Obama hosts a meeting with the council Thursday, after naming panel.
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
1:50 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t want to waste too much time with a big windup. And I know that everybody here has already been busy today doing some terrific work. I just want to, first of all, thank Jeff and I want to thank all of you for your willingness to participate in our Jobs Council.
Just in terms of genesis, I think many of you are aware of the fact that two years ago we set up a business advisory group to help guide us through a crisis that we hadn’t — of the sort that we hadn’t seen since the Great Depression — mostly focused on the financial sector, figuring out how we stabilize that, and how we make sure that the credit markets are working, and how we adverted a Great Depression.
We have done that. The economy is now growing. In many sectors we’re seeing recovery. But the biggest challenge that we’re seeing right now is the fact that unemployment is still way too high all across the country. And so what we wanted to do was retool.
It’s critical for us to have input from folks who are actually hiring, putting people to work, making payroll, making the products and services that make our economy so powerful. But we want to make sure that we narrowed the focus to think about how do we ensure, A, that we’re putting people to work right now, but also how do we lay the foundation for us to win the future over the long term.
This is obviously a theme that I talked about during the State of the Union. It is my belief that we have all the pieces in place for us to make sure that the 21st century is the American Century just like the 20th was. But we’re going to have to up our game in this newly competitive world. And that means that we’ve got to out-educate every other country in the world. We’re going to have to out-innovate every country in the world. We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got the best infrastructure to move people and goods and services throughout the economy.
I want us to be an economy that is not simply buying from other people and borrowing to do it. I want us to be selling to other people and having some other folks owe us some money. And so it is going to be absolutely critical for us during a period of significant fiscal constraint that we create the kind of public/private partnership that makes that happen. And it’s going to be very important for us to get ideas from people who’ve actually — are actually on the ground right now, trying to build your businesses and operate in a extraordinarily competitive world.
So my main purpose here today at this first meeting I think is to listen, to get a sense of where all of you think the economy is right now, what kinds of steps we need to be taking. As I talked about during the State of the Union, we want to remove any barriers and any impediments that are preventing you from success and from growth. At the same time, we want to put a challenge to America’s businesses that even as we’re working with you to streamline regulations, to reform our tax system, to take other steps that have been sitting on the shelf for quite some time under both Democratic and Republican Presidents, we want to make sure that we’re also putting a little pressure on you guys to figure out how do we make sure that the economy is working for everybody; how do we make sure that every child out there who’s willing to work hard is going to be able to succeed; how do we make certain that working families across the country are sharing in growing productivity and that we’re not simply creating an economy in which one segment of it is doing very well, but the rest of the folks are out there treading water.
So, Jeff, again, I want to thank you for your extraordinary work. I want to thank all of you for agreeing to participate.
Last point I’ll make is that I’m not interested in photo ops and I’m not interested in more meetings. I’ve got enough photo ops and enough meetings. I have a surplus of that. So I expect this to be a working group in which we are coming up with some concrete deliverables. I don’t think that we have to be trying to hit homeruns every time. I think if we hit some singles and doubles, if we find some very specific things that this group can help us on and we can work on together, then we can build on that success, and in the aggregate, over time, this will have really made a difference at a critical juncture in our economy.
So, thank you very much. And with that, I’m going to turn it over to you, Jeff.