REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT A DNC EVENT
6:44 P.M. EDT
So let me just say this: Last week, obviously, I presented to Congress the American Jobs Act. And what I tried to underscore in that speech is the urgency for action in Washington. Now, over the last two and a half years, we’ve been busy trying to make sure that we did not spill into a depression, trying to make sure that we stabilized the financial system, trying to make sure that we saved the auto industry. And we were successful in stabilizing the economy, but what we have not been able to do is get the kind of recovery that puts people back to work the way we need to. And there are a number of things that we can do administratively, but ultimately we have to make sure that Washington is working on behalf of folks who are hurting out there, as opposed to working contrary to the interests of people all across the country.
And in the American Jobs Act, what we’ve said was, look, if Congress is able to take some action now — not 14 months from now, not six months from now, but now — we can put teachers back in the classroom, we can put construction workers back to work, we can put our veterans back to work, we can make sure that young people have opportunities for summer jobs, we can start dealing with the unemployed — and we can pay for it in a way that’s responsible, and that involves everybody sharing in the burdens of what are a difficult time.
Now, right away, the commentary was, well, this Congress, they are accustomed to doing nothing, and they’re comfortable with doing nothing, and they keep on doing nothing. But I will tell you, we intend to keep the pressure on. And I, just this week, have traveled to North Carolina, and we’ve been to Ohio. Before that, right after I made the speech, we were in Virginia. In Virginia we had probably about 12,000 people; in North Carolina about 10,000. And folks are ready for action.
And for those of you who have been supporters for a long time, as you know, there’s a time for governance and there’s a time for making a political case. My hope is, is that we’re going to keep on seeing some governance out of Washington over the next several months, because the American people can’t afford to wait for an election to actually see us start doing something serious about our jobs. But we are going to run this like a campaign, in the sense that we’ve got to take it to the American people, and make the case as to why it is possible for Washington to make a difference right now.
And so far, people have been responding with extraordinary enthusiasm. But it’s going to take hard work to get a Congress that, I think, their natural instinct is right now — the Republicans in the House, their natural instinct right now is not to engage in the kind of cooperation that we’d like to see. So, ultimately, I think, if we are doing what the American people are looking for on jobs and on the economy, then we will be able to start seeing the recovery take off once again, and get to the point where we’re starting to bring down unemployment in a significant way.
It’s estimated that the American Jobs Act would add two percentage points to the GDP, and add as many as 1.9 million jobs, and bring the unemployment rate down by a full percentage point. But even if we get that done, there’s still going to be some long-term challenges that we have to deal with in the economy that precede a recession. The fact of the matter is, for a decade now, incomes and wages have flat-lined for the American people — for ordinary Americans, for working families. They are working harder, making less, with higher expenses. And that’s been going on for a long, long time.
And 2012 is going to be one of those elections that, in some ways, may be more important than 2008, because, having worked our way through this recession, having still — having us still needing to make sure that we’re taking action to drive the unemployment rate down, there is going to be a sharp divide in terms of where the Republican candidate is and my position in terms of where we need to take the country. We’re going to have to make decisions about do we make investments in infrastructure? Do we actually have an energy policy? Do we have an education policy that makes sure that everybody has a chance at the American Dream? Are we going to make sure that we implement our health care plan, so that 30 million people have health insurance, and we start driving down costs? How are we going to approach foreign policy?
Those issues are still going to be looming, and I encourage all of you to watch — if you need some inspiration, watch the Republican presidential debates. (Laughter.) Because you will have a sense that there is going to be a clear choice presented. There’s not going to be a lot of ambiguity in terms of alternative visions about where we want to take the country. I believe in a country that is big and generous and bold, and is investing in the future, and in which there’s fairness, and everybody shares in the success and shares in the burdens of moving our country forward. And they’ve got a different philosophy. And that’s going to be tested before the American people like never before.
So, bottom line is, I appreciate all of you guys being here. We’re going to have a lot of hard work, but this group is no stranger to hard work, because, as many of you can attest, it’s always hard at a time when our politics are divided, and at a time when the economy is struggling. So, it’s going to require that everybody here bring every ounce of effort that they’ve got into making sure that the campaign is successful, but also that we’re able to get a clear mandate for the kinds of changes that we want to make to ensure that America is — continues to be a land where everybody has opportunity.
All right. Thanks very much, everyone. (Applause.)
END 6:51 P.M. EDT
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT A DNC EVENT
7:54 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. I am going to keep my opening remarks very brief, because I want to have a conversation with you more than anything else. And so, my first task is just to thank Elizabeth, her wonderful children, for hosting us here. It is true that I have been here before; I think the first time I was here, I had just been elected to the Senate, and I still remember Smith and you being incredibly gracious to me, and opening up your home at a time when I was still the new kid on the block. (Laughter.) So I appreciate that, and I thank you for your extraordinary public service as well.
I want to thank all of you for being here. Many of you are old friends and have been supporters for a long time. Some of you are new, and I’m very grateful for you taking the time to be here.
As Elizabeth described aptly, we are going through extraordinary times. These are no ordinary times. We are going through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And, historically, after financial recessions, it is a challenge and a struggle. And over the last two and a half years, what we’ve been able to do is stabilize an economy, but at a level where unemployment remains way too high.
And so, last week, I went before Congress, and I explained to them why they need to act — to put construction workers back to work, and teachers back in the classroom, and veterans back to work, and dealing with the long-term unemployed — and tried to communicate a sense of urgency. The country does not have patience for the traditional political games here in Washington. Those games are okay when unemployment is at 5 percent and, basically, people can choose to ignore it. But right now, they need action. And certainly what they don’t need is to make sure that Washington is an impediment to economic growth and putting people back to work.
As Elizabeth said, this particular Congress has not shown itself particularly eager to work with me to solve problems. I think that’s — (laughter) — that’s a fair assessment. (Laughter.) But the American people, that’s what they’re demanding; that’s what they’re insisting on. And so, we are going to be, over the next several weeks and next several months, out there talking very specifically about how Washington could make a difference right now.
Of course, I didn’t run for the presidency just to deal with immediate concerns. There are a wide range of problems that existed long before this particular recession hit. We still have an education system that is not training our kids for the 21st century and the demands of a global economy. We still are suffering from a lack of an energy policy that can deal both with our environmental challenges, but also our economic challenges.
Our health care bill, I think, is going to make a huge difference, providing 30 million people affordable coverage for the first time. But it’s got to be implemented, and it’s only part of the way there. We still have enormous inequality in our society, and providing the ladders of opportunity for people who want to live out that American Dream, but are finding too many roadblocks along the way.
We still have a fiscal situation that arises not only from this most recent crisis, but also some long-term trends, where those of us in this room do very well, while folks who are struggling don’t do quite as well. And there’s, I think, an innate sense among the American people that things aren’t fair, that the deck is stacked against them — that no matter how hard they work, their costs keep on going up, their hours are longer, they’re struggling to make their mortgage, and somehow nobody’s paying attention.
And all those long-term trends — our structural deficit, energy policy, education — 2012 is going to offer a clearer contrast than I think we’ve ever seen before. 2008 was a big election — obviously I thought so, because — (laughter.) But in some ways 2012, I think, is going to be more clarifying, because if you see the direction that the Republican Party is now going in, you have a party that offers a fundamentally different vision of where America should be, and what we should be aspiring to, and what our core values are. And that contest is going to, I think, help shape America for not just the next five years, but for decades to come. And that’s why your involvement and your engagement is going to be absolutely critical.
Now, I know that, over the last couple of months, there have been Democrats who voiced concerns and nervousness about, well, in this kind of economy, isn’t this just — aren’t these just huge headwinds in terms of your reelection? And I just have to remind people that — here’s one thing I know for certain: The odds of me being reelected are much higher than the odds of me being elected in the first place. (Laughter and applause.) And in that spirit, I just want to point out, it was somebody during the photo line who — I think right here — made what I think is a very important wish. And that is that my next inauguration is warmer than the last one. (Laughter.)
But we remain very confident about our ability to win a contest of ideas in 2012 — as long as we can get the message out. Now, the campaign has not begun; my job — I’ve got a day job, and I’m going to have to spend a lot of time continuing to govern over the next several months. And that’s why your voices — you being out there talking about the American Jobs Act, talking about our track record in terms of what we’ve done over the last three years, talking to people about what’s at stake — is going to be so important.
Elizabeth has done an extraordinary job in the past representing the United States. Well, this is one of those times where all of you are going to have to be my ambassadors over the next several months, to make sure that people who I think continue to believe in change and continue to believe in hope are mobilized effectively in 2012. And if you’re there with me, then I’m confident that we’ll have an inauguration, although I can’t promise good weather. (Laughter.)
All right. Thank you very much, everybody. And then I think we’re going to move the press out, and then we’ll have a conversation. (Applause.)
END 8:02 P.M. EDT