America has been through big changes before -- wars and depression, the influx of new immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, movements to expand civil rights.
Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change; who promised to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. And because we did -- because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril -- we emerged stronger and better than before. What was true then can be true now. Our unique strengths as a nation -- our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery, our diversity, our commitment to rule of law -- these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.
But such progress is not inevitable.
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And we face such choices right now. Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, in what we stand for, in the incredible things that we can do together?
First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy? Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us -- especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?
Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman? Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact: The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world. Our auto industry just had its best year ever. That's just part of a manufacturing surge that's created nearly , new jobs in the past six years. Now, what is true -- and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious -- is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit; changes that have not let up.
Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and they face tougher competition. As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise. Companies have less loyalty to their communities. And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top. All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing. And although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot.
For the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works also better for everybody. But we need to make more. We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job. In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all and -- applause -- offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one. We should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.
And we have to make college affordable for every American. No hardworking student should be stuck in the red. And that's good. It's the right thing to do. We also need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security. For everyone else, especially folks in their 40s and 50s, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher.
Americans understand that at some point in their careers, in this new economy, they may have to retool and they may have to retrain. And for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today. That, by the way, is what the Affordable Care Act is all about.
Nearly 18 million people have gained coverage so far. And in the process, health care inflation has slowed. And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law. A little applause right there. Just a guess. But there should be other ways parties can work together to improve economic security.
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I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling poverty. America is about giving everybody willing to work a chance, a hand up. But there are some areas where we just have to be honest -- it has been difficult to find agreement over the last seven years. And it's an honest disagreement, and the American people have a choice to make.
I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy. I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed. There is red tape that needs to be cut. There you go! Middle-class families are not going to feel more secure because we allowed attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered.
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Food Stamp recipients did not cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did. The point is, I believe that in this new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less. The rules should work for them.follow url
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And I'm not alone in this. And I want to spread those best practices across America. That's part of a brighter future. In fact, it turns out many of our best corporate citizens are also our most creative.
George W. Bush
And this brings me to the second big question we as a country have to answer: How do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges? We built a space program almost overnight. And 12 years later, we were walking on the moon. Now, that spirit of discovery is in our DNA. America is every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley, racing to shape a better world. That's who we are. But we can do so much more. Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Medical research is critical. We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources.
Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. Listen, seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history. Here are the results.
In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal -- in jobs that pay better than average. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future -- especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels.
We do them no favor when we don't show them where the trends are going. And that way, we put money back into those communities, and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.