Barack Obama ditched the “doom and gloom” of Washington Thursday to seek out dynamic job-creating hotspots of the US economy, which remains broadly sluggish four years into his presidency.
Obama launched a new series of tours to parts of the United States where innovation and investment are creating a new wave of hi-tech jobs, as he tried to pressure Congress to back his economic plans.
He flew to the Texas state capital Austin, where a dynamic local economy of start-ups and hi-tech firms is seen by the White House as an example for the rest of the country and a magnet to bring US jobs back home from overseas.
“One of the reasons to do this trip … If you watch the news, if you are based in Washington, sometimes you just sense doom and gloom,” Obama said at a tech start-up incubator which pairs young tech entrepreneurs and investors.
Obama said that across America, despite tough economic times still faced by many, dynamic business people and inventors were creating goods and services and “out there hustling every single day.”
The president also toured a technology-centric high school where students make robots and an Applied Materials Inc. factory that provides services, hardware and software for the global semi-conductor industry.
He said he was determined to “reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth, a thriving, rising, middle class and a dynamic cutting edge economy” to counter unemployment, which is falling but still at 7.5 percent.
Obama argued that his policies had cleared away the “rubble” of the worst economic crisis in decades, and that house prices, corporate profits, stock markets and energy production were rising while manufacturing was thriving.
But more needed to be done, Obama said, in a speech that highlighted his frustration at getting his investment plans past Republican lawmakers dedicated to slashing budgets.
“We have got to make sure middle class wages and incomes are also going up. Most families haven’t seen their take home pay rise for years now,” Obama said.
“Sometimes I am going to need constituents to press their members of Congress to just go ahead and do the right thing,” he said, accusing Republicans of stalling his plans for innovation and investment in Congress.
Aides said Thursday’s trip was the first of a number of visits designed to position Obama, as he begins his second term, as fighting for the middle class and as a patron of cutting-edge US industries.
In line with his State of the Union address, Obama also launched competitions for three new Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, which partner business, universities and government to build new manufacturing technologies.
He also called on Congress to back his plan for a $1 billion investment to create a network of 15 of the institutes across the country.
Obama also signed an executive order requiring that troves of government data must be made freely available in open, machine-readable formats to entrepreneurs, researchers, and other innovators.
One example of how government data can power innovation can be seen in the way various websites and smartphone applications use Global Positioning System information and weather information released by the US government.
Republicans however argued that Obama should learn from the success of locals, rather than trying to take his prescriptions, which they see as state interference in the free markets, to Texas.
“I hope the president will come to Texas ready to take a few notes and learn from one of the most successful states in the nation when it comes to job creation and economic growth,” said Texas Senator John Cornyn.
“As the nation’s economy continues to remain stagnant, I hope he’ll see the power low taxes, reasonable regulations, and a business-friendly environment have in driving a Texas economy that continues to grow and put people to work.”