What gives strength to the fabric of American society? Jobs do, that's what, and that was the message delivered by Barack Obama to an audience at the Palm Beach Community College Lake Worth Campus here Tuesday.
Appearing with the governors of Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and New Mexico and the CEO of Google, Obama's "Jobs Summit" played to an audience hammered by the Florida economy's slump in housing and jobs creation.
"There have been 750,000 jobs lost so far this year and 7,000 jobs lost here in Florida in September alone," said Obama to a crowd that clearly was hearing his message of creating good, well-paying jobs with green technology and the movement to be energy independent.
The $10 billion the government spends each month in the war in Iraq would be better spent right here at home, he said, on infrastructure like roads, bridges and redeploying abandoned factories into making solar panels and manufacturing long-life batteries for electric cars, as an example.
The Democratic governors of four battleground states echoed and supported Obama's message of remaking America's approach to manufacturing and service jobs that pay a decent wage and provide a high standard of health care for working families. Michigan's Jennifer Granholm's state has bled jobs in the auto sector, New Mexico's Bill Richardson understands the energy imperative as President Clinton's former Energy Secretary and Colorado's Bill Ritter stressed how his government has lead initiatives in alternative energy innovation.
Ted Strickland of Ohio spoke eloquently of his state's recession. All saw hope in turning things around by having "a partner in the White House." Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt represented the Silicon Valley's contribution to growing smart jobs that pay well, while former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker spoke of common sense spending and regulation. A local successful businesswoman, Victoria Villalba, president and owner of Victoria and Associates Career Services, a Miami-based staffing and recruitment company spoke of the challenges faced by small businesses in a downsizing market. She said she pays 100% of here employees health care costs (and the audience applauded that) but feared that rising costs might not allow her to keep doing so.
Obama said that investment in preventive healthcare would reduce the higher costs of chronic health problems left untreated later on. Some 21 states are facing a budget shortfall and some may need to borrow from the Federal government just to continue paying unemployment insurance to their citizens who are out of work.
"The warning signs (of an economic meltdown) were clear," said Obama. "But President Bush has moved to help Wall Street but not Main Street." Obama said, reminding that nine months ago he called for a stimulus package. "These governors here know what the policies of the last eight years have done to their states, towns and cities. We've seen where the policies of the last eight years have taken us. It's time for something new."
Obama said he was confident the country could do these things because he believes in America and American workers.
Obama then left for an appearance with his wife Michelle at Bicentennial Park in Miami. His campaign announced yesterday that he'd leave for Hawaii on Thursday to be with his ailing grandmother. But his swing through Florida (together with Hillary Clinton, with whom he made an appearance yesterday in Orlando) and tomorrow's in Gainesville may signal his last stops in the Sunshine state before election day.