And that means simplifying our corporate tax code in a way that closes wasteful loopholes and ends incentives to ship jobs overseas. And by broadening the base, we can actually lower rates to encourage more companies to hire here, and use some of the money we save to create good jobs rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our airports, and all the infrastructure our businesses need. It means streamlining regulations that are outdated or unnecessary or too costly.
So that’s step one towards restoring mobility: making sure our economy is growing faster. Step two is making sure we empower more Americans with the skills and education they need to compete in a highly competitive global economy.
We know that education is the most important predictor of income today, so we launched a Race to the Top in our schools. We’re supporting states that have raised standards for teaching and learning. We’re pushing for redesigned high schools that graduate more kids with the technical training and apprenticeships, and in-demand, high-tech skills, that can lead directly to a good job and a middle-class life.
We know it’s harder to find a job today without some higher education, so we’ve helped more students go to college with grants and loans that go farther than before. And today, more students are graduating from college than ever before.
But while higher education may be the surest path to the middle class, it’s not the only one. So we should offer our people the best technical education in the world. That’s why we’ve worked to connect local businesses with community colleges, so that workers young and old can [learn] the new skills that earn them more money.
We should be willing to look at fresh ideas to revamp unemployment and disability programs, to encourage faster and higher rates of re-employment. We shouldn’t weaken fundamental protections built over generations, because given the constant churn in today’s economy and the disabilities that many of our friends and neighbors live with, they’re needed more than ever. We should strengthen them and adapt them to new circumstances so they work even better.
Look, I’ve never believed that government can solve every problem or should — and neither do you. We know that ultimately our strength is grounded in our people — individuals out there, striving, working, making things happen. It depends on community, a rich and generous sense of community — that’s at the core of what happens at THEARC [a Washington community center] here every day. You understand that expanding opportunity requires parents taking responsibility for their kids, kids taking responsibility to work hard. It requires religious leaders who mobilize their congregations to rebuild neighborhoods block by block, requires civic organizations that can help train the unemployed, link them with businesses for the jobs of the future. We know that’s our strength — our people, our communities, our businesses.
If we refocus our energies on building an economy that grows for everybody, and gives every child in this country a fair chance at success, then I remain confident that the future still looks brighter than the past, and that the best days for this country we love are still ahead.
Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless America.
— Michael J. Petrilli is executive vice president at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and research fellow at the Hoover Institution.