The second-term president’s focus was this — jobs, the creation of new ones and a strategy to make it happen provided his political rivals will bargain. He offered a cut in corporate tax rates if his GOP counterparts would agree to government spending on jobs programs.
Even before the president roared elatedly into the microphone ... “Hello, Chattanooga!” ... his opponents were already casting doubt about the proposal. Their claim was that the president’s plan is too similar to one brought to the table last year, and which was battered into inaction by partisan naysayers whose focus — understandably — is more on deficit reduction than it is increased spending.
To the commander in chief’s credit, he brought his message Tuesday to a state whose political lean is decidedly Republican. It has been for years. It likely will be for many more, especially in this new era among Washington, D.C, lawmakers of non-negotiation. Days of good-faith bartering in the nation’s Capitol appear to be a time gone by, yet everyday Americans — such as the fading middle class — deserve the right to be heard and the chance not only to survive, but yes ... to prosper.
To accent his point, President Obama chose as his backdrop a setting where U.S. manufacturing thrives and in a building where opportunity has spawned success — the Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center in Chattanooga, and not more than a long stone’s throw from a sister facility in north Bradley County near Charleston.
Collectively, the facilities employ some 3,300 workers and the number will be increasing following Monday’s announcement that Amazon is creating 5,000 new jobs across the board to its network of fulfillment centers and 2,000 to its call centers.
The president’s 25-minute speech was received well by a throng of Amazon workers who especially liked — as did we — his five-step plan for investing in America’s workers.
Calling it a framework “... that might help break through some of the political logjam in Washington,” Obama outlined five key areas that he believes need specific focus in a collaborative effort by Congress and the White House.
We paraphrase them below, as described by the president:
- No. 1: Jobs in American manufacturing. The Obama plan calls for new incentives for manufacturers not to ship jobs overseas. He wants to institute new tax credits “... so communities hit hardest by plant closures can attract new investment.”
- No. 2: Jobs in rebuilding the infrastructure. The president is asking Congress to pass his “Fix-It-First” plan to put people to work immediately on the most urgent repairs needed nationwide, such as 100,000 bridges that he said are “... old enough to qualify for Medicare.” He also called on government to partner with the private sector to provide a modern air traffic control system, modern power grids and pipelines to survive a storm, and modern schools.
- No. 3: Jobs in energy. He urged support of wind, solar and natural gas technologies, and “... to double down on renewable energy and biofuels and electric vehicles.” The president called for research to shift American cars and trucks away from oil ... “for good.”
- No. 4: Export more. The president wants to follow up on the successes of a new trade agreement a year ago with Korea that allowed for more U.S.-made vehicles to be sold in the Asian country. He asked Congress for authority to negotiate best-trade deals and to invest heavily in employee training and assistance measures to assure American workers have the support and skills they need for rising global competition. Obama also is directing his Cabinet to expand the SelectUSA initiative to attract foreign companies that are looking to invest and create jobs in the U.S.
- No. 5: Urge CEOs to invest in their employees. The president is challenging U.S. companies to recruit, train and hire workers who have been unemployed for a long time and who want to show they’re ready to get back to work. He wants businesses to offer higher wages, training programs, health care and retirement plans that will give workers more security in their future. And, the president said he will continue his fight to raise the nation’s minimum wage.
Saying these are just a few of his administration’s thoughts, the president stressed, “We’re not lacking for ideas, we’re just lacking action, especially out of Washington.”
On this day in Chattanooga, President Obama called out Congress to pull up to the negotiating table to discuss his “grand bargain.”
Assuredly, the president touched on only a few concepts. Others exist. Some good. Some probably not so good. But none bad.
The way we see it, the only true bad idea is the one not discussed.
Our plea to Congress and the White House? Stop spending so much time reading newspaper editorials. Start talking. And do it with a shared cause ... America.