President Obama flew into the Asheville Regional Airport on Monday for his first stop on a three-day tour of North Carolina and Virginia to promote the American Jobs Act, which he believes will get America back on track during a time when most citizens can't afford to wait.
After Air Force One landed, President Obama was greeted by Asheville Mayor, Terry Bellamy and North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan. “President Obama's visits helps the economic development opportunities in our community,” said Mayor Bellamy. “We saw an increase in the number of people in restaurants and the downtown area. In the past, because of his visits, more people have come to Asheville which has helped small businesses related to tourism.”
Citizens from all over Western North Carolina attended the event to hear President Obama's remarks on the Jobs Acts. “Watching Air Force One land on the tarmac today was a breathtaking once in a lifetime experience,” said Parker Sloan, Chair for the Young Democrats of Buncombe County. “I really think we have a President who represents all of the USA with dignity and class and it should also be obvious he has a special place in his heart for WNC.”
“It is wonderful to be back in one of my favorite parts of the country,” said President Obama of his visit to Asheville.
President Obama's visit was centered around rallying public support to pressure U.S. lawmakers to pass at least parts of his $447 billion jobs package, which in its entirety, was blocked from entering the Senate last week for debate, with 100 percent (47) of republicans voting against it. “I enjoyed his speech, not just the Asheville centric portions, but I thought it is exactly what our President should be focusing on regardless of the economic times,” said Sloan. “Working to keep teachers in the classroom, roads and bridges constructed, and larger projects like dams and power plants is a message that should resonate with all North Carolinians. Furthermore, it's a message that should resonate with the older generations of WNC who saw the effects of the WPA, the Parkway construction, and the jobs created from the Fontana Dam construction.”
Justin Conley, a Franklin native and Rural Caucus Chair for the Young Democrats of North Carolina, traveled to Asheville to hear the President's speech, and was pleased with what he heard. “These are steps that will put Americans back to work RIGHT NOW. We’ve all seen what the extremist Republican agenda is doing in Raleigh; these aren’t your grandfather’s republicans.”
The President's job bill aims to put the American people back to work, and at no expense to the general public. According to President Obama, “Here in North Carolina, you’ve got thousands of construction workers who lost their jobs when the housing bubble burst. Some of those construction workers are here today. They’ve got experience. They’ve got skills. All they want is to be back on the job site doing what they do best,” noted President Obama. “Keep in mind -- keep in mind, Asheville, this is the kind of bill containing the kinds of proposals that in the past have received support from Democrats and Republicans. It’s completely paid for -- by asking our wealthiest citizens, folks making more than a million dollars a year, to pay their fair share.”
During his speech, President Obama included himself in the group of people who he thought needed to be fairly taxed to help support the job act. “The American Jobs Act will help keep teachers in the classroom and out of unemployment lines. It’s also entirely paid for by a 0.5 percent surtax on millionaires, “ said Conley. “I believe the priorities of everyday people agree with this idea; it’s simply a way to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working.”
Before Congress voted against letting the jobs bill into the Senate for discussion, a letter was drafted and sent on October 11 from the White House to Congressional Leadership, including U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. It was signed by 16 Democratic governors, including North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue. “As governors, we believe that all of the difficult decisions we have to make as a country, our top priority must remain job creation, always,” reads the letter. “We therefore urge swift consideration of the American Jobs Act, which draws upon many ideas that governors—Democratic and Republican alike—are putting into action in the states.”
Although the jobs bill failed to enter the Senate for debate, the President's bus tour was intended to inform Americans of his administration's persistence. The next step for the bill is to break it down into individual sections to allow Congress to vote on each element separately. “We're going to give members of Congress another chance to step up to the plate and do the right thing,” President Obama told a cheering crowd. “Maybe they just couldn't understand the whole all at once. So we're going to break it up into bite-size pieces so they can take a thoughtful approach to this legislation.”
President Obama informed citizens that in a recently conducted poll, 63 percent of Americans said they were in favor of the American Jobs Act, which according to the President, show that the 100 percent of republicans who voted against the bill were ignoring the opinions of the very people who voted them into office. “Currently our country subsidizes oil companies and banks; meaning the same businesses touting record profits are being funded by our tax-dollars,” said Conley of the need for bipartisan support on the bill. “When does an oil tycoon need government help more than a teacher, police officer, firefighter, or construction worker? The American Jobs Act is common-sense and should be bipartisan.”
According to the President, independent economists who have reviewed the American Jobs Acts estimate that his bill will create nearly two million jobs throughout the United States, including 13,000 teaching jobs in North Carolina alone. “But apparently none of this matters to the Republicans in the Senate, because last week they got together to block this bill,” noted The President. “Essentially, they said no to you because it turns out, one poll found that 63 percent of Americans support the ideas in this jobs bill.”
Senator Hagan voted in support of the President's job bill because of the critical need for a change within the state and because it would move the country in the “right direction”. “There are more than 450,000 North Carolinians and over 14 million Americans out of work. These people don't need more of the status quo partisan bickering; they need action on jobs and our economy now. Job creation is my number one, number two and number three priority,” said Hagan in a previously released statement on the jobs act.
One specific aspect of the jobs bill Hagan pushed for, was the legislation which proposed incentives for businesses who hire unemployed veterans. Hagan previously encouraged similar legislation in her 'Hire a Hero' bill. “These men and women have sacrificed so much to protect our country, and we owe it to them to help provide a seamless transition into civilian life,” said Hagan. “As I have always said, I will support any effort that is good for North Carolina and will create an economic climate that allows business owners to expand their companies and hire more North Carolinians. The American Jobs Act fits the bill, and I am proud to support it.”
While speaking in Asheville, President Obama informed citizens that after his bill was defeated in the Senate, Republicans announced their own job plan. “Now, it turns out that the Republicans have a plan, too. I want to be fair. They call, they put forward this plan last week, they called it the 'Real American Jobs Act.' The "real one," that’s what they called it -- just in case you were wondering,” noted the President. “It turns out the Republican plan boils down to a few basic ideas: They want to gut regulations; they want to let Wall Street do whatever it wants. They want to drill more, and they want to repeal health care reform.”
According to President Obama, the same independent economists that reported his job plan would create jobs, also reported that the GOP's plan would ultimately lose jobs and not help the economy in the short term. “All right so, so far at least, I feel better about my plan, but let’s admit I’m a little biased,” he said.
At one point during his speech the crowd began chanting, “Four more years!,” to which President Obama expressed his appreciation for the continued support, but quickly added that his visit to North Carolina was not about the 2012 election, because there was too much that needs to be done right now. “Look, I appreciate the “four more years,” but right now I’m thinking about the next 13 months,” he said. “Because, yes, we’ve got an election coming up, but that election is a long ways away, and a lot of folks can’t wait. A lot of folks are living paycheck to paycheck. A lot of folks are living week to week. You’ve got kids right now who’ve lost their teachers because at the local level you ended up having layoffs. You’ve got bridges right now that are crumbling and deteriorating. So we don’t have time to wait. And we’ve got a choice right now—right now.”
The President explained that despite the disagreement in Washington about the job act, he is still willing to work with Republicans to create jobs that are desperately needed in the country. President Obama's perseverance and dedication to all citizens despite political affiliation inspired several who watched him speak in Asheville. “After meeting the President, today I am more proud to be an Ashevillian and Western North Carolinian and tomorrow, I hope to become a more active community leader,” said Sloan.
After leaving Asheville, President Obama stopped in Boone to buy candy from Mast General Store before continuing to West Wilkes High School in Millers Creek, North Carolina. On Tuesday, the President travelled to a technical community college in Jamestown, North Carolina, followed by a visit to a high school in Emporia, Virginia.