Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and
welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq.
Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors
under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought
– and several thousand gave their lives.
We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes
has made the United States safer and more respected around
the world. For the first time in nine years, there are no
Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two
decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country.
Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The
Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in
Afghanistan have begun to come home.
These achievements are a testament to the courage,
selflessness, and teamwork of America’s Armed Forces. At a
time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they
exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal
ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They
focus on the mission at hand. They work together.
Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their
example. Think about the America within our reach: A country
that leads the world in educating its people. An America that
attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and
high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in control of our own
energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to
unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where
hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.
We can do this. I know we can, because we’ve done it
before. At the end of World War II, when another generation
of heroes returned home from combat, they built the strongest
economy and middle class the world has ever known. My
grandfather, a veteran of Patton’s Army, got the chance to go
to college on the GI Bill. My grandmother, who worked on a
bomber assembly line, was part of a workforce that turned out
the best products on Earth.
The two of them shared the optimism of a Nation that had
triumphed over a depression and fascism. They understood they
were part of something larger; that they were contributing to
a story of success that every American had a chance to share
– the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you
could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your
kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.
The defining issue of our time is how to keep that
promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more
important. We can either settle for a country where a
shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing
number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an
economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their
fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.
What’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican
values, but American values. We have to reclaim them.
Let’s remember how we got here. Long before the
recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores.
Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some
jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like
never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with
costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t, and personal
debt that kept piling up.
In 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We learned that
mortgages had been sold to people who couldn’t afford or
understand them. Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with
other people’s money. Regulators had looked the other way, or
didn’t have the authority to stop the bad behavior.
It was wrong. It was irresponsible. And it plunged our
economy into a crisis that put millions out of work, saddled
us with more debt, and left innocent, hard-working Americans
holding the bag. In the six months before I took office, we
lost nearly four million jobs. And we lost another four
million before our policies were in full effect.
Those are the facts. But so are these. In the last 22
months, businesses have created more than three million jobs.
Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005. American
manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first
time since the late 1990s. Together, we’ve agreed to cut the
deficit by more than $2 trillion. And we’ve put in place new
rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like that
never happens again.
The state of our Union is getting stronger. And we’ve
come too far to turn back now. As long as I’m President, I
will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this
momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and
I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies
that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.
No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by
outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits. Tonight,
I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a
blueprint for an economy that’s built to last – an economy
built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for
American workers, and a renewal of American values.
This blueprint begins with American manufacturing.
On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the
verge of collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With
a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In
exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers
and automakers to settle their differences. We got the
industry to retool and restructure. Today, General Motors is
back on top as the world’s number one automaker. Chrysler has
grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is
investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And
together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.
We bet on American workers. We bet on American
ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back.
What’s happening in Detroit can happen in other
industries. It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and
Raleigh. We can’t bring back every job that’s left our
shores. But right now, it’s getting more expensive to do
business in places like China. Meanwhile, America is more
productive. A few weeks ago, the CEO of Master Lock told me
that it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back
home. Today, for the first time in fifteen years, Master
Lock’s unionized plant in Milwaukee is running at full
So we have a huge opportunity, at this moment, to bring
manufacturing back. But we have to seize it. Tonight, my
message to business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves what
you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your
country will do everything we can to help you succeed.
We should start with our tax code. Right now, companies
get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas.
Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit
with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no
sense, and everyone knows it.
So let’s change it. First, if you’re a business that
wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn’t get a tax deduction
for doing it. That money should be used to cover moving
expenses for companies like Master Lock that decide to bring
Second, no American company should be able to avoid
paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits
overseas. From now on, every multinational company should
have to pay a basic minimum tax. And every penny should go
towards lowering taxes for companies that choose to stay here
and hire here.
Third, if you’re