Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012 | 2:01 a.m.
After World War II, a generation of heroes returned home to build the strongest economy and middle class the world has ever known. Today, as another generation of brave troops come home, we have a similar opportunity.
In my State of the Union address, I laid 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.
When it comes to American manufacturing, the rebirth of the American auto industry should give us new confidence. Over the past few years, it’s become more expensive to do business in places like China, while America is getting more productive. So for a lot of companies, it’s making more business sense to bring jobs back home.
We have to seize this opportunity to help these companies succeed. But right now, companies get all kinds of tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas, while companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. That makes no sense. It is time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America.
The blueprint for an economy built to last also means making sure American workers have the skills they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow. At a time when millions of Americans are looking for work, I hear from business owners who can’t find workers with the skills they need. That’s inexcusable, and we know how to fix it. Let’s train 2 million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. Let’s forge partnerships between businesses and community colleges. Let’s turn our unemployment system into a re-employment system that puts people to work.
These reforms will help people get jobs that are open today. But to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, our commitment to skills and education has to start earlier. That means giving schools resources to keep good teachers on the job and extending the tuition tax credit which saves middle-class families thousands of dollars and gives more young people the chance to earn their way through college.
An economy built to last is one fueled by American-made energy. Right now, American oil production is the highest it’s been in eight years. Last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years. However, we all know that oil isn’t enough. We need an all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy.
We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years. My administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy, which could support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. We must do this without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk. That means requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use.
What’s true for natural gas is true for clean energy. Thanks to federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled over the past three years. I will not walk away from these jobs or cede these industries to other countries. We have subsidized oil companies for a century. It’s time to end those taxpayer giveaways, and double down on the American clean energy industry.
Finally, an economy built to last insists on a return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility. These values should guide us as we look to pay down our debt and invest in our future. When it comes to the deficit, we’ve already agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings. But we need to do more, and that means making choices. We can either keep giving tax breaks to millionaires who often pay lower tax rates than middle-class households, or we can keep our investments in everything else — things like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans. But if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t do both.
The American people know what the right choice is. They know that our generation’s success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other, and to their country’s future. We know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility. That’s an America built to last.
Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States of America.