Ritchie Coliseum University of Maryland College Park, Maryland
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Maryland! (Applause.) Hello! Nice to see you. Thank you so much. (Applause.) Everybody, please have a seat. I see some smart folks up there wore shorts. (Laughter.) My team said I should not wear shorts. (Laughter.) My legs aren't good enough to wear shorts.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I'll tell Michelle you said so. (Laughter.)
It is wonderful to be back in Maryland. (Applause.) I hope everybody is keeping cool, staying hydrated. It is great to be back here in College Park.
I have a few acknowledgments that I want to make, some special guests that we have. First of all, one of the best governors in the country, Martin O'Malley is in the house. (Applause.) Where's Martin? He was here. There he is over there. (Applause.) By the way, for those of you who have not heard him, outstanding singer and rock-and-roller. So if you ever want to catch his band, it is top-notch.
Also, one of the best senators in the country, Ben Cardin is in the house. (Applause.) We've got College Park Mayor Andrew Fellows is here. (Applause.) Former congressman, Frank Kratovil, is here. (Applause.) You wouldn't know it looking at him, but Frank is an outstanding basketball player. (Laughter.) The Terps might be able to use him even at this age. (Laughter.) He is a point guard, got all kinds of moves. (Laughter.)
And I want to thank your still quasi-new president here at Maryland, Wallace Lob, for the outstanding work that he's doing. (Applause.)
So this is a town hall. I want to spend some time answering some of your questions, but just want to say a few things at the top. First of all, I have to say it's nice to get out of Washington. (Laughter.) Don't get me wrong -- there's nothing I enjoy more than sitting, hour after hour, day after day -- (laughter) -- debating the fine points of the federal budget with members of Congress. (Laughter.) But after a while you just start feeling a little cooped up. So I'm happy to be spending my morning with you.
I'm going to spend most of my time answering your questions, but let me say a few words about the debate that's taking place right now in Washington about debt and deficits. Obviously, it's dominating the news. Even though it's taking place in Washington, this is actually a debate about you and everybody else in America and the choices that we face.
And most people here, whether you're still a student or you're a graduate or you're a parent, your number one concern is the economy. That's my number one concern. It's the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning. It's the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night. And I won't be satisfied until every American who wants a job can find one, and until workers are getting paychecks that actually pay the bills, until families don't have to choose between buying groceries and buying medicine, between sending their kids to college and being able to retire in some dignity and some respect. (Applause.)
So we have gone through a very difficult two and a half years -- the worst financial crisis and the worst recession we've seen since the Great Depression. And although some progress has been made, there's no doubt that this economy has not recovered as fast as it needs to. And the truth is, it's going to take more time because a lot of the problems that we're facing right now -- slow job growth, stagnant wages -- those were there even before the recession hit.
For a decade, the average income, the average income of the American worker had flat-lined. Those at the very top saw their incomes going up 50 percent, 100 percent. But those in the middle, the vast majority of Americans, they had been struggling to keep up before the recession hit.
And so these challenges weren't caused overnight; they're not going to be solved overnight. But as John F. Kennedy once said, "Our problems are manmade, therefore they can be solved by man."
In the United States, we control our own destiny. The question we have to answer, though, is: Where do we want to go? What's our vision for the future, and how do we get there? Now, in the short term, I've been urging Congress to pass some proposals that would give the economy an immediate boost. And these are proposals, by the way, that traditionally have had support in both parties.
I want to extend the tax relief that we put in place back in December for middle-class families, so that you have more money in your paychecks next year. If you've got more money in your paychecks next year, you're more likely to spend it, and that means small businesses and medium-sized businesses and large businesses will have more customers. And they'll be in a position to hire.
I want to give more opportunities to all those construction workers out there who lost their jobs when the housing bubble went bust. We can put them to work, giving loans to private companies that want to repair our roads and our bridges and our airports -- rebuilding our infrastructure, putting Americans to work doing the work that needs to be done. We have workers in need of a job and a country that's in need of rebuilding, and if we put those two things together we can make real progress.