Washington: President Barack Obama Thursday said the US has fought its way back after suffering one of the worst economic recessions in years and asserted that fixing economy would be the "highest priority" of his second term.
"Five years after the start of that Great Recession, America has fought its way back. We fought our way back," he said in a speech at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where he had delivered his first major economic speech on the national stage in 2005.
Observing that there is a growing inequality, Obama said reversing trend like this has to be Washington's highest priority. "It has to be Washington's highest priority. It's certainly my highest priority," he said.
Listing out the steps taken by his administration to save the auto industry; fix the broken health care system and investing in new American technologies to reverse dependence on foreign oil, Obama said that in the last 40 months, businesses have created 7.2 million new jobs.
"This year, we're off to our strongest private sector job growth since 1999," he said.
"Because we bet on this country, suddenly foreign companies are, too. Right now, more of Honda's cars are made in America than anyplace else on Earth. Airbus, the European aircraft company, they're building new planes in Alabama. And American companies like Ford are replacing outsourcing with insourcing - they're bringing jobs back home," he said.
"Thanks to the grit and resilience and determination of the American people we've been able to clear away the rubble from the financial crisis. We started to lay a new foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth. And it's happening in our own personal lives as well, right? A lot of us tightened our belts, shed debt, maybe cut up a couple of credit cards, refocused on those things that really matter," he said.
Noting that the US has recovered faster and gone further than most other advanced nations in the world, he said that with new American revolutions in energy and technology and manufacturing and health care, the US is actually poised to reverse the forces that battered the middle class for so long, and start building an economy where everyone who works hard can get ahead.
But at the same time, the US has a long way to go.
"Even though our businesses are creating new jobs and have broken record profits, nearly all the income gains of the past 10 years have continued to flow to the top 1 percent. The average CEO has gotten a raise of nearly 40 percent since 2009," Obama said.
"The average American earns less than he or she did in 1999. And companies continue to hold back on hiring those who've been out of work for some time," he said.
Obama said as Washington prepares to enter another budget debate, the stakes for the middle class and everybody who is fighting to get into the middle class could not be higher.
The countries that are passive in the face of a global economy, those countries will lose the competition for good jobs, he said.
First Published: Thursday, July 25, 2013, 10:51