The President Speaks on the Economy in La Crosse, Wisconsin

The President Speaks on the Economy in La Crosse, Wisconsin

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The President:
Hello, Wisconsin! (applause) I am thrilled to be
back in Wisconsin. Hello, U.W.L.! (applause) Thank you. Thank you so much. I’m fired up! (applause) It is good to be back
in “God’s Country.” (applause) I appreciate being anyplace
that names an eagle after Stephen Colbert. (laughter) Happy early
4th of July, everybody. (applause) I figured I’d come here to
kick off the long weekend. Audience Member:
Get a Bratwurst! The President: I’m
looking for a brat. (laughter) It is wonderful
to see your outstanding Senator, Tammy
Baldwin, here. (applause) Tammy is doing outstanding
work in the Senate. And then, over in the House,
you got a Congressman who never forgets his La
Crosse roots — Ron Kind. (applause) Yay, Ron! Your Mayor, Tim Kabat. (applause) Former Governor, Jim Doyle. (applause) And I want to thank your
chancellor, Joe Gow – (applause) — and everybody who
helped to organize this. I’m so appreciative. I’ve heard good things
about Riverfest. (laughter) We do a pretty good
cookout at the White House. In fact, we’re having a
barbeque for the troops on Saturday. (applause) But let’s face it, nobody
does brats like Wisconsin. (applause) So, no matter
where you live, this is a special time of year
to be an American. You’ve got the food,
you’ve got the fireworks. By the way, if you have
chairs, feel free to sit. (laughter) I’m going to
talk for a while. If you don’t have chairs,
don’t sit down because you’ll fall. (laughter) Audience Member: I love you! The President: Love you! (applause) But in addition to the
fireworks, in addition to the food, this is a chance
to celebrate a bedrock principle so deep that
generations of Americans have been willing to risk
everything to declare it: the idea that all of
us are created equal. (applause) That all of us are endowed
with certain inalienable rights like liberty, the
pursuit of happiness — and that it’s each generation’s
obligation to help secure those rights not just for
a few, but for everybody. (applause) And that’s something that
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. It’s been a remarkable
few weeks in America. (applause) Health care is now affirmed
as something that everybody can get, not just some. (applause) And by the way, it’s not
just a matter of making sure everybody has access to
high-quality care; it’s also organizations like Gundersen
here in Wisconsin that are doing great work to help — (applause) — to increase quality
and to control costs. And so that was a
great affirmation. And then, the freedom to
marry who you love — that’s now open to all of us. (applause) Everybody. That’s a good thing. That’s a good thing. (applause) That is a good thing. And then out of the worst of
tragedies, this country is responding with a generosity
but also the kind of self-examination that can
lead us to someplace better. Some folks think all this
progress comes really quickly. But the truth is progress
only comes with the persistent, dedicated
effort of citizens – (applause) — people who are, in their
own small ways all across the country, working hard,
committed to the promise that’s always set
this country apart. It doesn’t happen because
of the Supreme Court; it doesn’t happen because of
a President or a member of Congress. It happens because ordinary
people work hard and do extraordinary things
together; the promise that through hard work and
sacrifice, each of us can chase our own individual
dreams, but we still come together as one American
family to make sure the next generation has
opportunity as well. And that’s especially
true when it comes to our economy. And that’s what I’ve come to
La Crosse to talk about on this 4th of July weekend. America has always done
better, economically, when we’re all in it together,
when everybody gets a fair shot. (applause) When everybody gets a fair
shot, everybody is doing their fair share, everybody
is playing by the same set of rules. When we all feel like we’ve
got a common stake in our success — from the CEO
in the corner suite to the workers on the
factory floor. That’s how we built the
great American middle class. When you drive through
La Crosse and throughout Wisconsin, when you see
communities where kids are thriving and communities
are thriving, it’s because everybody has a shot. Everybody is working hard. Everybody is pitching in. That’s when we’re
at our best. Now, this morning, we
learned that our businesses created another 223,000
jobs last month. (applause) And the unemployment rate
is now down to 5.3 percent. (applause) Keep in mind, when I came
into office it was hovering around 10 percent. All told, we’ve now seen 64
straight months of private sector job growth,
which is a new record — (applause) — new record — 12.8
million new jobs all told. And that’s good. But we’ve got more work to
do because we’ve got to get folks’ wages and incomes
to keep going up. (applause) We’ve got to make sure folks
feel like their hard work is getting them somewhere. And let’s face it, there
are a lot of folks who still feel like the playing field
is tilted in ways that make it hard for them
to get ahead. The challenges facing
working men and women didn’t all start with
the recession. It’s been going on
for a while now. For a long time, health care
was closed off from too many people and cost too much. Our schools too often
were underfunded, weren’t preparing our kids and our
workers for the competition that’s coming from
the rest of the world. And by the way, our
teachers are underpaid. (applause) I’m just saying. That’s true. (applause) Hardest job there is; most
important job there is; and we should honor it as such. (applause) Other nations had been
racing ahead on clean energy; we were still
addicted to foreign oil when I came into office. So, even as we’ve worked to
put people back to work in the short run, we’ve also
been trying to work to change some of these
long-term trends to make sure that we’re laying
the foundation for future success. We worked to rebuild our
economy on a stronger foundation for growth. And in slow and steady ways,
that work is paying off. We believed that we could
ship fewer jobs overseas, start bringing new jobs
to our shores instead. So we retooled the
American auto industry. Today, we’re on track to
sell more cars and trucks this year than we
have in over a decade. (applause) We invested in
American manufacturing. And after a decade of
decline, thanks to some of the steps we took, thanks
to the support of folks like Tammy Baldwin and Ron Kind,
we’ve added nearly 900,000 new manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing is actually
growing faster than the rest of the economy. (applause) We believed we could
prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our high school
graduation rate has hit an all-time high; more
Americans finish college than ever before. (applause) We believed we could reduce
our dependence on foreign oil and do a better job
of protecting the planet. (applause) Today, America is number one
in the traditional fuels — oil and gas — but we’re
also number one in wind. We generate more than
20 times as much solar electricity as
we did in 2008. (applause) And thanks to lower gas
prices and us setting standards to double fuel
efficiency on cars, the typical family is on pace to
save about 700 bucks at the pump this year. (applause) We extended tax cuts for 98
percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses,
and, yes, we asked the wealthiest Americans — who
have been doing better than everybody else not just
relatively, but absolutely — we asked them to pay
a little bit more to help bring down the deficit. (applause) We put in place the toughest
Wall Street reform in history that’s protecting
Main Street from another crisis if folks start acting
reckless on Wall Street. As I already mentioned,
health reform means the uninsured rate in America
is now the lowest on record. (applause) I have these vague
recollections of when Republicans were saying
Obamacare would kill jobs and crush freedom and
bring about death panels. (laughter) And it turns out we’re still
celebrating the 4th of July. (applause) The only difference is
another 16 million Americans can celebrate it
with health care. (applause) That’s worth celebrating. (applause) The republic survived. (laughter) By one leading measure, what
business owners pay out in wages and salaries is now
growing faster than what they spend on health care. And that’s the first time
that’s happened since the 1990s. So not only are more people
getting health care, but because we’ve slowed the
growth of health care costs, businesses have more money
left over to start giving raises to their workers. That’s good for everybody. (applause) Now, I just want to play
back the tape — I want to play back the tape —
because we were told all these measures were going to
destroy jobs and explode the deficit. Remember that? Audience: Yes! The President: Remember
when Republicans promised to bring unemployment down
to 6 percent by 2017? (laughter) So we’ve got a record
streak of private sector job growth. We’ve cut the deficit
by two-thirds. Our stock market has
more than doubled – (applause) — restoring 401ks for
millions of families. This is progress. Step by step, America
is moving forward. Middle-class
economics works. (applause) It works. Yes! (applause) But we still got
more work to do. As Will Rogers once said,
“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll still get run
over if you just sit there.” (laughter) You got to keep running. And so the question we’ve
got to keep asking ourselves is, where do we
go from here? Because we still
have choices. Will we drift toward an
economy where only a few of us do very well and
everybody else is still scrabbling,
struggling to get by? That’s not the
right way to do it. Or will we keep working
towards an economy where everybody who works hard
has a chance to succeed? And over the next year and a
half, you’re going to hear a lot of pitches from a lot of
people — they’re going to deny that any progress
has been made. You’ll hear a lot of folks
trying to sell you on their vision of where our
country should go. They’re going to be making
a whole bunch of stuff up. (laughter) And when I say a lot of
stuff, I mean a lot of stuff. (laughter and applause) We’ve got some healthy
competition in the Democratic Party, but I’ve
lost count of how many Republicans are
running for this job. (laughter) They’ll have enough for
an actual “Hunger Games.” (laughter and applause) That is an
interesting bunch. (laughter) So, but,
Wisconsin, I’ve come here today, I figure why should
I let them have all the fun? (laughter) It is a good thing that this
time around, you’re hearing Republicans joining
Democrats, talking about the middle class and
working families. And that’s good. I welcome them acknowledging
that that’s an important issue. But just keep in mind,
Tammy, Ron, me — we were talking about the middle
class before it was cool. (laughter and applause) Before it was trendy. (applause) We were talking about it
before the polls told you, you should be
talking about it. (laughter) And they talk the talk, but
they don’t walk the walk. Their menu doesn’t have a
whole lot of options for the middle class. The one thing that the
bus full of people who are fighting to lead the
Republican ticket all share is they keep on coming
up with the same old trickle-down, “you’re on
your own” economics that helped bring about the
crisis back in 2007-2008 in the first place. And I want to emphasize —
I know some of them well. They’re good people. It’s just their
ideas are bad. (laughter and applause) And I want to
emphasize that. We’re one country, we’re all
on one team, and so we’re all one American family. But we all go — we’re at
Thanksgiving and Uncle Harry starts saying
something and – (laughter) — you say, “Uncle Harry,
that makes no sense at all.” You still love him. (laughter) He’s still a member
of your family. Right? But you’ve got
to correct him. You don’t want to put
him in charge of stuff. (laughter and applause) That’s all I’m saying. (applause) And by the way, if there’s
an Uncle Harry out here – (laughter) — I wasn’t
talking about you. (laughter) I was just using
“Harry” as an example. Here are a few of their bad
ideas: Eliminating taxes that the wealthiest
Americans pay on their investments while making you
pay taxes on every dime of your paycheck. That’s a bad idea. (applause) That’s a bad idea. Keeping the minimum wage
worth less than it was when Ronald Reagan took office
before most of you were born — that’s a bad idea. (applause) Although, to be accurate, at
least one of them actually thinks we just shouldn’t
have a nationwide minimum wage at all — we should
just get rid of it. Every single one of these
candidates serving in Congress has supported
cutting taxes for folks at the top while slashing
investments in education. I know that sounds familiar. Audience: Booo — The President: Some of those members of Congress voted to do it. Every single one of them
is still obsessed with repealing the Affordable
Care Act despite the fact that, by every
measure, it’s working. (applause) You know, look, you could
make an argument against Obamacare before it passed
— it’s something new; it’s untried; you don’t know. But now, where it’s doing
exactly what it was supposed to and actually costing less
than we expected, and people are satisfied with the
coverage we’re getting, it just seems a little mean – (laughter) — to say that you don’t
want to provide coverage to 16 million people. And you’ve got nothing to
replace it with — that’s a bad idea. (applause) Now, I just to be clear,
these are all really their ideas. I’m not making it up. You can go fact-check it. I’m not asking you to select
from this list to see which one is actually true
— they’re all true. And the thing is there’s
nothing new about this philosophy. Right? It’s a philosophy that
believes if we give special breaks to folks at the top,
prosperity trickles down for the rest of us. But we’ve seen what happens
when top-down economics meets the real world. We’ve got proof right
here in Wisconsin. You had a statewide fair
pay law that was repealed. Your right to organize and
bargain collectively was attacked. Audience: Nooo — The President: Per-student education funding was cut. Your minimum wage has
been stuck in place. Meanwhile, corporations and
the most fortunate few have been on the receiving end
of hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax cuts
over the past four years. All right, so that’s
what’s been going on here. What happens when we try
middle-class economics? Just across the river – (applause) — I mean, it’s a pretty
interesting experiment. Across the river, in
Minnesota, they asked the top 2 percent to pay
a little bit more. They invested in things that
help everybody succeed — like all-day kindergarten
and financial aid for college students. They took action to
raise their minimum wage. They passed an
equal pay law. They protected
workers’ rights. They expanded Medicaid
to cover more people. Now, according to the
Republican theory, all those steps would have been
bad for the economy. But Minnesota’s unemployment
rate is lower than Wisconsin’s. Minnesota’s median income
is around $9,000 higher. The La Crosse Tribune wrote,
“Minnesota is winning this border battle.” (applause) Now, it is true that, as
the Tribune pointed out, Wisconsin does
have the Packers. (applause) So even a Bears fan can
respect the Packers. (applause) But understand,
I’m saying this — Wisconsin is this extraordinary state
filled with extraordinary people. But if you end up having
policies that cut education, help folks at the
top, aren’t expanding opportunity, then it’s
not going to work. We need better policies – (applause) — because the bottom
line is top-down economics doesn’t work. Middle-class
economics works. (applause) It works. It works. (applause) And this is also a
matter of values. Being an American is not
about taking as much as you can from your neighbor
before they take as much as they can from you. We’re not just a bunch of
individuals out here on our own. We’re a community. We’re a family. We’re all in this together. (applause) We all have to work hard. I was taking some photos
beforehand with Ron, and met a couple folks who’ve
got dairy farms. Nobody works harder
than farmers. (applause) They know about hard work. Farmers know
about hard work. They wake up early,
go to bed late. They’re worrying all the
time about making sure things run. But they also understand
about being neighbors and helping each other out. That’s America. We’ve got to make sure
that this economy works for everybody who’s willing
to work, everybody who’s willing to do
their fair share. So I want to spend just
the rest of my time talking about what that might
mean for the 21st century. Number one, we’ve got to
help working families feel more secure in this
world of constant change. That’s why health
reform mattered. If you ever have been locked
out of the health care market just because you have
a preexisting condition, those days are over. (applause) So you can now change jobs,
chase that new idea, start a business — because you’ve
got portable, affordable insurance if you need it. And that’s going to protect
a lot of people in the new economy. The same applies when it
comes to wages and benefits. Instead of treating child
care as a side issue, or a women’s issue, we got to
treat it like a national economic priority. (applause) We’ve got to make sure that
when we’ve got families where the mom and dad work,
that we’re putting together ways for them to still make
sure their kids are secure and safe. (applause) See, we got a lot of young
people here who don’t — aren’t really thinking about
that yet — and that’s good. (laughter) We got to make sure we got
sick leave that’s in place so that families — if
somebody at home gets sick, you’re not thinking, do I
give up my paycheck or do I take care of my loved one. Everybody should have
that basic benefit. (applause) We need to
boost the minimum wage. Give America a raise. That’s very straightforward. (applause) We have to protect — and
not attack — a worker’s right to organize for fairer
wages and better benefits, and safer workplaces. (applause) Folks forget sometime unions
are what helped bring about the 40-hour workweek – (applause) — helped bring about
the idea of the weekend. And I know that’s
a popular concept. (laughter) Helped establish worker
protections, worker safety, a stronger middle class. As I said at Laborfest in
Milwaukee last fall, if I were looking for a good
job that lets me build some security for my family, I’d
join a union — because I’d want a union
looking out for me. And we’re stronger together
than we are by ourselves. (applause) I’d want Congress looking
out for me, too — but you can’t always get
what you want. (laughter) So when Congress doesn’t act
on behalf of working people, what I’ve tried to do is
partner with cities and states and mayors and
governors and acted on my own. Over the past couple of
years, 17 states, almost 30 cities and counties have
taken action to raise wages. Other cities and states have
started guaranteeing workers paid sick days
and family leave. (applause) And just this week, we took
action to protect a worker’s right to overtime. (applause) Now, this is an
issue of basic fairness. If you work longer, you work
harder, you should get paid for it. (applause) Today, some companies take
advantage of an exception in the rule to make their
lower-wage employees who really should be paid hourly
— they’re making them work 50, 60, sometimes 70 hours a
week without paying them an extra dime. In extreme cases, it’s
possible for workers to actually earn less
than the minimum wage. So they essentially label
somebody as management instead of a worker, even
if they’re making, like, $25,000 — work them a
whole bunch of hours. That’s a way of getting
around the minimum wage. It’s not fair. So we’re updating the rules. We’re ending that exception. (applause) We’re making more workers
eligible for the overtime that you’ve earned. And it’s one of the single
most important steps we can take to help grow
middle-class wages. It’s going to give as many
as 5 million Americans, including 80,000 folks
right here in Wisconsin, the overtime protections
they deserve. (applause) It’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do. (applause) Because in America, a hard
day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. Now, in an economy that’s
constantly changing, we’ve also got to give every
American the chance to earn the skills they need
to stay competitive. That’s why we’ve got to be
investing in job training and apprenticeships that
help folks earn the skills for that new job or
better-paying job. That’s why we should make
community college free for responsible students — like
Tammy Baldwin is introducing in the United States Senate. (applause) No middle-class family
should be priced out of the education that they need. (applause) And we need to keep churning
out high-wage jobs for a better-trained workforce
to fill — which means investing in basic research
and development that leads to new businesses
and industries. We should put more Americans
to work rebuilding our roads, our railways, our
bridges, our ports, our airports. (applause) At a moment where our
economy is in a position of global strength, because
we’re growing faster than most other countries right
now — advanced countries — we have to rewrite the
rules for the global economy before a countries
like China do. The other day, I signed a
couple of bipartisan bills that will help our
businesses sell more goods made in the United States
than the rest of the world. (applause) And I’m going to keep
pushing for trade that is fair and that creates a race
not to the bottom, but to the top – (applause) — that creates better
wages and better working conditions. Because when the playing
field is level, American workers always win. (applause) They always win. We know how to work. Americans know how to work. (applause) So that’s what we need for
this new economy: Helping hardworking families
make ends meet. Give them the tools they
need to earn higher wages and better jobs. Keep our businesses
the most competitive. Stay on the cutting-edge
of technology. Invest in research. Rebuild our roads. Rebuild our bridges. That’s how we’re going
to help more middle-class families succeed in a
new and changing economy. We can’t stop the economy
globally from changing, but we can make sure we’re at
the forefront of adapting to it. And, look, I don’t want to
lie to you — this is hard. If it sounds hard,
it’s because it’s hard. (laughter) I remember when we were
working on health care, I had an advisor who — we’re
in a meeting and we were going around and around
about how we were going to get this thing done. He raised his hand and he
says, Mr. President, the thing is, this is hard,
and hard things are hard. (laughter) I said, well, thank you for
that astute observation. (laughter) So when he left, he left me
a plaque that I put on my desk — it says “Hard
things are hard.” (laughter) Just in case I forget. (laughter) Battling back from
recession has been hard. Fixing a broken health
care system has been hard. Making our economy more
competitive for the future — it’s hard. But the last seven years —
shoot, the last seven days — should remind us there’s
nothing America cannot do. (applause) There’s no challenge
we can’t solve. There are inspiring
Americans who prove this every single day. (applause) Nothing we can’t do. Nothing we can’t do. There’s nothing we can’t do. (applause) I got to admit — let me
just, as a quick aside — I’ve been President for
six and a half years now. I do not watch the news. (laughter) I didn’t — no offense. (laughter) But you’d think, like, every
day, the only thing going on are shark attacks and – (laughter) — just horrible things. But every day, I do get
letters from Americans from all walks of life, and
they’re doing such amazing, inspiring things. Sometimes just simple things
— working hard; running a farm; looking after their
families; teaching a child. And every once in a while,
they do something that has a even broader impact. So Steve Cottrell lives
right here in La Crosse — I’m going to use
him as an example. Steve? Steve is right there. (applause) He’s going to start
blushing, but I’m going to talk about him anyway. In 2002, he started a small
business out of his house to help manage data for car
companies and dealerships. By 2007, he employed
a handful of people. Then he was hit with
a double whammy — the recession came and the auto
industry almost went belly up. But we refused to walk away
from people like Steve. That shot in the arm, Steve
says, was enough to keep his company’s confidence going. During the worst years
of the recession, Steve invested in new people,
new technology; decided to double down, was absolutely
confident his business model was right. As the auto industry came
roaring back, things began booming. And since 2007, Steve’s
revenue is up 1,000 percent. (applause) His company, Authenticom,
has gone from 18 employees to more than 120. (applause) So this business that began
in Steve’s son’s old bedroom is now one of America’s
fastest-growing private companies, based in a
restored historic building right in downtown La Crosse. (applause) Now, I guarantee you
Steve worked hard. He put everything
he had into it. He took enormous risks. But he’s also somebody who
recognizes that he didn’t do it by himself. He’s proud of what he’s
accomplished, but he also talks about how fortunate
he’s been to be part of a community like La Crosse, to
be part of an industry that got back to basics,
determined to do things better and smarter. He pays his
employees fair wages. He guarantees
paid sick days. He helps pay for the tuition
of those folks when they decide to go back to school. He created a stock
appreciation program, so when the business does
better, his workers do better also. And then, most importantly,
there’s “Free lunch Friday.” (laughter) Who doesn’t like “Free
Lunch Friday,” right? (applause) So, look, I want to read
something Steve said. He said, “You can’t always
do everything that everyone would like. But if you treat everybody like family, that’s good for us.” If you treat everybody like
family, that’s good for us. What’s true for Steve’s
business is true for America. If you treat everybody like
family, that’s good for us. Not just me; not just you;
not just Democrats; not just Republicans; not just old
folks or young folks; not just black folks or white
folks — it’s good for us. (applause) We’re not going to solve
every problem in one fell swoop. But if we make things a
little better for our fellow Americans, we’re going to
leave something better for us and for our kids. And if we’re walking down
that road together, we’re going to get there faster. (applause) That’s what we’re
fighting for, everybody. That’s what we’re
fighting for, Wisconsin. (applause) That’s what Tammy is
fighting for and Ron is fighting for. That’s what we all
have to fight for. (applause) Happy 4th of
July, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. (applause)

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