President Obama Delivers Remarks on the 7-Year Anniversary of the Recovery Act

The President:
Hello, everybody! Audience: Hello! The President: Please,
everybody please have a seat. It is great to be
back in Jacksonville. (applause) As President, I’ve
been to all 50 states. I have seen some pretty
incredible things, but I’ve also got a bucket
list of things I still need to get done. Apparently, I have not yet
made it to the world’s largest outdoor
cocktail party. (laughter) So there’s some local things
I’ve got to check out at some point. That’s the kind of thing
you do once you are not President anymore. (laughter) So, hopefully,
I’ll see you back, but it is great to be
in Florida on a Friday afternoon. I want to thank Jaime not
only for the introduction, but more importantly, for
your service to our nation. Thank you so much. (applause) I also want to recognize
two outstanding members of Congress who are here. Representative Corrine Brown. Where’s Corrine? (applause) Yay, Corrine! (applause) And Representative
Patrick Murphy. (applause) And I also want to thank
everybody at Saft America for hosting us today,
especially Tom Alcide and Chris Kaniut. You can’t miss him. (applause) We’re here to talk about the
great things you guys are doing at this facility. But before I begin, I do
want to say a few words about yet another mass
shooting that we’ve had to endure. Some of you may have heard,
yesterday a gunman murdered three people and injured 14
others in Hesston, Kansas. And this morning, I spoke
with Mayor Kauffman and expressed our deepest
condolences for the victims, their families, and the
community as a whole. This comes after last
weekend’s rampage in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where
six more innocent Americans were gunned down. And these acts may not
dominate the news today, but these are two more
communities in America that are torn apart by grief. And I felt it was important
for me to say something today because somehow,
as I’ve said before, this becomes routine —
these sort of mass shootings that are taking place. We cannot become
numb to this. Anybody who says they want
to keep the American people safe has to care about this,
because it’s happening in far too many towns and
affecting far too many innocent Americans. And there are some things
we can do about it. And right now, this Congress
may not have any appetite to do something about it, but
we need one that does. As long as I
hold this office, I’m going to keep on
bringing this up, even if it’s not getting
the same attention that it should. And I wish I didn’t have to
keep on talking about it. Lord knows I wish I didn’t
have to make these phone calls and comfort families. The real tragedy is the
degree to which this has become routine. So I hope all of you
pay attention to this. I hope the media pays
attention to this. Once a week, we have
these shootings. And it doesn’t
dominate the news, and that’s got to change. So thank you for allowing
me to talk about that for a moment. The truth is, though, that
even when we’ve got some real challenges out there,
the reason I’m here today is because Saft is telling a
story about the amazing work that people all across this
country have done to bring America back from one of the
worst financial crises in our history. So think about it. Sometimes people also
forget where we’ve been, and if you forget
where you’ve been, sometimes you don’t know
where you need to go. Seven years ago, the ground
we were standing on was an empty plot of swampland. I don’t know if gators make
it up this far — (laughter) — but it was not some place
you’d want to be wondering around. It had been ignored for more
than a decade since the Navy base here closed. Back then, all around us,
the economy was in a free fall — 800,000 Americans
were losing their jobs every single month. That’s almost the entire
population of Jacksonville joining the unemployment
line every few weeks. Families lost their homes,
families lost their savings. And people here in Florida
were especially hard hit — the unemployment rate here
in Florida hit 11.2 percent, which was even higher than
the national average. Fast-forward today. Businesses like yours have
created jobs for 71 straight months — 14 million
new jobs overall. We’ve cut the unemployment
rate by more than half. Nationally, the high was 10
percent — it’s now down to 4.9 percent. And here in Jacksonville,
it is even lower. Our auto industry just
had its best year ever. We’ve created
more than 900,000 new manufacturing jobs
in the past six years. Meanwhile, our high school
graduation rate is at an all-time high. Nearly 18 million Americans
have gained health care coverage — although
here in Florida, there are a whole bunch of
folks who haven’t because the state hasn’t
expanded Medicaid, but that’s another topic. Businesses like Saft are
leading a clean energy revolution that’s creating
jobs and making our planet safer and more secure
at the same time. Now, you don’t hear a lot
about this from the folks who are on the
campaign trail. They’re spending all their
time talking down America. I don’t know when it became
fashionable to do that. But I sure am proud of what
I’ve seen Americans do over the course of these last
seven years since the crisis hit. And anybody who says we are
not absolutely better off today than we were just
seven years ago — they’re not leveling with you. They’re not
telling the truth. By almost every
economic measure, we are significantly
better off, and Florida is
significantly better off. Jacksonville is a
whole lot better off. (applause) And the reason I make this
point is none of this was an accident. It happened because
of your hard work. It happened because
of your resilience. It happened because
Americans looked out for one another, and families
scrimped and saved, and workers re-trained,
and businesses hired and expanded, and students
hit the books. And it happened
because, early on, my administration put in
place some pretty smart policies to rebuild our
economy on a new foundation for growth and prosperity. And thanks to America’s
steady, persistent work, those policies are
paying off in big, tangible ways — and we’re
not talking about it enough. And if we don’t talk about
why it is that things got better, then we may end up
pursuing policies that will make things worse. It’s not to argue that
everything is perfect. There are still folks who
are looking for work. There are still problems
in terms of people getting higher wages. Being able to
save for college, being able to retire. But if we don’t recognize
the progress we’ve made and how that came about, then we
may chase some snake oil and end up having policies that
get us back in the swamp. So part of what made us able
to recover was something called the Recovery Act —
which I fought for from my first days in office. We just marked the
seventh anniversary. (applause) And that recovery
plan was a success. At the time, there were a
bunch of folks who said, what, it’s not working, it’s
not happening — because it didn’t happen overnight. But you ask any
credible economist, and they will tell you
that if we had not acted, if we had not passed
the Recovery Act, if we hadn’t saved
the auto industry, if we hadn’t taken
the steps we did, we could have fallen into
another Great Depression. And if you doubt that, you
look around the world. Because in places
like Europe, where they took a path
of cutting and cutting, and not investing
in clean energy, and not investing
in transportation, and not investing in working
retraining — some of the same strategies that some
politicians were arguing for right here in the
United States, and are still arguing for —
those countries still have double-digit
unemployment today. Some of these countries
still face double-digit unemployment. We’re doing better than them
on almost every measure. Here’s what the
Recovery Act did. It cut taxes for businesses
investing in the future. It cut taxes for 95 percent
of working families — more than 100 million
families in all. The extensions of some of
these measures are still in effect, and they’re helping
more than a million families here in Florida
making ends meet. We extended aid to help
working people put food on the table, kept millions of
people from falling into poverty. And that, in turn, meant
that they could be customers at local businesses, and
that helped support local businesses in the area. We helped states and
communities keep hundreds of thousands of teachers and
first responders on the job, which meant they could
afford to pay their mortgage. and they could afford to go
to a restaurant once in a while, and they could afford
to buy the computer that their child needed for
school — all of which kept the economy going. We put people back to work
repairing our roads and our bridges and our ports
— even sprucing up the National Mall,
and Ellis Island, and the Grand Canyon. And we did this all while
making this one of the most transparent, aboveboard
pieces of legislation in our history; almost
zero waste or fraud. I put Joe Biden in charge,
and we call him the sheriff — he wasn’t putting
up with any nonsense. We also aimed higher than
just preventing another Great Depression. We wanted to build a new
foundation for a stronger, smarter economy. We wanted to build a future
where prosperity wasn’t fueled by reckless
speculation on Wall Street, and excessive consumer debt,
pursuing paper profits. We wanted a future
that was solid, where prosperity is built
and shared by a skilled, productive workforce. A prosperity that rests
on sound investments that spread opportunity at home,
and help America lead the world in technology
and innovation and the discoveries that will help
shape the 21st century. And so I came here to Saft
to show what it means to invest in the future. The future is built by the
workers here at Saft and in companies like it all
across the country. Because there are few areas
where our efforts to build a new economy have paid off in
a bigger way than in how we manage energy —
make it cleaner, make it more efficient
— help consumers, help businesses,
and create jobs. When I took office, we were
hopelessly addicted to foreign oil. The future of our renewable
energy industry was pretty cloudy and it looked like
it might start collapsing. But we knew that there were
technologies out there that existed — the problem was
they were too expensive. And because credit had
frozen during the recession, it meant that a lot
of entrepreneurs, a lot of businesses — they
couldn’t scale up to start taking advantage of
these new technologies. Meanwhile countries like
Germany and China were racing ahead towards
clean energy, creating the jobs
that come with it, and we were falling behind. And I knew that the nation
that won the race to drive the global economy
and new energy, that was going to be the
nation that won the 21st century, and I wanted
America to win that race. (applause) So here’s what we did. As part of the Recovery Act,
we made the largest single investment in clean
energy in our history. We invested in solar power. We invested in wind power. We invested in
geothermal power. We gave seed money to
entrepreneurs and businesses to get them to work with
these promising new technologies and get them
out of the door faster. Almost 98 percent of those
investments that we made under one of our loan
programs are paying off. Taxpayers are getting their
money back, and some, and these businesses
are thriving. And overall, the clean
energy investments we made in the Recovery Act have
combined to support hundreds of thousands of jobs —
including nearly 300 right here at Saft. This was an example of the
fruits of those investments that we made — jobs
that America needs done, getting done right
here in Florida. Just look around — you see
what a different hardworking Americans, with some smart
help from the government, have been able
to accomplish. Seven years ago, electricity
from solar was just getting off the ground; today, we’ve
multiplied the amount of solar power America
produces 30 times over. Seven years ago, there
were just a handful of large-scale utility solar
plants in America; today, there are more than 30. Solar jobs are growing 12
times faster than other jobs; they’re paying
better than average. Meanwhile, we’ve tripled the
power we harness from the wind. We’ve cut our net imports
of foreign oil by nearly 60 percent. (applause) And all of you have
helped us do this. Thanks to the investments we
made in the Recovery Act, we’ve seen huge gains in our
advanced battery industry. Because solar and wind don’t
work unless we’ve got good ways to store power when the
sun is out or the wind is blowing, so that it can
be used in a regular, reliable way. And the good news is,
America now has more than two dozen factories
manufacturing batteries and components for
electric cars. And these batteries are
nearly 70 percent cheaper and 60 percent more powerful
than just five years ago. That’s how fast we’ve been
making progress in this area. And we’re not just making
advanced batteries for cars, we’re putting them together
so they’re making batteries the size of cars. We just saw some — looked
like trailer parks. And these batteries help
stabilize our energy grid, which is allowing us to
transition faster to renewable energy. That’s what you’re
doing here at Saft. On my tour, I stepped inside
— I took a look at a shipping container
filled with cutting-edge lithium-ion batteries. It stores energy for times
when the wind’s not blowing or the sun’s not shining. These batteries are the
kinds of things folks don’t always think about when it
comes to renewable energy, but it couldn’t
be more important. So the good news is that
over the final three months of last year, we deployed
more advanced energy storage capacity than over the
previous two years combined. (applause) And that’s what we
should be investing in. Clean energy is about owning
the kind of innovation where America has always
been the leader. Clean energy is about
unleashing the potential of all these new technologies
— because we can figure some stuff out just about
better than anybody else. And just think about what we
can do with something like solar in a place like
the Sunshine State. Clean energy is about
cutting carbon emissions and fighting climate change, so
that we can help our kids breathe cleaner, and protect
the planet for future generations — and make sure
that Florida doesn’t get flooded. Clean energy is about making
our economy less dependent on foreign oil from some of
the most unstable parts of the world. And clean energy is about a
steady stream of good jobs that give families a chance
to reach for something higher and leave something
better behind for their kids. And here’s one other great
fact about clean energy. It’s providing thousands
of jobs for veterans, including vets that we
brought home from Iraq and Afghanistan. (applause) I’ve often said to CEOs
across the country, if you want a job done
right, hire a vet. (applause) And that’s why,
working with them, we’ve been able to see the
solar industry commit to hiring 50,000 more vets in
the coming years — this has been part of Michelle’s and
Jill Biden’s Joining Forces program. So here at Saft, more than
one-third of your employees are veterans. In fact, if
you’re a veteran, please stand up so we can
thank you for your service. (applause) So companies like this are
powered by veterans like Jaime. Jaime’s got five kids. He grew up in Puerto Rico,
lived in Atlantic City, served in the
military for 26 years. For the last four years,
he’s been a team leader at the company that’s building
our energy future. And he’s seen a lot, but the
one thing he’s learned is that — and I’m quoting him
now — “There’s always so much that changes very fast,
but so much possibility.” And that’s what
Saft is about; that’s what this
recovery has been about. Things are changing fast,
and that’s scary sometimes. It means that you’ve got to
constantly retrain for the jobs of the future. It means that the economy
is interconnected and what happens on the other side of
the world will affect us — because you may be selling
some batteries over there. Sometimes it’s disorienting. But there’s so
much possibility. And that’s the story of
these last seven years. So much has changed fast,
but there’s one country on Earth that sees possibility
where others see peril. There’s on country on Earth
that has the power to make change work for us
and not against us, and that’s the United States
of America — as long we’re not scared of it. We always adapt to change. We always figure it out. Because we’re a nation of
innovators and risk-takers, we make change work for us. So we turned recession into
recovery faster than almost any other country. We took an empty swamp,
turned into an engine of innovation. And we knew that it was
going to take more than one year, or even one President,
to get to where we need to go, but we can see real,
tangible evidence of what a new economy looks like. It looks like this
facility right here. (applause) It’s an economy that’s
brimming with new industry and commerce, and new energy
and new technologies, and highly skilled,
higher-wage workers. It’s an economy that is
producing for the United States and U.S. markets, but is also selling
stuff overseas — because we make it better than anybody
else because we’ve got the best workers and the best
innovators and the best scientists than
anybody else. The future is ours. But to finish the
job requires steady, persistent effort. We can’t grow complacent. We can’t chase
false promises. We’ve got to be smart. We’ve got to work together. But I’ve never been more
optimistic than I am now that we will get to
where we need to go, because I’ve seen
what you can do. And if we keep
working together, everything is possible and
our best days are just ahead. So, thank you, Jacksonville. (applause) Thank you, Saft. Thank you, veterans. (applause) God bless you. God bless the United
States of America. Thank you. (applause)

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