By US President Barack Obama
Hello, Denver! (Applause.) What a beautiful day. Thank you so much. How’s it going, Lancers? (Applause.) I hear the Lancers have a pretty good ball team. That’s the story I’ve heard. (Applause.)
Well, listen, there are a couple of people here I want to acknowledge who are just outstanding public servants. First of all, a hometown hero who is now one of the best Secretaries of the Interior that we’ve ever had, Ken Salazar. (Applause.) One of the best governors in the country, John Hickenlooper. (Applause.) Two outstanding senators, Mark Udall — (applause) — and Michael Bennet. (Applause.) Congresswoman Diana DeGette. (Applause.) Congressman Ed Perlmutter. (Applause.) Your own hometown mayor, Michael Hancock. (Applause.) And former friend and — or current friend, former mayor — (laughter) — and one of the finest public servants in Colorado history, Federico Peña. (Applause.)
So it is good to be back in Colorado, especially on a gorgeous day like this. (Applause.) It’s always like this in late September, isn’t it? (Applause.) Absolutely.
It’s an honor to be here at Lincoln High School. (Applause.) And I want to give a special thank you to Amelia for that wonderful introduction. (Applause.) I was just talking to Amelia. She’s a senior this year. And she’s planning to go to college and planning to be a doctor, and I am absolutely certain she is going to succeed in everything that she does. And she’s an example, a great example, of how smarter courses and better technology can help guarantee our kids the foundation that they need to graduate and compete in this new global economy.
So we couldn’t be prouder of Amelia and we couldn’t be prouder of all the students here at Lincoln. (Applause.)
Now, I came here today to talk about the economy. I came to talk about how we can get to a place where we’re creating good middle-class jobs again — (applause) — jobs that pay well and jobs that offer security.
We’ve got a lot to do to make sure that everyone in this country gets a fair shake and a fair shot and a chance to get ahead. And that’s the number-one thing that I think about each and every day. Your lives, your opportunities — that should be the number-one thing that every public servant in Washington is thinking about.
There’s so much that we could accomplish together if Washington can finally start acting on behalf of the people. (Applause.) We’ve got to get that city to stop worrying so much about their jobs and their careers and start worrying about your jobs and your careers. (Applause.)
And that’s why I sent Congress the American Jobs Act. Now, I know it’s kind of thick, but it boils down to two things: putting people back to work and putting more money in the pockets of working Americans. Every single thing in the American Jobs Act is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past. Everything in it will be paid for.
It’s been two weeks since I sent it to Congress; now I want it back. (Applause.) I want it back, passed, so I can sign this bill and start putting people back to work. (Applause.) I’ve already got the pens all ready, all lined up on my desk, ready to sign the bill. And every one of you can help make it happen by sending a message to Congress, a simple message: Pass this jobs bill. (Applause.)
Look, pass this jobs bill, and right here in Colorado, thousands of construction workers will have a job again. (Applause.) This is one of the most common-sense ideas out there. All over the country there are roads and bridges and schools just like Lincoln that are in need of repair. (Applause.) One of the reasons we came here was this is the fastest-growing school in one of the fastest-growing school districts in Colorado. (Applause.)
So Lincoln has been adding new AP courses and new language courses, and the wonderful principal and administrators here have been making sure — and the teachers here have been making sure that kids have upgraded computers and learning software that’s necessary to prepare all of you students for the jobs and the economy of the future. But you know what? Things like science labs take money to upgrade. The science labs here at Lincoln High were built decades ago, back in the ‘60s. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but science and technology has changed a little bit since the 1960s. The world has changed a little bit since the 1960s. So we need to do everything we can to prepare our kids to compete. We need to do everything we can to make sure our students can compete with any students, anywhere in the world. And every child deserves a great school — and we can give it to them. (Applause.)
We can rebuild our schools for the 21st century, with faster Internet, and smarter labs, and cutting-edge technology. And that won’t just create a better learning environment for students — it will create good jobs for local construction workers right here in Denver, and all across Colorado, and all across the country. There are schools all throughout Colorado in need of renovation.
But it’s not just in this state. Last week, I visited a bridge in Cincinnati that connected Ohio to Kentucky. Bridges need renovations. Roads need renovations. We need to lay broadband lines in rural areas. There are construction projects like these all across this country just waiting to get started, and there are millions of unemployed construction workers ready to do the job.
So my question to Congress is: What on Earth are you waiting for? Let’s get to work. (Applause.) Let’s get to work. Let’s get to work.
Why should our children be allowed to study in crumbling, outdated schools? How does that give them a sense that education is important? We should build them the best schools. That’s what I want for my kids; that’s what you want for your kids. That’s what I want for every kid in America. (Applause.)
Why should we let China build the newest airports, the fastest railroads? We should build them right here in America, right here in Denver, right here in Colorado. (Applause.) There is work to be done. There are workers ready to do it. So tell Congress: Pass this jobs bill right away. (Applause.)
Let’s pass this jobs bill and put teachers back in the classroom where they belong. (Applause.) Places like South Korea, they’re adding teachers in droves to prepare their kids for the global economy. We’re laying off our teachers left and right. All across the country, budget cuts are forcing superintendents to make choices they don’t want to make.
I can tell you the last thing a governor like John Hickenlooper wants to do is to lose teachers. It’s unfair to our kids. It undermines our future. It has to stop. You tell Congress: Pass the American Jobs Act, and there will be funding to save jobs of thousands of Colorado teachers and cops and firefighters. It’s the right thing to do. Pass the bill. (Applause.)
If Congress passes this jobs bill, companies will get new tax credits for hiring America’s veterans. Think about it — these men and women, they leave their careers, they leave their families. They are protecting us and our freedom. And the last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they come home. (Applause.) That’s why Congress needs to pass this bill — to make it easier for businesses to hire our veterans and use the skills that they’ve developed protecting us. (Applause.)
Pass this bill, and it will help hundreds of thousands of young people find summer jobs next year to help them build skills. (Applause.) It provides a $4,000 tax credit for companies that hire anybody who’s spent more than six months looking for a job. It extends unemployment insurance, but it also says if you’re collecting benefits, you’ll get connected to temporary work as a way to build your skills while you’re looking for a permanent job. Congress needs to pass this bill. (Applause.)
Congress needs to pass this bill so we can help the people who create most of the new jobs in this country — America’s small business owners. It’s all terrific that corporate profits have come roaring back, but small companies haven’t come roaring back. Let’s give them a boost. Pass this bill, and every small business owner in America gets a tax cut. (Applause.) If they hire new employees, or they raise their employees’ salaries, they get another tax cut. (Applause.)
There are some Republicans in Congress who like to talk about being the friends of America’s job creators. Well, you know what, if you actually care about America’s job creators, then you should actually help America’s job creators with a tax cut by passing this bill. (Applause.) Right away.
Now finally, if we get Congress to pass this bill, the typical working family in Colorado will get more than $1,700 in tax cuts next year; $1,700 that would have been taken out of your paycheck now goes right back in your pocket. (Applause.)
If Congress doesn’t act — if Congress fails to pass this bill — middle-class families will get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time. We can’t let that happen. Republicans say they’re the party of tax cuts. Well, let them prove it. Tell them to fight just as hard for tax cuts for working Americans as they fight for the wealthiest Americans. (Applause.) Tell them to pass this jobs bill right now. (Applause.)
So let me summarize here. The American Jobs Act will lead to new jobs for construction workers, jobs for teachers, jobs for veterans, jobs for young people, jobs for the unemployed. It will provide tax relief for every worker and small business in America. And by the way, it will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for. (Applause.)
Last week, I laid out a plan that would not only pay for the jobs bill but would begin to actually reduce our debt over time. It’s a plan that says if we want to create jobs and close the deficit, then we’ve got to not only make some of the cuts that we’ve made — tough cuts that, with the help of Mark and Michael, we were able to get done — but we’ve also got to ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share. (Applause.)
Look, we need to reform our tax code based on a simple principle: Middle-class families shouldn’t pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. (Applause.) Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. A teacher or a nurse or a construction worker making $50,000 a year shouldn’t pay higher tax rates than somebody making $50 million. That’s just common sense. (Applause.)
And keep in mind I’m not saying this because we should be punishing success. This is the Land of Opportunity. What’s great about this country is that any of these young people here, if they’ve got a good idea, if they go out there and they’re willing to work hard, they can start a business, they can create value, great products, great services. They can make millions, make billions. That’s great. That’s what America is all about. Anybody can make it if they try.
But what’s also a quintessentially American idea is that those of us who’ve done well should pay our fair share to contribute to the upkeep of the nation that made our success possible — (applause) — because nobody — nobody did well on their own. A teacher somewhere helped to give you the skills to succeed. (Applause.)
Firefighters and police officers are protecting your property. You’re moving your goods and products and services on roads that somebody built. That’s how we all do well together. We got here because somebody else invested in us, and we’ve got to make sure this generation of students can go to college on student aid or scholarships like I did. We’ve got to make sure that we keep investing in the kind of government research that helped to create the Internet, which countless private sector companies then used to create tens of millions of jobs.
And you know what? I’m positive — I’ve talked to them, most wealthy Americans agree with this. Of course, the Republicans in Congress, they call this class warfare. You know what? If asking a millionaire to pay the same tax rate as a plumber makes me a class warrior, a warrior for the working class, I will accept that. I will wear that charge as a badge of honor. (Applause.)
The only warfare I’ve seen is the battle that’s been waged against middle-class families in this country for a decade now.
Ultimately, Colorado, this comes down to choices and it comes down to priorities. If we want to pay for this jobs plan, put people back to work, close this deficit, invest in our future, then the money has got to come from somewhere. And so my question is: Would you rather keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or do you want construction workers to have a job rebuilding our schools and our roads and our bridges? (Applause.)
Would you rather keep tax breaks for billionaires that they don’t need? Or would you rather put teachers back to work, and help small businesses, and cut taxes, and reduce our deficit? (Applause.)
It’s time to build an economy that creates good middle-class jobs in this country. It’s time to build an economy that honors the values of hard work and responsibility. It’s time to build an economy that lasts.
And, Denver, that starts now. And I need your help to make it happen. (Applause.) I just want you to — just remember, Republicans and Democrats in the past have supported every kind of proposal that’s in here. There’s no reason not to pass it just because I proposed it. We need to tell them it’s time to support these proposals right now.
There are some Republicans in Washington who have said that some of this might have to wait until the next election.
THE PRESIDENT: Maybe we should just stretch this out rather than work together right now. Some even said that if they agree with the proposals in the American Jobs Act, they still shouldn’t pass it because it might give me a win. Think about that. Give me a win? Give me a break! That’s why folks in Washington — that’s why folks are fed up with Washington. (Applause.)
There are some folks in Washington who don’t get it. This isn’t about giving me a win. This is about giving Democrats and Republicans a chance to do something for the American people. It’s about giving people who are hurting a win. That’s what this is about. (Applause.)
It’s about giving small business owners a win, and entrepreneurs a win, and students a win, and working families a win. (Applause.) Giving all of us a win. (Applause.)
The next election is nearly 14 months away. The American people don’t have the luxury of waiting that long. There are folks here in Colorado who are living paycheck to paycheck, week to week. They need action and they need it now.
So I’m asking all of you, I need you to lift up your voices. Not just here in Denver, but anyone watching, anybody listening, anybody following online — I need you to call, email, tweet, fax, visit — tell your congressperson, unless the congressperson is here, because they’re already on board — tell them you are tired of gridlock, you are tired of the games. Tell them the time for action is now. Tell them you want to create jobs now. Tell them to pass the bill. (Applause.)
If you want construction workers on the job, pass the bill. (Applause.) If you want teachers back in the classroom, pass the bill. (Applause.) If you want a tax cut for small business owners, pass the bill. (Applause.) If you want to help our veterans share in the opportunity that they defended, pass the bill. (Applause.)
It is time to act. We are not a people who sit back and wait for things to happen. We make things happen. We’re Americans. We are tougher than the times that we live in, and we are bigger than the politics we’ve been seeing out of Washington. We write our own destiny. It is in our power to do so once more. So let’s meet this moment and let’s get to work, and let’s show the world once again why the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Go Lancers! (Applause.)
Speech in Abraham Lincoln High School, Denver, Colorado