President Barack Obama Wednesday hailed the job-training programs available at the nation's community colleges as critical investments in the future prosperity of the nation.
Speaking at a community college in Ohio, Obama said that even amidst very difficult economic times, some companies are having difficulty finding workers with the skills they need.
"We've got to do a better job training more people for the skills that businesses are looking for," Obama said. "When I met with manufacturers a while back, they said it's starting to make economic sense to bring jobs back to Ohio, to bring jobs back to Michigan, to bring jobs back to Illinois and Iowa and Indiana, because even if the labor costs are lower there, the workers are better here."
"But that's only going to be true if we can make sure that we've got workers who have higher skills and can manage fancier machinery than folks in other places," he added. "All that starts with community colleges like this one."
Obama said that he had just met with several of the students whose efforts to seek new skills despite economic difficulties embodied the resilience and determination that has made America great.
"And so the question now is, how do we make sure that all of America is expressing that spirit through making sure that everybody is getting a fair shot," Obama said. "Because that's going to be a major debate that we have in this country not just for the next few months, but for the next few years: Should we settle for an economy where a few people do really well and then a growing number are struggling to get by?"
He added, "Or do we build an economy … where there are ladders of opportunity, where everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules?"
Obama emphasized that he does not believe that government is the solution for every problem and extolled the virtues of the free market, which he called the greatest force for economic progress in human history.
"But I also agree with our first Republican President -- a guy named Abraham Lincoln - who said that, through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well on our own," he said. "Investing in a community college, just like investing in a new road or a new highway or broadband lines that go into rural communities, these investments are not part of some grand scheme to redistribute wealth."
He added, "They've been made by Democrats and Republicans for generations because they benefit all of us. That's what leads to strong, durable economic growth. That's how America became an economic superpower."
Obama also took aim at Republican proposals to cut back on education funding in light of the nation's growing budget deficits, a claim that the President derided in light of other GOP proposals to cut taxes for the wealthy.
"What's the better way to make our economy stronger," Obama asked. "Give more tax breaks to every millionaire and billionaire in the country, or make investments in education and research and health care and job training … and put folks back to work? This is just common sense."
He added, "This is not about taking from rich people to give to poor people. This is about us together making investments in our country so everybody has got a fair shot. And that will make all of us better off."
by RTT Staff Writer
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