4 Takeaways From Obama’s Big Speech on the Economy

Kristoffer Tripplaar/ZUMAPress

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


President Barack Obama delivered a major address Wednesday at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, in which he laid out a wide-ranging plan to get the still struggling American economy raring again, and called on Republicans to drop their obstructionism and play along. Here are four takeaways from the speech:

Obama laid out a broad plan to create new jobs and train American workers: Obama said he will push initiatives to help manufacturers bring jobs back to America, and “continue to focus on strategies to create good jobs in wind, solar, and natural gas that are lowering energy costs and dangerous carbon pollution.”

The president also emphasized the importance of education and job training in bolstering the American workforce. He said he would continue to push for universal preschool, and added that “federal agencies are moving on my plan to connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed internet over the next five years.” He also reminded the audience that Congress is closing in on a plan to lower student loan interest rates.

The president will circumvent Congress if he has to: In the face of an obstinate Congress, Obama said that he would reach out to the American people in speeches over the coming weeks to win them over to his side and get them to pressure their representatives. “Over the next several weeks, in towns across this country, I will engage the American people in this debate,” he promised. Obama vowed to use his own executive authority, too, to push the economy forward, and said he’d also “pick up the phone and call CEOs, and philanthropists, and college presidents—anybody who can help—and enlist them in our efforts.”

Obama warned Republicans against creating another budget crisis in the fall: Congress and the president have to agree on a new budget by the end of the fiscal year in September, and in October or November, the government could hit the debt ceiling, the limit on government borrowing that has given Republicans leverage in the past. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said that any increase in the debt ceiling has to be accompanied by spending cuts. But the the White House, which wants more spending on things like education and infrastructure and an end to sequestration cuts, has said it won’t bargain with Congress again over raising the debt ceiling. In the speech, Obama warned Republicans in Congress against “manufactur[ing] another crisis…just as the economy is getting traction.”

Obama said the P-word: Poverty. “As we work to strengthen these cornerstones of middle-class security, I’m going to make the case for why we need to rebuild ladders of opportunity for all those Americans still trapped in poverty,” the president said, vowing a push to rebuild rundown neighborhoods and to continue to fight to raise the minimum wage. Obama added that he would “keep focusing on health care,” despite Republicans fighting tooth and nail to kill his signature health care law, “because middle-class families and small business owners deserve the security of knowing that neither illness nor accident should threaten the dreams you’ve worked a lifetime to build.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest