posted on May 13, 2010 21:17
Listen to Geoff Redick's audio reports BELOW
On a cool, cloudy, rainy day outside, the inside of Industrial Support Incorporated was white-hot with excitement. Well over 300 people crammed onto the factory floor today to see Barack Obama, the President of the United States.
Obama arrived at about 1:45pm, as planned. He toured other parts of the facility until roughly 2:20pm. Then, Obama appeared before the crowd, climbing onto the stage to a resounding applause and a host of camera flashbulbs.
The President kept things light at first.
“This was a secret…I thought I probably should tell all of you…I had to go out and try those wings before I came,” said the President. “And I can vouch for Duff’s crispy medium. That’s what I had.”
But once the laughs died down, the President seemed to go on the defensive. Obama spoke for five minutes detailing what his administration had done so far, and why they had done it.
“We had to take immediate steps to stop the crisis,” Obama said. “I had just inherited a 1.3-trillion dollar deficit from the previous administration, so the last thing I wanted to do was to spend money on a recovery package, or help the American auto industry keep its doors open, or prevent the collapse of Wall Street. But what I knew was if I didn’t act boldly and I didn’t act quickly…we could have risked an even greater disaster.”
After that, Mr. Obama got down to business – small business.
“Government is not the true engine of job creation and economic growth in this country – businesses are, especially small businesses,” said the President. “In fact, over the past decade and a half, America’s small businesses have created sixty-five percent of all the new jobs in this country. The problem is: our small businesses have also been some of the hardest hit in this recession.”
Obama outlined what’s been done to help small businesses, including seven new tax cuts last year, 7.5-billion dollars worth of recovery act contracts, and new healthcare reform measures enabling small business owners to possibly save tens of thousands of dollars in tax benefits. Obama is also pushing legislation to create a 30-billion dollar small business lending fund, and to let small businesses gain more in SBA programs.
“I hear a lot of noise from some out there that say ‘this is nothing more than big government,’” Obama said. “I’m not interested in another debate about big government versus small government; I care about whether government is meeting its responsibilities to the people it represents.”
Rolling up his sleeves, Obama turned to the audience for questions. Frank Caparazzo of Depew asked the President if Buffalo would ever see an improvement to its transit system.
“My hope,” Obama replied, “is that Democrats and Republicans working together…start investing not just in highways, but also in mass transit and high speed rail, especially along the Eastern corridor. That means companies…would have new sources of business.”
A young lady next asked the President what he makes of people calling healthcare reform “the Europeanization of America.” Obama explained that the healthcare bill does four basic things: it reforms insurance, gives tax credits to small businesses for employee healthcare, creates an exchange pool with tax credits for those who can’t afford health insurance, and controls underlying costs.
“I’ll give you one example,” Obama said of the underlying costs: “Have you ever noticed that the doctor’s office is the only place where you still have to fill out forms three, four times in a row? Part of it is because every other part of our economy is computerized, but somehow that’s not true in our healthcare system. So…we want to provide the incentives for hospitals and doctors to get electronic medical records. Those are the kinds of things that help to save money over the long term.”
A man in the audience asked about the possibility of a flat tax in the United States. The President doesn’t seem too keen on the idea.
“Right now, we’ve got a progressive income tax,” said the President. “My rate is higher than someone who makes 40,000 dollars a year. If you had a flat tax, and let’s say everyone would pay ten percent – the question is, does that ten percent take a bigger bite out of the cashier at the supermarket then it does out of Warren Buffet? She’s paying more out of her income for food and rent and basic necessities…it would mean a huge tax break for Warren Buffet. Is there a way of achieving simplification but still having some element of progressivity and some element of fairness in the tax system? That’s part of what makes it complicated.”
Obama’s final question would come from Sandra Rice, the president and CEO of SLR Contracting & Service Company in Buffalo. She asked if education for small business owners was a priority on President Obama’s small business agenda. The President replied that the government’s Small Business Administration is already providing some of those services, and that the real problem for education lies in grade school education, which needs drastic improvement. He also spoke highly of community colleges.
“Community colleges are a huge resource for us to be able to train young people to get the jobs that exist right now,” Obama said. “(A small business owner) can hook up with the community college, tell them, I will hire five guys or 10 guys -- or he can work with other companies around the area and design a training program so that young people who go through it, they know there’s a job out there when they get it. So we’ve been working a lot and putting more money into community colleges as a bridge.”
President Obama ended his remarks at 3:09pm with the standard, “Thank you everybody. God bless you.” He remained in the building for about another fifteen minutes, shaking hands, signing autographs and taking pictures. The presidential motorcade then whisked him directly back to Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, where he boarded Air Force One, bound for New York City.
Listen to full audio of President Obama's remarks today BELOW.
Official White House manuscript of the President's remarks today HERE.