Obama Hosts Cyber Town Hall

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that. Let me talk more, first of all, broadly about what’s happening in the job market. We have had just a massive loss of jobs over the last several months, the kind of job loss we haven’t seen at least since the early ’80s and maybe since the 1930s, in terms of how quickly we’ve seen the economy shed jobs.

A lot of that is prompted by the financial crisis and the locking up of the credit markets. And that’s why when we are — when we talk about dealing with this credit crisis and the banks, I just want everybody to understand it’s not because we’re overly concerned about Wall Street or a bunch of CEOs; it’s because if we don’t fix credit, if we don’t get liquidity back to small businesses and large businesses alike who can have that — use that line of credit to buy inventory and to make products and sell services, then those businesses shrivel up and they start laying people off.

Ultimately, our measure of whether we’re doing a good job or not is, are we going to be able to create and save jobs? And part of that involves fixing the financial system.

There is a long-term issue, though, that we have to deal with — and this was true even before the current crisis — and that is that so much of our economic activity was in the financial services sector. It was related to an overheated housing market. It was dependent on huge amounts of consumer saving. And we were seeing those steady declines in manufacturing. We were seeing steady declines in a lot of other productive sectors of the economy. And one of the things that my budget is designed to do is, by fixing our education system, by reducing costs of health care, by going after the clean-energy jobs of the future, trying to put our economy on a more solid footing.

Now, a lot of the outsourcing that was referred to in the question really has to do with the fact that our economy — if it’s dependent on low-wage, low-skill labor, it’s very hard to hang on to those jobs because there’s always a country out there that pays lower wages than the U.S. And so we’ve got to go after the high-skill, high-wage jobs of the future. That’s why it’s so important to train our folks more effectively and that’s why it’s so important for us to find new industries — building solar panels or wind turbines or the new biofuel — that involve these higher-value, higher-skill, higher-paying jobs.

So I guess the answer to the question is, not all of these jobs are going to come back. And it probably wouldn’t be good for our economy for a bunch of these jobs to come back because, frankly, there’s no way that people could be getting paid a living wage on some of these jobs — at least in order to be competitive in an international setting.

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