm in Alpha, Illinois for his fourth town hall in three days. The President has been traveling through the Midwest discussing ideas on how the government can help promote economic growth, accelerate hiring and spur innovation in rural communities like Cannon Falls, MN, Decorah, IA and Atkinson, IL.

    Alpha, Illinois

  • Rural Tour Day Three: Atkinson, Illinois

    Atkinson, Illinois

    President Obama will meet with locals in Atkinson, Illinois later today for a town hall where he will take questions from the crowd and outline ways we can strengthen the middle class and increase economic opportunity for everyone. He’s been on the road for three days now, travelling to rural communities and talking directly with the American people about a wide variety of issues that impact our economy. In his closing remarks at the White House Rural Economic Forum in Peosta, Iowa yesterday, the President told the crowd that this trip has reminded him why he wanted to go into public service in the first place:

    But getting out of Washington and meeting all of you, and seeing how hard you’re working, how creative you are, how resourceful you are, how determined you are, that just makes me that much more determined to serve you as best I can as President of the United States.

    Earlier this week, President Obama spoke with local citizens during town hall meetings in Cannon Falls, Minnesota and Decorah, Iowa before heading to Peosta, where he announced a series of new job initiatives.

  • President Obama: “Why I wanted to get into public service in the first place”

    Today in Peosta, Iowa, President Obama took a moment to reflect on what his trip through rural America has meant:

    As I was driving down those little towns in my big bus we slowed down, and I’m standing in the front and I’m waving, I’m seeing little kids with American flags, and grandparents in their lawn chairs, and folks outside a machine shop, and passing churches and cemeteries and corner stores and farms — I’m reminded about why I wanted to get into public service in the first place.  Sometimes there are days in Washington that will drive you crazy.  But getting out of Washington and meeting all of you, and seeing how hard you’re working, how creative you are, how resourceful you are, how determined you are, that just makes me that much more determined to serve you as best I can as President of the United States.

    President Obama Waves To People Along The Road In Decorah, Iowa

    President Barack Obama waves to people along the road in Decorah, Iowa, Aug. 15, 2011, during a three-day bus tour in the Midwest focusing on ways to grow the economy. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Rural Tour Day Two: Economic Forum Closing Remarks

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (110MB) | mp3 (11MB)

    President Obama ended today’s White House Rural Economic Forum feeling energized by the ideas he heard all day from small business owners, students, entrepreneurs, ranchers, farmers and clean energy companies. He told the crowd of 125 rural leaders at the Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa  that the task of the entire nation “has to be to get behind what you’re doing; our task has to be making sure that nothing stands in your way, that we remove any obstacles to your success.”

    In addition to the President’s opening and closing remarks, the day included breakout-sessions moderated by senior administration officials that covered topics ranging from initiatives on broadband access and renewable energy to job creation in small, rural towns nationwide. He told the crowd that his time on the road this week has underscored his deep confidence that the American people can put the nation’s economy back on track:

    I am absolutely confident about our future.  And I’m confident because I know that while we face serious challenges — and there’s no sugarcoating that — there’s not a nation on Earth that would not want to trade places with us.  There’s nothing wrong with our country — although there is some problems with our politics.  That’s what we need to fix.  That’s how we’re going to unlock the promise of America, and the incredible dynamism and creativity of our people.

    And having a chance to meet with some of the men and women in this room have only made me feel more confident.  I’m excited about the future that you’re working towards each and every day.  And it ought to remind us of a simple lesson:  It’s always a mistake to bet against America. It’s always a mistake to bet against the American worker.  It’s always a mistake to bet against the American worker, the American farmer, the American small business owner, the American people.

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the White House Rural Economic Forum

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa, Aug. 16, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

    The President emphasized the importance of government connecting directly with citizens. Rather than focusing on party or factions, he explained, the key is working together towards a better future for the country:

    When you sit in some of these breakout sessions, I had no idea who was Democrat, who was Republican, who was independent.  What everybody understood was there are times when government can make a huge difference.  There are times where that SBA office or that USDA office can make all the difference in the world…And so it’s a very practical way of thinking about these problems.  It’s not either/or.  It’s a recognition that the prime driver of economic growth and jobs is going to be our people and the private sector and our businesses.  But you know what, government can help.

    So I hope that I can count on you in the days ahead to lend your voice to this fight to strengthen our economy.  I need you to keep your pressure on your elected representatives for things like the payroll tax cuts or road construction funds or the other steps that will help to put our country back to work. That’s what ought to unite us as a country, regardless of party or ideology, because if we can do that — if we can put country ahead of party — I know that our future is bright.  I know that our best days are ahead of us.

    For more information, check out the White House Rural Council. And don’t forget to tune into the President’s town hall meetings throughout his Rural Tour on WhiteHouse.gov/live, or see the full schedule.

    Learn more about Economy, Rural
  • Giving Rural America More Tools to Grow and Create Jobs

    Posted by Tom Vilsack and Karen Mills on August 16, 2011 at 4:08 PM EDT

    Today, the President announced several important new initiatives to continue strengthening the rural economy and to create jobs in rural areas.

    As part of the White House Rural Council’s efforts to improve federal government coordination on rural economic development, the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) have been focused on rural small business growth. And for good reason: Half the people who work in America either own or work for a small business, and two out of three new private sector jobs are created by small businesses.

    Many of these small businesses are in rural areas and we are making sure that they have the tools they need to grow, create jobs and drive the economy.

    President Obama at a Breakout Session during the White House Rural Economic Forum

    President Barack Obama, accompanied by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, participates in a breakout session at the White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa, Aug. 16, 2011, as part of his three-day economic bus tour of the Midwest. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

    Today, the President announced a series of initiatives that leverage existing programs and funding to help small businesses and to meet other critical needs in rural communities.  This included:

    • Committing up to $350 million in SBA growth capital to investors in rural small businesses over the next 5 years
    • Launching a series of events to connect private equity and venture capital investors with rural start ups
    • Creating teams to link federal funding opportunities with private investors interested in making rural investments
    • Making job search information available at 2,800 local USDA offices nationwide
    • Making HHS loans available to help more than 1,300 Critical Access Hospitals recruit additional staff
    • Helping rural hospitals purchase software and hardware to implement health IT
  • Rural Tour Day Two: Economic Forum Opening Remarks

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (123MB) | mp3 (12MB)

    On the second day of his tour through rural America, President Obama participated in a Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa. He and members of his Cabinet joined a group of farmers, small business owners, private sector leaders, rural organizations and government officials to discuss ideas and initiatives that will spur job creation and economic innovation in small towns across the nation. In his opening remarks, the President announced several new initiatives that will promote economic growth in rural communities, including:

    Helping Rural Small Businesses Access Capital

    • Doubling SBA Investment Funds for Rural Small Businesses over the Next 5 Years: As part of the Startup America Initiative, the Small Business Administration (SBA) recently announced the creation of a $1 billion Impact Investment Fund through its Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Program.  The Impact Fund will invest in distressed areas as well as in emerging sectors such as clean energy.  SBA provides up to a 2:1 match to private capital raised by this fund, partnering with private investors to target “impact” investments.  SBA and USDA will partner together to drive $350 million of investment capital through the Impact Fund and existing SBICs into rural small businesses over the next five years, doubling the current rate of investment.
    • Connecting Rural Small Businesses with Private Investment Capital: To further achieve this goal, SBA and USDA will launch a series of Rural Private Equity and Venture Capital conferences nationwide to provide a platform for connecting private equity and venture capital investors with rural start-ups.  USDA, SBA, Treasury, Interior and other relevant agencies will also create rural capital “marketing teams” that pitch federal funding opportunities to private investors.  These “marketing teams” will leverage existing personnel with expertise about rural funding sources across all federal departments and agencies.
  • Rural Tour Day One: Investing in America

    Download Video: mp4 (683MB) | mp3 (65MB)

    The second stop on President Obama’s tour of rural America was a town hall meeting in Decorah,Iowa, where he talked with 500 local citizens about how we can grow the economy and put people back to work. The crowd asked questions on topics ranging from reforming the tax code and the rights of unions to whether Congress is a good partner, and what the current Washington gridlock means for democracy.

    The President addressed the frustration that many have expressed with the dysfunctional government in Washington and said he shares that feeling:

  • Rural Tour Day Two: Economic Forum in Peosta, Iowa

    Peosta, Iowa

    After a full day spent talking and listening to Americans at town halls in Cannon Falls, Minnesota and Decorah, Iowa yesterday, this morning the President’s economic bus tour pulls into Peosta, Iowa for the White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College. President Obama and members of his Cabinet will meet with private sector leaders, farmers and small business owners to discuss ideas to grow the economy, accelerate hiring and spur innovation in small towns across the country.

    The focus of the forum is how we can create good jobs that put more Americans back to work, and President Obama will announce new job initiatives for rural America that will do just that. The initiatives will include recommendations from the White House Rural Council that include helping small businesses in rural areas access capital, expanding rural job search and training services and increasing rural access to health care workers and technology.

  • President Obama: Our Biggest Challenge Right Now Is Putting People to Work

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (582MB) | mp3 (56MB)

    During the first stop on his rural road trip, President Obama took questions on topics ranging from using renewable energy to create jobs and helping young farmers buy land and market their products effectively to the future of Social Security and his Administration’s plans to bolster education.

    Speaking with a crowd of 500 people at Hannah’s Bend Park in Cannon Falls, MN, the President discussed the “extraordinary challenges” our nation has faced over the last two and a half years, but extolled the “extraordinary hope that America represents” around the world, and reiterated his belief that there is “nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed; what’s broken is our politics.”

    Many of the questions focused on health care, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, and the President stressed his commitment to making sure we preserve the integrity of these programs while ensuring they are still in place for future generations:

    Learn more about Economy, Rural
  • Second Stop on the Economic Bus Tour: Decorah, Iowa

    Decorah, Iowa

    Ed. Note: Watch the video or read the full transcript of the President’s town hall in Decorah, Iowa.

    For the second stop of President Obama’s economic tour, the bus pulls into Decorah, Iowa for a town hall meeting with 500 local residents. While in Decorah, the President will be at the Seed Savers Exchange to discuss ways to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class and accelerate hiring.

    The Seed Savers Exchange is a 850-acre farm that saves and shares heirloom seeds like Strawberry Crown Squash, Lemon Drop Tomato, Stone Mountain Watermelon and Champion of England Pea for future generations. Shannon Carmody from the Seed Savers Exchange describes heirlooms as rare seeds with a historic context, “Maybe they were offered in a seed catalog in the 1930’s, and are no longer offered commercially today, or they could have been brought to North American by immigrant families and are maintained for generation after generation.” Watch the town hall live beginning at 6:15 p.m. EDT on WhiteHouse.gov/live.

    Decorah
  • President Obama Kicks Off the Economic Bus Tour in Cannon Falls, Minnesota

    This morning, President Obama will visit Cannon Falls, Minnesota to kick off his economic bus tour.  The President is traveling around the Midwest to stress the vital role rural America plays in ensuring the growth of our economy, the affordability of our food, the independence of our energy supply, and the strength of our communities. Cannon Falls, Minnesota, 35 miles south of Minneapolis and St. Paul, is the first stop in a three day tour across America’s heartland. President Obama will take questions from small business owners, rural organizations and local families during a town hall beginning at 1:05 pm EDT at Lower Hannah’s Bend Park. Tune in to the town hall live at WhiteHouse.gov/live.

    Cannon Falls
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