April 22nd, 2012 | Published in Featured
President Barack Obama flew into Northeast Ohio for the second time in four months to discuss the economy with students, laborers, and other middle-class constituents at Lorain Community College. Obama’s Wednesday afternoon speech contained more of the same can-do language as the address he delivered at Shaker Heights High School in January. But the President’s turbocharged reiteration couldn’t have come at a more crucial time in his bid for reelection.
Rick Santorum stepped out the race two weeks ago, leaving Mitt Romney as the likely Republican nominee for November.
“I came here for a simple reason,” said Obama. “In an economy that’s still recovering from the worst crisis of our lifetimes, the work that’s going on here could not be more important.”
The President described the job prospects of four workers he met earlier that day and noted how their resilience in tough times embodies American virtue.
“That’s our defining spirit,” Obama said. “We don’t quit.”
“So the question now is, how do we make sure that all of America is expressing that spirit? Because that’s going to be the major debate that we have in this country not for the next few months, but the next few years: Should we settle for an economy where a few people do really well and then a growing number are struggling to get by? Or do we build an economy where…everybody gets a fair shot, everybody does their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules?”
Obama praised the work being done at LCCC and emphasized the importance not only of job growth, but the right kind of job growth.
“Even if labor costs are lower [elsewhere], the workers are better here,” he said. “A lot of times it makes no sense to in-source, but that’s only going to be true if we’ve got workers who have higher skills and can manage fancier machines than other folks. And that starts with community colleges like this one.”
Obama stressed that it shouldn’t be left to government to solve all the nation’s problems and that, historically, the free market has time and time again proven itself the single greatest force for economic progress. He even admitted espousing the ideals of America’s first Republican president—Abraham Lincoln—who opined that it is “through government we do together what we cannot do as well on our own.”
“That’s why we’ve got a strong military to keep us safe,” Obama explained.
“That’s why we have Medicare and Social Security and unemployment insurance. I don’t care how lucky, rich, or blessed you are—you never know, you could face a layoff or crippling illness or tragedy.”
The President recognized Ohioans for their continued hard work and personal sacrifice during the country’s worst financial crisis in over fifty years. Rather than use his LCCC appearance to highlight his accomplishments in office since 2008 or take potshots at Romney, Obama shared his thoughts on the national debt and the need for creating—and filling—more jobs via higher education.
“We’ve got to do a better job training more people for the skills that businesses are looking for,” he said.
“Look what happened in Ohio between 2000 and 2008. Instead of faster job growth we had the slowest job growth in half a century. The typical American family saw its income fall by six percent. Outsourcing was rampant; phony financial profits all over the place.”
“Our entire financial system almost collapsed,” he said gravely. “We spent the last three and a half years cleaning up that mess.”
“Their theory did not work out so well,” Obama said of his Republican predecessor’s administration.
“When you give someone like me a tax cut, there are two ways of paying for it: Either it adds to our deficit, or you end up—which is what they propose—gutting investments in education, medical research, clean energy, and job training programs like this one.”
Obama lauded LCCC’s success, noting that 90% of graduates from the college’s job-training program found work within three months.
“That’s a big deal,” he said. “Why would we want to cut this program to give folks like me a tax cut that the country can’t afford?”
The President argued that reducing debt and righting the economy was less a matter of “redistribution” than cooperative investment across the board.
“The middle class has sacrificed enough,” Obama noted.
“If they see taxpayer money wasted, that makes them angry. They know government has got to be lean and mean and do smart things. We can’t stop investing in things that are going to crate real, lasting growth.”
On a lighter note, the Chief Executive gave a shout-out to Smitty’s, an Elyria eatery where he enjoyed a burger during his last North Coast visit. Obama also thanked the (Illinois-based) Riddell equipment company for providing him with a custom-made football helmet.
“I may need it during the next few months,” joked the President.
Before signing off, Obama recognized Ohio as a “great example of the core strength and decency of the American people.”