Obama speech details emerge
by RICK NORTON, Associate Editor
Jul 30, 2013 | 999 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
President Barack Obama’s tour today of the cavernous Amazon.com fulfillment center in Chattanooga is coming as an endorsement of American manufacturing, but also as an outreach to Republican rivals that the White House hopes will break a political gridlock on budget negotiations.

Billed for days as a chance for the president to market his economic reform strategies that are designed to create jobs while cutting national debt, details of the commander in chief’s message began to emerge late this morning — even as Air Force One was fueling for the flight to Southeast Tennessee.

According to an Associated Press report quoting Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, the second-term president will concentrate on America’s middle class in his Chattanooga remarks.

The president was expected to take the podium at about 2 p.m.

“As part of his efforts to focus Washington on the middle class, today in Tennessee the president will call on Washington to work on a grand bargain focused on middle-class jobs by pairing reform of the business tax code with a significant investment in middle-class jobs,” Pfeiffer told AP.

The White House chose the Amazon facility as a backdrop for the president’s message because it represents the evolving face of American manufacturing while involving thousands of blue-collar jobs, many of which embrace the nation’s turn toward higher-technology production.

As a welcome mat to the president’s visit, Amazon on Monday announced it is creating 5,000 new jobs across its fulfillment center network in the U.S. Some 50 of those jobs are expected to be added to the Amazon facility in north Bradley County near Charleston, according to Ty Rogers, company spokesman.

The Amazon fulfillment center in Bradley County currently employs about 800 workers. The facility in Chattanooga, located near the massive Volkswagen plant, has about 2,500 employees.

Across the board, Amazon has a 20,000-strong workforce in a growing collection of fulfillment centers and call centers.

“We are honored to host President Obama at our Chattanooga fulfillment center which is one of more than 40 fulfillment centers in the U.S.,” Rogers told the Cleveland Daily Banner on Sunday.

Of the two local centers’ performance since opening a couple of years ago, Rogers stressed, “We’re thrilled with our teams in both Bradley and Hamilton counties, and are excited to continue hiring.”

According to today’s AP report, filed by correspondent Nedra Pickler, White House officials recognize they’re facing a critical impasse with congressional Republicans over what is being described as a “grand bargain” on reducing the nation’s deficit. For this reason, Obama strategists want to seek out common grounds of agreement.

One is a “grand bargain for middle-class jobs.” Its bottom line is based on the president’s proposal to cut corporate tax rates in exchange for job investments.

For years, the president has sought a cut in the corporate tax rates, but has included with it the expectation for an individual tax overhaul, according to AP. Based on today’s wire report that previews the president’s speech in Chattanooga, “He’s dropping that demand and says instead that he’s open to the corporate tax cut that businesses crave. But he wants it to be coupled with a significant investment in some sort of job creation program, such as manufacturing, infrastructure or community colleges.”

Based on the AP preview, the president’s proposal may be a tough sell to Republicans who are evaluating the compromise. GOP leaders “... have long insisted on tying corporate and individual tax reform so that small business owners who use the individual tax code would be offered cuts along with large corporations,” according to AP.

Senior administration officials confirmed today the corporate tax proposal is the first new economic outreach that Obama plans to make in the coming months in preparation for budget deadlines this fall.

As part of his Amazon visit, Obama planned to tour the fulfillment center’s packing floor. Along with its sister warehouse in Bradley County, the Chattanooga center opened in September 2011. It is one of the company’s largest and newest facilities, with more than 1 million square feet.

The Bradley County center has similar dimensions. Each is described as the size of more than 28 football fields, and both are filled with merchandise shipped to customers across the country.

Full details about the president’s visit to Amazon, and further information about his “grand bargain” speech, will be published in Wednesday’s edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner. Local staff writer Delaney Walker will be filing the coverage.