Good morning, everybody. Obviously, over the last couple of days, the debate here in Washington has been dominated by issues of debt limit, but what matters most to Americans, and what matters most to me as President, in the wake of the worst downturn in our lifetimes, is getting our economy on a sounder footing more broadly so the American people can have the security they deserve.
And that means getting back to a place where businesses consistently grow and are hiring, where new jobs and new opportunity are within reach, where middle-class families once again know the security and peace of mind they’ve felt slipping away for years now. And today’s job report confirms what most Americans already know: We still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do to give people the security and opportunity that they deserve.
We’ve added more than 2 million new private sector jobs over the past 16 months, but the recession cost us more than 8 million. And that means that we still have a big hole to fill. Each new job that was created last month is good news for the people who are back at work, and for the families that they take care of, and for the communities that they’re a part of. But our economy as a whole just isn’t producing nearly enough jobs for everybody who’s looking.
We’ve always known that we’d have ups and downs on our way back from this recession. And over the past few months, the economy has experienced some tough headwinds — from natural disasters, to spikes in gas prices, to state and local budget cuts that have cost tens of thousands of cops and firefighters and teachers their jobs. The problems in Greece and in Europe, along with uncertainty over whether the debt limit here in the United States will be raised, have also made businesses hesitant to invest more aggressively.
The economic challenges that we face weren’t created overnight, and they’re not going to be solved overnight. But the American people expect us to act on every single good idea that’s out there. I read letter after letter from folks hit hard by this economy. None of them ask for much. Some of them pour their guts out in these letters. And they want me to know that what they’re looking for is that we have done everything we can to make sure that they are rewarded when they’re living up to their responsibilities, when they’re doing right by their communities, when they’re playing by the rules. That’s what they’re looking for, and they feel like the rules have changed. They feel that leaders on Wall Street and in Washington –- and believe me, no party is exempt –- have let them down. And they wonder if their efforts will ever be reciprocated by their leaders.
They also make sure to point out how much pride and faith they have in this country; that as hard as things might be today, they are positive that things can get better. And I believe that we can make things better. How we respond is up to us. There are a few things that we can and should do, right now, to redouble our efforts on behalf of the American people.
Let me give you some examples. Right now, there are over a million construction workers out of work after the housing boom went bust, just as a lot of America needs rebuilding. We connect the two by investing in rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our railways and our infrastructure. And we could put back to work right now some of those construction workers that lost their jobs when the housing market went bust. Right now, we can give our entrepreneurs the chance to let their job-creating ideas move to market faster by streamlining our patent process. That’s pending before Congress right now. That should pass.
Today, Congress can advance trade agreements that will help businesses sell more American-made goods and services to Asia and South America, supporting thousands of jobs here at home. That could be done right now. Right now, there are a lot of middle-class families who sure could use the security of knowing that the tax cut that I signed in December to help boost the economy and put a thousand dollars in the pockets of American families, that that’s still going to be around next year. That’s a change that we could make right now.
There are bills and trade agreements before Congress right now that could get all these ideas moving. All of them have bipartisan support. All of them could pass immediately. And I urge Congress not to wait. The American people need us to do everything we can to help strengthen this economy and make sure that we are producing more jobs.
Also to put our economy on a stronger and sounder footing for the future, we’ve got to rein in our deficits and get the government to live within its means, while still making the investments that help put people to work right now and make us more competitive in the future. As I mentioned, we’ve had some good meetings. We had a good meeting here yesterday with leaders of both parties in Congress. And while real differences remain, we agreed to work through the weekend and meet back here on Sunday.
The sooner we get this done, the sooner that the markets know that the debt limit ceiling will have been raised and that we have a serious plan to deal with our debt and deficit, the sooner that we give our businesses the certainty that they will need in order to make additional investments to grow and hire and will provide more confidence to the rest of the world as well, so that they are committed to investing in America.
Now, the American people sent us here to do the right thing not for party, but for country. So we’re going to work together to get things done on their behalf. That’s the least that they should expect of us, not the most that they should expect of us. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves over the next several weeks and next several months. I know that people in both parties are ready to do that as well. And we will keep you updated on the progress that we’re making on these debt limit talks over the next several days. Thank you.