United States President Barack Obama made his much-anticipated jobs speech to Congress and the nation yesterday. In the speech, the president announced the American Jobs Act designed to put the US economy back on track.
A key part of the plan is to put people to work on America’s badly decaying infrastructure.
“Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower,” Obama said. “And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads? At a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America?”
The act will focus on making America more competitive for the long haul by changing the way it does business. Obama noted that the US must “speed up the patent process, so that entrepreneurs can turn a new idea into a new business as quickly as possible.”
New trade agreements could be implemented to “make it easier for American companies to sell their products in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea – while also helping the workers whose jobs have been affected by global competition,” Obama said.
“If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers. I want to see more products sold around the world stamped with three proud words: “Made in America.”
Obama highlighted the recent work of his Jobs Council—made up of leaders from different industries—formed to develop a range of new ideas to help companies grow and create jobs, particularly in engineering and manufacturing.
“Already, we’ve mobilized business leaders to train 10,000 American engineers a year, by providing company internships and training,” Obama said. “Other businesses are covering tuition for workers who learn new skills at community colleges. And we’re going to make sure the next generation of manufacturing takes root not in China or Europe, but right here, in the United States of America.
“If we provide the right incentives and support—and if we make sure our trading partners play by the rules—we can be the ones to build everything from fuel-efficient cars to advanced biofuels to semiconductors that are sold all over the world. That’s how America can be number one again. That’s how America will be number one again,” Obama went on to say.
In a meeting of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in Durham, North Carolina earlier this year, the council estimated there are five times as many openings for engineers in the US than there are qualified people to fill those positions. Only 14 percent of undergraduates are enrolled in STEM-related programs, 40 percent of which drop out in the first year. The Jobs Council identified industry mentorship and internship programs as key to retaining talent at the college level. A faction of the Jobs Council especially concerned with manufacturing has called for a nationwide jobs training initiative in advanced manufacturing.
In his address to Congress, Obama also hit upon government regulation, agreeing that “some rules and regulations put an unnecessary burden on businesses at a time when they can least afford it.”
The Obama Administration has ordered a review of some government regulations and the president recently walked away from new EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) smog regulations claiming they would impose too heavy a burden on the struggling American economy.
In the Durham briefing earlier this year Obama said that although he was a “big believer in core regulations to protect our air and water,” it was important that rules serve a purpose. By eliminating some overly burdensome regulations Obama plans to “save billions of dollars for business in terms of compliance costs,” he said.
Despite this, Obama said in his speech yesterday, “We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top. And I believe that’s a race we can win.”