Barack Obama

The Presidential Entrepreneurship Summit and the Rise of the Rest

Today, President Obama and the Departments of State and Commerce host the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship. The summit, which features top administration officials and private sector innovators, focuses mainly on how the entrepreneurs and business leaders in the U.S. and Muslim communities can better be linked. Take a look at the agenda here and watch the whole summit live here.

This summit is part of an important part of the administration’s outreach, which began with the President's Cairo speech, to the Muslim world. Importantly, it conveys an understanding of the power of economic connectivity to prosperity and peace. Perhaps the best resource on the topic of the power of economic connectivity and the Muslim world is Vali Nasr’s Forces of Fortune. Another resource that I highly recommend (and I might be a little biased) on the power of economic connectivity to bring people, businesses, and nations into global marketplace is a white paper I released on Friday called The Rise of the Rest: How New Economic Powers are Reshaping the Globe.

The Stimulus, One Year In

On the one year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, David Leonhardt assesses it as an objective success. Despite the political hits the act has taken, there’s no way that, when all is said and done, the stimulus doesn’t put the President on the right side of economic history.

From the Leonhardt piece:

Of course, no one can be certain about what would have happened in an alternate universe without a $787 billion stimulus. But there are two main reasons to think the hard-core skeptics are misguided — above and beyond those complicated, independent economic analyses.

The first is the basic narrative that the data offer. Pick just about any area of the economy and you come across the stimulus bill’s footprints.

In the early months of last year, spending by state and local governments was falling rapidly, as was tax revenue. In the spring, tax revenue continued to drop, yet spending jumped — during the very time when state and local officials were finding out roughly how much stimulus money they would be receiving. This is the money that has kept teachers, police officers, health care workers and firefighters employed.

Then there is corporate spending. It surged in the final months of last year. Mark Zandi of (who has advised the McCain campaign and Congressional Democrats) says that the Dec. 31 expiration of a tax credit for corporate investment, which was part of the stimulus, is a big reason.

The story isn’t quite as clear-cut with consumer spending, as skeptics note. Its sharp plunge stopped before President Obama signed the stimulus into law exactly one year ago. But the billions of dollars in tax cuts, food stamps and jobless benefits in the stimulus have still made a difference. Since February, aggregate wages and salaries have fallen, while consumer spending has risen. The difference between the two — some $100 billion — has essentially come from stimulus checks.

The second argument in the bill’s favor is the history of financial crises. They have wreaked terrible damage on economies. Indeed, the damage tended to be even worse than what we have suffered.

Around the world over the last century, the typical financial crisis caused the jobless rate to rise for almost five years, according to work by the economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. On that timeline, our rate would still be rising in early 2012. Even that may be optimistic, given that the recent crisis was so bad. As Ben Bernanke, Henry Paulson (Republicans both) and many others warned in 2008, this recession had the potential to become a depression.

Yet the jobless rate is now expected to begin falling consistently by the end of this year.

For that, the stimulus package, flaws and all, deserves a big heaping of credit. “It prevented things from getting much worse than they otherwise would have been,”Nariman Behravesh, Global Insight’s chief economist, says. “I think everyone would have to acknowledge that’s a good thing.”

Vice President Biden also has an op-ed in the USA Today arguing that “The Best is Yet to Come.”

And the Obama team has been pushing this graph, which basically says "we didn't break it, and we're doing a pretty good job fixing it."

Update: Sometimes Greg Mankiw's blog is filled with the wisdom of a superb Harvard economist. Other days, it includes the thoughts of a conservative political operative. This blog, which argues that stimulus opponents are not hypocrites for holding political events touting stimulus projects, is an example of the latter.

I don't know the facts of the case, but the logic of the Democratic position baffles me.  It seems perfectly reasonable to believe (1) that increasing government spending is not the best way to promote economic growth in a depressed economy, and (2) that if the government is going to spend gobs of money, those on whom it is spent will benefit.  In this case, the right thing for a congressman to do is to oppose the spending plans, but once the spending is inevitable, to try to ensure that the constituents he represents get their share.  So what exactly is the problem?

Here's a fact: stimulus opponents did not say, "this bill might not be the best way to increase GDP in a catastrophic recession, let me propose an economically literate alternative." Instead, they argued that the recession might not be that bad and that Obama was some sort of socialist. But now, a year later, these same elected officials are trying to take political credit for something they have and continue to decry.

I give you the words of Senator Jim DeMint, who led the effort to craft what he called a "stimulus," but was actually a series of permanent tax cuts (a stimulus, by definition, is temporary):

This bill is not a stimulus, ladies and gentlemen; it is a mugging. It is a fraud. Conservatives who fear proponents of this bill want to inch our economy closer to European-style socialism are kidding themselves. The proponents of this bill want to strap a big rocket on the back of our economy and launch it all the way to Brussels! 

This massive spending bill is fatally flawed. It will not rescue our economy; it will strangle it. That is why this bill must be stopped dead in its tracks. It cannot be fixed in he Senate by adding a few tax cuts or taking away a little spending. It must be scrapped entirely. 

I have yet to see DeMint trying to take credit for stimulus projects, but Rep. Paul Ryan, who claimed he had a stimulus proposal to create "twice as many jobs at half the cost" and often partners with DeMint on such proposals, has been asking for economy strangling stimulus dollars. If I were an elected official, I'd never show up at an event to tout something that I thought would "strangle" the economy. But that's just me.

White House Releases the Economic Report of the President

Last week, the White House released the Economic Report of the President. Released annually, the document lays out the White House's vision for where the nation has come from on the economy and where the President intends to lead us. Plus there are some nice graphs.

It's available here, and, if you have an e-reader, you can download it for free.

President Obama's Weekly Address Outlines Plan for Job Creation

President Obama's weekly address today focuses on his plans to create jobs and aid small businesses:

For more background on the tax credit the President cites, please see:

President Obama's Weekly Address Focuses on Economy, Bipartisan Cooperation on Deficit

In his weekly address, President Obama talks about his focus on the economy in 2010 and covers his commitment to deficit reduction. Notably, he covers some of the politics that conservatives have been playing with deficit reduction.

Take a look:

The President's remarks on politically motivated changes on issues are a narrative that seems to be working pretty well:

Finally, I've called for a bi-partisan Fiscal Commission - a panel of Democrats and Republicans who would sit down and hammer out concrete deficit-reduction proposals by a certain deadline.  Because we've heard plenty of talk and a lot of yelling on TV about deficits, and it's now time to come together and make the painful choices we need to eliminate those deficits. 

This past week, 53 Democrats and Republicans voted for this commission in the Senate.  But it failed when seven Republicans who had co-sponsored this idea in the first place suddenly decided to vote against it. 

Now, it's one thing to have an honest difference of opinion about something.  I will always respect those who take a principled stand for what they believe, even if I disagree with them. 

But what I won't accept is changing positions because it's good politics.  What I won't accept is opposition for opposition's sake.  We cannot have a serious discussion and take meaningful action to create jobs and control our deficits if politicians just do what's necessary to win the next election instead of what's best for the next generation. 

On that note, if you haven't seen it, take a look at the President's "question time" from yesterday at the House Republican Issues Conference. I'll leave you to judge who got the best of that situation:

Six Lessons of the Brown Upset

Yesterday, Massachusetts voters, Democratic by a 3 to 1 margin, elected Republican Scott Brown to fill the seat formerly occuped by Democratic lion, Ted Kennedy.  It is truly a shot from the Bay State heard round the world.  However, it need not spell disaster for the Obama Administration providing the Administration interprets it correctly.  Here are six lessons from the vote that the Administration absolutely needs to internalize.

It was not about Martha Coakley.  Contrary to some spin that is emerging Martha Coakley was a strong candidate and the real deal for Massachusetts Democrats.  Her mother was one of twelve in a working class Irish family.  One of five, herself, she worked her way up to Attorney General and handily beat Rep. Michael Capuano in a hotly election that hyperpolitical Massachusetts pols had been anticipating for years.  She was coasting to a landslide right up to the Senate Vote on healthcare.

It was and is about the Healthcare bill.  Brown managed to make the race a referendum on the health care bill and Democratic governance and Coakely gave the impression she would go along with the leadership. The American people--as this vote should make clear--don't like the health care bill.  They don't like the process and they don't like its content.   Had Democrats crafted a bill able to get at least a few Republican votes, one that cured the obvious problems of portability and exclusion of pre-existing conditions, had no individual mandate and did not tax health care while claiming to lower its cost, neither Coakley nor the President would have seen their poll numbers collapse. 

It was about the voters.  Scott Brown won not because of anything elected officials--or Fox Commentators did or said but because of how voters feel.   The voters, genuinely angry, are the obstacle to health care and the Administration's course, not the machinations of any politicians, other intermediaries or people in the media.  It is the people who are unhappy about this health care bill and what it signifies.  Democrats need to face this fundamental truth.

It was about Democratics and Independents, not Republicans.  In a state with 3 to 1 Democratic registration, Scott's win, moreover, had nothing to do with Republicans who were practically bystanders.  The revolt was by Democrats and, to a degree, Independents in this bluest of blue states.  Democratic voters did publicly what Democratic legislators have only been willing to do privately, voice their disatisfaction with a bill they don't like.   The problem for the Administration and Congress is not with Republicans, but with their own voters.

If you go partisan, you better get it right.  The partisan strategy has a fatal flaw--you are on the hook for every letter and word of a law and can't blame it on compromise with the other party.  If the Democrats had managed to get at least one Republican vote, voters might not have blamed them exclusively for provisions of the bill they don't like.  Instead, acting alone, they have come up with two bills that fail to satisfy.  The partisan strategy exposes a party that employs it to total responsibility for what they produce. 

Finally, it's about the economy.  As Simon argues below, the single greatest problem facing America today has to do with jobs and wages and people want their leaders to solve it.  To justify so much effort on health care as opposed to the economy in a time of double digit unemployment, the Administration has tried to argue that high health care costs are hurting the economy and hurting family budgets.  In fact, health care costs have little to do with the cyclical state of the economy that (as one learns in Economics 101) determines employment and economic well being.  The public quite simply isn't buying.  The second argument that health care costs eat into budgets is true.  However, few Americans believe either the House or Senate bill will address this.  Further, Americans want to choose their level of health care, more, less or none (unless it is free)--the reason they oppose elements of this plan like the health care tax and individual mandate.  Most Americans view the health care debate as a distraction from what they want right now: jobs and a return to prosperity.

Will the Democrats absorb these lessons?  That is the crucial question.  The time to change course is now, not in November.  The Democrats should pass a stripped down health care bill as quickly as possible, if they can, that does what the people want--provides portability and ends exlusions, shorn of complex and controversial provisions that people don't like.  The Administration should then focus on that elements of the economy people want fixed--more jobs with rising wages  The latter isn't easy.  But it is critical.  On the two legislative items next on the agenda, financial reform and energy, Democrats ned to reach across the aisle to find Republican votes. 

True, Republicans will probably resist these changes so as to keep the anti-Democrat momentum alive.  That only proves how important changing course now really is.  The alternative, staying the course that led to last night's election shock will only lead to more elections like that in Massachusetts this fall.


President Obama Focuses on Health Insurance Reform as Piece of New Foundation

In his weekly address, President Obama discusses the struggle that everyday people have been and are currently going through, and how health insurance reform is a key piece of a new foundation. He specifically focuses on reforms that will take effect in the first year after reform passes. Take a look:

Obama Addresses the Economy

President Obama delivered remarks on the economy this morning. Below are a few points from what he is planning to do to spur job creation. The whole speech can be found here on the White House website.

Today, I want to outline some of the broader steps that I believe should be at the heart of our efforts to accelerate job growth – those areas that will generate the greatest number of jobs while generating the greatest value for our economy. 

First, we’re proposing a series of steps to help small businesses grow and hire new staff. Over the past fifteen years, small businesses have created roughly 65 percent of all new jobs in America. These are companies formed around kitchen tables in family meetings, formed when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, formed when a worker decides its time she became her own boss. These are also companies that drive innovation, producing thirteen times more patents per employee than large companies. And, it’s worth remembering, every once in a while a small business becomes a big business – and changes the world. 

That’s why it is so important that we help small business struggling to open, or stay open, during these difficult times. Building on the tax cuts in the Recovery Act, we’re proposing a complete elimination of capital gains taxes on small business investment along with an extension of write-offs to encourage small businesses to expand in the coming year. And I believe it’s worthwhile to create a tax incentive to encourage small businesses to add and keep employees and I’m going to work with Congress to pass one. 

These steps will help, but we also have to address the continuing struggle of small businesses to get the loans they need to start up and grow. To that end, we’re proposing to waive fees and increase the guarantees for SBA-backed loans. And I am asking my Treasury Secretary to continue mobilizing the remaining TARP funds to facilitate lending to small businesses.

Second, we’re proposing a boost in investment in the nation’s infrastructure beyond what was included in the Recovery Act, to continue modernizing our transportation and communications networks. These are needed public works that engage private sector companies, spurring hiring across the country. Already, more than 10,000 of these projects have been funded through the Recovery Act. And by design, Recovery Act work on roads, bridges, water systems, Superfund sites, broadband networks, and clean energy projects will all be ramping up in the months ahead. It was planned this way for two reasons: so the impact would be felt over a two year period; and, more importantly, because we wanted to do this right. The potential for abuse in a program of this magnitude, while operating at such a fast pace, was enormous. So I asked Vice President Biden and others to make sure – to the extent humanly possible – that the investments were sound, the projects worthy, and the execution efficient. What this means is that we’re going to see even more work – and workers – on Recovery projects in the next six months than we saw in the last six months.

Even so, there are many more worthy projects than there were dollars to fund them. I recognize that by their nature these projects often take time, and will therefore create jobs over time. But the need for jobs will also last beyond next year and the benefits of these investments will last years beyond that. So adding to this initiative to rebuild America’s infrastructure is the right thing to do.  

Third, I’m calling on Congress to consider a new program to provide incentives for consumers who retrofit their homes to become more energy efficient, which we know creates jobs, saves money for families, and reduces the pollution that threatens our environment. And I’m proposing that we expand select Recovery Act initiatives to promote energy efficiency and clean energy jobs which have proven particularly popular and effective. It’s a positive sign that many of these programs drew so many applicants for funding that a lot of strong proposals – proposals that will leverage private capital and create jobs quickly – did not make the cut. With additional resources, in areas like advanced manufacturing of wind turbines and solar panels, for instance, we can help turn good ideas into good private-sector jobs.

Finally, as we are moving forward in these areas, we should also extend the relief in the Recovery Act, including emergency assistance to seniors, unemployment insurance benefits, COBRA, and relief to states and localities to prevent layoffs. This will help folks weathering these storms while boosting consumer spending and promoting jobs.

Of course, there is only so much government can do. Job creation will ultimately depend on the real job creators: businesses across America. But government can help lay the groundwork on which the private sector can better generate jobs, growth, and innovation. After all, small business tax relief is not a substitute for the ingenuity and industriousness of our entrepreneurs; but it can help those with good ideas to grow and expand. Incentives to promote energy efficiency and clean energy manufacturing do not automatically create jobs or lower carbon emissions; but these steps provide a framework in which companies can compete and innovate to create those jobs and reduce energy consumption.  And while modernizing the physical and virtual networks that connect us will create private-sector jobs, they’ll do so while making it possible for companies to more easily and effectively move their products across this country and around the world. 

Given the challenge of accelerating the pace of hiring in the private sector, these targeted initiatives are right and they are needed. But with a fiscal crisis to match our economic crisis, we also must be prudent about how we fund it. So to help support these efforts, we’re going to wind down the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP – the fund created to stabilize the financial system so banks would lend again. 

There has rarely been a less loved or more necessary emergency program than TARP, which – as galling as the assistance to banks may have been – indisputably helped prevent a collapse of the entire financial system.  Launched hastily under the last administration, the TARP program was flawed, and we have worked hard to correct those flaws and manage it properly. And today, TARP has served its original purpose and at a much lower cost than we expected. 

In fact, because of our stewardship of this program, and the transparency and accountability we put in place, TARP is expected to cost the taxpayer at least $200 billion less than what was anticipated just this summer. And the assistance to banks, once thought to cost the taxpayers untold billions, is on track to actually reap billions in profit for the taxpaying public. This gives us a chance to pay down the deficit faster than we thought possible and to shift funds that would have gone to help the banks on Wall Street to help create jobs on Main Street.

Small business, infrastructure, clean energy: these are areas in which we can put Americans to work while putting our nation on a sturdier economic footing. That foundation for sustained economic growth must be our continuing focus and our ultimate goal. For even before this period crisis, much of our growth had been fueled by unsustainable consumer debt and reckless financial speculation, while we ignored the fundamental challenges that hold the key to our economic prosperity. We cannot simply go back to the way things used to be. We cannot go back to an economy that yielded cycle after cycle of speculative booms and painful busts. We cannot continue to accept an education system in which our students trail their peers in other countries, and a health care system in which exploding costs put our businesses at a competitive disadvantage. And we cannot continue to ignore the clean energy challenge or cede global leadership in the emerging industries of the 21st century. That’s why, as we strive to meet the crisis of the moment, we are laying a new foundation for the future.

Because an educated workforce is essential in a 21st century global economy, we’ve launched a competitive Race to the Top fund through the Recovery Act to reform our schools and raise achievement, especially in math and science. And we’ve made college more affordable, proposed an historic set of reforms and investments in community college, and set a goal of once again leading the world in producing college graduates by 2020. 

Because even the best trained workers in the world can’t compete if our businesses are saddled with rapidly increasing health care costs, we’re fighting to do what we have discussed in this country for generations: finally reforming our nation’s broken health insurance system and relieving this unsustainable burden. 

Because our economic future depends on a financial system that encourages sound investments, honest dealings, and long-term growth, we’ve proposed the most ambitious financial reforms since the Great Depression. We’ll set and enforce clear rules of the road, close loopholes in oversight, charge a new agency with protecting consumers, and address the dangerous, systemic risks that brought us to the brink of disaster. These reforms are moving through Congress, we’re working to keep those reforms strong, and I look forward to signing them into law. 

And because our economic future depends on our leadership in the industries of the future, we are investing in basic and applied research, and working to create the incentives to build a new clean energy economy. For we know the nation that leads in clean energy will be the nation that leads the world. I want America to be that nation. I want America’s prosperity to be powered by what we invent and pioneer – not just what we borrow and consume. And I know that we can and will be that nation, if we are willing to do what it takes to get there. 

There are those who claim we have to choose between paying down our deficits on the one hand, and investing in job creation and economic growth on the other. But this is a false choice. Ensuring that economic growth and job creation are strong and sustained is critical to ensuring that we are increasing revenues and decreasing spending on things like unemployment so that our deficits will start coming down. At the same time, instilling confidence in our commitment to being fiscally prudent gives the private sector the confidence to make long-term investments in our people and on our shores.

Obama's Speech Clearly Defines His View of America's Role in the World

I enjoyed this latter section of the President's speech last night. It is perhaps the clearest holistic indication to date of his view of America's role in the world:

As President, I refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibility, our means, or our interests.  And I must weigh all of the challenges that our nation faces.  I don't have the luxury of committing to just one.  Indeed, I'm mindful of the words of President Eisenhower, who -- in discussing our national security -- said, "Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration:  the need to maintain balance in and among national programs."

Over the past several years, we have lost that balance.  We've failed to appreciate the connection between our national security and our economy.  In the wake of an economic crisis, too many of our neighbors and friends are out of work and struggle to pay the bills.  Too many Americans are worried about the future facing our children.  Meanwhile, competition within the global economy has grown more fierce.  So we can't simply afford to ignore the price of these wars.

But as we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan responsibility, we must rebuild our strength here at home.  Our prosperity provides a foundation for our power.  It pays for our military.  It underwrites our diplomacy.  It taps the potential of our people, and allows investment in new industry.  And it will allow us to compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last.  That's why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended -- because the nation that I'm most interested in building is our own.

Now, let me be clear:  None of this will be easy.  The struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly, and it extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.  It will be an enduring test of our free society, and our leadership in the world.  And unlike the great power conflicts and clear lines of division that defined the 20th century, our effort will involve disorderly regions, failed states, diffuse enemies.

So as a result, America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars and prevent conflict -- not just how we wage wars.  We'll have to be nimble and precise in our use of military power.  Where al Qaeda and its allies attempt to establish a foothold -- whether in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere -- they must be confronted by growing pressure and strong partnerships.

And we can't count on military might alone.  We have to invest in our homeland security, because we can't capture or kill every violent extremist abroad.  We have to improve and better coordinate our intelligence, so that we stay one step ahead of shadowy networks. 

We will have to take away the tools of mass destruction.  And that's why I've made it a central pillar of my foreign policy to secure loose nuclear materials from terrorists, to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to pursue the goal of a world without them -- because every nation must understand that true security will never come from an endless race for ever more destructive weapons; true security will come for those who reject them. 

We'll have to use diplomacy, because no one nation can meet the challenges of an interconnected world acting alone.  I've spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships.  And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim world -- one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity. 

And finally, we must draw on the strength of our values -- for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not.  That's why we must promote our values by living them at home -- which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.  And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom and justice and opportunity and respect for the dignity of all peoples.  That is who we are.  That is the source, the moral source, of America’s authority.

Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents and great-grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs.  We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents.  We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies.  We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions -- from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank -- that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.

We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes.  But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades -- a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, and markets open, and billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress and advancing frontiers of human liberty. 

For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination.  Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations.  We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours.  What we have fought for -- what we continue to fight for -- is a better future for our children and grandchildren.  And we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.  (Applause.)   

As a country, we're not as young -- and perhaps not as innocent -- as we were when Roosevelt was President.  Yet we are still heirs to a noble struggle for freedom.  And now we must summon all of our might and moral suasion to meet the challenges of a new age. 

In the end, our security and leadership does not come solely from the strength of our arms.  It derives from our people -- from the workers and businesses who will rebuild our economy; from the entrepreneurs and researchers who will pioneer new industries; from the teachers that will educate our children, and the service of those who work in our communities at home; from the diplomats and Peace Corps volunteers who spread hope abroad; and from the men and women in uniform who are part of an unbroken line of sacrifice that has made government of the people, by the people, and for the people a reality on this Earth.

President Obama's Comments on the Economy

After meeting with his Cabinet yesterday, President Obama spoke mostly about the economy. Here are his remarks:

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  I assembled my Cabinet today for updates on progress we've made across several areas.  Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton spoke about issues of national security.  Peter Orszag had some discussion of our upcoming budget.  And I updated the Cabinet on the progress that we're making on the health insurance reform legislation that's moving its way now through the Senate, and reiterated the urgent need for us to get to the finish line and provide relief, both in terms of costs and the quality of coverage that Americans are getting in their health care.

The primary focus of our discussion today, though, had to do with the same thing that Americans sitting across kitchen tables all across the country are focused on, and that is jobs and the economy. 

If you look back at where we've been, in the first several months of my administration, because of the steps taken by people like Secretary Geithner and the rest of our economic team, we were able to stabilize the financial system and ensure that the economy didn't slip back into a depression.  And we take this for granted now, but it is something that I think all the members of the Cabinet who participated are extremely proud of.

Since that time, we've passed a Recovery Act that's put a middle-class tax cut into people's pockets, that has invested in infrastructure all across this country and put people back to work, and something that isn't noted often enough, has helped stabilize state budgets at a time in which we could have seen hundreds of thousands of layoffs in teachers and police officers and firefighters.

Our economy is growing for the first time in more than a year, and we know that economic growth is a prerequisite for job growth.  But, having said that, what I emphasize today is we cannot sit back and be satisfied, given the extraordinarily high unemployment levels that we've seen.  We have only taken the first step in curing our economy and making sure that it is moving on the right track.  And I will not rest until businesses are investing again and businesses are hiring again and people have work again.

Now, this is going to be a challenging task.  It's challenging because of the extraordinary blow that the financial crisis delivered to the economy as a whole.  It is particularly difficult because both the financial sector and the housing sector were the biggest drivers of economic growth prior to the financial crisis, and so the severity of their pullback means that things are moving slower than we would like them to move.

One of the ironies that we have right now is is that businesses across sectors are making profits again but their primary way of making profit has been to cut costs, as opposed to seeing increased demand.  And unfortunately, the huge rise in productivity, which is normally a good thing, in this circumstance means that they have learned to produce the same amount of goods with fewer people.  All these present some significant challenges in terms of us creating more jobs in this economy.

But, having said that, something that our economic team emphasized is that there are core strengths to the American economy that will put us in good stead over the long term.  Having gone through this very wrenching adjustment, we continue to have the best universities in the world, the best innovation and technologies in the world.  We continue to have some of the best workers in the world, the most productive workers in the world.  And we have the kind of dynamism and entrepreneurship in our economy that's going to serve us well in the long term.  The key is to bridge where we are now to that more prosperous future.  And so a lot of the discussion, in a whole range of different sectors, was how do we move that job agendas forward.

For example, in the export area, I just came back from a trip to Asia in which one of my highest priorities was discussing how we can increase exports into that region.  If we could just increase our exports by 5 percent into that region, that would mean hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs.  And there's no reason that we can't do it.  In fact, it turns out that they want our products and they want our technology, but partly because of regulatory restrictions, partly because of currency issues, partly because we just haven't been as aggressive as we need to be, we haven't gotten there. 

That's something that we're going to be focusing on -- on infrastructure.  Although some of the payout extends beyond just a couple of years, us investing now in revamping our existing infrastructure and then starting to lay the foundation for things like high-speed rail can make all the difference in the world.

And in green technology, we are seeing some terrific ideas that could immediately put people back to work and save consumers money and help with the climate crisis that we have in place. 

So, as many of you know, we're going to be having a jobs summit on December 3rd.  Part of the task of this Cabinet was to generate good ideas in anticipation of that jobs summit.  We are going to be bringing together people from all across the country -- business, labor, academics, non-for-profits, entrepreneurs, small and large businesses -- to explore how we can jumpstart the hiring that typically lags behind economic growth, but we don't want to wait.  We want to see if we can accelerate it.  And I'm confident that we're going to be able to do it because I've got as good of a Cabinet as I think any President has ever had.

Let me just close by saying this.  This is a week to give thanks.  And I advised this hardworking Cabinet to get a little bit of rest this week, particularly the people who have been traveling around the globe for day in and day out and don't know what time zone they're in. 

But I think it's also a time to remember that this has been a very difficult year, and a lot of people out there are having a very, very tough time.  And I indicated to my Cabinet that as hard as they're working and as difficult as the political environment can be sometimes, we are extraordinarily blessed to be in a position where we can make a potential difference in the lives of millions of people.  We need to take advantage of that opportunity and redouble our efforts in the months and years to come.

Thank you very much, everybody.

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