Return to Transcripts main page


Obama Speech In Michigan

Aired January 27, 2012 - 10:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, let's get straight to the president of the United States live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, going to rally folks up about being able to afford college. Let's listen in.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Thank you, Christina, for that wonderful introduction. I also want to thank your president, Mary Sue Coleman. The mayor of Ann Arbor is here.

My outstanding Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan is in the house. We have some outstanding members of Congress who are here as well who are representing you each and every day. Give them a round of applause. Come on.

Now, I love you back. So -- in terms of -- boy, we got all kinds of members of Congress here. So they -- where's Denard? Denard Robinson is in the house. I hear you are coming back, man? That is a good deal for Michigan.

Come on, they are trying to draft you for president. He's got to graduate before he runs for president. There's an age limit. Well, it is wonderful to be here. I want to thank all of you for coming out this morning.

I know for folks in college, this is still really early. I remember those days. It is good to be in the home of the Sugar Bowl Champion Wolverines. So and with Denard coming back, this is going to be a team to be reckoned with, and I understand that the basketball team is pretty good this year, too.

All right, go Blue. It is always good start with an easy applause line. Look, the reason that I'm here today in addition to meeting Denard Robinson, is to talk with all of you about what most of you do here every day.

And that is to think about how you can gain the skills and the training you need to succeed in this 21st Century economy. And this is going to be one of the most important issues that not just you face, but this entire country faces.

How can we make sure that everybody is getting the kind of education they need to personally succeed, but also to build up this nation, because in this economy, there is no greater predictor of individual success than a good education?

Today, the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average. Their incomes are twice as high as those who don't have a high school diploma. College is the single most important investment that you can make in your future.

I'm proud that all of you are making that investment. And the degree that you earn from Michigan is going to be the best tool that you need to achieve that basic American promise. The idea that if you work hard, and if you are applying yourself, and if you are doing the right thing, you can do it well enough to raise a family and own a home, and send your own kids to college.

Put away a little bit for retirement, create products or services, and be part of something that is adding value to this country and maybe changing the world. That's what you are striving for. That is what the American dream is all about, and how we keep that promise alive is the defining issue of our time.

I don't want to be in a country where we only are looking at success for a small group of people. We want a country where everybody has a chance where everybody has a chance. We didn't want to become a country where a shrinking number of Americans do really well, while a growing number barely get by.

That is not the future we want. Not the future I want for you and not the future I want for my daughters. I want this to be a big bold generous country where everybody gets a fair shot. Everybody's doing their fair share and everybody is playing by the same set of rules, and that is the America I know.

That's the America I want to keep, and that's the future within our reach. Now, in the "State of the Union" I got us a blueprint to get us there. It is a blueprint. It's blue! That is no coincidence. I planned it that way, Michigan.

A blueprint for an economy that is built to last, it is an economy built on new American manufacturing, because Michigan is all about making stuff. If there is anybody in America who can teach us how to bring back manufacturing, it is the great state of Michigan.

On the day I took office with the help of folks like Debbie Stabenow, your senator, Carl Levin and John Conyers, the American auto industry was on the verge of collapse. And some politicians were willing to just let it die. We said no. We believed in the workers of this state.

I believe in American ingenuity and we placed our bets on the American auto industry, and today, the American auto industry is back. Jobs are coming back, 160,000 jobs, and to bring back even more jobs, I want this Congress to stop rewarding companies that are shipping the jobs and profits overseas.

But start rewarding the companies who are hiring here and investing here and creating good jobs here in Michigan and here in the United States of America. So our first step is rebuilding American manufacturing, and by the way, not all of the jobs that have gone overseas are going to come back.

We have to be realistic, and technology that means a larger and larger portion of you will work in the service sector as engineers and computer scientists. There are the engineers and entrepreneurs and so there is a lot of activity in the service sector.

But part of what my argument, part of the argument of the Michigan's congressional delegation is that when manufacturing does well, then the entire economy does well. The service sector does well if manufacturing's doing well.

So, we have got the make sure that America isn't just buying stuff, but we are also selling stuff all around the world, products stamped with those three proud words "Made in America."

An economy built to last is also one where we control our energy needs. We don't let foreign countries control our energy supplies. Right now, America is producing more of our own oil than we were eight years ago. That's good news.

As a percentage, we are actually importing less than any time in the last 16 years, but I think that young people especially understand this. No matter how much oil we produce, we have only got 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, which means we have to focus on clean renewable energy.

We have to have a strategy that, yes, in producing our own oil and natural gas, but we have also got to develop wind and solar and biofuels. And that is good for our economy. It creates jobs, but it is also good for our environment. It also makes sure that this planet is sustainable.

That's part of the future that you deserve. We have subsidized oil companies for a century, and that is long enough. Congress needs to stop giving taxpayer dollars to an oil industry that has never been more profitable and double-down on the clean energy future that has never been more promising.

I don't want to see the wind or the solar or the battery industry to China or Germany because we were too timid. We didn't have the imagination to make the same commitment here. I want those jobs created here in the United States of America.

I also want us to think about energy efficiency. Making sure that we have already doubled the fuel efficiency standards on cars, and part of Detroit coming back is creating more fuel efficient cars here in Michigan. And more fuel efficient trucks, and we have to revamp the buildings to make them more fuel efficient.

And if -- if we are focused on this, we can control our energy future, and that is part of creating an America that is built to last. We have to have an economy in which every American has access to a world class higher education, the kind that you are getting right here at the University of Michigan.

You know, my grandfather got the chance to go to college because this country decided that every returning veteran of World War II should be able to afford it. My mother was able to raise two kids by herself because she was able to get grants and work her way through school.

I am only standing here today because of scholarships and student loans gave me a shot at a decent education. Michelle and I can still remember how long it took us to pay back our student loans. I will tell Michelle you said happy birthday.

But I just want all of you to understand your president and your first lady were in your shoes not that long ago. We didn't come from wealthy families. The only reason that we were able to achieve what we were able to achieve is because we got a great education.

That's the only reason and we could not have done that unless we lived in a country that made a commitment to opening up opportunity to all people. The point is this country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of all who are willing to work for it, and that is part of what is helped to create this economic miracle, and build the largest middle-class in history.

And this precedes even college. I mean, we were -- we helped to begin the movement in industrialized countries to create public schools, public high schools, to understanding that as people were moving from an agricultural sector to industrial sector, they were going to need training.

Now we have moved to an information age. A digitalized age, a global economy, and we have to make the same commitment today. Now -- we still have by far the best network of colleges and universities in the world. Nobody else comes close. Nobody else comes close.

But the challenge is that it is tougher and tougher to afford it. Since most of you were born, tuition and fees have more than doubled. That forces students like you to take out more loans and rack up more debt.

In 2010, graduates who took out loans left college owing an average of $24,000. That's an average. Are you waving, because you owe $24,000? Student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt for the first time ever.

Think about that. That is inexcusable. In the coming decade, 60 percent of new jobs will require more than high school diploma. Higher education is not a luxury. It's an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.

And when I say higher education, I don't mean just four-year colleges, I also mean our community colleges and providing lifelong learning for workers who may need to retrain for jobs when the economy shifts. All those things cost money and it is harder and harder to afford.

So we've got to do something to help families be able to afford and students to be able to afford this higher education. We have all got a responsibility here. Thanks to the hard work of Secretary Duncan, my administration is increasing federal student aid so more students can afford college.

One of the things that I'm proud of with the help of all these members of Congress, we want a tough fight to stop handing out tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to banks that issue student loans and shift that money to where it should go, directly to the students and to the families who need it.

Tens of billions of dollars that were going to subsidies for banks are now going to students in the form of more grants and lower rates on loans. We have capped student loan payments so that nearly 1.6 million students, including a bunch of you, are only going to have to pay 10 percent of your monthly income towards your loans once you graduate, 10 percent of the monthly income.

So that is what we have been doing. Now Congress has to do more. Congress needs to do more. They need to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling this July. That is what is scheduled to happen if Congress doesn't act. That would not be good for you.

So you should let your members of Congress know, don't do that. Don't do it. Don't do it. They need to extend the tuition tax credit that we put in place that is saving some of you and millions of folks all across the country thousands of dollars.

And Congress needs to give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work study jobs in the next five years. So, the administration has a job to do, Congress has a job to do, but it is not just enough to increase student aid. You can imagine why.

Look, it -- we can't just keep on subsidizing skyrocketing tuition. If tuition is going up faster than inflation, and faster than even health care is going up. No matter how much we subsidize it, sooner or later, we are going to run out of money.

And that means that others have to do their part. Colleges and universities need to do their part to keep costs down as well. Recently, I have spoken to a group of college presidents who have done just that.

Here in Michigan, you have done a lot the find the savings in your budget. We know it is possible. So from now on, we are telling Congress that we should steer federal campus based aid to those colleges that keep tuition affordable, provide good value and serve the students well.

We are putting the colleges on notice, you can't keep -- you can't assume that you will just jack up tuition every single year. If you can't stop tuition from going up then the funding that you get from taxpayers each year will go down. We should push colleges to do better.

We should hold them accountable if they don't. Now states also have to do their part. I was talking to your president, and this is true all across the country. States have to do their part by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets.

Last year, over 40 states cut their higher education spending. 40 states cut their higher education budget. And we know that these state budget cuts have been the largest factor in tuition increases at public colleges over the past decade.

So we are challenging states, take responsibility as well on this issue. What we are doing is today, we are going to launch a race to the top for college affordability. We're telling the states, if you can find new ways to bring down the costs of college and make it easier for more students to graduate, we will help you to do it.

We will give you additional federal support if you are doing a good job to make sure all of you are not loaded up with debt when you graduate from college. Finally today, I'm calling for a new report card for colleges. Parents like getting report cards.

I know you guys may not always look forward to it, but we parents, we like to know what you are doing. From now on, parents and students deserve to know how a college is doing. How affordable is it?

How well are its students doing, and we want you to know how well a car stacks up before you buy it, and you should know how well a college stacks up. We call this, one of the things that we are doing at the Consumer Finance Protection Board that I just set up with Richard Cordray is to make sure that young people understand the financing of colleges.

He calls it know before you owe. Know before you owe. So we want to push more information out so that consumers can make good choices, so you as consumers of higher education understand what it is that you are getting.

The bottom line is that an economy built to last demands we keep doing everything that we can to bring down the cost of college. That goes along with strengthening American manufacturing. It means we keep on investing in American energy. It means we double-down on the clean energy that is creating jobs across this state and guaranteeing your generation a better future can.

And you know what else it means? It means that we renew the American values of fair play and shared responsibility, shared responsibility. I talked about this at the "State of the Union." You know, we have got to make sure that as we are paying for the investments of the future that everybody is doing their part that we are looking out for the middle-class families and not just those at the top.

The first thing that means is to make sure that the taxes don't go up on 160 million working Americans at the end of next month. People can't afford the lose $40 out of every paycheck, not right now, and students who are working certainly can't afford it.

Your voice is encouraged and ultimately convinced Congress to extend the payroll tax cut for two months, and now we have to extend it for the whole year. I need your help to get it done again. Tell them to pass this tax cut without drama, without delay. Get it done. It is good for the economy.

OK. Now, in the longer run we are also going to have to reduce our deficit and invest in the future and we got to reduce our deficit. And to do both, we have to make some choices. Let me give you some examples.

Right now, we are scheduled to spend nearly $1 trillion more dollars on what was intended to be a temporary tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. It is not fair. A quarter of all millionaires pay a lower tax rate than millions of middle class households.

Not fair. Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary and I know because she was at the "State of the Union" and she told me. Is that fair? Does it make sense to you? Do we want to keep these tax cuts for folks like me who don't need them or do we want to invest in the things that will help us in the long term?

Like student loans and grants and a strong military and care for our veterans and basic research. Those are the choices that we have to make. We can't do everything. We can't reduce our deficit and make the investments that we need at the same time and keep tax breaks for folks who don't need them and were not even asking for them.

Well, some of them were asking for them, but I was not asking for them. We have to choose. When it comes to paying our fair share, I believe we should follow the Buffett rule. If you make more than $1 million a year, and I hope that a lot of you do after you graduate, then you should a tax rate of at least 30 percent.

On the other hand, if you decide to go into a less lucrative profession, and you decide to become a teacher, and we need teachers -- if you decide to go into public service or go into a helping profession. If you make less than $250,000 a year, which 98 percent of Americans do, then your taxes shouldn't go up.

This is part of the idea of shared responsibility. I know a lot of the folks have been running around calling this class warfare. I think that asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as the secretary in taxes is just common sense.

Yesterday, Bill Gates said he doesn't think that people like him are paying enough in taxes. I promise you, Warren Buffett is doing fine and Bill Gates is doing fine and I'm doing fine.

They are doing fine. We don't need more tax breaks. There are a lot of families out there who are struggling and seen their wages stall and the cost of everything from a college education and groceries and food have gone up. You are the ones who need that.

You're the ones who need help and we can't do both. Some have been saying, well, the only reason that you are saying that is that you are trying to stir people up and make them envious of the rich. People don't envy the rich.

When people talk about me paying my fair share of taxes or Bill Gates or Warren Buffett paying their fair share, the reason that they are talking about it is because they understand that, you know, when I get a tax break that I don't need, that the country can't afford, then one of two things are going to happen.

Either the deficit will go up, and ultimately, you guys will have to pay for it or alternatively, somebody else is going to foot the bill. Some senior who suddenly has to pay more for the Medicare or some veteran who is not getting the help they need readjusting after they have defended this country or some student who suddenly having to pay higher interest rates on their student loans.

We do not begrudge wealth in this country. I want everybody here to do well. We -- we aspire to financial success, but we also understand that we're not successful just by ourselves. We're successful because somebody started the University of Michigan. We're successful because somebody made an investment in all of the federal research labs that created the Internet. We're successful, because we have an outstanding military that costs money. We're successful, because somebody built roads and bridges. And -- and laid broadband lines, and these things didn't just happen on their own.

And if we all understand that we've got to pay for this stuff, it makes sense for those of us who have done best to do our fair share. And to try to pass off that bill onto somebody else, that's not right. That's not who we are. That's not what my grandparents' generation worked hard to pass down. That's not what your grandparents and your great grandparents worked hard to pass down. We've got a different idea of America, a more generous America.

Everybody here is only here because somebody somewhere down the road decided we're going to think not just about ourselves, but about the future. We've got responsibilities, yes, to ourselves, but also to each other.

And now it's our turn to be responsible. Now it's our turn to leave an America that's built to last. And I know we can do it. We've done it before and I know we can do it again, because of you.

When I meet young people all across this country with energy and drive and vision, despite the fact that you've come of age during a difficult tumultuous time in this world, it gives me hope. You inspire me. You're here at Michigan, because you believe in your future. You're working hard, you're putting in long hours and hopefully some at the library, some of you are balancing a job at the same time. You know that doing big things isn't always easy, but you're not giving up.

You've got -- you've got the whole world before you. And you embody that sense of possibility that is quintessentially American. We do not -- we do not shrink from challenges. We stand up to them. And we don't leave people behind, and we make sure that everybody comes along with us on this journey that we're on.

That's the spirit right now that we need, Michigan. Here in America we don't give up, we look out for each other, we make sure everybody has a chance to get ahead. And if we work in common purpose with common resolve, we can build an economy that gives everybody a fair shot. And we will remind the world just why it is that the United States of America is the greatest nation on earth.

Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Thank you.