Full Text Political Transcripts January 7, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at CNN “Guns In America” Town Hall

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at CNN “Guns In America” Town Hall

Source: WH, 1-7-16

George Mason University
Fairfax, Virginia

8:00 P.M. EST

MR. COOPER: Good evening from George Mason University here in Fairfax, Virginia.  We are here tonight to talk about one of the most divisive issues in America today — guns.  Their protection is enshrined in the Constitution, in the Second Amendment, and gun ownership is an integral part of American history and culture.

There are some 30,000 gun deaths in America each year.  Two-thirds of them are suicides; one-third of them are homicides.  So the question we want to confront tonight is how you find a balance between protecting the rights of American citizens who want to own guns, but preventing guns from getting into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

We brought together people here tonight who represent really all sides of the issue — gun owners, gun sellers, people who have survived shootings or lost loved ones.  Some here believe that having more guns makes us all safer, and believe the right to bear arms defines us, preserves us from tyranny and cannot be compromised in any way.  Others here tonight believe just as passionately that more needs to be done to limit the sale of firearms.  And we respect all of their views, and we want to hear from as many as we can tonight in the hour ahead.

One voice you will not hear from tonight is the National Rifle Association.  They’re the nation’s largest, most influential and powerful gun rights group.  We invited them to be here — I think their office is just a couple miles away.  They declined to take part.  Some of their members are here tonight, though.  We’re very thankful for that.  And so are representatives from the National Firearms Retailers Association.

This town hall is not something the White House dreamed up or that the White House organized.  CNN approached the White House shortly after the San Bernardino terror attack with this idea.  And we’re pleased that they agreed to participate and pleased to welcome tonight the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.

MR. COOPER:  Hello, Mr. President.  Welcome.

THE PRESIDENT:  Great to see you.

MR. COOPER:  Good to see you.  Let me start.  Have you ever owned a gun?

THE PRESIDENT:  I have never owned a gun.  Now, up at Camp David, we’ve got some skeet shooting, so on a fairly regular basis, we get a 12-gauge and — I’m not making any claims about my marksmanship.

MR. COOPER:  Before you were President, did you ever feel a desire to get a gun, feel the need to get a gun?

THE PRESIDENT:  I grew up mostly in Hawaii, and other than hunting for wild pig — which they do once in a while — there’s not the popularity of hunting and sportsmanship with guns as much as there are in other parts of the country.

MR. COOPER:  I mean, I ask the question because there’s a lot of people out there who don’t trust you, obviously, on the issue of guns.  You keep saying you don’t want to take away everybody’s guns.  But there’s a lot of people out there tonight watching who don’t believe you.  There are a lot of people in this room who, frankly, don’t believe you.  And it’s not just that you don’t really have personal experience having owned a gun, but that things you’ve said:  Support for Australia’s tough anti-gun policies.  They banned semi-automatic assault rifles.  They banned even shotguns in Australia.  You’ve praised their policies over and over.

Back in 2008, you said — you talked about “bitter Americans clinging to their guns.”  Even now, these executive actions have caused a lot of concern among a lot of people.  What can you say to somebody tonight to convince them that you don’t want to take away everybody’s guns and you’re not coming for their guns?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, Anderson, I think it’s useful to keep in mind I’ve been now President for over seven years and gun sales don’t seem to have suffered during that time.

MR. COOPER:  If anything, actually —

THE PRESIDENT:  They’ve gone up.  I’ve been very good for gun manufacturers.  More importantly — I’ll tell you a story that I think indicates how I see the issue.

Back in 2007-2008, when I was campaigning, I’d leave Chicago, a city which is wonderful, I couldn’t be prouder of my city, but where every week there’s a story about a young person getting shot.  Some are gang members and it’s turf battles.  Sometimes it’s innocent victims.

MR. COOPER:  Fifty-five people have been shot in Chicago in the last seven days.

THE PRESIDENT:  Sometimes it’s happened just a few blocks from my house, and I live in a reasonably good neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.

So that’s one image — talking to families who’ve gone through the pain of losing somebody because of violence in Chicago — gun violence.

Michelle and I are then campaigning out in Iowa, and we’re going to farms and we’re going to counties.  And at one point, Michelle turned to me and she said, you know, if I was living in a farmhouse, where the sheriff’s department is pretty far away, and somebody can just turn off the highway and come up to the farm, I’d want to have a shotgun or a rifle to make sure that I was protected and my family was protected.  And she was absolutely right.

And so part of the reason I think that this ends up being such a difficult issue is because people occupy different realities.  There are a whole bunch of law-abiding citizens who have grown up hunting with their dad, or going to the shooting range, and are responsible gun owners.  And then there’s the reality that there are neighborhoods around the country where it is easier for a 12 or 13-year-old to purchase a gun — and cheaper — than it is for them to get a book.

MR. COOPER:  But what you’re proposing, what you proposed this week, the executive actions, the other things, are they really going to be effective?  And I ask this because the vast majority of felons out there — I mean, we can all agree criminals should not get guns; we want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.  The vast majority of criminals get their guns from — either illegally or from family or friends.  So background checks is not something that’s going to affect them, is it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, but that’s not exactly accurate.  Look, first of all, it’s important for everybody to understand what I’ve proposed and what I haven’t proposed.  What I’ve said consistently throughout my presidency is I respect the Second Amendment; I respect the right to bear arms; I respect people who want a gun for self-protection, for hunting, for sportsmanship.  But all of us can agree that it makes sense to do everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of people who would try to do others harm, or to do themselves harm.

Because every year we’re losing 30,000 people to gun violence.  Two-thirds of those are actually suicides.  Hundreds of kids under the age of 18 are being shot or shooting themselves, often by accident — many of them under the age of five.  And so if we can combine gun safety with sensible background checks and some other steps, we’re not going to eliminate gun violence, but we will lessen it.  And if we take that number from 30,000 down to, let’s say, 28,000, that’s 2,000 families who don’t have to go through what the families at Newtown or San Bernardino or Charleston went through.

And so what we’ve proposed is that if you have a background check system that has a bunch of big loopholes, which is why a lot of criminals and people who shouldn’t have guns are able to get guns —

Q    But they’re not buying them at gun shows — only 1 percent of criminals are buying them at gun shows.

THE PRESIDENT:  No, but this is what happens.  Let’s go back to the city of Chicago that has strong gun control laws.  And oftentimes the NRA will point to that as an example and say, see, these things don’t work.  Well, the problem is, is that about 30, 40 percent of those guns are coming from Indiana, across the border, where there are much laxer laws.  And so folks will go to a gun show and purchase a whole bunch of firearms, put them in a van, drive up into Mike Pfleger’s neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, where his parish is, open up the trunk, and those things are for sale.

Now, technically, you could say those folks bought them illegally, but it was facilitated by the fact that what used to be a small exception that said collectors and hobbyists don’t need to go through a background check has become this massive industry where people who are doing business are, in fact, saying that they’re not in the business of selling guns, but are.

And all we’re saying here is, is that we want to put everybody on notice that the definition of doing business — which means you have to register, and it means you have to run a background check — is if you are making a profit and repeatedly selling guns, then you should have to follow the same rules as every other gun dealer.  And what that means —

MR. COOPER:  There are a lot of people who believe that’s not specific enough because there’s a lot of fathers and sons who sell guns every now and then and at gun shows.  Are they going to have to now start doing background checks?  Are they going to start to have to register?

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, what the Justice Department has done is provided a whole range of very specific examples.  And what we ultimately need I believe is for Congress to set up a system that is efficient, that doesn’t inconvenience the lawful gun seller or purchaser, but that makes sure that we’re doing the best background check possible.

And the fact, Anderson, that the system may not catch every single person, or there may be a circumstance where somebody doesn’t think that they have to register and do, and that may cause some red tape and bureaucracy for them, which — or inconvenience — has to be weighed against the fact that we may be able to save a whole bunch of families from the grief that some of the people in this audience have had to go through.

And keep in mind, for the gun owners who are in attendance here, my suspicion is, is that you all had to go through a background check and it didn’t prevent you from getting a weapon. And the notion that you should have to do that but there are a whole bunch of folks who are less responsible than you who don’t have to do it doesn’t make much sense.

So why we should resist this — keep in mind that, historically, the NRA was in favor of background checks.  Historically, many in the Republican Party were in favor of background checks.  And what’s changed is not that my proposals are particularly radical.  What’s changed is we’ve suddenly created an atmosphere in which I put out a proposal like background checks or, after Sandy Hook, was calling on Congress, along with people like Gabby Giffords, who herself was a victim of gun violence — we put out a proposal that is common sense, modest, does not claim to solve every problem, is respectful of the Second Amendment, and the way it is described is that we’re trying to take away everybody’s guns.

And part of the reason I welcomed this opportunity by CNN to have a good discussion and debate about it is because our position is consistently mischaracterized.  And, by the way, there’s a reason why the NRA is not here.  They’re just down the street, and since this is the main reason they exist, you’d think that they’d be prepared to have a debate with the President.

MR. COOPER:  They haven’t been to the White House for years.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, no, no — we’ve invited them.  We’ve invited them.

MR. COOPER:  So, right now, tonight, you’re saying you would be —

THE PRESIDENT:  We have invited them repeatedly.  But if you listen to the rhetoric, it is so over the top and so over-heated, and, most importantly, is not acknowledging the fact that there’s no other consumer item that we purchase —

Q    So is that an open invitation that —

THE PRESIDENT:  Hold on a second.  Let me finish this point, Cooper.  There’s nothing else in our lives that we purchase where we don’t try to make it a little safer if we can.  Traffic fatalities have gone down drastically during my lifetime.  And part of it is technology, and part of it is the National Highway Safety Administration does research and they figure out, you know what, seatbelts really work.  And then we passed some laws to make sure seatbelts are fastened.  Airbags make a lot of sense; let’s try those out.  Toys — we say, you know what, we find out that kids are swallowing toys all the time, let’s make sure that the toys aren’t so small that they swallow them if they’re for toddlers or infants.  Medicine — kids can’t open aspirin caps.

Now, the notion that we would not apply the same basic principles to gun ownership as we do to everything else that we own just to try to make them safer, or the notion that anything we do to try to make them safer is somehow a plot to take away guns, that contradicts what we do to try to create a better life for Americans in every other area of our lives.

MR. COOPER:  And just so I’m clear, tonight you’re saying you would welcome to meet with the NRA?

THE PRESIDENT:  Anderson, I’ve said this repeatedly — I’m happy to meet with them.  I’m happy to talk to them.  But the conversation has to be based on facts and truth and what we’re actually proposing, not some imaginary fiction in which Obama is trying to take away your guns.

The reason, by the way, that gun sales spike not just before I propose something — every time there is a mass shooting, gun sales spike.  And part of the reason is, is that the NRA has convinced many of its members that somebody is going come grab your guns — which is, by the way, really profitable for the gun manufacturers.  It’s a great advertising mechanism, but it’s not necessary.  There’s enough of a market out there for people who want protection, who are sportsmen, who wants to go hunting with their kids.  And we can make it safer.

MR. COOPER:  I want to open this up to people in our audience.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.

MR. COOPER:  People have traveled far.  I want you to meet Taya Kyle.  She’s the widow of Chris Kyle, former Navy SEAL, author of “American Sniper.”  Taya wrote a book, “American Life: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith, and Renewal.”

Taya, we’re happy you’re here.  What do you want to ask the President?

Q    I appreciate you taking the time to come here.  And I think that your message of hope is something I agree with, and I think it’s great.  And I think that by creating new laws you do give people hope.  The thing is that the laws that we create don’t stop these horrific things from happening, right?  And that’s a very tough pill to swallow.

THE PRESIDENT:  Right.

Q    We want to think that we can make a law and people will follow it.  But by the very nature of their crime, they’re not following it.  By the very nature of looking at the people who hurt our loved ones here, I don’t know that any of them would have been stopped by the background check.  And yet — I crave that desire for hope, too.  And so I think, part of it, we have to recognize that we cannot outlaw murder, because the people who are murdering are — they’re breaking the law, but they also don’t have a moral code that we have.  And so they could do the same amount of damage with a pipe bomb.  The problem is that they want to murder.

And I’m wondering why it wouldn’t be a better use of our time to give people hope in a different way, to say, you know what, we — well, first of all, actually, let me back up to that. Because with the laws, I know that at least the last I heard, the federal prosecution of gun crimes was like 40 percent.  And what I mean by that is that there are people lying on these forms already, and we’re not prosecuting them.  So there’s an issue there, right?  But instead, if we can give people hope and say that also during this time, while you’ve been President, we are at the lowest murder rate in our country — all-time low of murders.  We’re at an all-time high of gun ownership, right?  I’m not necessarily saying that the two are correlated, but what I’m saying is that we’re at an all-time low for a murder rate.  That’s a big deal.

And yet, I think most of us in this country feel like it could happen at any moment.  It could happen to any of us at any time, at a moment’s notice.  When you talk about the NRA, and after a mass shooting that gun sales go up, I would argue that it’s not necessarily that I think somebody is going to come take my gun from me, but I want the hope, and the hope that I have the right to protect myself, that I don’t end up to be one of these families; that I have the freedom to carry whatever weapon I feel I need, just like your wife said on that farm.  The sheriff is not going to get to my house, either.  And I understand that background checks aren’t necessarily going to stop me from getting a gun, but I also know that they wouldn’t have stopped any of the people here in this room from killing.  And so it seems like almost a false sense of hope.

So why not celebrate where we are?  I guess that’s my real question — is celebrate that we’re good people, and 99.9 percent of us are never going to kill anyone.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me make a couple of points.  First of all, thanks to your husband for his service, and thank you for your service, because of extraordinary heroism that he and your family have shown in protecting all of us.  And I’m very grateful for that.

Number two, what you said about murder rates and violent crime generally is something that we don’t celebrate enough.  The fact of the matter is, is that violent crime has been steadily declining across America for a pretty long time.  And you wouldn’t always know it by watching television, but overall, most cities are much safer than they were 10 years ago or 20 years ago.

Now, I’d challenge the notion that the reason for that is because there’s more gun ownership, because if you look at where are the areas with the highest gun ownership, those are the places, in some cases, where the crime rate hasn’t dropped down that much.  And the places where there’s pretty stiff restrictions on gun ownership, in some of those places the crime has dropped really quickly.  So I’m not sure that there’s a one-to-one correlation there.

But I think the most important point I want to make is that you will be able to purchase a firearm.  Some criminals will get their hands on firearms even if there’s a background check.  Somebody may lie on a form.  Somebody will intend to commit a crime but they don’t have a record that shows up on the background check system.

But in the same way that we don’t eliminate all traffic accidents, but over the course of 20 years, traffic accidents get lower — there’s still tragedies, there’s still drunk drivers, there’s still people who don’t wear their seatbelts — but over time, that violence was reduced, and so families are spared.  That’s the same thing that we can do with gun ownership.

There is a way for us to set up a system where you, a responsible gun owner, who I’m assuming, given your husband and your family, is a much better marksman than I am, can have a firearm to protect yourself, but where it is much harder for somebody to fill up a car with guns and sell them to 13-year-old kids on the streets.  And that is I think what we’re trying to do.

What we’re also trying to do is make the database more effective — so that’s part of the proposal — which, by the way, will convenience you when you go to the store, because if we can set up a 24/7 background check system, then that means that it’s less likely that things slip through the cracks or it’s more difficult for you to get your background check completed.

And we’re also trying to close a loophole that has been developing over the last decade where now people are using cut-out trusts and shell corporations to purchase the most dangerous weapons — sawed-off shotguns, automatic weapons, silencers — and don’t have to go through background checks at all.  And we don’t know whether — are these sales going to drug traffickers? We don’t know who’s purchasing them right now.  And so what we’re saying is, you know what, that is something that we’ve got to do something about.

The same thing is true with Internet sales, where one study has shown that one out of 30 persons who are purchasing weapons over the Internet turn out to have a felony record.  And that’s not something you want to see.

MR. COOPER:  I think one question a lot of people have about you is do you believe the fundamental notion that a good guy with a gun or a good woman with a gun is an important bulwark against a bad person with a gun?  And before you answer, I want you to meet Kimberly Corban.  Kimberly was a college student in Colorado in 2006 — Kimberly is right over there.  She was raped by a man who broke into her apartment.  She testified for three hours in the trial against him.  Her attacker was sentenced to 24-years-to-life in prison.  And I know that attack, Kimberly, changed your view of handguns.  What’s your question for the President?

Q    Absolutely.  As a survivor of rape and now a mother to two small children, it seems like being able to purchase a firearm of my choosing, and being able to carry that wherever me and my family are, it seems like my basic responsibility as a parent at this point.  I have been unspeakably victimized once already, and I refuse to let that happen again to myself or my kids.  So why can’t your administration see that these restrictions that you’re putting to make it harder for me to own a gun, or harder for me to take that where I need to be is actually just making my kids and I less safe?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Kimberly, first of all, obviously, your story is horrific.  The strength you’ve shown in telling your story and being here tonight is remarkable.  And so I’m really proud of you for that.

I just want to repeat that there’s nothing that we’ve proposed that would make it harder for you to purchase a firearm. And now, you may be referring to issues like concealed carry, but those tend to be state-by-state decisions, and we’re not making any proposals with respect to what states are doing.  They can make their own decisions there.  So there really is no — nothing that we’re proposing that prevents you or makes it harder for you to purchase a firearm if you need one.

There are always questions as to whether or not having a firearm in the home protects you from that kind of violence.  And I’m not sure we can resolve that.  People argue it both sides.  What is true is, is that you have to be pretty well trained in order to fire a weapon against somebody who is assaulting you and catches you by surprise.  And what is also true is there’s always the possibility that that firearm in a home leads to a tragic accident.  We can debate that, round or flat.

But for now, what I just want to focus on is that you certainly would like to make it a little harder for that assailant to have also had a gun.  You certainly would want to make sure that if he gets released, that he now can’t do what he did to you to somebody else.  And it’s going to be easier for us to prevent him from getting a gun if there’s a strong background system in place — background check system in place.

And so if you look at the statistics, there’s no doubt that there are times where somebody who has a weapon has been able to protect themselves and scare off an intruder or an assailant.  But what is more often the case is that they may not have been able to protect themselves but they end up the victim of the weapon that they purchased themselves.  And that’s something that can be debated.  In the meantime, all I’m focused on is making sure that a terrible crime like yours that was committed is not made easier because somebody can go on the Internet and just buy whatever weapon they want without us finding out whether they’re a criminal or not.

MR. COOPER:  Kimberly, thank you for being here.  I appreciate it.

You talked about Chicago, and there’s a lot of folks from Chicago here tonight.  I want you to meet — or I want everybody to meet, because I know you’ve met her before, Cleo Pendleton.  She’s sitting over there.  And I should point out — I think I said it earlier — 55 shootings in Chicago in just the past seven days.  Cleo Pendleton, her daughter, Hadiya, performed at your second inauguration.  She was shot to death a little more than a week later.  She was 15 years old.  She was an honor student, a majorette.  And you being here tonight honors her, so thank you very much for being here.  What’s your question to the President?

Q    Well, I want to say thank you, first of all, for making it more difficult for guns to get in the hands of those that shouldn’t have them.  Thank you for the action you took on Tuesday.  But I want to ask a question — how can we stop the trafficking of guns from states with looser gun laws into states with tougher gun laws?  Because I believe that’s the case often in Chicago, and possibly the source of the gun that shot and murdered my daughter.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, it’s great to see you again.  And part of the reason that we do this is because when you meet parents of wonderful young people and they tell their stories, at least for me, I think of Malia and I think of Sasha and I think of my nieces and I think of my nephews.  And the pain that any of us go through with a loss like that is extraordinary. And I couldn’t be prouder of the families who are here representing both sides but who’ve been affected in those ways.

If we are able to set up a strong background check system — and my proposal, by the way, includes hiring — having the FBI hire a couple hundred more people to help process background checks, because they’re big numbers, you’re talking about 20 million checks that are getting done every year — hiring 200,000 — or 200 more ATF agents to be able to go after unscrupulous gun dealers, then that will apply across the country.

And so, some states may have laws that allow for conceal-and -carry; some states may not.  There’s still going to be differences.  But what will at least be consistent across the country is that it’s a little bit harder to get a gun.

Now, we can’t guarantee that criminals are not going to have ways of getting guns.  But, for example, it may be a little more difficult and a little more expensive, and the laws of supply and demand mean that if something is harder to get and it’s a little more expensive to get, then fewer people get them.  And that, in and of itself, could make a difference.

So if somebody is a straw purchaser — and what that means is they don’t intend the guns for themselves, they intend to resell them to somebody else — they go to a gun show in Indiana, where right now they don’t have to do a background check, load up a van, and open up that van and sell them to kids in gangs in Chicago — if now that person has to go through a background check, they’ve got to register, ATF has the capacity then to find out if and when a gun is used in a crime in Chicago where that gun had come from.  And now you know here’s somebody who seems to be willing to sell a gun to a 15-year-old who had a known record.

MR. COOPER:  But you’re only going to be asking people to get a license and do background checks if they give out business cards, if they’re selling weapons that are in the original packaging.  Somebody just walking around a gun show selling a weapon is not necessarily going to have to register.

THE PRESIDENT:  No — look, there’s going to be a case-by-case evaluation:  Are they on an ongoing basis making a profit and are they repeatedly selling firearms.

MR. COOPER:  I want you to meet Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Arizona.  He’s a Republican running for Congress.  After the recent terror attacks, Sheriff, I know you’ve been telling citizens to arm themselves to protect their families.  What’s your question to the President?

Q    Well, first, deputies’ slow response time has been mentioned a couple times.  I want to be clear that my deputies have a very fast emergency response —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sure that’s true.

Q    Yes.  Mr. President, you’ve said you’ve been thwarted by — frustrated by Congress.  As a sheriff, I oftentimes get frustrated.  But I don’t make the laws and I’ve sworn an oath to enforce the law, to uphold the Constitution, the same oath you’ve taken.  And the talk and why we’re here is all these mass shootings, and yet you’ve said in your executive action it wouldn’t have solved even one of these or the terrorist attack —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I didn’t say that.  I didn’t say that it wouldn’t solve one.

Q    Well, looking at the information, what would it have solved?  Now, knowing —

MR. COOPER:  None of the recent mass shootings, I should point out, none of the guns were purchased from an unlicensed dealer.

Q    Correct.  And that’s what I’m speaking to — the executive action that you mentioned earlier.  Aspirin, toys, or cars, they’re not written about in the Constitution.  I want to know — and I think all of us really want to get to the solution, and you said don’t talk past each other — what would you have done to prevent these mass shootings and the terrorist attack?  And how do we get those with mental illness and criminals — that’s the real problem here — how are we going to get them to follow the laws?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, appreciate your service.  Good luck on your race.  You sure you want to go to Congress?

Q    I don’t want to talk about —

THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughter.)  I’m sure that’s true.  That will hurt you.  And I’m sure it’s a Republican district.  (Laughter.)

Look, crime is always going to be with us.  So I think it’s really important for us not to suggest that if we can’t solve every crime, we shouldn’t try to solve any crimes.  (Applause.)

And the problem when we talk about that guns don’t kill people; people kill people, or it’s primarily a mental health problem, or it’s a criminal and evil problem and that’s what we have to get at — all of us are interested in fighting crime.  I’m very proud of the fact that violent crime rates have continued to go down during the course of my presidency.  I’ve got an Attorney General, an FBI that works very closely with local law enforcement in busting up crime rings all the time.  That’s a huge priority to us.  And we’re probably providing grants to your department to help go after criminals.

The challenge we have is that in many instances, you don’t know ahead of time who’s going to be the criminal.  It’s not as if criminals walk around with a label saying, “I’m a criminal.”  And, by the way, the young man who killed those kids in Newtown, he didn’t have a criminal record, and so we didn’t know ahead of time, necessarily, that he was going to do something like that. But he was able to have access to an arsenal that allowed him in very short order to kill an entire classroom of small children.  And so the question then becomes, are there ways for us — since we can’t identify that person all the time, are there ways for us to make it less lethal when something like that happens?

And I mentioned this during my speech at the White House a couple of days ago.  Right around the time of Newtown, in China, a guy who was obviously similarly deranged had a knife and started attacking a bunch of schoolchildren.  About the same number were cut or stabbed by this guy.  But most of them survived.  And the reason was because he wasn’t yielding a semi-automatic.

So the main point I think that I want to make here is that everybody here is in favor of going after criminals, locking them up, making sure that we’re creating an environment where kids don’t turn into criminals and providing the support that they need.  Those are all important things.  Nobody is saying we need to be going soft on criminals.

What we do have to make sure of is that we don’t make it so easy for them to have access to deadly weapons.  In neighborhoods like Chicago — I keep on using Chicago — this is all across the country.  You go into any neighborhood, it used to be that parents would see some kids messing around on the corner and they’d say, “Yo” — even if they weren’t the parent of those children — “go back inside, stop doing that.”  And over time, it was a lot harder to discipline somebody else’s kid and have the community maintain order, or talk to police officers if somebody is doing something wrong, because now somebody is worried about getting shot.

And if we can create an environment that’s just a little bit safer in those communities, that will help.  And if it doesn’t infringe on your Second Amendment rights, and it doesn’t infringe on your Second Amendment rights, and you’re still able to get a firearm for your protection, why wouldn’t we want to do that?

MR. COOPER:  We’ve got to take a break.  (Applause.)  We’re going to take a quick break.  Our live town hall conversation, “Guns in America,” with President Barack Obama continues right after this.

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MR. COOPER:  And welcome back.  We’re live at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, continuing our live town hall conversation with President Barack Obama, “Guns In America,” talking to voices from all sides of the issue, including the President.

You made your announcement just the other day in a very obviously emotional ceremony at the White House.  And I want to play just a moment from it for those who haven’t seen it.

(Video is shown.)

I think a lot of people were surprised by that moment.

THE PRESIDENT:  I was, too, actually.  I visited Newtown two days after what happened, so it was still very raw.  It’s the only time I’ve ever seen Secret Service cry on duty.  And it wasn’t just the parents.  You had siblings — 10-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 3-year-olds, who, in some cases, didn’t even understand that their brother or sister weren’t going to be coming home.  And I’ve said this before — it continues to haunt me.  It was one of the worst days of my presidency.

But, look, I want to emphasize that there are a lot of tragedies that happen out there as a consequence of the victims of crime.  There are police officers who are out there laying down their lives to protect us every single day.  And tears are appropriate for them, as well, and I visit with those families, as well — victims of terrorism, soldiers coming home.

There’s a lot of heartache out there.  And I don’t suggest that this is the only kind of heartache we should be working on. I spent a lot of time and a lot of hours — in fact, a lot more hours than I spend on this — trying to prevent terrorist attacks.  I spend a lot of time and a lot of hours trying to make sure that we’re continuing to reduce our crime rate.

There are a whole bunch of other answers that are just as important when it comes to making sure that the streets of places like Chicago and Baltimore are safer.  Making sure kids get a good early childhood education.  Making sure that we’re teaching conflict resolution that doesn’t involve violence.  Making sure that faith communities are able to reach out to young people and intervene in timely ways.

So this is not a recipe for solving every problem.  Again, I just want to emphasize that the goal here is just to make progress.  And it’s interesting, as I enter into my last year as President, I could not be prouder of the work that we’ve done. But it also makes you really humble, because you realize that change takes a long time and a lot of the work you do is just to incrementally make things better so that, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, the crime rate has gone down.

That’s not just because of my administration.  That’s the groundwork that was laid by a bunch of good work by law enforcement and others for years, across administrations, on a bipartisan basis.

The same is true with traffic safety.  The same is true with advances in medicine.  The same can be true with this if we stop exaggerating or mischaracterizing the positions of either side and we just come up with some sensible areas that people agree with.  Background checks are an example:  The majority of gun owners agree with this.

MR. COOPER:  You talk about faith communities.  Father Michael Pfleger is here.  I know you know him well.  He’s a Roman Catholic priest in Chicago.  For those who don’t know, his church is St. Sabina on the South Side of Chicago.  I was there about a month ago.  It was a great honor to be there.

Father, you’ve given a lot of eulogies for a lot of kids in your community.  Far too many over the 40 years that you have been there.  What your question for the President?

Q    Mr. President, first of all, thank you for your courage and your passion, and keep pushing.  I happen to be from one of those cities where violence is not going down.  Not only, as Anderson mentioned, the 55 shot, there’s been 11 killed in seven days in Chicago.  And one of the main reasons for that is the easy access to guns.  It’s easier to get a gun in my neighborhood than it is a computer.  And the reality is, is because many of those guns have been bought legally.  And I understand why people are pushing against you, because I understand it’s a business and it’s about a business, and so if we cut back the easy access to guns, less money for gun manufacturers, less money for the gun lobby.  I understand the business of it.  But that business is causing blood and the kids that are dying in Chicago.  And for many years, nobody even cared about Chicago because the violence is primarily black and brown.

The reality is that I don’t understand why we can’t title guns just like cars.  If I have a car and I give it to you, Mr. President, and I don’t transfer a title and you’re in an accident, it’s on me.  We don’t take cars away by putting titles on them.  Why can’t we do that with guns and every gun in America?  So if somebody who’s buying 200 guns, selling them on the streets, if they can’t transfer those titles, then they’re going to be held responsible for the guns that they sell.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Father Mike, first of all, for those of you who don’t know him, has been working since before I moved to Chicago, and I was a 23-year-old when I first met him.  And somehow I aged and he didn’t.  (Laughter.)

MR. COOPER:  Your gray hair is not going back, I can tell you from experience.

THE PRESIDENT:  He was always the best-looking priest in Chicago.  (Laughter.)  But Father Pfleger has done heroic work at St. Sabina Parish.

Issues like licensing, registration, that’s an area where there’s just not enough national consensus at this stage to even consider it.  And part of it is, is people’s concern that that becomes a prelude to taking people’s guns away.  I mean, part of the challenge in this is that the gun debate gets wrapped up in broader debates about whether the federal government is oppressive.  And there are conspiracy theories floating around the Internet these days all the time.  We did a military exercise in Texas, and a whole bunch of folks were sure that this was the start of martial law, and were suggesting maybe don’t cooperate with the United States Army in an effort to prepare so that if they get deployed overseas, they can handle it.  But that’s how difficult sometimes these debates are.

But I want to pick up on some things where I think there should be consensus.  One of those areas that I talked about at the speech, part of the proposal is developing smart gun technology.  Now, this is an interesting example.  I don’t exactly understand this, and maybe there will be somebody in the audience who explains it to me.  Back in 1997, the CEO of Colt said we can design, or are starting to develop guns where you can only use it if you’ve got a chip, where you wear a band or a bracelet, and that then protects your 2-year-old or 3-year-old from picking up the gun and using it.  And a boycott was called against him, and they had to back off of developing that technology.  The same with Smith & Wesson.  They were in the process of developing similar technology, and they were attacked by the NRA as “surrendering.”

Now, to me, this does not make sense.  If you are a gun owner, I would think that you would at least want a choice so that if you wanted to purchase a firearm that could only be used by you — in part to avoid accidents in your home, in part to make sure that if it’s stolen, it’s not used by a criminal, in part, if there’s an intruder, you pull the gun but somehow it gets wrested away from you, that gun can’t be turned on you and used on you — I would think there might be a market for that.  You could sell that gun.

Now, I’m not saying that necessarily would be the only gun that’s available, but it seems to me that that would be something that in any other area, in any other product, any other commercial venture, there would be some research and development on that because that’s a promising technology.

It has not been developed primarily because it’s been blocked by either the NRA, which is funded by gun manufacturers, or other reasons.  In part, what we proposed was, you know what, we’re going to do some of the research.  We’ll work with the private sector.  (Applause.)  We’ll figure out whether or not this technology can be developed — (applause) — and then give everybody a choice in terms of the kind of firearm that they want to purchase — because I think that there will, in fact, be a market for that.  And over time, that’s an example of how we could reduce some of the preventable gun deaths that are out there.

MR. COOPER:  I want to bring in somebody who actually knows a lot about selling guns.  I want you to meet Kris Jacob.  He’s vice president of the American Firearms Retailers Association.  He’s the owner of the Bullseye Indoor Shooting Range and gun store in San Rafael, California.  Kris, it’s great to have you here.  First of all, how is business under President Obama?  Because everything I read says gun sales have been going up.  Every time he talks about guns, gun sales go up.

Q    It’s been busy.  And certainly I think that shows, as Taya said earlier, that there’s a very serious concern in this country about personal security.  And the sheriff is right — they do everything they possibly can to make sure they get there as quickly as they possibly can.  And my question is actually focused around law enforcement, as well.  There’s 53,000 licensed gun dealers in the United States who stand behind the counter and say no to people all day.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    We feel it’s our responsibility to make sure that people who have a criminal past, people who are mentally ill or are having a bad day don’t get possession of firearms.  So we assist law enforcement all the time in the process of making sure that those things don’t change hands inside our commercial market if they shouldn’t.  It’s a very serious responsibility for us, and as a group, we take it very seriously.

My question is around the executive order related to the investigators, the inspectors, the adding of 200 inspectors who are more on the auditing and record-keeping side.  Why not add 200 ATF agents on the law enforcement side to keep the criminals and the bad guys out of the stores in the first place?  I mean, the problem seems to me to be — you mentioned dealers who are less responsible than others, and certainly it’s possible that those folks are out there, but if we can enforce the laws that already exist, the tens of thousands of gun laws that are on the books right now, it might create a very significant deterrent in just getting those people in the stores.

MR. COOPER:  Let me also point out the number of ATF agents during your administration has actually declined.  So even if you hired 200 more —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, but not because of my budget.

MR. COOPER:  But even if you hired 200 more, it will get it to what it was right before you took office.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  Well, look, first of all, there are a whole bunch of responsible gun dealers out there.  And my hope would be that those gun dealers would support making sure that everybody is following the same rules that they are.  That’s number one.

Number two is we’re not writing a new law.  Only Congress can do that.  This is about enforcing existing laws, and closing what has grown into a massive loophole where a huge percentage of guns — many of whom end up being traced to crime — are not going through the responsible gun dealers, but are going through irresponsible folks who are not registered as doing business.  And the whole goal here is to clarify and to put on notice that if you’re a business, even if you don’t have bricks and mortar, then you’re supposed to register, you’re supposed to conduct background checks.  So the issue is not where you do it, it’s what you’re doing.  And that should not be something that threatens responsible gun dealers across the country.

In terms of the ATF, it is absolutely true that the ATF budget has been shrank because — has been shrunk — it’s a little late — (laughter) — you knew what I meant — (laughter) — and part of it is because the politicizing of this issue.  So many in the Republican Congress feel as if the ATF is not their friend, but their enemy.  Part of the story I was telling —

MR. COOPER:  You said this issue should be politicized, though.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, but what I mean by that, Anderson, is, is that they have been portrayed as trying to take people’s guns away as opposed to trying to make sure that the laws are enforced.  And one of the most frustrating things that I hear is when people say — who are opposed to any further laws — why don’t you just enforce the laws that are on the books, and those very same members of Congress then cut ATF budgets to make it impossible to enforce the law.  (Applause.)

And by the way, the ATF is a law enforcement agency working under the FBI that is doing enormous work in going after criminals and drug cartels, and have a pretty dangerous job.  So it’s not as if doing background checks or auditing gun sales is all that they’re doing.

Part of my proposal is also developing better technologies so that we can do tracing of shells when a crime is committed in order to figure out who exactly are the perpetrators of the crime and where did they obtain the weapon.  So there’s a whole bunch of other elements to this that are going to be important.  But my hope is, is that responsible gun dealers like yourself and your organization are going to be supportive of this proposal, because it should actually help push away unscrupulous dealers and that means more customers for you guys.

MR. COOPER:  I want to bring in Mark Kelly.  As you know, a former astronaut, husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who we’re proud to say is here tonight.  Five years ago this week in Tucson, Arizona, Congresswoman Giffords was shot.  Six others were killed.  Captain, your question?

Q    Well, thank you for being here, Mr. President.  As you know, Gabby and I are both gun owners.  We take gun ownership very seriously and really think about the voices of responsible gun owners in this debate.  But I want to follow up to something Father Pfleger said and your answer to his question, and it’s about expanded background checks.  Often, what you hear in the debate of expanding background checks to more gun sales — and, as you know, Gabby and I are 100 percent behind the concept of somebody getting a background check before buying a gun — but when we testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, we heard not only from the gun lobby but from United States senators that expanding background checks will — not may — will lead to a registry, which will lead to confiscation, which will lead to a tyrannical government.

So I would like you to explain, with 350 million guns in 65 million places, households, from Key West to Alaska — 350 million objects in 65 million places — if the federal government wanted to confiscate those objects, how would they do that?  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, first of all, every time I see Gabby, I’m just so thrilled because I visited her in the hospital, and, as I mentioned I think in the speech in the White House, as we left the hospital then to go to a memorial service, we got word that Gabby had opened her eyes for the first time.  And we did not think that she was going to be here, and she is.  And Mark has just been extraordinary.  And, by the way, Mark’s twin brother is up in space right now and is breaking the record for the longest continuous orbiting of the planet, which is pretty impressive stuff.

What I think Mark is alluding to is what I said earlier — this notion of a conspiracy out there, and it gets wrapped up in concerns about the federal government.  Now, there’s a long history of that.  That’s in our DNA.  The United States was born suspicious of some distant authority.

MR. COOPER:  But let me just jump in — is it fair to call it a conspiracy?  I mean, there’s a lot of people who really believe this deeply — that they just don’t trust you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, Cooper, yes it is fair to call it a conspiracy.  What are you saying?  (Applause.)  Are you suggesting that the notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody’s guns away so that we can impose martial law —

MR. COOPER:  Not everybody, but there is certainly a lot of people —

THE PRESIDENT:  — is a conspiracy?  Yes, that is a conspiracy.  I would hope that you would agree with that.  (Applause.)  Is that controversial except on some websites around the country?

MR. COOPER:  There are certainly a lot of people who just have a fundamental distrust that you do not want to get — go further and further and further down this road.

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, I mean, I’m only going to be here for another year.  I don’t know — when would I have started on this enterprise, right?  (Laughter.)

I come from the state of Illinois, which — we’ve been talking about Chicago, but downstate Illinois is closer to Kentucky than it is to Chicago.  And everybody hunts down there and a lot of folks own guns.  And so this is not, like, alien territory to me.  I’ve got a lot of friends like Mark who are hunters.  I just came back from Alaska, where I ate a moose that had just been shot — and it was pretty good.

So, yes, it is a false notion that I believe is circulated for either political reasons or commercial reasons in order to prevent a coming together among people of goodwill to develop common-sense rules that will make us safer while preserving the Second Amendment.

And the notion that we can’t agree on some things while not agreeing on others and the reason for that is because, well, the President secretly wants to X would mean that we’d be paralyzed about doing everything.  I mean, maybe when I proposed to make sure that unsafe drugs are taken off the market that, secretly, I’m trying to control the entire drug industry, or take people’s drugs away.  But probably not.  What’s more likely is I just want to make sure that people are not dying by taking bad drugs.

MR. COOPER:  You wrote an op-ed that just got published.  A lot of people probably have not read it yet.  One of the things you say in it is that you are not going to campaign for, vote for any candidate, regardless of what party they’re in, if they do not support common-sense gun reform.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  I meant what I said.  And the reason I said that is this.  The majority of people in this country are a lot more sensible than what you see in Washington, and the reason that Washington doesn’t work well in part is because the loudest, shrillest voices, the least compromising, the most powerful or those with the most money have the most influence.

And the way Washington changes is when people vote.  And the way we break the deadlock on this issue is when Congress does not have just a stranglehold on this debate — or, excuse me — the NRA does not have a stranglehold on Congress in this debate — (applause) — but it is balanced by a whole bunch of folks — gun owners, law enforcement, the majority of the American people — when their voices are heard, then things get done.

The proposals that we’ve put forward are a version — a lawful, more narrow version — of what was proposed by Joe Manchin and Senator Toomey of Pennsylvania, a Republican and a Democrat, both of whom get straight-A scores from the NRA.  And somehow, after Newtown, that did not pass the Senate.  The majority of senators wanted it, but 90 percent of Republicans voted against it.  And I’ll be honest with you, 90 percent of those senators didn’t disagree with the proposal, but they were fearful that it was going to affect them during the election.

So all I’m saying is, is that this debate will not change and get balanced out so that lawful gun owners and their Second Amendment rights are protected, but we’re also creating a pathway towards a safer set of communities — it’s not going to change until those who are concerned about violence are not as focused and disciplined during election time as those who are.  And I’m going to throw my shoulders behind folks who want to actually solve problems instead of just getting a high score from an interest group.  (Applause.)

MR. COOPER:  We have time for one more question.  And we talked about Chicago a little bit.  We haven’t really heard from young people tonight — no offense to those who have spoken.  (Laughter.)  I’m in the same category as you all.  Sorry, Father.

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re a kid.

MR. COOPER:  There’s a lot of kids, as you know, growing up in Chicago, fearful of walking to school, fearful of coming home from school.  A lot of kids have been killed on buses.  There’s a lot of moms of kids who have been killed in the streets of Chicago.  And I want you to meet Trey Bosley.  He’s 18 years old. He’s a high school student.  And his brother Terrell was shot and killed nearly 10 years ago while he was helping a friend in a church parking lot.  Terrell would have turned 28 years old on this Tuesday.  What’s your question, Trey?

Q    As you said, I lost my brother a few years ago — well, 10 years ago.  And I’ve also lost a countless amount of family members and friends to gun violence, as well.  And just growing up as a young black teen in Chicago, where you’re surrounded by not only just gun violence but police brutality, as well, most of aren’t thinking of our life on a long-term scale.  Most of us are either thinking day to day, hour to hour — for some, even minute to minute.  I want to thank you for your stand against gun violence for not only the victims of gun violence, but those on the verge of being victims of gun violence.  And my question to you is, what is your advice to those youth growing up surrounded by poverty and gun violence?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, Trey, I couldn’t be prouder of you.  And I know — is that your momma next to you?  I know she’s proud of you right now.  So good job, Mom.

When I see you, Terrell, I think I about my own —

MR. COOPER:  Trey.

THE PRESIDENT:  Excuse me — Trey.  When I see you, I think about my own youth, because I wasn’t that different from you.  Probably not as articulate and maybe more of a goof-off.  But the main difference was I lived in a more forgiving environment.  If I screwed up, I wasn’t at risk of getting shot.  I’d get a second chance.  There were a bunch of folks who were looking out for me, and there weren’t a lot of guns on the streets.  And that’s how all kids should be growing up, wherever they live.

My advice to you is to continue to be an outstanding role model for the young ones who are coming up behind you.  Keep listening to your mom.  Work hard and get an education.  Understand that high school and whatever peer pressure or restrictions you’re under right now won’t matter by the time you’re a full adult, and what matters is your future.  But what I also want to say to you is, is that you’re really important to the future of this country.

And I think it is critical in this debate to understand that it’s not just inner-city kids who are at risk in these situations.  Out of the 30,000 deaths due to gun violence, about two-thirds of them are actually suicides.  That’s part of the reason why we are investing more heavily also in mental health under my proposal.

But while the majority of victims of gun homicide are black or Hispanic, the overwhelming majority of suicides by young people are white.  And those, too, are tragedies.  Those, too, are preventable.  I’m the father of two outstanding young women, but being a teenager is tough.  And we all remember the times where you get confused, you’re angry, and then the next thing you know, if you have access to a firearm what kind of bad decisions you might make.  So those are deaths we also want to prevent.

Accidental shootings are also deaths we want to prevent.  And we’re not going to prevent all of them.  But we can do better.  We’re not going to, through this initiative alone, solve all the problems of inner-city crime.  Some of that, as I said, has to do with investing in these communities and making sure there’s good education and jobs and opportunity — (applause) — and great parents, and moral responsibility, and ethical behavior, and instilling that in our kids — that’s going to be important.

So this is not a proposal to solve every problem.  It’s a modest way of us getting started on improving the prospects of young men and young women like you, the same way we try to improve every other aspect of our lives.  That’s all it is.

And if we get started — as I said before, it used to be people didn’t wear seatbelts, didn’t have airbags.  It takes 20, 30 years, but you look and then you realize all these amazing lives of young people like this who are contributing to our society because we came together in a practical way, looking at evidence, looking at data, and figured out how can we make that work better.

Right now, Congress prohibits us even studying through the Center for Disease Control ways in which we could reduce gun violence.  That’s how crazy this thing has become.  Let’s at least figure out what works.  And some of the proposals that I’m making may turn out are not as effective as others.  But at least let’s figure it out, let’s try some things.  Let’s not just assume that — every few weeks there’s a mass shooting that gets publicity, every few months there’s one that gets national publicity, every day there are a whole bunch of folks shot on streets around the country that we don’t even hear about.  That is not something that we can be satisfied with.

And part of my faith and hope in America is just that — not that we achieve a perfect union, but that we get better.  And we can do better than we’re doing right now if we come together.  (Applause.)

Thank you.

MR. COOPER:  Mr. President, thank you very much for your time.

THE PRESIDENT:  Appreciate it very much.

                             END           9:13 P.M. EST

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Full Text Obama Presidency September 14, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Town Hall on College Access and Affordability transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Town Hall on College Access and Affordability

Source: WH, 9-14-15

North High School
Des Moines, Iowa

4:06 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Everybody give it up for Russhaun!  (Applause.)  Hello, Iowa! (Applause.)  Well, it is good to be back in Iowa.  (Applause.)  I was missing you guys.  (Applause.) Go, Polar Bears!  (Applause.)  It is great to be back in Des Moines.  You know, I landed at the airport and saw the Hampton Inn there that I — I must have stayed there like a hundred days. (Laughter.)  I’m sure I’ve got some points or something.  I could get a couple free nights at the Hampton Inn.  (Laughter.)

Everybody, have a seat.  Have a seat.  Relax.  And I know it’s September, so I know you guys are all about to be flooded with ads and calls from a bunch of folks who want this job.  (Laughter.)  I just can’t imagine what kind of person would put themselves through something like this.  (Laughter.)  Although I noticed — I didn’t know Russhaun was on the ballot.  During the introduction, he was all like, “the next President of the United States.”

We could not be prouder of Russhaun, not just for the introduction, but for the inspiring story that he’s told.  I think it’s an example of what our young people can do when they put their minds to it.

I want to thank your principal, Mike Vukovich.  Where’s Mike?  (Applause.)  There he is.  Your Superintendent is here — Tom Ahart is here.  Where’s Tom?  (Applause.)  Your Mayor, Frank Cownie is here, who is a great friend.  Where’s Frank?  He was here.  He had to go to a City Council meeting.  He’s missing out on the fun.  Iowa Attorney General and great friend of mine, Tom Miller.  (Applause.)  Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, great supporter. (Applause.)  And, of course, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, for letting me crash his bus tour.  (Applause.)

So I’m not going to give a long speech, because we want to spend most of the time taking questions from all of you.  But I just want to explain that we came to North High School because you guys have done some great things over the past few years — making sure more students have laptops and iPads, more AP classes, improving test scores.  And so you’ve become a great example for the whole country of what’s possible.  (Applause.)

So we thought we’d come to pay you a visit, talk with some of the students here in Des Moines and your parents.  Because I know that there’s nothing that high schoolers love more than being in public with their moms and dads.  (Laughter.)  I know that — that’s what Malia and Sasha tell me all the time.  (Laughter.)

It was seven years ago this week that a financial crisis on Wall Street ended up ushering in some really hard years on Main Street.  But thanks to the incredible resilience and grit and hard work of the American people, we’ve bounced back.  We’ve created 13.1 million new private sector jobs over the past five and a half years.  We’ve helped more than 16 million people have the security of health insurance, many of them for the first time.  Our high school graduation rate is the highest that it has ever been.  (Applause.)  And I should point out, by the way, if you want to see the best graduation rate in America, it’s right here in Iowa.  (Applause.)

So we’ve been investing in things that help to grow the middle class and help provide opportunity for every young person. But no 21st century economy — nobody in a 21st century economy is going to be able to do what they want to do with their lives unless they’ve got a great education.  That’s just the truth.  By 2020, two in three job openings are going to require some form of post-high school education — whether it’s a four-year university, or a community college, or a tech school.  And it’s an investment that pays off.

Now, partly it pays off — and Russhaun mentioned this — because it empowers you.  It gives you a sense of who you are, and your hopes and your dreams.  It helps to sharpen how you see the world, and empowers you in all sorts of ways.  But it also has some pretty practical ramifications.  Compared to a high school diploma, a degree from a two-year school could earn you an extra $10,000 a year -– a four-year degree could earn you a million dollars more over the course of your lifetime.  That’s how important education is in today’s economy.

And here’s the thing — just as higher education has never been more important, let’s face it, it’s never been more expensive.  And that’s why Arne and I have been working to try to make college and post-high school education more affordable.  We’ve increased scholarships.  We reformed our student loan system that funneled billions of taxpayer dollars into big banks — we said, let’s cut out the middleman, let’s put that money directly to students.  We created a new tax credit of up to $2,500 to help working families pay for tuition and books and fees.  We’re helping people cap their federal student loan payments at 10 percent of their income.  So if you want to be a teacher, or you want to be a social worker, or some other profession that may not make a huge amount of money, you can still do that, knowing that you’re not going to go — you’re still going to be able to afford to support yourself and your family while doing it.  And we’re fighting for two years of free community college for any student that’s willing to work for it. (Applause.)

The bottom line is, is that no young person in America should be priced out of college.  They should not be priced out of an education.

And I know that finding the right school for you, the best school for you is a tough process.  Malia is going through it right now.  You guys are juggling deadlines and applications and personal statements.  And some of you, in the back of your mind, are asking yourselves what you plan for a career and what you want to do with your life.

I think we should make that process easier.  So a couple of things that we’ve done that we’re announcing over the course of this week during Arne’s bus tour — we’ve introduced something called College Scorecard.  Right now, a lot of families don’t have all the information they need to choose the right school.  And a lot of the college ranking systems that you see, they reward schools just for spending more money, or for rejecting more students.  And I think that’s the wrong focus.  I think that our colleges should be focusing on affordability and on serving students and providing them good value.

So we’ve pulled together all sorts of data on college costs and value; we created this College Scorecard.  And you can scroll through it to see which schools are more likely to graduate their students, are more likely to result in good jobs for the students, more likely to make sure that those students can pay off their student loans — and you can then use that information to make choices that are right for your future and right for your budget.

And you guys can go to CollegeScorecard.ED.gov.  CollegeScorecard.ED.gov — and we’ve already got half a million visits since we launched this thing on Saturday.  So it’s a valuable tool for students and parents as you’re trying to make a decision about which school to go to.

We’re also simplifying the financial aid process to give you more time as you make a decision.  Right now, about two million students don’t claim the financial aid that they’re eligible for. And part of it is it’s just complicated and time-consuming.  And so those young people are leaving money on the table.  And there may be some young people here who are not aware of all the financial help you can get.  So what we’ve done is we’ve shortened the federal student aid form — it’s called FAFSA — down to about 20 minutes.  It used to be about two, three times as long.

And because only Congress has the power to eliminate certain requirements, we’re asking them to simplify it even further.  The good news is it’s got some good bipartisan support.  In fact, we’ve got a Congressman here from Virginia who traveled with us

— Congressman Bobby Scott — where’s Bobby?  There he is way in the back there.  (Applause.)  And he’s working — he’s a Democrat — he’s working with Republicans to see if we can further shorten and make this form simpler.

Today, I’m also announcing that beginning next year, families will be able to fill out FAFSA even earlier — starting on October 1st, right around the time that college applications ramp up.  That means you won’t have to wait for months for your W-2s to arrive before you can get started, so you can get a jump on the college application process.  You’ll know sooner how much aid you qualify for; you’ll have more time to evaluate your options.  And we’re also working with colleges and universities and scholarship programs to align their application and their financial aid processes with this new FAFSA start date.

So all these steps taken together should help hundreds of thousands more students pay for college.  And I know that’s important to you.

I’m going to end my opening remarks with a story from somebody who couldn’t be here today, but graduated from here last year, and his name is Neico Greene.  (Applause.)  You might remember Neico from the Polar Bear basketball team.  (Applause.) And the reason that I want to tell his story is for the past few years, Neico was homeless.  As a junior and senior, he was grateful to mostly stay with his coach or his counselor.  But before that, he spent nights in shelters and in church basements, or in hotels with his mom — sometimes sleeping next to drug addicts or worse.  And this is something Neico wrote.  He said, “I’ve seen some terrible things… but I’m thankful for what I’ve been through because it’s taught me to be strong.”

And being strong meant studying.  It meant keeping his eye on college.  Applying for — and winning — some scholarships.  Last year, he filled out his FAFSA, found out he qualified for thousands of dollars of federal and state aid.  Today, Neico is a freshman at Graceland University.  He’s studying accounting.  He’s still playing ball, hoping to make enough money one day to build a career and give back to the mom that he loves.  (Applause.)

So that’s why we’re here.  That’s what this is about — the students like Neico and Russhaun.  Students like many of you who want to take that next step and have big dreams.  We want you to know that we’re there to help you achieve those dreams.  We want to make sure that we’re giving every student who’s willing to put in the effort all the tools that they need in order to succeed.

That’s not just good for the students, by the way.  That’s also good for America.  Because this country was built on the notion that it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like, what your last name is — if you’re willing to work hard, you can make it.  And education is the key to making that future possible.  That’s how we grow this country.  That’s how we make it successful.  And that’s the incredible project, the great experiment in democracy that all of you are part of.

So, with that, Arne and I are looking forward to taking your questions.  Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

All right.  So here’s how this is going to work.  You raise your hand and I’ll call on you.  We’re going to go girl, boy, girl, boy — to make it fair.  (Laughter.)  There should be people in the audience with microphones, so wait until they get there.  And introduce yourself.  Try to keep your question short enough that we can get as many questions in as possible.

And contrary to what Arne said, he’s going to get all the tough questions and I just want the easy ones.  (Laughter.)  All right.  So let’s see who wants to go first?  All right, well, this young lady, she shot her hand up quick.  Right here.  We need a microphone up here.  All right.

Q    Hi, my name is Angelica (ph).  And my question is for your — it’s what do you believe the role of a teacher should be?

THE PRESIDENT:  What do I believe the role of teacher should be?  That’s a great question.  When I think about my own life — some of you may know, my dad left when I was very young, so I really didn’t know him.  So I was raised by a single mom.  And we didn’t have a lot when we were coming up, although my mom had this great love of learning.  But she was a teenager when she had me; she was 18.  And she was still going to school and working at the same time as she was raising me and then my sister.

She was my first great teacher.  And what she taught me was compassion, caring about other people, but she also taught me to be curious.  And when I think back to all the great teachers that I’ve had, it’s not so much the facts that they’ve taught me — because I can get those from books — but it has been teachers who are able to spark in me a sense of curiosity, like, well, how does that work?  Why is that the way it is?  Somebody who has helped me want to learn more.  That, to me, is the role of a great teacher.  Somebody who can teach you to be so interested in the subject that you then start over time teaching yourself.

And I’ll bet there are a lot of great teachers here.  Part of the challenge I think for being a teacher is, is that sometimes students don’t always appreciate good teachers, let’s face it.  Because I think sometimes we think education is something that you just receive from somebody else.  It’s passive.  They just kind of pour knowledge in here.  But in fact, good teaching is a conversation that you’re having with somebody where they’re giving you not just answers but also asking you questions, and helping your brain get a workout and try to learn how to figure things out yourself.

And also, I think great teachers are somebody who’s got — who have — are people who have confidence in you and have high expectations for you, and they see something in you where they get a sense of, you know what, you’re important, and you can do amazing things.  And when you feel that from a teacher, that a teacher really thinks you’ve got something in you that’s worth saying or writing or — those are the teachers that you remember. Those are the teachers that inspire you.

What do you think, Arne?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  I’ll be quick.  I think it’s a really, really good answer.  The only thing I would add is I think great teachers see things in students that they don’t even see in themselves, and pull things out of you.  And someone like Russhaun, who talked publicly, mom was locked up — lots of folks could look at you and say, well, that’s where he’s going to go.  Other teachers see him as a student body president, as a future teacher, as a future leader in the community.

So those amazing teachers see things in us as kids.  Those are the teachers I remember from my childhood, who saw things in me that I didn’t even recognize myself and helped to bring that to life.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Great question.  All right.  I think it’s a guy’s turn now.  Let’s see.  That gentleman right back there, around the corner there.

Q    Hi, my name is Dennis.  I have a senior here at North High School.  (Laughter.)  What’s so funny?

THE PRESIDENT:  Are you the dad that’s embarrassing —

Q    Maybe.

THE PRESIDENT:  Your daughter is just like, oh, dad, god.

Q    Well, it’s a give-and-take; they embarrass me, I’m going to embarrass them.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Listen, I’m right there with you.  (Laughter.)

Q    Okay.  In your opinion, of all the next presidential candidates that are in line, which ones have the best ideas for education reform to make it more affordable and accessible?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know, I — (laughter and applause) — I’m going to beg off this question a little bit.  I promise you I’m generally going to give you straight answers.  On this one, I’m going to wiggle around a little bit.  (Laughter.)  Right now, I’m going to try to stay out of the campaign season until it — partly because I can’t keep track of all the candidates.  (Laughter.)  So I’ll wait until it’s winnowed down a little bit before I have an opinion.

But here’s what I can say — that a society’s values are reflected in where we put our time, our effort, our money.  It is not sufficient for us to say we care about education if we aren’t actually putting resources into education.  (Applause.)

Now, both Arne and I have gotten some guff sometimes from even within our own party because we’ve said that money alone is not enough; that it’s important for us, if a school isn’t teaching consistently kids so that they can achieve, then we’ve got to change how we do things, in collaboration with teachers and principals and parents and students.  We’ve got to figure out how do we make it work better.

So a lot of the initiatives we’ve had in terms of increased accountability and encouraging more creativity and empowering teachers more, those don’t cost money.  But what we also know is that if science labs don’t have the right equipment, then it’s harder to teach science.  If kids don’t have access to broadband and laptops in their classrooms, then they’re at a disadvantage to those kids who do.  If you’ve got a school that doesn’t have enough counselors, and so, come time to apply for college, there aren’t enough counselors to go around and kids aren’t getting the best advice that they need, then they may end up selling themselves short in terms of their ability to go to college.

So resources do matter.  And part of the reason I’m making this point — so that when you’re evaluating candidates, you pay attention to this — is we’re going to be having a major debate in Congress coming up, because the budget is supposed to be done by the end of this month.  And so far, Congress has not come up with a budget.  And there are some in the other party who are comfortable with keeping in place something called sequester, which is going to be — is going to result in significant cuts over the next several years in the amount of federal support for education.  And that’s going to force then either layoffs, or kids not getting the kinds of support that they need.  It will have an effect on the education of students.

So I just want everybody to be clear, without endorsing any particular candidate’s ideas, that if somebody is running for President and they say they want to be the “education president,” it means two things.  One is that you care about every student doing well, not just some — because whoever is President is the President for all people, not just some people.  That’s point number one.  (Applause.)  And point number two is, is that you’ve got to be willing to provide the resources, particularly for communities that may not have as much of a property tax base so they can’t always raise money on their own in order to help their students achieve.

All right?  Anything you want to add on that?  (Applause.)

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Just very quickly, without getting into this candidate or that — you’ve got about two dozen to choose from, and they all want your vote.  Four questions I’d like you to ask every candidate, Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal — it doesn’t matter.

One:  What are you willing to do to have more children have access to high-quality early childhood education?  That’s the best investment we can make.  (Applause.)  Two:  What are you going to do to continue to increase our nation’s high school graduation rate?  And we’re very proud, it’s at an all-time high, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be.

Three:  What are you going to do to make sure high school graduates are truly college and career ready, and not having to take remedial classes in college,; that they’ve been taught to high standards?  And fourth, we need to lead the world in college graduation rates again.  We were first a generation ago; today, we’re 12th.  Other countries have passed us by.

So if every candidate you ask, what are your concrete goals for those four things, and then what resources — to the President’s point — are you willing to put behind that, our country would be a much stronger place.

THE PRESIDENT:  And not to be a tag team here, here’s one last thing.  Because — I’m sorry, what was your name?  Angelica asked a terrific question about what does it mean to be a great teacher.  If you hear a candidate say that the big problem with education is teachers, you should not vote for that person.  (Applause.)  Because it is a hard job.  And it is the most important job we’ve got.  And folks who go into teaching don’t go into it for the money.  (Laughter.)  They go into it because they are passionate about kids.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some bad teachers, and it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t hold teachers to high standards as well, and continue to work in terms of professional development and recruitment and retention of great teachers.  And there have been times where Arne and I have had some disagreements with the teachers’ unions on certain issues because we want to encourage experimentation.  But the bottom line, though, is, is that you can measure how good a school is by whether or not it is respecting and engaging teachers in the classroom so that they are professionals and they feel good about what they’re doing, and they’re given freedom and they’re not just being forced to teach to a test.

And it is very important for us, then, to make sure that — if what we hear is just a bunch of teacher-bashing, I can’t tell you who to vote for, but — at least not right now.  Later I will.  (Laughter.)  But I can tell you who to vote against, and that is somebody who decides that somehow teachers don’t deserve the kind of respect and decent pay that they deserve.  (Applause.)

All right.  Let’s see.  It’s a young lady’s turn.  Yes, you right there in the brown sweater right there.  Go ahead.  That’s fine.

Q    I’m Elena Hicks (ph), and I’m a senior at Roosevelt and an intern at the Hillary Clinton campaign.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, okay.  I guess I know who you’re voting for.  (Laughter.)

Q    Yes.  And this was a standards question, but I’ll make it more general.  Do you think it’s possible or realistic for there to be free tuition for college in the United States?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that it is absolutely realistic for us to, first of all, have the first two years of community college free, because it’s in my budget and I know how to pay for it.  (Applause.)  And it would — and essentially if you close up some corporate tax loopholes that aren’t growing the economy and are just kind of a boondoggle, you take that money, you can then help every state do what Tennessee is already doing — because Tennessee is already making community colleges free for the first two years.

And what that does, then, is, first of all, it helps young people who may not right now want to go get a four-year college education but know that they still need some sort of technical training, or they want to get an associate’s degree.  Right away, that whole group, they now know they can get their education for free as long as they’re working hard.  But for those who are thinking about a four-year college education, they can also get their first two-years at the community college, then transfer those credits to a four-year college, and they’ve just cut their overall college costs in half.  So it would be good for everybody, whether you’re going two years or four years.

Now, if we can get that done, then I think we can start building from there.  In the meantime, I do want to make sure, though, that everybody understands what we were talking about in terms of FAFSA.  You have to fill out this form.  And we are making it easier for you to do.  You have no excuse.  Parents who are here, even if you didn’t go to college, you need to nag your kids to make sure that this FAFSA form gets filled out so that people — so that you know the student aid that you may be entitled to.

My grandma, she didn’t go to college, even though she was probably the smartest person I knew, but she did know that you had to go to college and that you had to fill out this form.  So I want everybody here to make sure that you stay focused on that, because there’s more help already than a lot of people are aware of.  And this College Scorecard that we talked about — CollegeScorecard.ED.gov — what that does is it allows you to take a look at the schools to find out, do they graduate their students; how much debt do they have; are they generally getting a job after they graduate.

So we’re not, like, just ranking, here’s the most prestigious school; we’re giving you some news you can use here in evaluating whether the schools that you’re applying to actually deliver on their commitment.  Because a lot of times, the students who get big student loans debt after they graduate, it’s because they didn’t think through where they should go, what should they be studying, what resources are available.  And we want you to on the front end to have as much information as possible in order to make a good choice.

Arne, anything to add on that?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Very, very quickly, quick test.  That FAFSA form the President talked about — how much in grants and loans do we give out each year?  Any guesses at the federal level?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  A lot.

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  How much is a lot?

THE PRESIDENT:  See, I didn’t test you.  (Laughter.)  You notice this.  That’s the head of the Education Department.

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  How much?  30,000?  Any other thoughts?  Yes, sir.  What’s that?  Total — How much?  $30 billion?  Any other guesses?  All right, so very quickly, we give out $150 billion in grants and loans each year.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s real money.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  And the President said we’ve got a long way to go, we want to do more, trying to make community colleges free.  But we don’t care whether your family has money or don’t have money, or whether your family has gone to college or not, or where you live.  If you work hard — $150 billion.  It’s the only form — 20 minutes, half an hour — the only form you’re ever going to fill out in your life that’s going to give you access to $150 billion.  So I just want to emphasize this point.  You have to fill that out.

THE PRESIDENT:  Got to fill it out.  (Laughter.)  All right? A’ight.  (Laughter.)  This gentleman back here.  I don’t want to neglect the folks in the back here.

Q    How are you doing, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  How are you, sir?

Q    Good, good.  My name is Rudolph Dawson and I’m a graduate of Fort Valley State University in Georgia.  My concern is that the Historically Black schools like Fort Valley State, a lot of the pressure is being put on them in terms of they’re not getting the budget they need to continue to educate people like myself.  They are not getting the programs that they need to attract students that want the higher pay.  And it’s to me — what can you do, or what can your administration do, or the next administration do to right the wrong that’s been done in the past?  And it’s continued to be done to these universities.  Fort Valley State is also a land-grant college and they haven’t been getting all the money they needed for agriculture like the University of Georgia.  I’d like to see some changes there.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Well, first of all, for those of you — because some of you — we’ve got a lot of young people here so just to give you a little bit of history, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities arose at a time when obviously a lot of schools were segregated.  And so African American students couldn’t attend a lot of the traditional state colleges and universities that had been set up.

And many of them went on to become incredible educational institutions that produced some of our greatest thinkers.  So Morehouse College, Howard, Spelman — all across the country, particularly in the South, a lot of these Historically Black Colleges and Universities were really the nurturer of an African American middle class — many of whom then went on to become the civil rights pioneers that helped to lead to Dr. King and to the Civil Rights Movement and to all the history that I think you’re aware of.

A lot of those schools are still doing well.  Some of them have gotten smaller and are struggling, partly because of — good news — University of Georgia isn’t segregated anymore, for example, so it’s good that African American students or Latino students have more diverse options.  But they still serve an important role.  And so working with people like Congressman Bobby Scott and others, we’ve continued to provide some support to those schools.

But one thing that Arne and I have been doing is saying to these Historically Black Colleges and Universities, you’ve also got to step up your game in terms of graduation rates, because there are some of those schools, just like non-historically black colleges and universities, who take in a lot of students but don’t always graduate those students.  And those students end up being stuck with debt and it’s not a good deal for them.

So we’re working together.  We’ve got a whole task force and commission that’s just devoted to working with these schools to make sure that they’ve got the resources they need to continue to perform a really important function, but that they’re also stepping up their game so that kids who attend these universities and colleges, they’re graduating on time and are able to then pursue the kind of careers that they need.

I think it’s a young lady’s turn now.  Oh, you know what, I need to go up top.  That young lady in the striped shirt right there.  I can barely see, but that’s what happens when you get older, young people.  (Laughter.)  First time I came to Iowa, I had no gray hair.  (Laughter.)  I didn’t.  Look at me now.  (Laughter.)

Q    Hi, my name is Abba.  I’m currently a junior at Lincoln High School here on the South Side of Des Moines.  My question to you is — I know you don’t want to get involved with the presidential race at the moment, but a candidate has said that they want to cut government spending to politically biased colleges, and I was wondering if, say, that would hurt the education system for those who depend on that, or would it better the education as a whole?

THE PRESIDENT:  First of all, I didn’t hear this candidate say that.  I have no idea what that means.  (Laughter.)  I suspect he doesn’t either.  (Laughter and applause.)

Look, the purpose of college is not just, as I said before, to transmit skills.  It’s also to widen your horizons; to make you a better citizen; to help you to evaluate information; to help you make your way through the world; to help you be more creative.  The way to do that is to create a space where a lot of ideas are presented and collide, and people are having arguments, and people are testing each other’s theories, and over time, people learn from each other, because they’re getting out of their own narrow point of view and having a broader point of view.

Arne, I’m sure, has the same experience that I did, which is when I went to college, suddenly there were some folks who didn’t think at all like me.  And if I had an opinion about something, they’d look at me and say, well, that’s stupid.  And then they’d describe how they saw the world.  And they might have had a different sense of politics, or they might have a different view about poverty, or they might have a different perspective on race, and sometimes their views would be infuriating to me.  But it was because there was this space where you could interact with people who didn’t agree with you and had different backgrounds that I then started testing my own assumptions.  And sometimes I changed my mind.  Sometimes I realized, you know what, maybe I’ve been too narrow-minded.  Maybe I didn’t take this into account.  Maybe I should see this person’s perspective.

So that’s what college, in part, is all about.  The idea that you’d have somebody in government making a decision about what you should think ahead of time or what you should be taught, and if it’s not the right thought or idea or perspective or philosophy, that that person would be — that they wouldn’t get funding runs contrary to everything we believe about education.  (Applause.)  I mean, I guess that might work in the Soviet Union, but it doesn’t work here.  That’s not who we are.  That’s not what we’re about.

Now, one thing I do want to point out is it’s not just sometimes folks who are mad that colleges are too liberal that have a problem.  Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side.  And that’s a problem, too.

I was just talking to a friend of mine about this.  I’ve heard I’ve of some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative.  Or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African Americans, or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women.  And I’ve got to tell you, I don’t agree with that either.  I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of views.  (Applause.)

I think that you should be able to — anybody should — anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them.  But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.  That’s not the way we learn, either.

What do you think, Arne?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Amen.

THE PRESIDENT:  He said, amen.  (Laughter.)

Let’s see.  I think it’s a guy’s turn.  This gentleman here in the tie, you had your hand up a couple times.  Yes, I didn’t want you to feel neglected.  You almost gave up and I wanted to make sure to call on you.  Hold on a second.  Wait for the mic.

Q    My name is James Quinn.  This is my wife, Tatiana, and our daughter, Victoria.  We’ve been saving for her college education for 10 years, and over that time, the federal deductibility of 529 contributions has gone away, even though we can still get that deduction from Iowa income taxes.  It would be nice to see a little reward for saving, rather than just making borrowing money get easier.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to let Arne hit this one because he’s an expert on our various savings programs.

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Yes.  I’ll just say, as a parent with two kids not quite this age, my wife and I are putting money actively into 529s to try to save.  And getting the federal government to support that more or encourage that would be fantastic.  And again, this is something we have to work with Congress to do the right thing.

But for families who are saving — we have some families now starting kindergarten, first grade, saving every year, just a little bit, to help their kids to go to college.  We need to incentivize that and reward that.  It’s a great point.

THE PRESIDENT:  There was a time when the deductibility with student loans was more significant than it is today.  Whenever you make something tax-deductible, that means that there’s less money going into the Treasury.  That, then, means that either somebody has got to pay for it with other taxes, or the deficit grows, or we spend less on something else.

And this is part of why this argument, this debate that’s going on right now in Congress about lifting the sequester is so important.  It’s a Washington term — I hate the term — but essentially what Congress did was it said, all right, we’re just going to lop off spending at this level for the next decade.  The problem is, of course, the population is going up, the economy is growing, and so even though the deficit right now has been cut by two-thirds since I came into office — which is — (applause) — you wouldn’t know that listening to some of the candidates around here, but it has.

If, in fact, sequester stays in place, not only our ability to spend for education or to help families with student loans, but also things like early childhood education, Head Start programs, Pell grants — all those things can end up being adversely affected.

And this is one thing that I would just ask everybody to consider.  When you hear budget debates, I know your eyes kind of glaze over, but the federal budget, that’s really where we express our values.  And a lot of times people say, well, we should just cut government spending because there’s all this waste.  But, in fact, the vast majority of government spending is for Social Security, it’s for Medicare, it’s for Medicaid, it’s for helping vulnerable populations, and it’s for defense.  And not a lot is left over for helping middle-class families, for example, send their kids to college, or to save.

And if you have this ceiling, this artificial cap, without take into account a growing population and more young people going to college, then you end up with a situation in which fewer people are getting help.  And that’s why it’s important for us to lift this artificial cap.  And it’s also why it’s important for us to close some of these tax loopholes that are going to either the very wealthy or to corporations that really don’t need them, because they’re doing just fine and they’re not having a problem financing their college education — their kids’ college educations.  (Applause.)

All right.  It’s a young lady’s turn.  All right.  I will go — I’m going to go to this young lady because originally I called on her first and then — but we got mixed up.  Go ahead.  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Rosalie (ph) and I go to Roosevelt High School.  Hopefully, my question is not too difficult.  And it’s what is your best advice for Malia as she goes off to college?

THE PRESIDENT:  My best advice to Malia.  Now, this is assuming that Malia would listen to my advice.  (Laughter.)  She’s very much like her mother at this point.  (Laughter.)  She’s got her own mind.

One piece of advice that I’ve given her is not to stress too much about having to get into one particular college.  There are a lot of good colleges and universities out there, and it’s important I think for everybody here to understand you can find a college or university that gives you a great education, and just because it’s not some name-brand, famous, fancy school doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get a great education there.  So one is, lower the stress levels in terms of just having to get into one particular school.  I think that’s important.

The second piece of advice I have is keep your grades up until you get in, and after that, make sure you pass.  (Laughter.)  Because it’s important that you kind of run through the tape in your senior year and not start feeling a little slack.  I don’t worry about that with her; she’s a hard worker.

And then the third thing is really the advice that I already mentioned, which is be open to new experiences when you go to college.  Don’t go to college just to duplicate the same experience you had in high school.  Don’t make your decision based on, well, where are all my friends going so that I can do the exact same things with the exact same friends that I did in high school.  The whole point is for you to push yourself out of your comfort level, meet people you haven’t met before, take classes that you hadn’t thought of before.  Stretch yourself. Because this is the time to do it, when you’re young.  Seek out new experiences.

Because I think when you do that, you may discover you may think that you wanted to do one thing; it may turn out you wanted to do — that you wanted to do something completely different, and you have an amazing talent for something completely different, but you just haven’t been exposed to it yet.  You’ve got to know what it is that’s out there, and that requires you to do some things differently than you’ve been doing in high school.

So, Arne, anything you wanted to add on that?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Just quickly, particularly for the seniors, please don’t apply to one school — sort of what the President said — apply to four, five, six, seven schools.  It’s amazing to me how many young people just apply to one school.  And it might be the best fit for you, but keep your options open. So look at what’s out there — close to home, less close to home, whatever it might be — apply to a bunch of places.

And a final thing, just to emphasize, the goal is not to go to college; the goal is to graduate.  And so, figure out where you’re going to go and graduate.  It might take you three years, it might take you four, it might take you five.  But the big thing we need all of you — not to just go, not to attend, but to walk across those stages four or five years from now with that diploma in hand.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Gentleman right here.  Here, you can use my mic.

Q    All right.  (Laughter.)  Thanks, Mr. President.  I’m an elementary school principal here in Des Moines public schools, and one of the things that we really value is the diversity that we have within our community.  And I’m really curious to hear from you and Secretary Duncan the value that you see that diversity brings to a young person’s education.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s a great question.  How long have you been a principal?

Q    Five years.

THE PRESIDENT:  Five years?

Q    Five years.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s outstanding.  We’re getting old, though, man, because I thought he was a student.  (Laughter.)  He’s the principal.  He’s not even just a teacher, he’s a principal.  (Laughter.)  Well, thank you for the great work you’re doing.

To some degree, I’ve already answered this question.  The value of diversity is getting to know and understand people who are different from you, because that’s the world you will be living in and working in.  And it’s actually really interesting  — they’ve been showing through a variety of studies that people who can understand and connect with a wide range of people, that that ends up being as important a skill, if not more important a skill, than just about anything else in terms of your career success, whatever the field.

It also, by the way, is part of what makes our democracy work.  I was having a discussion about this earlier today.  Our democracy is premised on an assumption that even if somebody is not just like me, that they’re a good person and a generous person, and that we have things in common, and that we can work things out, and if we have a disagreement then we can have an argument based on facts and evidence.  And I might sometimes lose the argument, I don’t persuade as many people, and then — that’s how voting works, and majorities are formed, and they change. That’s how our democracy is supposed to work.

And I think that starts early.  Because when you’ve got diversity in schools, then you’re less likely as an adult to start thinking, well, that person, they’re not like me, or those persons, they don’t have the same values, or they don’t care as much about their kids, or — and then democracy starts breaking down, because then everything is a fight to the death because there’s no sense that we can actually bridge our differences and disagree without being disagreeable, and find common ground.

So it’s not only good for your career, but it’s also good for our country.  The same goes — the same holds true, by the way, as part of diversity — studies show that organizations that have women in decision-making positions function better than those who don’t.  (Applause.)  Seriously.  That if you look at corporate boards, actually you can correlate their performance with the number of women that they’ve got on those boards.  So it also is valuable for us to make sure that not only is there diversity, but that in leadership positions, different voices are heard.

So, Arne, anything you want to add to that?

Good.  So keep it up.  (Applause.)

Young lady right there.  Yes, you.  Right there.  Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll call on you first and then I’ll get back to you.  I’m sorry.  The mic is already there.  I promise you’ll be the next.

Q    Hi.  My name is Heidi.  I’m a junior here at North High School.  And actually, I have, like, two questions.  One is one for my friend — he’s very shy, he can’t speak up.  We are part of a group called Upward Bound, and we work through Simpson College.  There’s been stories of our budget being cut, and we want to know what the government can — help us and work with us for that.

And my other question is, in your professional opinion, how much is visual arts an importance to our school, and how are you going to save it?  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Why don’t I — I’ll take the first — I’ll take the question on visual arts, you talk about Upward Bound.  Arne, go ahead.

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Just very quickly, it really goes back to what the President talked about.  It’s not just Upward Bound that’s at risk; it’s Pell grants that are at risk, early childhood education.  Folks in Congress want to zero that out of the budget.  I think it’s so important that all of us as students and as educators to not pit this program against the other, but to hold folks in Washington accountable for investing in education.

As the President said, we want to make sure we’re getting results.  It’s not blindly investing.  But there are lots of things in our budget — Upward Bound being a piece of it — that honestly are in pretty significant danger right now.  And the President is fighting very hard.  We have some folks backing us, but the others that just sort of see these things as somehow extras.  And I think it’s so important that as young people, as voters, as family, your voices be heard.

He cannot by himself prevent these cuts.  That’s not how our democracy works.  And so we’ll hold us accountable.  We’ll continue to push very, very hard.  That’s why we’re out traveling the country all the time.  But we need voters’ voices being heard, saying, we need Upward Bound programs, we need TRIO, we need early childhood, we need after-school programs, we need the arts.  And you can talk about the arts, as well.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, I mean, the arts are what make life worthwhile, right?  (Applause.)  You need food and shelter and all that good stuff, but the things that make you laugh, cry, connect, love — so much of that is communicated through the arts.

And I don’t want our young people to think that the arts are just something that you sit there passively and watch on a TV screen.  I want everybody, even if you’re not a great artist, to have the experience of making art, and have the experience of making music.  Because that’s part of what makes for a well-rounded education.

We also know that young people learn better if they’re not just looking at a textbook and multiple text quizzes all day long, and that it breaks up the monotony and it gives expression to different sides of themselves — that that’s good for the overall educational experience.

So I think visual arts, music, it’s all important.  And we should not be depriving young people of those experiences.  And they’re not extras.  They’re central to who we are.  Part of what makes us human is our ability to make art, to represent what’s inside of us in ways that surprise and delight people.  And I don’t want us to start thinking that that’s somehow something we can just push aside.

Now, I want you to be able to read and be able to do your algebra, too.  But I don’t know where we got this idea we’ve got to choose between those two things.  We’ve got to be able to do them all.  And it used to be standard practice.  There was no debate, even in the smallest town in a poor community or a rural community.  There was always the art teacher and the math teacher — or the art teacher and the music teacher, and nobody assumed somehow that that was an extra.  That was part of it, just like having a sports program was part of it.  (Applause.)  And that’s part of what a well-rounded education is all about.

But it does cost some money.  And that’s something that I want to emphasize — that you can’t do all this stuff on the cheap all the time.

How many more questions — how much more time we got?  Only one?  I’m going to take two.  (Laughter.)  All right.  I’m going to get to you because I promised I was going to — I’ll tell you, it’s a guy’s turn.  This guy right there.  (Applause.)  All right.

Q    All right.  I’ve got two short questions.

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Marcus Carter.  And I’m a senior.  And out of all the schools in Iowa, why did you come here?  And after this, can I get a picture with you?  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, Marcus, I’m going to answer your first question.  Second question, though, if I start taking a picture with you — look at this crowd right here.  (Laughter.)  We’d be taking a lot of selfies.  So I’m imposing the no-selfie rule, although I’ll definitely try to shake as many hands as possible.

We came here because some really good work is being done here.  And I think that your teachers, your principal, the superintendent deserve credit for the improvements that have been made.  (Applause.)  I want Arne to address this, because Arne travels to schools all across the country.  And sometimes we get so focused on what’s not working that we forget to lift up what is working.  And when a school is doing a good job, I’m sure the principal and superintendent, the teachers here feel like they want to do even more and do even better.  But when we’ve made progress, we’ve got to acknowledge that, because that makes us feel encouraged and hopeful that we can continue to make even more strides.

Arne?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  I’ll just say a couple quick things.  It’s not a coincidence that we’re here, but this is a school that historically struggled, had some hard times.  And new leadership, new expectations — the President talked about technology here, talked a much better sense of culture, different ways to discipline.  But the thing I always go back to — I don’t know if my numbers are exact — I think a couple years ago you had two AP classes, and now you have 15.  (Applause.)  And to go from two to 15 is a really big deal.

But what I always say is the students here aren’t seven times as smart as four years ago; it’s just higher expectations, a different sense of belief among adults about what’s possible.  And so we try and highlight places that haven’t always been successful but are trying to do the right thing and move in the right direction.

As the President said, no one is satisfied.  You guys are still hungry, you’re still trying to get better.  But that’s real progress.  That’s adults saying, kids, students, young people deserve the opportunity to take college classes in high school, deserve to go to a safe school, deserve the technology.  I think there are lots of lessons other schools could learn from the progress you’re making here at North High School.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  I promised I was going to call on this young lady last.  Go ahead.

Q    Okay.

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Tanya from North High School.  And my question is, if you legalize college — or free two-year college, is everyone, including illegal students with a good GPA able to get this benefit?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, right now, the way — no, this is an important question, and I know this is a debate that’s been taking place among some of the presidential candidates.  Right now, the way that the federal student loan programs work is that undocumented students are not eligible for these loan programs.  That’s how the law is currently.  And it is my view that — well, two things I want to say.

First, if you fall in that category, you should still fill out the FAFSA, because it may be that states or universities or colleges may have private scholarships or other mechanisms.  So it doesn’t automatically mean that you may not qualify for some benefits.  So it’s still important for you to kind of — because that’s a standard form that’s used by everybody.

But this raises the broader question that I’ve been talking about now for a couple of years, and that is that for young people who came here, their parents may have brought them here and they now are Americans, kids by every other criteria except for a piece of paper — they may be your classmates, they may be your friends, they may be your neighbors — the notion that somehow we would not welcome their desire to be full-fledged parts of this community and this country, and to contribute and to serve makes absolutely no sense.  (Applause.)

And this whole anti-immigrant sentiment that’s out there in our politics right now is contrary to who we are.  (Applause.)  Because unless you are a Native American, your family came from someplace else.  (Applause.)  And although we are a nation of laws and we want people to follow the law, and we have been working — and I’ve been pushing Congress to make sure that we have strong borders and we are keeping everybody moving through legal processes — don’t pretend that somehow 100 years ago the immigration process was all smooth and strict and — that’s not how it worked.

There are a whole bunch of folks who came here from all over Europe and all throughout Asia and all throughout Central America and all — and certainly who came from Africa, who it wasn’t some orderly process where all the rules applied and everything was strict, and I came the right way.  That’s not how it worked.

So the notion that now, suddenly, that one generation or two generations, or even four or five generations removed, that suddenly we are treating new immigrants as if they’re the problem, when your grandparents were treated like the problem, or your great-grandparents were treated like the problem, or were considered somehow unworthy or uneducated or unwashed — no.  That’s not who we are.  It’s not who we are.

We can have a legitimate debate about how to set up an immigration system that is fair and orderly and lawful.  And I think the people who came here illegally should have the consequences of paying a fine and getting registered, and all kinds of steps that they should have to take in order to get right with the law.  But when I hear folks talking as if somehow these kids are different from my kids, or less worthy in the eyes of God, that somehow they are less worthy of our respect and consideration and care — I think that’s un-American.  I do not believe that.  I think it is wrong.  (Applause.)  And I think we should do better.  Because that’s how America was made — by us caring about all our kids.

Thank you, everybody.  I love you guys.  (Applause.)

END

5:16 P.M. CDT

 

 

Full Text Obama Presidency December 9, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Immigration Town Hall in Nashville, Tennessee — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Immigration Town Hall — Nashville, Tennessee

Source: WH, 12-9-14

Casa Azafran
Nashville, Tennessee

2:26 P.M. CST

THE PRESIDENT:Thank you, everybody.Thank you.(Applause.)Thank you so much.Everybody, please have a seat.Thank you very much.Everybody, please have a seat, have a seat.
Well, hello, Nashville.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:Hola.

THE PRESIDENT:Hola.Cómo estás?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:Bien, bien.

THE PRESIDENT:Bien.Thank you, Renata, for the wonderful introduction.I’ve brought some friends with me who I think you may know — your Congressmen, Jim Cooper — (applause) — as well as Congressman Steve Cohen from Memphis is here.(Applause.)And I want to thank — is your mayor still here?Where did he go?There he is right there, doing a great job.(Applause.)And his wonderful daughter — we’ve got to brag about her, she’s a junior at Barnard.I just embarrassed her.(Applause.)When you’re the father of daughters, your job is to embarrass them, and I’m trying to give an assist here.(Laughter.)

I want to thank Casa Azafran for hosting us, and for being home to so many organizations that do important work welcoming immigrants to the community.And that’s why I’ve come here today.I won’t make a long speech, because I want to have a dialogue, but I wanted to give some remarks at the top.

As Renata mentioned, some people might think Nashville was an odd place to talk immigration.It’s not what comes to mind when people think about gateways to America.But, as all of you know, Nashville’s got one of the fastest-growing immigrant populations in the country.“New Nashvillians” — they’re from Somalia, Nepal, Laos, Mexico, Bangladesh.And Nashville happens to be the home of the largest Kurdish community in the United States as well.

“They” are “us.”They work as teachers in our schools, doctors in our hospitals, police officers in our neighborhoods.They start small businesses at a faster rate than many native-born Americans.They create jobs making this city more prosperous, and a more innovative place.And of course, they make the food better.(Laughter.)I know that Tennessee barbeque is pretty popular, but Korean barbeque is pretty good too.(Laughter.)

And the point is, welcoming immigrants into your community benefits all of us.And I was talking to your Mayor, Karl Dean, on the way over here, and he understands this.He’s been a great partner when it comes to preparing immigrants to become citizens.

A couple of weeks ago, I create a Task Force on New Americans that’s going to help do this kind of work all across the country.But, as we all know, our immigration system has been broken for a long time.Families who come here the right way can get stuck in line for years.Business owners who treat their workers right sometimes are undercut by competition from folks who are not just hiring undocumented workers but then underpaying them or not paying them minimum wage, or not giving them the benefits that they have earned.Nobody likes the idea of somebody reaping the rewards of living in America without its responsibilities as well.And there are all kinds of folks who want to gladly embrace those responsibilities, but they have no way to come out of the shadows and get right with the law.

And a year and a half ago, a big majority of Democrats, Republicans, and independents in the Senate –- including both of your senators -– passed a bipartisan bill to fix our broken immigration system.The bill wasn’t perfect, but it was a common-sense compromise.It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents.It would have made the legal immigration system smarter and faster.It would have given millions of people a chance to earn their citizenship the right way.It was good for our economy — independent economists estimated that it would not only grow our economy faster but shrink our deficits faster.And if the House of Representatives had simply called for an up-or-down vote, it would have passed.It would be the law.We would be on the way to solve — solving this problem in a sensible way.But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House blocked this simple up-or-down vote.

I still believe that the best way to solve this — is by working together to pass the kind of common-sense law that was passed in the Senate.But until then, there are actions that I have the legal authority to take that will help make our immigration system smarter and fairer.And I took those actions last month.

We’re providing more resources at the border to help law enforcement personnel stop illegal crossings and send home those who cross over.We’re going to focus our enforcement resources on people who actually pose a threat to our communities — felons rather than families, and criminals rather than children.We’re going to bring more undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so they can play by the rules — they have to pass a criminal background check, pay taxes, contribute more fully to our economy.

So this isn’t amnesty, or legalization, or even a path to citizenship.That can only be done by Congress.It doesn’t apply to anybody who’s come to this country recently, or who might come illegally in the future.What it does is create a system of accountability, a common-sense, middle-ground approach.And what we’re saying is, until Congress fixes this problem legislatively, if you have deep ties to this country and you are willing to get right by the law and do what you need to do, then you shouldn’t have to worry about being deported or being separated from your kids.

These are the kind of lawful actions taken by every President, Republican and Democrat, for the past 50 years.So when members of Congress question whether I have the authority to do this, I have one answer:Yes, and pass a bill.(Laughter.)If you want Congress to be involved in this process, I welcome it, but you’ve got to pass a bill that addresses the various components of immigration reform in a common-sense way.

And I want to work with both parties to get this done.The day I sign this bill into law, then the executive actions I take are no longer necessary and some of the changes that I’ve instituted administratively become permanent.

Unfortunately, so far, the only response that we’ve had out of the House was a vote taken last week to force talented young people and workers to leave our country.Rather than deport students or separate families or make it harder for law enforcement to do its job, we just need Congress to work with us to pass a common-sense law to fix the broken immigration system.

And meanwhile, Washington shouldn’t let disagreements on this issue prevent action on every other issue.That’s not how our democracy works.Americans are tired of gridlock.We’re seeing the economy move forward.We need to build on that.And certainly my administration is ready to work for it on a whole range of issues.

I do recognize that there are controversies around immigration — there always have been, by the way.Even those who know we need to reform the system may be concerned about not having Congress get it done.Then there are some folks who worry about immigration changing the fabric of our society, or taking jobs from native-born Americans.And I understand those concerns, but, as I said, they’re not new.As a country, we have had these concerns since the Irish and Italians and Poles were coming to Boston and New York, and we have the same concerns when Chinese and Japanese Americans were traveling out West.

But what our history and the facts show is that generation after generation, immigrants have been a net-plus to our economy, and a net-plus to our society.And that’s what cities like Nashville prove is still the case.And this city proves that we can address these concerns together and make sure that immigration works for everybody — that it strengthens our economy, that it strengthens our communities, that we can talk about some of the tensions and concerns in a constructive way rather than yelling at each other.

And so let me close with a story of somebody who’s working to bring people together.David Lubell, who many of you know and who’s here today — where’s David?There he is.(Applause.)So David used to run the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.And he knew that some folks were skeptical about immigrants changing the face of Nashville.And he also knew, though, that these immigrants were good people.So he saw an opportunity for immigration to unite this city rather than divide it.And in 2005, he started “Welcoming Tennessee,” which connects long-term residents in the community with new immigrants.And you’d have dinners and church socials, and at Rotary clubs, and folks got to know each other and maybe feel some empathy, and see themselves in new arrivals.

And the conversations weren’t always easy, but it created a foundation of mutual understanding and respect.And today, David’s initiative is expanding across the country.I think we — you said, David, that we’ve got these kinds of efforts going on in 42 cities around the country.

This is what makes America exceptional.We welcome strivers.We welcome dreamers from all around the world.And it keeps us young, and it keeps us invigorated, and it keeps us striving and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.And then we all bind ourselves together around similar ideals, a similar creed.And one generation in, suddenly those kids are already Americans like everybody else, and we have the same dreams and hopes for them, the same aspirations.

And if we keep harnessing that potential, there’s no limit to what this country can achieve.So Nashville is helping to lead the way in getting this conversation right.We hope that if it happens around the country, that eventually it will drift into the House of Representatives — (laughter) — and we’re going to get the kind of comprehensive legislation that we need to actually solve this problem.

So with that, let me start taking some questions.Thank you very much, everybody.I appreciate it.(Applause.)

So I’ve got a microphone here.This is a nice, intimate group.And so there’s no rules really.I’d just ask everybody who wants to speak to raise their hand.I’ll call on you one at a time.We’ve got some microphones in the audience.And why don’t you, when you’re asking your questions, stand, introduce yourself, tell us a little about yourself, and then ask your question.Try to keep your question relatively brief so — and I’ll try to keep my answers relatively brief.(Laughter.)I don’t always succeed, but I’ll do my best.I’m going to take off my jacket because it’s warm in here.Is Marvin back there?Okay, we’ve got some — here we go.Thanks.

All right.Who wants to go first?Yes, right here in the front.

Q Hi, Mr. President.Thank you so much for coming to Nashville, and the Latin community loves you and welcome you to Nashville.My question is — and I think it’s a concern in the community that — what is going to happen if the next administration decide not to follow what you — the executive action?And I think many of the communities — afraid are they going to be first in line to deportation because they give their information.And that would be my question.

THE PRESIDENT:Well, I think it’s a good question.So let me just — let me go over the mechanics of what’s going to happen.

First of all, part of what we’re saying is that we can’t deport 11 million people and it would be foolish to try, as well as I think wrong for us to try.Congress only allocates a certain amount of money to the immigration system, so we have to prioritize.And my priority is not to separate families who have already been living here but to try to make sure that our borders are secure, to make sure that people come through the right way; to focus on criminals, focus — those who pose a real risk to our society.

And so what’s happened is, is the Department of Homeland Security, which is in charge of the immigration services, what it said is, is that we’re going to set up priorities in terms of who is subject to deportation.And at the top are criminals, people who pose a threat, and at the bottom are ordinary people who are otherwise law abiding.And what we’re saying essentially is, in that low-priority list, you won’t be a priority for deportation.You’re not going to be deported.We’re not going to keep on separating families.And that new priority list applies to everybody, all 11 million people who are here — I mean, not 11 million, let’s say, whatever the number is.So even if somebody didn’t sign up, they’re still much less likely to be subject to deportation.That’s because we’ve changed our enforcement priorities in a formal way.

What we’re also saying, though, is that for those who have American children or children who are legal permanent residents, that you can actually register and submit yourself to a criminal background check, pay any back taxes and commit to paying future taxes, and if you do that, you’ll actually get a piece of paper that gives you an assurance that you can work and live here without fear of deportation.That doesn’t apply to everybody, but it does apply to roughly five million — about half of what is estimated to be the number of undocumented workers here.

Now, that is temporary.Just like DACA, the program that we put in place for young people who are brought here who otherwise are good citizens, are studying, working, joining our military — we did that several years ago, where we said, it doesn’t make sense for us to subject these young people to a deportation risk; they’re Americans in their heart even if they don’t have the right piece of paper.That’s temporary as well, although it’s been subject to renewal.

And so it’s true that a future administration might try to reverse some of our policies.But I’ll be honest with you, I think that the American people basically have a good heart and want to treat people fairly.And every survey shows that if, in fact, somebody has come out, subjected themselves to a background check, registered, paid their taxes, that the American people support allowing them to stay.So I think any future administration that tried to punish people for doing the right thing I think would not have the support of the American people.

The real question is, how do we make sure that enough people register so that it’s not just a few people in a few pockets around the country.And that’s going to require a lot of work by local agencies, by municipalities, by churches, by community organizations.We’ve got to give people confidence that they can go ahead and register; also make sure that they understand they don’t have to hire a lawyer or go to the notary in order to pay for this.Because what we saw during DACA when the young people were given this opportunity, a lot of people signed up but sometimes you would see advertisements, come and give us $1,000 or $2,000 and we’ll help you — you don’t have to do that.And so we’ve just got to build an effective network around the country.And the Department of Homeland Security will be working with local organizations to make sure that people get the right information.

But I think the main response to people that we have to assure them of is that the American people actually are fair-minded and want to reward rather than punish people who do the right thing.And if you register, I’m confident that that’s going to be something that allows you to then get on a path to being here in this country with your children and watching them grow up and making a life for yourself, as you already have.

Last point.It still is important for us, though, because this is temporary to make sure that we keep pushing for comprehensive immigration reform.Without an actual law, an actual statute passed by Congress, it’s true that theoretically a future administration could do something that I think would be very damaging.It’s not likely, politically, that they’d reverse everything that we’ve done, but it could be that some people then end up being in a disadvantageous position.And nobody is going to have a path to actual citizenship until we get a law passed.

Now, the Senate law would call for people to go to the back of the line, so it would take 10, 13 years before they have citizenship, but at least there’s that pathway.That’s why we still need a law.

And then there are some areas like, for example, the business sector, a lot of high-tech businesses are still looking for young graduates from computer science programs or physics programs around the country.And instead of being able to recruit them and put them to work, those kids are all going home and starting new businesses and creating jobs someplace else.And that doesn’t make any sense.So that’s another area where we couldn’t do anything administratively about that.We were able to streamline some of the legal immigration system, but we’ve still got more work to do.

Okay?Good.I’m going to go boy, girl, boy, girl to make sure that it’s fair.(Laughter.)So, right here.

Q Thank you.Good afternoon, President.Thank you so much for doing what you did.I was undocumented for 10 years from 1996.I took advantage of the amnesty.I want to thank you.I’m a community organizer with the Center for Community Change in Washington, D.C., working with the immigrants from the Human Rights Coalition.And I really thank the people from Nashville, Tennessee for hosting future Chicagoans – of course, I’m from Chicago, too.(Laughter.)

And my question to you is, thank you for the 5 million, but what about the others.There are millions of people who are going to be in the limbo, at risk of being deported.And the second question is, since talking about confidence -– people are skeptical about this, because they are afraid to apply for this.So what is your administration going to do to get the confidence — and people to feel safe to apply for this program that you just passed?Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:Okay.Well, I sort of answered the question, but I’ll try to answer it one more time.The prioritization in terms of deportation — that applies to everybody, even if you don’t do anything.Now, this will take time to get ICE officers at the ground level to understand what these new priorities are and to apply them in a consistent way.And so there are still going to be stories around the country where some family is separated.

Over time, though, we’re really going to be pushing to retrain and refocus and reprioritize ICE officers to understand let’s focus on criminals, let’s focus on felons, let’s not focus on families.

In terms of setting up the system to sign people up to register so they can get an actual piece of paper that says they can work here, that’s probably going to take a couple of months. And so that gives us time then to communicate through our community organizations, through our churches, through our cities and towns to make sure that people have good information.

So the folks who, as you said, are in limbo, it’s true that they’re not going to qualify for the DACA-like registration process that I described.They’ll still be, if they’re law-abiding, otherwise, if they’re working, peaceful, then they’re much less likely to deportation now than they would have been in the past.And they don’t have to do anything for that.But the registration process, if you qualify, is powerful because you’re now able to go to work without being in the shadows, and you’re paying taxes, which is good for everybody, because we want people to be above board and to do things the right way.

And I think that those who register — my belief is, is that when we do get to passing a law, finally, I think those who have taken the time to register, pay taxes, gone through a criminal background check, they’ve got documentation and proof that they’ve done all that, they’re going to have an easier time then qualifying, I think, for a more permanent legal status because they will have already gone through the screening.And that’s one incentive for why people should want to sign up.

But building trust will take time.But that’s where you come in, so that’s your job.I’m going to work with you.I’ll work with Renata and I’ll work with other activists here to make sure it happens.But we’re going to have to do this together.

I will point out that you already had incredible courage among young people when we announced DACA.Now, we didn’t get 100 percent of young people who qualified signing up, but we got more than half of the people who were qualified signing up.And slowly then, each person who has the courage to sign up, that creates more confidence across the board.

All right, it’s a young woman’s turn now.Yes, go ahead.

Q Hi, Mr. President, and thank you so much for being here with us and giving us this opportunity to speak out our fears.I would like to ask you –- I’m with the Tennessee Immigrants and Refugee Rights Coalition.I’m part of the Migrant Women Committee.And I would like to ask you –- people like me that will probably benefit from this executive order, there is a lot of fear still for people that can have the path to a citizen but not immediately.But they apply for DAPA, the Deferred Action for Parents.Will they face a bar from being in this situation?

THE PRESIDENT:No, I think that those who are — look, I would encourage anybody who has another path for legalization to follow that path.But this does not short-circuit whatever other strategies you’re pursuing.If you are already trying to get legal permanent resident status or citizenship through some of the existing laws, then you should feel free to continue that.What this does do is it simply says that it gives you an opportunity to make sure that deportation is not going to happen during this period — which will extend for several years.

Can Big Marvin get me my cup of tea back there?Oh, here it is.All right.This isn’t Big Marvin, but he’s big.(Laughter.)

All right.Gentleman there in the back.

Q I’m a member of the Coalition for Education — Immigration.I’m an immigrant to Nashville.I grew up — Chicago, have lived here the last 12 years.

THE PRESIDENT:It’s warmer here.(Laughter.)

Q I do miss the White Sox.

THE PRESIDENT:Yes.

Q My question is about — one of the many things I appreciate so much about your leadership is the civil way in which you approach the most difficult of problems, in spite of hearing the rancor you do from those who disagree.(Inaudible)
-– community like this, trying to talk with reason only to be greeted by deep emotion and anger and rhetoric that is demeaning. It’s almost as if we need a civility platform for our nation, an office of civility — maybe for our U.S. Congress.Excuse me, Jim.But I’m serious about how do we teach young people to act in a civil way if we don’t role-model the civility?And how important is that for us to move forward, that we can engage in the kinds of conversations in the tone that you present problems?

THE PRESIDENT:Well, look, first of all, I don’t know anybody more civil than Jim Cooper.(Applause.)He is an extraordinary gentleman, and always has been, ever since I’ve had a chance to know him since I came to Washington.

Look, immigration, as I said before, has always elicited passion.And it’s ironic because unless you are a member of a Native American tribe, you came here from someplace else, or your people did.And I know that sometimes folks talk about, well, we came here the right way rather than the wrong way.And it’s true that previous generations came through Ellis Island or they came through Angel Island or other ways of arriving here.

But I think sometimes we overstate the degree to which that was some really elaborate bureaucratic process.There’s a reason, for example, that these days a lot of people named Smith used to be named Smithsowsky or Smitharea or whatever it is.What happened is when they came in somebody just said, what’s your name, and they stamped them and if they couldn’t pronounce it — you always hear stories about they Anglicized it.A lot of times people’s papers were not necessarily being checked because folks might not have had papers.And who came in and who didn’t varied depending on how big of a workforce — or how much industry was looking for new labor, and what the political climate was at that particular time.

And so what happens is, is that once folks are here we kind of forget that we used to be there.And what I try to do when I talk about these issues is just try to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and feel some empathy, and recognize that to some degree, if you’re American, somewhere back there, there was somebody who was a newcomer here too.And it wasn’t always neat and orderly the way the American population expanded across the West.And if we have that sense of empathy then maybe that creates civility.That’s why the kinds of efforts were seeing here in Nashville just conversations where people get to know newcomers is so important.

It’s interesting — I was telling Steve and Jim, I get about 40,000 correspondence every day, and some of them are just writing to say you’re doing a good job, keep going.Some of them are you are the worst President ever, you’re an idiot, a lot of them are just people asking for help.

But more than once, multiple times during the course of my presidency, I’ve gotten letters from people who say I don’t agree with you about anything, I am a Republican, I used to be really angry with you about your immigration posture and then I found out that my son Jim’s best friend, Jose, was undocumented and he wasn’t going to be able to apply to the local college because he was afraid about being deported, and this is a kid who has played in my back yard, helped me wash my car, and been on the ball team with my kid and I loved this kid and so I don’t think it’s right that this young person shouldn’t be treated the same way that I would want someone to treat my son.And I’ve gotten a lot of letters like that.And they say, even though I still don’t agree with you about anything — (laughter) — I do ask you — that you give Jose a chance.

And so that’s where civility comes from.It’s that interaction and personal experience as opposed to just being able to stereotype somebody one way or the other.Now, it’s important, by the way, though, that the civility runs both ways.And I do think — obviously I’ve been at the receiving end of people really angry at me about not just these executive actions, but have been ginned up by some of the conservative talk shows that think that I’m usurping my authority despite the fact that every previous President has exercised the same authority or they think I’m favoring immigrants over red-blooded Americans.And so that’s a lot of the criticism directed at me.

But what’s also true is sometimes advocates on behalf of immigrants have suggested that anybody who is concerned about the impact of immigration, or asks questions about comprehensive immigration reform, that they must be racist or they must be anti-immigrant or their ignorant.And, that’s not true either.

There are people who are good people who actually believe in immigration, but are concerned about rewarding somebody who broke American laws.There are good people who believe in immigration but are concerned, will new immigrants depress wages, particularly in the low-wage sectors of the economy.Those are legitimate questions, and we have to be just as civil in addressing those questions as we expect people to be when we are talking to them.Because I think the facts are on our side, I think the studies have shown that over time immigrants aren’t lowering wages but in fact improving the economy, and over time, boosting wages and jobs for everyone.

So I would rather just make the argument on the facts, but just because somebody thinks that instinctually doesn’t mean that they are bad people.So civility is good, but it doesn’t just run one way.And I think — the good book says, don’t throw stones in glass houses, or make sure we’re looking at the log in our eye before were pulling out the mote in other folks eyes.And I think that’s as true in politics as it is in life.

Okay.Let’s see if I’ve got any women who want to ask questions today.I’m going to make sure I’m fair.That young lady in the back right there.You.

Q Hi.I’m part of an organization that works with refugees and immigrants.And one question I have — was there a particular reason why the parents of the DACA — the DREAMers, the DACA recipients, were excluded in your new executive order?

THE PRESIDENT:Yes, there is.And it was — the actions I took were bound by the legal authority that the Office of Legal Counsel determined I had in this area.The office — I don’t want to get too technical here, but the Office of Legal Counsel is a special office in the Department of Justice that is mandated to give me independent judgment not subject to politics or pressure from me about what my legal authorities are.

And so we presented to them the various things that we’d like to do.They were very clear about my legal authority to prioritize and then provide this temporary protection for parents whose children were Americans, or — American citizens, or legal permanent residents.Because the argument they found compelling, and there was a lot of precedent for, was — essentially humanitarian argument — that if we’re prioritizing, why would we want to separate families.

The challenge we had in the minds of the Office of Legal Counsel was, if you’ve already exempted the young people through DACA, and then you bootstrap off of that the capacity to exempt their parents as well, you’re not rooted originally in somebody who is either a citizen or a legal permanent resident.So it was a legal constraint on our authority.It was not because we did not care about those parents.

And I know that there are a lot of DREAM Act kids who are concerned that their parents may not still qualify.A sizable number do because they have a sibling who ended up being born in the United States.But not all do.This is one more reason why we still need to pass comprehensive immigration reform.Because what we did was to do everything that I could within my legal authority, but not go beyond the legal authority that we possessed.

This young man right here.I think the mic is coming from behind you.

Q Thank you, Mr. President.We are delighted to have you here in Nashville and in Casa Azafran.I’m a member of the mayor’s New American Advisory Council, and also direct a nonprofit that’s housed here called AMAC, the American Muslim Advisory Council.And my question to you is that — in 2004, when you gave that speech about — at the Democratic convention, kind of alluded to this idea that we are one nation, there’s no black and blue — blue or red America.But when it comes to this issue of immigration, as someone that works in this community, our mantra here in Nashville is, Nashville for all of us, and Tennessee for all of us.

So to come around that idea for America for all of us, that we don’t keep having this conversation — as the President, you have been in this position the past six years.What would you say to other — Americans who are feeling now on that side even considering the newly elected Congress that are adamant on stopping these steps?Because I got the privilege of being the — welcoming Tennessee director, and being in those conversations — and inherently, Tennesseans are the nicest people.Those people are in charge of the — that we used to have those conversations with.But what would you say to the rest of the nation — who thinks that now new Americans or immigrants are getting this special treatment?

THE PRESIDENT:Well, I, I addressed the nation when I announced this action, and I made a couple of simple points.

First of all, America is a nation of immigrants, but it’s also a nation of laws.And there does need to be accountability if you came here in a way that was not in accordance with the law.The question then becomes, how do you make that person accountable?I mean, one way of doing it is randomly or sporadically separating families, but you don’t have uniform enforcement, you’re pushing people into the shadows.They may not be paying taxes.They may be taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers.You are using all those resources instead of strengthening borders.And that’s not a smart outcome.

The second approach would be to pass laws that say, let’s improve the legal system.Because sometimes people actually would be qualified to come here if the system was just a little smoother, but they end up with a situation where they’ve got to wait years to be reunited with a family member who’s legally here and the heartache just becomes too great.So we’re — in some cases, we’re pushing people into the illegal system because we’re not making the legal system smart enough.

We can get people out of the shadows.We can acknowledge they are our neighbors, our friends, our coworkers.And then we still have to be serious about border security.And there have been times — I want to be very frank — there have been times where I’ve had arguments with immigrant rights activists who say, effectively, you know, there shouldn’t be any rules, these are good people, why should we have any kind of enforcement like this.And my response is, in the eyes of God, everybody is equal.In the eyes of God, some child in Mexico, Guatemala, Libya, Nepal is the equal of my child.

I don’t make any claims that my child is superior to somebody else’s child.But I’m the President of the United States, and nation states have borders.And, frankly, because America is so much wealthier than most countries around the world, if we had no system of enforcing our borders and our laws, then I promise you, everybody would try to come here, or if not everybody — maybe you wouldn’t have that many Swedes or Singaporians try to come here, but a whole lot of folks would try to come.And that we couldn’t accommodate.And it wouldn’t be fair, because there’s — you have to have some sort of line.It can’t just be — it can’t be whoever is able to get in here first, and then — it’s sort of first one to win the race.Because sometimes it’s just an accident that one person lives in a country that has a border with the United States, and another person in Somalia, it’s a lot harder to get here.

So the idea is, then, that what we try to do is to have a system that resets; that acknowledges — and this is where I think most Americans are.They recognize, you know what, people who are already here — many times they’ve been here 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, they’ve got deep roots here, they’ve shown themselves to be good people, their kids are for all practical purposes Americans — let’s just acknowledge they’re part of our community, they’re part of our society.

But then the tradeoff is, let’s try to make the legal system fairer, and in some cases, that means, for example, doing more work at the borders — although, by the way, the real work at the borders is not simply to just — more fencing and more people every five minutes at the borders, because we’ve already got a whole lot of folks at the borders.We can do some other additional stuff, but a lot of it is helping Mexico or helping Central American countries strengthen their economies so people don’t feel desperate and compelled to come here.

But I guess the bottom line is, what I say to folks on the other side of this debate is, work with me to reflect the wisdom of the American people.And I think the American people’s wisdom is, people who are already here, let’s give them a shot, let’s get them out of the shadows, but let’s also set up a legal system that is more reliable, more certain, more fair, doesn’t have people jumping the line, is more honest and reflecting the fact that families, it’s very hard for them to stay separated for 10, 15 years and so you shouldn’t set up a legal system that requires that.You’ve got to figure out a way to have it more reflective of human nature.

Now, does that mean everybody is going to listen to me on the other side?Not necessarily.They’re pretty sure I’m an illegal immigrant.(Laughter.)That was a joke.(Laughter.)But I mean, there are going to be some who just disagree with you.

The good news is, is that over time, these issues work themselves out.Anybody who is of Irish extraction — and that includes me, because I’ve been to a little town in Ireland called Moneygall, where my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather came over here.It turns out he was a boot maker, and it turns out Biden’s guy, Biden’s great-great-great-great-great came from I think the adjoining county within like 20 years.So me and Biden are — really are cousins.(Laughter.)

But anybody of Irish extraction just has to — read your history and look at how people talked about Irish immigrants.I mean, it was just — everything that’s said today was said about them — they’re criminals, they’re shiftless, they are draining our resources, they’re irresponsible, they’re going to change our culture.

And so if you read those passages, then you have to understand that this is not a new phenomenon.But the good news is, it should also be a source of optimism, because over time, essentially, new people get absorbed.And it’s always messy.It’s always a messy piece of business.

But the one thing that I want to emphasize — because sometimes this doesn’t get emphasized enough, and it seems somewhat abstract — but any economist will tell you that economies with younger workforces grow faster than economies with older workforces.One of the biggest advantages America has over Europe, over Japan, over China is we have a younger population.And it’s almost a mathematical certainty that we will grow faster than they do, all things being equal — I mean, we’ve got to make good choices about investing in research and development and education and all that stuff — but all things being equal, we will grow significantly faster than those other countries because our population is younger.

The only reason our population is younger is because we have this tradition of immigrants.Otherwise — because native-born Americans, actually, our birth rates are as low as Europeans’ are.But we replenish ourselves, and that’s good.And, by the way, people who are about my age right now, and who are going to be looking to draw on Social Security, when you’re 70, the way Social Security works, it’s the current workforce that pays for the retired workforce.And so you have a stake in these folks working and paying taxes, these young people, to support your retirement.So this is — it’s good for the economy as well as for our society.

How much time do I have?I want to make sure I’m not — am I doing pretty good?I’ve got a priest here who’s got his hand up, but it’s a woman’s turn first so this is — I’m a little nervous about not calling on him right away but I’m trying to stick to the rules here.(Laughter.)So all right, young lady right in the front here.

Q Hello, Mr. President.I am a senior in high school.And my question to you would be, how can we as young people in our communities get involved to address issues such as immigration or the access to a post-secondary education?What are some things we can do?

THE PRESIDENT:Well, if you’re here, you must already be involved.(Laughter.)You know, getting young people involved in civic life and activism and voting is one of the most important things we can do as a society.Because there are exceptions and there are people who are young at heart and young at mind, but the truth is, you get older, you get stuck in your ways and you start looking backwards and really focused on what was instead of what could be.

And again, part of the reason America has done so well is because we constantly reimagine ourselves, and we have a youthful culture that says, well, let’s — in the words of Robert Kennedy, some people ask why, and we have a tendency to ask why not.And that’s good.

Now, young people are also busy with — I got a couple young people at home — they have other things that they’re interested.I won’t name all of them.Hopefully some if it is their books and doing their homework.(Laughter.)And one of the most concerning things I had about the midterm elections was young people — the voting rates among young people dropped off drastically.

Young people have tended to vote at very high level during my presidential campaigns, but in between, they lose interest.And part of what your peers have to do is to understand that politics and government and policy and all the decisions that are going to shape your lives are not just a matter of one election, but it has to be sustained over time.

And when you think about what’s at stake right now, immigration is obviously a major issue.Climate change — most of those of us who are 50 or over, by the time the problems of a warming climate really hit, we’ll be gone, but you’ll still be around and your kids will be here.And if it’s having a significant impact on weather patterns, and drought, and wildfires, and flooding, and food, and migration, it’s not going to be pretty.So you have to get involved now to do something about it.

When we look at higher education costs, historically, Congress and state legislatures are more attentive to the demands of seniors than they are the demands of young people for one simple reason:Seniors vote, young people don’t.If you want state legislatures to increase support for higher education that then can help reduce tuition, then young people have to vote at a higher percentage than just 12 percent of those who vote.

Look at what’s happening right now with respect to concerns about bias and law enforcement, and policing.I mean, I met with a group of young activists, including several from Ferguson, to talk to them, and I was very impressed with how they presented themselves, and they were very serious and thoughtful.And I told them, I said, listen, I want you to continue to be active, because that’s how change happens.You need to be respectful.You need to understand that you’re not going to get 100 percent of the change that is needed, because that’s never been how society works, but if you are steady and you sustain it and you push it and you don’t tired or disappointed when you get half a loaf instead of a whole loaf, over time, the country and the world is transformed.

And I’m confident that — I said in an interview recently — America is a more just place, and issues of racial discrimination are lessened today than they were 50 years ago or 20 years ago, but that didn’t just happen by accident, that happened because people — especially young people — helped to make it happen.And over time, change occurs and people adjust to a new reality, and they open their heart and mind to new possibilities.And young people are typically the triggers of that.

So I think when your leaders like — young leaders like you are talking to your friends, you’ve got to just remind them that you have responsibilities and obligations.And make sure that you serve pizza at the meetings — (laughter) — because free food always helps when getting young people involved in social causes.(Laughter.)

All right, Father.Thank you for your patience there, sir.You’ve got a microphone behind you.

Q Father Joseph Freen (ph), native Nashvillian.I think I speak on behalf of a good number of people, Mr. President, of both parties — some you know may not agree with some of your policies.But I think I can speak for so many who are so proud of you for giving such a great example of a husband, of a father, and doing your very best as a President.

So we are very proud of you, grateful you’ve come to Nashville.We wish for you — I’m sure on behalf of all of us — a joyful and a blessed Christmas to you.

THE PRESIDENT:Well, I appreciate that very much.That’s very nice.Thank you.(Applause.)

I appreciate that, Father.It’s worth considering the Good Book when you’re thinking about immigration.This Christmas season there’s a whole story about a young, soon-to-be-mother and her husband of modest means looking for a place to house themselves for the night, and there’s no room at the inn.

And as I said the day that I announced these executive actions, we were once strangers too.And part of what my faith teaches me is to look upon the stranger as part of myself.And during this Christmas season, that’s a good place to start.

So thank you for your generous comment.But if we’re serious about the Christmas season, now is a good time to reflect on those who are strangers in our midst, and remember what it was like to be a stranger.

Last question.That was a pretty good place to end, though.(Laughter.)I got to admit.I kind of want to — but I’m going to call on one more person.Gentlemen, you can all put your hands down.I’m going to call on this young lady right here.

Q Hi, Mr. President.I’m an immigration attorney.And I wonder, what are the things that you deem necessary for comprehensive immigration reform if Congress does act soon?

THE PRESIDENT:Well, the Senate bill is a pretty good place to start.I do think there’s more work we can do at the borders.As I said before, it’s not just a matter of pouring money down there.

I’ll give you one very simple example.You’ll recall that some of the politics of this shifted during the summer when these unaccompanied children were here.And there was two weeks of wall-to-wall coverage.And we were being invaded by 8-, and 12- and 13-year-olds.I mean it was just terrifying, apparently.But it reflected a serious problem.You had smugglers, coyotes, who were essentially taking money from family members here, shuttling these kids up — it wasn’t that they weren’t apprehended.It wasn’t like they snuck through the border.What happened was they basically presented themselves at the border.They’d come in.And because there are so few immigration judges down there, because we hadn’t done a very good job cooperating with Central America and Mexico to deal — go after these smugglers, you’d then have a situation which the kids would oftentimes simply be released to the family member, and then that was the end of the things.

And so one of the things that we’ve done is — well, several things we did.Number one, I met with the Central American leaders down there and said, listen, you can’t — you’ve got to do something to message to families down here:Do not send your children on a dangerous path like this because we don’t know how many of them might have gotten killed, gotten abducted, trafficked in some terrible way.We have no way of keeping track of that.You can’t have them take this dangerous journey.

And to their credit, those Central American countries worked with us.We said to Mexico, you’ve got to do something more about the southern border.They did that.We now have the number of unaccompanied children below the rate that it was two years ago.So this was a momentary spike.

But also what we need to do is make sure that we have enough immigration lawyers down there that you can process kids and immigration judges to process kids in a timely fashion, but with due process so that if they have legitimate refugee claims, those can be presented, and if not, then they can be returned home.

So that’s not a strict border issue.It’s not a fence issue.It’s “have you set up a sensible process” issue.So I think that’s one pillar.

Second pillar is improving the legal immigration system.I already mentioned this but I’ll just repeat a couple of examples.Somebody who potentially qualifies to be a resident here, forcing them to leave the country and then waiting for years before they come back when they’ve got family members here, that’s just not how the human heart works.It’s very hard to expect somebody to do that.

Let’s have a more sensible, streamlined system.Let’s reduce some of the backlogs that already exist for people who actually qualify, but it’s just they’re waiting in line so long that they get frustrated.Let’s do something for especially talented and skilled people who are graduating.We educate them.We should be stapling a green card to graduates of top schools in fields that we know we need.And by the way, we can charge fees that we then use to make sure that American kids are getting the kinds of scholarships and training they need for those same jobs in the future.

We need to do more work.We need to deal with the agricultural sector.I’m generally skeptical when you hear employers say, well, we just can’t find any Americans to do the job.A lot of times what they really mean is, it’s a lot cheaper if we potentially hire somebody who has just come here before they know better in terms of what they’re worth.

But in the agriculture sector, there’s truth.We enjoy a lot of cheap fruits and vegetables and food stuffs because of the back-breaking work of farm workers.And we should find a system that is fair, make sure that they are not subject to exploitation, and helps us run the economy.We should make sure that we’re cracking down on employers who are purposely hiring undocumented workers so that they can get around minimum wage laws or overtime laws, so forth.

And finally, as I’ve discussed this whole afternoon, we should get people out of the shadows.And the Senate bill I thought had a sensible approach, which said, if you’ve been here a certain amount of time, you’ve got a clean record, you’re willing to submit yourself to a background check, you’re willing to pay back-taxes, you’re willing to pay a fine, learn English, go to the back of the line, but if you do all that, you can stay here for now and we’re going to put you on a pathway where eventually you can earn your citizenship, although it will be many years into the future because we still have to clear out those folks who did it the right way.

This concept — what I just described, that package — has bipartisan support.It’s not that it doesn’t have bipartisan support.The challenge is, is that there’s a certain segment — primarily within the Republican Party, although in fairness, in the Democratic Party there are some people who are resistant as well, who just keep on believing this notion of, that’s amnesty, that’s amnesty.

And what amnesty implies I think in the minds of the American people is that you’re getting something for nothing; that you’re getting over.And when you describe for people that, in fact, you do have to get a background check, you do have to register, you do have to pay fines, you do have to pay back-taxes, then people feel differently.But that’s never advertised by opponents.And that’s one reason why, by the way, that I’ve said to immigrant rights groups, you have to describe the responsibility side of this and not just the rights side of this.Because I think sometimes — I appreciate the immigrant rights groups.They speak from the heart, and they know the people involved.And they love them, and they want to just do right by them.And I get that.

But this is where you need to look at the other side of the equation and what people feel like is, you know what, if you’re just coming here for nothing, and I don’t know that you’re paying your taxes and you broke the law, and now suddenly I’m paying for your kid’s school and your kid’s hospitalization, and if feels unfair — at a time when people are already feeling burdened by their own challenges, trying to afford their own kid’s college education, or feeling like they’re worried about their own retirement.

So the langue we use I think is important.You have to speak to the fact that — if somebody broke the law, even if they’re good people, they’ve got to be held accountable.And there are going to be responsibilities involved in it.Because if it’s just rights and no responsibilities, then people feel resentful.

That make sense?All right, guys, I enjoyed spending time with you.Thank you.(Applause.)

END
3:37 P.M. CST

Full Text Obama Presidency July 28, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks in a Town Hall with the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Town Hall with the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

Source: WH, 7-28-14

Omni Shoreham Hotel
Washington, D.C.

11:10 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Hello, everybody.  Thank you.  (Applause.) Thank you so much.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Have a seat.  We’re just getting started here.  Well, hello, everybody.  (Applause.)  Welcome to Washington.  I know most of you are visiting our country for the first time.  So on behalf of the American people, welcome to the United States of America.  (Applause.)  We are thrilled to have you here.  And to everybody who’s watching online across Africa, or at watch parties, or following through social media — you are a part of this, too, and we’re very glad that you’re with us.

And can everybody please give Faith a big round of applause for the great introduction.  (Applause.)  I have to say Faith didn’t seem very intimidated by the — (applause) — she seemed not lacking in confidence.  (Laughter.)  And she’s doing great work in South Africa to empower young people and young entrepreneurs, especially women.

Now, I’m not here to give a big speech.  The whole idea of a town hall is for me to be able to hear from you.  But first, I want to speak briefly about why I believe so strongly in all of you being here today.

Next week, I’ll host a truly historic event — the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, where nearly 50 Presidents and Prime Ministers attend from just about all of your countries.  It will be the largest gathering any American President has ever hosted with African heads of state and government.  And the summit reflects a principle that has guided my approach to Africa ever since I became President — that the security and prosperity and justice that we seek in the world cannot be achieved without a strong and prosperous and self-reliant Africa.

And even as we deal with crises and challenges in other parts of the world that often dominate our headlines, even as we acknowledge the real hardships that so many Africans face every day, we have to make sure that we’re seizing the extraordinary potential of today’s Africa, which is the youngest and fastest-growing of the continents.

So next week’s summit will focus on how we can continue to build a new model of partnership between America and Africa — a partnership of equals that focuses on your capacity to expand opportunity and strengthen democracy and promote security and peace.  But this can’t be achieved by government alone.  It demands the active engagement of citizens, especially young people.

And so that’s why, four years ago, I launched the Young African Leaders Initiative to make sure that we’re tapping into the incredible talent and creativity of young Africans like you. (Applause.)  Since then, we’ve partnered with thousands of young people across the continent — empowering them with the skills and the training and technology they need to start new businesses, to spark change in their communities, to promote education and health care and good governance.

And last year in South Africa, at a town hall like this in Soweto — some of you were there -— I announced the next step, which was the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.  The objective was to give young Africans the opportunity to come to the United States and develop their skills as the next generation of leaders in civil society and business and government.

And the response was overwhelming.  Across the continent, young men and women set out on a journey.  In remote villages with no phones and Internet, they navigated the back roads, and they traveled by bus and train to reach larger towns and cities
-— just to get an online application for the program.  One young woman from rural Zimbabwe took a five-hour bus ride, then another six-hour bus ride, then another seven-hour bus ride — a two-day journey -— just to get her interview.

And ultimately, some 50,000 extraordinary young Africans applied.  And today they’re at the heart of what we’re calling our YALI Network, the online community across Africa that’s sharing their ideas and forging new collaborations to realize the change that they seek.  And I want everybody out there in the YALI Network to know that you’re the foundation of our partnership with Africa’s youth.

So today, we’re thrilled to welcome you, our Washington Fellows, to an exchange program unlike any other that America has ever had with Africa.  And among your ranks is that young woman from Zimbabwe who endured all those bus rides.  So we want to welcome Abbigal Muleya.  (Applause.)  Where’s Abbigal?  Where’s Abbigal?  Where is she?  There’s Abbigal.  (Applause.)  That’s a lot of bus rides.  (Laughter.)

Now, I do have a first item of business.  As I said, I launched this fellowship in Soweto, not far from the original home of Nelson Mandela.  And the spirit of this program reflects Madiba’s optimism, his idealism, his belief in what he called “the endless heroism of youth.”  And so today, with the blessing of the Mandela family, to whom we’re so grateful, we are proud to announce that the new name of this program is the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.  (Applause.)  So you’re the first class of Mandela Washington Fellows.  (Applause.)

Now, I know all of you have been busy — all of you have been busy at some of America’s top colleges and universities.  You’ve been learning how to build a grassroots organization, and how to run a business, and how to manage an institution.  As one of you said, “My brain has been bubbling with all sorts of ideas.”  And I know you’ve also been developing your own ideas for meeting the challenges that we’ll address at next week’s summit.  And I wanted you to know I’ve read some of the recommendations that were produced at each university and college, and I thought they were outstanding pieces of work.  And that’s what I want you to hear today -— your ideas, your vision for Africa.

Here at this summit, you’re going to engage with some of our nation’s leading voices, including someone who I know you can’t wait to see, which is Michelle Obama, because — (applause.)   But many members of Congress, who are strong supporters of this program, are also here.  Where are the members of Congress?  I know that we’ve got a few.  There you are.  (Applause.)  So some outstanding members of Congress are here.  You’ll get a chance to meet some of them.  And I know some of you are headed off to internships in some of our nation’s leading companies and organizations.  One of you said, “I will take what I’ve learned here and put it into practice back home.”  And that’s the whole idea.

And I want to say, by the way — I took some pictures with some of the university officials who had hosted all of you, and uniformly they said they could not have been more impressed with all of you, and what a great job you did in engaging and taking advantage of the program.  So, thank you.  (Applause.)

I know you’ve also been experiencing America as well, the places that make us who we are, including my hometown of Chicago. (Applause.)  You’ve experienced some of our traditions, like a block party.  (Laughter.)  You’ve experienced some of our food — Faith said she ate a lot of Texas barbeque when she was in Austin.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS:  Wooo!

THE PRESIDENT:  You really liked that barbeque, huh?  (Laughter.)  So you got the whole Longhorn thing going on and all that?  (Laughter.)

And Americans have been learning from you as well, because every interaction is a chance for Americans to see the Africa that so often is overlooked in the media — the Africa that is innovative and growing and dynamic.  And a new generation, all of you, on Facebook and Twitter, and creating new ways to connect — like Yookos and MXit.  I see some of you tweeting this town hall — (laughter) — although mostly I see these guys shifting into the seat over and over again so everybody can get a picture.  (Laughter.)  Don’t think I didn’t notice.  (Laughter.)  You all just — you need to stay in your chairs.  (Laughter.)  Everybody thinks they’re slick.  (Applause.)

So the point is, our young leaders — our Young African Leaders initiative is a long-term investment in all of you and in Africa and the future that we can build together.  And today, I want to announce some next steps that I think are important.

First, given the extraordinary demand for this fellows program, we’re going to double it so that in two years, we’ll welcome a thousand Mandela Washington fellows to the United States every year.  (Applause.)  So that’s good news.

Second, we’ll do even more to support young entrepreneurs with new grants to help you start a business or a nonprofit, and training thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs in smaller towns and rural areas.  And given the success for our annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit, I can announce that next year’s summit will be hosted for the first time in Sub-Saharan Africa, which I think is going to be terrific.  (Applause.)

Third, we’re launching a whole new set of tools to empower young African through our YALI network — new online courses and mentoring, new ways to meet up and network across Africa and around the world, new training sessions and meetings with experts on how to launch startups.  And it all begins today.  And to get started, all you have to do is to go to Yali.state.gov — Yali.state.gov — and that will give you information about how you can access all these resources going forward.

And finally, we’re creating new regional leadership centers across Africa.  So we’re joining with American universities, African institutions, and private sector partners like Microsoft and MasterCard Foundation — we want to thank the two of them; they’re really helping to finance this.  So give Microsoft and MasterCard Foundation a round of applause.  (Applause.)  Starting next year, young Africans can come to these centers to network and access the latest technology, and get training in management and entrepreneurship.  And we’re starting in Senegal, Ghana, South Africa and Kenya.  (Applause.)  And we aim to help tens of thousands of young Africans access the skills and resources they need to put their ideas into action.

So the point of all of this is we believe in you.  I believe in you.  I believe in every one of you who are doing just extraordinary things — like Adepeuju Jaiyeoba.  (Applause.)  In Nigeria — there’s Adepeuju.  In Nigeria, she saw a close friend die during childbirth.  She now helps train birth attendants, and delivers kits with sterile supplies, and helping to save the lives of countless mothers and their babies.  So we want to thank Adepeuju.  (Applause.)  We want her to save even more lives.

Or, to give you another example, Robert Nkwangu from Uganda. (Applause.)  There’s Robert.  So Robert is deaf, but even though he can’t hear, he can see that the stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities must end.  (Applause.)  He’s been their champion.  He’s standing up for the rights in schools and on the job.  (Applause.)  So thank you, Robert.  We want to be your partner in standing up for the universal rights of all people.

I believe in Mame Bousso Ndiaye.  (Applause.)  So in Senegal, she’s taking a stand against the human trafficking that condemns too many women and girls to forced labor and sexual slavery.  She runs an academy that gives them education and skills to find a job and start new lives.  And so, we are so proud of you.  Thank you for the good work that you’re doing.  (Applause.)  We want to help you help these young women and girls to the kind of future of dignity that we want for every woman all across the continent and all around the world.

And I believe in Hastings Mkandawire.  Where’s Hastings?  (Applause.)  In rural Malawi, he saw towns in darkness, without electricity.  So now he gathers scrap metal, builds generators on his porch, takes them down to the stream for power, delivers electricity so farmers can irrigate their crops and children can study at night.  Hastings, thank you.  (Applause.)  We want to help you power Africa.  (Applause.)

And everybody here has a story, and we believe in all of you.  We see what’s possible.  And we see the vision that all of you have — not because of what you’ve seen here in America, but because what you’ve already done back home, what you see in each other and what you see in yourself.

Sobel Ngom, from Senegal.  (Applause.)  Sobel has a wonderful quote.  He has a wonderful quote.  He said, “Here, I have met Africa, the [Africa] I have always believed in.  She’s beautiful.  She’s young.  She’s full of talent and motivation and ambition.”  And that’s a good description.  (Applause.)  And being here with all of you, and learning together and working together and dreaming together has only strengthened his determination, he says, to realize “my aspirations for my country and my continent.”

So to Sobel and to all of you, and to everyone across Africa who joins our Young Leaders Initiative, I want to thank you for inspiring us with your talent and your motivation and your ambition.  You’ve got great aspirations for your countries and your continent.  And as you build that brighter future that you imagine, I want to make sure that the United States of America is going to be your friend and partner every step of the way.

So thank you very much, everybody.  Let’s get a few questions and comments in this town hall.  (Applause.)

So, okay, I know this is kind of a rowdy crowd.  (Laughter.) First of all, I want everybody to sit down.  Sit down.  Now, I’m not going to be able to call on everybody, so just a couple of rules.  Number one, don’t start standing up and waving or shouting.  Just raise your hand and I will try to select from the audience, and I’ll try to take as many questions as possible.  So let’s keep the questions — or comments relatively brief, and I will try to give a brief answer — although if you ask me what are we going to do about ending war, then that may require a longer answer.  So we’ll see how it goes.  So that’s rule number one.

Rule number two, we should have microphones in the audience, and so wait — when I call on you, wait until the microphone comes.  The attendant will hold it in front of you.  You can answer.  Please introduce yourself, tell us what country you’re from, and ask your question or make your remark.  Number two, just to make sure it’s fair, we’re going to go boy, girl, boy, girl.  (Laughter.)  In fact, you know what — in fact, we’re going to go girl, boy, girl, boy.  (Laughter.)  That’s what we’re going to do.  Because one of the things we want to teach about Africa is how strong the women are and how we’ve got to empower women.  (Applause.)

All right?  So let’s see who we’re going to call on first.  This young lady right here.  Right here.  So wait until the mic is there.  Here, there’s somebody right behind you who’s got the microphone.  Introduce yourself and — welcome.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’m from South Africa.  And my question is, previously Nelson Mandela had inspired the foundation of the South Africa Fund for Enterprises.  It has run for two decades, and it has since been stopped.  Is there any chance to develop another fund for enterprises in Africa?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s a great question.  One of the things that’s been interesting in not only some of the platforms that you developed at your universities, but also during my trips to Africa is the degree to which young Africans are less interested in aid and more interested in how can they create opportunity through business and entrepreneurship and trade.  Not to say that we do not need to deal with very serious challenges in terms of poverty.  We need to make sure that we are continuing to work on behalf of the least of these.  But what I think everybody recognizes is that if you want sustained development and sustained opportunity and sustained self-determination, then the key is to own what is produced, and to be able to create jobs and opportunity organically and indigenously, and then be able to meet the world on equal terms.

So part of the challenge in entrepreneurship is financing.  And for so many individuals across the continent, it’s just very difficult to get that initial startup money.  And the truth is, is that in many communities around Africa it’s not that you need so much, but you need something, that little seed capital.

And so what we’d like to do is to work with programs that are already existing, to find out where are the gaps in terms of financing, and then to make sure that we are utilizing the resources that we have in the most intelligent way possible to target young entrepreneurs to create small- and medium-sized businesses all across the continent that hopefully grow into large businesses.  And if we’re supplementing that kind of financing with the training and networking that may be available through YALI, then we could see the blossoming of all kinds of entrepreneurial activities all across the continent that eventually grow into larger businesses.

And so we are very interested in this.  This will be a primary focus of the summit that we have with the African leaders next week — how do we make sure that financing is available, and, by the way, how do we make sure that the financing does not just go to those who are already at the top; how do we make sure that it filters down.  You shouldn’t have to be the son of somebody or the daughter of somebody — (applause) — you should be able to get — if you’ve got a good idea, you should be able to test that idea and be judged on your own merits.

And that’s where I think we can help bypass what oftentimes is in, sadly, too many countries a system in which you have to know somebody in order to be able to finance your ideas.

One thing I do want to say, though — keep in mind, even in the United States, if you’re starting a business, it’s always hard getting financing.  So there are a lot of U.S. entrepreneurs and small business people, when they’re starting off, they’re borrowing from their brothers and their sisters, and begging and scratching and taking credit cards and they’re running up debt.  Inherently, there is risk involved.  And so I don’t want to give you anybody the illusion who is out there starting a business or wanting to launch a business that it’s going to be easy.  It will not be.

But there are ways where we can make a difference.  And oftentimes, particularly in rural areas of Africa, you don’t need a lot of capital to get started, right?  So you may be able — if you buy one piece of equipment that can increase yields for a whole bunch of farmers in that community, and then the additional profits that they make now allows you to buy two pieces of equipment, and then four, and then eight, you can grow fairly rapidly because the baseline of capital in that community may be relatively low.  So you don’t necessarily have huge barriers of entry.  You just have to make sure that you have that initial capital.

But of course, in communities like that, even a small amount of capital can be hard to come by.  And that’s why making sure that this is a top priority of our efforts is something that we’ll really emphasize.  Okay?

All right, let’s see — it’s a gentleman’s turn.  I’m going to call on this guy just because he’s so tall.  (Laughter.)  I always like — I like height.  (Laughter.)  There you go.  All right, go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’m from Senegal.  President Obama is the first President of the United States of Africa.  (Applause.)  I would like to know can you share the two important issues you will discuss as the first President of the United Nation of Africa?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, I’m the first African American President of the United States.  I wasn’t sure of — heads of state?  What are the top two issues that I’m going to be discussing when we’re in the summit tomorrow?

Q    If Africa becomes the United States of Africa —

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, I see.

Q    — and you get the chance to meet the first president.

THE PRESIDENT:  I see, okay.  All right, so this is sort of like a — it’s kind of an intellectual exercise.  If I were to discuss — no, no, now I understand your question.

Q    It’s clear?

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s an interesting question.  The idea is if somehow Africa unified into a United States of Africa, what would be something that I would say to him or her —

Q    Yes.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, I think the thing that I would emphasize first and foremost is the issue of governance.  Now, sometimes this is an issue that raises some sensitivities because I think people feel like who’s the United States to tell us how to govern.  We have different systems.  We have different traditions.  What may work for the United States may not work for us.  Oh, and by the way, the United States, we don’t see that Congress is always cooperating so well and your system is not perfect.

I understand all that.  So let’s acknowledge all that.  What I will say is this, that regardless of the resources a country possesses, regardless of how talented the people are, if you do not have a basic system of rule of law, of respect for civil rights and human rights, if you do not give people a credible, legitimate way to work through the political process to express their aspirations, if you don’t respect basic freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, if there are not laws in place in which everybody is equal under the law so that there’s not one set of rules for the well-connected and another set of rules for ordinary people, if you do not have an economic system that is transparent and accountable so that people trust that if they work hard they will be rewarded for their work and corruption is rooted out — if you don’t have those basic mechanisms, it is very rare for a country to succeed.

I will go further than that:  That country will not succeed over the long term.  It may succeed over the short term because it may have natural resources that it can extract, and it can generate enough money to then distribute and create patronage networks.  But over time, that country will decline.

And if you look at examples around the world, you’ll have a country like Singapore which has nothing — it’s a small, tiny, city-state with not a lot of — it has no real natural resources, and yet it’s taken off.  And you have other countries, which I won’t mention — (laughter) — that have incredible resources, but because there’s not a basic system of rule of law that people have confidence in, it never takes off and businesses never take root.

And so what I would emphasize is governance as a starting point.  It’s not alone sufficient.  You then also have to have over time infrastructure.  And you also have to have an education system that’s in place.  And there are all kinds of other elements that are necessary.  But if you don’t have the basic premise that ordinary citizens can succeed based on their individual efforts, that they don’t have to pay a bribe in order to start a business or even get a telephone, that they won’t be shaken down when they’re driving down the street because the police officers aren’t getting paid enough, and this is the accepted way to supplement their income — if you don’t have those things in place, then over time there’s no trust in the society.  People don’t have confidence that things are working the way that they should.  And so then everybody starts trying to figure out, okay, what’s my angle?  How am I going to get my thing?  And it creates a culture in which you can’t really take off.

Look, you’re never going to eliminate 100 percent of corruption.  Here in the United States, occasionally we have to throw people in jail for taking money for contracts or having done favors for politicians.  All that’s true.  But the difference here in the United States — and it’s true in many of the more developed, industrialized countries — is that’s more the aberration rather than the norm.

I mean, the truth is here in the United States, if you want to start a business, you go ahead and you file papers, you can incorporate.  You might have to pay a fee of $50 or $100 or whatever it ends up being, and that’s it.  You’ve got your business.  Now, the business might not be making any money at that point, you still got to do a whole bunch of stuff to succeed — but the point is, is that basically rule of law is observed.  That’s the norm.  That’s what happens 95 percent of the time.

And that’s I think where you have to start.  And that’s where young people I think have to have high expectations for their leadership.  And don’t be fooled by this notion that, well, we have a different way, an African way.  Well, no.  (Laughter.) The African way is not that you suddenly have a — you’ve been in office and then, suddenly, you have a Swiss bank account of $2 billion.  That’s not the African way.  (Applause.)

And part of rule of law, by the way, is also that leaders eventually give up power over time.  It doesn’t have to be the same way all the time.  But if you have entrenched leadership forever, then what happens over time is it just — you don’t get new ideas and new blood.  And it is inevitable I think sometimes that rule of law becomes less and less observed because people start being more concerned, about keeping their positions than doing the right thing.

Okay, great question, even though it took me a while to understand it.  (Laughter.)

So it’s a young lady’s turn.  Let me make sure that I’m not restricting myself to — how about that young lady right there.  Yes, you.  (Laughter.)  Hold on a second, the microphone is coming.

Q    Good morning, Mr. President.  I’m from Botswana.  I just wanted to find out how committed is the U.S. to assisting Africa in closing gender inequalities, which are contributing to gender-based violence, which it threatens the achievement of many Millennium Development goals, such as access to universal education, eradicating HIV and AIDS.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, listen, you will not find anybody more committed than I am to this issue, and let me tell you why.

First of all, I was mentioning earlier, if you look comparatively at countries around the world, what societies succeed, which ones don’t, one of the single-best measures of whether a country succeeds or not is how it treats its women.  (Applause.)  And if you think about it, it makes sense, because, first of all, women are half your population.  So if you have a team — we just finished the World Cup, right — if you have a soccer team — what you all call a football team — and you go out and the other side has a full team and you send out half your team, how are you going to do?  You will not do as well.

If you are not empowering half of your population that means you have half as few possible scientists, half as few possible engineers.  You are crippling your own development unnecessarily. So that’s point number one.

Point number two is if you educate and empower and respect a mother, then you are educating the children, right?  So with a man, you educate him, yeah, it’s okay.  (Laughter.)  A woman, you educate her, and suddenly you’ve got an entire village, an entire region, an entire country suddenly is becoming educated.

So this is an absolute priority for us.  And we’ll be discussing this with the heads of state and government that we see next week.  And we’ve seen some progress on some fronts, but this is where sometimes traditions can get in the way.

And as many of you know, my father was from Kenya, and — (applause) — that’s the Kenyan contingent.  (Laughter.)  But I think what applies to Kenya is true and applies to many of the countries in Africa — and this is not unique to Africa, we see this in other parts of the world — some of the old ways of gender relations might have made sense in a particular setting.  So in Kenya, for example, in the Luo tribe, polygamy existed.  It was based on the idea that women had their own compounds, they had their own land, and so they were empowered in that area to be self-sufficient.  And then urbanization happened; suddenly the men may be traveling to the city and suddenly there is another family in the city and the women who were left back in the villages may not be empowered in the same way.  So what worked then might not work today — in fact, does not work today.  And if you seek to — if you try to duplicate traditions that were based on an entirely different economy and an entirely different society and entirely different expectations, well, that’s going to break down.  It’s not going to work.

So as a continent, you have to update and create new traditions.  And that’s where young people come in.  You don’t have to accept what’s the old ways of doing things.  You can respect the past and respect traditions while while recognizing they have to be adapted to a new age.

Now, I have to say there are some traditions that just have to be gotten rid of and there’s no excuse for them.  Female genital mutilation — I’m sorry, I don’t consider that a tradition worth hanging on to.  (Applause.)  I think that’s a tradition that is barbaric and should be eliminated.  Violence towards women — I don’t care for that tradition.  I’m not interested in it.  It needs to be eliminated.  (Applause.)

So part of the task is to find what traditions are worth hanging on to and what traditions you got to get rid of.  I mean, there was a tradition in medicine that if you were sick, they would bleed you.  That’s a bad tradition.  And we discovered, let’s try other things — like medicine.  (Laughter.)  So we don’t have to cling on to things that just don’t work.  And subjugating women does not work, and the society will fail as a consequence.  (Applause.)

So everything we do, every program that we have — any education program that we have, any health program that we have, any small business or economic development program that we have, we will write into it a gender equality component to it.  This is not just going to be some side note.  This will be part of everything that we do.

And the last point I’m going to make — in order for this to be successful, all the men here have to be just as committed to empowering women as the women are.  (Applause.)  That’s important.  So don’t think that this is just a job for women, to worry about women’s issues.  The men have to worry about it.  And if you’re a strong man, you should not feel threatened by strong women.  (Applause.)

All right.  So we’ve got gentleman’s turn.  This gentleman in this bright tie right here.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Your Excellency.  I’m coming from Kenya.

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey, habari?

Q    Mzuri sana.  (Applause.)  Asante sana (Swahili) opportunity.

Africa is losing her people to starvation and diseases, which are otherwise curable.  And this is largely because our governments are establishing very huge debts to the G8 countries. As a global leader in the family of nations, when will the U.S. lead the other G8 countries in forgiving Africa these debts so that our governments can be in a position to deliver and provide essential services, like social, health care, and the infrastructural development services to our people?  (Applause.) Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Well, let me make a couple of points on this.  First of all, I think it’s important to recognize on issues of health the significant progress that has been made — because I think sometimes we are so properly focused on the challenges that we forget to remind ourselves how far we’ve come. And when you know how far you’ve come, it gives you confidence about how much further you can go.

So over the last 20 years, HIV occurrence has been cut in half in Africa — half.  Tuberculosis and malaria deaths have been reduced by 40 percent and 30 percent respectively; 50 percent fewer women die giving birth; 50 million children’s lives have been spared.  And most importantly, now what we’re doing is not just providing assistance through programs like PEPFAR, but we’re also empowering governments themselves to begin to set up public health infrastructure and networks, and training nurses and clinicians and specialists so that it becomes self-sufficient.  So we’re making progress.

Now, I think there is a legitimate discussion to be had around debt forgiveness.  And in meetings with what now is the G7, I just want to let you know — (laughter) — but that’s a whole other topic that — (laughter) — we don’t want to get too far afield — I think there’s genuine openness to how can we help make sure that countries are not saddled with debts that may have been squandered by past leaders, but now hamstrung countries — are making countries unable to get out from under the yoke of those debts.

The only thing I will do, though, is I will challenge the notion that the primary reason that there’s been a failure of service delivery is because of onerous debt imposed by the West. Let me say something that may be somewhat controversial.  And I’m older than all of you — that I know.  (Laughter.)  By definition, if you’re my age you’re not supposed to be in this program.  (Laughter.)  You lied about your age.  (Laughter.)  When I was a college student, issues of dependency and terms of trade and the legacy of colonialism, those were all topics of great, fervent discussion.  And there is no doubt that, dating back to the colonial era, you can trace many of the problems that have plagued the continent — whether it’s how lines were drawn without regard to natural boundaries and tribal and ethnic relationships; whether you look at all the resources that were extracted and the wealth that was extracted without any real return to the nature of trade as it developed in the ‘60s and the ‘70s, so that value was never actually produced in country, but was sent somewhere else.  There are all kinds of legitimate arguments you can look at in terms of history that impeded African development.

But at some point, we have to stop looking somewhere else for solutions, and you have to start looking for solutions, internally.  And as powerful as history is and you need to know that history, at some point, you have to look to the future and say, okay, we didn’t get a good deal then, but let’s make sure that we’re not making excuses for not going forward.

And the truth is, is that there’s not a single country in Africa — and by the way, this is true for the United States as well — that with the resources it had could not be doing better. So there are a lot of countries that are generating a lot of wealth.  I’m not going to name any, but you can guess.  This is a well-educated crowd.  There are a lot of countries that are generating a lot of income, have a lot of natural resources, but aren’t putting that money back into villages to educate children. There are a lot of countries where the leaders have a lot of resources, but the money is not going back to provide health clinics for young mothers.

So, yes, I think it’s important for Western countries and advanced countries to look at past practices — if loans have been made to countries that weren’t put into productive enterprises by those leaders at that time, those leaders may be long gone but countries are still unable to dig themselves out from under those debts — can we strategically in pin-point fashion find ways to assist and provide some relief.  That’s a legitimate discussion.  But do not think that that is the main impediment at this point to why we have not seen greater progress in many countries, because there’s enough resources there in-country, even if debts are being serviced, to do better than we’re doing in many cases.

Okay, so it’s a young lady’s turn.  I haven’t gotten anybody way back in the back there.  So how about that young lady right there with the glasses.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  My name is Zu (ph).

THE PRESIDENT:  Zu? (ph).  I like that name.

Q    Yes, from Madagascar.

THE PRESIDENT:  From?

Q    Madagascar.

THE PRESIDENT:  Madagascar.

Q    It’s a great honor for me, Mr. President, to thank you on behalf of the Malagasy people to reintegrate Madagascar last month in the AGOA.  And my question is, at it will end on 2015, we want to have your confirmation right here what will happen after 2015.  We all know that the AGOA was a great way to decrease youth unemployment in our country, so what will happen after this, the end?  Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  So AGOA, for those of you — I think everybody here is probably aware — this is one of the primary tools we have to promote trade between the United States and many African countries.  It’s set to expire.  There’s a negotiation process taking place as we speak.  More progress will be made next week.  I think that we’ve learned some lessons about what works and what doesn’t through the first stage of AGOA.  In some cases, what we’ve discovered is, is that many countries can’t — even if they have no tariff barriers that they’re experiencing, they still have problems in terms of getting their goods to market.  And so part of what we’re trying to do is to find ways in which we can lower some of the other barriers to export for African countries — not just the tariffs issue, but how can we make sure that there is greater transportation networks; how can we make sure that trade financing is in place; what are the other mechanisms that may inhibit exports from African countries.  So that’s the first thing.

On a separate track, part of what we’re also trying to figure out is how can we promote inter-African trade.  Because so often — and this does relate to a legacy of the past and colonialism — you have strong infrastructure to send flowers from Kenya to Paris, but it’s very hard to send tea from Kenya down to Tanzania — much closer, but the infrastructure is not built.  And so part of what we have to do is to try to find ways to integrate Africa.

Much of that is a question of infrastructure.  Some of it has to do with coordinating regulatory systems between countries. We’re embarking on some experiments starting in East Africa to see if we can get Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania — see, you guys know all of them.  (Laughter.)  We’re starting to work with these countries to see can we get some blocks of effective trading taking place.

Because, look, obviously there’s going to be a certain market for certain goods — I mentioned flowers from Kenya.  The market — that’s primarily going to be in some of the wealthier countries.  But there are going to be some goods that it’s going to be much easier to sell.  If I’m a Kenyan businessman, it’s going to be easier for me to sell my goods to a Tanzanian or a Ugandan than it is for me to try to compete with Nike or Apple in the United States.  Right?

And historically, when you look at how trade develops — if you look at Asia, for example, which obviously has grown extraordinarily fast — a huge volume of that trade is within the region first, and then over time that becomes a launching pad from which to trade globally.

So this is an area where I think we can also provide some assistance and help.  But just to answer directly your question, we are very strongly committed to making sure that AGOA is reauthorized.  And obviously, we’ve got a bunch of members of Congress here who care about this deeply, as well.

How much time do we have, by the way?  I just want to make sure — he said, one hour.  (Laughter.)  Okay, I think we’ve got time for two more questions.

AUDIENCE:  Awww —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’m sorry, but — (laughter.)  So it’s a gentleman’s turn.  Let me see — this gentleman in the white right here.  That guy right there.  Hold on one second, let’s get a microphone on him.

Q    Hi, I’m from Liberia.  It is a pleasure meeting you, Mr. President.  My question has to do with the issue of antitrust law.  You will be meeting our leaders next week.  Will you discuss the issue of antitrust law that will protect young entrepreneurs in Africa?  If not, are you willing to include it on your agenda, please, to solve our problems back home?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, obviously, each country is different, and I’ll be honest with you, I’m not familiar with the antitrust laws in every country.  But what I would certainly commit to do is to talk about antitrust in the broader context of what I said at the beginning after maybe the first question, and that is the issue of rule of law and how it interacts with the economy.

If you have monopolies or collusion between a few companies that create artificial barriers to new entrants, then economic theory will tell you that invariably that is inefficient.  It means consumers are going to pay more for worse products.  It means those companies can concentrate more and more wealth without actually improving what they produce.  And over time, the economy stagnates.

And here in the United States we had a history of huge, big, corporations controlling huge sectors of the economy.  And over time, we put in laws to break up those monopolies and to create laws to guard against artificial monopolies that prevented competition.

So antitrust is one element of a broader set of laws and principles that every country should be adopting with the basic notion that, look, if you’re successful — if you are a company like Apple that innovated, or a company like Microsoft that came up with a new concept — you should be able to get big and you should be able to be successful, and those who founded it, like Bill Gates, should be wealthy.  But what you also want to make sure of is the next generation — the Googles or the Facebooks — that they can be successful, too, in that space.  And that means that you have to make sure that those who got there first aren’t closing the door behind them, which all too often I think happens in many countries, not just in African countries.

So you make an excellent point, and we’ll make sure that that’s incorporated into the broader discussion.

Okay, this young lady right here.  Yes, because she looks so nice.  (Laughter.)

Q    Thank you very much.  I’m from Kenyan.

THE PRESIDENT:  We got a Maasai sister right here.  (Laughter.)  That’s it.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you for this great initiative for the young people, and thank you for believing in the young people.

The upcoming summit of the Presidents, I know you’re going to ask them on engagement of the young people back in our countries.  And my concern will be, how will you be able to engage them to commit to their promises?  Because I know they’re going to promise you that.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  All right, don’t get carried away here.  (Laughter.)  Well, look, part of what we’ve done here by building this YALI network that we’re going to be doubling over the next couple of years is we’re going directly to the young people and creating these networks and these opportunities.  And what we’re already seeing, I think, is many countries are excited by this.  They’re saying, you know what, this is something that can be an empowering tool for us, so let’s take advantage of it.

There are going to be some that may feel somewhat threatened by it — there’s no doubt about that.  But the good thing is we will be creating this network — there are a whole bunch of people who are following this online, who are following it on social media.  We’ll have these regional centers.  You will help to make sure that some of these promises are observed, because the whole continent of young people is going to be paying attention, and we’ll be able to see which countries are really embracing this opportunity to get new young people involved, and which ones are ignoring its promise.

And so I will say to every one of these leaders, you need to take advantage of the most important resource you have, and that’s the amazing youth in these countries.  (Applause.)  But you’re going to have to also help to hold them accountable collectively across countries, and that’s part of why this network can be so important.

So I know this is sad, but I have to go.

AUDIENCE:  Awww —

THE PRESIDENT:  I have other work to do.  (Laughter.)  The good news is you’ve got all these really amazing people who are still going to be meeting with you and talking with you.  And, most importantly, what an amazing opportunity it is for all of you to get to know each other, and to talk and to compare ideas and share concepts going forward.

The main message I want to leave you with is that, in the same way I’m inspired by you, you should be inspired by each other; that Africa has enormous challenges — the world has enormous challenges, but I tell the young people that intern in the White House — and I usually meet with them at the end of their internship after six months — I always tell them, despite all the bad news that you read about or you see on television, despite all the terrible things that happen in places around the world, if you had to choose a time in world history in which to be born, and you didn’t know who you were or what your status or position would be, you’d choose today.  Because for all the difficulties, the world has made progress and Africa is making progress.  And it’s growing.  And there are fewer conflicts and there’s less war.  And there’s more opportunity, and there’s greater democracy, and there’s greater observance of human rights.

And progress sometimes can be slow, and it can be frustrating.  And sometimes, you take two steps forward, and then you take one step back.  But the great thing about being young is you are not bound by the past, and you can shape the future.  And if all of you work hard and work together, and remain confident in your possibilities, and aren’t deterred when you suffer a setback, but you get back up, and you dust yourself off, and you go back at it, I have no doubt that you’re going to leave behind for the next generation and the generation after that an Africa that is strong and vibrant and prosperous, and is ascendant on the world stage.

So I can’t wait to see what all of you do.  Good luck.  (Applause.)

END
12:14 P.M. EDT

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

Political Headlines August 23, 2013: President Barack Obama Fields Questions on Education at Townhall at Binghamton University

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Fields Questions on Education at Townhall

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

In a rare townhall on the second day of his bus tour, President Obama fielded questions ranging from how to keep Head Start funding intact to the education and civil rights progress made since the March on Washington 50 years ago.

“We don’t have an urgent deficit crisis. The only crisis we have is one that’s manufactured in Washington, and it’s ideological,” President Obama told students, faculty, and parents at Binghamton University, the State University of New York, Friday….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency August 23, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks in Town Hall Meeting on College Affordability, College Cost Cutting Plan at Binghamton University

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Town Hall at Binghamton University

Source: WH, 8-23-13

Binghamton University
Binghamton, New York

12:48 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Binghamton!  (Applause.)  It is good to see all of you.  Thank you so much.  Now, go ahead and have a seat — I’m going to be here a while.  (Laughter.)

Well, first of all, let me thank the university and your president, Harvey Stenger, for having me here today.  Give your president a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  There he is.    A couple other people I want to recognize — Mayor Matt Ryan is here.  (Applause.)  Two wonderful Congressmen — Richard Hanna and Paul Tonko.  (Applause.)  Your former Representative, Maurice Hinchey, is here as well.  (Applause.)

So, first of all, thank you, because it’s really nice outside, so for you to be willing to come inside, I greatly appreciate.  And I’m not going to do a lot of talking at the top because I want to have a conversation with you about a range of issues, but in particular, something that is personal for me.

A lot of you know that I wasn’t born into a lot of wealth or fame, there wasn’t a long Obama dynasty.  And so the only reason I’m here today, the only reason Michelle and I have been able to accomplish what we accomplished is because we got a great education.  And I think the essence of the American Dream is that anybody who’s willing to work hard is able to get that good education and achieve their dreams.

And central to that is the issue that — you’ve got a big sign there — we try to message effectively — (laughter) — College Affordability — making sure that people can afford to go to college.

I’m on a road trip from New York to Pennsylvania.  Yesterday I was at the University of Buffalo.  I visited students at Syracuse.  Later today, I’m going to meet Joe Biden in Scranton, his hometown.  But I decided to stop here for a couple of reasons.  Number one, I’ve been told that it’s very important for me to get a spiedies while I’m here.  (Laughter and applause.)  So we’re going to pick one up and try it on the road.  Number two, I’m excited because of the great work that SUNY campuses like Binghamton are doing to keep costs down for hardworking students like so many of you.

Chancellor Zimpher is making sure that hundreds of thousands of SUNY students all across the state are getting a world-class higher education but without some of the debt and financial burden that is stopping too many young people from going to college.  And that’s what we want for all of our students and all of our families all across the country.

Over the past month, I’ve been visiting towns throughout America, and I’ve talked about how do we secure a better bargain for the middle class and everybody who’s trying to work their way into the middle class.

We’ve fought our way through a very brutal recession, and now we’re at a point where we’re creating jobs, the economy is growing, budget deficits are falling, health care inflation has been reduced.  And yet there are still a lot of working families out there who are having a tough time in this competitive global economy that we live in.

And the fact is even before this last financial crisis, we had increasingly an economy where folks at the top were doing better and better and better, but the average individual or family was seeing their incomes and their wages flat-lining.  And you start getting a tale of two Americas.  And the whole premise of upward mobility in this country, which is central to who we understand ourselves to be, was being diminished for too many people.  So, from my perspective, reversing that trend should be Washington’s highest priority.  It’s certainly my highest priority.

Unfortunately, what we’ve seen in Washington all too often is, instead of focusing on how do we bring good middle-class jobs back to America, how do we make sure the economy is growing robustly and that growth is broad-based, we’ve been spending a lot of time arguing about whether we should be paying our bills that we’ve already accrued.  Or the discussion has been about slashing spending on education and basic research and science — all the things that are going to make sure that we remain competitive for the future.

Most recently, there’s been threats that we would shut down the government unless we agree to roll back the health care reform that’s about to provide millions of Americans with health care coverage for the first time.  And that’s not an economic plan.  That’s not going to grow the economy.  That’s not going to strengthen the middle class and it’s not going to create ladders of opportunity into the middle class.

What we need to do is focus on the pocketbook, bread-and-butter issues that affect all of you — making sure we’ve got good jobs with good wages; a good education; a home of your own; affordable health care; a secure retirement; and a way for people who are currently in poverty to get out of poverty.  That’s what we should be spending our time thinking about when it comes to domestic policy.  That’s what’s always made America great.  And nothing is more important to that process than what we’re doing in terms of K through 12 education and higher education.

Now, here’s the challenge:  At the time when higher education has never been more important — and when I say higher education I mean two-year, four-year, technical colleges — it doesn’t all have to be four-year, traditional bachelor of arts or sciences — at a time when that’s never been more important, college has never been more expensive.

And in fact, what you’ve seen is, is that over the last three decades, the cost of higher education has gone up 260 percent, at a time when family incomes have gone up about 18 percent.  So I’m not a math major — there are probably some here — but if you’ve got one line going up 260 percent and another line going up 16 percent, you start getting a bigger and bigger gap.  And what’s happened as a consequence is that either college has become out of reach for too many people, or young people are being loaded up with more and more debt.

Now, we’ve tried to close that gap.  When I came into office, we reformed our financial aid system, so the student loan programs were being run through banks and banks were making billions of dollars on it, and we said let’s just give the money directly to students, cut out the middleman.  And we then were able to re-funnel billions of dollars to provide more students with more grants and more assistance.  We’ve done our best to keep interest rates on student loans as low as possible.

But even with all the work that we’re doing there, the fact is the average student is still coming out with $26,000 worth of debt when they graduate.  And for a lot of students it’s much more than that.  And particularly, for those young people who are choosing careers where — like teaching, where they may not make a lot of money, if they’re burdened with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, in some cases it’s impossible for them ever to pay it off — or they have to put off buying a home, or starting a business, or starting a family.  And that has a depressive effect on our economy overall.  So it’s not just bad for the students, it’s also bad for the economy as a whole.

The bottom line is this:  We can’t price higher education so prohibitively that ordinary families can’t afford it.  That will ruin our chances to make sure the 21st century is the American Century just like the 20th century was.

So what we’ve done — and I announced this yesterday — is propose three basic reforms to try to shake the system up.

Number one, we want to start rating colleges based on how well they’re doing in providing good value and opportunity for students.  I mean, right now you’ve got a bunch of ranking systems, some of them commercial, and when you look at what’s being rated it’s typically how selective the schools are, how few students they take in, and how expensive they are and what are their facilities like.  And what we want to do is to start looking at factors like how much debt do students leave with, and do they actually graduate, and do they graduate in four years as opposed to six or eight or 10, and do they find a job after they graduate — giving some concrete measures that will allow students and families to gauge if I go to this school, am I going to get a good deal.

And since taxpayers are often providing those families and students assistance, we want to make sure taxpayers are getting a good deal as well.  And that will create an atmosphere in which college presidents and trustees start thinking about affordability and don’t just assume that tuition can keep on going up and up and up.

Now, what we’re also going to be doing is putting pressure on state legislatures to rebalance, because part of the reason so many state universities have had to increase tuition is because state legislative priorities have shifted all across the country — more money into prisons, less money into schools.  That means that costs are passed on to students in the form of higher tuition.  So we’ve got to do something about that.

And we’re also going to ask a little more from students.  What we’re going to say to students is you need to actually finish courses before you take out more loans and more grants.  And we want to say that to students not to be punitive, but instead, to prevent a situation where students end up taking out a lot of debt but never actually getting the degree, which puts them in a deeper financial hole than they otherwise would be.

So that’s point number one.  Second, we want to jumpstart competition among colleges and states to think of more innovative ways to reduce costs.  And there are schools that are doing some terrific work in reducing costs while maintaining high-quality education.  So, for example, there are some schools that are experimenting where you can get credits based on your competency, as opposed to how much time you’re spending in the classroom.

There’s no law that says you have to graduate — that for you to be in school for four years rather than three or three and a half somehow automatically gives you a better education.  And so, schools are experimenting with how can we compress the time and thereby reduce the costs.  Are there ways that we can use online learning to improve the educational quality and, at the same time, make things a little cheaper for students?

So we’re going to work with states, schools, university presidents to see what’s working and what’s not.  And let’s spread best practices all across the country.

And then the third thing we want to do is to is to expand and better advertise a program that we put in place and expanded when I came into office, and that is a program that says for college graduates who do have debt we’re going to cap the monthly payments that you have to make to 10 percent of your income.

And the notion is that that way it’s manageable, and you’re not going to have to make career decisions simply based on how much money can I make to pay off those student loans.  If I want to be a teacher, if I want to be a social worker, if I want to go into public service, then I can do that and I’m still going to be able to act responsibly and pay off my debt.

We already have that program in place, but it’s not as widely known as it needs to be, and not as many young people are eligible for it as we want them to be.  So we’re going to work to improve on that front.

Bottom line is we need to stop taking the same business-as-usual approach when it comes to college education.  Not all the reforms that we’re proposing are going to be popular.  There are some who are benefitting from the status quo.  There will be some resistance.  There’s going to have to be a broad-based conversation, but part of our goal here is to stir a conversation because the current path that we’re on is unsustainable.  And it’s my basic belief and I suspect the belief of most people here, higher education shouldn’t be a luxury.  It’s an economic necessity in this knowledge-based economy.  And we want to make sure that every family in America can afford it.  (Applause.)

So I’m interested if you guys have other ideas — if you have other ideas about things that we should be looking at, we want to hear them.  And that’s part of the purpose of this town hall discussion.  I’m interested in hearing your stories, getting your questions.  And this will be a pretty informal affair — well, as informal as it gets when the President comes — (laughter) — and there are a bunch of cameras everywhere.

So with that, I’d just like to start the discussion.  And what I’m going to do is I’m just going to call on folks.  Just raise your hand.  I would ask you to stand up, introduce yourself.  There are people with mics and they’ll bring the mic to you.  And I’m going to go girl, boy, girl, boy, to make sure that it’s fair.  (Laughter.)  All right?

So we’ll start with this young lady right here in the striped top.

Q    Thank you.  It’s an honor to have you here today.

THE PRESIDENT:  Hold on a second.  I think — here we go.

Q    Thank you.  It’s an honor to have you here today, Mr. President.  I’m from the Decker School of Nursing here, which is an outstanding school of nursing that has excellent outcomes.

My question today is, because advanced practice nurses, primarily nurse practitioners and nurse midwives, have such an outstanding reputation, we have good outcomes.  And the Affordable Care Act is ready to be rolled out soon.  Nurse practitioners and advanced practice nurses are in an excellent position to really serve vulnerable populations and people who don’t have care.  I’m wondering if there’s any provisions within your educational act that would support health care workers and nurse practitioners to create a sustainable workforce that would be able to support caring for people as we roll out the Affordable Care Act.

THE PRESIDENT:  It is a great question.  Now, first of all, let me — without buttering you up — I love nurses.  (Laughter.) Michelle and I have been blessed, we haven’t been sick too much, but — knock on wood.  But every interaction we’ve had at the hospital, the doctors are wonderful and we appreciate them, but I know when Malia and Sasha were being born, we spent 90 percent of the time with the nurses and 10 percent with the OB/GYN.  When my grandmother got sick and was passing away at the end, it was nurses who were caring for her in an incredible compassionate but also professional way.

And you’re absolutely right that one of the keys to reducing our health care costs overall is recognizing the incredible value of advanced practice nurses and giving them more responsibilities because there’s a lot of stuff they can do in a way that, frankly, is cheaper than having a doctor do it, but the outcomes are just as good.

The challenge we have is we still have a nursing shortage in too many parts of the country.  My understanding — you probably know this better than I do — part of the problem is, is that too many professors of nursing or instructors in nursing are getting paid less than actual nurses.  So what ends up happening is we don’t have enough slots in some of the nursing schools.  That may not be true here, but there are parts of the country where that’s true.

So we have to upgrade a little bit the schools of nursing and make sure that they’re properly resourced so that we have enough instructors.  And, in fact, as part of the Affordable Care Act, one of the things that we thought about was how are we going to expand and improve the number of nurses and making sure that they can actually finance their educations.  And so there are some special programs for nurses who are committing themselves — as well as doctors who are committing themselves — to serving in underserved communities.  And we will be happy to get that information to the school of nursing here.

One other element to this that I think is really interesting — we’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about making sure that our veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are getting the opportunities they need.  So we instituted something called the Post-9/11 GI Bill that provides the same kind of support that my grandfather got when he came back from World War II.

And the young people who have served in our armed forces just do extraordinary work.  One of the problems, though, is, is that they don’t always get credit for the skills that they already possess when they come home.  So one — and we’ve got a gentleman here who’s a veteran.  And one great example actually is in the medical profession — when you get medics coming back who served in the worst possible circumstances, out in theater, having to make life-or-death decisions — I met a young man up in Minnesota.  He had come back, wanted to continue to pursue his career and become a professional nurse, and he was having to start from scratch, taking the equivalent of Nursing 101.

And what we’re trying to do is to make sure that states and institutions of higher learning recognize some of the skills, because as we bring more and more of our veterans home — we’ll be ending the war in Afghanistan by the end of next year — we want to make sure that those folks have the opportunity to succeed here in America.  (Applause.)  Great question, though.

All right.  It’s a guy’s turn.  Right here, yes.  Hold on, let’s get a mic all the way to the back.

Q    Hello, Mr. President.  I’m glad for you to come to Binghamton University.  I’m the director of Rainbow Pride Union here, and it’s the largest LGBT organization on campus.  And my main concern is that I know a lot of stories of people who are LGBT who come out to their parents, and their parents are supporting them financially for college, and when they come out their parents cut out that support.  I was wondering if maybe in the future part of your affordability for college would be able to include LGBT people.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, the programs that we have in place don’t discriminate and shouldn’t discriminate.  And the good news is I think the phenomenon that you just described is likely to happen less and less and less with each successive year.  I mean, think about the incredible changes that have been made just over the last decade,  DOMA is gone.  “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is gone.  But more importantly, people’s hearts and minds have changed.  And I think that’s reflective of parents as well.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still going to be struggles internally, but I think, more and more, what we recognize is, is that just as we judge people on — should judge people on the basis of their character, and not their color or religion or gender, the same is true for their sexual orientation.

So I don’t suspect that we’ll have special laws pertaining to young people who are cut off from support by their parents because their parents hadn’t gotten to the place I think they should be when it comes to loving and supporting their kids regardless of who they are, but we are going to make sure that all young people get the support that they need so that if their parents aren’t willing to provide them support, and they’re functionally independent, that they’re able to still go to college and succeed.  All right?

Right here, in the Obama t-shirt.  (Laughter.)  You know, so if you — here’s a general rule in the presidential town hall:  If you want to get called on, wear the President’s face on your shirt.  (Laughter.)

Q    Good afternoon, President Obama.  I’m a graduate student in the College of Community and Public Affairs.  I study student affairs administration.  With that being said, as we’re all students, we know how vital it is to have a good foundation in our education. How does your administration plan to address the major budget cuts that are happening with Head Start schools around the U.S.?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, this is a great question.  And this will be a major topic over the next several months.  First of all, I want to expand early childhood education so that it’s accessible for every young person in America.  (Applause.)

And I talked about this in my State of the Union address.  It is just common sense.  We know, study after study has shown that the biggest bang for the buck that we get when it comes to education is to invest early.

If we get 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds well prepared when they start school that momentum continues.  If they start behind, too often they stay behind.  Kids are resilient and they can make up for some tough stuff early on in life, but it’s a lot harder for them than if we get them young.

In fact, studies have shown that there’s some very smart programs out there where you identify low-income single moms in the maternity ward, and nurses talk to them immediately not just about the health of their child, but also parenting, and create a little packet with some books and some toys, and talk about engagement and expanding vocabulary.  All that can make a difference.  And high-quality early childhood education can continue that process so that by the time the kid starts school, they know their colors, they know their letters.  They’re ready to go.

Now, unfortunately, right now the federal budget generally has been a political football in Washington.  Partly, this came out of the financial crisis.  We had a terrible crisis.  We had to immediately pump money into the system to prevent a great depression.  So we cut taxes for middle-class families.  We initiated programs to rebuild our roads and our bridges.  We helped states so that they wouldn’t have to lay off as many teachers and firefighters and police officers.  And that’s part of the reason why we avoided a depression, although we still had a terrible recession.

But the combination of increased spending and less revenue meant that the deficit went up.  And by the time the Republicans took over the House in 2011, they had made this a major issue.  And, understandably, a lot of families said, well, we’re having to tighten our belts — the federal government should, too.  Although, part of what you want the federal government to do when everybody else is having a hard time is to make sure that you’re providing additional support.

As the economy has improved, the deficit has gone down.  It’s now dropped at the fastest rate in 60 years.  I want to repeat that, because a lot of people think that — if you ask the average person what’s happening with the deficit, they’d tell you it’s going up.  The deficit has been cut in half since 2009 and is on a downward trajectory.  (Applause.)  And it’s gone down faster than any time since World War II.

So we don’t have a problem in terms of spending on education.  We don’t have a problem when it comes to spending on research and development.  We do have a long-term problem that has to do with our health care programs, Medicare and Medicaid.  The good news is, is that in part because of the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — costs have actually gone down — health care inflation has gone down to the slowest rate that we’ve seen in a long time.

So we’re starting to get health care costs under control.  We’ll still have to make some modifications when it comes to our long-term entitlement program so that they’re there for young people here when they are ready for retirement.

But we don’t have an urgent deficit crisis.  The only crisis we have is one that’s manufactured in Washington, and it’s ideological.  And the basic notion is, is that we shouldn’t be helping people get health care, and we shouldn’t be helping kids who can’t help themselves and whose parents are under-resourced  — we shouldn’t be helping them get a leg up.  And so some of the proposals we’ve seen now are talking about even deeper cuts in programs like Head Start; even deeper cuts in education support; even deeper cuts in basic science and research.

And that’s like eating your corn seed.  It’s like being pennywise and pound-foolish.  Because if young people aren’t succeeding, if we’re not spending on research and maintaining our technological edge, if we’re not upgrading our roads and our bridges and our transportation systems and our infrastructure — all things that we can afford to do right now and should be doing right now, and would put people to work right now — if we don’t do those things, then 20 years from now, 30 years from now we will have fallen further and further behind.

So when we get back to Washington — when Congress gets back to Washington, this is going to be a major debate.  It’s the same debate we’ve been having for the last two years.  The difference is now deficits are already coming down.  And what we should really be thinking about is how do we grow an economy so that we’re creating a growing, thriving middle class, and we’re creating more ladders of opportunity for people who are willing to work hard to get into the middle class.

And my position is going to be that we can have a budget that is sensible, that doesn’t spend on programs that don’t work, but does spend wisely on those things that are going to help ordinary people succeed.  All right?  Good.

Let’s see.  It is a gentleman’s turn.  This gentleman right here.  He’s had his hand up for a while.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Yay!  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that settles it.  You have a little cheering section there.  (Laughter.)

Q    Hello, Mr. President.  I’m a faculty member of the computer science department.  I’m very excited and encouraged by your plan on the affordability reform.  My question is related about the quality of future higher education.  As you know, many universities are trying their best to provide the best value by doing better with less.  But the challenges are real, and they’re getting tougher and tougher as the budget cuts are getting tougher and tougher.  So my question is what your administration will do to ensure the best American universities remain to be the best in the world in the 21st century?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, what’s really important is to make sure that we’re supporting great teachers.  And since you got an applause line, you must be a pretty good one.  (Laughter.)  And I don’t think that there is a conflict between quality and paying attention to costs as it’s affecting students.

Now, I mentioned earlier, one of the big problems that we’ve seen in public universities is a diminished level of support from states, state legislatures.  And part of what we’re going to try to do is to provide more incentives to states to boost the support that they’re giving to colleges and universities.

Traditionally, when you think of the great state university systems, it was because those states understood if we invest in our people we’ll have a better-trained workforce, which means companies will want to locate here, which creates a virtuous cycle and everybody benefits.

But starting, let’s say, 15 years ago, 20 years ago, you saw a trend in which state legislatures who were trying to balance their budgets kept on cutting support to state education.  What happened was that — and I don’t know whether this is true, Mr. President, for SUNY, but around the country, on average, what you’ve seen is a drop from about 46 percent of the revenues of a public college coming from states down to about 25 percent.  It’s almost been cut in half.  And essentially, the only way these schools have figured to make it up is to charge higher tuition.

So states have to do their jobs.  But what is true also, though, is that universities and faculty need to come up with ways to also cut costs while maintaining quality — because that’s what we’re having to do throughout our economy.  And sometimes when I talk to college professors — and, keep in mind, I taught in a law school for 10 years, so I’m very sympathetic to the spirit of inquiry and the importance of not just looking at X’s and O’s and numbers when it comes to measuring colleges.  But what I also know is, is that there are ways we can save money that would not diminish quality.

This is probably controversial to say, but what the heck, I’m in my second term so I can say it.  (Laughter.)  I believe, for example, that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years — because by the third year — in the first two years young people are learning in the classroom.  The third year they’d be better off clerking or practicing in a firm, even if they weren’t getting paid that much.  But that step alone would reduce the cost for the student.

Now, the question is can law schools maintain quality and keep good professors and sustain themselves without that third year.  My suspicion is, is that if they thought creatively about it, they probably could.  Now, if that’s true at a graduate level, there are probably some things that we could do at the undergraduate level as well.

That’s not to suggest that there aren’t some real problems. Colleges, for example, they’ve got health care costs like everybody else.  Personnel is one of the most important — it’s the biggest cost you’ve got.  And if health care costs to provide insurance for your employees is going up as fast as it’s been going up, that affects folks.

So our idea is not to just have some cookie-cutter approach that doesn’t take quality into account.  The idea is, understanding we’ve got to maintain high quality, are there ways that we can reorganize schools, use technology, think about what works so that, overall, we’re creating a better value for the student.

And one of the best things that we could do for students is to make sure that they graduate in a more timely fashion.  And unfortunately, too many young people go to schools where they’re not getting the kind of support and advice on the front end that they need and they drift, and four years, five years, six years into it, they’ve got a bunch of credits but it all doesn’t result in actual graduation.  And then they get discouraged.  And that’s an area where we know we can be making improvement as well.

Okay?  And if you’ve got any other ideas, let me know.  (Applause.)

Let’s get a young person in here.  Right there, yes.

Q    Welcome to Binghamton, President Obama.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks.

Q    I’m a doctoral student here as well as a writing instructor at Syracuse University.  And I’m interested in the giving of federal funds to students who are going to for-profit colleges — or colleges I might even call predatory.  And I’m very conflicted about this issue and so I’d like to hear your insight.  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you probably know more about it than I do since you’ve written about it.  But let me describe for the audience what the challenge is.

For-profit institutions in a lot of sectors of our lives obviously is the cornerstone of our economy.  And we want to encourage entrepreneurship and new ideas and new approaches and new ways of doing things.  So I’m not against for-profit institutions, generally.  But what you’re absolutely right about is, is that there have been some schools that are notorious for getting students in, getting a bunch of grant money, having those students take out a lot of loans, making big profits, but having really low graduation rates.  Students aren’t getting what they need to be prepared for a particular field.  They get out of these for-profit schools loaded down with enormous debt.  They can’t find a job.  They default.  The taxpayer ends up holding the bag.  Their credit is ruined, and the for-profit institution is making out like a bandit.  That’s a problem.

I was mentioning veterans earlier.  Soldiers and sailors and Marines and Coast Guardsmen, they’ve been preyed upon very badly by some of these for-profit institutions.  And we actually created a special task force inside our consumer advocate protection organization that we set up just to look out for members of the armed forces who were being manipulated.  Because what happened was these for-profit schools saw this Post-9/11 GI Bill, that there was a whole bunch of money that the federal government was committed to making sure that our veterans got a good education, and they started advertising to these young people, signing them up, getting them to take a bunch of loans, but they weren’t delivering a good product.

This goes to, then, the point I made earlier about how we can rate schools.  We’re going to spend some time over the course of the next year talking to everybody — talking to university professors, talking to faculty members, talking to students, talking to families — but if we can define some basic parameters of what’s a good value, then it will allow us more effectively to police schools whether they’re for-profit or non-for-profit — because there are some non-for-profit schools, traditional schools that have higher default rates among their graduates than graduation rates — and be able to say to them, look, either you guys step up and improve, or you’re not going to benefit from federal dollars.  (Applause.)

Because there are a bunch of schools like this one that are doing a good job, and we don’t want money being funneled to schools that aren’t doing a good job.  We want to encourage students to be smart shoppers, to be good consumers.

So there are probably more problems in the for-profit sector on this than there are in the traditional non-for-profit colleges, universities and technical schools, but it’s a problem across the board.  And the way to solve it is to make sure that we’ve got ways to measure what’s happening and we can weed out some of the folks that are engaging in bad practices.

Great question.

All right, this corner of the room has been neglected.  So the gentleman right there, right in the corner there.

Q    Thank you for taking the time to visit Binghamton University.  I’m a sophomore student of Binghamton University.  I am from Turkey and I want to ask something about the international students.  Most of my friends’ families have been facing some hardships to support them financially.  For example, when we consider two Turkish lira equals one American dollar, this situation is getting more important for us.  We think that the most reason of this situation is the high level of payment.  What do you think, and do you have any working about the situation?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, we’re glad you’re here and we hope you’re having a wonderful experience.  One of the great things about American universities is they are magnets for talent from around the world.  And that has enriched us immeasurably.  It enriches us in part because students who come here and study and excel may end up staying here and working and starting businesses, and that’s always been part of the American experience, is smart, striving immigrants coming here and succeeding.  And that makes everybody better off — which is part of the reason why we‘ve got to get immigration reform done so that if we’re taking the time to train a great computer scientist or engineer or entrepreneur, we’re not, then, just sending them back to their country.  Let’s invite them, if they want to stay, to succeed here and start jobs here and create businesses here.  (Applause.)

Now, obviously, when it comes to federal grants, loans, supports, subsidies that we provide, those are for our citizens. And a lot of Americans are having a tough time affording college, as we talked about, so we can’t spread it too thin.  What we can do, though, is to make sure that if tuition is reasonable for all students who enroll, then it makes it easier for international students to come and study here as well.

So all the things that I talked about before apply to foreign students as well as American students.  We need to make sure that college is affordable, that it’s a good value.  The good news is that there are schools out there that are doing a great job already.  And we just need to make sure that we’re duplicating some of those best practices across the country.

All right, who’s next?  Let’s see, it’s a young lady’s turn, isn’t it?  Okay.  Go ahead, right there in the red — or orange.

Q    My name is Anne Bailey, and I am a faculty member in the History and Afrikana Studies department here.  And I teach African American history and African diaspora studies.  And tomorrow, I’m going to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.  And I’m going — and I’m going with my son — because I’m here, as you said, because of a good education, and that good education became possible because of that faith-inspired movement that really reached such an important milestone 50 years ago.

And I’m so grateful for the fact that I had that opportunity, and that my son and that these young people will have these opportunities.  But I still kind of wonder where we are now in terms of education and civil rights.  Have we — where do you think we are?  What do we need to do to kind of make sure that it is education for all, including under-represented groups? That’s just my question.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, 50 years after the March on Washington and the “I Have a Dream Speech,” obviously we’ve made enormous strides.  I’m a testament to it.  You’re a testament to it.  The diversity of this room and the students who are here is a testimony to it.  And that impulse towards making sure everybody gets a fair shot is one that found expression in the Civil Rights Movement, but then spread to include Latinos and immigrants and gays and lesbians.

And what’s wonderful to watch is that the younger generation seems — each generation seems wiser in terms of wanting to treat people fairly and do the right thing and not discriminate.  And that’s a great victory that we should all be very proud of.

On the other hand, I think what we’ve also seen is that the legacy of discrimination — slavery, Jim Crow — has meant that some of the institutional barriers for success for a lot of groups still exist.  African American poverty in this country is still significantly higher than other groups.  Same is true for Latinos.  Same is true for Native Americans.

And even if there weren’t active discrimination taking place right now — and obviously, we know that some discrimination still exists, although nothing like what existed 50 years ago — but let’s assume that we eliminated all discrimination magically, with a wand, and everybody had goodness in their heart.  You’d still have a situation in which there are a lot of folks who are poor and whose families have become dysfunctional because of a long legacy of poverty, and live in neighborhoods that are run down and schools that are underfunded and don’t have a strong property tax base.  And it would still be harder for young people born into those communities to succeed than those who were born elsewhere.

So if, in fact, that’s the case — and that is what I believe — then it’s in all of our interests to make sure that we are putting in place smart policies to give those communities a lift, and to create ladders so that young people in those communities can succeed.

Well, what works?  We’ve already talked about what works.   Early childhood education works.  We know that can make a difference.  It’s not going to solve every problem, but it can help level the playing field for kids early in life so that — they’re still going to have to work hard.  Not everybody is going to succeed, but they’ll have a better chance if we put those things in place.

Making college affordable — that makes a difference.  Because we know, in part because of the legacy of discrimination, that communities of color have less wealth.  If they have less wealth, it means that mom and dad have a more difficult time financing college.  Well, we should make sure that every young person, regardless of their color, can access a college education.

I think the biggest challenge we have is not that we don’t know what policies work, it’s getting our politics right.  Because part of what’s happened over the last several decades is, because times have been tough, because wages and incomes for everybody have not been going up, everybody is pretty anxious about what’s happening in their lives and what might happen for their kids, and so they get worried that, well, if we’re helping people in poverty, that must be hurting me somehow, it’s taking something away from me.

And part of what I think we have to understand is that America has always been most successful, we’ve always grown fastest, and everybody’s incomes have gone up fastest when our economic growth is broad-based, not just when a few people are doing well at the top, but when everybody is doing well.

And so if working people and folks who are struggling — whether they’re white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, disabled, LGBT — if working folks join together around common principles and policies that will help lift everybody, then everybody will be better off — including, by the way, the folks at the top.  Because when the economy is growing and people have jobs and people are seeing better incomes, they go out and they shop more.  And that means businesses are doing better.  And you buy a new iPod and Apple is happy, and shareholders are pleased.

But unfortunately, we’ve got politics sometimes that divides instead of bringing people together.  And we’ve seen that over the last couple of years, the tendency to suggest somehow that government is taking something from you and giving it to somebody else, and your problems will be solved if we just ignore them or don’t help them.  And, that, I think is something that we have to constantly struggle against — whether we’re black or white or whatever color we are.

All right?  Thank you.  (Applause.)

How much time do we got?  I want to make sure that I get a couple more questions in here.  Two more.  We’ll make it three.  (Laughter.)  We’ll make it three.  This gentleman right here in the front.  Here, we got a mic right here.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  My name is Adam Flint.  I work currently at Cooperative Extension, but I’ve been connected to this institution since 1966.  And I want to tell you about the Broome Energy Conservation Corps where we are educating, training and also employing Binghamton University graduates and current students to really take the vision that, well, Kennedy and others advanced of service to the problems of the community and to the country.

And at Cooperative Extension, our energy corps students are helping people who could not benefit from energy efficiency, they’re helping getting people employed with local home performance contactors.  And we could do so much more if it were possible for programs like ours across the country to be able to know that we’re going to be here in 2014, which we don’t right now.

And so I guess we’ve been in discussions with Harvey and with many of the people in this room, with Matt Ryan, with many of the senior Binghamton University folks, and we’d really like to see coming out of Washington some good news about funding for the green economy for the future and for our ability to give a future to our children that right now I’m doubtful about.

You have two girls.  I’ve got two girls.  And this is the last century of fossil fuels, so we’ve got to make it happen.  With this energy corps, we could move to food corps and on and on and on.  I’ve said enough.  I’m afraid it’s one of the family business of the professoriate to say too much.  And I’m going to shut up and listen to the wisdom that I hope you will bring to my question.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, as you indicated in your remarks, we are going to have to prepare for a different energy future than the one we have right now.

Now, we’re producing traditional energy — fossil fuels — at record levels.  And we’ve actually achieved, or are on the verge of achieving about as close as you can get to energy independence as America is going to see.  I mean, natural gas, oil, all that stuff is going up.

In some cases, what you’ve seen is that, for example, transitional fuels like natural gas have replaced coal, which temporarily are reducing greenhouse gases.  But the bottom line is those are still finite resources.  Climate change is real.  The planet is getting warmer.  And you’ve got several billion Chinese, Indians, Africans and others who also want cars, refrigerators, electricity.  And as they go through their development cycle, the planet cannot sustain the same kinds of energy use as we have right now.  So we’re going to have to make a shift.

That’s why when I came into office, we made record investments in green energy.  And that’s why I think it’s critical for us to invest in research and development around clean energy.  And that’s why it sounds like programs like yours need to take advantage of technologies that already exist.

We’re going to have to invent some new technologies to solve all of our energy problems.  But we know, for example, the low-hanging fruit of energy efficiency.  We know that if we design our schools, homes, hospitals more efficiently, that as a country we could probably cut our power usage by 20, 25, 30 percent with existing technologies, and without lowering our standard of living.

And, by the way, we can put a whole bunch of folks to work doing it right now.  We could gather up a whole bunch of young people here in this community, train them for insulation, for energy-efficient construction, and redo a whole bunch of buildings and institutions right here, and eventually it would pay for itself.  So it’s win-win across the board.

Unfortunately, what we’ve seen too often in Congress is that the fossil fuel industries tend to be very influential — let’s put it that way — on the energy committees in Congress.  And they tend not to be particularly sympathetic to alternative energy strategies.  And, in some cases, we’ve actually been criticized that it’s a socialist plot that’s restricting your freedom for us to encourage energy-efficient light bulbs, for example.  I never understood that.  (Laughter.)  But you hear those arguments.  I mean, you can go on the Web, and people will be decrying how simple stuff that we’re doing, like trying to set up regulations to make appliances more energy-efficient — which saves consumers money and is good for our environment — is somehow restricting America’s liberty and violates the Constitution.

So a lot of our job is to educate the public as to why this can be good for them — in a very narrow self-interested way.  This is not pie in the sky.  This is not tree-hugging, sprout-eating university professors.  (Laughter.)  This is a practical, hardheaded, smart, business-savvy approach to how we deal with energy.  And we should be investing it and encouraging it and expanding it.  And so I budgeted for it.  I will fight for it.

But just as I will be advocating and fighting for Head Start or increases in our science and technology funding, the challenge is going to be that my friends in the other party right now in Congress seem less interested in actual governing and taking practical strategies, and seem more interested in trying to placate their base or scoring political points.  Or they’re worried about primaries in the upcoming election.

That can’t be how we run a country.  That’s not responsible leadership.  (Applause.)  And my hope is, is that we’ll see a different attitude when we get back.  But we’ll only see a different attitude if the public pushes folks in a different direction.

Ultimately, what has an impact on politicians is votes.  And that influence is not — it can’t just come from districts that are strongly Democratic.  We need voices in Republican districts to say this is a smart thing to do.  And we can make — and, by the way, businesses can make money doing it, and people can get jobs doing it.  And it’s just sensible.  And it’s good, by the way, for our national security because those countries that control the energy sources of the future, they’re the ones that are going to be in a position to succeed economically.

So, all right.  I’ve got time for a couple more.  Yes, right here.

Q    Good afternoon, Mr. President.  I’m an integrative neuroscience major —

THE PRESIDENT:  That sounds very impressive.  (Laughter.)  What was that again?

Q    Integrative neuroscience.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, so tell me about that.  Explain that to me.  It has something to do with the brain and nerves and —

Q    It’s a mix between psychology and biology.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.

Q    So it’s not as impressive as —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, it’s very impressive.  (Laughter.)  Come on.  Absolutely.  Anyway, what’s the question?

Q    Well, my question today is about financial aid.  Currently, financial aid eligibility is based on — or heavily based on students’ parents’ income.  Now, there are many middle-class families that send their students to state schools like Binghamton, who live in high-cost regions such as New York City. Now, do you think it’s possible for the financial aid formula to include the living costs of the region that applicants live in?  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s an interesting question, and sounds like it’s got some sympathy.  What’s absolutely true is that what it means to be middle class in New York is going to be different than what it means to be middle class in Wyoming, just in terms of how far your dollar goes.  And I think it is a relevant question.

It is a challenging problem because if you start getting into calibrating cost of living just in a state like New York, a big state that has such diversity in terms of cost of living, then it might get so complicated that it would be difficult to administer.  But why don’t I just say this:  I think it is a important question, and I’m going to talk to Secretary Arne Duncan about it and find out what kind of research and work we’ve done on that issue to see if we can potentially make a difference.

Now, one way of handling this would not be at the federal level but potentially at the state level.  So you could manage something at the state level, where people may have a better sense of the differences in cost of living in a state, and say, we’ll make some adjustments for students who are coming from higher-cost areas versus lower-cost areas.  That might be easier to do than to try to administer it at the federal level from Washington for all 50 states.

But I’ll check with the Department of Education.  And I’ll make sure my team gets your email so that you get a personal answer from the Secretary.  (Applause.)

I’ve got one last question and I want to make sure it’s a student.  Are you a student?

Q    Maybe.

THE PRESIDENT:  Maybe?  No, that doesn’t count if he said maybe.  (Laughter.)

You are?

Q    I am.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, this young man right here.  (Laughter.)  I just wanted to make sure.  He might have been a young-looking professor.  (Laughter.)

Q    Mr. President, I’m Danny.  I’m from here — I’m a student here.  I’m from the community college.  My question is — you spoke about increasing financial aid for college students.  However, I feel that with the competitive job market, a bachelor’s will not be enough to secure a job.  My question is will any of these funds go towards grad school programs?  Or will it be strictly limited to undergraduate education?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, a good undergraduate education means you are much more employable and you’re much more likely to get a job.  Each additional chunk of education that you get — if done well, if you’re getting good value — is going to enhance your marketability.  And we see that in the statistics.  That’s not just talk.

The fact is that the average American who has more than a college education or greater is a third less likely to be unemployed than somebody who just graduated from high school.  So don’t underestimate the power of an undergraduate education.  It can make a difference.

Now, what’s true is that if you, for example, in computer sciences want to get a master’s in computer science or a Ph.D. in computer science, presumably that will make you even more marketable.  And we want to make sure that financial aid is also available for graduate students.  And the way programs currently exist, that financial aid does exist, although typically you get fewer subsidies and a less favorable interest rate for graduate education.

We’re probably not going to be able to completely solve that, and here’s the reason why.  I got a lot of scholarships and grant money for my undergraduate education, so I didn’t have a lot of debt when I got out.  I then decided to go to law school. And I went to a very good law school that was very expensive.  Most of my debt when I graduated was from law school; I had about $60,000 worth of debt.  But the truth was I was able to — if I wanted to, at least — earn so much money coming out of law school that I really didn’t need a subsidy.  I could pay it back. It took me a little longer to pay it back than some of my friends because I went into public service and I didn’t try to maximize my income.  But if I had been a partner at a law firm pulling down half a million dollars a year, there’s no reason why I should necessarily have gotten a subsidy for that.

The one area where I think we can make a big difference goes back to the very first question that was asked of me when it came to schools of nursing.  Across the board in graduate school, what we want to do is to provide incentives for folks who need specialized education but are willing to give back something to the community, to the country — doctors who are willing to serve in underserved communities, nurses who are willing to serve in underserved communities, lawyers who are willing to work in the State’s Attorney’s Office or as a public defender.

So the more we can do around programs for graduate studies where we say to you, if you’re willing to commit to five years working in a place that doesn’t have a doctor and you’re studying to be a doctor, we’re going to forgive you a bunch of those loans — I’d like to see more programs like that.  And I’ve asked the Secretary of Education to see how we can make those more accessible to more students.

Well, listen, everybody, this has been a great conversation. (Applause.)  And let me just say that you will be hearing more about this debate over the course of the next year.  We will be talking to your university president.  We’ll be talking to the chancellor of the entire system.  We’ll be talking to faculty.  We’ll be talking to students.  If you have ideas or questions that were not somehow addressed, then we’d like to hear from you. And go to whitehouse.gov.  There’s a whole section where we can get comments, ideas.  And I promise you we actually pay attention when you guys raise questions.

And for those of you who are still sorting out student aid  — if you’re still in high school, for example, and you’re thinking about going to college and you don’t know exactly what makes sense for you, we do have a website called studentaid.gov that can be very helpful to you in identifying what you should be thinking about when it comes to financing your college education.

But we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that not only are you able to succeed without being loaded up with debt, but hopefully, you’re going to be able to afford to send your kids to college as well.

Thank you for your great hospitality.  I appreciate it.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
1:55 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines June 17, 2013: President Barack Obama Addresses North Ireland Youth in Belfast

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Addresses Youth in Belfast

Source: NYT, 6-17-13


Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Obama acknowledged “wounds that haven’t healed” but mostly praised Northern Ireland on Monday in Belfast.

President Obama on Monday opened a three-day diplomatic trip to Northern Ireland and Germany not with other world leaders but with young residents of this once strife-torn city, urging them to build on the peace that America helped broker 15 years ago.

“For you are the first generation in this land to inherit more than just the bitter prejudices of the past. You are the inheritors of a just and hard-earned peace,” Mr. Obama told more than 2,000 people, many of them teenagers in school uniforms who stood for hours in a chilly morning drizzle to get through security checkpoints into the Waterfront Hall convention center….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 17, 2013: President Barack Obama & First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speeches at Town Hall with Youth of Northern Ireland

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and Mrs. Obama in Town Hall with Youth of Northern Ireland

Source: WH, 6-17-13

Belfast Waterfront
Belfast, Northern Ireland

9:58 A.M. BST

MRS. OBAMA:  Good morning.   (Applause.)  Oh, what an honor. Good morning, everyone.  First of all, let me thank Hannah for that very bold and wonderful introduction.  And of course, I want to thank all of you for being here today.

It is such a pleasure to be here in Belfast.  And as you might imagine, whenever we travel to places like this or anywhere else in the world, we’ve got a pretty packed schedule.  We’re meeting with Presidents and Prime Ministers and First Ladies. We’re visiting historical sites and attending state dinners.  And my husband is spending hours trying to make progress on global issues from trade to international security.

But wherever we go, no matter what’s on our plate, we always do our best to meet with young people just like all of you.  In fact, you all might just very well be some of the most important people that we talk to during our visits, because in just a couple of decades, you will be the ones in charge.  Yes, indeed. You’ll be the ones shaping our shared future with your passion and energy and ideas.

So when I look around this room, I don’t just see a bunch of teenagers.  I see the people who will be moving our world forward in the years ahead.  And that’s why we wanted to be here today.

Let me tell you, when I was your age, I never dreamed that I’d be standing here as First Lady of the United States.  And I know that my husband never thought he’d be President, either.  Neither of us grew up with much money.  Neither of my parents went to university.  Barack’s father left his family when Barack was just two years old.  He was raised by a single mom.

And all along the way, there were plenty of people who doubted that kids like us had what it took to succeed — people who told us not to hope for too much or set our sights too high.
But Barack and I refused to let other people define us.  Instead, we held tight to those values we were raised with — things like honesty, hard work, a commitment to our education.

We did our best to be open to others; to give everyone we met a fair shake, no matter who they were or where they came from.  And we soon realized that the more we lived by those values, the more we’d see them from other people in return.  We saw that when we reached out and listened to somebody else’s perspective, that person was more likely to listen to us.  If we treated a classmate with respect, they’d treat us well in return.

And that’s sort of how we became who we are today.  That’s how we learned what leadership really means.  It’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone to explore new ideas.  It’s about rising above old divisions.  It’s about treating people the way you want to be treated in return.

And as young people, you all are in a very powerful position to make some of those same choices yourselves.  You have the freedom of an open mind.  You have a fresh perspective that can help you find solutions to age-old problems.  And with today’s technology, you can connect with other young people from all over Northern Ireland and all around the world.

So right now, you’ve got a choice to make.  You’ve got to decide how you’re going to use those advantages and opportunities to build the lives you dream of.  Because that decision will determine not only the kinds of people you’ll become, but also the kinds of communities you’ll live in, the kind of world we’ll all share together.

And standing here with all of you today, I have never felt more optimistic, let me tell you.  Because time and again, I have seen young people like all of you choosing to work together, choosing to lift each other up, choosing to leave behind the conflicts and prejudices of the past and create a bright future for us all.

That’s what’s so powerful about your generation.  And again, that’s why we’re here today — because we want you to know that we believe in each and every one of you.  That is exactly why we’re here.  We believe that you all have the ability to make a mark on this world that will last for generations to come.  We are so proud of you.  We expect great things.

So with that, I think it would be a good opportunity for me to introduce someone who accompanied me here today.  (Laughter.) I let him travel with me every now and then.  (Laughter.)   But he is someone who is just as excited and delighted to deliver a message of encouragement and support to all of you — my husband, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you!  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Please be seated.

Well, hello, Belfast!  (Applause.)  Hello, Northern Ireland! (Applause.)  You now know why it’s so difficult to speak after Michelle — she’s better than me.  (Laughter.)  But on behalf of both of us, thank you so much for this extraordinarily warm welcome.

And I want to thank Hannah for introducing my wife.  We had a chance to speak with Hannah backstage and she’s an extraordinary young woman, who I know is going to do even greater things in years to come.

I want to thank two men, who I’ve hosted at the White House on many a St. Patrick’s Day, for their warm welcome — First Minister Peter Robinson — (applause) — and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.  (Applause.)  I spend the whole year trying to unite Washington around things, and they come to visit on St. Patrick’s Day and they do it in a single afternoon.  (Laughter.)

I want to thank the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Teresa Villiers.  (Applause.)  To all the Ministers in the audience; to Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank all the citizens of Belfast and Northern Ireland for your hospitality.  (Applause.)

As our daughters pointed out as we were driving in, I cause a big fuss wherever I go.  (Laughter.)  So traffic and barricades and police officers, and it’s all a big production, a lot of people are involved — and I’m very, very grateful for accommodating us.

The first time Michelle and I visited this island was about two years ago.  We were honored to join tens of thousands on College Green in Dublin.  We traveled to the little village of Moneygall, where, as it turned out, my great-great-great grandfather was born.  And I actually identified this individual in this place only a few years ago.  When I was first running for office in Chicago, I didn’t know this, but I wish I had.  (Laughter.)  When I was in Chicago, as I was campaigning, they’d look at my last name and they’d say, “Oh, there’s an O’Bama from the homeland running on the South Side, so he must be Irish — (laughter) — but I’ve never heard the Gaelic name, Barack”  (Laughter.)  But it pays to be Irish in Chicago.  (Laughter.)

So while we were in Moneygall, I had a chance to meet my eighth cousin, Henry — who’s also known as Henry the Eighth.  (Laughter.)  We knew he was my cousin because his ears flapped out just like mine.  (Laughter.)  I leafed through the parish logs where the names of my ancestors are recorded.  I even watched Michelle learn how to pull a proper pint of “black.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Whoop!  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Who’s cheering for that?  (Laughter.)

So it was a magical visit.  But the only problem was it was far too short.  A volcano in Iceland forced us to leave before we could even spend the night.  So we’ve been eager for a chance to return to the Emerald Isle ever since — and this time, we brought our daughters, too.

In particular, we wanted to come here, to Northern Ireland, a place of remarkable beauty and extraordinary history; part of an island with which tens of millions of Americans share an eternal relationship.  America’s story, in part, began right outside the doors of this gleaming hall.  Three hundred and twenty-five years ago, a ship set sail from the River Lagan for the Chesapeake Bay, filled with men and women who dreamed of building a new life in a new land.

They, followed by hundreds of thousands more, helped America write those early chapters.  They helped us win our independence. They helped us draft our Constitution.  Soon after, America returned to Belfast, opening one of our very first consulates here in 1796, when George Washington was still President.

Today, names familiar to many of you are etched on schools and courthouses and solemn memorials of war across the United States — names like Wilson and Kelly, Campbell and O’Neill.  So many of the qualities that we Americans hold dear we imported from this land — perseverance, faith, an unbending belief that we make our own destiny, and an unshakable dream that if we work hard and we live responsibly, something better lies just around the bend.

So our histories are bound by blood and belief, by culture and by commerce.  And our futures are equally, inextricably linked.  And that’s why I’ve come to Belfast today — to talk about the future we can build together.

Your generation, a young generation, has come of age in a world with fewer walls.  You’ve been educated in an era of instant information.  You’ve been tempered by some very difficult times around the globe.  And as I travel, what I’ve seen of young people like you — around the world, they show me these currents have conspired to make you a generation possessed by both a clear-eyed realism, but also an optimistic idealism; a generation keenly aware of the world as it is, but eager to forge the world as it should be.  And when it comes to the future we share, that fills me with hope.  Young people fill me with hope.

Here, in Northern Ireland, this generation has known even more rapid change than many young people have seen around the world.  And while you have unique challenges of your own, you also have unique reasons to be hopeful.  For you are the first generation in this land to inherit more than just the hardened attitudes and the bitter prejudices of the past.  You’re an inheritor of a just and hard-earned peace.  You now live in a thoroughly modern Northern Ireland.

Of course, the recessions that spread through nearly every country in recent years have inflicted hardship here, too, and there are communities that still endure real pain.  But, day to day, life is changing throughout the North.  There was a time people couldn’t have imagined Northern Ireland hosting a gathering of world leaders, as you are today.  And I want to thank Chief Constable Matt Baggott for working to keep everyone safe this week.  (Applause.)

Northern Ireland is hosting the World Police and Fire Games later this year — (applause) — which Dame Mary Peters is helping to organize.  (Applause.)  Golf fans like me had to wait a long six decades for the Irish Open to return to the North last year.  (Applause.)  I am unhappy that I will not get a few rounds in while I’m here.  (Laughter.)  I did meet Rory McIlroy last year — (applause) — and Rory offered to get my swing “sorted,” — (laughter) —  which was a polite way of saying, “Mr. President, you need help.” (Laughter.)

None of that would have been imaginable a generation ago.  And Belfast is a different city.  Once-abandoned factories are rebuilt.  Former industrial sites are reborn.  Visitors come from all over to see an exhibit at the MAC, a play at the Lyric, a concert here at Waterfront Hall.  Families crowd into pubs in the Cathedral Quarter to hear “trad.”  Students lounge at cafés, asking each other, “What’s the craic?”  (Laughter and applause.) So to paraphrase Seamus Heaney, it’s the manifestation of sheer, bloody genius.  This island is now chic.

And these daily moments of life in a bustling city and a changing country, it may seem ordinary to many of you — and that’s what makes it so extraordinary.  That’s what your parents and grandparents dreamt for all of you — to travel without the burden of checkpoints, or roadblocks, or seeing soldiers on patrol.  To enjoy a sunny day free from the ever-present awareness that violence could blacken it at any moment.  To befriend or fall in love with whomever you want.  They hoped for a day when the world would think something different when they heard the word “Belfast.”  Because of their effort, because of their courage that day has come.  Because of their work, those dreams they had for you became the most incredible thing of all — they became a reality.

It’s been 15 years now since the Good Friday Agreement; since clenched fists gave way to outstretched hands.  The people of this island voted in overwhelming numbers to see beyond the scars of violence and mistrust, and to choose to wage peace.  Over the years, other breakthroughs and agreements have followed. That’s extraordinary, because for years, few conflicts in the world seemed more intractable than the one here in Northern Ireland.  And when peace was achieved here, it gave the entire world hope.

The world rejoiced in your achievement — especially in America.  Pubs from Chicago to Boston were scenes of revelry, folks celebrating the hard work of Hume and Trimble and Adams and Paisley, and so many others.  In America, you helped us transcend our differences — because if there’s one thing on which Democrats and Republicans in America wholeheartedly agree, it’s that we strongly support a peaceful and prosperous Northern Ireland.

But as all of you know all too well, for all the strides that you’ve made, there’s still much work to do.  There are still people who haven’t reaped the rewards of peace.  There are those who aren’t convinced that the effort is worth it.  There are still wounds that haven’t healed, and communities where tensions and mistrust hangs in the air.  There are walls that still stand; there are still many miles to go.

From the start, no one was naïve enough to believe that peace would be anything but a long journey.  Yeats once wrote “Peace comes dropping slow.”  But that doesn’t mean our efforts to forge a real and lasting peace should come dropping slow.  This work is as urgent now as it has ever been, because there’s more to lose now than there has ever been.

In today’s hyper-connected world, what happens here has an impact on lives far from these green shores.  If you continue your courageous path toward a permanent peace, and all the social and economic benefits that have come with it, that won’t just be good for you, it will be good for this entire island.  It will be good for the United Kingdom.  It will be good for Europe.  It will be good for the world.

We need you to get this right.  And what’s more, you set an example for those who seek a peace of their own.  Because beyond these shores, right now, in scattered corners of the world, there are people living in the grip of conflict — ethnic conflict, religious conflict, tribal conflicts — and they know something better is out there.  And they’re groping to find a way to discover how to move beyond the heavy hand of history, to put aside the violence.  They’re studying what you’re doing.  And they’re wondering, perhaps if Northern Ireland can achieve peace, we can, too.  You’re their blueprint to follow.  You’re their proof of what is possible — because hope is contagious.  They’re watching to see what you do next.

Now, some of that is up to your leaders.  As someone who knows firsthand how politics can encourage division and discourage cooperation, I admire the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly all the more for making power-sharing work.  That’s not easy to do.  It requires compromise, and it requires absorbing some pain from your own side.  I applaud them for taking responsibility for law enforcement and for justice, and I commend their effort to “Building a United Community” — important next steps along your transformational journey.

Because issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it.  If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division.  It discourages cooperation.

Ultimately, peace is just not about politics.  It’s about attitudes; about a sense of empathy; about breaking down the  divisions that we create for ourselves in our own minds and our own hearts that don’t exist in any objective reality, but that we carry with us generation after generation.

And I know, because America, we, too, have had to work hard over the decades, slowly, gradually, sometimes painfully, in fits and starts, to keep perfecting our union.  A hundred and fifty years ago, we were torn open by a terrible conflict.  Our Civil War was far shorter than The Troubles, but it killed hundreds of thousands of our people.  And, of course, the legacy of slavery endured for generations.

Even a century after we achieved our own peace, we were not fully united.  When I was a boy, many cities still had separate drinking fountains and lunch counters and washrooms for blacks and whites.  My own parents’ marriage would have been illegal in certain states.  And someone who looked like me often had a hard time casting a ballot, much less being on a ballot.

But over time, laws changed, and hearts and minds changed, sometimes driven by courageous lawmakers, but more often driven by committed citizens.  Politicians oftentimes follow rather than lead.  And so, especially young people helped to push and to prod and to protest, and to make common cause with those who did not look like them.  And that transformed America — so that Malia and Sasha’s generation, they have different attitudes about differences and race than mine and certainly different from the generation before that.  And each successive generation creates a new space for peace and tolerance and justice and fairness.

And while we have work to do in many ways, we have surely become more tolerant and more just, more accepting, more willing to see our diversity in America not as something to fear, but as something to welcome because it’s a source of our national strength.

So as your leaders step forward to address your challenges through talks by all parties, they’ll need you young people to keep pushing them, to create a space for them, to change attitudes.  Because ultimately, whether your communities deal with the past and face the future united together isn’t something you have to wait for somebody else to do –- that’s a choice you have to make right now.

It’s within your power to bring about change.  Whether you are a good neighbor to someone from the other side of past battles — that’s up to you.  Whether you treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve — that’s up to you.  Whether you let your kids play with kids who attend a different church -– that’s your decision.  Whether you take a stand against violence and hatred, and tell extremists on both sides that no matter how many times they attack the peace, they will not succeed –- that is in your hands.  And whether you reach your own outstretched hand across dividing lines, across peace walls, to build trust in a spirit of respect –- that’s up to you.  The terms of peace may be negotiated by political leaders, but the fate of peace is up to each of us.

This peace in Northern Ireland has been tested over the past 15 years.  It’s been tested over the past year.  It will be tested again.  But remember something that President Clinton said when he spoke here in Belfast just a few weeks after the horrors of Omagh.  That bomb, he said, “was not the last bomb of The Troubles; it was the opening shot of a vicious attack on the peace.”  And whenever your peace is attacked, you will have to choose whether to respond with the same bravery that you’ve summoned so far, or whether you succumb to the worst instincts.  those impulses that kept this great land divided for too long.  You’ll have to choose whether to keep going forward, not backwards.

And you should know that so long as you are moving forward, America will always stand by you as you do.  We will keep working closely with leaders in Stormont, Dublin and Westminster to support your political progress.  We’ll keep working to strengthen our economies, including through efforts like the broad economic initiative announced on Friday to unlock new opportunities for growth and investment between our two countries’ businesses –- because jobs and opportunity are essential to peace.

Our scientists will keep collaborating with yours in fields like nanotechnology and clean energy and health care that make our lives better and fuel economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic –- because progress is essential to peace.  And because knowledge and understanding is essential to peace, we will keep investing in programs that enrich both of us -– programs like the one at Belfast Metropolitan College, which teaches students from West and North Belfast the skills they need for new jobs, and exchange programs that have given thousands in Northern Ireland and the United States the chance to travel to each other’s communities and learn from one another.

Now, one of those young people is here today.  Sylvia Gordon is the director of an organization called Groundwork Northern Ireland, which aims to bring about change from the ground up.  (Applause.)  Where’s Sylvia?  Where’s Sylvia?  Is Sylvia here somewhere?  Where is she?  She’s here somewhere.  You’re here, too, yes.  Some guy just waved, he said, “I’m here.”  (Laughter.) Which is good, I appreciate you being here.  (Laughter.)

As someone who got my start as a community organizer, I was so impressed with what Sylvia has done, because a few years ago, Sylvia visited the United States to learn more about how Americans organize to improve their communities.  So after she came home, Sylvia rolled up her sleeves here in Belfast and decided to do something about Alexandra Park.  Some of you may know this park.  For years, it was thought to be the only park in Europe still divided by a wall.  Think about that.  In all of Europe, that one park has got a wall in the middle of it.

Sylvia and her colleagues knew how hard it would be to do anything about a peace wall, but they reached out to the police, they reached out to the Department of Justice.  They brought together people from across the communities.  They knew it was going to be hard, but they tried anyway.  And together, they all decided to build a gate to open that wall.  And now, people can walk freely through the park and enjoy the sun — when it comes out –- (laughter) — just like people do every day in parks all around the world.

A small bit of progress.  But the fact that so far we’ve only got a gate open and the wall is still up means there’s more work to do.  And that’s the work of your generation.  As long as more walls still stand, we will need more people like Sylvia.  We’ll need more of you, young people, who imagine the world as it should be; who knock down walls; who knock down barriers; who imagine something different and have the courage to make it happen.  The courage to bring communities together, to make even the small impossibilities a shining example of what is possible. And that, more than anything, will shape what Northern Ireland looks like 15 years from now and beyond.

All of you — every single young person here today — possess something the generation before yours did not, and that is an example to follow.  When those who took a chance on peace got started, they didn’t have a successful model to emulate.  They didn’t know how it would work.  But they took a chance.  And so far, it has succeeded.  And the first steps are the hardest and requires the most courage.  The rest, now, is up to you.

“Peace is indeed harder than war,” the Irish author Colum McCann recently wrote.  “And its constant fragility is part of its beauty.  A bullet need happen only once, but for peace to work we need to be reminded of its existence again and again and again.”

And that’s what we need from you.  That’s what we need from every young person in Northern Ireland, and that’s what we need from every young person around the world.  You must remind us of the existence of peace — the possibility of peace.  You have to remind us of hope again and again and again.  Despite resistance, despite setbacks, despite hardship, despite tragedy, you have to remind us of the future again and again and again.

I have confidence you will choose that path; you will embrace that task.  And to those who choose the path of peace, I promise you the United States of America will support you every step of the way.  We will always be a wind at your back.  And as I said when I visited two years ago, I am convinced that this little island that inspires the biggest of things — this little island, its best days are yet ahead.

Good luck.  God bless you.  And God bless all the people of Northern Ireland.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END
10:32 A.M. BST

Campaign Headlines October 17, 2012: Peter Roff: Mitt Romney Won the Second Presidential Debate

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Mitt Romney Won the Second Debate

Source: US News & World Report, 10-17-12
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama debate on Oct. 16, 2012, during the second of three presidential debates at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
Having had a night’s sleep to reflect on things, Tuesday night’s debate between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is starting to feel more like the challenger scored a narrow victory.The instant analysis, which I helped provide as part of the U.S. News & World Report opinion team’s live blogging of the event, lends itself to snap judgments made in the heat of the moment. What matters more is what people remember the next day, even as everything both candidates said and everything both candidates did is analyzed to death.

Certainly, President Obama turned in a much more polished, much more comfortable performance. The format was better suited to him than to Romney, who at times seem uncomfortable fighting for the chance to be heard over both the president and the moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley. But in looking at what each candidate said, give the points to Romney for this simple reason: Both candidates spent more time talking about what Romney would do or wanted to do or had done than was spent on Obama’s record….READ MORE

Campaign Headlines October 16, 2012: Barack Obama v. Mitt Romney: Mitt Romney’s Quotes from the Second Presidential Debate

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Mitt Romney: “The President Has Tried, But His Policies Haven’t Worked”

Source: Mitt Romney Press, 10-16-12

“I can tell you that if you were to elect President Obama, you know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a repeat of the last four years. We just can’t afford four more years like the last four years.” – Mitt Romney

Presidential Debate
Hempstead, NY
October 16, 2012

Click Here To Watch Mitt Romney

MITT ROMNEY: “I think you know better. I think you know that these last four years haven’t been so good as the President just described and that you don’t feel like you’re confident that the next four years are going to be much better either.

“I can tell you that if you were to elect President Obama, you know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a repeat of the last four years. We just can’t afford four more years like the last four years.

“He said that by now we’d have unemployment at 5.4 percent. The difference between where it is and 5.4 percent is 9 million Americans without work.

“I wasn’t the one that said 5.4 percent. This was the President’s plan. Didn’t get there.

“He said he would have by now put forward a plan to reform Medicare and Social Security, because he pointed out they’re on the road to bankruptcy. He would reform them. He’d get that done. He hasn’t even made a proposal on either one.

“He said in his first year he’d put out an immigration plan that would deal with our immigration challenges. Didn’t even file it.

“This is a president who has not been able to do what he said he’d do. He said that he’d cut in half the deficit. He hasn’t done that either. In fact, he doubled it. He said that by now middle-income families would have a reduction in their health insurance premiums by $2,500 a year. It’s gone up by $2,500 a year. And if Obamacare is passed, or implemented — it’s already been passed — if it’s implemented fully, it’ll be another $2,500 on top.

“The middle class is getting crushed under the policies of a president who has not understood what it takes to get the economy working again. He keeps saying, ‘Look, I’ve created 5 million jobs.’ That’s after losing 5 million jobs. The entire record is such that the unemployment has not been reduced in this country. The unemployment, the number of people who are still looking for work, is still 23 million Americans.

“There are more people in poverty, one out of six people in poverty.

“How about food stamps? When he took office, 32 million people were on food stamps. Today, 47 million people are on food stamps. How about the growth of the economy? It’s growing more slowly this year than last year, and more slowly last year than the year before.

“The President wants to do well. I understand. But the policies he’s put in place from Obamacare to Dodd-Frank to his tax policies to his regulatory policies, these policies combined have not let this economy take off and grow like it could have.

“You might say, ‘Well, you got an example of one that worked better?’ Yeah, in the Reagan recession where unemployment hit 10.8 percent, between that period — the end of that recession and the equivalent period of time to today, Ronald Reagan’s recovery created twice as many jobs as this president’s recovery. Five million jobs doesn’t even keep up with our population growth. And the only reason the unemployment rate seems a little lower today is because of all the people that have dropped out of the workforce.

“The President has tried, but his policies haven’t worked. He’s great as a speaker and describing his plans and his vision. That’s wonderful, except we have a record to look at. And that record shows he just hasn’t been able to cut the deficit, to put in place reforms for Medicare and Social Security to preserve them, to get us the rising incomes we need. Median income is down $4,300 a family and 23 million Americans out of work. That’s what this election is about. It’s about who can get the middle class in this country a bright and prosperous future and assure our kids the kind of hope and optimism they deserve.”

Campaign Buzz October 16, 2012: Barack Obama v. Mitt Romney: Who Won? Draw in Second Presidential Debate

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

IN FOCUS: SECOND PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are shown. | AP Photo

‘Gov. Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan; he has a one-point plan,’ Obama said. | AP Photo

Mitt Romney, left, addresses President Barack Obama during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University. | AP Photo

Romney has closed on Obama in swing-state polling in recent days. | AP Photo

STATS

IN THE NEWS

Rivals Bring Bare Fists to Rematch

Source: NYT, 10-17-12

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Mitt Romney and President Obama during the debate, their second, Tuesday night at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. More Photos »

President Obama and Mitt Romney engaged Tuesday in one of the most intensive clashes in a televised presidential debate, with tensions between them spilling out in interruptions, personal rebukes and accusations of lying as they parried over the last four years under Mr. Obama and what the next four would look like under a President Romney.

Competing for a shrinking sliver of undecided voters, many of them women, their engagements at times bordered on physical as they circled each other or bounded out of their seats while the other was speaking, at times more intent to argue than to address the questions over jobs, taxes, energy, immigration and a range of other issues….READ MORE

Obama and Romney Get Fired Up in Heated Second Debate

Source: ABC News Radio, 10-16-12

Circling each other like boxers at times and looking one another in the eye, President Obama and Mitt Romney came out swinging as soon as Monday night’s debate began, sparring over Libya, energy production, and an assault weapons ban.

At one point during a particularly heated exchange, Romney snapped when Obama tried to interrupt, “I’m still speaking.”

An another point, Obama said Romney’s insinuation that his administration played politics with the deaths of four Americans in Libya was “offensive.”

Obama, whose performance at the first debate two weeks ago was roundly considered to be lackluster, tried to make up lost ground Monday night….READ MORE

Obama goes on attack against Romney in debate rematch

Source: Reuters, 10-16-12

President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney clashed repeatedly on jobs, energy and Libya in their second debate on Tuesday, with Obama moving aggressively to challenge his opponent.

Obama was much sharper and more energetic than in their first encounter two weeks ago, when his listless performance was heavily criticized and gave Romney’s campaign a much-needed boost….READ MORE

Presidential debate 2012: Fight night on Long Island

Source: Politico, 10-16-12

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney confronted each other almost face to face on the debate stage here at Hofstra University Tuesday, as the president delivered an aggressive, prosecutorial critique of his Republican challenger for the first time in the 2012 debate season.

In one of the most combative presidential debates in recent memory, the two nominees circled each other in the town hall-style format, frequently interrupting each other and squabbling over the rules of engagement. “I want to make sure our timekeepers are working here,” Obama complained at one point, while Romney protested to an interjecting Obama: “You’ll get your chance in a second.” CNN anchor Candy Crowley, who moderated the debate, was at times powerless to keep the two candidates at more than arm’s length….READ MORE

QUOTES

FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY

Answering question on women paid less than men:

“What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers that are looking to find good employees are bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to afford.”

On Obama’s record:

“The president has tried, but his policies haven’t worked. He’s great as a speaker and at describing his plans and his vision. That’s wonderful, except we have a record to look at and that record shows that he just hasn’t been able to cut the deficit, to put in place reforms for Medicare and Social Security to preserve them, to get us the rising incomes we need.”

On his own job plan:

“I want to make small businesses grow and thrive. I know how to make that happen. I spent my life in the private sector. I know why jobs come and why they go. And they’re going now because of the policies of this administration.”

On comparisons to President George W. Bush:

“President Bush and I are different people and these are different times. And that’s why my five-point plan is so different from what he would have done.”

On energy:

“I want to make sure we use our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear, our renewables… But what we don’t need is to have the president keeping us from taking advantage of oil, coal and gas. This has not been Mr Oil, or Mr Gas, or Mr Coal.”

On taxes:

“I will not under any circumstances reduce the share that’s being paid by the highest-income paying taxpayers and I will not under any circumstance increase taxes on the middle class. The president’s spending, the president’s borrowing will cause this nation to have to raise taxes on the American people, and not just at the high end.”

On unemployment:

“We have fewer people working today than we had when the president took office… We have not made the progress we need to make to put people back to work.”

On employment after college:

“The key thing is to make sure you’ve got a job when you get out of school. And what’s happened over the last four years has been very, very hard for America’s young people… Half of college kids graduating this year without a job, without a college level job, that’s just unacceptable…. When you come out in 2014, I presume I’m going to be president. I’m going to make sure you get a job.”

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

On his response to Libya:

“Not everybody agrees with some of the decisions I’ve made, but when it comes to our national security I mean what I say… When I say that we’re going to find out exactly what happened, everybody will be held accountable and I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place there, because these are my folks and I’m the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home – you know I mean what I say.

On Romney’s responses to Libya attack:

“While we were still dealing with our diplomats still being threatened, Governor Romney put out a press release, trying to make political points. And that’s not how a commander-in-chief operates. You don’t turn national security into a political issue, certainly not right when it’s happening.”

On women’s issues:

“These are not just women’s issues. These are family issues. These are economic issues… That’s been one of the hallmarks of my administration. I’m going to continue to push on this issue for the next four years.”

On Romney’s tax plan:

“What he says is he’s going to make sure that this doesn’t add to the deficit and he’s going to cut middle-class taxes. But when he’s asked, ‘how are you going to do it, which deductions, which loopholes are you going to close?’ he can’t tell you… We haven’t heard from the governor any specifics beyond Big Bird

and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood in terms of how he pays for that.”

Answering why Americans should vote for him again:

“The commitments I’ve made, I’ve kept. And those that I haven’t been able to keep, it’s not for a lack of trying and we’re going to get it done in the second term.”

On Romney’s promise to crack down on China:

“When he talks about getting tough on China, keep in mind that Governor Romney invested in companies that were pioneers of outsourcing to China… Governor, you’re the last person to get tough on China.”

On energy:

“When I hear Governor Romney say he’s a big coal guy, I mean, keep in mind, Governor, when you were governor of Massachusetts, you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said, ‘This plant kills,’ and took great pride in shutting it down. And now suddenly, you’re a big champion of coal.”

On lower gas prices when he took office:

“The economy was on the verge of collapse because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression, as a consequence of some of the same policies that Governor Romney now promotes. So it’s conceivable that Governor Romney could bring down the gas prices, because with his policies we might be back in that same mess.”

On Romney’s energy plan:

“He’s got the oil and gas part, but he doesn’t have the clean energy part. And if we’re only thinking about tomorrow and the next day and not thinking about ten years from now, we’re not going to control our economic future. Because China, Germany, they’re making these investments, and I’m not going to cede those jobs in the future to those counties.”

On Romney’s economic plan:

“Governor Romney says he’s got a five-point plan. Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan, he has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That’s been his philosophy in the private sector, that’s been his philosophy as a governor and that’s been his philosophy as a presidential candidate.”

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS COMMENTS

Dr. Paul A. Rahe, professor of history, Hillsdale College, Michigan:

Source: One News Now, 10-17-12

“It seems to me that when you have a draw between a president of the United States and a challenger, the challenger wins; and when you have a president of the United States whose policies have obviously failed, that he’s trying to sell you a bill of goods for the future, he’s at a real disadvantage in the debate. So I think Romney did well enough that he will build upon what he achieved in the first debate when he throttled Obama…. You know, if you leave aside the Libya business where Candy Crowley sided with Obama and told an untruth – it’s as simple as that about what went on in the Rose Garden that day. What Obama said was that it was an act of senseless violence, not that it was a terrorist act. Now, an act of senseless violence is consistent with the line that they were peddling – that this was just a demonstration and a reaction to the movie.”

Michael Beschloss, presidential historian:

Source: PBS Newshour, 10-16-12

1984, Ronald Reagan as president was debating Walter Mondale, famously, bad for him, turned in a performance that thought that — many thought that President Reagan had lost it. He just wasn’t with the intensity that he had had before. People wondered whether he was up for a second term, a lot of the same things that were said about Barack Obama.

The thing is Reagan in the second debate, after the first one had caused him in some polls to be actually tied with Walter Mondale, reversed the damage, swept it away.

So I think — with this performance tonight, I think Barack Obama may very well do the same thing….

You know, this is the sixth town meeting debate. And the idea of this in the first place when it was started in 1992 was that it’s one way of making sure that at least you have got one debate where they’re kindly to each other because they’re not going to confront each other.

This was the iciest town meeting debate of all six. I used to think that 2000 between George W. Bush and Al Gore was an uncomfortable evening. Compared to this one, that was Valentine’s Day….

Well, and the other thing is that, in terms of degree of difficulty, it’s almost always harder for an incumbent president running for reelection because he’s got to defend the record. He’s done all sorts of things for four years.

The challenger can always say, I will do this and that, I will do better. It sounds better. So I think by that standard also, Barack Obama did very well tonight…..

But what he didn’t do is what we have seen with other incumbent presidents, which is they’re very heavy on rebutting what the challenger says, very light in terms of saying what they would do in the second term, Ronald Reagan especially.

Campaign Headlines October 16, 2012: Barack Obama v. Mitt Romney: 10 best Presidential debate lines from Romney, Obama

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

10 best debate lines from Romney, Obama

Source: Politico, 10-16-12

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are shown. | AP Photo

‘Gov. Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan; he has a one-point plan,’ Obama said. | AP Photo

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney went head-to-head with President Barack Obama at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., on Tuesday for the second, town hall–style presidential debate. Here are some of their most memorable lines:

ROMNEY:

1. “When do you graduate? 2014. When you come out in 2014, I presume I’m going to be president. I’m going to make sure you get a job.

2. “When we’re talking about math that doesn’t add up, how about $5 trillion of deficits over the last four years. That’s math that doesn’t add up.”

3. “We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks.’ And they brought us whole binders full of women.”

4. “You shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer to figure out how to get into this country legally.”

5. “The president took Detroit bankrupt. You took General Motors bankrupt. You took Chrysler bankrupt. So when you say that I wanted to take the auto industry bankrupt, you actually did. And I think it’s important to know that was a process that was necessary to get those companies back on their feet so they could start hiring more people.”

OBAMA:

1. “Gov. Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan; he has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules.”

2. “When he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considers themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about: folks on social security who have worked all their lives; veterans, who sacrificed for this country; students, who are out there trying to hopefully advance their own dreams but also this country’s dreams; soldiers, who are overseas fighting for us right now; people who are working hard every day.”

3. “We haven’t heard from the governor any specifics beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood in terms of how he pays for that.”

4. “I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours, so it doesn’t take as long.”

5. “Gov. Romney was a very successful investor. If somebody came to you, governor, with a plan that said, ‘Here, I want to spend $7 or $8 trillion and we’re going to pay for it but we can’t tell you until maybe after the election how we’re going to do it.’ You wouldn’t have taken such a sketchy deal and neither would you, the American people.”

Campaign Headlines October 16, 2012: Barack Obama v. Mitt Romney: CNN Poll: Who won the second Presidential debate? Obama 46%- Romney 39%

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Poll: Who won the debate? Obama 46%- Romney 39%

Source: CNN, 10-16-12

CNN Confirms CBS Poll: 58-40% in Romney’s favor on Economy; 49-46 Romney on health care; 51-44 Romney on taxes; 59-36 Romney on Deficit

On the Trail

Confrontations define second debate

Obama, Romney clash over energy

More Political news

Campaign Headlines October 16, 2012: Barack Obama v. Mitt Romney: CBS News Poll: Obama edges Romney to win second presidential debate

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Poll: Obama edges Romney in second presidential debate

Source: CBS News, 10-16-12

In a CBS News Instant Poll of uncommitted voters, 37 percent say President Obama won the second presidential debate, 30 percent say Romney won, and 33 percent called it a tie.

Full Text Campaign Buzz October 16, 2012: Barack Obama v. Mitt Romney: Townhall Second Presidential Debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York Transcript

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Second Presidential Debate Full Transcript

Source: Politico, 10-16-12

Transcript of the Oct. 16, 2012, presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney in Hempstead, N.Y., as prepared by the Commission on Presidential Debates with permission to re-publish.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AND FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY
PARTICIPATE IN A CANDIDATES DEBATE, HOFSTRA UNIVERSITY,
HEMPSTEAD, NEW YORK

OCTOBER 16, 2012

SPEAKERS: FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

CANDY CROWLEY, MODERATOR

[*]
CROWLEY: Good evening from Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. I’m Candy Crowley from CNN’s “State of the Union.” We are here for the second presidential debate, a town hall, sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

CROWLEY: The Gallup organization chose 82 uncommitted voters from the New York area. Their questions will drive the night. My goal is to give the conversation direction and to ensure questions get answered.

The questions are known to me and my team only. Neither the commission, nor the candidates have seen them. I hope to get to as many questions as possible.

CROWLEY: And because I am the optimistic sort, I’m sure the candidates will oblige by keeping their answers concise and on point.

Each candidate has as much as two minutes to respond to a common question, and there will be a two-minute follow-up. The audience here in the hall has agreed to be polite and attentive — no cheering or booing or outbursts of any sort.

We will set aside that agreement just this once to welcome President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney.

(APPLAUSE)

Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us here tonight. We have a lot of folks who’ve been waiting all day to talk to you, so I want to get right to it.

Governor Romney, as you know, you won the coin toss, so the first question will go to you. And I want to turn to a first-time voter, Jeremy Epstein, who has a question for you.

QUESTION: Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?

ROMNEY: Thank you, Jeremy. I appreciate your — your question, and thank you for being here this evening and to all of those from Nassau County that have come, thank you for your time. Thank you to Hofstra University and to Candy Crowley for organizing and leading this — this event.

Thank you, Mr. President, also for being part of this — this debate.

Your question — your question is one that’s being asked by college kids all over this country. I was in Pennsylvania with someone who had just graduated — this was in Philadelphia — and she said, “I’ve got my degree. I can’t find a job. I’ve got three part- time jobs. They’re just barely enough to pay for my food and pay for an apartment. I can’t begin to pay back my student loans.”

So what we have to do is two things. We have to make sure that we make it easier for kids to afford college.

ROMNEY: And also make sure that when they get out of college, there’s a job. When I was governor of Massachusetts, to get a high school degree, you had to pass an exam. If you graduated in the top quarter of your airlines, we gave you a John and Abigail Adams scholarship, four years tuition free in the college of your choice in Massachusetts, it’s a public institution.

I want to make sure we keep our Pell grant program growing. We’re also going to have our loan program, so that people are able to afford school. But the key thing is to make sure you can get a job when you get out of school. And what’s happened over the last four years has been very, very hard for America’s young people. I want you to be able to get a job.

I know what it takes to get this economy going. With half of college kids graduating this year without a college — excuse me, without a job. And without a college level job, that’s just unacceptable.

And likewise you’ve got more and more debt on your back. So more debt and less jobs. I’m going to change that. I know what it takes to create good jobs again. I know what it takes to make sure that you have the kind of opportunity you deserve. And kids across this country are going to recognize, we’re bringing back an economy.

It’s not going to be like the last four years. The middle-class has been crushed over the last four years, and jobs have been too scarce. I know what it takes to bring them back, and I’m going to do that, and make sure that when you graduate — when do you graduate?

QUESTION: 2014.

ROMNEY: 2014. When you come out in 2014, I presume I’m going to be president. I’m going to make sure you get a job. Thanks Jeremy. Yeah, you bet.

CROWLEY: Mr. President?

OBAMA: Jeremy, first of all, your future is bright. And the fact that you’re making an investment in higher education is critical. Not just to you, but to the entire nation. Now, the most important thing we can do is to make sure that we are creating jobs in this country. But not just jobs, good paying jobs. Ones that can support a family.

OBAMA: And what I want to do, is build on the five million jobs that we’ve created over the last 30 months in the private sector alone. And there are a bunch of things we can do to make sure your future is bright.

Number one, I want to build manufacturing jobs in this country again. Now when Governor Romney said we should let Detroit go bankrupt. I said we’re going to bet on American workers and the American auto industry and it’s come surging back.

I want to do that in industries, not just in Detroit, but all across the country and that means we change our tax code so we’re giving incentives to companies that are investing here in the United States and creating jobs here.

It also means we’re helping them and small businesses to export all around the world to new markets.

Number two, we’ve got to make sure that we have the best education system in the world. And the fact that you’re going to college is great, but I want everybody to get a great education and we’ve worked hard to make sure that student loans are available for folks like you, but I also want to make sure that community colleges are offering slots for workers to get retrained for the jobs that are out there right now and the jobs of the future.

Number three, we’ve got to control our own energy. Now, not only oil and natural gas, which we’ve been investing in; but also, we’ve got to make sure we’re building the energy source of the future, not just thinking about next year, but ten years from now, 20 years from now. That’s why we’ve invested in solar and wind and biofuels, energy efficient cars.

We’ve got to reduce our deficit, but we’ve got to do it in a balanced way. Asking the wealthy to pay a little bit more along with cuts so that we can invest in education like yours.

And let’s take the money that we’ve been spending on war over the last decade to rebuild America, roads, bridges schools. We do those things, not only is your future going to be bright but America’s future is going to bright as well.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you for more immediate answer and begin with Mr. Romney just quickly what — what can you do? We’re looking at a situation where 40 percent of the unemployed have been unemployed have been unemployed for six months or more. They don’t have the two years that Jeremy has.

What about those long term unemployed who need a job right now?

ROMNEY: Well what you’re seeing in this country is 23 million people struggling to find a job. And a lot of them, as you say, Candy, have been out of work for a long, long, long time. The president’s policies have been exercised over the last four years and they haven’t put Americans back to work.

We have fewer people working today than we had when the president took office. If the — the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent when he took office, it’s 7.8 percent now. But if you calculated that unemployment rate, taking back the people who dropped out of the workforce, it would be 10.7 percent.

We have not made the progress we need to make to put people back to work. That’s why I put out a five-point plan that gets America 12 million new jobs in four years and rising take-home pay. It’s going to help Jeremy get a job when he comes out of school. It’s going to help people across the country that are unemployed right now.

And one thing that the president said, which I want to make sure that we understand, he said that I said we should take Detroit bankrupt. And that’s right. My plan was to have the company go through bankruptcy like 7-Eleven did and Macy’s and Condell (ph) Airlines and come out stronger.

And I know he keeps saying, you want to take Detroit bankrupt. Well, the president took Detroit bankrupt. You took General Motors bankrupt. You took Chrysler bankrupt. So when you say that I wanted to take the auto industry bankrupt, you actually did.

And I think it’s important to know that that was a process that was necessary to get those companies back on their feet, so they could start hiring more people. That was precisely what I recommended and ultimately what happened.

CROWLEY: Let me give the president a chance.

Go ahead. OBAMA: Candy, what Governor Romney said just isn’t true. He wanted to take them into bankruptcy without providing them any way to stay open. And we would have lost a million jobs. And that — don’t take my word for it, take the executives at GM and Chrysler, some of whom are Republicans, may even support Governor Romney. But they’ll tell you his prescription wasn’t going to work.

And Governor Romney’s says he’s got a five-point plan? Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That’s been his philosophy in the private sector, that’s been his philosophy as governor, that’s been his philosophy as a presidential candidate.

You can make a lot of money and pay lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less. You can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it. You can invest in a company, bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip away their pensions, and you still make money.

That’s exactly the philosophy that we’ve seen in place for the last decade. That’s what’s been squeezing middle class families.

And we have fought back for four years to get out of that mess. The last thing we need to do is to go back to the very same policies that got us there.

CROWLEY: Mr. President, the next question is going to be for you here.

And, Mr. Romney — Governor Romney — there’ll be plenty of chances here to go on, but I want to…

ROMNEY: That — that Detroit — that Detroit answer…

CROWLEY: We have all these folks.

ROMNEY: … that Detroit answer…

CROWLEY: I will let you absolutely…

ROMNEY: … and the rest of the answer, way off the mark.

CROWLEY: OK. Will — will — you certainly will have lots of time here coming up.

Because I want to move you on to something that’s sort of connected to cars here, and — and go over. And we want to get a question from Phillip Tricolla.

QUESTION: Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?

OBAMA: The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy. So here’s what I’ve done since I’ve been president. We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years.

Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment. But what I’ve also said is we can’t just produce traditional source of energy. We’ve also got to look to the future. That’s why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That means that in the middle of the next decade, any car you buy, you’re going to end up going twice as far on a gallon of gas. That’s why we doubled clean — clean energy production like wind and solar and biofuels.

And all these things have contributed to us lowering our oil imports to the lowest levels in 16 years. Now, I want to build on that. And that means, yes, we still continue to open up new areas for drilling. We continue to make it a priority for us to go after natural gas. We’ve got potentially 600,000 jobs and 100 years worth of energy right beneath our feet with natural gas.

And we can do it in an environmentally sound way. But we’ve also got to continue to figure out how we have efficiency energy, because ultimately that’s how we’re going to reduce demand and that’s what’s going to keep gas prices lower.

Now, Governor Romney will say he’s got an all-of-the-above plan, but basically his plan is to let the oil companies write the energy policies. So he’s got the oil and gas part, but he doesn’t have the clean energy part. And if we are only thinking about tomorrow or the next day and not thinking about 10 years from now, we’re not going to control our own economic future. Because China, Germany, they’re making these investments. And I’m not going to cede those jobs of the future to those countries. I expect those new energy sources to be built right here in the United States.

That’s going to help Jeremy get a job. It’s also going to make sure that you’re not paying as much for gas.

CROWLEY: Governor, on the subject of gas prices?

ROMNEY: Well, let’s look at the president’s policies, all right, as opposed to the rhetoric, because we’ve had four years of policies being played out. And the president’s right in terms of the additional oil production, but none of it came on federal land. As a matter of fact, oil production is down 14 percent this year on federal land, and gas production was down 9 percent. Why? Because the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands, and in federal waters.

So where’d the increase come from? Well a lot of it came from the Bakken Range in North Dakota. What was his participation there? The administration brought a criminal action against the people drilling up there for oil, this massive new resource we have. And what was the cost? 20 or 25 birds were killed and brought out a migratory bird act to go after them on a criminal basis.

Look, I want to make sure we use our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear, our renewables. I believe very much in our renewable capabilities; ethanol, wind, solar will be an important part of our energy mix.

But what we don’t need is to have the president keeping us from taking advantage of oil, coal and gas. This has not been Mr. Oil, or Mr. Gas, or Mr. Coal. Talk to the people that are working in those industries. I was in coal country. People grabbed my arms and said, “Please save my job.” The head of the EPA said, “You can’t build a coal plant. You’ll virtually — it’s virtually impossible given our regulations.” When the president ran for office, he said if you build a coal plant, you can go ahead, but you’ll go bankrupt. That’s not the right course for America.

Let’s take advantage of the energy resources we have, as well as the energy sources for the future. And if we do that, if we do what I’m planning on doing, which is getting us energy independent, North America energy independence within eight years, you’re going to see manufacturing jobs come back. Because our energy is low cost, that are already beginning to come back because of our abundant energy. I’ll get America and North America energy independent. I’ll do it by more drilling, more permits and licenses.

We’re going to bring that pipeline in from Canada. How in the world the president said no to that pipeline? I will never know.

This is about bringing good jobs back for the middle class of America, and that’s what I’m going to do. CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me just see if I can move you to the gist of this question, which is, are we looking at the new normal? I can tell you that tomorrow morning, a lot of people in Hempstead will wake up and fill up and they will find that the price of gas is over $4 a gallon.

Is it within the purview of the government to bring those prices down, or are we looking at the new normal?

OBAMA: Candy, there’s no doubt that world demand’s gone up, but our production is going up, and we’re using oil more efficiently. And very little of what Governor Romney just said is true. We’ve opened up public lands. We’re actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration and my — the previous president was an oil man.

And natural gas isn’t just appearing magically. We’re encouraging it and working with the industry.

And when I hear Governor Romney say he’s a big coal guy, I mean, keep in mind, when — Governor, when you were governor of Massachusetts, you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said, “This plant kills,” and took great pride in shutting it down. And now suddenly you’re a big champion of coal.

So what I’ve tried to do is be consistent. With respect to something like coal, we made the largest investment in clean coal technology, to make sure that even as we’re producing more coal, we’re producing it cleaner and smarter. Same thing with oil, same thing with natural gas.

And the proof is our oil imports are down to the lowest levels in 20 years. Oil production is up, natural gas production is up, and, most importantly, we’re also starting to build cars that are more efficient.

And that’s creating jobs. That means those cars can be exported, ’cause that’s the demand around the world, and it also means that it’ll save money in your pocketbook.

OBAMA: That’s the strategy you need, an all-of-the-above strategy, and that’s what we’re going to do in the next four years.

ROMNEY: But that’s not what you’ve done in the last four years. That’s the problem. In the last four years, you cut permits and licenses on federal land and federal waters in half.

OBAMA: Not true, Governor Romney.

ROMNEY: So how much did you cut (inaudible)?

OBAMA: Not true.

ROMNEY: How much did you cut them by, then?

OBAMA: Governor, we have actually produced more oil —

ROMNEY: No, no. How much did you cut licenses and permits on federal land and federal waters?

OBAMA: Governor Romney, here’s what we did. There were a whole bunch of oil companies.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: No, no, I had a question and the question was how much did you cut them by?

OBAMA: You want me to answer a question —

ROMNEY: How much did you cut them by?

OBAMA: I’m happy to answer the question.

ROMNEY: All right. And it is —

OBAMA: Here’s what happened. You had a whole bunch of oil companies who had leases on public lands that they weren’t using. So what we said was you can’t just sit on this for 10, 20, 30 years, decide when you want to drill, when you want to produce, when it’s most profitable for you. These are public lands. So if you want to drill on public lands, you use it or you lose it.

ROMNEY: OK, (inaudible) —

OBAMA: And so what we did was take away those leases. And we are now reletting them so that we can actually make a profit.

ROMNEY: And production on private — on government land —

OBAMA: Production is up.

ROMNEY: — is down.

OBAMA: No, it isn’t.

ROMNEY: Production on government land of oil is down 14 percent.

OBAMA: Governor —

ROMNEY: And production on gas —

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: It’s just not true.

ROMNEY: It’s absolutely true. Look, there’s no question but the people recognize that we have not produced more (inaudible) on federal lands and in federal waters. And coal, coal production is not up; coal jobs are not up.

I was just at a coal facility, where some 1,200 people lost their jobs. The right course for America is to have a true all-of-the-above policy. I don’t think anyone really believes that you’re a person who’s going to be pushing for oil and gas and coal. You’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.

OBAMA: Well —

ROMNEY: And the answer is I don’t believe people think that’s the case —

OBAMA: — (inaudible).

ROMNEY: That wasn’t the question.

OBAMA: OK.

ROMNEY: That was a statement. I don’t think the American people believe that. I will fight for oil, coal and natural gas. And the proof, the proof of whether a strategy is working or not is what the price is that you’re paying at the pump. If you’re paying less than you paid a year or two ago, why, then, the strategy is working. But you’re paying more. When the president took office, the price of gasoline here in Nassau County was about $1.86 a gallon. Now, it’s $4.00 a gallon. The price of electricity is up.

If the president’s energy policies are working, you’re going to see the cost of energy come down. I will fight to create more energy in this country, to get America energy secure. And part of that is bringing in a pipeline of oil from Canada, taking advantage of the oil and coal we have here, drilling offshore in Alaska, drilling offshore in Virginia where the people want it. Those things will get us the energy we need.

CROWLEY: Mr. President, could you address, because we did finally get to gas prices here, could you address what the governor said, which is if your energy policy was working, the price of gasoline would not be $4 a gallon here. Is that true?

OBAMA: Well, think about what the governor — think about what the governor just said. He said when I took office, the price of gasoline was $1.80, $1.86. Why is that? Because the economy was on the verge of collapse, because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression, as a consequence of some of the same policies that Governor Romney’s now promoting.

So, it’s conceivable that Governor Romney could bring down gas prices because with his policies, we might be back in that same mess.

What I want to do is to create an economy that is strong, and at the same time produce energy. And with respect to this pipeline that Governor Romney keeps on talking about, we’ve — we’ve built enough pipeline to wrap around the entire earth once.

So, I’m all for pipelines. I’m all for oil production. What I’m not for is us ignoring the other half of the equation. So, for example, on wind energy, when Governor Romney says “these are imaginary jobs.” When you’ve got thousands of people right now in Iowa, right now in Colorado, who are working, creating wind power with good-paying manufacturing jobs, and the Republican senator in that — in Iowa is all for it, providing tax breaks (ph) to help this work and Governor Romney says I’m opposed. I’d get rid of it.

That’s not an energy strategy for the future. And we need to win that future. And I intend to win it as President of the United States.

CROWLEY: I got to — I got to move you on —

ROMNEY: He gets the first —

CROWLEY: — and the next question —

ROMNEY: He actually got —

CROWLEY: — for you —

ROMNEY: He actually got the first question. So I get the last question — last answer —

CROWLEY: (Inaudible) in the follow up, it doesn’t quite work like that. But I’m going to give you a chance here. I promise you, I’m going to.

And the next question is for you. So if you want to, you know, continue on — but I don’t want to leave all —

ROMNEY: Candy, Candy —

CROWLEY: — sitting here —

ROMNEY: Candy, I don’t have a policy of stopping wind jobs in Iowa and that — they’re not phantom jobs. They’re real jobs.

CROWLEY: OK.

ROMNEY: I appreciate wind jobs in Iowa and across our country. I appreciate the jobs in coal and oil and gas. I’m going to make sure —

CROWLEY: OK.

ROMNEY: — we’re taking advantage of our energy resources. We’ll bring back manufacturing to America. We’re going to get through a very aggressive energy policy, 31/2 million more jobs in this country. It’s critical to our future.

OBAMA: Candy, it’s not going to —

CROWLEY: We’re going to move you along —

OBAMA: Used to being interrupted.

CROWLEY: We’re going to move you both along to taxes over here and all these folks that have been waiting.

Governor, this question is for you. It comes from Mary Follano — Follano, sorry.

ROMNEY: Hi, Mary.

QUESTION: Governor Romney, you have stated that if you’re elected president, you would plan to reduce the tax rates for all the tax brackets and that you would work with the Congress to eliminate some deductions in order to make up for the loss in revenue.

Concerning the — these various deductions, the mortgage deductions, the charitable deductions, the child tax credit and also the — oh, what’s that other credit? I forgot.

OBAMA: You’re doing great.

QUESTION: Oh, I remember.

The education credits, which are important to me, because I have children in college. What would be your position on those things, which are important to the middle class?

ROMNEY: Thank you very much. And let me tell you, you’re absolutely right about part of that, which is I want to bring the rates down, I want to simplify the tax code, and I want to get middle- income taxpayers to have lower taxes.

And the reason I want middle-income taxpayers to have lower taxes is because middle-income taxpayers have been buried over the past four years. You’ve seen, as middle-income people in this country, incomes go down $4,300 a family, even as gasoline prices have gone up $2,000. Health insurance premiums, up $2,500. Food prices up. Utility prices up.

The middle-income families in America have been crushed over the last four years. So I want to get some relief to middle-income families. That’s part — that’s part one.

Now, how about deductions? ‘Cause I’m going to bring rates down across the board for everybody, but I’m going to limit deductions and exemptions and credits, particularly for people at the high end, because I am not going to have people at the high end pay less than they’re paying now.

The top 5 percent of taxpayers will continue to pay 60 percent of the income tax the nation collects. So that’ll stay the same.

Middle-income people are going to get a tax break.

And so, in terms of bringing down deductions, one way of doing that would be say everybody gets — I’ll pick a number — $25,000 of deductions and credits, and you can decide which ones to use. Your home mortgage interest deduction, charity, child tax credit, and so forth, you can use those as part of filling that bucket, if you will, of deductions.

But your rate comes down and the burden also comes down on you for one more reason, and that is every middle-income taxpayer no longer will pay any tax on interest, dividends or capital gains. No tax on your savings. That makes life a lot easier.

If you’re getting interest from a bank, if you’re getting a statement from a mutual fund or any other kind of investment you have, you don’t have to worry about filing taxes on that, because there’ll be no taxes for anybody making $200,000.00 per year and less, on your interest, dividends and capital gains. Why am I lowering taxes on the middle-class? Because under the last four years, they’ve been buried. And I want to help people in the middle-class.

And I will not — I will not under any circumstances, reduce the share that’s being paid by the highest income taxpayers. And I will not, under any circumstances increase taxes on the middle-class. The president’s spending, the president’s borrowing will cost this nation to have to raise taxes on the American people. Not just at the high end. A recent study has shown the people in the middle-class will see $4,000.00 per year in higher taxes as a result of the spending and borrowing of this administration.

I will not let that happen. I want to get us on track to a balanced budget, and I’m going to reduce the tax burden on middle income families. And what’s that going to do? It’s going to help those families, and it’s going to create incentives to start growing jobs again in this country.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Governor.

OBAMA: My philosophy on taxes has been simple. And that is, I want to give middle-class families and folks who are striving to get into the middle-class some relief. Because they have been hit hard over the last decade. Over the last 15, over the last 20 years.

So four years ago I stood on a stage just like this one. Actually it was a town hall, and I said I would cut taxes for middle- class families, and that’s what I’ve done, by $3,600.00. I said I would cut taxes for small businesses, who are the drivers and engines of growth. And we’ve cut them 18 times. And I want to continue those tax cuts for middle-class families, and for small business.

But what I’ve also said is, if we’re serious about reducing the deficit, if this is genuinely a moral obligation to the next generation, then in addition to some tough spending cuts, we’ve also got to make sure that the wealthy do a little bit more.

So what I’ve said is, your first $250,000.00 worth of income, no change. And that means 98 percent of American families, 97 percent of small businesses, they will not see a tax increase. I’m ready to sign that bill right now. The only reason it’s not happening is because Governor Romney’s allies in Congress have held the 98 percent hostage because they want tax breaks for the top 2 percent.

But what I’ve also says is for above $250,000, we can go back to the tax rates we had when Bill Clinton was president. We created 23 million new jobs. That’s part of what took us from deficits to surplus. It will be good for our economy and it will be good for job creation.

Now, Governor Romney has a different philosophy. He was on 60 Minutes just two weeks ago and he was asked: Is it fair for somebody like you, making $20 million a year, to pay a lower tax rate than a nurse or a bus driver, somebody making $50,000 year? And he said, “Yes, I think that’s fair.” Not only that, he said, “I think that’s what grows the economy.”

Well, I fundamentally disagree with that. I think what grows the economy is when you get that tax credit that we put in place for your kids going to college. I think that grows the economy. I think what grows the economy is when we make sure small businesses are getting a tax credit for hiring veterans who fought for our country. That grows our economy.

So we just have a different theory. And when Governor Romney stands here, after a year of campaigning, when during a Republican primary he stood on stage and said “I’m going to give tax cuts” — he didn’t say tax rate cuts, he said “tax cuts to everybody,” including the top 1 percent, you should believe him because that’s been his history.

And that’s exactly the kind of top-down economics that is not going to work if we want a strong middle class and an economy that’s striving for everybody.

CROWLEY: Governor Romney, I’m sure you’ve got a reply there.

(LAUGHTER) ROMNEY: You’re absolutely right.

You heard what I said about my tax plan. The top 5 percent will continue to pay 60 percent, as they do today. I’m not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people. I am looking to cut taxes for middle-income people.

And why do I want to bring rates down, and at the same time lower exemptions and deductions, particularly for people at the high end? Because if you bring rates down, it makes it easier for small business to keep more of their capital and hire people.

And for me, this is about jobs. I want to get America’s economy going again. Fifty-four percent of America’s workers work in businesses that are taxed as individuals. So when you bring those rates down, those small businesses are able to keep more money and hire more people.

For me, I look at what’s happened in the last four years and say this has been a disappointment. We can do better than this. We don’t have to settle for, how many months, 43 months with unemployment above 8 percent, 23 million Americans struggling to find a good job right now.

There are 3.5 million more women living in poverty today than when the president took office.

We don’t have to live like this. We can get this economy going again. My five-point plan does it. Energy independence for North America in five years. Opening up more trade, particularly in Latin America. Cracking down on China when they cheat. Getting us to a balanced budget. Fixing our training programs for our workers. And finally, championing small business.

I want to make small businesses grow and thrive. I know how to make that happen. I spent my life in the private sector. I know why jobs come and why they go. And they’re going now because of the policies of this administration.

CROWLEY: Governor, let me ask the president something about what you just said.

The governor says that he is not going to allow the top 5 percent, believe is what he said, to have a tax cut, that it will all even out, that what he wants to do is give that tax cut to the middle class. Settled?

OBAMA: No, it’s not settled.

Look, the cost of lowering rates for everybody across the board, 20 percent. Along with what he also wants to do in terms of eliminating the estate tax, along what he wants to do in terms of corporates, changes in the tax code, it costs about $5 trillion.

Governor Romney then also wants to spend $2 trillion on additional military programs even though the military’s not asking for them. That’s $7 trillion.

He also wants to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. That’s another trillion dollars — that’s $8 trillion.

Now, what he says is he’s going to make sure that this doesn’t add to the deficit and he’s going to cut middleclass taxes.

But when he’s asked, how are you going to do it, which deductions, which loopholes are you going to close? He can’t tell you.

The — the fact that he only has to pay 14 percent on his taxes when a lot of you are paying much higher. He’s already taken that off the board, capital gains are going to continue to be at a low rate so we — we’re not going to get money that way.

We haven’t heard from the governor any specifics beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood in terms of how he pays for that.

Now, Governor Romney was a very successful investor. If somebody came to you, Governor, with a plan that said, here, I want to spend $7 or $8 trillion, and then we’re going to pay for it, but we can’t tell you until maybe after the election how we’re going to do it, you wouldn’t take such a sketchy deal and neither should you, the American people, because the math doesn’t add up.

And — and what’s at stake here is one of two things, either Candy — this blows up the deficit because keep in mind, this is just to pay for the additional spending that he’s talking about, $7 trillion – $8 trillion before we even get to the deficit we already have. Or, alternatively, it’s got to be paid for, not only by closing deductions for wealthy individuals, that — that will pay for about 4 percent reduction in tax rates.

You’re going to be paying for it. You’re going to lose some deductions, and you can’t buy the sales pitch. Nobody who’s looked at it that’s serious, actually believes it adds up.

CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me get — let me get the governor in on this. And Governor, let’s — before we get into a…

ROMNEY: I — I…

CROWLEY: …vast array of who says — what study says what, if it shouldn’t add up. If somehow when you get in there, there isn’t enough tax revenue coming in. If somehow the numbers don’t add up, would you be willing to look again at a 20 percent…

ROMNEY: Well of course they add up. I — I was — I was someone who ran businesses for 25 years, and balanced the budget. I ran the Olympics and balanced the budget. I ran the — the state of Massachusetts as a governor, to the extent any governor does, and balanced the budget all four years. When we’re talking about math that doesn’t add up, how about $4 trillion of deficits over the last four years, $5 trillion? That’s math that doesn’t add up. We have — we have a president talking about someone’s plan in a way that’s completely foreign to what my real plan is.

ROMNEY: And then we have his own record, which is we have four consecutive years where he said when he was running for office, he would cut the deficit in half. Instead he’s doubled it. We’ve gone from $10 trillion of national debt, to $16 trillion of national debt. If the president were reelected, we’d go to almost $20 trillion of national debt. This puts us on a road to Greece. I know what it takes to balance budgets. I’ve done it my entire life. So for instance when he says, “Yours is a $5 trillion cut.” Well, no it’s not. Because I’m offsetting some of the reductions with holding down some of the deductions.

And…

CROWLEY: Governor, I’ve gotta — gotta — actually, I need to have you both (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: I understand the stakes here. I understand both of you. But I — I will get run out of town if I don’t…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: And I just described — I just described to you, Mr. President — I just described to you precisely how I’d do it which is with a single number that people can put — and they can put they’re — they’re deductions and credits…

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Mr. President, we’re keeping track, I promise you. And Mr. President, the next question is for you, so stay standing.

OBAMA: Great. Looking forward to it.

And it’s Katherine Fenton, who has a question for you.

QUESTION: In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?

OBAMA: Well, Katherine, that’s a great question. And, you know, I was raised by a single mom who had to put herself through school while looking after two kids. And she worked hard every day and made a lot of sacrifices to make sure we got everything we needed. My grandmother, she started off as a secretary in a bank. She never got a college education, even though she was smart as a whip. And she worked her way up to become a vice president of a local bank, but she hit the glass ceiling. She trained people who would end up becoming her bosses during the course of her career.

She didn’t complain. That’s not what you did in that generation. And this is one of the reasons why one of the first — the first bill I signed was something called the Lily Ledbetter bill. And it’s named after this amazing woman who had been doing the same job as a man for years, found out that she was getting paid less, and the Supreme Court said that she couldn’t bring suit because she should have found about it earlier, whereas she had no way of finding out about it. So we fixed that. And that’s an example of the kind of advocacy that we need, because women are increasingly the breadwinners in the family. This is not just a women’s issue, this is a family issue, this is a middle-class issue, and that’s why we’ve got to fight for it.

It also means that we’ve got to make sure that young people like yourself are able to afford a college education. Earlier, Governor Romney talked about he wants to make Pell Grants and other education accessible for young people.

Well, the truth of the matter is, is that that’s exactly what we’ve done. We’ve expanded Pell Grants for millions of people, including millions of young women, all across the country.

We did it by taking $60 billion that was going to banks and lenders as middlemen for the student loan program, and we said, let’s just cut out the middleman. Let’s give the money directly to students.

And as a consequence, we’ve seen millions of young people be able to afford college, and that’s going to make sure that young women are going to be able to compete in that marketplace.

But we’ve got to enforce the laws, which is what we are doing, and we’ve also got to make sure that in every walk of life we do not tolerate discrimination.

That’s been one of the hallmarks of my administration. I’m going to continue to push on this issue for the next four years.

CROWLEY: Governor Romney, pay equity for women?

ROMNEY: Thank you. And important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.

And I — and I went to my staff, and I said, “How come all the people for these jobs are — are all men.” They said, “Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.” And I said, “Well, gosh, can’t we — can’t we find some — some women that are also qualified?”

ROMNEY: And — and so we — we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.

I went to a number of women’s groups and said, “Can you help us find folks,” and they brought us whole binders full of women.

I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.

Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort. But number two, because I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.

She said, I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.

We’re going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I’m going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they’re going to be anxious to hire women. In the — in the last women have lost 580,000 jobs. That’s the net of what’s happened in the last four years. We’re still down 580,000 jobs. I mentioned 31/2 million women, more now in poverty than four years ago.

What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers that are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to afford.

This is what I have done. It’s what I look forward to doing and I know what it takes to make an economy work, and I know what a working economy looks like. And an economy with 7.8 percent unemployment is not a real strong economy. An economy that has 23 million people looking for work is not a strong economy.

An economy with 50 percent of kids graduating from college that can’t finds a job, or a college level job, that’s not what we have to have. CROWLEY: Governor?

ROMNEY: I’m going to help women in America get good work by getting a stronger economy and by supporting women in the workforce.

CROWLEY: Mr. President why don’t you get in on this quickly, please?

OBAMA: Katherine, I just want to point out that when Governor Romney’s campaign was asked about the Lilly Ledbetter bill, whether he supported it? He said, “I’ll get back to you.” And that’s not the kind of advocacy that women need in any economy. Now, there are some other issues that have a bearing on how women succeed in the workplace. For example, their healthcare. You know a major difference in this campaign is that Governor Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health care choices that women are making.

I think that’s a mistake. In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured. Because this is not just a — a health issue, it’s an economic issue for women. It makes a difference. This is money out of that family’s pocket. Governor Romney not only opposed it, he suggested that in fact employers should be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage.

That’s not the kind of advocacy that women need. When Governor Romney says that we should eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, there are millions of women all across the country, who rely on Planned Parenthood for, not just contraceptive care, they rely on it for mammograms, for cervical cancer screenings. That’s a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country. And it makes a difference in terms of how well and effectively women are able to work. When we talk about child care, and the credits that we’re providing. That makes a difference in whether they can go out there and — and earn a living for their family.

These are not just women’s issues. These are family issues. These are economic issues.

And one of the things that makes us grow as an economy is when everybody participates and women are getting the same fair deal as men are.

CROWLEY: Mr. President…

OBAMA: And I’ve got two daughters and I want to make sure that they have the same opportunities that anybody’s sons have. That’s part of what I’m fighting for as president of the United States.

CROWLEY: I want to move us along here to Susan Katz, who has a question.

And, Governor, it’s for you. QUESTION: Governor Romney, I am an undecided voter, because I’m disappointed with the lack of progress I’ve seen in the last four years. However, I do attribute much of America’s economic and international problems to the failings and missteps of the Bush administration.

Since both you and President Bush are Republicans, I fear a return to the policies of those years should you win this election. What is the biggest difference between you and George W. Bush, and how do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?

ROMNEY: Thank you. And I appreciate that question.

I just want to make sure that, I think I was supposed to get that last answer, but I want to point out that that I don’t believe…

OBAMA: I don’t think so, Candy.

ROMNEY: … I don’t believe…

OBAMA: I want to make sure our timekeepers are working here.

ROMNEY: The time — the time…

CROWLEY: OK. The timekeepers are all working. And let me tell you that the last part, it’s for the two of you to talk to one another, and it isn’t quite as (inaudible) you think.

But go ahead and use this two minutes any way you’d like to, the question is on the floor.

ROMNEY: I’d just note that I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not. And I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care of not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives. And — and the — and the president’s statement of my policy is completely and totally wrong.

OBAMA: Governor…

ROMNEY: Let me come back and — and answer your question.

President Bush and I are — are different people and these are different times and that’s why my five point plan is so different than what he would have done.

I mean for instance, we can now, by virtue of new technology actually get all the energy we need in North America without having to go to the — the Arabs or the Venezuelans or anyone else. That wasn’t true in his time, that’s why my policy starts with a very robust policy to get all that energy in North America — become energy secure.

Number two, trade — I’ll crack down on China, President Bush didn’t. I’m also going to dramatically expand trade in Latin America. It’s been growing about 12 percent per year over a long period of time. I want to add more free trade agreements so we’ll have more trade.

Number three, I’m going to get us to a balanced budget. President Bush didn’t. President Obama was right, he said that that was outrageous to have deficits as high as half a trillion dollars under the Bush years. He was right, but then he put in place deficits twice that size for every one of his four years. And his forecast for the next four years is more deficits, almost that large. So that’s the next area I’m different than President Bush.

And then let’s take the last one, championing small business. Our party has been focused too long. I came through small business. I understand how hard it is to start a small business. That’s why everything I’ll do is designed to help small businesses grow and add jobs. I want to keep their taxes down on small business. I want regulators to see their job as encouraging small enterprise, not crushing it.

And the thing I find the most troubling about Obama Care, well it’s a long list, but one of the things I find most troubling is that when you go out and talk to small businesses and ask them what they think about it, they tell you it keeps them from hiring more people.

My priority is jobs. I know how to make that happen. And President Bush has a very different path for a very different time. My path is designed in getting small businesses to grow and hire people.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Governor.

Mr. President?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think it’s important to tell you that we did come in during some tough times. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month when I started. But we had been digging our way out of policies that were misplaced and focused on the top doing very well and middle class folks not doing well.

Now, we’ve seen 30 consecutive — 31 consecutive months of job growth; 5.2 million new jobs created. And the plans that I talked about will create even more. But when Governor Romney says that he has a very different economic plan, the centerpiece of his economic plan are tax cuts. That’s what took us from surplus to deficit. When he talks about getting tough on China, keep in mind that Governor Romney invested in companies that were pioneers of outsourcing to China, and is currently investing in countries — in companies that are building surveillance equipment for China to spy on its own folks.

That’s — Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China. And what we’ve done when it comes to trade is not only sign three trade deals to open up new markets, but we’ve also set up a task force for trade that goes after anybody who is taking advantage of American workers or businesses and not creating a level playing field. We’ve brought twice as many cases against unfair trading practices than the previous administration and we’ve won every single one that’s been decided.

When I said that we had to make sure that China was not flooding our domestic market with cheap tires, Governor Romney said I was being protectionist; that it wouldn’t be helpful to American workers. Well, in fact we saved 1,000 jobs. And that’s the kind of tough trade actions that are required.

But the last point I want to make is this. You know, there are some things where Governor Romney is different from George Bush. George Bush didn’t propose turning Medicare into a voucher. George Bush embraced comprehensive immigration reform. He didn’t call for self-deportation.

George Bush never suggested that we eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, so there are differences between Governor Romney and George Bush, but they’re not on economic policy. In some ways, he’s gone to a more extreme place when it comes to social policy. And I think that’s a mistake. That’s not how we’re going to move our economy forward.

CROWLEY: I want to move you both along to the next question, because it’s in the same wheelhouse, so you will be able to respond. But the president does get this question. I want to call on Michael Jones.

QUESTION: Mr. President, I voted for you in 2008. What have you done or accomplished to earn my vote in 2012? I’m not that optimistic as I was in 2012. Most things I need for everyday living are very expensive.

OBAMA: Well, we’ve gone through a tough four years. There’s no doubt about it. But four years ago, I told the American people and I told you I would cut taxes for middle class families. And I did. I told you I’d cut taxes for small businesses, and I have.

I said that I’d end the war in Iraq, and I did. I said we’d refocus attention on those who actually attacked us on 9/11, and we have gone after Al Qaeda’s leadership like never before and Osama bin Laden is dead.

OBAMA: I said that we would put in place health care reform to make sure that insurance companies can’t jerk you around and if you don’t have health insurance, that you’d have a chance to get affordable insurance, and I have.

I committed that I would rein in the excesses of Wall Street, and we passed the toughest Wall Street reforms since the 1930s. We’ve created five million jobs, and gone from 800 jobs a month being lost, and we are making progress. We saved an auto industry that was on the brink of collapse.

Now, does that mean you’re not struggling? Absolutely not. A lot of us are. And that’s why the plan that I’ve put forward for manufacturing and education, and reducing our deficit in a sensible way, using the savings from ending wars, to rebuild America and putting people back to work. Making sure that we are controlling our own energy, but not only the energy of today, but also the energy of the future. All of those things will make a difference, so the point is the commitments I’ve made, I’ve kept.

And those that I haven’t been able to keep, it’s not for lack of trying and we’re going to get it done in a second term. But, you should pay attention to this campaign, because Governor Romney has made some commitments as well. And I suspect he’ll keep those too. You know when members of the Republican Congress say, “We’re going to sign a no tax pledge, so that we don’t ask a dime for millionaires and billionaires to reduce our deficit so we can still invest in education, and helping kids go to college. He said, “Me too.”

When they said, “We’re going to cut Planned Parenthood funding.” He said, “Me too.” When he said, “We’re going to repeal Obamacare. First thing I’m going to do,” despite the fact that it’s the same health care plan that he passed in Massachusetts and is working well. He said, “Me too.” That is not the kind of leadership that you need, but you should expect that those are promises he’s going to keep.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me let…

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: …the choice in this election is going to be whose promises are going to be more likely to help you in your life? Make sure your kids can go to college. Make sure that you are getting a good paying job, making sure that Medicare and Social Security… (CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Mr. President. Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: …will be there for you.

CROWLEY: Thank you. Governor?

ROMNEY: I think you know better. I think you know that these last four years haven’t been so good as the president just described and that you don’t feel like your confident that the next four years are going to be much better either.

I can tell you that if you were to elect President Obama, you know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a repeat of the last four years. We just can’t afford four more years like the last four years.

He said that by now we’d have unemployment at 5.4 percent. The difference between where it is and 5.4 percent is 9 million Americans without work.

I wasn’t the one that said 5.4 percent. This was the president’s plan. Didn’t get there.

He said he would have by now put forward a plan to reform Medicare and Social Security, because he pointed out they’re on the road to bankruptcy. He would reform them. He’d get that done. He hasn’t even made a proposal on either one.

He said in his first year he’d put out an immigration plan that would deal with our immigration challenges. Didn’t even file it.

This is a president who has not been able to do what he said he’d do. He said that he’d cut in half the deficit. He hasn’t done that either. In fact, he doubled it. He said that by now middle-income families would have a reduction in their health insurance premiums by $2,500 a year. It’s gone up by $2,500 a year. And if Obamacare is passed, or implemented — it’s already been passed — if it’s implemented fully, it’ll be another $2,500 on top.

ROMNEY: The middle class is getting crushed under the policies of a president who has not understood what it takes to get the economy working again. He keeps saying, “Look, I’ve created 5 million jobs.” That’s after losing 5 million jobs. The entire record is such that the unemployment has not been reduced in this country. The unemployment, the number of people who are still looking for work, is still 23 million Americans.

There are more people in poverty, one out of six people in poverty.

How about food stamps? When he took office, 32 million people were on food stamps. Today, 47 million people are on food stamps. How about the growth of the economy? It’s growing more slowly this year than last year, and more slowly last year than the year before.

The president wants to do well. I understand. But the policies he’s put in place from Obamacare to Dodd-Frank to his tax policies to his regulatory policies, these policies combined have not let this economy take off and grow like it could have.

You might say, “Well, you got an example of one that worked better?” Yeah, in the Reagan recession where unemployment hit 10.8 percent, between that period — the end of that recession and the equivalent of time to today, Ronald Reagan’s recovery created twice as many jobs as this president’s recovery. Five million jobs doesn’t even keep up with our population growth. And the only reason the unemployment rate seems a little lower today is because of all the people that have dropped out of the workforce.

The president has tried, but his policies haven’t worked. He’s great as a — as a — as a speaker and describing his plans and his vision. That’s wonderful, except we have a record to look at. And that record shows he just hasn’t been able to cut the deficit, to put in place reforms for Medicare and Social Security to preserve them, to get us the rising incomes we need. Median income is down $4,300 a family and 23 million Americans out of work. That’s what this election is about. It’s about who can get the middle class in this country a bright and prosperous future and assure our kids the kind of hope and optimism they deserve.

CROWLEY: Governor, I want to move you along. Don’t — don’t go away, and we’ll have plenty of time to respond. We are quite aware of the clock for both of you. But I want to bring in a different subject here.

Mr. President, I’ll be right back with you.

Lorraine Osorio has a question for you about a topic we have not…

OBAMA: This is for Governor Romney?

CROWLEY: It’s for Governor Romney, and we’ll be right with you, Mr. President. Thanks.

ROMNEY: Is it Loraina?

QUESTION: Lorraine.

ROMNEY: Lorraine?

QUESTION: Yes, Lorraine.

ROMNEY: Lorraine.

QUESTION: How you doing?

ROMNEY: Good, thanks.

QUESTION: Mr. Romney, what do you plan on doing with immigrants without their green cards that are currently living here as productive members of society?

ROMNEY: Thank you. Lorraine? Did I get that right? Good. Thank you for your question. And let me step back and tell you what I would like to do with our immigration policy broadly and include an answer to your question.

But first of all, this is a nation of immigrants. We welcome people coming to this country as immigrants. My dad was born in Mexico of American parents; Ann’s dad was born in Wales and is a first-generation American. We welcome legal immigrants into this country.

I want our legal system to work better. I want it to be streamlined. I want it to be clearer. I don’t think you have to — shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer to figure out how to get into this country legally. I also think that we should give visas to people — green cards, rather, to people who graduate with skills that we need. People around the world with accredited degrees in science and math get a green card stapled to their diploma, come to the U.S. of A. We should make sure our legal system works.

Number two, we’re going to have to stop illegal immigration. There are 4 million people who are waiting in line to get here legally. Those who’ve come here illegally take their place. So I will not grant amnesty to those who have come here illegally.

What I will do is I’ll put in place an employment verification system and make sure that employers that hire people who have come here illegally are sanctioned for doing so. I won’t put in place magnets for people coming here illegally. So for instance, I would not give driver’s licenses to those that have come here illegally as the president would.

The kids of those that came here illegally, those kids, I think, should have a pathway to become a permanent resident of the United States and military service, for instance, is one way they would have that kind of pathway to become a permanent resident.

ROMNEY: Now when the president ran for office, he said that he’d put in place, in his first year, a piece of legislation — he’d file a bill in his first year that would reform our — our immigration system, protect legal immigration, stop illegal immigration. He didn’t do it.

He had a Democrat House, a Democrat Senate, super majority in both Houses. Why did he fail to even promote legislation that would have provided an answer for those that want to come legally and for those that are here illegally today? What’s a question I think the — the president will have a chance to answer right now.

OBAMA: Good, I look forward to it.

Was — Lorranna — Lorraine — we are a nation of immigrants. I mean we’re just a few miles away from Ellis Island. We all understand what this country has become because talent from all around the world wants to come here. People are willing to take risks. People who want to build on their dreams and make sure their kids have an even bigger dreams than they have.

But we’re also a nation of laws. So what I’ve said is we need to fix a broken immigration system and I’ve done everything that I can on my own and sought cooperation from Congress to make sure that we fix the system.

The first thing we did was to streamline the legal immigration system, to reduce the backlog, make it easier, simpler and cheaper for people who are waiting in line, obeying the law to make sure that they can come here and contribute to our country and that’s good for our economic growth.

They’ll start new businesses. They’ll make things happen to create jobs here in the United States.

Number two, we do have to deal with our border so we put more border patrol on the — any time in history and the flow of undocumented works across the border is actually lower than it’s been in 40 years.

What I’ve also said is if we’re going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they’re trying to figure out how to feed their families. And that’s what we’ve done. And what I’ve also said is for young people who come here, brought here often times by their parents. Had gone to school here, pledged allegiance to the flag. Think of this as their country. Understand themselves as Americans in every way except having papers. And we should make sure that we give them a pathway to citizenship.

And that’s what I’ve done administratively. Now, Governor Romney just said, you know he wants to help those young people too, but during the Republican primary, he said, “I will veto the DREAM Act”, that would allow these young people to have access.” His main strategy during the Republican primary was to say, “We’re going to encourage self-deportation.” Making life so miserable on folks that they’ll leave. He called the Arizona law a model for the nation. Part of the Arizona law said that law enforcement officers could stop folks because they suspected maybe they looked like they might be undocumented workers and check their papers.

You know what? If my daughter or yours looks to somebody like they’re not a citizen, I don’t want — I don’t want to empower somebody like that. So, we can fix this system in a comprehensive way. And when Governor Romney says, the challenge is, “Well Obama didn’t try.” That’s not true. I have sat down with Democrats and Republicans at the beginning of my term. And I said, let’s fix this system. Including Senators previously who had supported it on the Republican side. But it’s very hard for Republican’s in Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform, if their standard bearer has said that, this is not something I’m interested in supporting.

CROWLEY: Let me get the governor in here, Mr. President. Let’s speak to, if you could…

ROMNEY: Yes.

CROWLEY: …the idea of self-deportation?

ROMNEY: No, let — let — let me go back and speak to the points that the president made and — and — and let’s get them correct.

I did not say that the Arizona law was a model for the nation in that aspect. I said that the E-Verify portion of the Arizona law, which is — which is the portion of the law which says that employers could be able to determine whether someone is here illegally or not illegally, that that was a model for the nation. That’s number one.

Number two, I asked the president a question I think Hispanics and immigrants all over the nation have asked. He was asked this on Univision the other day. Why, when you said you’d filed legislation in your first year didn’t you do it? And he didn’t answer. He — he doesn’t answer that question. He said the standard bearer wasn’t for it.

I’m glad you thought I was a standard bearer four years ago, but I wasn’t.

Four years ago you said in your first year you would file legislation.

In his first year, I was just getting — licking my wounds from having been beaten by John McCain, all right. I was not the standard bearer.

My — my view is that this president should have honored his promise to do as he said.

Now, let me mention one other thing, and that is self-deportation says let people make their own choice. What I was saying is, we’re not going to round up 12 million people, undocumented illegals, and take them out of the nation. Instead let people make their own choice. And if they — if they find that — that they can’t get the benefits here that they want and they can’t — and they can’t find the job they want, then they’ll make a decision to go a place where — where they have better opportunities.

But I’m not in favor of rounding up people and — and — and taking them out of this country. I am in favor, as the president has said, and I agree with him, which is that if people have committed crimes we got to get them out of this country.

ROMNEY: Let me mention something else the president said. It was a moment ago and I didn’t get a chance to, when he was describing Chinese investments and so forth.

OBAMA: Candy?

Hold on a second. The…

ROMNEY: Mr. President, I’m still speaking.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Mr. President, let me finish.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: I’ve gotta continue.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Governor Romney, you can make it short. See all these people? They’ve been waiting for you. (inaudible) make it short (inaudible).

ROMNEY: Just going to make a point. Any investments I have over the last eight years have been managed by a blind trust. And I understand they do include investments outside the United States, including in — in Chinese companies.

Mr. President, have you looked at your pension? Have you looked at your pension?

OBAMA: I’ve got to say…

ROMNEY: Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?

OBAMA: You know, I — I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours so it doesn’t take as long.

ROMNEY: Well, let me give you some advice.

OBAMA: I don’t check it that often.

ROMNEY: Let me give you some advice. Look at your pension. You also have investments in Chinese companies. You also have investments outside the United States. You also have investments through a Cayman’s trust.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: We’re way off topic here, Governor Romney.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: I thought we were talking about immigration.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: I do want to make sure that…

CROWLEY: If I could have you sit down, Governor Romney. Thank you.

OBAMA: I do want to make sure that — I do want to make sure that we just understand something. Governor Romney says he wasn’t referring to Arizona as a model for the nation. His top adviser on immigration is the guy who designed the Arizona law, the entirety of it; not E-Verify, the whole thing. That’s his policy. And it’s a bad policy. And it won’t help us grow.

Look, when we think about immigration, we have to understand there are folks all around the world who still see America as the land of promise. And they provide us energy and they provide us innovation and they start companies like Intel and Google. And we want to encourage that.

Now, we’ve got to make sure that we do it in a smart way and a comprehensive way, and we make the legal system better. But when we make this into a divisive political issue, and when we don’t have bipartisan support — I can deliver, Governor, a whole bunch of Democrats to get comprehensive immigration reform done, and we can’t…

ROMNEY: I’ll get it done. I’ll get it done. First year…

OBAMA: … we can’t — we have not seen Republicans serious about this issue at all. And it’s time for them to get serious on it.

CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me move you on here please. Mr. President, (inaudible).

OBAMA: This used to be a bipartisan issue.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Don’t go away, though — right. Don’t go away because I — I want you to talk to Kerry Ladka who wants to switch the topic for us.

OBAMA: OK.

Hi, Kerry.

QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. President.

OBAMA: I’m sorry. What’s your name?

QUESTION: It’s Kerry, Kerry Ladka.

OBAMA: Great to see you.

QUESTION: This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply (ph) in Minneola yesterday.

OBAMA: Ah.

QUESTION: We were sitting around, talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans.

Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?

OBAMA: Well, let me first of all talk about our diplomats, because they serve all around the world and do an incredible job in a very dangerous situation. And these aren’t just representatives of the United States, they are my representatives. I send them there, oftentimes into harm’s way. I know these folks and I know their families. So nobody is more concerned about their safety and security than I am.

So as soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team and I gave them three instructions.

Number one, beef up our security and procedures, not just in Libya, but at every embassy and consulate in the region.

Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure folks are held accountable and it doesn’t happen again.

And number three, we are going to find out who did this and we’re going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I’ve said throughout my presidency is when folks mess with Americans, we go after them.

OBAMA: Now Governor Romney had a very different response. While we were still dealing with our diplomats being threatened, Governor Romney put out a press release, trying to make political points, and that’s not how a commander in chief operates. You don’t turn national security into a political issue. Certainly not right when it’s happening. And people — not everybody agrees with some of the decisions I’ve made. But when it comes to our national security, I mean what I say. I said I’d end the war in Libya — in — in Iraq, and I did.

I said that we’d go after al-Qaeda and bin Laden, we have. I said we’d transition out of Afghanistan, and start making sure that Afghans are responsible for their own security, that’s what I’m doing. And when it comes to this issue, when I say that we are going to find out exactly what happened, everybody will be held accountable. And I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place there because these are my folks, and I’m the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home. You know that I mean what I say.

CROWLEY: Mr. President, I’m going to move us along. Governor?

ROMNEY: Thank you Kerry for your question, it’s an important one. And — and I — I think the president just said correctly that the buck does stop at his desk and — and he takes responsibility for — for that — for the failure in providing those security resources, and — and those terrible things may well happen from time to time. I — I’m — I feel very deeply sympathetic for the families of those who lost loved ones. And today there’s a memorial service for one of those that was lost in this tragedy. We — we think of their families and care for them deeply. There were other issues associated with this — with this tragedy. There were many days that passed before we knew whether this was a spontaneous demonstration, or actually whether it was a terrorist attack.

ROMNEY: And there was no demonstration involved. It was a terrorist attack and it took a long time for that to be told to the American people. Whether there was some misleading, or instead whether we just didn’t know what happened, you have to ask yourself why didn’t we know five days later when the ambassador to the United Nations went on TV to say that this was a demonstration. How could we have not known?

But I find more troubling than this, that on — on the day following the assassination of the United States ambassador, the first time that’s happened since 1979, when — when we have four Americans killed there, when apparently we didn’t know what happened, that the president, the day after that happened, flies to Las Vegas for a political fund-raiser, then the next day to Colorado for another event, other political event.

I think these — these actions taken by a president and a leader have symbolic significance and perhaps even material significance in that you’d hope that during that time we could call in the people who were actually eyewitnesses. We’ve read their accounts now about what happened. It was very clear this was not a demonstration. This was an attack by terrorists.

And this calls into question the president’s whole policy in the Middle East. Look what’s happening in Syria, in Egypt, now in Libya. Consider the distance between ourselves and — and Israel, the president said that — that he was going to put daylight between us and Israel.

We have Iran four years closer to a nuclear bomb. Syria — Syria’s not just a tragedy of 30,000 civilians being killed by a military, but also a strategic — strategically significant player for America.

The president’s policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour and — and — and pursue a strategy of leading from behind, and this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes.

CROWLEY: Because we’re — we’re closing in, I want to still get a lot of people in. I want to ask you something, Mr. President, and then have the governor just quickly.

Your secretary of state, as I’m sure you know, has said that she takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Does the buck stop with your secretary of state as far as what went on here?

OBAMA: Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I’m the president and I’m always responsible, and that’s why nobody’s more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.

The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime.

And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.

And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president, that’s not what I do as Commander in Chief.

CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to…

ROMNEY: Yes, I — I…

CROWLEY: … quickly to this please.

ROMNEY: I — I think interesting the president just said something which — which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That’s what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror.

It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CROWLEY: It — it — it — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror…

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY: He — he did call it an act of terror. It did as well take — it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.

ROMNEY: This — the administration — the administration indicated this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.

CROWLEY: It did.

ROMNEY: It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group. And to suggest — am I incorrect in that regard, on Sunday, the — your secretary —

OBAMA: Candy?

ROMNEY: Excuse me. The ambassador of the United Nations went on the Sunday television shows and spoke about how —

OBAMA: Candy, I’m —

ROMNEY: — this was a spontaneous —

CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me —

OBAMA: I’m happy to have a longer conversation —

CROWLEY: I know you —

OBAMA: — about foreign policy.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. But I want to — I want to move you on and also —

OBAMA: OK. I’m happy to do that, too.

CROWLEY: — the transcripts and —

OBAMA: I just want to make sure that —

CROWLEY: — figure out what we —

OBAMA: — all of these wonderful folks are going to have a chance to get some of their questions answered.

CROWLEY: Because what I — what I want to do, Mr. President, stand there a second, because I want to introduce you to Nina Gonzalez, who brought up a question that we hear a lot, both over the Internet and from this crowd.

QUESTION: President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?

OBAMA: We’re a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment. We’ve got a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can protect themselves.

But there have been too many instances during the course of my presidency, where I’ve had to comfort families who have lost somebody. Most recently out in Aurora. You know, just a couple of weeks ago, actually, probably about a month, I saw a mother, who I had met at the bedside of her son, who had been shot in that theater.

And her son had been shot through the head. And we spent some time, and we said a prayer and, remarkably, about two months later, this young man and his mom showed up, and he looked unbelievable, good as new.

But there were a lot of families who didn’t have that good fortune and whose sons or daughters or husbands didn’t survive.

So my belief is that, (A), we have to enforce the laws we’ve already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement.

But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced. But part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence. Because frankly, in my home town of Chicago, there’s an awful lot of violence and they’re not using AK-47s. They’re using cheap hand guns.

And so what can we do to intervene, to make sure that young people have opportunity; that our schools are working; that if there’s violence on the streets, that working with faith groups and law enforcement, we can catch it before it gets out of control.

And so what I want is a — is a comprehensive strategy. Part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. But part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur.

CROWLEY: Governor Romney, the question is about assault weapons, AK-47s.

ROMNEY: Yeah, I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on — on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. We, of course, don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons. What I believe is we have to do, as the president mentioned towards the end of his remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have, and to change the culture of violence that we have.

And you ask how — how are we going to do that? And there are a number of things. He mentioned good schools. I totally agree. We were able to drive our schools to be number one in the nation in my state. And I believe if we do a better job in education, we’ll — we’ll give people the — the hope and opportunity they deserve and perhaps less violence from that. But let me mention another thing. And that is parents. We need moms and dads, helping to raise kids. Wherever possible the — the benefit of having two parents in the home, and that’s not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone, that’s a great idea.

Because if there’s a two parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will — will be able to achieve increase dramatically. So we can make changes in the way our culture works to help bring people away from violence and give them opportunity, and bring them in the American system. The — the greatest failure we’ve had with regards to — to gun violence in some respects is what — what is known as Fast and Furious. Which was a program under this administration, and how it worked exactly I think we don’t know precisely, where thousands of automatic, and AK-47 type weapons were — were given to people that ultimately gave them to — to drug lords.

They used those weapons against — against their own citizens and killed Americans with them. And this was a — this was a program of the government. For what purpose it was put in place, I can’t imagine. But it’s one of the great tragedies related to violence in our society which has occurred during this administration. Which I think the American people would like to understand fully, it’s been investigated to a degree, but — but the administration has carried out executive privilege to prevent all of the information from coming out.

I’d like to understand who it was that did this, what the idea was behind it, why it led to the violence, thousands of guns going to Mexican drug lords. OBAMA: Candy?

CROWLEY: Governor, Governor, if I could, the question was about these assault weapons that once were once banned and are no longer banned.

I know that you signed an assault weapons ban when you were in Massachusetts, obviously, with this question, you no longer do support that. Why is that, given the kind of violence that we see sometimes with these mass killings? Why is it that you have changed your mind?

ROMNEY: Well, Candy, actually, in my state, the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks came together and put together a piece of legislation. And it’s referred to as an assault weapon ban, but it had, at the signing of the bill, both the pro-gun and the anti-gun people came together, because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted.

There were hunting opportunities, for instance, that haven’t previously been available and so forth, so it was a mutually agreed- upon piece of legislation. That’s what we need more of, Candy. What we have right now in Washington is a place that’s gridlocked.

CROWLEY: So I could — if you could get people to agree to it, you would be for it?

ROMNEY: We have —

OBAMA: Candy?

ROMNEY: — we haven’t had the leadership in Washington to work on a bipartisan basis. I was able to do that in my state and bring these two together.

CROWLEY: Quickly, Mr. President.

OBAMA: The — first of all, I think Governor Romney was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it. And he said that the reason he changed his mind was, in part, because he was seeking the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. So that’s on the record.

But I think that one area we agree on is the important of parents and the importance of schools, because I do believe that if our young people have opportunity, then they are less likely to engage in these kinds of violent acts. We’re not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally disturbed and we have got to make sure they don’t get weapons.

(AUDIO GAP)

OBAMA: because I do believe that if our young people have opportunity, then they’re less likely to engage in these kind of violent acts.

We’re not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally disturbed, and we’ve got to make sure they don’t get weapons. But we can make a difference in terms ensuring that every young person in America, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, have a chance to succeed.

And, Candy, we haven’t had a chance to talk about education much, but I think it is very important to understand that the reforms we’ve put in place, working with 46 governors around the country, are seeing schools that are some of the ones that are the toughest for kids starting to succeed. We’re starting to see gains in math and science.

When it comes to community colleges, we are setting up programs, including with Nassau Community College, to retrain workers, including young people who may have dropped out of school but now are getting another chance, training them for the jobs that exist right now.

And in fact, employers are looking for skilled workers. And so we’re matching them up. Giving them access to higher education. As I said, we have made sure that millions of young people are able to get an education that they weren’t able to get before.

Now…

CROWLEY: Mr. President, I have to — I have to move you along here. You said you wanted to…

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: We need to do it here.

OBAMA: But — but it’ll — it’ll — it’ll be…

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: … just one second.

CROWLEY: One…

OBAMA: Because — because this is important. This is part of the choice in this election.

When Governor Romney was asked whether teachers, hiring more teachers was important to growing our economy, Governor Romney said that doesn’t grow our economy.

When — when he was asked would class size…

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: The question, Mr. President, was guns here, so I need to move us along.

OBAMA: I understand.

CROWLEY: You know, the question was guns. So let me — let me bring in another…

OBAMA: But this will make a difference in terms of whether or not we can move this economy forward for these young people…

CROWLEY: I understand.

OBAMA: … and reduce our violence.

CROWLEY: OK. Thank you so much.

I want to ask Carol Goldberg to stand up, because she gets to a question that both these men have been passionate about. It’s for Governor Romney.

QUESTION: The outsourcing of American jobs overseas has taken a toll on our economy. What plans do you have to put back and keep jobs here in the United States?

ROMNEY: Boy, great question and important question, because you’re absolutely right. The place where we’ve seen manufacturing go has been China. China is now the largest manufacturer in the world. It used to be the United States of America. A lot of good people have lost jobs. A half a million manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last four years. That’s total over the last four years.

One of the reasons for that is that people think it’s more attractive in some cases to go offshore than to stay here. We have made it less attractive for enterprises to stay here than to go offshore from time to time. What I will do as president is make sure it’s more attractive to come to America again.

This is the way we’re going to create jobs in this country. It’s not by trickle-down government, saying we’re going to take more money from people and hire more government workers, raise more taxes, put in place more regulations. Trickle-down government has never worked here, has never worked anywhere.

I want to make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, for small business, for big business, to invest and grow in America.

Now, we’re going to have to make sure that as we trade with other nations that they play by the rules. And China hasn’t. One of the reasons — or one of the ways they don’t play by the rules is artificially holding down the value of their currency. Because if they put their currency down low, that means their prices on their goods are low. And that makes them advantageous in the marketplace.

We lose sales. And manufacturers here in the U.S. making the same products can’t compete. China has been a currency manipulator for years and years and years. And the president has a regular opportunity to label them as a currency manipulator, but refuses to do so.

On day one, I will label China a currency manipulator, which will allow me as president to be able to put in place, if necessary, tariffs where I believe that they are taking unfair advantage of our manufacturers.

So we’re going to make sure that people we trade with around the world play by the rules. But let me — let me not just stop there. Don’t forget, what’s key to bringing back jobs here is not just finding someone else to punish, and I’m going to be strict with people who we trade with to make sure they — they follow the law and play by the rules, but it’s also to make America the most attractive place in the world for businesses of all kinds.

That’s why I want to down the tax rates on small employers, big employers, so they want to be here. Canada’s tax rate on companies is now 15 percent. Ours is 35 percent. So if you’re starting a business, where would you rather start it? We have to be competitive if we’re going to create more jobs here.

Regulations have quadrupled. The rate of regulations quadrupled under this president. I talk to small businesses across the country. They say, “We feel like we’re under attack from our own government.” I want to make sure that regulators see their job as encouraging small business, not crushing it. And there’s no question but that Obamacare has been an extraordinary deterrent to enterprises of all kinds hiring people.

My priority is making sure that we get more people hired. If we have more people hired, if we get back manufacturing jobs, if we get back all kinds of jobs into this country, then you’re going to see rising incomes again. The reason incomes are down is because unemployment is so high. I know what it takes to get this to happen, and my plan will do that, and one part of it is to make sure that we keep China playing by the rules.

CROWLEY: Mr. President, two minutes here, because we are then going to go to our last question.

OBAMA: OK. We need to create jobs here. And both Governor Romney and I agree actually that we should lower our corporate tax rate. It’s too high. But there’s a difference in terms of how we would do it. I want to close loopholes that allow companies to deduct expenses when they move to China; that allow them to profit offshore and not have to get taxed, so they have tax advantages offshore.

All those changes in our tax code would make a difference.

Now, Governor Romney actually wants to expand those tax breaks. One of his big ideas when it comes to corporate tax reform would be to say, if you invest overseas, you make profits overseas, you don’t have to pay U.S. taxes.

But, of course, if you’re a small business or a mom-and-pop business or a big business starting up here, you’ve got to pay even the reduced rate that Governor Romney’s talking about.

And it’s estimated that that will create 800,000 new jobs. The problem is they’ll be in china. Or India. Or Germany.

That’s not the way we’re going to create jobs here. The way we’re going to create jobs here is not just to change our tax code, but also to double our exports. And we are on pace to double our exports, one of the commitments I made when I was president. That’s creating tens of thousands of jobs all across the country. That’s why we’ve kept on pushing trade deals, but trade deals that make sure that American workers and American businesses are getting a good deal.

Now, Governor Romney talked about China, as I already indicated. In the private sector, Governor Romney’s company invested in what were called pioneers of outsourcing. That’s not my phrase. That’s what reporters called it.

And as far as currency manipulation, the currency has actually gone up 11 percent since I’ve been president because we have pushed them hard. And we’ve put unprecedented trade pressure on China. That’s why exports have significantly increased under my presidency. That’s going to help to create jobs here.

CROWLEY: Mr. President, we have a really short time for a quick discussion here.

iPad, the Macs, the iPhones, they are all manufactured in China. One of the major reasons is labor is so much cheaper here. How do you convince a great American company to bring that manufacturing back here?

ROMNEY: The answer is very straightforward. We can compete with anyone in the world as long as the playing field is level. China’s been cheating over the years. One by holding down the value of their currency. Number two, by stealing our intellectual property; our designs, our patents, our technology. There’s even an Apple store in China that’s a counterfeit Apple store, selling counterfeit goods. They hack into our computers. We will have to have people play on a fair basis, that’s number one.

Number two, we have to make America the most attractive place for entrepreneurs, for people who want to expand their business. That’s what brings jobs in. The president’s characterization of my tax plan…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: …is completely…is completely…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: …is completely false. Let me tell you…

CROWLEY: Let me to go the president here because we really are running out of time. And the question is can we ever get — we can’t get wages like that. It can’t be sustained.

OBAMA: Candy, there are some jobs that are not going to come back. Because they are low wage, low skill jobs. I want high wage, high skill jobs. That’s why we have to emphasize manufacturing. That’s why we have to invest in advanced manufacturing. That’s why we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got the best science and research in the world. And when we talk about deficits, if we’re adding to our deficit for tax cuts for folks who don’t need them, and we’re cutting investments in research and science that will create the next Apple, create the next new innovation that will sell products around the world, we will lose that race.

If we’re not training engineers to make sure that they are equipped here in this country. Then companies won’t come here. Those investments are what’s going to help to make sure that we continue to lead this world economy, not just next year, but 10 years from now, 50 years from now, 100 years from now.

CROWLEY: Thanks Mr. President.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Government does not create jobs. Government does not create jobs.

CROWLEY: Governor Romney, I want to introduce you to Barry Green, because he’s going to have the last question to you first?

ROMNEY: Barry? Where is Barry?

QUESTION: Hi, Governor. I think this is a tough question. To each of you. What do you believe is the biggest misperception that the American people have about you as a man and a candidate? Using specific examples, can you take this opportunity to debunk that misperception and set us straight?

ROMNEY: Thank you, and that’s an opportunity for me, and I appreciate it.

In the nature of a campaign, it seems that some campaigns are focused on attacking a person rather than prescribing their own future and the things they’d like to do. In the course of that, I think the president’s campaign has tried to characterize me as — as someone who’s very different than who I am.

I care about 100 percent of the American people. I want 100 percent of the American people to have a bright and prosperous future. I care about our kids. I understand what it takes to make a bright and prosperous future for America again. I spent my life in the private sector, not in government. I’m a guy who wants to help with the experience I have, the American people.

My — my passion probably flows from the fact that I believe in God. And I believe we’re all children of the same God. I believe we have a responsibility to care for one another. I — I served as a missionary for my church. I served as a pastor in my congregation for about 10 years. I’ve sat across the table from people who were out of work and worked with them to try and find new work or to help them through tough times.

I went to the Olympics when they were in trouble to try and get them on track. And as governor of my state, I was able to get 100 percent of my people insured, all my kids, about 98 percent of the adults. I was able also to get our schools ranked number one in the nation, so 100 percent of our kids would have a bright opportunity for a future.

ROMNEY: I understand that I can get this country on track again. We don’t have to settle for what we’re going through. We don’t have to settle for gasoline at four bucks. We don’t have to settle for unemployment at a chronically high level. We don’t have to settle for 47 million people on food stamps. We don’t have to settle for 50 percent of kids coming out of college not able to get work. We don’t have to settle for 23 million people struggling to find a good job.

If I become president, I’ll get America working again. I will get us on track to a balanced budget. The president hasn’t. I will. I’ll make sure we can reform Medicare and Social Security to preserve them for coming — coming generations. The president said he would. He didn’t.

CROWLEY: Governor…

ROMNEY: I’ll get our incomes up. And by the way, I’ve done these things. I served as governor and showed I could get them done.

CROWLEY: Mr. President, last two minutes belong to you.

OBAMA: Barry, I think a lot of this campaign, maybe over the last four years, has been devoted to this nation that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer.

That’s not what I believe. I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world’s ever known.

I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules, because that’s how our economy’s grown. That’s how we built the world’s greatest middle class.

And — and that is part of what’s at stake in this election. There’s a fundamentally different vision about how we move our country forward.

I believe Governor Romney is a good man. Loves his family, cares about his faith. But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about.

Folks on Social Security who’ve worked all their lives. Veterans who’ve sacrificed for this country. Students who are out there trying to hopefully advance their own dreams, but also this country’s dreams. Soldiers who are overseas fighting for us right now. People who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don’t make enough income.

And I want to fight for them. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years. Because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds.

When my grandfather fought in World War II and he came back and he got a G.I. Bill and that allowed him to go to college, that wasn’t a handout. That was something that advanced the entire country. And I want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities. That’s why I’m asking for your vote and that’s why I’m asking for another four years.

CROWLEY: President Obama, Governor Romney, thank you for being here tonight.

On that note we have come to an end of this town hall debate. Our thanks to the participants for their time and to the people of Hofstra University for their hospitality.

The next and final debate takes place Monday night at Lynn (ph) University in Boca Raton, Florida. Don’t forget to watch. Election Day is three weeks from today. Don’t forget to vote.

Good night.

(APPLAUSE)

END

Campaign Headlines October 16, 2012: Barack Obama v. Mitt Romney: Live Blogging the Townhall Second Presidential Debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

WATCH LIVE: President Obama and Mitt Romney Meet Up for Second Debate

Source: ABC New Radio, 10-16-12

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama and Mitt Romney face off Tuesday night for their second presidential debate at Hofstra University.

Watch the debate LIVE

Campaign Headlines October 16, 2012: Five Things to Watch at Second Presidential Debate

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Five Things to Watch at Second Presidential Debate

Source: ABC News Radio, 10-16-12

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Exactly three weeks before voters head to the polls, President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney face-off in Hempstead, N.Y., on Tuesday for the second presidential debate that could again chart a new course for the general election campaign.
In an email to supporters on Monday, Obama for the first time declared the race “tied,” conceding that a lead he held ahead of the first debate has shrunk or disappeared.  Romney, meanwhile, has been touting what he calls a “growing crescendo of enthusiasm” for his campaign.

Tuesday night’s debate — a town hall style showdown — could provide an opportunity for each candidate to gain the edge he desires….READ MORE

Campaign Headlines October 15, 2012: Barack Obama, Mitt Romney Take Time Off Trail for Debate Prep

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Obama, Romney Take Time Off Trail for Debate Prep

Source: ABC News Radio, 10-15-12

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GettyImages

President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney are taking time off the campaign trail to prep for Tuesday’s presidential debate, a sign of the importance of their second face-off, which comes just three weeks before Election Day.

Obama is spending three days huddled with advisers in the battleground state of Virginia, hunkering down at the luxury Kingsmill Resort along the James River in historic Williamsburg.  Romney, meanwhile, is preparing in the Boston area….READ MORE

Full Text: President Obama’s First Twitter Town Hall

Remarks by the President in Twitter Town Hall

Obama Twitter town hall

President Obama conducts the first Twitter town hall at the White House’s East Room. (Charles Dharapak, Associated Press / July 6, 2011)

East Room

2:04 P.M. EDT

MR. DORSEY:  Good afternoon and welcome to the White House.  I am Jack Dorsey, from Twitter.

Through more than 200 million tweets per day, people around the world use Twitter to instantly connect to what’s most meaningful to them.  In every country — Egypt and Japan, the UK and the United States — much of this conversation is made up of everyday people engaging in spirited debate about the future of their countries.

Our partners at Salesforce Radian6 studied more than a million tweets, discussing our nation’s politics over the recent weeks, and they found that America’s financial security to be one of the most actively talked about topics on Twitter.  They further found that President Obama’s name comes up in more than half of these conversations.

And so today this vibrant discussion comes here to the White House and you get to ask the questions.  To participate, just open your web browser and go to askObama.Twitter.com.  Neither the President or I know the questions that will be asked today.  That decision is driven entirely by the Twitter users.

And so let’s get the conversation started.  Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  First of all, everybody can sit down.  (Laughter.)  It’s much easier to tweet from a seated position.  (Laughter.)

MR. DORSEY:  And I understand you want to start the conversation off with a tweeter yourself.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to make history here as the first President to live tweet.  So we’ve got a computer over here.  (Types in tweet.)

MR. DORSEY:  It’s only 140 characters.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  All right, I think I have done this properly.  But here’s the test.

MR. DORSEY:  And you tweeted.

THE PRESIDENT:  How about that?  Not bad.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  So I think my question will be coming up at some point.

MR. DORSEY:  So what was your question?  Here it is.

THE PRESIDENT:  Here’s the question:  “In order to reduce the deficit, what costs would you cut and what investments would you keep?”

And the reason I thought this was an important question is, as all of you know, we are going through a spirited debate here in Washington, but it’s important to get the whole country involved, in making a determination about what are the programs that can help us grow, can create jobs, improve our education system, maintain our clean air and clean water, and what are those things that are a waste that we shouldn’t be investing in because they’re not helping us grow or create jobs or creating new businesses.  And that debate is going to be heating up over the next couple of weeks, so I’d love to hear from the American people, see what thoughts they have.

MR. DORSEY:  Excellent.  Well, first question comes from a curator in New Hampshire.  And we have eight curators around the country helping us pick tweets from the crowd so that we can read them to the President.

And this one comes from William Smith:  “What mistakes have you made in handling this recession and what would you do differently?”

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s a terrific question.  When I first came into office we were facing the worst recession since the Great Depression.  So, looking around this room, it’s a pretty young room — it’s certainly the worst recession that we’ve faced in our lifetimes.  And we had to act quickly and make some bold and sometimes difficult decisions.

It was absolutely the right thing to do to put forward a Recovery Act that cut taxes for middle-class folks so they had more money in their pocket to get through the recession.  It was the right thing to do to provide assistance to states to make sure that they didn’t have to lay off teachers and cops and firefighters as quickly as they needed to.  And it was the right thing to do to try to rebuild our infrastructure and put people back to work building roads and bridges and so forth.

It also was the right thing to do, although a tough decision, to save the auto industry, which is now profitable and gaining market share — the U.S. auto industry — for the first time in a very long time.

I think that — probably two things that I would do differently.  One would have been to explain to the American people that it was going to take a while for us to get out of this.  I think even I did not realize the magnitude, because most economists didn’t realize the magnitude, of the recession until fairly far into it, maybe two or three months into my presidency where we started realizing that we had lost 4 million jobs before I was even sworn in.

And so I think people may not have been prepared for how long this was going to take and why we were going to have to make some very difficult decisions and choices.  And I take responsibility for that, because setting people’s expectations is part of how you end up being able to respond well.

The other area is in the area of housing.  I think that the continuing decline in the housing market is something that hasn’t bottomed out as quickly as we expected.  And so that’s continued to be a big drag on the economy.

We’ve had to revamp our housing program several times to try to help people stay in their homes and try to start lifting home values up.  But of all the things we’ve done, that’s probably been the area that’s been most stubborn to us trying to solve the problem.

MR. DORSEY:  Mr. President, 27 percent of our questions are in the jobs category, as you can see from the screen over here.  Our next question has to do about jobs and technology.  It comes from David:  “Tech and knowledge industries are thriving, yet jobs discussion always centers on manufacturing.  Why not be realistic about jobs?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s not an either/or question; it’s a both/and question.  We have to be successful at the cutting-edge industries of the future like Twitter.  But we also have always been a country that makes stuff.  And manufacturing jobs end up having both higher wages typically, and they also have bigger multiplier effects.  So one manufacturing job can support a range of other jobs — suppliers and the restaurant near the plant and so forth.  So they end up having a substantial impact on the overall economy.

What we want to focus on is advanced manufacturing that combines new technology, so research and development to figure out how are we going to create the next Twitter, how are we going to create the next Google, how are we going to create the next big thing — but make sure that production is here.

So it’s great that we have an Apple that’s creating iPods, iPads and designing them and creating the software, but it would be nice if we’re also making the iPads and the iPods here in the United States, because that’s some more jobs that people can work at.

And there are going to be a series of decisions that we’ve got to make.  Number one, are we investing in research and development in order to emphasize technology?  And a lot of that has to come from government.  That’s how the Internet got formed. That’s how GPS got formed.  Companies on their own can’t always finance the basic research because they can’t be assured that they’re going to get a return on it.

Number two, we’ve got to drastically improve how we train our workforce and our kids around math and science and technology.

Number three, we’ve got to have a top-notch infrastructure to support advanced manufacturing, and we’ve got to look at sectors where we know this is going to be the future.  Something like clean energy, for example.  For us not to be the leaders in investing in clean energy manufacturing so that wind turbines and solar panels are not only designed here in the United States but made here in the United States makes absolutely no sense.  We’ve got to invest in those areas for us to be successful.

So you can combine high-tech with manufacturing, and then you get the best of all worlds.

MR. DORSEY:  You mentioned education.  There’s a lot of questions coming about education and its impact on the economy.  This one in particular is from a curator who is pulling from a student in Ohio, named Dustin:  “Higher ed is necessary for a stronger economy, but for some middle-class Americans it’s becoming too expensive.  What can be done?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, here is some good news.  We’ve already done something that is very significant, and people may not know. As part of a higher education package that we passed last year, what we were able to do was to take away subsidies that were going to banks for serving as middlemen in the student loan program and funnel that to help young people, through Pell Grants and lower rates on student loans.  And so there are millions of students who are getting more affordable student loans and grants as a consequence of the steps that we’ve already taken.  This is about tens of billions of dollars’ worth of additional federal dollars that were going to banks are now going to students directly.

In addition, what we’ve said is that starting in 2013, young people who are going to college will not have to pay more than 10 percent of their income in repayment.  And that obviously helps to relieve the burden on a lot students — because, look, I’m a guy who had about $60,000 worth of debt when I graduated from law school, and Michelle had $60,000.  And so we were paying a bigger amount every month than our mortgage.  And we did that for eight, 10 years.  So I know how burdensome this can be.

I do think that the universities still have a role in trying to keep their costs down.  And I think that it’s important — even if we’ve got better student loan programs, more grants, if the costs keep on going up then we’ll never have enough money, you’ll never get enough help to avoid taking on these huge debts. And so working with university presidents to try to figure out, where can you cut costs — of course, it may mean that the food in the cafeteria is a little worse and the gym is not as fancy.  But I think all of us have to figure out a way to make sure that higher education is accessible for everybody.

One last point — I know, Twitter, I’m supposed to be short. (Laughter.)  But city — community colleges is a huge, under-utilized resource, where what we want to do is set up a lifelong learning system where you may have gotten your four-year degree, but five years out you decide you want to go into another field or you want to brush up on new technologies that are going to help you advance.  We need to create a system where you can conveniently access community colleges that are working with businesses to train for the jobs that actually exist.  That’s a huge area where I think we can make a lot of progress.

MR. DORSEY:  You mention debt a lot.  That’s come up in conversation a lot recently, especially in some of our recent questions, specifically the debt ceiling.  And this is formulated in our next question from RenegadeNerd out of Atlanta:  “Mr. President, will you issue an executive order to raise the debt ceiling pursuant to Section 4 of the 14th Amendment?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Can I just say, RenegadeNerd, that picture is — captures it all there.  (Laughter.)  He’s got his hand over there, he’s looking kind of confused.  (Laughter.)

Let me, as quickly as I can, describe what’s at stake with respect to the debt ceiling.  Historically, the United States, whenever it has a deficit, it finances that deficit through the sale of treasuries.  And this is a very common practice.  Over our lifetimes, typically the government is always running a modest deficit.  And Congress is supposed to vote on the amount of debt that Treasury can essentially issue.  It’s a pretty esoteric piece of business; typically has not been something that created a lot of controversy.

What’s happening now is, is that Congress is suggesting we may not vote to raise the debt ceiling.  If we do not, then the Treasury will run out of money.  It will not be able to pay the bills that are owing, and potentially the entire world capital markets could decide, you know what, the full faith and credit of the United States doesn’t mean anything.  And so our credit could be downgraded, interest rates could go drastically up, and it could cause a whole new spiral into a second recession, or worse.

So this is something that we shouldn’t be toying with.  What Dexter’s question referred to was there are some people who say that under the Constitution, it’s unconstitutional for Congress not to allow Treasury to pay its bills and are suggesting that this should be challenged under the Constitution.

I don’t think we should even get to the constitutional issue.  Congress has a responsibility to make sure we pay our bills.  We’ve always paid them in the past.  The notion that the U.S. is going to default on its debt is just irresponsible.  And my expectation is, is that over the next week to two weeks, that Congress, working with the White House, comes up with a deal that solves our deficit, solves our debt problems, and makes sure that our full faith and credit is protected.

MR. DORSEY:  So back to jobs.  We have a question from New York City about immigrant entrepreneurs:  “Immigrant entrepreneurs can build companies and create jobs for U.S. workers.  Will you support a startup visa program?”

THE PRESIDENT:  What I want to do is make sure that talented people who come to this country to study, to get degrees, and are willing and interested in starting up businesses can do so, as opposed to going back home and starting those businesses over there to compete against the United States and take away U.S. jobs.

So we’re working with the business community as well as the entrepreneurial community to figure out are there ways that we can streamline the visa system so if you are studying here, you’ve got a PhD in computer science or you’ve got a PhD in engineering, and you say I’m ready to invest in the United States, create jobs in the United States, then we are able to say to you, we want you to stay here.

And I think that it is possible for us to deal with this problem.  But it’s important for us to look at it more broadly.  We’ve got an immigration system that’s broken right now, where too many folks are breaking the law but also our laws make it too hard for talented people to contribute and be part of our society.  And we’ve always been a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.  And so we need comprehensive immigration reform, part of which would allow entrepreneurs and high-skilled individuals to stay here — because we want to be attracting that talent here.  We don’t want that — we don’t want to pay for training them here and then having them benefit other countries.

MR. DORSEY:  Our next question was just — was sent just an hour ago and touches on alternative energy and job creation:  “Will you focus on promoting alternative energy industries in oil states like Louisiana and Texas?”

THE PRESIDENT:  I want to promote alternative energy everywhere, including oil states like Louisiana and Texas.  This is something that I’m very proud of and doesn’t get a lot of attention.  We made the largest investment in clean energy in our history through the Recovery Act.  And so we put forward a range of programs that provided credits and grants to startup companies in areas like creating wind turbines, solar panels.

A great example is advanced battery manufacturing.  When I came into office, advanced batteries, which are used, for example, in electric cars, we only accounted for 2 percent of the world market in advanced batteries.  And we have quintupled our market share, or even gone further, just over the last two years. And we’re projecting that we can get to 30 to 40 percent of that market.  That’s creating jobs all across the Midwest, all across America.

And whoever wins this race on advanced battery manufacturing is probably going to win the race to produce the cars of the 21st century.  China is investing in it.  Germany is investing in it. We need to be investing in it as well.

MR. DORSEY:  I wanted to take a moment and point out the map just behind you.  These are tweets coming in, in real time, and these are questions being asked right now.  And it flips between the various categories that we’ve determined and also just general askObama questions.

So our next question is coming up on the screen now, from Patrick:  “Mr. President, in several states we have seen people lose their collective bargaining rights.  Do you have a plan to rectify this?”

THE PRESIDENT:  The first thing I want to emphasize is that collective bargaining is the reason why the vast majority of Americans enjoy a minimum wage, enjoy weekends, enjoy overtime.  So many things that we take for granted are because workers came together to bargain with their employers.

Now, we live in a very competitive society in the 21st century.  And that means in the private sector, labor has to take management into account.  If labor is making demands that make management broke and they can’t compete, then that doesn’t do anybody any good.

In the public sector, what is true is that some of the pension plans that have been in place and the health benefits that are in place are so out of proportion with what’s happening in the private sector that a lot of taxpayers start feeling resentful.  They say, well, if I don’t have health care where I only have to pay $1 for prescription drugs, why is it that the person whose salary I’m paying has a better deal?

What this means is, is that all of us are going to have to make some adjustments.  But the principle of collective bargaining, making sure that people can exercise their rights to be able to join together with other workers and to negotiate and kind of even the bargaining power on either side, that’s something that has to be protected.  And we can make these adjustments in a way that are equitable but preserve people’s collective bargaining rights.

So, typically, the challenges against bargaining rights have been taking place at the state level.  I don’t have direct control over that.  But what I can do is to speak out forcefully for the principle that we can make these adjustments that are necessary during these difficult fiscal times, but do it in a way that preserves collective bargaining rights.  And certainly at the federal level where I do have influence, I can make sure that we make these adjustments without affecting people’s collective bargaining rights.

I’ll give you just one example.  We froze federal pay for federal workers for two years.  Now, that wasn’t real popular, as you might imagine, among federal workers.  On the other hand, we were able to do that precisely because we wanted to prevent layoffs and we wanted to make sure that we sent a signal that everybody is going to have to make some sacrifices, including federal workers.

By the way, people who work in the White House, they’ve had their pay frozen since I came in, our high-wage folks.  So they haven’t had a raise in two and a half years, and that’s appropriate, because a lot of ordinary folks out there haven’t, either.  In fact, they’ve seen their pay cut in some cases.

MR. DORSEY:  Mr. President, 6 percent of our questions are coming in about housing, which you can see in the graph behind me.  And this one in particular has to do with personal debt and housing:  “How will admin work to help underwater homeowners who aren’t behind in payments but are trapped in homes they can’t sell?”  From Robin.

THE PRESIDENT:  This is a great question.  And remember, I mentioned one of our biggest challenges during the course of the last two and a half years has been dealing with a huge burst of the housing bubble.

What’s happened is a lot of folks are underwater, meaning their home values went down so steeply and so rapidly that now their mortgage, the amount they owe, is a lot more than the assessed worth of their home.  And that obviously burdens a lot of folks.  It means if they’re selling, they’ve got to sell at a massive loss that they can’t afford.  It means that they don’t feel like they have any assets because the single biggest asset of most Americans is their home.

So what we’ve been trying to do is to work with the issuers of the mortgages, the banks or the service companies, to convince them to work with homeowners who are paying, trying to do the right thing, trying to stay in their homes, to see if they can modify the loans so that their payments are lower, and in some cases, maybe even modify their principal, so that they don’t feel burdened by these huge debts and feel tempted to walk away from homes that actually they love and where they’re raising their families.

We’ve made some progress.  We have, through the programs that we set up here, have probably seen several million home modifications either directly because we had control of the loan process, or because the private sector followed suit.  But it’s not enough.  And so we’re going back to the drawing board, talking to banks, try to put some pressure on them to work with people who have mortgages to see if we can make further adjustments, modify loans more quickly, and also see if there may be circumstances where reducing principal is appropriate.

MR. DORSEY:  And our next question comes from someone you may know.  This is Speaker Boehner.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, there you go.  (Laughter.)

MR. DORSEY:  “After embarking on a record spending binge that left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs?”  And I want to note that these characters are his fault.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  First of all —

MR. DORSEY:  Not his fault, not his fault.

THE PRESIDENT:  — John obviously needs to work on his typing skills.  (Laughter.)  Well, look, obviously John is the Speaker of the House, he’s a Republican, and so this is a slightly skewed question.  (Laughter.)  But what he’s right about is that we have not seen fast enough job growth relative to the need.  I mean, we lost, as I said, 4 million jobs before I took office, before I was sworn in.  About 4 million jobs were lost in the few months right after I took office before our economic policies had a chance to take any effect.

And over the last 15 months, we’ve actually seen two million jobs created in the private sector.  And so we’re each month seeing growth in jobs,  But when you’ve got a 8 million dollar — 8-million-job hole and you’re only filling it 100,000-200,000 jobs at a time each month, obviously that’s way too long for a lot of folks who are still out of work.

There are a couple of things that we can continue to do.  I actually worked with Speaker Boehner to pass a payroll tax cut in December that put an extra $1,000 in the pockets of almost every single American.  That means they’re spending money.  That means that businesses have customers.  And that has helped improve overall growth.

We have provided at least 16 tax cuts to small businesses who have needed a lot of help and have been struggling, including, for example, saying zero capital gains taxes on startups — because our attitude is we want to encourage new companies, young entrepreneurs, to get out there, start their business, without feeling like if they’re successful in the first couple of years that somehow they have to pay taxes, as opposed to putting that money back into their business.

So we’ve been able to cooperate with Republicans on a range of these issues.  There are some areas where the Republicans have been more resistant in cooperating, even though I think most objective observers think it’s the right thing to do.  I’ll give you a specific example.

It’s estimated that we have about $2 trillion worth of infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt.  Roads, bridges, sewer lines, water mains; our air traffic control system doesn’t make sense.  We don’t have the kind of electric grid that’s smart, meaning it doesn’t waste a lot of energy in transmission.  Our broadband system is slower than a lot of other countries.

For us to move forward on a major infrastructure initiative where we’re putting people to work right now — including construction workers who were disproportionately unemployed when the housing bubble went bust — to put them to work rebuilding America at a time when interest rates are very low, contractors are looking for work, and the need is there, that is something that could make a huge, positive impact on the economy overall.  And it’s an example of making an investment now that ends up having huge payoffs down the road.

We haven’t gotten the kind of cooperation that I’d like to see on some of those ideas and initiatives.  But I’m just going to keep on trying and eventually I’m sure the Speaker will see the light.  (Laughter.)

MR. DORSEY:  Speaking of startups, there’s a ton of questions about small businesses and how they affect job creation.  This one comes from Neal:  “Small biz create jobs.  What incentives are you willing to support to improve small business growth?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I just mentioned some of the tax breaks that we’ve provided not only to small businesses, but also in some cases were provided big businesses.  For example, if they’re making investments in plants and equipment this year, they can fully write down those costs, take — essentially depreciate all those costs this year and that saves them a pretty big tax bill.  So we’re already initiating a bunch of steps.

The biggest challenge that I hear from small businesses right now actually has to do with financing, because a lot of small businesses got their financing from community banks.  Typically, they’re not getting them from the big Wall Street banks, but they’re getting them from their various regional banks in their communities.  A lot of those banks were pretty over-extended in the commercial real estate market, which has been hammered.  A lot of them are still digging themselves out of bad loans that they made that were shown to be bad during the recession.

And so, what we’ve tried to do is get the Small Business Administration, the federal agency that helps small businesses, to step in and to provide more financing — waiving fees, seeing if we can lower interest rates in some cases, making sure that the threshold for companies that qualify for loans are more generous.  And that’s helped a lot of small businesses all across the country.  And this is another example of where, working with Congress, my hope is, is that we can continue to provide these tax incentives and maybe do even a little bit more.

Q    Our next question was tweeted less than five minutes ago and comes to us from Craig:  “My question is, can you give companies a tax break if they hire an honorable discharged veteran?”

THE PRESIDENT:  This is something that I’ve been talking a lot about internally.  We’ve got all these young people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan; have made incredible sacrifices; have taken on incredible responsibilities.  You see some 23-year-old who’s leading a platoon in hugely dangerous circumstances, making decisions, operating complex technologies.  These are folks who can perform.  But, unfortunately, what we’re seeing is that a lot of these young veterans have a higher unemployment rate than people who didn’t serve.  And that makes no sense.

So what we’d like to do is potentially combine a tax credit for a company that hires veterans with a campaign to have private companies step up and do the right thing and hire more veterans. And one of the things that we’ve done is internally in the federal government we have made a huge emphasis on ramping up our outreach to veterans and the hiring of veterans, and this has been a top priority of mine.  The notion that these guys who are sacrificing for our freedom and our security end up coming home and not being able to find a job I think is unacceptable.

MR. DORSEY:  Mr. President, this next question comes from someone else you may recognize.  And what’s interesting about this question, it was heavily retweeted and voted up by our userbase.  This comes from NickKristof:  “Was it a mistake to fail to get Republicans to commit to raise the debt ceiling at the same time tax cuts were extended?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Nicholas is a great columnist.  But I have to tell you the assumption of the question is, is that I was going to be able to get them to commit to raising the debt ceiling.

In December, we were in what was called the lame duck session.  The Republicans knew that they were going to be coming in as the majority.  We only had a few short weeks to deal with a lot of complicated issues, including repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” dealing with a START treaty to reduce nuclear weapons, and come to terms with a budget.  And what we were able to do was negotiate a package where we agreed to do something that we didn’t like but that the Republicans badly wanted, which is to extend the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy for another two years.

In exchange, we were able to get this payroll tax that put $1,000 — tax cut that put $1,000 in the pockets of every American, which would help economic growth and jobs.  We were also able to get unemployment insurance extended for the millions of Americans out there who are still out of work and whose benefits were about to run out.  And that was a much better deal than I think a lot of people expected.

It would have been great if we were able to also settle this issue of the debt ceiling at that time.  That wasn’t the deal that was available.  But here’s the more basic point:  Never in our history has the United States defaulted on its debt.  The debt ceiling should not be something that is used as a gun against the heads of the American people to extract tax breaks for corporate jet owners, or oil and gas companies that are making billions of dollars because the price of gasoline has gone up so high.

I’m happy to have those debates.  I think the American people are on my side on this.  What we need to do is to have a balanced approach where everything is on the table.  We need to reduce corporate loopholes.  We need to reduce discretionary spending on programs that aren’t working.  We need to reduce defense spending.  Everything has — we need to look at entitlements, and we have to say, how do we protect and preserve Medicare and Social Security for not just this generation but also future generations.  And that’s going to require some modifications, even as we maintain its basic structure.

So what I’m hoping to see over the next couple of weeks is people put their dogmas aside, their sacred cows aside; they come together and they say, here’s a sensible approach that reduces our deficit, makes sure that government is spending within its means, but also continues to make investments in education, in clean energy, and basic research that are going to preserve our competitive advantage going forward.

MR. DORSEY:  So speaking of taxes, our next question is coming from us — from Alabama, from Lane:  “What changes to the tax system do you think are necessary to help solve the deficit problem and for the system to be fair?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that, first of all, it’s important for people to realize that since I’ve been in office I’ve cut taxes for middle-class families, repeatedly.  The Recovery Act cut taxes for 95 percent of working families.  The payroll tax cut that we passed in December put an extra thousand dollars in the pockets of every family in America.

And so we actually now have the lowest tax rates since the 1950s.  Our tax rates are lower now than they were under Ronald Reagan.  They’re lower than they were under George Bush — senior or George Bush, junior.  They’re lower than they were under Bill Clinton.

The question is how do we pay for the things that we all think are important and how do we make sure that the tax system is equitable?  And what I’ve said is that in addition to eliminating a whole bunch of corporate loopholes that are just not fair — the notion that corporate jets should get a better deal than commercial jets, or the notion that oil and gas companies that made tens of billions of dollars per quarter need an additional break to give them an incentive to go drill for oil — that doesn’t make sense.

But what I’ve also said is people like me who have been incredibly fortunate, mainly because a lot of folks bought my book — (laughter) — for me to be able to go back to the tax rate that existed under Bill Clinton, to pay a couple of extra percentage points so that I can make sure that seniors still have Medicare or kids still have Head Start, that makes sense to me.  And, Jack, we haven’t talked about this before, but I’m assuming it makes sense to you, given Twitter has done pretty well.  (Laughter.)

I think that for us to say that millionaires and billionaires can go back to the tax rate that existed when Bill Clinton was President, that doesn’t affect middle-class families who are having a tough time and haven’t seen their incomes go up. It does mean that those who are in the top 1-2 percent, who have seen their incomes go up much more quickly than anybody else, pays a little bit more in order to make sure that we can make the basic investments that grow this country — that’s not an unreasonable position to take.  And the vast majority of Americans agree with me on that.

That doesn’t mean that we can just continue spending anything we want.  We’re still going to have to make some tough decisions about defense spending, or even some programs that I like but we may not need.  But we can’t close the deficit and debt just by cutting things like Head Start or Medicare.  That can’t be an equitable solution to solving the problem.  And then, we say to millionaires and billionaires, you don’t have to do anything.  I don’t want a $200,000 tax break if it means that some senior is going to have to pay $6,000 more for their Medicare that they don’t have, or a bunch of kids are going to be kicked off of Head Start and aren’t going to get the basics that they need in order to succeed in our society.  I don’t think that’s good for me; I don’t think it’s good for the country.

MR. DORSEY:  So we have a follow-up question to your answer about homeowners being underwater.  And this one came in under 10 minutes ago from Shnaps:  “Is free-market an option?  Obama on homeowners underwater: have made some progress, but plus needed looking at options.”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, when Shnaps — (laughter) — when Shnaps talks about free market options, I mean, keep in mind that most of this is going to be a function of the market slowly improving because people start having more confidence in the economy; more people decide, you know what, the housing market has kind of bottomed out, now is the time to buy.  They start buying.  That starts slowly lifting up prices, and you get a virtuous cycle going on.

So a lot of this is going to be determined by how well the overall economy does:  Do people feel more confident about jobs? Do they feel more confident that they’re going to be able to make their mortgage?  And given the size of the housing market, no federal program is going to be able to solve the housing problem. Most of this is going to be free market.

The one thing that we can do it make sure that for homeowners who have been responsible, didn’t buy more house than they could afford, had some tough luck because they happened to buy at the top of the market, can afford to continue to pay for that house, can afford their current mortgage, but need some relief, given the drop in value — that we try to match them up with bankers so that each side ends up winning.  The banker says, you know, I’m going to be better off than if this house is foreclosed upon and I have to sell it at a fire sale.  The mortgage owner is able to stay in their home, but still pay what’s owed.

And I think that that kind of adjustment and negotiation process is tough.  It’s difficult partly because a lot of banks these days don’t hold mortgages.  They were all sold to Wall Street and were sliced and diced in these complex financial transactions.  So sorting through who owns what can be very complicated.  And as you know, some of the banks didn’t do a very good job on filing some of their papers on these foreclosure actions, and so there’s been litigation around that.

But the bottom line is we should be able to make some progress on helping some people, understanding that some folks just bought more home than they could afford and probably they’re going to be better off renting.

MR. DORSEY:  So 10 percent of our questions now are about education, and this one was surfaced from our curator in California by Marcia:  “Public education here in California is falling apart, not graduating enough skilled workers or smart citizens.  Privatization looming?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, when America was making a transition from an agricultural society to an industrial society, we as a country made a decision that we were going to have public high schools that would upgrade the skills of young people as they were leaving the farms and start participating in a more complex industrial economy.  When my grandfather’s generation came back from World War II, we made a decision that we were going to have a GI Bill that would send these young people to college because we figured that would help advance our economy.

Every time we’ve made a public investment in education, it has paid off many times over.  For us now to give short shrift to education when the world is more complex than ever, and it’s a knowledge-based society and companies locate based on whether they’ve got skilled workforces or not, that makes no sense.

And so we’ve got to get our priorities straight here.  It is important for us to have a healthy business climate, to try to keep taxes low, to make sure that we’re not spending on things that don’t work.  It’s important that we get a good bang for the buck in education.  And so my administration has pushed more reform more vigorously across the country through things like Race to the Top than most previous administrations have been able to accomplish.  So we don’t just need more money; we need more reform.

But we do have to pay for good teachers.  Young, talented people aren’t going to go into teaching if they’re getting paid a poverty wage.  We do have to make sure that buildings aren’t crumbling.  It’s pretty hard for kids to concentrate if there are leaks and it’s cold and there are rats running around in their schools.  And that’s true in a lot of schools around the country.

We do have to make sure that there are computers in a computer age inside classrooms, and that they work and that there’s Internets that are actually — there are Internet connections that actually function.

And I think that those states that are going to do well and those countries that do well are the ones that are going to continue to be committed to making education a priority.

MR. DORSEY:  We have another follow-up sent about 10 minutes ago in response to your answer on Vietnam vets.  From Brendan:  “We definitely need to get more vets into jobs, but when are we going to support the troops by cutting oil dependence?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Reducing our dependence on oil is good for our economy, it’s good for our security, and it’s good for our planet — so it’s a “three-fer.”  And we have not had a serious energy policy for decades.  Every President talks about it; we don’t get it done.

Now, I’d like to see robust legislation in Congress that actually took some steps to reduce oil dependency. We’re not going to be able to replace oil overnight.  Even if we are going full-throttle on clean energy solutions like solar and wind and biodiesel, we’re going to need oil for some time.  But if we had a goal where we’re just reducing our dependence on oil each year in a staggered set of steps, it would save consumers in their pocketbook; it would make our businesses more efficient and less subject to the whims of the spot oil market; it would make us less vulnerable to the kinds of disruptions that have occurred because of what happened in the Middle East this spring; and it would drastically cut down on our carbon resources.

So what I — unfortunately, we have not seen a sense of urgency coming out of Congress over the last several months on this issue.  Most of the rhetoric has been about, let’s produce more.  Well, we can produce more, and I’m committed to that, but the fact is, we only have 2 to 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves; we use 25 percent of the world’s oil.  We can’t drill our way out of this problem.

What we can do that we’ve already done administratively is increase fuel-efficiency standards on cars, just to take one example.  That will save us millions of barrels of oil, just by using existing technologies and saying to car companies, you can do better than 10 miles a gallon or 15 miles a gallon.  And you’re starting to see Detroit respond.  U.S. car companies have figured out, you know what, if we produce high-quality electric vehicles, if we produce high-quality low gas — or high gas mileage vehicles, those will sell.

And we’re actually starting to see market share increase for American cars in subcompact and compact cars for the first time in many years.  And that’s partly because we increased fuel-efficiency standards through an administrative agreement.  It’s also because, as part of the deal to bail out the oil companies, we said to them, start focusing on the cars of the future instead of looking at big gas guzzlers of the past.

MR. DORSEY:  So all of our questions now are coming in real time — this one less than 10 minutes ago, and surfaced from a curator:  “So will you raise taxes on the middle class at least to President George W. Bush levels?”

THE PRESIDENT:  No, what we’ve said is let’s make permanent the Bush tax cuts for low and moderate income folks — people in — for the 98 percent of people who, frankly, have not seen their wages go up or their incomes go up over the last decade.  They don’t have a lot of room; they’re already struggling to meet the rising cost of health care and education and gas prices and food prices.

If all we do is just go back to the pre-Bush tax cut rates for the top income brackets, for millionaires and billionaires, that would raise hundreds of billions of dollars.  And if you combine it with the cuts we’ve already proposed, we could solve our deficit and our debt problems.

This is not something that requires radical solutions.  It requires some smart, common-sense, balanced approaches.  I think that’s what the American people are looking for and that’s what I’ve proposed.  And that’s what I’m going to keep on trying to bring the parties together to agree to, is a balanced approach that has more cuts than revenue, but has some revenue, and that revenue should come from the people who can most afford it.

Q    So a slight deviation from the economy — we have a lot of questions, and this will be our last before we start reading some responses to your question — about the space program.  And this one from Ron:  “Now that the space shuttle is gone, where does America stand in space exploration?”

THE PRESIDENT:  We are still a leader in space exploration. But, frankly, I have been pushing NASA to revamp its vision.  The shuttle did some extraordinary work in low-orbit experiments, the International Space Station, moving cargo.  It was an extraordinary accomplishment and we’re very proud of the work that it did.  But now what we need is that next technological breakthrough.

We’re still using the same models for space travel that we used with the Apollo program 30, 40 years ago.  And so what we’ve said is, rather than keep on doing the same thing, let’s invest in basic research around new technologies that can get us places faster, allow human space flight to last longer.

And what you’re seeing now is NASA I think redefining its mission.  And we’ve set a goal to let’s ultimately get to Mars.  A good pit stop is an asteroid.  I haven’t actually — we haven’t identified the actual asteroid yet, in case people are wondering. (Laughter.)  But the point is, let’s start stretching the boundaries so we’re not doing the same thing over and over again, but rather let’s start thinking about what’s the next horizon, what’s the next frontier out there.

But in order to do that, we’re actually going to need some technological breakthroughs that we don’t have yet.  And what we can do is for some of this low-orbit stuff, some of the more routine space travel — obviously no space travel is routine, but it could become more routine over time — let’s allow the private sector to get in so that they can, for example, send these low-Earth orbit vehicles into space and we may be able to achieve a point in time where those of you who are just dying to go into space, you can buy a ticket, and a private carrier can potentially take you up there, while the government focuses on the big breakthroughs that require much larger investments and involve much greater risk.

MR. DORSEY:  So, Mr. President, we received a lot of responses to your question over the last hour.  And we wanted to go through seven of them that we picked out and just spend some time giving feedback on each.  This one from Brian:  “Cut defense contracting, end war on drugs, eliminate agribiz and big oil subsidies, invest in public campaign financing.”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s not a bad list.  (Laughter.)  The defense contracting is something we’re already making progress on.

I think with respect to the war on drugs, what we’ve always said is that investing in prevention, reducing demand, is going to be the most cost-effective thing that we can do.  We still have to interdict the big drug kingpins and we still have to enforce our drug laws.  But making sure that we’re spending more on prevention and treatment can make a huge difference.

With respect to some of these big agribusiness and big oil subsidies, those are the examples of the kinds of loopholes we can close.  And public campaign financing is something that I’ve supported in the past.  There is no doubt that money has an impact on what happens here in Washington.  And the more we can reduce money’s impact on Washington, the better off we’re going to be.

MR. DORSEY:  Our next response from Elizabeth in Chicago:  “Stop giving money to countries that waste it — Pakistan.  Keep military, share the wealth between branches, and don’t cut education.”

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, the one thing I would say is, on the notion of giving money to countries that waste it — and Pakistan is listed there — I think it’s important for people to know that foreign aid accounts for less than 2 percent of our budget.  And if you defined it just narrowly as the kind of foreign aid to help feed people and what we think of classically as foreign aid, it’s probably closer to 1 percent.

So sometimes people have an exaggerated sense that we spend 25 percent of the federal budget on foreign aid.  It’s a tiny amount that has a big impact.  And I think America, to be a leader in the world, to have influence, to help stabilize countries and create opportunity for people so that they don’t breed terrorists or create huge refugee flows and so forth, it’s smart for us to make a very modest investment in foreign aid.  It’s a force multiplier and it’s something that even in tough fiscal times America needs to continue to do as part of our role as a global leader.

MR. DORSEY:  This next one is pretty simple, from Daniel:  “We need to raise taxes, period.”  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  As I said before, if wealthy individuals are willing to simply go back to the rates that existed back in the 1990s when rich people were doing very well — it’s not like they were poor — and by the way, that’s when we saw the highest job growth rates and that’s when we saw the highest — the greatest reduction in poverty, and that’s when we saw businesses very profitable — if the wealthiest among us — and I include myself in this category — are willing to give up a little bit more, then we can solve this problem.  It does not take a lot.

And I just have to say, when people say, job-killing tax increases, that’s what Obama is proposing, we’re not going to — you’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.  And the facts are that a modest increase for wealthy individuals is not shown to have an adverse impact on job growth.

I mean, we can test the two theories.  You had what happened during the ‘90s — right?  Taxes for wealthy individuals were somewhat higher, businesses boomed, the economy boomed, great job growth.  And then the 2000s, when taxes were cut on wealthy individuals, jobs didn’t grow as fast, businesses didn’t grow as fast.  I mean, it’s not like we haven’t tried what these other folks are pitching.  It didn’t work.  And we should go with what works.

MR. DORSEY:  So our next response — we have about nine minutes left and four more responses — this one from Tammy:   “Cut military spending on oil subsidies and keep education investments.”

THE PRESIDENT:  I agree with this.  The one thing I’ll say about military spending — we’ve ended the war in Iraq, our combat mission there, and our — all our troops are slated to be out by the end of this year.  We’ve already removed 100,000.  I announced that we were going to begin drawing down troops in Afghanistan and pivot to a transition process where Afghans are taking more responsibility for their defense.

But we have to do all of this in a fairly gradual way.  We can’t simply lop off 25 percent off the defense budget overnight. We have to think about all the obligations we have to our current troops who are in the field, and making sure they’re properly equipped and safe.  We’ve got to make sure that we are meeting our commitments for those veterans who are coming home.  We’ve got to make sure that — in some cases, we’ve got outdated equipment that needs to be replaced.

And so I’m committed to reducing the defense budget, but as Commander-in-Chief, one of the things that we have to do is make sure that we do it in a thoughtful way that’s guided by our security and our strategic needs.  And I think we can accomplish that.  And the nice thing about the defense budget is it’s so big, it’s so huge, that a 1 percent reduction is the equivalent of the education budget.  Not — I’m exaggerating, but it’s so big that you can make relatively modest changes to defense that end up giving you a lot of head room to fund things like basic research or student loans or things like that.

Q    Our next response from southwest Ohio, Mostlymoderate: “Cut subsidies to industries which are no longer in crisis or are unsuccessful, cotton, oil, corn subsidies from ethanol.”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there’s been a interesting debate taking place in Congress recently.  I’m a big supporter of biofuels.  But one of the things that’s become clear is, is that we need to accelerate our basic research in ethanol and other biofuels that are made from things like woodchips and algae as opposed to just focusing on corn, which is probably the least efficient energy producer of these various other approaches.

And so I think that it’s important for even those folks in farm states who traditionally have been strong supporters of ethanol to examine are we, in fact, going after the cutting-edge biodiesel and ethanol approaches that allow, for example, Brazil to run about a third of its transportation system on biofuels.  Now, they get it from sugar cane and it’s a more efficient conversion process than corn-based ethanol.  And so us doing more basic research in finding better ways to do the same concept I think is the right way to go.

Q    I believe you addressed this next one, so we’re going to skip past it.

THE PRESIDENT:  I did.

Q    But from Ryan:  “I would cut defense spending.”

Q    And James:  “I’d cut costs by cutting some welfare programs.  People will never try harder when they are handed everything.”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, here’s what I would say.  I think we should acknowledge that some welfare programs in the past were not well-designed and in some cases did encourage dependency.  And as somebody who worked in low-income neighborhoods, I’ve seen it, where people weren’t encouraged to work, weren’t encouraged to upgrade their skills, were just getting a check, and over time their motivation started to diminish.  And I think even if you’re progressive, you’ve got to acknowledge that some of these things have not been well-designed.

I will say that today, welfare payments are not the big driver of our deficit or our debt.  There are work obligations attached to welfare, that the vast majority of folks who are getting welfare want to work but can’t find jobs.  And what we should be doing is in all our social programs evaluating what are upgrading people’s skills, giving them the tools they need to get into the workforce, nudging them into the workforce but letting them know that we’re there to support you and encourage you as long as you’re showing the kind of responsibility for being willing to work that every American should be expected to show.

And I’m somebody who believes that we can constantly improve any program, whether it’s a defense program — those who say that we can’t cut military at all, they haven’t spent a lot of time looking at military budgets.  Those who say that we can’t make any changes to our social welfare programs or else you’re being mean to poor people, that’s not true.  There are some programs that can always be improved.  And some programs, if they don’t work, we should have the courage to eliminate them, and then use that money to put it into the programs that do work.

But the bottom line is that our core values of responsibility, opportunity, making sure that the American Dream is alive and well so that anybody who is willing to put in the time and the effort and the energy are able to get a good education in this society, find a job that pays a living wage, that they’re able to send their kids to college without going broke, that they’ve got basic health care, they’re going to be able to retire with some dignity and some respect, that that opportunity is open to anybody regardless of race or religion or sexual orientation — that that basic principle, that’s what holds us together.  That’s what makes us Americans.

We’re not all tied together by ethnicity or a single religion.  What ties us together is this idea that everybody has got a shot.  As long as you carry out your responsibilities, you can make it.  You can get into the middle class and beyond.  And you can start a company and suddenly help bring the whole world together.  That’s what makes this country outstanding.

But in order to do that, it requires us to both have a commitment to our individualism and our freedom and our creativity and our idiosyncrasies.  But it also requires us to have a commitment to each other, and recognize that I would not be President if somebody hadn’t helped provide some scholarships for my school, and you would not have Twitter if the Department of Defense, at some point, and a bunch of universities hadn’t made some investments in something that ended up being the Internet.  And those were public goods that were invested in.

So you and I are sitting here because somebody, somewhere, made an investment in our futures.  We’ve got the same obligation for the folks who are coming up behind us.  We’ve got to make sure that we’re looking out for them, just like the previous generations looked out for us.  And that’s what I think will help us get through what are some difficult times and make sure that America’s future is even brighter than the past.

MR. DORSEY:  And on that note, thank you very much, Mr. President.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  I appreciate it.  (Applause.)  All right, thank you, guys.  Thanks.  (Applause.)

END 3:12 P.M. EDT

Political Highlights February 10, 2009: Reactions to Obama First Press Conference and the Economic Stimulus Plan

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

Also: February 9, 2009: President Obama’s First Press Conference

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The First Lady read to children at Mary's Center in Washington,  D.C.

White House photo 2/10/09 by Joyce N. Boghosian

FLOTUS at Mary’s Center

That was Mrs. Obama’s message to a group of young people at a non-profit community organization in Washington, D.C. — where she spoke about her own humble beginnings.Watch the video

President Obama at a town hall in Ft. Myers, FL

White House photo 2/10/09 by Pete Souza

POTUS in Ft. Myers, FL

On Tuesday, February 10, 2009, President Obama held a town hall in Ft. Myers, FL — one of the towns hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.See the slideshow

Mrs. Obama visits the Department of the Interior

White House photo 2/9/09 by Joyce N. Boghosian

FLOTUS at Interior

In a visit the Department of the Interior, Mrs. Obama spoke about how important it is to protect our natural resources and move towards a clean, sustainable energy future.Read the First Lady's remarks

President Obama addresses town hall in Elkhart, Indiana

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Gallop Poll: Feb. 6-7 Gallup poll released yesterday that shows 67 percent of the public approves of the way the president is handling the stimulus debate and only 31 percent approve of Republican efforts on the legislation, 48 percent approve of how Democrats are handling it. — Bloomberg, 2-10-09
  • FACTBOX: How Obama plan ranks against New Deal, other programs – Reuters, 2-10-09
  • Treasury Department Fact Sheet on the Rescue Plan Overhaul [PDF] – Download PDF

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • House and Senate close in on compromise: Top lawmakers and White House officials ended more than nine hours of closed-door negotiations on the economic stimulus bill shortly before midnight Tuesday indicating a final deal on the roughly $800 billion bill is possible as early as Wednesday. – CNN, 2-11-09
  • $3 trillion! — Senate, Fed, Treasury attack crisis: On a single day filled with staggering sums, the Obama administration, Federal Reserve and Senate attacked the deepening economic crisis Tuesday with actions that could throw as much as $3 trillion more in government and private funds into the fight against frozen credit markets and rising joblessness.
    “It’s gone deep. It’s gotten worse,” President Barack Obama said of the recession at a campaign-style appearance in Fort Myers, Fla., where unemployment has reached double digits. “The situation we face could not be more serious.” – AP, 2-11-09
  • Bailout Plan: $2.5 Trillion and a Strong U.S. Hand: The White House plan to rescue the nation’s financial system, announced on Tuesday by Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary, is far bigger than anyone predicted and envisions a far greater government role in markets and banks than at any time since the 1930s. – NYT, 2-11-09
  • GOP group gets tough against Republicans who support stimulus: An influential conservative political action committee is pledging to support primary challengers to any Republican senator who supports President Obama’s stimulus package — the latest public show of dissatisfaction from the right over the massive measure before Congress. – CNN, 2-10-09
  • Deal on stimulus bills mired in details: The Senate approves its version of the economic stimulus package, but reconciling it with the smaller House bill will be no easy task. Obama stumps for his plan in Florida. – LAT, 2-10-09
  • Geithner’s bear of a day: The Obama administration’s revamped program to fix the nation’s ailing financial markets was met with harsh criticism Tuesday, as the stock market tumbled and lawmakers complained that it lacked details and missed essential targets. – AP, 2-10-09
  • For Geithner’s Debut, a Lukewarm Reception: For Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner as much as for the troubled government program to bail out the financial system, Tuesday amounted to a do-over. – NYT, 2-10-09
  • Angered by stimulus plan vote, Republican vows to oust Specter: U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter’s vote for the Senate stimulus bill is stimulating long-festering Republican opposition to his re-election. Mr. Specter, whose term expires next year, was one of three GOP senators who voted for the Senate version of the economic recovery measure. The vote prompted Glen Meakem, the CEO of the former Internet firm FreeMarkets, to declare his determination to play a still unspecified role in ousting the veteran Republican in the 2010 GOP primary. – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2-10-09
  • Stimulus, Partisanship Mean Obama Faces a Harsh New Reality Although the bill passed the Senate, only three Republicans signed on: It took only two weeks from Inauguration Day for harsh reality to overtake Barack Obama. But he is now facing a burgeoning list of challenges that have plagued his predecessors for at least a generation, starting with the intense partisanship of Washington and the difficulty of finding compromise on critical issues—coupled with a unique economic crisis that seems to worsen by the day. A massive economic stimulus package passed the Senate Tuesday after winning House approval earlier, but major compromises will be needed to reconcile the two versions of the plan, which Obama says is vital to economic recovery. “The realization hits pretty quickly. He is beginning to confront the enormity of the challenges of governing,” says Rutgers political scientist Ross Baker. – US News & World Report, 2-10-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The First Lady read to children at Mary's Center in Washington,  D.C.

White House photo 2/10/09 by Joyce N. Boghosian

FLOTUS at Mary’s Center

That was Mrs. Obama’s message to a group of young people at a non-profit community organization in Washington, D.C. — where she spoke about her own humble beginnings.Watch the video

President Obama at a town hall in Ft. Myers, FL

Political Quotes

  • Treasury Secretary Geithner speaking about the new Financial Stability Plan: “Our plan will help restart the flow of credit, clean up and strengthen our banks, and provide critical aid for homeowners and for small businesses. As we do each of these things, we will impose new, higher standards for transparency and accountability.” – WH Blog, 2-10-09
  • Liveblog: Ft. Myers, FL townhallWH Blog, 2-10-09
  • Obama: ‘There Is No Easy Out’ for Wall Street: In Exclusive Interview, President Warns of ‘a Perfect Storm of Financial Problems’ – ABC News, 2-10-09
  • Obama: No ‘Easy Out’ for Wall Street Transcript Excerpts: Terry Moran Interviews President Obama:
    Well, you know, Wall Street, I think, is hoping for an easy out on this thing and there is no easy out. Essentially, what you’ve got are a set a banks that have not been as transparent as we need to be in terms of what their books look like.
    And we’re going to have to hold out the Band-Aid a little bit and go ahead and just be clear about some of the losses that have been made because until we do that, we’re not going to be able to attract private capital into the marketplace…..Well, because ultimately, what happens is going to depend on how the markets respond over the long term, not today or the next day but a month from now or two months from now. How effective we are in actually cleaning out some of these bad assets out of these banks.
    If we’re doing a good job and we’ve got a template that creates transparency and accountability, clarity and consistency in terms of how we’re applying this program, then what we’ll end up seeing is private capital coming back into the marketplace.
    If we do a poor job, then private capital will continue to stay out and frankly, at, at a certain point, the government can’t replace all that private capital, so you know, our job is to get this right, get the model right….

    Well, you know, I’m constantly trying to thread the needle between sounding alarmist but also letting the American people know the circumstances that we’re in. And the fact of the matter is that we are in not just an ordinary recession, we are in a perfect storm of financial problems and now, a decline in worldwide demand that is resulting in huge numbers of jobs being shed, the lowest consumer confidence we’ve seen, credit locked up.
    And so this was a big difficult situation. Now, I think we’ve got to keep perspective. We’re not going through the Great Depression. I know there have been some analogies there but when FDR took over, unemployment at that time was 30 percent, as opposed to 7.5 or 7.6.
    And so, you know, I think it’s important to recognize we’ve still got enormous assets, we’ve got the same workforce that we did that’s as productive as it’s ever been, we’ve still got some of the best universities in the country and, you know, a wonderful infrastructure and some great companies.
    You know, I spoke with the CEO of International yesterday, who’s investing billions of dollars in opening up new plants in the face of this recession. And so some of what we need is just a restoration of confidence and people’s belief that in fact, we can harness all these resources to continue to be the most dynamic economy on earth.
    But we’re not going to get there by pretending that we don’t have some very big problems and I think the American people understand that.

    Let me, first of all, point out, I — I think there are a number of different arguments that have been leveled at, at this recovery package. There are a set of folks who just don’t believe in government intervening in the marketplace, period. I mean, they’re still fighting FDR and the New Deal and you have — these are the same folks who think we should be privatizing Social Security and you know, we — there’s no room for government to help people get health care and on and on and on.
    So there’s a big ideological battle that they want to fight. Frankly, I think that fight’s already been won, the American people certainly think so. That’s not the argument that makes much sense to them. There are then people who I think are making a sincere argument that if you look at the stimulus package, that maybe some things are more stimulative and some things are not….

    I think that they made a decision that they want to continue the same fights that we’ve been having over the last decade. The American people, on the other hand, realize that we want something different; hence, the results of the election.
    And, you know, I think if you look at how people are doing right now and how the Republicans have responded to a great deal of overtures by me, I think it’s pretty clear that the American people would like to see a different way of doing business. But old habits break hard and, and you know, I, I understand that and so we’re going to keep on reaching out and eventually, I have confidence that it’s going to pay off.

    I think there are going to be other areas where we can potentially work together and I’m still hopeful that some Republicans take their cues from Republican governors and Republican mayors like Charlie Christ down here in Florida who recognize that not doing anything is simply not an option…. – ABC News, 2-10-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

  • Martha Kumar “Obama Press Conference”: According to Towson University presidential historian Martha Kumar, Obama held a prime time press conference earlier than any president in history, beating Richard Nixon by almost a month. Now, he needs to hold 31 more to pass Ronald Reagan for total number of East Room get togethers with the White House press corps. – Real Clear Politics, 2-9-09
  • Douglas Brinkley “Obama Adopts Elkhart as Everytown in Pitch for Stimulus Plan”: That’s what he should have done in the first place, rather than getting bogged down in negotiations with Congress, Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University in Houston, said. “Obama needs to show that he’s a leader of a movement, that a change isn’t just having a black man in the White House, that we really are in an era of clean government and progressive reform,” Brinkley said. – Bloomberg, 2-10-09
  • Allan Lichtman “Obama Adopts Elkhart as Everytown in Pitch for Stimulus Plan”: Obama’s news conference, broadcast live on major broadcast and cable news channels, was “highly forceful and successful and should help the president with the American people and the Congress,” said Allan Lichtman, a political history professor at American University in Washington. “He did not shrink from the magnitude of the crisis, but like FDR expressed confidence that the problem could be solved with decisive action.” – Bloomberg, 2-10-09
  • Charles Calomiris “What’s Missing in Geithner’s Bank Plan The Obama Administration’s Financial Stability Plan isn’t a clean break with the past, because it doesn’t spell out clearly who will lose “: Charles Calomiris, a Columbia University economic historian who has studied banking crises, says the key mistake of the Obama Administration is trying to come up with a plan that emphasizes political palatability over economic reality. To buy support, Calomiris says, the plan emphasizes “very careful investments over a period of time with a lot of upside potential for taxpayers, and with all sorts of limits on what bankers can do.” The problem with that approach, Calomiris says, is that it doesn’t do enough to make the banks truly healthy, and just prolongs the crisis. He favors taking strong action to improve banks’ health dramatically and quickly by guaranteeing them a floor price on their real estate assets, even though such action would be criticized as a giveaway. Says Calomiris: “What makes sense economically doesn’t make sense politically, so I’m not very optimistic.” – Business Week, 2-10-09
  • Charles Geisst “Vague rescue plan disappoints Dow plunges 380 points as Geithner rolls out stimulus package; investors say lack of detail sparked mass sell-off”: Charles Geisst, a financial historian and professor of finance at Manhattan College, said he doesn’t believe the public-private partnership will work, and suggested Mr. Obama’s team may be stalling with yesterday’s announcement. “It’s too vague, it’s not firm enough, and it’s just more of the same,” said Prof. Geisst, author of a forthcoming book called Collateral Damage. “I think they’re trying to buy time … I think what they’re trying to do is tread water until they can figure it out.” – Globe and Mail, 2-10-09
  • Richard Skinner: “Political Partisanship Deeply Rooted, Says Professor”: “If Obama thinks it will be easy to overcome these divisions, he’ll end up being disappointed,” notes Bowdoin Visiting Professor of History Richard Skinner. “Partisanship is an underlying part of our political system now and a lot of Republicans just don’t like the direction he’s taking the country.”
    “We need to move beyond outdated notions of presidents above party politics,” he writes, “and instead understand presidents who are passionately engaged in them and seek to use their parties as tools of governance.” – Bowdoin News, 2-10-09