President Obama to Congress: ‘I’m the guy doing my job. You must be the other guy.’

President Barack Obama was in Austin, Texas this week and addressed a rally at the Paramount Theatre on the economy. In his remarks, President Obama framed what is at stake in the 2014 midterm election. Remarks by the President on the Economy — Austin, TX (excerpts):

ObamaWe know that if we do some basic things, if we make some basic changes, we’ll see more jobs, faster economic growth, lift more incomes, strengthen the middle class.  They are common-sense things.  They’re not that radical.  We know it’s what we should be doing.  And what drives me nuts — and I know drives you nuts — is Washington isn’t doing it.  (Applause.)

And let me be clear about why Washington is broken, because sometimes everybody says, well, you know what, all politicians are the same, the parties — the Democrats, Republicans, it doesn’t matter.  Look, Democrats are not perfect, I promise you. I know a lot of them.  (Laughter.)  And, yes, every member of Congress, they’re thinking about, I’d like to be reelected and I’d like to keep my job.  That’s human nature.  We all understand that.  But let me be clear.  On the common-sense agenda that would help middle-class families, the overwhelming number of Democrats are in favor of these things.

They’re in favor of minimum wage.  They’re in favor of equal pay.  (Applause.)  They’re in favor of extending unemployment benefits.  They’re in favor of infrastructure.  They’re in favor of investing in research and development.  They’re in favor of making college more affordable.  They’ve got specific proposals. They’re willing to compromise.  They’re prepared to go forward.

So when folks say they’re frustrated with Congress, let’s be clear about what the problem is.  (Applause.)  I’m just telling the truth now.  I don’t have to run for office again, so I can just let her rip.  (Applause.)  And I want to assure you, I’m really not that partisan of a guy.  My favorite President is the first Republican President, a guy named Abraham Lincoln.  You look at our history, and we had great Republican Presidents who  — like Teddy Roosevelt started the National Park System, and Dwight Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System, and Richard Nixon started the EPA.

The statement I’m making is not a partisan statement, it is a statement of fact.  (Applause.)  So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every serious idea to strengthen the middle class.  They have said no

AUDIENCE:  Booo!

THE PRESIDENT:  Don’t boo now, because what I want you to do is vote.  (Applause.)

They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage.  They’ve said no to fair pay.  They said no to unemployment insurance for hardworking folks like Kinsey’s parents who have paid taxes all their lives and never depended on anything and just needed a little help to get over a hump.  They said no to fixing our broken immigration system that we know would strengthen our borders and our businesses and help families.  (Applause.)

Instead of investing in education that helps working families, they voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.  Instead of creating jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our ports that help every business, they’ve decided to protect tax loopholes for companies that are shifting jobs overseas and profits overseas.

The best thing you can say about this Congress — the Republicans in Congress, and particularly the House of Representatives — the best you can say for them this year is that so far they have not shut down the government — (laughter) — or threatened to have America welch on our obligations and ruin our credit rating.  That’s the best you can say.  But of course, it’s only July — (laughter) — so who knows what they may cook up in the next few months.

So even as they’re blocking policies that would help middle-class families, they keep on offering these theories of the economy that have failed over and over again.  They say, well, if we give more tax breaks to folks at the top that’s going to be good.  If we make fewer investments in things like education, everything will work out.  If we loosen the rules for big banks and credit card companies and polluters and insurers, somehow that’s going to make the economy better.  If we shrink the safety net and cut Medicaid and cut food stamps, and make sure that folks who are vulnerable and trying to get back on their suffer more hardship, somehow that’s going to improve the economy.

Now, they believe these things — sincerely, I assume — that if they — if we do these things, if we just take care of folks at the top, or at least if we don’t empower our government to be able to help anybody, that somehow jobs and prosperity will trickle down and we’ll all be better off.

And that may work just fine for folks at the top.  It worked fine for me.  I don’t need government.  (Laughter.)  Michelle and I now are in a position where we can pretty much finance Malia and Sasha’s college education.  But I remember when Michelle’s parents couldn’t, they needed help.  And I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe in pulling up the ladder once I’m up.  I believe in extending it down and making sure that everybody has a chance to climb up.  (Applause.)

The status quo certainly works for the special interests in Washington who like things just as they are.  They’ll be fine whether Congress ever passes a bill again or not.  But it doesn’t help you.  It doesn’t help your neighbors.  It doesn’t help your friends.  It doesn’t help your communities.

And what it does, is it just feeds people’s cynicism about Washington.  It just makes people think, well, nothing can happen, and people start feeling hopeless.  And we have to understand, in the face of all evidence to the contrary in Washington, we can do better than we’re doing right now.  (Applause.)  We can do better than what we’re doing right now.

* * *

Now, here’s where it gets interesting.  There are a number of Republicans, including a number in the Texas delegation, who are mad at me for taking these actions.  They actually plan to sue me.  (Laughter.)  Now, I don’t know which things they find most offensive — me helping to create jobs, or me raising wages, or me easing the student loan burdens, or me making sure women can find out whether they’re getting paid the same as men for doing the same job.  I don’t know which of these actions really bug them.  (Laughter.)

The truth is, even with all the actions I’ve taken this year, I’m issuing executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years.  So it’s not clear how it is that Republicans didn’t seem to mind when President Bush took more executive actions than I did.  (Applause.)  Maybe it’s just me they don’t like.  I don’t know.  Maybe there’s some principle out there that I haven’t discerned, that I haven’t figure out.  (Laughter.)  You hear some of them — “sue him,” “impeach him.”  Really?  (Laughter.)  Really?  For what?  (Applause.)  You’re going to sue me for doing my job?  Okay.  (Applause.)

I mean, think about that.  You’re going to use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job — (laughter) — while you don’t do your job.  (Applause.)

There’s a great movie called “The Departed” — a little violent for kids.  But there’s a scene in the movie where Mark Wahlberg — they’re on a stakeout and somehow the guy loses the guy that they’re tracking.   And Wahlberg is all upset and yelling at the guy.  And the guy looks up and he says, “Well, who are you?”  And Wahlberg says, “I’m the guy doing my job.  You must be the other guy.”  (Laughter and applause.)  Sometimes, I feel like saying to these guys, I’m the guy doing my job, you must be the other guy.  (Applause.)

So rather than wage another political stunt that wastes time, wastes taxpayers’ money, I’ve got a better idea:  Do something.  (Applause.)  If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, let’s team up.  Let’s pass some bills.  Let’s help America together.  (Applause.)

It is lonely, me just doing stuff.  I’d love if the Republicans did stuff, too.  (Laughter.)  On immigration issues, we’ve got — and to their credit, there are some Republicans in the Senate who actually worked with Democrats, passed a bill, would strengthen the borders, would help make the system more fair and more just.  But the House Republicans, they haven’t even called the bill.  They won’t even take a vote on the bill.  They don’t have enough energy or organization or I don’t know what to just even vote no on the bill.  (Laughter.)  And then they’re made at me for trying to do some things to make the immigration system work better.  So it doesn’t make sense.

* * *

We could do so much more if Republicans in Congress would focus less on stacking the deck for those on the top and focus more on creating opportunity for everybody.  And I want to work with them.  I don’t expect them to agree with me on everything, but at least agree with me on the things that you used to say you were for before I was for them.  (Applause.)

You used to be for building roads and infrastructure.  Nothing has changed.  Let’s go ahead and do it.  (Applause.)  Ronald Reagan passed immigration reform, and you love Ronald Reagan.  Let’s go ahead and do it.  (Applause.)

I mean, what changed?  I’m just saying.  (Laughter.)  That’s what made our country great, a sense of common purpose, a sense we’re all in it together as one nation, as one people.  We can debate the issues, we can have our differences, but let’s do something.  (Applause.)  Let’s rally around an economic patriotism that says, instead of giving more tax breaks to millionaires, let’s give tax breaks to working families to help pay for child care or college.

Instead of protecting tax loopholes that let corporations keep their profits overseas,  let’s put some of that money to work right here in the United States rebuilding America.  (Applause.)  We can rebuild our airports, create the next generation of good manufacturing jobs, make sure those are made in America.

Let’s rally around a patriotism that says we’re stronger as a nation when we cultivate the ingenuity and talent of every American, and give every 4-year-old in America access to high-quality education — good-quality preschool.  (Applause.)  Let’s redesign our high schools to make them more relevant to the 21st century economy.  Let’s make college more affordable.  Let’s  make sure every worker, if you lose your job, you can get a good job training that gives you an even better job.  (Applause.)

Let’s embrace the patriotism that says it’s a good thing when our fellow citizens have health care.  It’s not a bad thing. (Applause.)  That’s not a bad thing.  It’s a good thing when women earn what men do for the same work.  That’s an all-American principle.  (Applause.)  Everybody has got a mom out there or a wife out there or a daughter out there.  They don’t want them to not get treated fairly.  Why would you be against that?

It’s a good thing when parents can take a day off to care for a sick child without losing their job or losing pay and they can’t pay their bills at the end of the month.  It’s a good thing when nobody who works full-time is living in poverty.  That is not radical.  It’s not un-American.  It’s not socialist.  That’s how we built this country.  It’s what America is all about, us working together.  (Applause.)

So let me just wrap up by saying this:  The hardest thing to change in politics is a stubborn status quo.  Our democracy is designed where folks who have power, who have clout — they can block stuff, they can keep things as they are.  It’s hard.  It’s even harder when Washington seems focused on everything but your concerns, Kinsey’s concerns.

There are plenty of people who count on you getting cynical and count on you not getting involved so that you don’t vote, so you give up.  And you can’t give into that.  America is making progress, despite what the cynics say.  (Applause.)  Despite unyielding opposition and a Congress that can’t seem to do anything, there are workers with jobs who didn’t have them before; there are families with health insurance who didn’t have them before; there are students in college who couldn’t afford it before; there are troops who served tour after tour who are home with their families today.  (Applause.)

Cynicism is popular.  Cynicism is popular these days.  It’s what passes off as wisdom.  But cynics didn’t put a man on the moon.  Cynics never won a war.  Cynics didn’t cure a disease, or start a business, or feed a young mind.  Cynicism didn’t bring about the right for women to vote, or the right for African Americans to be full citizens.  Cynicism is a choice.

Hope is a better choice. . .

Video of the full speech: The President Speaks on the Economy.

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