“Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction. What is true – and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious – is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit and haven’t let up,” he said, adding that he believes technology replacing jobs and companies “having less loyalty to their communities” is giving workers less leverage for a raise.
Obama said his policies have caused the deficit, which the CBO projects will skyrocket in the next decade, to go down over the last three quarters.
The president went on to say that to promote economic opportunity the country needs to strengthen STEM classes in schools and make higher education more affordable, suggesting two years of free community college is the best way to tackle the issue.
Transitioning into entitlements and Obamacare – which he touted as a success – Obama said it is “harder than ever to bounce back from job loss,” and Social Security and Medicare need to be strengthened in the way he did with health care.
“And for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today,” he said. “That’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about. It’s about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when we lose a job, or go back to school, or start that new business, we’ll still have coverage.” Obama suggested the country develop a system of wage insurance to ensure workers that take a lower paying job after loss of employment are still compensated at a higher rate.
The commander in chief said the country needs to encourage innovation, saying there will be a new national effort on cancer research which Vice President Joe Biden will lead.
Despite the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the coal industry, the president said investing in clean energy will lead to a stronger economy and employment gains. He lauded the country depending less on foreign oil, and applauded gas prices hovering around $2.
The president downplayed the threat of Islamic State, saying “the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker” is a fallacy.
“No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead – they call us,” he said, adding Congress should vote on authorizing military action against Islamic State.
While the president said America needs take terrorist threats seriously, he added he doesn’t believe the country can “take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis.”
He went on to promote the Iran deal, which has been widely criticized by national security workers. He said it has been beneficial in preventing another war; advocated for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and said he will continue to push for the closure of Guantanamo Bay before the end of his term.
Taking a loosely-veiled swipe at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, the president said the country needs to reject policies that target people based on race or religion
Obama said the country needs to change its political process to better represent the people.
“Our brand of democracy is hard. But I can promise that a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I’ll be right there with you as a citizen – inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far,” he said. “Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word – voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.”
Obama said he remains hopeful about the future.
“Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.”
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