President Barack Obama addressed the U.S. economy in a speech Tuesday at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.
Here are the 15 most interesting takeaways from his latest jobs “pivot”:
15. Oh, the Teleprompter:
Eight years ago, I came here to deliver the commencement address for the class of 2005. Things were a little different back then.
I didn’t have any gray hair, for example. Or a motorcade. I didn’t even have a teleprompter. In fact, there was a problem in terms of printing out the speech because the printer didn’t work here and we had to drive it in from somewhere.
Watch Obama’s crack below:
14. America’s Doing Alright (also, we’re calling it the “auto industry” now, not “Detroit”)
Today, five years after the start of that Great Recession, America has fought its way back.
Together, we saved the auto industry, took on a broken health care system, and invested in new American technologies to reverse our addiction to foreign oil and double wind and solar power.
Together, we put in place tough new rules on big banks, and protections that cracked down on the worst practices of mortgage lenders and credit card companies. We changed a tax code too skewed in favor of the wealthiest at the expense of working families, locking in tax cuts for 98% of Americans, and asking those at the top to pay a little more.
13. Those One-Percenters …
… growing inequality isn’t just morally wrong; it’s bad economics. When middle-class families have less to spend, businesses have fewer customers.
When wealth concentrates at the very top, it can inflate unstable bubbles that threaten the economy. When the rungs on the ladder of opportunity grow farther apart, it undermines the very essence of this country.
12. Republicans Are Blocking Economic Recovery, Caused Sequester
We’ve seen a sizable group of Republican lawmakers suggest they wouldn’t vote to pay the very bills that Congress rang up – a fiasco that harmed a fragile recovery in 2011, and one we can’t afford to repeat.
Then, rather than reduce our deficits with a scalpel – by cutting programs we don’t need, fixing ones we do, and making government more efficient – this same group has insisted on leaving in place a meat cleaver called the sequester that has cost jobs, harmed growth, hurt our military, and gutted investments in American education and scientific and medical research that we need to make this country a magnet for good jobs.
11. House GOP “Gutted” Farm Bill Farmers Depend On
… a faction of Republicans in the House … gutted a farm bill that America’s farmers and most vulnerable children depend on.
10. Darn It, Washington Isn’t Paying Attention to the Important Things
With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball. And I am here to say this needs to stop.
9. But We Should Still Definitely Focus on Some of These Other Things:
Of course, we’ll keep pressing on other key priorities, like reducing gun violence, rebalancing our fight against al Qaeda, combating climate change, and standing up for civil rights and women’s rights.
8. Will Use His Power of His Office:
But I will not allow gridlock, inaction, or willful indifference to get in our way. Whatever executive authority I have to help the middle class, I’ll use it.
Where I can’t act on my own, I’ll pick up the phone and call CEOs, and philanthropists, and college presidents – anybody who can help – and enlist them in our efforts.
7. More Infrastructure Spending!
We’ve got more than 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare. Businesses depend on our transportation systems, our power grids, our communications networks – and rebuilding them creates good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced.
6. Education Investment Is a Must:
If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs in the 21st century. If we don’t make this investment, we’ll put our kids, our workers, and our country at a competitive disadvantage for decades
That’s why I’ll keep pushing to make high-quality preschool available to every four year-old in America – not just because we know it works for our kids, but because it provides a vital support system for working parents
5. Buy a House:
Over the past four years, we’ve helped more responsible homeowners stay in their homes, and today, sales are up, prices are up, and fewer Americans see their homes underwater.
The key now is to encourage homeownership that isn’t based on bubbles, but is instead based on a solid foundation, where buyers and lenders play by the same set of rules, rules that are clear, transparent, and fair. Already, I’ve asked Congress to pass a good, bipartisan idea – one that was championed by Mitt Romney’s economic advisor – to give every homeowner the chance to refinance their mortgage and save thousands of dollars a year
4. Retirement Planning:
As we work to reform our tax code, we should find new ways to make it easier for workers to put money away, and free middle-class families from the fear that they’ll never be able to retire.
And if Congress is looking for a bipartisan place to get started, they don’t have to look far: economists show that immigration reform that makes undocumented workers pay their full share of taxes would actually shore up Social Security for years.
3. Leave Obamacare Alone!
Stop taking meaningless repeal votes and share your concrete ideas with the country. Repealing Obamacare and cutting spending isn’t a plan.
2. Whatever This Is Supposed to Mean:
One of America’s greatest writers, Carl Sandburg, was born right here in Galesburg over a century ago. He saw the railroad bring the world to the prairie, and the prairie send its bounty to the world … he saw something more on the horizon.
“I speak of new cities and new people,” he wrote. “…The past is a bucket of ashes…yesterday is a wind gone down, a sun dropped in the west…there is…only an ocean of tomorrows, a sky of tomorrows.”
America, we have made it through the worst of yesterday’s winds. And if we find the courage to keep moving forward; if we set our eyes on the horizon, we too will find an ocean of tomorrows, a sky of tomorrows – for America’s people, and for this great country that we love.
1. Laser-Like Focus:
I care about one thing and one thing only, and that’s how to use every minute of the 1,276 days remaining in my term to make this country work for working Americans again.
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Featured image screen grab. This post has been updated.