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Thursday, May 23
The Indiana Daily Student

Obama visits southern Ind. steel plant

President Obama addressed workers at Millennium Steel in Princeton, Ind., on Friday to discuss the state of the economy during his presidency.

The hour-long speech and question-and-answer session came after a speech delivered at Northwestern University on Thursday, where he discussed the progress of the nation since the Great Recession.

With the sleeves of his collared shirt rolled up, the president discussed the growth of the economy, job gains and health care cost improvements since the Affordable Care Act’s enactment, a platform similar to that of his 2008 campaign.

“For a long time, it was China,” Obama said about business executives’ views on where to place money. “Today, they say the No. 1 place to invest is right here in the United States of America.”

The largest economic policy the president laid forward was his push for a raise in the minimum wage. 

Many of the crowd’s questions regarded how minimum wage would affect workers, how companies can afford health care for their employees and how to diversify rural economies from depending on agriculture.

Obama urged for the minimum wage to be raised to $10.10 an hour, something he said would be one of the top factors in helping the economy grow. Indiana’s minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour.

While he recognized that business may have a difficult time finding the means to pay employees such a wage, competitive wages would foster competition between employers for workers.

“We have to, number one, make sure people have work, and number two, make sure those people are paid well,” he said.

He also urged for investment in manufacturing jobs, such as fixing national infrastructure and investing in community colleges to assist in workers’ education, as well as early childhood education.

Millennium Steel is a partner with Toyota’s manufacturers. It is a minority-owned business run by Henry Jackson.

The plant was recently ranked by Black Enterprise Magazine as one of the largest minority-owned businesses in the nation.

The president also launched a new competition earlier in the day Friday to invest more than $200 million to create an Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Institute. Photonics is the use of light to transmit information.

The address was scheduled on National Manufacturing Day, an event created three years ago to honor manufacturing workers, as well as showcase the manufacturing opportunities for the youth, the president said.

Obama has not been to Indiana since 2011. 

His most notable visit to Indiana was in 2009 to visit Elkhart, Ind., to discuss the high unemployment rate. Elkhart, at that time, had an unemployment rate of approximately 15 percent, the highest in the nation.

Obama’s speech came on the same day that the national job and unemployment rates were released. 

Approximately 248,000 jobs were added last month nationwide, and the unemployment rate dipped to 5.9 percent.

Obama has used this economic policy talk tour to shift away from the overseas events that have dominated national conversation recently.

This event comes one month before the midterm elections Nov. 4.

Gov. Mike Pence greeted the president at the Evansville airport Friday afternoon. Pence sent Obama a letter earlier this week requesting a meeting to discuss the Healthy Indiana Plan.

Obama’s trips to Northwestern University and Princeton, Ind., come as part of a conversational shift prior to the midterm elections. 

All 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be decided on by voters Nov. 4.

Obama discussed new legislation he would like to see put in front of Congress regarding minimum wage and equal pay, though he blamed the current Congressional stalemate as to why many of the pieces might not pass.

“The only thing that’s holding us up is politics,” Obama said.

Last month, the House of Representatives passed the Jobs for America Act, a Republican-written bill composed of many other economic proposals made by members of Congress, including a bill sponsored by Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., repealing the Affordable Care Act definition of 30 hours of work being full time.

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