President Barack Obama stopped in Pittsburgh Tuesday with a message he is hoping will resonate with people across the country—adding more jobs to the workforce now is the immediate answer to an ailing economy.
“People are out of work right now—and they need help right now,” Obama said. “Right now, our economy needs a jolt, and today, the Senate has a chance to do something by voting for the American Jobs Act."
Obama met with members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 5 at its South Side training center at the corner of Hot Metal and East Carson streets just before noon. Obama took a tour of the IBEW training facilities, held a meeting of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and discussed the need for Congress to pass the American Jobs Act in an effort to create more than a million new jobs in the country.
Today marks a critical turning point for the bill, which faces its first vote to move forward in the U.S. Senate. Obama has been traveling across the country promoting the $447 billion American Jobs Act, which he hopes would add more jobs for the entire workforce in an effort to help turn around a struggling economy. He is heading into a year that will mark his bid for re-election.
“No other jobs plan has that kind of support from economists,” Obama said of the bill. “Today is the day when every American will find out where their senator stands on this jobs bill.”
Obama said the plan would cut taxes for businesses that expand and hire more, cut taxes for those who hire veterans and also would put laid off teachers back to work, preventing more job cuts in the future.
“The story of America’s success is written by its entrepreneurs, and we just lost one of the greatest entrepreneurs in Steve Jobs,” Obama said. “That spirit is how we became the world’s leading economy.”
Obama also brought up the fact that the bill has been criticized for its taxation of the richest people in the country.
“Ask your senators what is wrong with asking them to pay a little more?” he said.
He also discussed the fact that more than a million construction workers have lost their jobs, and said the average age of a bridge in Pittsburgh is 54 years.
“We are still benefiting from the work that was done by our grandparents,” he said. “This bill will give local contractors the chance to get back to work in rebuilding America. Why would anyone say no to that? The senate should vote for this jobs bill today—they should not wait.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, and state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, were among the local leaders in the audience.
During his meeting with the council, Obama stressed he would act even without congressional approval of his whole jobs bill. He noted that federal agencies are "scouring" the bill to find efforts that can be done administratively and could approve planks piecemeal as well.
"The American people can't afford to wait,” Obama said. “They need help right now.”
He also called on business to help get the bill "across the finish line."
Obama said passing the bill means the nation would come together and strengthen the economy.
“It’s a matter of shared priority and shared sacrifice,” Obama said. “It’s time to build an economy that has good, middle-class jobs, to build jobs that last, and that’s what this bill will do.”
The president urged the crowd to email, tweet and send a letter to their leaders to pass the bill.
“If you want tax cuts for your family and small business owners, pass this bill,” he said. “Do the right thing.”
Protesters marched down East Carson Street a little after 11 a.m. before Obama arrived, chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Keystone Pipeline’s gotta go,” and “This is what democracy looks like.” After walking down to 27th and Carson, they turned around and marched back toward the city.
Small crowds gathered at the corners of each side of the street outside of the IBEW training center. An elderly woman stood with her cane and said, “This is the only time I’ll get to see the president—I don’t have another 60 years.”
Barbara Stanton, 39, of the North Side, waited outside on Carson Street for the president to arrive. She works on the South Side and decided to come out for the experience.
“Just to be this close to it is kind of cool—I’ve never seen a presidential motorcade before,” she said. “This is what makes our country great, but at the same time, look at the shape our country is in—it’s good that he is here to present this.”
Stanton added that she felt Pittsburgh was the perfect place to stop to discuss the American Jobs Act.
“Pittsburgh is very working class—we are salt of the earth people,” she said.