Friday, October 3, 2014

President Obama's "New (Clean Energy) Economy" Address at Northwestern University: Overview and Excerpts

On October 2, 2014, President Obama addressed students at Northwestern University. The President's address focused on the new economy and touting his administration's achievements saying that we have come a long way since the financial crisis that preoccupied his administration when he took office.

Part of the address focused on his historic clean energy accomplishments, in particular the fact that since he came to power, the US has tripled its wind production and increased its solar production ten times.  

He cited a number of statistics showing significant job growth, and a revitalized manufacturing sector. He reiterated his belief that middle class job growth is essential for the nation's well being.

He explained that fossil fuel imports will have been cut in half by the end of 2014. However, it should be noted that this has been accomplished through a radical increase in domestic fossil fuel production, giving the US the dubious distinction of being world's largest producer of oil and gas.

Obama outlined his achievements in education and indicated his ongoing support. He explained that we have seen economic progress in the form of growth in the manufacturing sector and jobs. There have been 700,000 new jobs in the manufacturing sector alone and this sector is growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy.

He also explained that more Americans now have health care (26 percent reduction in the number of uninsured Americans) and premiums are declining alongside costs. By 2020 Medicare and Medicaid will cost $188 billion less than projected. Led by reductions in health care costs the deficit has been cut from 10 percent (when Obama took office) to 3 percent of the economy.

He also touted the virtues of raising the minimum wage, immigration reform, and passing a fair pay law that would help equal pay for men and women.

Here are some excerpts of the President's address:

Summary of progress

"As Americans, we can and should be proud of the progress that our country has made over these past six years...when I took office, businesses were laying off 800,000 Americans a month. Today, our businesses are hiring 200,000 Americans a month. The unemployment rate has come down from a high of 10 percent in 2009, to 6.1 percent today. Over the past four and a half years, our businesses have created 10 million new jobs; this is the longest uninterrupted stretch of private sector job creation in our history....Right now, there are more job openings than at any time since 2001. All told, the United States has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined...So it is indisputable that our economy is stronger today than when I took office. By every economic measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office."

New economy

...this is a university that is brimming with the possibilities of a new economy -- your research and technology; the ideas and the innovation; the training of doctors and educators, and scientists and entrepreneurs. But you can’t help but visit a campus like this and feel the promise of the future.

And that’s why I’m here -- because it’s going to be young people like you, and universities like this, that will shape the American economy and set the conditions for middle-class growth well into the 21st century.

....American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world...It’s America -- our colleges, our graduate schools, our unrivaled private sector -- that attracts so many people to our shores to study and start businesses and tackle some of the most challenging problems in the world.

But what supports our leadership role in the world is ultimately the strength of our economy here at home...But as Americans, we measure our success by something more than our GDP, or a jobs report. We measure it by whether our jobs provide meaningful work that give people a sense of purpose, and whether it allows folks to take care of their families.

Over the last decade, we learned the hard way that it wasn’t sustainable to have an economy where too much of the growth was based on inflated home prices and bubbles that burst and a casino mentality on Wall Street; where the recklessness of a few could threaten all of us; where incomes at the top skyrocketed, while working families saw theirs decline. That was not a formula for sustained growth. We need an economy that’s built on a rock, and that -- a rock that is durable and competitive, and that's a steady source of good, middle-class jobs. When that's happening, everybody does well.

...we’ve got to invest more in the kinds of basic research that led to Google and GPS, and makes our economy stronger.  

If we want to make and sell the best products, we have to invest in the best ideas, like you do here at Northwestern. Your nanotechnology institute doesn’t just conduct groundbreaking research; that research has spun off 20 startups and more than 1,800 products -- that means jobs.

...on day one, when I took office... I said we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation for growth and prosperity. And with dedicated, persistent effort, we’ve actually been laying the cornerstones of this foundation every single day since.

Clean energy, carbon emissions and climate change

...we’ve helped put tens of thousands of people to work manufacturing wind turbines, and installing solar panels on homes and businesses. We have tripled the electricity that we harness from the wind. We have increased tenfold what we generate from the sun. We have brought enough clean energy online to power every home and business in Illinois and Wisconsin, 24/7. And that’s the kind of progress that we can be proud of and in part accounts for the progress we have also made in reducing carbon emissions that cause climate change. And I know that here at Northwestern, your researchers are working to convert sunlight into liquid fuel...

If we keep investing in clean energy technology, we won’t just put people to work on the assembly lines, pounding into place the zero-carbon components of a clean energy age; we’ll reduce our carbon emissions and prevent the worst costs of climate change down the road. Let’s do this -- invest in new American energy and make our economy stronger. 

Government regulation

...we’ve put in place financial reform to protect consumers and prevent a crisis on Wall Street from hammering Main Street ever again. We have new tools to prevent “too big to fail,” to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts. We made it illegal for big banks to gamble with your money. We established the first-ever consumer watchdog to protect consumers from irresponsible lending or credit card practices. We secured billions of dollars in relief for consumers who get taken advantage of.

... we’re saving businesses billions of dollars by gradually eliminating...unnecessary regulations. But you have to contrast that with rules that discourage a casino-style mentality on Wall Street, or rules that protect the basic safety of workers on the job, or rules that safeguard the air our children breathe and keep mercury or arsenic out of our water supply. These don’t just have economic benefits, these are rules that save lives and protect families. And I’ll always stand up for those -- and they’re good for our economy.

Economic Accomplishments

...corporate balance sheets are the strongest just about that they’ve ever been. Corporate debt is down. Profits are up. Businesses are doing good.

Unemployment down. Jobs up. Manufacturing growing. Deficits cut by more than half. High school graduation is up. College enrollment up. Energy production up. Clean energy production up. Financial system more stable. Health care costs rising at a slower rate. Across the board, the trend lines have moved in the right direction.

Business leaders from around the world have said the world’s most attractive place to invest is not India or China, it’s the United States of America. And that’s because the financial sector is healthier; because manufacturing is healthier; because the housing market is healthier; because health care inflation is at a 50-year low; because our energy boom is at new highs. Because of all these things, our economy isn’t just primed for steadier, more sustained growth; America is better poised to lead and succeed in the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.

And I will not allow anyone to dismantle this foundation. Because for the first time, we can see real, tangible evidence of what the contours of the new economy will look like. It’s an economy teeming with new industry and commerce, and humming with new energy and new technologies, and bustling with highly skilled, higher-wage workers.

Republicans and the midterm elections

But if gridlock prevails, if cooperation and compromise are no longer valued, but vilified, then I’ll keep doing everything I can on my own if it will make a difference for working Americans. (Applause.)

I will keep teaming up with governors and mayors and CEOs and philanthropists who want to help.

So this idea that somehow any of these policies -- like the minimum wage or fair pay or clean energy -- are somehow bad for business is simply belied by the facts. It’s not true. ... So don't buy this notion that somehow this is an anti-business agenda. This is a pro-business agenda. This is a pro-economic growth agenda.

These policies are on the ballot -- every single one of them.

A true opposition party should now have the courage to lay out their agenda, hopefully also grounded in facts.

But one thing they [Republicans] did vote “yes” on was another massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. In fact, just last month, at least one top Republican in Congress said that tax cuts for those at the top are -- and I’m quoting here -- “even more pressing now” than they were 30 years ago.

....you’re going to be making decisions based on logic and reason and facts and data. And right now you’ve got two starkly different visions for this country.

And this is our moment to define what the next decade and beyond will look like. This is our chance to set the conditions for middle-class growth in the 21st century. The decisions we make this year, and over the next few years, will determine whether or not we set the stage for America’s greatness in this century...

Capitalism and a higher principle

I actually believe that capitalism is the greatest force for prosperity and opportunity the world has ever known. And I believe in private enterprise -- not government, but innovators and risk-takers and makers and doers -- driving job creation.

But I also believe in a higher principle, which is we’re all in this together....not just the world’s greatest wealth creator, but the world’s greatest opportunity generator. And because you’re America’s future business leaders and civic leaders, that makes you the stewards of America’s greatest singlet asset -- and that's our people.

So as you engage in the pursuit of profits, I challenge you to do so with a sense of purpose. As you chase your own success, I challenge you to cultivate more ways to help more Americans chase their success.

...the story of America is a story of progress.

...a new foundation is laid. A new future is yet to be written. And I am as confident as ever that that future will be led by the United States of America.

Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless America.

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