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President Obama's economic speech at Georgetown

(Page 6 of 9)



It is simply not sustainable to have a 21st century financial system that is governed by 20th century rules and regulations that allowed the recklessness of a few to threaten the entire economy.  It is not sustainable to have an economy where in one year, 40% of our corporate profits came from a financial sector that was based too much on inflated home prices, maxed out credit cards, overleveraged banks and overvalued assets; or an economy where the incomes of the top 1% have skyrocketed while the typical working household has seen their income decline by nearly $2,000.

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For even as too many were chasing ever-bigger bonuses and short-term profits over the last decade, we continued to neglect the long-term threats to our prosperity:  the crushing burden that the rising cost of health care is placing on families and businesses; the failure of our education system to prepare our workers for a new age; the progress that other nations are making on clean energy industries and technologies while we remain addicted to foreign oil; the growing debt that we’re passing on to our children.  And even after we emerge from the current recession, these challenges will still represent major obstacles that stand in the way of our success in the 21st century.

There is a parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that tells the story of two men.  The first built his house on a pile of sand, and it was destroyed as soon as the storm hit.  But the second is known as the wise man, for when “…the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house…it fell not:  for it was founded upon a rock.”

We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand.  We must build our house upon a rock.  We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity – a foundation that will move us from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest; where we consume less at home and send more exports abroad.

It’s a foundation built upon five pillars that will grow our economy and make this new century another American century:  new rules for Wall Street that will reward drive and innovation; new investments in education that will make our workforce more skilled and competitive; new investments in renewable energy and technology that will create new jobs and industries; new investments in health care that will cut costs for families and businesses; and new savings in our federal budget that will bring down the debt for future generations.  That is the new foundation we must build.  That must be our future – and my Administration’s policies are designed to achieve that future.
The first step we will take to build this foundation is to reform the outdated rules and regulations that allowed this crisis to happen in the first place.  It is time to lay down tough new rules of the road for Wall Street to ensure that we never find ourselves here again. Rules that punish short-cuts and abuse.  Rules that tie someone’s pay to their actual job performance.  Rules that protect typical American families when they buy a home, get a credit card or invest in a 401k.  We have already begun to work with Congress to shape this new regulatory framework – and I expect a bill to arrive on my desk for signature before the year is out.

The second pillar of this new foundation is an education system that finally prepares our workers for a 21st century economy.  In the 20th century, the GI Bill sent a generation to college, and for decades, we led the world in education and economic growth.  But in this new economy, we trail the world’s leaders in graduation rates and achievement.  That is why we have set a goal that will greatly enhance our ability to compete for the high-wage, high-tech jobs of the 21st century:  by 2020, America will once more have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

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