The president’s visit to Austin is the first in a series of field trips aimed at giving a high profile to the economy and jobs, issues still clearly at the forefront of the public’s concerns.
In addition to his appearance at Manor New Technology High School, Obama scheduled a tour of an Applied Materials Inc. plant. The company provides equipment, services and software to the semiconductor, flat panel display and solar power industries.
By traveling to Texas to begin this renewed attention to his jobs initiatives Obama chose a state represented by two of the most conservative Republican members of the Senate — John Cornyn and tea party hero Ted Cruz. Texas also has the second-highest Hispanic population in the country, an attractive demographic group for Democrats and a key audience for Obama as he also pushes for an overhaul of immigration laws.
The emphasis on jobs and on the needs of the middle class comes amid signs that the economy is continuing to recover, that the private sector is hiring and that the stock market is maintaining a record-setting pace. But Obama is not necessarily benefiting from those trends — behind the positive numbers are stagnant wages, reduced working hours and low-wage hiring. What’s more, with a 7.5 percent unemployment rate, nearly 12 million Americans are out of work.
“We’ve got to make sure that middle-class wages and incomes are also going up, because most families haven’t seen their take-home pay rise for years now,” he said.
Addressing persistent fiscal issues, including broad based budget cuts that the government is now confronting, he said: “Our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in years, but now we’ve got to budget in a smarter way so it doesn’t hurt middle-class families or prevent us from making the critical investments that we need for your future.”
The White House also used the trip as an opportunity to launch administrative initiatives to demonstrate continued action even as his bigger proposals find opposition in Congress.
Among the initiatives is a competition to create three new Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, partnerships among businesses, universities and government to help U.S.-based manufacturers and workers create good jobs.