Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
Saturday, January 28, 2011
The White House
On Tuesday, in my State of the Union Address, I laid out a blueprint for an economy built to last – an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.
This week, I took that blueprint across the country, and what I saw was people who work hard and believe in each other. They believe in the America that’s within our reach. But they’re not sure that the right thing will get done in Washington this year, or next year, or the year after that. And frankly, when you look at some of the things that go on in this town, who could blame them for being a little cynical?
Just two days ago, a senator from Utah promised to obstruct every single American I appoint to a judgeship or public service position – unless I fire the consumer watchdog I put in place to protect the American people from financial schemes or malpractice.
For the most part, it’s not that this senator thinks these nominees are unqualified. In fact, all of the judicial nominees being blocked have bipartisan support. And almost 90 percent have unanimous support from the Judiciary Committee.
Instead, one of his aides told reporters that the senator plans to, and I’m quoting here, “Delay and slow the process in order to get the President’s attention.”
This isn’t about me. We weren’t sent here to wage perpetual political campaigns against each other. We were sent here to serve the American people. And they deserve better than gridlock and games. One senator gumming up the works for the whole country is certainly not what our founding fathers envisioned.
The truth is, neither party has been blameless in tactics like these. But it’s time for both parties to put an end to them. I’m asking Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, to stop this kind of behavior by passing a rule that allows all judicial and public service nominations a simple up-or-down vote within 90 days.
We should also stem the corrosive influence of money in politics. The House and Senate should send me a bill that bans insider trading by Members of Congress, and I will sign it immediately. They should limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact. And they should make sure people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress can’t lobby Congress, and vice versa.
During my Address on Tuesday night, I spoke about the incredible example set by the men and women of our armed forces. At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.
If you agree with me that leaders in Washington should follow their example, then make your voice heard. Tell your Member of Congress that it’s time to end the gridlock, and start tackling the issues that really matter – an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, American skills and education, and a return to American values. An economy built to last.
Thank you, God bless you, and have a great weekend.
President Obama delivers the 2012 State of the Union Address to Congress and the nation. ((Video/Transcript))
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:
Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought -- and several thousand gave their lives.
We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world. (Applause.) For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. (Applause.) For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. (Applause.) Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.
These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness and teamwork of America’s Armed Forces. At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.
Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. (Applause.) Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.
We can do this. I know we can, because we’ve done it before. At the end of World War II, when another generation of heroes returned home from combat, they built the strongest economy and middle class the world has ever known. (Applause.) My grandfather, a veteran of Patton’s Army, got the chance to go to college on the GI Bill. My grandmother, who worked on a bomber assembly line, was part of a workforce that turned out the best products on Earth.
The two of them shared the optimism of a nation that had triumphed over a depression and fascism. They understood they were part of something larger; that they were contributing to a story of success that every American had a chance to share -- the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.
The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. (Applause.) What’s at stake aren’t Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. And we have to reclaim them.
Let’s remember how we got here. Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t, and personal debt that kept piling up.
In 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them. Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money. Regulators had looked the other way, or didn’t have the authority to stop the bad behavior.
It was wrong. It was irresponsible. And it plunged our economy into a crisis that put millions out of work, saddled us with more debt, and left innocent, hardworking Americans holding the bag. In the six months before I took office, we lost nearly 4 million jobs. And we lost another 4 million before our policies were in full effect.
Those are the facts. But so are these: In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs. (Applause.)
Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005. American manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s. Together, we’ve agreed to cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion. And we’ve put in place new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like this never happens again. (Applause.)
The state of our Union is getting stronger. And we’ve come too far to turn back now. As long as I’m President, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place. (Applause.)
No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits. Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last -– an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.
Now, this blueprint begins with American manufacturing.
On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry to retool and restructure. Today, General Motors is back on top as the world’s number-one automaker. (Applause.) Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.
We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back. (Applause.)
What’s happening in Detroit can happen in other industries. It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh. We can’t bring every job back that’s left our shore. But right now, it’s getting more expensive to do business in places like China. Meanwhile, America is more productive. A few weeks ago, the CEO of Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back home. (Applause.) Today, for the first time in 15 years, Master Lock’s unionized plant in Milwaukee is running at full capacity. (Applause.)
So we have a huge opportunity, at this moment, to bring manufacturing back. But we have to seize it. Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed. (Applause.)
We should start with our tax code. Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and everyone knows it. So let’s change it.
First, if you’re a business that wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn’t get a tax deduction for doing it. (Applause.) That money should be used to cover moving expenses for companies like Master Lock that decide to bring jobs home. (Applause.)
Second, no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas. (Applause.) From now on, every multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax. And every penny should go towards lowering taxes for companies that choose to stay here and hire here in America. (Applause.)
Third, if you’re an American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax cut. If you’re a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making your products here. And if you want to relocate in a community that was hit hard when a factory left town, you should get help financing a new plant, equipment, or training for new workers. (Applause.)
So my message is simple. It is time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America. Send me these tax reforms, and I will sign them right away. (Applause.)
We’re also making it easier for American businesses to sell products all over the world. Two years ago, I set a goal of doubling U.S. exports over five years. With the bipartisan trade agreements we signed into law, we’re on track to meet that goal ahead of schedule. (Applause.) And soon, there will be millions of new customers for American goods in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. Soon, there will be new cars on the streets of Seoul imported from Detroit, and Toledo, and Chicago. (Applause.)
I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products. And I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules. We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration –- and it’s made a difference. (Applause.) Over a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires. But we need to do more. It’s not right when another country lets our movies, music, and software be pirated. It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized.
Tonight, I’m announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trading practices in countries like China. (Applause.) There will be more inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders. And this Congress should make sure that no foreign company has an advantage over American manufacturing when it comes to accessing financing or new markets like Russia. Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you -– America will always win. (Applause.)
I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can’t find workers with the right skills. Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job. Think about that –- openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work. It’s inexcusable. And we know how to fix it.
Jackie Bray is a single mom from North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic. Then Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College. The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training. It paid Jackie’s tuition, then hired her to help operate their plant.
I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity as Jackie did. Join me in a national commitment to train 2 million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. (Applause.) My administration has already lined up more companies that want to help. Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, and Orlando, and Louisville are up and running. Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers -– places that teach people skills that businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.
And I want to cut through the maze of confusing training programs, so that from now on, people like Jackie have one program, one website, and one place to go for all the information and help that they need. It is time to turn our unemployment system into a reemployment system that puts people to work. (Applause.)
These reforms will help people get jobs that are open today. But to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, our commitment to skills and education has to start earlier.
For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning -- the first time that’s happened in a generation.
But challenges remain. And we know how to solve them.
At a time when other countries are doubling down on education, tight budgets have forced states to lay off thousands of teachers. We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance. Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives. Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies -- just to make a difference.
Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. (Applause.) And in return, grant schools flexibility: to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn. That’s a bargain worth making. (Applause.)
We also know that when students don’t walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma. When students are not allowed to drop out, they do better. So tonight, I am proposing that every state -- every state -- requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18. (Applause.)
When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college. At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July. (Applause.)
Extend the tuition tax credit we started that saves millions of middle-class families thousands of dollars, and give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years. (Applause.)
Of course, it’s not enough for us to increase student aid. We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down.
Recently, I spoke with a group of college presidents who’ve done just that. Some schools redesign courses to help students finish more quickly. Some use better technology. The point is, it’s possible. So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. (Applause.) Higher education can’t be a luxury -– it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.
Let’s also remember that hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country face another challenge: the fact that they aren’t yet American citizens. Many were brought here as small children, are American through and through, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others came more recently, to study business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else.
That doesn’t make sense.
I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration. That’s why my administration has put more boots on the border than ever before. That’s why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office. The opponents of action are out of excuses. We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now. (Applause.)
But if election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, defend this country. Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away. (Applause.)
You see, an economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country. That means women should earn equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) It means we should support everyone who’s willing to work, and every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs.
After all, innovation is what America has always been about. Most new jobs are created in start-ups and small businesses. So let’s pass an agenda that helps them succeed. Tear down regulations that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the financing to grow. (Applause.) Expand tax relief to small businesses that are raising wages and creating good jobs. Both parties agree on these ideas. So put them in a bill, and get it on my desk this year. (Applause.)
Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched. New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet. Don’t gut these investments in our budget. Don’t let other countries win the race for the future. Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs and new American industries.
And nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. (Applause.) Right now -- right now -- American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right -- eight years. Not only that -- last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years. (Applause.)
But with only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, oil isn’t enough. This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy. (Applause.) A strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.
We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years. (Applause.) And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. (Applause.) Because America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.
The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy. (Applause.) And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock –- reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground. (Applause.)
Now, what’s true for natural gas is just as true for clean energy. In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled, and thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.
When Bryan Ritterby was laid off from his job making furniture, he said he worried that at 55, no one would give him a second chance. But he found work at Energetx, a wind turbine manufacturer in Michigan. Before the recession, the factory only made luxury yachts. Today, it’s hiring workers like Bryan, who said, “I’m proud to be working in the industry of the future.”
Our experience with shale gas, our experience with natural gas, shows us that the payoffs on these public investments don’t always come right away. Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail. But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not walk away from workers like Bryan. (Applause.) I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here.
We’ve subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. (Applause.) It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that rarely has been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that never has been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits. Create these jobs. (Applause.)
We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives. The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change. But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation. So far, you haven’t acted. Well, tonight, I will. I’m directing my administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power 3 million homes. And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, working with us, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history -– with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year. (Applause.)
Of course, the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy. So here’s a proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings. Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, more jobs for construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that creates these jobs. (Applause.)
Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America’s infrastructure. So much of America needs to be rebuilt. We’ve got crumbling roads and bridges; a power grid that wastes too much energy; an incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world.
During the Great Depression, America built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. After World War II, we connected our states with a system of highways. Democratic and Republican administrations invested in great projects that benefited everybody, from the workers who built them to the businesses that still use them today.
In the next few weeks, I will sign an executive order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects. But you need to fund these projects. Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home. (Applause.)
There’s never been a better time to build, especially since the construction industry was one of the hardest hit when the housing bubble burst. Of course, construction workers weren’t the only ones who were hurt. So were millions of innocent Americans who’ve seen their home values decline. And while government can’t fix the problem on its own, responsible homeowners shouldn’t have to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom to get some relief.
And that’s why I’m sending this Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low rates. (Applause.) No more red tape. No more runaround from the banks. A small fee on the largest financial institutions will ensure that it won’t add to the deficit and will give those banks that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of trust. (Applause.)
Let’s never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that do the same. It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom. No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.
We’ve all paid the price for lenders who sold mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them, and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them. That’s why we need smart regulations to prevent irresponsible behavior. (Applause.) Rules to prevent financial fraud or toxic dumping or faulty medical devices -- these don’t destroy the free market. They make the free market work better.
There’s no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or too costly. In fact, I’ve approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his. (Applause.) I’ve ordered every federal agency to eliminate rules that don’t make sense. We’ve already announced over 500 reforms, and just a fraction of them will save business and citizens more than $10 billion over the next five years. We got rid of one rule from 40 years ago that could have forced some dairy farmers to spend $10,000 a year proving that they could contain a spill -- because milk was somehow classified as an oil. With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk. (Laughter and applause.)
Now, I’m confident a farmer can contain a milk spill without a federal agency looking over his shoulder. (Applause.) Absolutely. But I will not back down from making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we saw in the Gulf two years ago. (Applause.) I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury poisoning, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean. I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny your coverage, or charge women differently than men. (Applause.)
And I will not go back to the days when Wall Street was allowed to play by its own set of rules. The new rules we passed restore what should be any financial system’s core purpose: Getting funding to entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and getting loans to responsible families who want to buy a home, or start a business, or send their kids to college.
So if you are a big bank or financial institution, you’re no longer allowed to make risky bets with your customers’ deposits. You’re required to write out a “living will” that details exactly how you’ll pay the bills if you fail –- because the rest of us are not bailing you out ever again. (Applause.) And if you’re a mortgage lender or a payday lender or a credit card company, the days of signing people up for products they can’t afford with confusing forms and deceptive practices -- those days are over. Today, American consumers finally have a watchdog in Richard Cordray with one job: To look out for them. (Applause.)
We’ll also establish a Financial Crimes Unit of highly trained investigators to crack down on large-scale fraud and protect people’s investments. Some financial firms violate major anti-fraud laws because there’s no real penalty for being a repeat offender. That’s bad for consumers, and it’s bad for the vast majority of bankers and financial service professionals who do the right thing. So pass legislation that makes the penalties for fraud count.
And tonight, I’m asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorney general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. (Applause.) This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.
Now, a return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help protect our people and our economy. But it should also guide us as we look to pay down our debt and invest in our future.
Right now, our most immediate priority is stopping a tax hike on 160 million working Americans while the recovery is still fragile. (Applause.) People cannot afford losing $40 out of each paycheck this year. There are plenty of ways to get this done. So let’s agree right here, right now: No side issues. No drama. Pass the payroll tax cut without delay. Let’s get it done. (Applause.)
When it comes to the deficit, we’ve already agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings. But we need to do more, and that means making choices. Right now, we’re poised to spend nearly $1 trillion more on what was supposed to be a temporary tax break for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Right now, because of loopholes and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.
Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else –- like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans? Because if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t do both.
The American people know what the right choice is. So do I. As I told the Speaker this summer, I’m prepared to make more reforms that rein in the long-term costs of Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen Social Security, so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors.
But in return, we need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes. (Applause.)
Tax reform should follow the Buffett Rule. If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes. And my Republican friend Tom Coburn is right: Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires. In fact, if you’re earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn’t get special tax subsidies or deductions. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn’t go up. (Applause.) You’re the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages. You’re the ones who need relief.
Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.
We don’t begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it. When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich. It’s because they understand that when I get a tax break I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference -- like a senior on a fixed income, or a student trying to get through school, or a family trying to make ends meet. That’s not right. Americans know that’s not right. They know that this generation’s success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other, and to the future of their country, and they know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility. That’s how we’ll reduce our deficit. That’s an America built to last. (Applause.)
Now, I recognize that people watching tonight have differing views about taxes and debt, energy and health care. But no matter what party they belong to, I bet most Americans are thinking the same thing right about now: Nothing will get done in Washington this year, or next year, or maybe even the year after that, because Washington is broken.
Can you blame them for feeling a little cynical?
The greatest blow to our confidence in our economy last year didn’t come from events beyond our control. It came from a debate in Washington over whether the United States would pay its bills or not. Who benefited from that fiasco?
I’ve talked tonight about the deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. But the divide between this city and the rest of the country is at least as bad -- and it seems to get worse every year.
Some of this has to do with the corrosive influence of money in politics. So together, let’s take some steps to fix that. Send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress; I will sign it tomorrow. (Applause.) Let’s limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact. Let’s make sure people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress can’t lobby Congress, and vice versa -- an idea that has bipartisan support, at least outside of Washington.
Some of what’s broken has to do with the way Congress does its business these days. A simple majority is no longer enough to get anything -– even routine business –- passed through the Senate. (Applause.) Neither party has been blameless in these tactics. Now both parties should put an end to it. (Applause.) For starters, I ask the Senate to pass a simple rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days. (Applause.)
The executive branch also needs to change. Too often, it’s inefficient, outdated and remote. (Applause.) That’s why I’ve asked this Congress to grant me the authority to consolidate the federal bureaucracy, so that our government is leaner, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the American people. (Applause.)
Finally, none of this can happen unless we also lower the temperature in this town. We need to end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction; that politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common-sense ideas.
I’m a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more. (Applause.) That’s why my education reform offers more competition, and more control for schools and states. That’s why we’re getting rid of regulations that don’t work. That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.
On the other hand, even my Republican friends who complain the most about government spending have supported federally financed roads, and clean energy projects, and federal offices for the folks back home.
The point is, we should all want a smarter, more effective government. And while we may not be able to bridge our biggest philosophical differences this year, we can make real progress. With or without this Congress, I will keep taking actions that help the economy grow. But I can do a whole lot more with your help. Because when we act together, there’s nothing the United States of America can’t achieve. (Applause.) That’s the lesson we’ve learned from our actions abroad over the last few years.
Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies. From Pakistan to Yemen, the al Qaeda operatives who remain are scrambling, knowing that they can’t escape the reach of the United States of America. (Applause.)
From this position of strength, we’ve begun to wind down the war in Afghanistan. Ten thousand of our troops have come home. Twenty-three thousand more will leave by the end of this summer. This transition to Afghan lead will continue, and we will build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, so that it is never again a source of attacks against America. (Applause.)
As the tide of war recedes, a wave of change has washed across the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunis to Cairo; from Sana’a to Tripoli. A year ago, Qaddafi was one of the world’s longest-serving dictators -– a murderer with American blood on his hands. Today, he is gone. And in Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change cannot be reversed, and that human dignity cannot be denied. (Applause.)
How this incredible transformation will end remains uncertain. But we have a huge stake in the outcome. And while it’s ultimately up to the people of the region to decide their fate, we will advocate for those values that have served our own country so well. We will stand against violence and intimidation. We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings –- men and women; Christians, Muslims and Jews. We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty.
And we will safeguard America’s own security against those who threaten our citizens, our friends, and our interests. Look at Iran. Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program now stands as one. The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent.
Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. (Applause.)
But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.
The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe. Our oldest alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger than ever. Our ties to the Americas are deeper. Our ironclad commitment -- and I mean ironclad -- to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history. (Applause.)
We’ve made it clear that America is a Pacific power, and a new beginning in Burma has lit a new hope. From the coalitions we’ve built to secure nuclear materials, to the missions we’ve led against hunger and disease; from the blows we’ve dealt to our enemies, to the enduring power of our moral example, America is back.
Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about. (Applause.)
That’s not the message we get from leaders around the world who are eager to work with us. That’s not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin, from Cape Town to Rio, where opinions of America are higher than they’ve been in years. Yes, the world is changing. No, we can’t control every event. But America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs –- and as long as I’m President, I intend to keep it that way. (Applause.)
That’s why, working with our military leaders, I’ve proposed a new defense strategy that ensures we maintain the finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a trillion dollars in our budget. To stay one step ahead of our adversaries, I’ve already sent this Congress legislation that will secure our country from the growing dangers of cyber-threats. (Applause.)
Above all, our freedom endures because of the men and women in uniform who defend it. (Applause.) As they come home, we must serve them as well as they’ve served us. That includes giving them the care and the benefits they have earned –- which is why we’ve increased annual VA spending every year I’ve been President. (Applause.) And it means enlisting our veterans in the work of rebuilding our nation.
With the bipartisan support of this Congress, we’re providing new tax credits to companies that hire vets. Michelle and Jill Biden have worked with American businesses to secure a pledge of 135,000 jobs for veterans and their families. And tonight, I’m proposing a Veterans Jobs Corps that will help our communities hire veterans as cops and firefighters, so that America is as strong as those who defend her. (Applause.)
Which brings me back to where I began. Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn a thing or two from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian, Latino, Native American; conservative, liberal; rich, poor; gay, straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one nation, leaving no one behind.
One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democrats. Some may be Republicans. But that doesn’t matter. Just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates -- a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary -- and Hillary Clinton -- a woman who ran against me for president.
All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves. One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission. It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job -- the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other -- because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s somebody behind you, watching your back.
So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we are joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
The White House
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Hello, everybody. On Thursday, I went down to Florida to visit Disneyworld. To Sasha and Malia’s great disappointment, I was not there to hang out with Mickey or ride Space Mountain. Instead, I was there to talk about steps we’re taking to boost tourism and create jobs.
Tourism is the number one service we export. Every year, tens of millions of tourists come from all over the world to visit America. They stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants, and see all the sights America has to offer.
That’s good for local businesses. That’s good for local economies. And the more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work. It’s that simple.
We can’t wait to seize this opportunity. As I’ve said before, I will continue to work with Congress, states, and leaders in the private sector to find ways to move this country forward. But where they can’t act or won’t act, I will. Because we want the world to know that America is open for business. And that’s why I announced steps we’re taking to promote America and make it easier for tourists to come and visit.
Frequent travelers who pass an extensive background check will be able to scan their passports and fingerprints and skip long lines at immigration at more airports. We’re going to expand the number of countries where visitors can get pre-cleared by Homeland Security so they don’t need a tourist visa. And we’re going to speed up visa processing for countries with growing middle classes that can afford to visit America – countries like China and Brazil.
We want more visitors coming here. We want them spending money here. It’s good for our economy, and it will help provide the boost more businesses need to grow and hire. And we can’t wait to make it happen.
Too often over the last few months, we’ve seen Congress drag its feet and refuse to take steps we know will help strengthen our economy. That’s why this is the latest in a series of actions I’ve taken on my own to help our economy keep growing, creating jobs, and restoring security for middle-class families.
In September, we decided to stop waiting for Congress to fix No Child Left Behind and give states the flexibility they need to help our kids meet higher standards. We made sure that small businesses that have contracts with the Federal Government can get paid faster so they can start hiring more people. We made it easier for veterans to get jobs and put their skills to work. We took steps to help families whose home values have fallen refinance their mortgages and save up to thousands of dollars a year. We sped up the loan process for companies that want to rebuild our roads and bridges – putting construction workers back on the job. And I appointed Richard Cordray to be America’s consumer watchdog and protect working Americans from the worst abuses of the financial industry.
These are good steps. Now we need to do more.
On Tuesday evening, I’ll deliver my State of the Union Address, where I’ll lay out my blueprint for actions we need to take together – not just me, or Congress, but every American – to rebuild an economy where hard work and responsibility are rewarded. An economy that’s built to last.
I hope you’ll tune in. In the meantime, I’m going to keep doing everything I can to make this country not only the best place to visit and do business – but the best place to live and work and build a better life.
Thanks for watching. Have a great weekend. And I’ll see you on Tuesda
Browne Education Campus
THE PRESIDENT: Well, good morning, everybody!
AUDIENCE: Good morning!
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, this looks like an outstanding group, I can already tell. I’m not going to make a long speech, because we’re here to do some work. But mainly what I want to do is just to say thank you to all of you for participating. I know there are a lot of organizations that are represented here today. We are so glad to be at this outstanding school where we’re going to be doing a whole bunch of stuff to make it -- make the facilities even better than they already are.
But this is the third year now that Michelle and Malia and usually Sasha is here -- she couldn’t make it today -- that we provide or engage in some sort of service on Dr. King’s birthday. And there’s no better way to celebrate Dr. King than to do something on behalf of others.
I know there’s been a lot of controversy lately about the quote on the memorial and they’re changing it and making some modifications, but if you look at that speech talking about Dr. King as a drum major, what he really said was that all of us can be a drum major for service, all of us can be a drum major for justice. There’s nobody who can’t serve. Nobody who can’t help somebody else. And whether you’re seven or six or whether you’re 76, then you can find opportunities to make an enormous difference in your community. And at a time when the country has been going through some difficult economic times, for us to be able to come together as a community, people from all different walks of life, and make sure that we’re giving back, that’s ultimately what makes us the strongest, most extraordinary country on Earth, is because we pull together when times are good, but also when times are hard. And you guys all represent that.
So on behalf of our family, we want to say thank you. I’m sure Dr. King, were he here, he’d want to say thank you. And I look forward to spending some time next to you guys. Hopefully I have some good instructors here so that I don’t mess anything up. So if you’re putting a paintbrush in my hands, make sure that I’ve got some very clear lines, and I’ll try to stay within them.
All right? Thank you, everybody. God bless you. Thank you. (Applause.)
Remarks of President Barack Obama
January 14, 2012
The White House
As you can see, I brought a few things with me for this week’s video. A padlock. A pair of boots. A candle. And a pair of socks.
No, we’re not having a yard sale. And these products may not appear to have much in common. But they’re united by three proud words: “Made in America.” They’re manufactured by American workers, in American factories, and shipped to customers here and around the world.
The companies that make these products are part of a hopeful trend: they’re bringing jobs back from overseas. You’ve heard of outsourcing – well, this is insourcing. And in this make or break moment for the middle class and those working to get into the middle class, that’s exactly the kind of commitment to country that we need.
This week, I invited executives from businesses that are insourcing jobs to a forum at the White House. These are CEOs who take pride in hiring people here in America, not just because it’s increasingly the right thing to do for their bottom line, but also because it’s the right thing to do for their workers and for our communities and our country.
I told those CEOs what I’ll tell any business leader: ask yourself what you can do to bring more jobs back to the country that made your success possible. And I’ll make sure you’ve got a government that does everything in its power to help you succeed.
That’s why, in the next few weeks, I will put forward new tax proposals that reward companies that choose to do the right thing by bringing jobs home and investing in America – and eliminate tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.
It’s also why on Friday, I called on Congress to help me make government work better for you. Right now, we have a 21st century economy, but we’ve still got a government organized for the 20th century. Over the years, the needs of Americans have changed, but our government has not. In fact, it’s gotten even more complex. And that has to change.
That’s why I asked Congress to reinstate the authority that past presidents have had to streamline and reform the Executive Branch. This is the same sort of authority that every business owner has to make sure that his or her company keeps pace with the times. It’s the same authority that presidents had for over 50 years – up until Ronald Reagan. And let me be clear: I will only use this authority for reforms that result in more efficiency, better service, and a leaner government.
These changes will make it easier for small business owners to get the loans and support they need to sell their products around the world. For example, instead of forcing small business owners to navigate the six departments and agencies in the federal government that focus on business and trade, we’ll have one department. One place where entrepreneurs can go from the day they come up with an idea and need a patent, to the day they start building a warehouse, to the day they’re ready to ship their products overseas.
And in the meantime, we’re creating a new website – BusinessUSA – that will serve as a one-stop shop with information for businesses small and large that want to start selling their stuff around the world.
This means that more small business owners will see their hard work pay off. More companies will be able to hire new workers. And we’ll be able to rebuild an economy that’s not known for paper profits or financial speculation, but for making and selling products like these. Products “Made in America.”
Thank you, and have a great weekend.
Remarks by the President on Insourcing American Jobs
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Please, please have a seat. Thank you. Well, welcome to the White House, everybody. And Tim, thank you for that introduction.
I could not have enjoyed more the meeting that I had this morning, because what these companies represent is a source of optimism and enormous potential for the future of America. What they have in common is that they’re part of a hopeful trend: They are bringing jobs back to America.
You’ve heard of outsourcing. Well, these companies are insourcing. These companies are choosing to invest in the one country with the most productive workers, the best universities, and the most creative and innovative entrepreneurs in the world, and that is the United States of America. (Applause.) That’s worth applause.
That’s exactly the kind of commitment to country that we need -- especially right now, when we’re in a make-or-break moment for the middle class and those aspiring to get in the middle class here in the United States.
All across this country, I meet folks who grew up with a faith that in America, hard work paid off and responsibility was rewarded, and anybody could make it if they tried -- no matter where you came from, no matter what you looked like, no matter how you started out. Those are the values that my grandparents and my mother taught me. Those are the values that built the best products and the strongest economy and the largest middle class that the world has ever known.
I think we understand that over the last few decades, that bargain has eroded for too many Americans. The economy has changed rapidly. And for many, that change has been painful. Factories where people thought they would retire packed up and went overseas, where labor costs were cheaper.
At the same time, we live in a global economy, and as other countries grow and develop middle classes of their own, of course global companies are going to pursue those markets and employ workers and make investments all over the world.
But right now, we’re at a unique moment, a inflection point, a period where we’ve got the opportunity for those jobs to come back. And the business leaders in this room, they’re ahead of the curve, they recognize it. I’ll give you just a few examples. After shedding jobs for more than a decade, American manufacturers have now added jobs for two years in a row. That’s good news. But when a lot of folks are still looking for work, now is the time for us to step on the gas.
So that’s why I pushed Congress to extend the payroll tax cut this year, so that 160 million working Americans weren’t hit with a tax hike. Now is the time to extend that middle class tax hike for -- tax cut for all of this year. It’s the right thing to do, and we need to get that done.
But we’re going to have to do more. And that’s why, in the next few weeks, we’re also going to put forward new tax proposals that reward companies that choose to bring jobs home and invest in America. And we’re going to eliminate tax breaks for companies that are moving jobs overseas.
Because there is an opportunity to be had right here and right now. There are workers ready to work, right now. That’s why I set a goal of doubling our exports of goods and services by 2014 –- and it’s a goal, by the way, that we’re on track to meet; in fact, we’re a little ahead of schedule in meeting that goal.
That’s why, with the help of our outstanding USTR, I was able to sign trade agreements with Korea and Colombia and Panama so our businesses can sell more goods to those markets. That’s why I’ve fought for investments in schools and community colleges, so that our workers remain the best you’ll find anywhere, and investments in our transportation and communication networks, so that your businesses have more opportunities to take root and grow.
I don’t want America to be a nation that’s primarily known for financial speculation and racking up debt buying stuff from other nations. I want us to be known for making and selling products all over the world stamped with three proud words: “Made in America.” And we can make that happen. (Applause.)
I don’t want the next generation of manufacturing jobs taking root in countries like China or Germany. I want them taking root in places like Michigan and Ohio and Virginia and North Carolina. And that’s a race that America can win. That’s the race businesses like these will help us win.
These are CEOs who take pride in hiring people here in America, not just because it’s increasingly the right thing to do for their bottom line, but also because it’s the right thing to do for their workers and for our communities and for our country. And they’re leading by example. I’m proud of that, as an American. But as President, I also want to make sure they get some credit for it.
Just three years ago, for example, we almost lost the American auto industry. Today, the Big Three automakers are turning a profit and manufacturing the next generation of fuel-efficient cars that the rest of the world wants to buy. (Applause.) Ford Motor Company -- that’s represented by workers and management on this stage -- has committed to investing $16 billion in the United States by 2015, $16 billion. (Applause.) And that includes bringing back about 2,000 jobs and shifting production from countries like Japan, Mexico and China to states like Michigan and Ohio and Missouri.
Master Lock -- iconic company. When Master Lock looked at their numbers, they saw that union workers in America could do the same job at competitive costs as non-union workers in China. In fact, Master Lock is now exporting their products from the United States to China and Europe. (Applause.) And today, for the first time in 15 years -- today, for the first time in 15 years, Master Lock’s Milwaukee complex is running at full capacity.
But you don’t have be a big manufacturer to insource jobs. Bruce Cochrane’s family had manufactured furniture in North Carolina for five generations. But in 1966 -- 1996, rather, as jobs began shifting to Asia, the family sold their business and Bruce spent time in China and Vietnam as a consultant for American furniture makers who had shifted their production. While he was there, though, he noticed something he didn’t expect: Their customers actually wanted to buy things made in America. So he came home and started a new company, Lincolnton Furniture, which operates out of the old family factories that had been shut down. He’s even re-hired many of the former workers from his family business.
You also don’t have to be a manufacturer to insource jobs. You just heard Tim, CEO of a health care IT company in New Jersey called GalaxE Solutions. They’ve already hired 150 workers with their “Outsource to Detroit” program, and they plan on hiring up to 500. And Tim was quoted as saying, “There are some really talented people in Detroit, and we’re putting them back to work.”
Whether you’re a small business that are -- some of which are represented here -- or a large manufacturing corporation, or a technology company; whether you’re a historic brand or a brand-new startup, insourcing jobs is a smart strategy right now. We live in a global economy with opportunities for global investment. But we heard from several experts this morning and business leaders that we’re at this point in time where factors like incredibly rising American productivity and increasingly competitive costs mean the economic case to invest in America and bring jobs back home is strong -- and it’s getting stronger.
Labor costs are going up in places like China. We have become much more productive. We continue to be the largest market in the world. And so we have this outstanding opportunity if everybody is partnering and getting together. That’s the economic case.
I believe there’s also a moral case. Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel, said it well. He said, “Those of us in business have two obligations. One that’s undebatable is that we have a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders who put us in our place.” But he also said, “There’s another obligation that I feel personally, given that everything I’ve achieved in my career and a lot of what Intel has achieved in its career were made possible by a climate of democracy, an economic climate and investment climate provided by our domicile –- the United States.”
All these folks onstage, they are businesspeople first, and they’re looking at the bottom line. But they also feel good about the fact that they’re restoring hope and creating jobs here in the United States. And that’s part of the responsibility that comes with being a leader in America –- a responsibility not just to the shareholders or the stakeholders, but to the country that made all this incredible wealth and opportunity possible. That’s a responsibility that we all have to live up to –- whether we’re in the private sector or the public sector; whether we’re in Washington or we’re on Wall Street. Because the more Americans who succeed, the more America succeeds.
So my message to business leaders today is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to the country that made our success possible. And I’m going to do everything in my power to help you do it. We’re going to have to seize this moment. American workers are the most productive and competitive in the world right now. When you factor in all the costs, we have a outstanding market; we have the most innovative entrepreneurs, the best research universities. And part of what our session this morning was all about was just helping people to take a look at what this moment is and where we’re going to be five years from now. Because when people take a second look, it turns out that the potential for job growth and American manufacturing and the service industry is incredible.
I said in a speech a while back, this moment is perfectly suited for our advantages. It’s perfectly suited for who we are. The global marketplace is becoming more innovative, more creative, more transparent, faster, more adaptable -- that’s who we are. That’s our strength. We’ve got to take advantage of it.
And if we’ve got leadership of the sort that we’re seeing on this stage, I’m absolutely confident that not only can it make a difference for our middle class and folks who are working their way into the middle class, it also gives us an incredible opportunity to assure the future for our children and our grandchildren. And that’s my central goal and focus as President. That should be our central goal as a country -- how we rebuild an economy where hard work pays off, responsibility is rewarded -- a nation where those values continue for generations to come.
So thanks to all the people on this stage for being such a great example. For all the press who are here, I hope you get a chance to hear their stories, because it’s exciting, and it gives you a sense of why I’m incredibly optimistic about our prospects.
Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)
Remarks by the President to EPA staff
Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you! Thank you, EPA! (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Thank you so much. It is wonderful to see you. It is great to see you. Thank you, thank you.
Now, everybody can have a seat. I know Lisa is making you guys all stand up. (Laughter.) But you can all relax.
It is wonderful to be here with all of you. Thank you so much for all the great work you do. I want to first acknowledge your outstanding Administrator, Lisa Jackson. (Applause.) She has done an extraordinary job leading this agency. But here’s what I want all of you to know: Not only is she good on policy, not only is she tough and able to present the EPA’s mission so effectively to the public, but she also has your back. (Applause.) She is an advocate on behalf of all the people who work so hard here at the EPA. And so you should know that your boss loves you, even if she doesn’t always show it, I don’t know. (Laughter.)
The main reason I’m here is simple: I just want to say thank you. I want to say thank you to each and every one of you, because the EPA touches on the lives of every single American every single day. You help make sure that the air we breathe, the water we drink, the foods we eat are safe. You protect the environment not just for our children but their children. And you keep us moving towards energy independence.
And it is a vital mission. Over the past three years, because of your hard work, we’ve made historic progress on all these fronts. Just a few weeks ago, thanks to the hard work of so many of you, Lisa and I was able to announce new common-sense standards to better protect the air we breathe from mercury and other harmful air pollution. And that was a big deal. (Applause.) And part of the reason it was a big deal was because, for over 20 years, special interest groups had successfully delayed implementing these standards when it came to our nation’s power plants. And what we said was: “Enough.” It’s time to get this done.
And because we acted, we’re going to prevent thousands of premature deaths, thousands of heart attacks and cases of childhood asthma.
There are families that are going to be directly impacted in a positive way because of the work that you do. Because you kept fighting -- and some of you have been fighting this fight for a long time, long before I was here and long before Lisa was here. And so your tenacity and stick-to-itness is making a difference.
Because of you, across the board, we’re cutting down on acid rain and air pollution. We’re making our drinking water cleaner and safer. We’re creating healthier communities. But that’s not all. Safeguarding our environment is also about strengthening our economy. I do not buy the notion that we have to make a choice between having clean air and clean water and growing this economy in a robust way. I think that is a false debate. (Applause.)
Think about it: We established new fuel economy standards, a historic accomplishment that is going to slash oil consumption by about 12 billion barrels, dramatically reduces pollution that contributes to climate change, and saves consumers thousands of dollars at the pump, which they can then go spend on something else.
As part of the Recovery Act, you cleaned up contaminated sites across the country, which helped to rid neighborhoods of environmental blight while putting Americans back to work.
We don’t have to choose between dirty air and dirty water or a growing economy. We can make sure that we are doing right by our environment and, in fact, putting people back to work all across America. That’s part of our mission.
When we put in place new common-sense rules to reduce air pollution, we create new jobs building and installing all sorts of pollution-control technology. When we put in place new emissions standards for our vehicles, we make sure that the cars of tomorrow are going to be built right here in the United States of America, that we’re going to win that race.
When we clean up our nation’s waterways, we generate more tourists for our local communities. So what’s good for the environment can also be good for our economy.
Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be some tensions. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be legitimate debates that take place. That doesn’t mean that it’s not important for every single one of us to think about how can we make sure that we are achieving our goals in the smartest way possible, in the most efficient ways possible, in the least bureaucratic ways possible, in the clearest ways possible. That’s also part of our mission.
There’s not a federal agency that can’t get better and be smarter in accomplishing our mission, and we have an obligation every single day to think about how can we do our business a little bit better. How can we make sure the taxpayers are getting every dime’s worth that they’re paying in order to achieve these important common goals that we have?
But I believe we can do it, and you’ve shown me that we can do it over these last three years. So I could not be prouder of the work that you all do every single day as federal employees. I know the hours can be long. I know that sometimes spending time getting these policies right means less time at home than you’d like, and you’re missing birthday parties, or you’re missing a soccer game, and the spouse is not happy with you. I know a little bit about that sometimes. (Laughter.) I know these jobs are demanding.
But I also know what compelled you to enter public service in the first place -- and that’s the idea that you could make a difference; that you could leave behind a planet that is a little cleaner, a little safer than the one we inherited.
And I have to tell you that part of why I get excited when I see some of the work that you’re doing is because our next generation is so much more attuned to these issues than I was when I was growing up. I can tell you when I sit down and I talk to my kids, probably the area where they have the most sophisticated understanding of policy is when it comes to the environment. They understand that the decisions we make now are going to have an impact on their lives for many years to come. And their instincts are right. So your mission is vital.
And just think of what this agency has been able to do over the last four decades. There’s so many things we now take for granted. When I hear folks grumbling about environmental policy, you almost want to do a Back to the Future -- (laughter) -- kind of reminder of folks of what happens when we didn’t have a strong EPA. The year before President Nixon created the EPA, the Cuyahoga River was so dirty from industrial pollution and oil slicks that it literally caught on fire. In my hometown, the Chicago River -- you probably could not find anything alive in there -- (laughter) -- four decades ago. Now it’s thriving -- to the benefit of the city. Today, because of your work, 92 percent of Americans have access to clean water that meets our national health standards.
Before the EPA was created, our cars were spewing harmful lead pollution into the air, with all sorts of impacts, especially on children. Today, because of your work, air pollution is down by more than half, and lead pollution is down more than 90 percent from a generation ago.
So all of you, and all of those who served before you, have made a difference. Our environment is safer because of you. Our country is stronger because of you. Our future is brighter because of you. And I want you to know that you’ve got a President who is grateful for your work and will stand with you every inch of the way as you carry out your mission to make sure that we’ve got a cleaner world. (Applause.)
So, thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)
Remarks by the President Honoring the 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! Everybody please have a seat, have a seat. Welcome to the White House, and congratulations to the world champion Dallas Mavericks. (Applause.) Obviously we got some Texas people here. (Applause.)
This was the Mavericks’ first title, so I want to start by recognizing everybody who stuck with the team through good times and through bad -- from Don Carter, the original owner, to the arena staff, to all the fans back home.
We’ve got some members of Congress who’ve waited a long time for this -- (laughter) -- as well as my Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, who happens to be a former mayor of Dallas. (Applause.)
Of course, none of this would be possible if it hadn’t been for the shy and retiring owner -- (laughter) -- of the Dallas Mavericks, Mr. Mark Cuban. (Applause.) So not only did Mark help put together an outstanding group of players and coaches, he was also responsible for making this event happen today. And so we are thrilled to have you guys here.
It turns out that because of the lockout, Dallas wasn’t scheduled to play in Washington this season. That did not sit well with Mark. (Laughter.) He knew this team had worked hard. He wanted them to get all the perks of a world championship, including a visit to the White House. It is tough to say no to Mark Cuban. And so they made a separate trip, and here we are.
And I’m glad it worked out, because this is a special group. Last season, they called themselves the “Bad News Bears,” because from the very beginning, nobody gave them much of a chance. People said that Jason Kidd was too old. And I will say that this is the first time I’ve been with some world champions who are my contemporaries. (Laughter and applause.) They said JJ Barea was too small; that Dirk Nowitzki was too slow. They did say that, Dirk, I’m sorry. (Laughter.) That’s what they said -- they said you had a great jump shot, but --(laughter.) They said Deshawn Stevenson was too crazy. (Laughter.) They said “The Jet” was terrific but they weren’t sure whether that tattoo was such a good idea. (Laughter.)
But these players got it done because they know how good teams win -- not just by jumping higher or running faster, but by finding the open man, working together, staying mentally tough, being supportive of each other, playing smarter.
And that’s how the Mavericks took down some of the league’s best teams -- including the Miami Heat, who got a little bit of attention last year. This was especially sweet for Dirk and Jason who were around the first time that the Mavericks and the Heat met in the finals and lost five years ago.
In fact, the Mavericks played -- before the Mavericks played a single game last season, when Jason got his tattoo, he said, “When you do something as crazy as I did, you’ve got to back it up.” And he did, by the way, score 27 points to help win the deciding Game Six. (Applause.)
Dirk joined the Mavericks 13 years ago as a skinny kid from Germany with what he describes as a “goofy” haircut. (Laughter.) Last year he became the second European player ever to be named Finals MVP. And it wasn’t easy. He bent a finger so badly in Game Two that he had to shoot left-handed. In Game Four, he played through a 101-degree fever. But every time, he came through when it counted. And I think it’s fair to say that we have very rarely seen a better playoff run than Dirk Nowitzki had last year. It was remarkable. (Applause.)
So clearly Dirk is a tough guy. Although the most painful thing may have been his rendition of “We Are the Champions” -- (laughter) -- during the victory celebration. That was -- (laughter) -- you said you worked on that? (Laughter.) Seriously? Okay.
Now, none of these players would have gotten so far without the rest of the folks on this stage. Obviously Jason Kidd now has the second most assists and third most steals in NBA history. (Applause.) It wouldn’t have worked without an outstanding coach. And Coach Rick Carlisle has now won a player as -- or won a title as a player, with Larry Bird in the 80s, has a title as a coach, and then he just informed me that he had also won -- what was it? The Pantoons? What were they called?
COACH CARLISLE: The Patroons, the Albany Patroons.
THE PRESIDENT: The Albany Patroons. Many of you did not know that Rick Carlisle had also won one of those. (Laughter and applause.)
COACH CARLISLE: Minor league.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s a minor league team. (Laughter.)
So these players and coaches will always share a bond that comes with being the best. And it’s a bond they share with the Dallas community, where they do everything from setting up scholarships to helping military families get back on their feet. Today, in fact, they met with some wounded warriors here at the White House. I want to really thank them for taking the time to do that. That means so much to people. (Applause.)
So this team really does have a heart that’s the size of Texas. This was a remarkable run, a great victory, a great vindication for all the effort Mark Cuban put into building this team, and for long-time players like Dirk Nowitzki and long-suffering fans like all of you. (Laughter.)
And so I just want to give a heartfelt congratulations to all of you. I told them that it’s too bad that next year it will be the Chicago Bulls here, -- (laughter) -- but they said I shouldn’t be so confident. So congratulations, everybody. Give it up for the Dallas Mavericks. (Applause.)
Dirk, you got something for me?
MR. NOWITZKI: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s it. That’s what I’m talking about.
MR. NOWITZKI: That’s it. I heard you’re a big, big fan of Michael Jordan.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so -- well, you know, I was actually -- I was 23 before Jordan.
MR. NOWITZKI: Oh, you were?
THE PRESIDENT: I was. (Laughter.) So he got the number from me, I think. (Laughter.) He stole it.
MR. NOWITZKI: Yes. I got you.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s what happened, that’s beautiful.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
The White House
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Happy New Year everybody.
This week, I traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, to talk with folks about the biggest challenge we face as a country – rebuilding our economy so that, once again, hard work pays off, responsibility is rewarded, and anyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from, can make it if they try. That’s the economy America deserves. That’s the economy I’m fighting every day to build.
Now, to get there, the most important thing we need to do is get more Americans back to work. And over the past three years, we’ve made steady progress. We just learned that our economy added 212,000 private sector jobs in December. After losing more than 8 million jobs in the recession, we’ve added more than 3 million private sector jobs over the past 22 months. And we’re starting 2012 with manufacturing on the rise and the American auto industry on the mend.
We’re heading in the rightdirection. And we’re not going to let up. On Wednesday the White House will host a forum called “Insourcing American Jobs.” We’ll hear from business leaders who are bringing jobs back home and see how we can help other businesses follow their lead.
Because this is a make or break moment for the middle class and all those working to get there. We’ve got to keep at it. We’ve got to keep creating jobs. And we’ve got to keep rebuilding our economy so that everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share – and everyone plays by the same rules. We can’t go back to the days when the financial system was stacking the deck against ordinary Americans. To me, that’s not an option. Not after all we’ve been through.
That’s why I appointed Richard Cordray as our nation’s new consumer watchdog this week. Richard’s job is simple: to look out for you. Every day, his sole mission is to protect consumers from potential abuses by the financial industry and to make sure that you’ve got all the transparent information you need to make the important financial decisions in your lives.
I nominated Richard for this job last summer. And yet, Republicans in the Senate kept blocking his confirmation – not because they objected to him, but because they wanted to weaken his agency. That made no sense. Every day we waited was a day you and consumers all across the country were at greater financial risk.
So this year, I’m going to keep doing whatever it takes to move this economy forward and to make sure that middle class families regain the security they’ve lost over the past decade. That’s my New Year’s resolution to all of you. Thank you, and have a great weekend.