Remarks of President Barack Obama At New Hampshire Town Hall—As Prepared for Delivery
Remarks of President Barack Obama—As Prepared for Delivery
February 2, 2010
Remarks As Prepared for Delivery:
Hello, Nashua! It’s great to be back in New Hampshire today. Now, as some of you might remember, I’ve spent a little time in this state. I’ve had beers at the Peddler’s Daughter here in Nashua and manned the scoop at ice cream socials from Sunapee to Dover to Hudson. I’ve walked Main Street in Concord, and visited with folks in all ten counties. I even once flew into the airport in Milan, which has got to be one of the only airports with a functioning wood stove.
So I’ve had the privilege of getting to know folks here in New Hampshire. I’ve seen firsthand that spirit of independence and self-reliance. I know how hard you all work, and how tough and resilient you all are.
But I also know that folks here in New Hampshire have been tested by these last two years.
We’ve gone through the deepest recession since the Great Depression, and folks here have had their lives uprooted by lost jobs, foreclosed homes, shuttered businesses, and vanished savings. Many good, hard-working people who met their responsibilities are now struggling because folks on Wall Street and in Washington didn’t meet theirs.
So when I took office, we knew the first thing we had to do was break the back of this recession. That meant doing some things that weren’t easy, and that I know weren’t popular. It wasn’t popular to prevent our financial system from collapsing by throwing a lifeline to the very Wall Street banks that helped cause this crisis in the first place. But if we hadn’t taken these steps, the entire system could have gone down and taken our economy and millions of families and businesses with it.
Because of the steps we took, the markets have stabilized. No one’s worrying about another Great Depression like they were a year ago. The worst of the storm has passed. But the devastation remains. Today, one in ten Americans still can’t find work.
That is why jobs will be our number one focus in 2010. And we’re going to start where most new jobs do – with small businesses. These are the companies that begin in basements and garages when an entrepreneur takes a chance on his dream, or a worker decides it’s time she became her own boss. They’re companies like ARC Energy, which I visited earlier today. These folks are hard at work on a new manufacturing process for ultra-efficient LED lights that will make them affordable for ordinary people. The technology they’ve created is the only of its kind in the world. They’re this little business in a condo out on Amherst Street, and they have the potential to revolutionize an industry. Right here in Nashua.
Small businesses like ARC Energy have created roughly 65 percent of all new jobs over the past decade and a half. And I think we should make it easier for them to open their doors, expand their operations, and hire more workers. That’s why I’ve proposed a new tax credit for more than one million small businesses that hire new workers or raise wages – and a tax incentive for all businesses to invest in new plants and equipment. And while we’re at it, we should eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment, so these folks can get the capital they need to grow and create jobs.
That’s particularly critical right now, as bank lending standards have tightened, and many small businesses are struggling to get loans.
That’s why today, I’m announcing a proposal to take $30 billion of the money that was repaid by Wall Street banks, and use it to create a new Small Business Lending Fund that will provide capital for community banks on Main Street. These are the small, local banks that work most closely with our small businesses – that provide them their first loan, and watch them grow through good times and bad. The more loans these banks provide to creditworthy small businesses, the better a deal we’ll give them on capital from this Fund. Combined with my proposal back in December to continue waiving fees and increasing guarantees for SBA-backed loans, this will help small banks do even more of what our economy needs – ensure that small businesses are once again the engine of job growth in America.
This is just one example of what we’ve been doing to create jobs this past year. As some of you might remember, last February, we passed the Recovery Act, which had three parts. One third was tax relief for small businesses and 95 percent of working families. One third was emergency relief like increasing unemployment benefits and helping states keep teachers and police officers from losing their jobs. And one third was putting people to work on infrastructure, renewable energy, medical research and more.
Now, I understand why some people are wondering whether the Recovery Act has really worked. Because while these steps mean 2 million Americans are working right now who’d otherwise be unemployed, and our economy is growing again instead of shrinking – and growing at the fastest rate in 6 years – we lost 7 million jobs during this recession. So we’ve still got a pretty big hole to fill. And if you or a member of your family is one of those 7 million, I know it’s not particularly satisfying or reassuring to hear that it could have been a whole lot worse.
And because there’s no magic wand that will make economic problems that were years in the making disappear overnight, it’s easy for politicians to exploit the anger and anguish folks are feeling right now. But I have to say, I’ve noticed that some of the very same folks in Congress who opposed the Recovery Act – and claim that it hasn’t worked – have been all too happy to claim credit for Recovery Act projects in their districts and the jobs those projects have produced. In other words, they’ve found a way to have their cake and vote against it too.
So we’re making progress here, but it can’t come fast enough. And we know that if we truly want to have long-term economic growth in this country, then we need to start addressing the struggles middle-class families have been grappling with for years, long before this recession ever hit.
This past decade has been one of the toughest our middle class has faced in generations, as folks have seen their paychecks shrink and their housing prices fall, while the cost of everything from groceries to health care to college has gone up. They’re working two jobs; they’re working longer hours – but it’s not adding up. And a lot of people put their kids to bed at night wondering whether they’ll be able to give them the opportunities in life that they deserve.
I didn’t run for president to kick these challenges down the road. I didn’t run for president to play it safe and keep my poll numbers as high as possible for the next election. I ran to solve problems for the next generation. I ran to get the hard things done. And I won’t rest until businesses are hiring again, and wages are rising again, and the middle class is thriving again, and we’ve finally got an economy that works for all Americans again. I won’t rest until we do what we know will secure our continued leadership in the 21st century global economy. I’m not ready to cede the future to China or India or any other country. I’m not willing to settle for second place. Not for the United States of America.
But here’s the thing, Nashua: I can’t do this alone. Democrats can’t do this alone – nor should we. We’ve got two parties in this country. And that’s a good thing. It means we have heated debates and vigorous disagreements. And messy as that is, it means bad ideas can be discarded, good ones can be made better, and we don’t go too far to any one extreme. That’s the genius of our democracy.
So I was pleased when the House Republican Caucus graciously invited me to attend their retreat last week. For more than an hour, we had a frank conversation about the issues facing our country. We aired some grievances. We shared some ideas. There were plenty of things on which we didn’t agree. But there were also things on which we did – and many on which we should if we could just focus on solving problems instead of scoring political points.
We all agree that education is the key to a twenty-first century economy. We agree that the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education. So why don’t we work together to transform our schools, so that every child in America can compete with their counterparts, from Beijing to Bangalore. Let’s work together to upgrade our community colleges, which are the gateway to a career for the children of so many working families. And in an era when a high school diploma is no longer a guarantee of a good job, let’s make college affordable for every qualified student. No graduate should have to pay more than ten percent of his or her income on student loans each year. We can see to it that they don’t – and we should.
Republicans and Democrats may not see eye to eye on the threat of global warming, but shouldn’t we agree that American grown energy is good for our security, and that new clean energy jobs are good for our economy? And surely, we can all agree that these jobs shouldn’t be going to China, or Germany – they should be here in America. So let’s invest in innovation. Let’s put people to work on solar panels and wind towers and cutting-edge batteries. Because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy, and America must be that nation.
These are key parts of the foundation we need to build a better future for our families and our country. And so is fixing a health insurance system that too often works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people.
No one should be satisfied with a system that allows insurance companies to deny care to folks with pre-existing conditions, or to kick people off their plans when they get too sick. No one should accept a system where small businesses are forced to pay outrageous premiums to get their workers covered, and seniors have big gaps in their Medicare prescription coverage. No one should accept another decade in which health insurance premiums double and millions lose their coverage altogether.
These are the things I hear about every day in the letters I get – from families going bankrupt; from small businesses crushed by their health care costs. So I won’t walk away from these efforts. I won’t walk away from these people. And I don’t think Congress should either. I think we should keep working to get this done – Democrats and Republicans together.
Finally, shouldn’t we all agree that we have got to do something about our deficits? These deficits won’t just burden our kids and grandkids decades from now – they could damage our markets, drive up our interest rates, and jeopardize our recovery right now
This isn’t how responsible families do their budgets. When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices. And it’s time your government did the same.
That’s why I’ve proposed cutting more than 120 government programs – consolidating ones that are duplicative, reducing ones that are wasteful, and eliminating those that just don’t work. That’s why I’ve proposed to cap government spending over the next three years. Spending related to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and our national security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. And that’s why I’m grateful that both the House and Senate have now voted to reinstate the PAYGO rule that helped create those record surpluses back in the 1990s instead of the record deficits we had when I came into office. The concept here is very simple: you pay as you go. You want to start a new program? Go ahead. But you’ve got to cut another one to pay for it.
That’s how we’ll make sure we’re spending your money wisely. That’s how we’ll get our deficits under control. And that’s something on which Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree, if we could just get past the Washington game. Yet just last week, the Senate blocked a law I supported to create a bi-partisan Fiscal Commission that would come up with a set of recommendations for cutting our deficits in the long term – because solving this difficult challenge is something we can only do together. But this law failed when seven Republicans who had co-sponsored this idea suddenly walked away from their own proposal after I endorsed it. Now, it’s one thing to have an honest difference of opinion on something. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s another to walk away from your responsibilities to confront the challenges facing this country because you think it’s good short-term politics. That’s what we can’t afford.
The message you all sent when you elected me, and that folks made clear this past month, is that you’re out of patience for this kind of business as usual. You made it clear that you want us to start worrying less about our jobs and more about yours. You want us to worry less about our elections and more about solving your problems. And for once, you’d like your government to reflect the sense of responsibility, decency, and generosity with which you live your lives.
It’s the spirit that led students here at Nashua North to spring into action in the wake of the tragedy in Haiti – planning fundraisers, selling ribbons, collecting money at lunch – all to help folks they’ve never known in a place they’ve never been.
It’s the spirit that drives small business owners like Kedar Gupta, the CEO of ARC Energy. Years before Kedar founded ARC, he co-founded a company called GT Solar with just $1,000 – and it now has 343 employees and hundreds of millions in revenue. All along, he made sure his employees shared in the company’s profits. When the company hit tough times, he cut his own salary first. And when talking about his philosophy of business, he explains that many CEOs take a “Me, me and me” approach, but that his approach is about “we” – about not just benefitting himself, but lifting his employees too.
We’ve come through a tough year and a tough decade, but that fundamental decency – that determination to do what’s right that has always been at the core of the American people – that should fill us all with optimism about what lies ahead. So let’s put aside the small things. Let’s come together and do what’s hard, and do what’s necessary to help the middle class succeed again; to give our kids a shot at their dreams again; and to fulfill the promise of this great country in our time. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.