Hello, Milwaukee! It’s great to be back in the state of Wisconsin. Thank you, DiAndre, for that introduction, and for sharing your story. And before I begin, I want to thank some additional special guests for joining us today. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is here. Your Congresswoman, Gwen Moore is here. You heard from your local UAW representative, John Drew, and I got a great tour from the President of UAW Local 469, Mike Bink. Finally, I want to thank Master Lock CEO John Hepner for inviting us today.
It’s great to be here at Master Lock. Since I’ll eventually be the father of two high school teenagers, I’m in the market for as many locks as I can get my hands on. For now, the men who follow them to school with guns will have to do.
But I’m actually here because this company has been making the most of a huge opportunity that exists right now to bring jobs and manufacturing back to America.
I talked about this during the State of the Union. Over the last few decades, revolutions in technology have made many businesses more efficient and productive. That’s a good thing. It means you generally have a choice of better products and better prices. But technology has also made some jobs obsolete. And it’s allowed companies to set up shop and hire workers almost anywhere in the world where there’s an internet connection.
The result has been incredibly painful for a lot of families and communities, especially here in the Midwest. Too many factories where people thought they’d retire have left town. Too many jobs that provided a decent living have been shipped overseas. And the hard truth is, a lot of those jobs aren’t coming back. In a global economy, some companies will always find it more profitable to pick up and do business in other parts of the world.
But that doesn’t mean we have to sit by and settle for a lesser future. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do to create new jobs and restore middle-class security in America. Of course there is.
For starters, I’m glad to see that Congress is making progress on extending the payroll tax cut so that taxes don’t go up on 160 million working Americans. This tax cut means that the typical American family will see an extra $40 in every paycheck this year. It will help speed up this recovery. It will make a real difference in the lives of millions of people and as soon as Congress sends an extension of this tax cut and unemployment insurance to my desk, I will sign it right away.
But this is only a start. There’s a lot more we can do – a lot more we should do – to help create jobs, bring back manufacturing, and restore middle-class security.
I took office at a time when the American auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry to retool and restructure. And today, the American auto industry is back. General Motors is the world’s number one automaker again. Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, over the past two years, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.
What’s happening in Detroit can happen in other industries. It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh. And today, it’s happening right here at Master Lock.
Over the last few years, it’s become more expensive to do business in countries like China. Meanwhile, American workers have become even more productive. So when John was at the White House in January, he told me that it now makes more business sense for Master Lock to bring jobs back home to Milwaukee. And today, for the first time in fifteen years, this plant is running at full capacity – a proud example of what can happen when unions and employers work together to create good jobs. Today, you’re selling products directly to customers in China that are stamped with three proud words: “Made In America.”
For the first time since the 1990s, American manufacturers are creating new jobs, which is good for companies up and down the supply chain. You’ve all heard enough about outsourcing. Well, more and more companies like Master Lock are now insourcing. They’re deciding that if the cost of doing business here is no longer much different than the cost of doing business in countries like China, they’d rather place their bets on America. They’d rather bet on the country with the best colleges and universities to train workers with new skills and produce cutting-edge research. They’d rather place their bet on the nation with the greatest diversity of talent and ingenuity; the country with the greatest capacity for innovation that the world has ever known.
During the State of the Union, I issued a challenge to America’s business leaders: ask what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed. Since then, a number of companies – large and small, foreign and domestic – have come forward to say that they plan to open new facilities and create new jobs right here in America.
These include Wisconsin companies like Diamond Precision, a machine manufacturer that will be adding dozens of jobs here in Milwaukee – a company that’s growing because its customers are choosing to buy American-made products instead of supplies from China. There’s also Collaborative Consulting, an information technology company that wants to open a new call center in Wasau. And across the nation, there are well-known companies like Caterpillar that are planning to bring jobs back to America.
Last month, we decided to hold a summit at the White House so we could hear from companies like these that have decided to insource jobs. And this fall, for the first time, we’ll be bringing companies from around the world together with governors and mayors and other leaders to discuss the benefits of investing and creating more jobs in the United States.
Our job as a nation is to do everything we can to make the decision to insource more attractive for more companies. Our job is to seize this moment of opportunity to create new American jobs and American manufacturing. And the place to start is our tax code.
Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and everyone knows it. Politicians of both parties have been talking about changing it for years. So my message to Congress is this: get it done.
First, if you’re a business that wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn’t get a tax deduction for doing it. That money should be used to cover moving expenses for companies like Master Lock that decide to bring jobs home.
Second, no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas. From now on, every multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax. And every penny should go towards lowering taxes for companies that choose to stay and hire in the United States of America.
Third, if you’re an American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax cut. If you’re a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making products here. And if you want to relocate in a community like this one that’s been hit hard by factories leaving town, you should get help financing a new plant, equipment, or training for new workers.
Milwaukee, it is time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America. This Congress should send me these tax reforms and I will sign them right away.
Another thing we’re doing to support American jobs is making it easier for businesses like Master Lock sell their products all over the world. Two years ago, I set a goal of doubling U.S. exports over five years. With the bipartisan trade agreements I signed into law, we are on track to meet that goal – ahead of schedule. Soon, there will be millions of new customers for American goods in Panama, Colombia and South Korea. Soon, there will be new cars on the streets of Seoul imported from Detroit, and Toledo, and Milwaukee.
I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products. And I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules. It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized. That’s why I directed my administration to create a Trade Enforcement Unit with one job: investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China. American workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you – America will always win.
Part of creating that level playing field is also making sure that American workers have the skills that today’s jobs require. I know that Master Lock’s decision to create even more jobs here in Milwaukee will depend on whether they can find enough workers with the right training. That’s why the company’s investing in training programs and partnering with nearby community colleges to help design courses and curriculum. And that’s why I’ve asked Congress to join me in a national commitment to train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. We need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers – places that teach people skills that businesses like Master Lock are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing. At a time when so many Americans are looking for work, no job opening should go unfilled just because people didn’t have the opportunity to get the education they need.
We are still recovering from one of the worst economic crises in three generations, and we have a long way to go before everyone who wants a good job can find one; before middle-class Americans regain the sense of security that’s been slipping away since long before the recession hit.
But over the last 23 months, businesses have added nearly 3.7 million new jobs. Manufacturing is coming back. Companies are bringing jobs back. The economy is getting stronger. The recovery is speeding up. And now we have to do everything in our power to keep our foot on the gas – because the last thing we can afford is to go back to the same policies that got us into this mess.
We are not going back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits. We need an economy that’s built to last – an economy based on American manufacturing, American-made energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of the values that made this country great: Hard work. Fair play. Shared responsibility.
These aren’t Democratic or Republican values. They’re American values. They’ve seen us through the most difficult challenges, and helped us emerge stronger than before.
That’s America. In this country, we don’t give up. We look out for one another. We reach for new opportunities and we pull each other up. That’s who we are. And if we work together now, in common purpose, and common effort, I have no doubt that we will build an economy that lasts, and remind the world just why the United States is the greatest nation on Earth.