The second stop on President Obama's tour of rural America was a town hall meeting in Decorah,Iowa, where he talked with 500 local citizens about how we can grow the economy and put people back to work. The crowd asked questions on topics ranging from reforming the tax code and the rights of unions to whether Congress is a good partner, and what the current Washington gridlock means for democracy.
The President addressed the frustration that many have expressed with the dysfunctional government in Washington and said he shares that feeling:
I am pretty frustrated about that because, given the challenges we face, we don’t have time to play games. There are a lot of folks, a lot of our neighbors, a lot of our friends who’ve been out of work too long. We’ve got too many small businesses that are struggling. I see a lot of young people in the audience here today, and they’re thinking about what are their prospects for the future -- graduating from college knowing they’ve got a lot of debt, needing to find a job. They don’t have patience for the kind of shenanigans we’ve been seeing on Capitol Hill. They understand that now is the time for all of us to pull together and do what it takes to grow the economy and put people back to work.
Now, the good news is there are things we could be doing right now that would make a difference for our economy. Back in December, when some of my folks on the other side of the aisle were more willing to compromise, we were able to put a package together that cut taxes for families by an average of $1,000.
And what I’ve said is, let’s continue this payroll tax cut into next year, so as the economy is strengthening, ordinary families who are still digging themselves out of credit card debt or seeing their homes underwater, they’ve got a little more purchasing power. That will be good for small businesses and large businesses, and they will hire.
We could right now say we are going to go ahead and renew that tax cut, and that would be good for the American people and good for the economy. There’s no reason to wait.
In response to a question from John Frandsen of Decorah, President Obama explained how investing in rebuilding America's infrastructure is another way to put people back to work and strengthen our economy:
Now, there is no better time for us to invest in infrastructure than right now -- first of all, because we need it. But second of all, because interest rates are very low, so financing infrastructure is cheap. And you’ve got contractors and construction workers who are dying for work. So they’ll come in on time, under budget, if we just give them the opportunity.
So what we’ve said is this: Not only should the government be investing more in infrastructure, but we should be investing in it in a smarter way. There’s been bipartisan support for something called an infrastructure bank, where the federal government would put seed capital in it, but it would basically leverage the private sector that wants to invest in smart infrastructure projects all across the country. And so if you made a $10 billion investment, that might result in $300 billion worth of investment in projects all across the country that could put people to work right now. Because, look, there are a bunch of companies and a bunch of pension funds out there that are looking for ways to invest. They don’t know where to put their money. What better way to invest than investing in America? And it would make the entire economy more productive.
Use the jump links below to skip to the answers to questions you’re most interested in.The questions below are paraphrased from the questions asked by participants during the townhall: