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Remarks by the Vice President at the Community College of Allegheny County - North Campus in North Fayette Township, Pennsylvania

April 16, 2014

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hi, everybody. Good to be back in Pennsylvania. That other guy is coming. (Laughter.) He's coming. He's coming.

Good to be with you and the President. And, you know, America -- what a lot of people -- you go around, you hear people talking down the economy. America is better positioned than any country in the world to lead the world in the 21st century. The rest of the country -- the rest of the world doesn't have, as they used to say up in Scranton, in my neighborhood, not a patch on our jeans, I tell you.

And when you ask companies why they're coming back -- and remember the President and I have been saying for the last five years American companies are coming back, coming back. There's an outfit up in Boston that surveys every year American manufacturing companies in China, and they say, what are your plans. This year 53 percent of the American companies in Japan -- I mean in China said they're either planning on coming back to the United States and set up manufacturing, or they're thinking about it -- investing, hiring here at home.

And that's because -- it's all because of you. America has the best-qualified workers in the world. Leo Gerard, he and I have been friends for a long time, and we got tired of hearing all this stuff about how American workers weren't as productive. Independent studies show American workers are three times as productive as workers in China. We want China to do well. We have the best workers in the world. We have the most innovative ideas in the world.

You've heard for a long time how throughout the world, and particularly in the Far East, they've educated X as many engineers as we have, three times, four times -- but guess what. There's no products with their names on it. And they're coming home. I'm serious. So I've kind of had it up to hearing about American workers and American manufacturing. I've been sort of the -- for the last 10 years, as Senator Casey can tell you, I've been talking about there's not a reason in the world why we can't be the manufacturing capital of the world. None. Zero. None. (Applause.)

And look, we not only have the most creative workers, we have the best laws and protections. Your intellectual property gets protected here. You have a court system. If there's a disagreement, it's adjudicated -- adjudicated fairly. And now there's an energy boom. You all know about the Marcellus Shale -- I think you heard of that, right? (Applause.) There's an energy boom that's changed the paradigm of manufacturing. It's cheaper to manufacture in the United States than it is in Europe and/or in Asia.

But the economy is at a crossroads. Our economy is at a crossroads. It's not like other periods in our history. We face tremendous, tremendous opportunities. But we face challenges, as the President will speak to briefly, as a consequence of that god-awful, lingering recession that just brought us that close to a Depression. Our workers, though, are up to the task.

But the companies, the education system, every level of government, we need to rethink how we're helping move folks into these new opportunities. It's a different skill set that's going to be required, required now and over -- six out of 10 jobs in the next 10 years are going to require some certificate or degree beyond high school. That's why the President and I are here today.

The point is real simple: The backbone of this country is a strong and thriving middle class. That's not hyperbole. That's not because I'm a Scranton kid or everybody trying to make me Middle-Class Joe. It's true. It's been the backbone of America, the distinguishing feature of our economy over the last 150 years. And we're here to show how we can help more people find a path to good-paying jobs -- middle-class jobs in high-growth industries from information technology, energy, advanced manufacturing, health care. It's not just in manufacturing.

And let me define what I mean by middle class. Our economists in the administration will argue whether it's $51,450 or $52,500. Middle class is an idea. Middle class is an ideal. What's it's about is being able to own your home and not rent it. It's about being able to send your kid to a park you know they're going to be safe and come home safely. It's about being able to send them to a local public school and know if they do well, they can qualify for school after high school. (Applause.) And it's about being able to take care of your parents and hope to God you can plan enough so your kids will never have to take care of you. That's what it has always been about in Pennsylvania. (Applause.)

But the fact of the matter is so many people over the last two decades have fallen out of the middle class. You know a lot of them. You know a lot of people you grew up with, a lot of people you live with. And so many more generations need to find a path to the middle class. And that's what the President and I are committed to -- spending the rest of our time in office making sure that the aperture to the middle class is open, is wider, and there's real, decent, good-paying jobs.

Now, I'm proud to introduce a buddy of mine. That's not how you usually talk about the President, is it? (Laughter.) But he is. He's my good friend, but he's also my President, and I'm proud to serve with him.

And this is a guy who wakes up every morning -- this is not -- I spend a lot of hours a day with the President. Every single waking hour with him is about how can we make life -- this is real -- better for hardworking Americans -- hardworking Americans who are ready to do whatever it takes to provide for themselves and their families?

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce the President of the United States, Barack Obama. (Applause.)

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks by the Vice President at the Community College of Allegheny County - North Campus in North Fayette Township, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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