Obama Burnishes Business Credentials in SOTU

In his fourth State of the Union speech last night, President Barack Obama laid out his blueprint for the nation’s economy, starting with manufacturing.

“We will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt and phony financial profits,” he said. “Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last—an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers and a renewal of American values.”

The president also tipped his cap to a recent trend among businesses bringing jobs back from other countries historically thought of as sources of cheap labor. As previously reported, “insourcing” is now frequently taking the place of “outsourcing.” “We can’t bring every job back that’s left our shore. But right now, it’s getting more expensive to do business in places like China. Meanwhile, America is more productive,” said Obama. “A few weeks ago, the CEO of Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back home. Today, for the first time in 15 years, Master Lock’s unionized plant in Milwaukee is running at full capacity.”

“So we have a huge opportunity, at this moment, to bring manufacturing back. But we have to seize it. Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed,” he added.

Obama went on to suggest tax reforms that would incentivize companies to bring jobs back to the U.S. and relocate to recession-hit communities. Exporting, which figured heavily into last year’s speech, also received a small amount of attention, mostly as the president burnished his credentials and highlighted the success of the past year’s free trade agreements (FTAs).

In essence, the speech focused on the idea of economic fairness. “The debate now will be over what constitutes fair,” said NACM Economist Chris Kuehl, PhD. “The speech had very little to do with the current condition of the U.S. and its economy, but that was expected in an election year. The overarching message is that the wealthy should be taxed more.”

“The fundamental issue driving the two sides remains how to deal with the debt at the same time the nation has to expand economic growth,” he added. “Without more revenue, the government can’t sustain current spending. Some would have that spending curtailed further while others assert that austerity is already compromising growth. The reality is that taxation and differing concepts of fairness will be at the heart of the election for the duration.”

Jacob Barron, CICP, NACM staff writer

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