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CNN NEWSROOM

President Obama Holds Town Hall in Ohio

Aired January 22, 2010 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's part of the eroding security that middle class families feel. So, here's the good news.

We have gotten pretty far down the road. But, I have got to admit, we had a little bit of a buzz saw this week.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Now, I also know that part of the reason is, is that this process was so long and so drawn out, and this is just what happens in Congress. I mean, it's just an ugly process.

You're running headlong into special interests and armies of lobbyists and partisan politics that is aimed at exploiting fears instead of getting things done, and then you've got ads that are scaring the bejesus out of everybody. And the longer it takes, the uglier it looks.

So, I understand why people would say, boy, this is -- I'm not so sure about this, even though they know that what they've got isn't working. And I understand that after the Massachusetts' election, people in Washington were all in a tizzy, trying to figure out what this means for health reform, Republicans and Democrats. What does it mean for Obama?

Is he weakened? Is he -- oh, how is he going to survive this?

(LAUGHTER)

That's what they do. But I want you to understand, this is not about me. This is not about me.

(APPLAUSE)

This is about you. This is not about me. This is about you.

I didn't take this up to boost my poll numbers. You know, the way to boost your poll numbers is not do anything. That's how you do it. You don't offend anybody.

I'd have real high poll numbers. All of Washington would be saying, what a genius.

(LAUGHTER)

I didn't take this on to score political points. I know there are some folks who think, you know, if Obama loses, we win. But, you know what? I think that I win when you win. That's how I think about it.

(APPLAUSE)

So, if I was trying to take the path of least resistance, I would have done something a lot easier. But I'm trying to solve the problems that folks here in Ohio and across this country face every day. And I'm not going to walk away just because it's hard.

We are going to keep on working to get this done with Democrats, I hope with Republicans, anybody who is willing to step up, because I'm not going to watch more people get crushed by costs or denied care they need by insurance company bureaucrats. I'm not going to have insurance companies click their heels as they watch their stocks skyrocket, because once again there is no control on what they do.

So long as I have some breath in me, so long as I have the privilege of serving as your president, I will not stop fighting for you. I will take my lumps, but I won't stop fighting to bring back jobs here.

(APPLAUSE)

I won't stop fighting for an economy where hard work is rewarded. I won't stop fighting to make sure there is accountability in our financial system. I'm not going to stop fighting until we have jobs for everybody.

That's why I am calling on Congress to pass a jobs bill, to put more Americans to work, building off our Recovery Act; put more Americans back to work, rebuilding roads and the railways; provide tax breaks to small businesses for hiring people; offer families incentives to make their homes more energy efficient, saving them money while creating jobs. That's why we enacted initiatives that are beginning to give rise to a clean energy economy. That's part of what's going on at this community college.

If we hadn't done anything with the Recovery Act, talk to the people who are building wind turbines and solar panels. They would have told you their industry was about to collapse because credit had completely frozen. And now you are seeing all across Ohio, some of the -- this state has received more funds than just about anybody in order to build on that clean energy economy, new cutting-edge wind turbines and batteries that are going to be going into energy- efficient cars.

Almost $25 million of our investment went to a plant right here in Elyria that's helping produce the car batteries of the future. That's what we're going to keep on doing for the rest of 2010 and 2011 and 2012, until we have got this country working again.

(APPLAUSE) So long as I am president, I will never stop fighting for policies that will help restore home values, to redeem the investment that folks have made. We have seen some of those values return in some places, in some pockets, but it's still tough out there. We're going to have to do more this year to make sure banks are responsive to folks who are working hard and paying their mortgage, but have found themselves in a tough situation.

I'm not going to stop fighting to give our kids the best education possible, to take...

(APPLAUSE)

... to take the tens of billions of dollars we pay banks to act as middlemen on student loans and invest that money on students who actually need it. We don't need the middlemen. Cut them out.

(APPLAUSE)

I won't stop fighting to give every American a fair shake. That's why the very first bill I signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Act to uphold the principle of equal pay for equal work for men and women alike, especially when families need two paychecks to survive.

(APPLAUSE)

So long as I'm president, I won't stop fighting to protect you from the kinds of deceptive practices we have seen from some in the financial sector. That's why I signed a Credit Card Bill of Rights into law to protect you from surprise charges and retroactive rate hikes and other unfair rules. That's why I'm fighting for a tough Consumer Financial Protection Agency to protect you against those hidden overdraft fees that can make a single ATM withdrawal cost $30.

(APPLAUSE)

That happened to you, didn't it?

I won't stop fighting to open up government. Now, this is hard to do because we don't control every branch. But I can tell you, we have put in place the toughest ethics laws and toughest transparency rules of any administration in history. In history.

By the way, this is the first administration since the founding of the country where all of you can find out who visits the White House. The first time in history. And that's just one example of how we're trying to constantly open up the process.

And so long as I'm president, I won't stop fighting to cut waste and abuse in Washington, to eliminate what we don't need, to pay for what we do, to rein in exploding deficits that we have been accumulating not just last year, but for the last 10.

(APPLAUSE)

And I'm going to keep on fighting for real, meaningful health insurance reform.

We expanded the Children's Health Insurance Program to include four million kids. We already did that. But we are also going to fight to hold the insurance industry accountable to bring more stability and security to folks who are in our health care system. And yes, I want to make sure the people who don't have health care right now can get some. It's shameful that we don't do that.

Now, these are some of the fights we have already had, and I can promise you, there will be more fights ahead. I'm not going to win every round.

We're having a fight right now, because I want to charge Wall Street a modest fee to repay taxpayers in full for saving their skins in a time of need. We want our money back.

(APPLAUSE)

We want our money back. And we're going to get your money back, every dime. Each and every dime. But it's going to be a fight.

You watch. I guarantee you, when we start on financial regulatory reform, trying to change the rules to prevent what has caused so much heartache all across the country, there are people who are going to say, why is he meddling in the financial industry? It's another example of Obama being big government.

No. I just want to have some rules in place so that when these guys make dumb decisions, you don't end up having to foot the bill. That's pretty straightforward. I don't mind having that fight.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, I said at the beginning how much it means to me to be able to travel this country, and how much it means for me to be here. And that is true now more than ever, because, it is -- there is no doubt that it's easy to get a pretty warped view of things in Washington. But then you start talking to the guys working on those machines, creating products all across the country, you go into the diner and you meet folks who are raising their kids and working hard and trying to keep things together, and I'm reminded of the strength and the resilience and the perseverance of the American people. I'm reminded of the fundamental character of the Americans that I am so privileged to serve.

It is that character that has borne our nation through the roughest of seas. A lot rougher than the ones we're going through right now. That's the character that will carry us through this storm to better days ahead.

I am confident of that because of you. And I'm very grateful for all of you taking the time to be here today.

Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE) Thank you. Thank you.

All right. Let's take some questions.

You guys, everybody, sit down. Sit back down.

All right. So, I'm just going to call on people. We are going to do girl-boy, girl-boy, so that there is no accusations of bias.

We'll try to get as many questions in as we can. All right?

This young lady right back here.

Yes, you. There should be a microphone. Wait until the mike comes so everybody can hear.

Oh, I'm sorry. That's OK. I'll call on you next.

Well, one of you ask a question.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. It's an honor to be here with you today.

I work here in LLC's financial services office. I am proud to be part of finding pathways for students who attend college. I feel that a college education is a lifeline to the future of our citizens. We greatly appreciate the increase in the Pell Grant, which allowed our neediest students to access a college education.

OBAMA: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

QUESTION: It increased buying power as college costs continue to rise.

My question to you is, will your administration support continued increases to the Pell Grant so that our neediest students have access to higher education?

OBAMA: The answer is yes. I want everybody to understand, we made -- and this was with the help of members of Congress who are here -- made an enormous investment in higher education, making sure that young people could afford to go to great institutions like this. So, we significantly increased the level of each Pell Grant, and we also put more money so that we could have more Pell Grants.

Now, we want to continue to do this. I mentioned during my formal remarks the fact that a lot of banks and financial institutions are serving as middlemen in the financial aid process, and they take out several billion dollars' worth of profits from that.

It turns out that, actually, it can be administered in such a way where these loans go directly to the students. And if you do that, then you're saving several billion dollars that can then be put back into the system. We want to get that finalized, we want to get that done. That will be an enormous boost.

Now, one thing I have to say though. Even as we put more money into the student loan program, we are also trying to reach out to university presidents and administrators to figure out, how can we reduce the inflation in higher education?

Because the fact is, is that the only thing that has gone up faster in cost than health care is, guess what? Higher education. And the problem is, if we're not thinking about ways to curb the inflation, then even if we put more money in, what that money is buying becomes less and less. And so, trying to find creative ways for more universities to do more with less is going to be important.

Now, in fairness to universities and colleges, part of the reason they have been having to jack up their costs is they used to get support from the state. State budgets got into a whole, and then it became harder, and so they had to make it up on the tuition side.

Nevertheless, what is also true though is just their general costs of operating have gone up in ways that I think we can improve. So we're going to be working on that as well.

All right?

OK. I've got to call a gentleman.

Then I've got to go back to you because you thought that I called on you and I feel bad.

All right. This gentleman right here in the tie.

Yes. You look sharp.

QUESTION: OK. Mr. President, thank you. It's an honor to stand before you. Thank you.

Earlier in your message you mentioned our transit system. Obviously, we do need help and we're in dire need to have some assistance there. But what I didn't hear is your interest in our steel mill.

That's a big part of our community, and we desperately need help there as well. I just wondered where Washington's stance is on our steel mill.

Thank you.

OBAMA: Well, I was talking to the mayor about this. Obviously, he's a big advocate for manufacturing in the region.

I do not have all of the details in terms of what's happening at the steel mill at this moment, but what we have done is we've set up an office in the White House just focused on manufacturing, because it's my view that America has got to make things.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, we're not going the make -- I want to be honest. Not all the manufacturing jobs that are gone are going to come back. And if people tell you they are, that's just not true, because a lot of that has moved to places where the wages are just much lower.

And I know that some people say, well, then we should just set up tariffs so that folks can't ship them in, but these days, the economy, the global economy, is so interconnected, that that's just not a practical solution. The solution is to find -- and I don't know the details of the steel mill here, but I know that the ones that have been successful, they do what EMC is doing as well, which is you find, what's the high-end market, what's the market that involves a lot of technology, specialization, highly-trained workers, quick turnarounds to spec so that the customers really feel like they are getting something special and different?

That's how you compete, because that's something that a steel mill in China or in Brazil can't do. They can't compete with you being on the spot working closely with customers.

So, finding ways to develop specialty steels and so forth, that's going to be the key. Our manufacturing office will be working with folks here in town to see what we can do.

All right?

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

All right. Back to this young lady right here.

QUESTION: First, I want to start by saying that I am very grateful -- excuse me -- to be here, to meet you in person. I absolutely support you and back you.

I feel like Rome wasn't built in a day, and I know that everybody is really impatient, but I know that with time things can be turned around. And I believe that your intentions are really honorable in that.

OBAMA: Well, I appreciate that. Thank you.

QUESTION: I am a single mother of three, and I have two quick issues that are very important to me.

One being that I have a 3-year-old who has just turned 3, who got lead poisoning last year and almost died. And I have called everyone, including the EPA of Ohio, and I cannot seem to get any response to this.

OBAMA: Well, guess what? I guarantee you that somebody from the EPA is going to call you in about five minutes.

(LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE)

Before you sit down, there's going to be a phone call from the EPA.

All joking aside -- and I know you have a second question -- but I just want to focus on this. Lead poisoning, a lot of it from lead paint from older homes all across the country and all across the Midwest, is something that we have to be more aggressive on.

This is something that I worked on when I was a U.S. senator, when I was a state senator. I'm working on it as president, and I will find out directly from them how they can help not only with your particular situation, but what we are doing in this area in terms of lead abatement.

QUESTION: OK.

OBAMA: OK?

QUESTION: The second thing that I wanted to address to you is the unfair labor laws that they seem to have in some of these industries as far as discrimination and different issues of that nature that don't seem to get addressed from the bigger companies. I have actually worked for Ford. I'm a full-time student here now at LC, gratefully.

And even when I was working there -- and I have -- my whole family has actually come up through Ford. And there's a lot of very unjust situations that come about, but no attorneys will deal with it, no one will talk about it, and it's always pushed under the rug. And I -- you know, I do owe my -- what I have now to Ford, because it is what was bread and butter for my family. But at the same time, you know, it's not fair that even at this point, my mother still can't retire, she has to continue to suffer.

OBAMA: Well, look, let me just say, generally, one of the things that my administration has been able to do over the last year that does not cost money is just enforcing laws that are on the books a little more aggressively, making sure -- I mentioned earlier equal pay for equal work. We are so past the point where it should be debatable that women get paid the same as men for doing the same job.

(APPLAUSE)

And it is something that -- especially because, you know, there was a study that was just released I think last week showing that increasingly, wives are making more than the husbands in some circumstances. And whoever is making more, you have got to have two paychecks.

So this is not just a "feminist issue." You know, sometimes, as guys say, well, why do I -- why should I care about -- well, let me tell you something. If your wife is getting paid fairly, that means your family is getting paid fairly. And I want my daughters to be treated the same way as your sons. (APPLAUSE)

That's something we shouldn't be arguing about anymore.

All right.

The gentleman right back there. Yes. It's a guy's turn.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Yes. My name is James Skirlock (ph), and I'm an inventor. And I hold patents, U.S. Patent Number 7,397,731.

OBAMA: OK.

QUESTION: And before I ask my question, I'd like to make a sales pitch.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: If you can use my patent in your next election, I think you can raise a ton of money worldwide. You should take a look at it.

OBAMA: We'll take a look. All right.

QUESTION: And if you can't use it, the government can use it. And I could build a multibillion-dollar business here in Ohio.

OBAMA: All right. We'll take a look at your patent. Go ahead. What's your question?

QUESTION: Yes. OK. It has to do with international patent rights.

OBAMA: Yes.

QUESTION: With all of this free trade and trade barriers falling, it's really hard for an individual like me with a global scope patent to file all over the world and get patent protection everywhere. And having to go overseas to fight infringement. So if you're going to drop trade barriers, maybe you can extend my patent rights to the foreign countries.

OBAMA: This is a great question, and this is a huge problem.

Look, our competitive advantage in the world is going to be people like this who are using their minds to create new products, new services. But that only helps us and helps you build a multibillion- dollar company if somebody can't just steal that idea and suddenly start making it in Indonesia or Malaysia or Bangladesh with very cheap workers.

And one of the problems that we have had is insufficient protection for intellectual property rights. That's true in China. It's true for everything from bootlegged DVDs to very sophisticated software.

And there's nothing wrong with other people using our technologies. We just want to make sure that it's licensed and you're getting paid.

So, I have given instructions to my trade offices, and we actually highlight this at the highest levels of foreign policy, that these are issues that have to be addressed, because that's part of the reciprocity of making our markets open. And so, when I met with President Hu of China, this is a topic that, at dinner, I directly brought up with him. But as you point out, it's got to be sustained, because a lot of times they'll say, yes, yes, yes, but then there is no enforcement on their end.

And one of the things that we're also doing is using our export arm of the U.S. government to help work with medium-sized businesses and small businesses, not just the big multinationals, to protect their rights in some of these areas, because we need to boost exports.

Can I just say we just went through a decade where we were told that it didn't matter -- you just keep on importing, buying stuff from other companies. You just take out a home equity loan and max out your credit card, and everything is going to be OK. And it looked for a lot of people, like, well, the economy seems to be growing, but it was all built on a house of cards. That's what we now know. And that's why if we're going to have a successful manufacturing sector, we have got to have successful exports.

When I went and took this trip to China, and took this trip to Asia, a lot of people said, well, why is he going to Asia? He's traveling overseas too much. He needs to be coming back home and talking about jobs.

I'm there because that's where we're going to find those jobs, is by increasing our exports to those countries, the same way they have been doing in our country. If we increased our exports, our share of exports by just one percent, that would mean hundreds of thousands of jobs here in the United States. Five percent, maybe a million jobs, well-paying jobs.

So we're going to have to pry those markets open. Intellectual property is part of that process.

All right. Great question.

It's a woman's turn now. You guys just put down your hands.

Oh, OK. Well, this young lady right in front. We've got a microphone over here.

(LAUGHTER)

You know, I would give it to you if I could reach, but go ahead.

QUESTION: I introduced myself. My name is Joanne Eikenlob (ph). I'm 83 years old. I know I don't look it. (LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: You don't. You don't. You look great.

QUESTION: Thank you.

I'm very concerned about Social Security. I think there's a few of us here who are probably living on that, or supplementing. I understand that Congress has given themselves a raise, but has denied us COLA for possibly the next three years.

At the time of the H1N1 thing, people over 65 were not given the right to have the shot. For some reason, this health crisis was left on our seniors' backs.

What can we do about this?

OBAMA: Well, let me address all three of your issues, because you are raising actually three separate issues.

First is, how do we make sure that Social Security is sustainable over the long term?

Social Security is one of our entitlement programs that for now is stable, but will not be if we don't make some changes. Now, here is the good news.

Compared to Medicare, Social Security is actually in reasonably good shape, and with some relatively small adjustments you can have that solvent for a long time. So, Social Security is going to be there. I know a lot of people are concerned about it. Social Security we can fix.

Now, in terms of the COLA, the formula -- COLA stands for Cost of Living Allowance. So, it's put in place to make sure that Social Security is keeping up with inflation.

Here's the problem. This past year, because of the severity of the recession, we didn't have inflation, we actually had deflation. So, prices actually fell last year. As a consequence, technically, seniors were not eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment to have it go up, because prices did not go up in the aggregate. That does not mean that individual folks weren't being pinched by higher heating prices or what have you, but on average prices went down.

Here is what we did. Working with these key members of Congress here, we did vote to provide a $250 one-time payment to seniors, which when you factored it in amounted to about 1.8 percent. So it was almost the equivalent of the COLA even though it wasn't actually the COLA.

So, we didn't forget seniors. We never forget seniors, because they vote at very high rates.

(LAUGHTER)

So, not to mention you changed our diapers and things and so, we appreciate that.

The third point that you made had to do with the H1N1 virus. The reason that seniors were not prioritized is because unlike the seasonal flu shot, H1N1 was deadliest in young people and particularly children. And because the virus came up fairly late in the timeframe for preparing flu shots, we had a limited number of vaccines and we had to decide who gets the vaccines first.

Now, by the way, let me just do a little PSA here. Anybody who has not gotten an H1N1 shot with the seasonal flu, I would still advise you to get it, because historically there are two waves of this. Particularly, make sure your kids have gotten it, because there have been a significantly higher number of children killed who get the H1N1 than those who just get the seasonal flu. It is still just a small fraction, I don't want to make everyone afraid, but it is just a little more serious than the normal seasonal flu.

So it is not that the seniors were, you know, neglected here. What happened was according to the science, according to the CDC, it was determined that we had to go to the most vulnerable groups the quickest and that was children, particularly those who had underlying neurological disorders or immunity disorders.

All right? And we haven't forgotten about you and you do not look 83.

OK. This young man has been standing up quite a long time here. Here you go.

QUESTION: Mr. President, my name is Jordan Brown (ph). Can you hear me?

OBAMA: Yes. Go ahead and give him the mike. I don't want him to have to fall over.

QUESTION: I don't have a question, but I do want to know if I can shake your hand?

OBAMA: Well, yes, you will be able to come up here, if somebody lets you through, I will definitely give you a handshake.

(APPLAUSE)

All right. I want to make sure that -- you know, there is another young man here, so I will call on him.

QUESTION: Yes, my name is Jerome Larya (ph) and I'm 29 years old and I've never had a job in my life. I went to the jail when I was younger and it's like hard to get a job as a felon. Is there any programs that hire people with felonies like something that is just for us? Because it is sad like 29 years old, and I'm 29...

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: All right, Jerome...

QUESTION: And also, I wanted to say I'm a poet and I wrote a poem for you and I have been dying to put this poem in your hand.

OBAMA: All right. Give me the poem.

(APPLAUSE)

First of all, it is never too late. It is never too late.

(APPLAUSE)

So all right, one of these gentlemen here will hand this poem to me. There you go. I won't read it from the stage, because it is...

QUESTION: You can read it when you get back to White House.

OBAMA: ... but I will definitely think about it.

Look, I'm proud of the fact that you are bringing this up, because there are people who have made mistakes, particularly when they are young, and it is in all of our interests to help them redeem themselves and then get on a straight path.

Now, I don't blame employers, obviously, for being nervous about hiring somebody who has a record. I mean, it is natural if they have got a lot of applicants for every single job that that is a question that, you know, they would have in their minds. On the other hand, I think that one of the great things about America is that we give people second chances.

(APPLAUSE)

And so, what we have tried to do and I want the say that this is a bipartisan effort when I with was in the Senate working with Sam Brownback, my Vice President Joe Biden passing a second-chance act that helps to fund programs that help the reintegration of ex-felons.

It's smart for us to do. You know, sometimes people say, well, that is just coddling people. No, you reduce the recidivism rate, they pay taxes, it ends up being smart for taxpayers to do.

I don't know, Jerome, what particular programs may exist in this county, but I promise you I will find out. And we will see if we can get you hooked up with one of them. All right?

(APPLAUSE)

OK. Right here. Yes. No, no, no. Right here. Yes. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President, my name is Doris Young (ph). I started a Great Lakes Truck Driving School in 2008 in Lorain County.

OBAMA: I'm sorry, what kind of school?

QUESTION: Great Lakes Truck Driving School.

OBAMA: Cross driving school? Oh, truck driving school. OK. Sorry. QUESTION: Great Lakes Truck Driving School.

OBAMA: OK.

QUESTION: Started it in 2008, our first year we trained 287 people and we placed over 70 percent of those people into jobs. At that time, there was enough money through the Workforce Investment Board to train those people. In the past few months, we have had a number of people on a daily basis coming into our school that is unemployed, but there are no training funds for truck driver training. And I want to know why that has changed.

OBAMA: Well, the recovery act put a huge amount of money into retraining. We are now preparing for next year's budget, and I know that we have actually allocated additional money for retraining.

I don't know specifically what is happening that would cause those dollars to dry up with respect to a truck driving school. Let me see if I can find out, and I will have one of the staff get your card and maybe we can provide you some information.

QUESTION: OK. Thank you very much.

OBAMA: Here is the broader point though, you know, this story of retraining has become so important. When I went to EMC, the precision tool-making place, there were a group of guys and one guy who said I should call him "Jerry the Mechanic" you know.

(LAUGHTER)

You know, he shakes my hand, and he and his buddy are talking to me. I said, how long have you been working here? They said 20 years.

And I noticed that a lot of the equipment now was all digital and fancy compared to the old machines on the other side of the building. I said, well, did you guys have to get additional training for this? And they said, well, you know what happened? We used to work in this old plant and we got laid off. We came here to Lorain Community College and took a six-month, 12-hour-a-day course that completely retrained us and that is what got us these new jobs and we have been working for over a decade now at these new jobs.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, here is the thing. These guys were, first of all, they weren't plants as far as I know, unless the mayor is a lot slicker than I think.

(LAUGHTER)

But these guys did point out that it was JTPA funds, job training funds that the federal government and the state and local all work together to make sure that people have access to funds. They also said though, during that time they were still working eight hours a day, because they had found sort of, you know, lower-paying jobs just to pay the rent while they were getting retrained. I said, OK, so you were working eight hours, going to class 12 hours. I said, when did you sleep? Well, in between class and taking the shift. They did this for six months.

I tell this story, one, to emphasize how important the community college system is in making our workforce prepared for the 21st century. I make the point, because number two, it only works if the government is providing some help for people to finance their educations, their retraining. But point number three, even if you have got great community college, you have got the financing, you have also got to want it. You've also got to want it.

Think about these guys -- you work eight hours, you go to class 12 hours, you're working -- you're sleeping in between, doing that for six months. But because they were hungry and they had confidence about their ability to translate their old skills into new skills, they have had steady jobs ever since that allow them to support their families.

Now, that's the partnership between the government, the free market, businesses, individuals -- that is what we are trying to forge. That is why I get so frustrated when we have these ideological debates in Washington where people start saying how, oh, you know, Obama is just trying to perpetrate big government. What big government exactly have we been trying to perpetrate here? We are trying to fund those guys who want to go the truck driving school, we want to make sure they have got some money to get trained for a job in the private sector.

When we passed the Recovery Act, these are not all a bunch of government jobs. These are jobs that private contractors contract with the state or the city or the county to build roads and highways the same way that we built the Inter-Highway System and the Intercontinental Railroad System.

You know, I understand how people have become mistrustful of government. We don't need big government, we need smart government that works and interacts with the private sector to create opportunity for ordinary people, but it can't be this constant ideological argument. People need help, we need to provide them a helping hand. That is what we stand for.

All right. I have got time for only, unfortunately, one more question. I have been having a great time, but it is a man's turn here.

All right. Is that you, Joe? Well, this is a ringer. I will talk to you separately. This is a friend of mine and people will say, he called on a friend of his. I will talk to you over here on the side here.

Go ahead, this gentleman right here.

QUESTION: Thank you for taking my question and thank you for coming here.

I'm a 52-year-old businessman from Akron, Ohio, and I want to create 1,200 jobs, I spent $60,000 of my own money to do a due diligence, travelled to China with a German-designed turbine and they're producing it now in China. I have rights to North America, primarily the Great Lakes. Two things that I am challenged by is, A, I am having a very difficult time raising money. So I'm not asking for a handout, all I am asking is loan me the money. I'll account for every dollar, I will pay it back.

Secondly -- and I'm willing to risk millions and 99 percent of my net worth. The second thing is that GE has a patent -- and I believe in patents and I listened to this gentleman back here and I can truly appreciate what he is going through. But in this instance GE inherited the patent from Enron, and it has created a wall so that they can't -- they won't let people come in and build turbines in the United Sates. The patent is going to expire very soon, but now they are calling a royalty, but it is really a gate to keep people out.

Is there any programs -- I have talked to Governor Strictland, I've talked to Sherrod Brown, I've talked to Lee Fisher, this company was identified by the city of Akron in Donald Squires (ph) visionary leadership down in Akron, but I want to bring this to the United States, and I want to bring these jobs. And this is not about money for me, but it is about creating jobs.

I can feel for that gentleman who wants to work, and he should have a right to work. God bless him.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Let me respond. First of all...

QUESTION: Is there any federal programs that can help me? I just want to borrow the money to create this factory and create these jobs.

OBAMA: Well, obviously, I don't know about the particular situation, so I will just speak generally to it and if you want to get one of my team your card, then maybe they can follow up with you.

But one of the things that we have done or one of the things that we have seen coming out of the financial crisis is that banks are still not lending to small businesses enough. The mayor and I talked about this. The business owners that I talked to will confirm this. And if you ask why, if you ask the banks why, they will say, well, it is a combination of in some cases demand really is down. You know, businesses don't have as many customers as they used to, so revenues are down, so they don't want to lend. That is some cases, but in some cases, what you have got is very profitable businesses that are ready to grow, ready to invest, got a proven track record, the banks feel as if regulators are looking over their shoulder and discouraging them from lending.

So, what I've said to Treasury Secretary Geithner and others is we can't meddle with independent regulators. They're job is to stay apart from politics and make sure that and we have to make sure their banking system is sound. But there should be a discussion of whether or not we have seen the pendulum swing too far where it used to be they just lend anybody anything, then they lost all of this money, and now they won't lend people with good credit anything. That is not good for the economy.

So what we have tried to do is to fill some of the gaps in the meantime. For example, our small business lending through the SBA has actually gone up 70 percent and we have been waiving fees, increasing guarantees. And what we are trying to do is to streamline the process for SBA loans, because right now there is too much paperwork. It is typical government not having caught up with the 21st century. And you know, you can't have a 50-pound application form. People just -- after a while it is not worth it, in some cases. So, we are trying to do all of those things.

Now, we respect to patents, again, I don't know the particular situation. I will say this, it is important that we protect internationally intellectual property. It is also important though that we have patent system that encourages innovation, but does not just lock in big monopolies that prevent new people from bringing new products into the system.

The worst -- the worst offender of this problem is actually the drug companies, because they will try to lock in their patents for as long as they can to prevent generics from coming on to the market and that costs customers billions of dollars. And sometimes the drug company will redesign it so it is a caplet instead of a pill, and then try to get a new patent to get another seven or nine or 10 years of coverage. That is something that we have got to change.

I don't know whether that applies to your particular situation, but we have to have a patent system that does not prevent competition. We want a patent system that encourages innovation.

Now, I'm out of time, but I just want to say one last thing.

First of all, because there has been so much attention focused on this health care issue this week, I just want to emphasize not the myths, but the reality of what is trying -- that both the House and the Senate bill were trying to accomplish. Because, it is actually very simple. There were a bunch of provisions in it, but it is pretty simple.

Number one, for those of you who have health insurance, we are trying to get in place reforms that make sure you are getting your money's worth for the insurance that you pay for. That means, for example, that they can't impose a lifetime cap where if you really get sick and suddenly there is some fine print in there that says that you are not completely covered.

We are trying to make sure that there is a cap on out-of-pocket expenses so you don't find out when you read the fine print that you have to pay a huge amount that you thought you were covered for.

We are trying to make sure that if you have a preexisting condition, you can actually still get health insurance, because a lot of people have been banned from getting health insurance because of a preexisting condition. (APPLAUSE)

One of the provisions, one of the reforms that we wanted was to make sure that your 26 or 27-year-old could, up until that age, could stay on your insurance so that once they get out of high school and college, they can stay on their parents' insurance for a few years until they have got a more stable job.

(APPLAUSE)

So, you have got all of these insurance reforms that we are trying to get passed.

Now, some people say, why don't you pass that and forget everything else. Here is the problem. Let's just take the example of preexisting conditions. We can't prohibit insurance companies from preventing people with preexisting conditions from getting insurance unless everybody essentially has insurance. And the reason for that is otherwise what would happen that people would just wouldn't get insurance until they were sick, and then they would go to buy insurance and they couldn't be prohibited, and that would drive everybody else's premiums up. So, a lot of these insurance reforms are connected to some other things that we have to do to make sure that everybody has some access to coverage. All right.

So the second thing we have been trying to do is to make sure we are setting up an exchange which is just a big pool so that people who are individuals who are self-employed, who are small business owners, they can essentially join a big pool of millions of people all across the country, which means that when you go to negotiate with your insurance company, you have got the purchasing power of a Ford or a GM or a Wal-Mart or a Xerox or the federal employees. That's why federal employees have good insurance and county employees and state employees have good insurance in part, because they are part of the big pool. And our attitude is, can we make sure that everybody is part of a big pool to drive down costs. That is the second thing we were trying the do.

Third thing we were trying to do is to try to reduce costs overall, because the system -- how many of you, you go into the doctor's office, you fill out a form, you get a checkup, you go fill out another form. Somebody else asks you for the form that you just filled out and then the doctor fills out a form, and you have to take it to the pharmacist, the pharmacist can't read the doctor's. This is the only industry in the country that still does that, that still operates on paper systems, that still orders all kinds of unnecessary tests. Because a lot of times I walk into the doctor and I just do what I am told. I don't know what he is doing. I don't know whether this test was necessary or whether we could have had the test that I took six months ago e-mailed to doctor so I would not have to take another test and pay for another test, right?

(APPLAUSE)

So, there are all of these methods of trying to reduce costs, and that's what we have been trying to institute. Now, I want to say, as I said in the opening remarks, the process has been less than pretty. When you deal with 535 members of Congress, it is going to be a somewhat ugly process. Not necessarily because any individual member of Congress is trying to do something wrong, it is just that they may have different ideas, different interests, they have a particular issue of a hospital in their district that they want to see if they can kind of get dealt with and that is maybe the best vehicle for doing it. They are looking out for their constituents a lot of times. But when you put it altogether, it starts looking like just this monstrosity and it makes people fearful and it makes people afraid and they start thinking, you know what, this is looking like it is something that is going to cost me tax dollars and I already have insurance, so why should I support this.

So, I just want to be clear that there are things that have to get done. This is our best chance to do it. We can't keep on putting this off, even if you have health insurance right now, look at what is happening with your premiums and look at the trend. It is going to gobble up more and more of your paycheck. There is a good chunk of you folks in here who have seen your employer say, you have got to pick up more of your payments in terms of higher deductibles or higher copayments. Some of you, your employers just said, we can't afford health insurance at all. That is going to happen to more and more people.

You asked about Social Security, let me talk about Medicare. Medicare will be broke in eight years if we do nothing. Right now, we give about $17 billion in subsidies to insurance companies through the Medicare system, your tax dollars. But when we try to eliminate them, suddenly, there were ads on TV, oh, Obama is trying to cut Medicare. I get all of these seniors writing letters, why are you trying to cut my Medicare benefits? I am not trying to cut your Medicare benefits. I am trying to stop paying these insurance companies all this money so I can give you a more stable program.

(APPLAUSE)

The point is this, none of the big issues that we face in this country are simple. Everybody wants to act like they are simple. Everybody wants to say that they can be done easily, but they are complicated. They are tough. The health care system is a big, complicated system and doing it right is hard.

Energy, if we want to be energy independent, I'm for more oil production. I am for -- I am for new forms of energy. I'm for a safe nuclear industry. I'm not ideological about this. But we also have to acknowledge that if we are going to actually have a energy independent economy, then we have to make changes. We can't keep on doing business the same way. And that is going to be a big, complicated discussion.

We can't shy away from it, though. We can't sort of start suddenly saying to ourselves, America or Congress can't do big things. That we should only do the things that are noncontroversial, we should only do the stuff that is safe. Because if that is what happens, then we are not going to meet the challenges of the 21st century. And that is not who we are, that is not how we used to operate, and that is not how I intend for us to operate going forward. We are going to take these big things on. And I'm going to do it and you are going to do it, because you know that we want to leave a better America for our children and our grandchildren and that does not mean standing still, that means marching forward.

I want to march forward with you, and I want to work for you and fight for you. I hope you are willing to stand by me even in the tough times cause I believe...

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Still going for it at the Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio. Holding a town hall, he has just wrapped it up, even though he said he would do it a while ago. He started with a speech, taking questions from the audience.

I want to go and talk to somebody on the other side who wants to know whether this is making sense -- what the president said about the jobs and the health care and the buzz saw that the White House got this week with the election of Scott Brown as the senator-elect for Massachusetts.

Let's go to Douglas Holtz-Eakin, he's the former head of the Congressional Budget Office, he's a former top economic adviser to the McCain presidential campaign and he's on the phone right now.

Doug, were you listening?

DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CBO (via telephone): I got to hear a little bit, yes.

VELSHI: All right, what do you think about of what the president did? He gave one of his pre -- it was candidate-Obama-style speech and then his town hall talking to people particularly in a part of the country upset about losing jobs. What do you think?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: Well, I mean, we know he's a great campaigner. I think the evidence is in on that. Governing is a different issue, and his version of health care in a town hall sounds great, the bill that was on the Hill was a bad bill and it was repudiated in the election on Tuesday. It's very clear.

VELSHI: All right, well you are a guy who handled money. You were at the Congressional Budget Office which measures how much things cost, you are the people that -- who used to be the head of an organization that people actually trust about money. What does he do? How does he reconcile? How does candidate Obama reconcile the vision of the future and health care and jobs with bills like you described that don't get popular support?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I think, number one, he genuinely has to put jobs first. If you do health care for a year, you didn't put jobs first. The health care bill had mandates on employers, it had taxes on employers, it had deficits built into it. So if you are serious about jobs, you don't say you are going the do an energy bill or cap and trade climate bill, you don't say you are going to regulate carbon through EPA, you don't go to first something that will affect the trade situation. You put jobs first.