Barack Obama photo

Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Fundraiser in San Francisco, California

October 10, 2014

The President. Hello, San Francisco! Thank you. Thank you. It is good to——

Audience members. Obama! Obama! Obama!

The President. Thank you. Thank you so much. All right, that's it. Enough. It is, as usual, a rowdy San Francisco crowd.

A couple of acknowledgments I want to make: first of all, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, in the house; Congresswoman Barbara Lee, in the house—no relation, by the way. [Laughter] Except, they're both very powerful advocates for the good people of this area. And can we all say a big thanks to Maxwell for performing tonight? He came to perform at the White House——

Audience member. [Inaudible]

The President. What are you saying? [Laughter] Oh, yes. [Laughter] He's a good-looking guy, I understand. He can sing, I know.

It is wonderful to be here. Let me just talk a little bit about the context that we find ourselves in. Now, obviously, the news lately has been dominated by what's taking place overseas. And a lot of the news has been scary to people and understandably so.

We have ISIL emerging out of the chaos in Syria and Iraq. We have Ebola in West Africa. We have Russian aggression in Ukraine. And what ties these things together is the fact that on each and every one of these issues—whether it's mobilizing the world to push back ISIL and go against violent extremism; whether it is responding robustly to help the people of Liberia and Guinea and Sierra Leone, but also the entire world, deal with this heartbreaking epidemic; when it comes to mobilizing world opinion and sanctions to blunt Russian aggression against Ukraine—at the center of it, leading it, is the United States of America.

When problems happen around the world, they call us. And the reason is not just because we have greater capacity, but it's also because of our values and our vision and the principles that we abide by and our willingness to extend ourselves, even when something is not directly affecting us right now. We understand that it's in our interest over the long term to make sure that we've got a world that's more just and more compassionate and more prosperous and where children have opportunity.

Now, that kind of leadership depends on us also showing leadership here at home. And the good news is, is that over the last 6 years, we have been able to make real, genuine, documentable progress in the wake of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The economy was contracting faster than any time in our lifetimes. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month. And because we had a Democratic Congress that was willing to act—even when it wasn't politically convenient, cooperating with our White House—we were able to make sure that from 10 percent unemployment we went down now to 5.9, that we were able to create over 10 million jobs over the last 55 months, the longest stretch of uninterrupted private-sector job growth in our history. We've been able to do it while cutting our deficits by more than half. We've been able to do it while also providing over 10 million people health care who didn't have it before and making sure, even as we provided more health care to more people, that we also did it smarter so that health care inflation has started to come down. And now individual families and businesses are paying less than they otherwise would have for their health care, and the Federal Government is saving billions of dollars in the process.

We've increased our energy production. We've doubled our clean energy production. Solar power increased by 10 times, wind power by 3 times. Doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. And as a result, not only are consumers saving money in their pockets, but we've also reduced our carbon emissions more than any other advanced nation.

We've reduced the dropout rate. We've increased college attendance rates. Math scores are up. Reading scores are up. We're revamping our job training program so that people are able to train for the jobs that are actually out there. We've reoriented how we think about the challenge of drugs in our society so that, for the first time in 40 years, we've actually been able to reduce the prison population and the crime rate at the same time.

There's almost no economic measure by which we're not doing better than we were 6 years ago. But here's the challenge: People are still feeling anxious; people are still worried. And the reason is not because the economy is not growing. The reason is not because unemployment has stayed static. It's gone down. The reason is not because deficits have skyrocketed as some have predicted. We've actually brought them to a point where they're manageable. The reason that people are feeling anxious is because for about 20, 30 years now, the trend has been that gains in the economy go to folks at the very top. And ordinary folks, the middle class, people working to get into the middle class—their income and wages have not gone up.

So as I travel across the country, people will say: You know what, yes, my house has recovered some of its value, and I'm not as scared about being laid off, but at the end of the month it's still hard paying the bills, and I'm still worried about saving for retirement, and it's still hard for me to even figure out how I'm going to help my child go to college. And if you're a young person right now, you're worried about student loan debt.

And so as a consequence, even though the economy is getting better and stronger, people don't always feel it in their own lives. Now, some of these are long-term trends: globalization, technology. But some of it is that we're not taking the steps that would grow the economy even faster and give workers a stronger position to be able to get wages that are higher and incomes that are higher and more stability and security in their lives.

And the reason we haven't pursued that policy is not because I haven't proposed them. It's not because I haven't fought for them. It's because we don't have a Congress right now that is willing to move to them forward. So we know that if we increased the minimum wage, which hasn't gone up in 7 years, that would help 28 million people. And we know that we should not have a society in which if you work full time, you're raising a family in poverty. But that's what's going on right now.

We know that if we strengthen our fair pay law so that women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same job, that that won't be just good for those families, it will be good for everybody. Because we can't have half our population suffering from inequalities that don't make any sense, that are outdated, that belong back in the fifties, not in 2014. We know if we rebuild our infrastructure—not just our roads and our bridges, but a smart grid to save energy and a new air traffic control system and new airports and high-speed rail—that doesn't just put folks with hardhats back to work, it benefits the entire economy, with ripple effects that mean more hiring and mean more opportunities.

We know that if we invest in early childhood education, every dollar we invest, we get $7 back because more kids graduate, fewer kids go to jail. We know it pays off in the long term.

And all these ideas historically have not been partisan ideas. And yet we've got a House of Representatives, in particular, and a small faction within the other party that simply says no to every single step that could be taken to help working families.

Q. Yes, sir!

The President. All right, so I got a lot—"amens." I got a lot of "yes, sirs." [Applause] But the question now is, what are we going to do about it? I heard when I mentioned the other party—I heard a few boos. And I always say, don't boo. Vote. Vote!

The fact is that our vision is shared by the majority of Americans. The majority of Americans believe in raising the minimum wage. A majority of Americans believe in investing in early childhood education. A majority of Americans think we should rebuild our infrastructure. A majority of Americans think we should be investing in the research and technology and innovation that's always been the hallmark of the American economy. A majority of Americans believe in equal pay for equal work. So on the issues, the public is on our side.

But there's a congenital problem that we have as Democrats. And that is, in non-Presidential elections, in midterm elections, we don't vote. We don't vote. So my main argument today is that it's nice that you all came here to hear Maxwell—[laughter]—or look at Maxwell. It's nice that some of you took a picture with me. I'm glad to do it. But the main thing that I need right now is votes. We've got to mobilize. We've got to organize: We've got to knock on doors, we've got to make phone calls. If our people vote, if our—if young people vote, if women vote, if people of color vote, if people who care about the environment vote, if people who care about LGBT rights vote, that's a majority. That's a majority.

So the issue now is for us to have enjoyed this event, but recognize, over the next several weeks, we're going to have to fight harder. We're going to have to work harder. We've got to feel the same sense of urgency as we do during Presidential elections. If we do that, then we're going to keep the Senate Democratic. If we do that, we can make progress in the House. If we do that, issues like immigration reform that we know are going to be good for this Nation, we can finally move forward on.

We live in cynical times, and Washington feeds that cynicism. But I always tell people: Cynicism didn't put a man on the Moon; cynicism never cured a disease; cynicism never built a business. Cynicism is a choice. Hope is a better choice.

When I started on this journey with many of you, we talked about hope. And my hope has not wavered. My hope is based on all the American people I've met around this country during these many years that I've been campaigning. And I know the core decency of the American people. They want to do the right thing. They don't think of themselves as Democrats or Republicans first: They think of themselves as Americans. And they're hoping for that same kind of leadership in Washington. And if that decency is reflected in organizing and mobilizing and effort and a sense of purpose, then there's going to be a bright future not just for this generation, but for generations to come.

Thank you, everybody. God bless you. Love you. Let's get to work!

NOTE: The President spoke at 7:16 p.m. at the W San Francisco Hotel. Audio was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

Barack Obama, Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Fundraiser in San Francisco, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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