The townhall is over :o) If you missed it you can catch all the action over the fold
[Update 12:05 PM ET]: HEY! We are starting on time! Good deal! Crowd is chanting "Obama" Oh now I miss campaign events sometimes :o)
[Update 12:07 PM ET]: Being introduced now (I missed the guy's name, sorry)
[Update 12:08 PM ET]: The introducer (did anyone catch his name) is looking forward to President Obama helping him out of a pretty tough economic situation. And he's honored to be an unemployed RV worker to introduce the President of the US.
[Update 12:09 PM ET]: President Obama tells the audience to make themselves comfortable. He already sounds like "Candidate Obama" ~lol~ You can tell he missed at least getting to meet with ordinary people. . . and now he's giving out shoutouts.
[Update 12:14 PM ET]: Forgive me for not updating the actual speech the whole time, I'm sure a transcript will be available soon of the Prepared Remarks.
[Update 12:17 PM ET]: I love it when I'm right. The full remarks as prepared. Edit 2:52 PM ET Please find the full remarks in TomP's Diary "President Obama in Elkhart: "Pass This Bill Immediately!"
I want to start by thanking Ed for coming here today and sharing his family's story with all of us.
You know, we tend to take the measure of the economic crisis we face in numbers and statistics. But when we say we've lost 3.6 million jobs since this recession began - nearly 600,000 in the past month alone; when we say that this area has lost jobs faster than anywhere else in America, with an unemployment rate over 15 percent; when we talk about layoffs at companies like Monaco Coach, Keystone RV, and Pilgrim International - companies that have sustained this community for years - we're talking about Ed Neufeldt and people like him all across this country.
We're talking about folks who've lost their livelihood and don't know what will take its place. Parents who've lost their health care and lie awake nights praying the kids don't get sick. Families who've lost the home that was their corner of the American dream. Young people who put that college acceptance letter back in the envelope because they just can't afford it.
That's what those numbers and statistics mean. That is the true measure of this economic crisis. Those are the stories I heard when I came here to Elkhart six months ago and that I have carried with me every day since.
I promised you back then that if elected President, I would do everything I could to help this community recover. And that's why I've come back today - to tell you how I intend to keep that promise.
The situation we face could not be more serious. We have inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression. Economists from across the spectrum have warned that if we don't act immediately, millions more jobs will be lost, and national unemployment rates will approach double digits. More people will lose their homes and their health care. And our nation will sink into a crisis that, at some point, we may be unable to reverse.
So we can no longer afford to wait and see and hope for the best. We can no longer posture and bicker and resort to the same failed ideas that got us into this mess in the first place - and that the American people rejected at the polls this past November. You didn't send us to Washington because you were hoping for more of the same. You sent us there with a mandate for change, and the expectation that we would act quickly and boldly to carry it out - and that is exactly what I intend to do as President of the United States.
That is why I put forth a Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that is now before Congress. At its core is a very simple idea: to put Americans back to work doing the work America needs done.
I'll resume live blogging when the questions open up.
[Update 12:28 PM ET]: Questions are starting now.
[Update 12:33 PM ET]: Question: When allocating the money for Elkhart, will it go directly to Elkhart or go somewhere else?
A: We have to get the bill passed and make sure the money is well spent. They are going to set up an independent board made up of Ds and Rs to review how the money is being spent to make sure it's not being wasted on a special project that's not creating help for people. Also setting up www.recovery.gov that reports on where the money is going in the community, how it's being spent, how many jobs are being created, so people can hold the government accountable.
Who the money is going to will depend on the plan itself. Some of it will go to the State government because unemployment insurance is run through the State, not a city. Other projects dealing with transportation and education funding will have them working with local governments/communities. It depends on which stream of money we are talking about, but there will be strong oversight and transparency to make sure the money is being used for what they say it will.
The bill is not pork because it does NOT have a single earmark in it. We can debate the projects/tax cuts, but there are no earmarks and no pork.
[Update 12:39 PM ET]: Question: Will you support the people who supported you, and put the money directly in the hands of the people who are hurting so they dont' have to deal with the red tape.
A: (after some technical issues) 1. When it comes to tax cuts, instead of providing tax cuts to the wealthy, I'm pushing to ensure these tax cuts go to working families because they are the ones who will actually spend it.
- The Recovery and Reinvestment Act is only "one leg in the stool of recovery" we have to also get the banks stable and lending again. We are going to help small and medium sized businesses get loans, and the money going to Wall St. will have strings attached. You cannot expect taxpayers to bail out banks who made bad decisions when those banks are using that money to give themselves huge bonuses. We understand the banking industry made bad decisions, and we need them strengthened, but they will not be able to give out big bonuses until they pay the taxpayers back. There has to be accountability and responsibility.
[Update 12:43 PM ET]: Question: (this lady sounds like Elisabeth Hesselbeck) Asking about tax problems with the people in the cabinet.
A. I've appointed hundreds of people, and only a few have had problems. I think the question is legitimate. I know the people at issue personally, and I believe they were honest mistakes. You can't find anyone who hasn't ever made a mistake. I admitted that I made a mistake on nearly every television station because people in Washington should not have different standards. We have set the highest ethical standards ever. I didn't know Hannity invited me for a beer, but I will take that under advisement (Muzikal note: that means "HELL TO THE NAW"), he knows Hannity's opinion of him isn't high, but he's always good for a beer.
[Update 12:49 PM ET]: Question: Are there provisions in the stimulus bill that address green issues?
A: Absolutely. Under this plan we'd double the production of alternative energy. There is money allocated to develop the new battery technologies to allow cars and RVs to move into the next generation of plug in hybrids who get much better gas mileage which will ween us off of foreign oil and help the environment. Also, there is money for weatherization of millions of homes in the country. The homeowner gets the benefit of lower energy bills, many in the housing and construction industry are going to be put back to work, you can train young people as apprentices, and you start reducing energy consumption for the country as a whole.
Critics call that pork, but I think that's BS. If we are going to spend billion of dollars to create jobs, why not create them in areas that create a better economic future for us in the long run. We need to make sure we can compete, this is our chance to re-tool and Congress needs to understand that.
I also suggested that we should improve information technology in the health care system. It will immediately create jobs, but it will also put all of the medical records in a computerized form to reduce medical errors and cut the costs of healthcare in the long run.
[Update 12:54 PM ET]: Question: Should the bill which would allow judges to modify mortgages pass?
A: If we don't do anything to stabilize the housing market, it will be much harder to recover. We will be unveiling a series of plans to help fix this issue. If you have more than one home, and you go bankrupt then the judge can modify the terms of the mortgage on your 2-5th homes. But if you only have 1 house, like me, (just borrowing the White House, he's a guests there, his HOUSE is on the South Side of Chicago) it turns out that under current law you can't modify that mortgage if you are in bankruptcy and that makes no sense. It's forcing people into foreclosure who would be able to make SOME payments and it hurts everyone. So this legislation is one that I strongly support, and will try to make it a part of the housing package which is another step.
[Update 12:59 PM ET]: Question: What do you see in the pipeline for small companies who are trying to help us towards energy efficiency when we don't get any real incentive?
A; Three things we can do quickly:
- Pass a renewable energy standard which will tell utilities to get 15 or 20% of energy from renewable sources, then people who are producing renewable energy will be able to count on a pretty solid market and then investors will invest. The more peopel that invest, the better the technology, and the more improvements we can make.
- We should be providing tax credits and loan guarantees to renewable energy. There are some getting ready to lapse, and we need to be more forceful there
- Work with utilities all across America so the utility makes money not only on how much it SELLS, but also how much energy its customers save.
- We need to invest some money, every year, in new technology which will help us in the long turn. We need to be the trailblazers in energy efficiency.
[Update 1:05 PM ET]: Question: How are we going to KEEP companies in the U.S. once we have them?
A: We have the most productive workers, the best universities and colleges, the most dynamic and innovative economy, so we can compete against anyone, but we've got problems with our failure to investing in things that will keep us competitive. Our tax code seems to encourage companies to go overseas, and we need to give those tax breaks to companies that are staying in America. With that, the single most important factor is what we are doing about education (Muzikal Note: YEAH!!! I love this guy! He's the only one talking about education). There are some companies that ship jobs overseas because it's low value added work and they don't need skilled labor. We're never gonna be the cheapest because we have standards, but we should be encouraging high wage/high value work which is why how well we are training our work-force is so important. We need to make sure our schools enable us to compete in a modern economy.
The Senate cut a lot of our education dollars, and SOME of it needs to be restored. We need to invest in education
[Update 1:06 PM ET]: Last Question: (it's a little kid, 9 years old) What are you going to do to help our schools?
A: Rebuild them so they are state of the art, and train/retrain our teachers. Reform how we do business in schools, we have to have high standards, and do something to fix No Child Left Behind so it's effective. Lastly, parents need to parent. We can put as much money as we want into schools, and it won't help anything if parents don't get actively involved in their children's educations. And kids are going to have to work harder.
That's it! Thanks for sticking around, and vote in the poll!
[Update 1:15 PM ET]: Okay, one last thing, this pic is awesome:
LOL! h/t Diogenes2008
Oh, and the callers on CSPAN seem to largely support it, even a Republican lady that just called in.