Friday, July 9, 2010 | 10:24 a.m.
Thank you, Harry. Let me just say how nice it is to get out of Washington, and come back to Las Vegas. I love this town. Maybe not as much as my staff. For some reason, every time we come here, Air Force One is always a little more crowded. I have no idea why.
I’m especially pleased to be here with my friend and your Senator, Harry Reid. One of the first stories I heard about Harry was that he was a boxer back in the day here in Nevada. He wasn’t the fastest. He didn’t hit the hardest. But he knew how to take a punch, as well as throw one. And Harry Reid became a pretty good boxer because he would simply outlast his opponents.
I think that tells you a lot about the kind of guy he is. He’s a fighter, and you should never bet against him. And that’s just what we need right now. We need someone who’s going to fight for the people of Nevada and for the American people.
And let me tell you, when we took office, amid the worst economy since the Great Depression, we needed Harry’s fighting spirit. We had lost nearly three million jobs during the last six months of 2008. Over 750,000 jobs in January of 2009 alone – the consequence of a decade of misguided economic policies; a decade of stagnant wages; a decade of falling incomes.
So our first mission was to break the momentum of the deepest and most vicious recession since the Great Depression. It was to stop the freefall; and to get the economy and jobs growing again.
And digging ourselves out of this mess required making some tough decisions – decisions that weren’t all popular. But Harry was willing to lead those fights because he knew we had to change course; that to do nothing; to simply continue the policies that were in place, would mean an even greater disaster. And to fail to act on some of the great challenges facing our country would mean a lesser future for our children and grandchildren.
As a result of those tough steps, we are in a different place today. Our economy is growing, instead of shrinking. We have gained private sector jobs for each of the past six months, instead of losing them. Almost 600,000 new jobs.
Of course, that’s not nearly enough. I don’t have to tell you that. Many of you have felt the pain of these hard times personally. Maybe you’ve found yourself underwater on your mortgage and faced the terrible prospect of losing your home. Maybe you’re out of work, and worried about how you’re going to provide for your family. Maybe you’re a student at UNLV and wondering if you’ll be able to find a job when you graduate, if you’ll be able to pay off your loans, if you’ll be able to start your career on the right foot.
But the simple truth is, it took years to dig this hole, and it’s going to take more time than any of us would like to climb out of it. The question is how do we accelerate that process? How do we get this recovery to pick up steam? How do we fill the hole?
Now, there’s a big debate raging in Washington about what the role of government should be in all this. But as I said on the campaign, and as I’ve repeated many times as President, I believe the greatest generator of jobs in America is our private sector. It’s our entrepreneurs and innovators, who are willing to take a chance on a good idea. It’s our businesses, large and small. The private sector – not government – is, was, and always will be the source of America’s economic success.
That’s why we’ve cut dozens of taxes for the middle class and small businesspeople, extended loan programs to put capital in the hands of startups and worked to reduce the cost of health care for small businesses. And Harry is fighting right now to pass additional tax breaks and loan authority to help small businesses grow and hire.
Our role in government, especially in difficult times like these, is to break down barriers that are standing in the way of innovation. It’s to unleash the ingenuity that springs from our people. It’s to provide an impetus for businesses to grow and expand. That’s my view, and it isn’t some abstract theory. We’ve seen the results. We’ve seen what we can do to catalyze job-growth in the private sector.
We’ve seen it, in particular, in the clean energy sector – an industry that will not only produce the jobs of the future, but help free America from our dependence on oil in the process. Just yesterday, I took a tour of Smith Electric Vehicles in Kansas City, Missouri. This is a company that just hired its 50th worker and is on its way to hiring fifty more, and that’s aiming to produce 500 electric vehicles at that plant alone.
The reason for their success is their entrepreneurial drive. But it’s also partly because of a grant we’re offering companies that manufacture electric vehicles and the batteries that power them. Because of these grants, we could go from having only 2 percent of the global capacity to make advanced batteries to 40 percent in the next five years. It’s a powerful example of how we can generate jobs and promote robust economic growth by incentivizing private sector investments.
And that’s what we’re working to do with the clean energy manufacturing tax credits we enacted last year thanks to Harry’s leadership. Some people may know these tax credits by the name 48c, which refers to their section of the tax code.
Here’s how it works. We said to clean energy companies, if you’re willing to put up 70 percent of the capital for a worthy project, we’ll put up the remaining 30 percent. To put it another way, for every dollar we invest, we leverage more than two private sector dollars.
Now, these manufacturing tax credits are having a real impact. In fact, a solar power company called Amonix received a roughly $6 million tax credit for a new facility they’re building in the Las Vegas area – a tax credit they were able to match with roughly $12 million in private capital. And that’s just one of over 180 projects that received manufacturing tax credits in over 40 states.
The problem is, there aren’t enough tax credits to go around. When we announced the program last year, it was such a success that we received 500 applications requesting over $8 billion in tax credits. But we only had $2.3 billion to invest. In other words, we had almost four times as many worthy requests as we had tax credits.
Well, I believe that if an American company wants to create jobs and grow, we should be there to help them do it. That’s why I’m urging Congress to invest $5 billion more in these kinds of clean energy manufacturing tax credits, more than doubling the amount we made available last year. This $5 billion investment would generate nearly 40,000 jobs and the $12 billion or more in private sector investment it would trigger could create up to 90,000 additional jobs.
I’m gratified that this initiative is drawing support from Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, including Republican Senators Richard Lugar and Orrin Hatch. But the fact is, that kind of bipartisanship has been absent on a whole host of other efforts Harry and I have taken up over the past year and a half.
We fought to keep Nevada teachers, firefighters, and police officers on the job; and to extend unemployment insurance and COBRA so folks have health care while they’re out of work and looking for a job. We fought to stop health insurance companies from denying you coverage on the basis of preexisting conditions; from dropping people’s coverage when they get sick; and from placing lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits on the amount of care they can receive.
We fought to eliminate wasteful subsidies that go to banks to act as unnecessary middlemen in administering student loans and make the repayment of loans more manageable for students. And we are now on the cusp of enacting Wall Street reforms that will empower consumers with the clear and concise information they need to make financial decisions that are best for them, and help prevent another crisis like this from ever happening again.
That’s what Harry and I have fought for, but at every turn, we’ve met a wall of opposition and obstruction from leaders across the aisle. That’s why I’m glad we’ve got a boxer in the Senate, who’s not afraid to fight for what he believes in. And I want you to know that Harry and I are going to keep on fighting. Until wages and incomes are rising again, businesses are hiring again, and Americans are headed back to work again. Until we not only recover from this recession, but rebuild our economy stronger than before.
So, let me just close by saying this. I know we’ve been through tough times, Nevada. And I can’t promise you the difficult days are all behind us. I can’t promise you there won’t be more times to come. But I can promise you this: we are headed in the right direction. We are moving forward. And I am absolutely confident that if we’re willing to keep on moving forward, and if we refuse to turn backward; if we’re willing to show a little of that same fighting spirit Harry Reid has shown throughout his career; then we will make our way through these storms, to brighter days ahead. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.