“It is good to be back in Tennessee,” Obama said by way of greeting. “It’s great to be here at Amazon.”
Supporters of Obama set up camp along Discovery Drive outside of the facility. Signs read, “Obama Cares” and “Forward Tennesseans for Obama.” Hundreds waited in line prior to Obama’s 2 p.m. speech. The line began at a side entrance of the center to wrap up and around the parking lot.
The air tingled with excitement.
Slowly the space set aside in front of the stage began to fill up. Media members ran around on the outskirts as eager chatter overcame the awaiting crowd. From time to time a false welcome rose from the lips of expectant supporters.
Prior to Obama’s speech, he took a brief tour of, as he put it, “just one little corner of this massive facility.”
Adrienne Thompson was working the pack line when Obama came by. She explained the packing process before he noticed her Kentucky Wildcats basketball lanyard. The two discussed the NCAA basketball Final Four before Obama moved to the next leg of the tour.
Thompson described the conversation as an amazing opportunity. She was immediately bombarded by her fellow employees for information, following the president’s exit.
Finally, Obama arrived to present how he believed strengthening the American middle class would create exponential growth in the economy. He proposed a framework he believed would “break through some of the political logjam in Washington and try to get Congress to start moving on some of these proven ideas.”
Five basic parts comprised Obama’s proposed framework: increase jobs in American manufacturing; increase jobs rebuilding America’s infrastructure; create good jobs in energy; export more goods; and help the more than 4 million long-term unemployed Americans.
According to Obama, for the first time since the 1990s, manufacturing jobs have gone up instead of decreasing. In an effort to claim more gain, Obama suggested offering new incentives to manufacturers. He said he wanted to put an end to manufacturers shipping jobs overseas.
Added Obama, “I want new tax credits so communities hit hardest by plant closures can attract new investment.”
He stated the American tax code is riddled with loopholes and special interest tax breaks. These need to be simplified in order to “bring jobs home to the United States.” A simplified tax code would mean closing loopholes; ending incentives to outsource jobs; and lowering the tax rate for businesses working to create jobs in America.
Cheers met Obama’s statement as he assured the gathered Amazon employees better deals for businesses meant better deals for workers.
An increase in manufacturing jobs through providing business incentives would then increase infrastructure jobs, by Obama’s plan.
“I want to use some of the money that we save by closing these loopholes to create more good construction jobs with infrastructure initiatives that I already talked about,” Obama said, referring to the $2 trillion of deferred maintenance projects throughout America.
Obama highlighted Chattanooga’s widening U.S. Highway 27 as one of the needed infrastructure projects in the country. Construction on projects like Highway 27 are believed to be key in increasing the efficiency of companies like Amazon.
In a related side note, the President explained if his “Fix-It-First” plan is passed, workers will immediately go to work on the country’s most urgent repairs. These repairs include “the 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare.”
Obama called for a partnership with the private sector to upgrade to modern air traffic control systems, modern power grids and pipelines and modern schools.
A modern education is not necessarily limited to the young. Obama called for modern schools to prepare America’s youth, but he also mentioned setting up 45 manufacturing innovation institutes. This is a jump by 30 over the 15 Obama initially asked for in his State of the Union address.
These “hubs” attempt to connect businesses, universities and communities together in an effort to develop high-tech industries across America.
Another option was issued through a challenge by Obama to CEOs throughout the country. He urged businesses to help the more than 4 million long-term unemployed American get back into work.
“And I’m going to bring together the CEOs and companies that are putting in place some of the best practices for recruiting and training and hiring workers who have been out of work for a long time, but want the chance to show that they’re ready to go back to work,” Obama said to the cheering crowd.
Amazon’s Career Choice program was highlighted as a good example for other companies to follow. The program reportedly pays 95 percent of the tuition of any Amazon employee seeking, “to earn skills in fields with high demand.”
He urged companies to offer training programs, health care, retirement plans and better wages.
Obama’s speech shifted to address why his proposed changes are so late in coming.
“For most of the past two years, Washington has just taken its eye off the ball when it comes to the middle class,” Obama said. “... The good news is there are a growing number of Republican senators who are trying to work with Democrats to get some stuff done.”
The president then said a “certain faction” of the Republican party has not been open to the suggestions of Democrats.
Added Obama, “This same group has kept in place this meat cleaver called the sequester that is just slashing all kinds of important investments in education and research and our military.”
He said their actions hurt both the economy in the long run and the present middle class. Obama claimed current cuts being made out of Washington will, “Cost our economy 750,000 jobs this year; 900,000 fewer jobs next year.”
Obama stated he would be ready to work together with Republicans if their suggestions supported a balanced, long-term fiscal plan.
The president summarized his intentions with what he referred to as a grand bargain for middle class jobs, “A deal that simplifies the tax code for our businesses and creates good jobs with good wages for middle-class folks who work at those businesses.”
He finished by promising the gathered crowd his final 1,270 days in office would be dedicated to providing middle class opportunities for those, “willing to work hard in this country.”
Tuesday afternoon’s speech is a part of a series Obama is set to make to cities and towns throughout the country. The focus will be on ideas for how America can build on the cornerstone of what it means to be a part of the country’s middle class.