This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
President Obama today appealed to the patriotism of the members of the Chamber of Commerce to begin investing in America again, to begin bringing factories and jobs back and to begin sharing the gains of our economy with the American people.
Saying that we cannot go back to the economy and culture we saw before the recession, the President reminded business leaders that the pre-recession period was a time when growth and gains and productivity did not translate into rising incomes for working people. He asked business leaders to take responsibility for thinking about how we make sure everyone has a stake in trade, increasing exports and rising productivity, “So ordinary folks see their standard of living and income rise as well.”
We can’t go back to the kind of economy and culture that we saw in the years leading up to the recession, where growth and gains in productivity just didn’t translate into rising incomes and opportunity for the middle class. That’s not something necessarily we can legislate, but it’s something that all of us have to take responsibility for thinking about. How do we make sure that everybody’s got a stake in trade, everybody’s got a stake in increasing exports, everybody’s got a stake in rising productivity? Because ordinary folks end up seeing their standards of living rise as well. That’s always been the American promise. That’s what JFK meant when he said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Too many boats have been left behind, stuck in the mud.
Speaking of a “virtuous circle” the President asked companies to invest in hiring American workers,
…[make] … investments made now that will pay off as the economy rebounds. And as you hire, you know that more Americans working will mean more sales for your companies. It will mean more demand for your products and services. It will mean higher profits for your companies. We can create a virtuous circle.
The President said that as a government we will help lay the foundation for businesses to grow, innovate and succeed. We will update the infrastructure, transportation, education system and remove barriers to business growth. But he said he wanted to be clear that even as we remake the foundations, businesses have a responsibility to America.
We invest in the infrastructure, so innovation should lead to companies and jobs here, and manufactinrg here. Doing otherwise breaks the social compact and makes people feel the game is fixed and they are not benefiting.
We also have a responsibility as a nation to provide our people with — and our businesses — with the fastest, most reliable way to move goods and information. The costs to business from outdated and inadequate infrastructure is enormous. And that’s what we have right now — outdated, inadequate infrastructure.
And any of you that have been traveling to other countries, you know it, you see it, and it affects your bottom lines. That’s why I want to put more people to work rebuilding crumbling roads, rebuilding our bridges. That’s why I’ve proposed connecting 80 percent of the country with high-speed — to high-speed rail, and making it possible for companies to put high-speed Internet coverage in the reach of virtually all Americans.
The idea is supposed to be that we gain from the investment we make in laying down those foundations for businesses: Intel pioneers the microchip and puts thousands to work here. Henry Ford put people to work here. And then those folks buy here, and the economy works for everyone. A virtuous circle.
The President said that America can compete. Caterpillar is building a new plant in Texas. In Tennessee Whirlpool opening its first US plant in more than a decade. Companies are bringing jobs back to our shores. Now is the time to invest in America
Appeal To Patriotism
The President appealed to the patriotism of the Chamber. “I know you love this country and want America to succeed just as badly as I do, we are all Americans. It is that sense of patriotism that has carried us through harder times than this.”
The President pointed to past partnerships between big business and government. At the end of 1930s, FDR formed a new partnership with business to build the “Arsenal of Democracy.” Roosevelt reached out to businesses, and business leaders answered the call to serve their country.
After years of working at cross purposes, the result was one of the most productive collaborations between the public and private sectors in American history.
Some, like the head of GM, hadn’t previously known the President, and if anything had seen him as an adversary. But he gathered his family and he explained that he was going to head up what would become the War Production Board. And he said to his family, “This country has been good to me, and I want to pay it back.” I want to pay it back.
He said we have faced tumultuous moments of change and we know what to do: Rise to this occasion, come together, adapt.
Perhaps this will be a turning point, and the huge multinationals and financial giants that make up the Chamber’s primary backers will begin to support America and Americans again.
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