Obama: Education A Key To Economic Rebound
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
As his nominee testified, President Obama was out of town. In Michigan, he made a pitch for his economic program. In St. Louis, he threw an actual pitch. Here's our temporary sports correspondent, Mara Liasson.
Unidentified Man: Please welcome the president of the United States of America.
(Soundbite of cheering)
MARA LIASSON: At Busch Stadium in St. Louis, President Obama engaged in one of the riskiest public rituals for a commander-in-chief: throwing out the first pitch.
Unidentified Man: The 44th president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, throwing to Albert Pujols.
LIASSON: In this case it was low and slow, but it did not land in the dirt, thanks to all-star Pujols, who snagged the presidential pitch in front of the plate. The president hosted baseball legend Willie Mays on Air Force One, and shook hands with Hall of Famer Stan Musial.
The all-star scene was far more pleasant than the one Mr. Obama encountered earlier at Macomb Community College near Detroit. Michigan's recession started earlier than elsewhere, and its unemployment rate of 14.1 percent is the nation's worst. And as the president said, the hard truth is that a lot of those manufacturing jobs are not coming back.
President BARACK OBAMA: They're the casualties of a changing economy. In some cases, just increased productivity in the plants themselves means that some jobs aren't going to return. And that only underscores the importance of generating new businesses and new industries to replace the ones that we've lost, and of preparing our workers to fill the jobs they create.
LIASSON: The president offered a $12 billion national investment in community colleges to prepare workers for the jobs of the future in fields like health care and information technology.
Pres. OBAMA: In the coming years, jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience. We will not fill those jobs, or even keep those jobs here in America, without the training offered by community colleges.
LIASSON: In Michigan, the president acknowledged that back in Washington, Congress was moving forward on his top legislative priority. Yesterday, the House of Representatives unveiled its $1.5 trillion health-care bill. It would pay for expanded coverage by cutting Medicare payments to providers, and raising taxes on people earning more than $280,000 a year.
Pres. OBAMA: And there's going to be a major debate over the next three weeks. And don't be fooled by folks trying to scare you, saying we can't change the health-care system. We have no choice but to change the health-care system because right now, it's broken for too many Americans.
LIASSON: A series of new polls show people want universal health coverage, but they're worried about adding to the federal deficit. And that's why President Obama continues to describe his health-care overhaul as the way to bring down the deficit over the long term, even if it increases the deficit in the medium term.
Pres. OBAMA: We're going to have to make tough choices necessary to bring down deficits. But don't let folks fool you. The best way to start bringing down deficits is to get control of our health-care costs, which is why we need reform.
LIASSON: One new poll shows why the health-care debate is so difficult. A USA Today/Gallup survey shows that even though Americans want health-care reform, they want someone else to pay for the cost of expanding coverage, and they're overwhelmingly opposed to limits on medical procedures that they or their doctor consider necessary.
Mara Liasson, NPR News.
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