President Barack Obama

Obama Takes New Shot at Unleashing Jobs Growth

Obama flew to Texas to highlight school and industry programs seen as a model method of firming up sluggish growth and taking aim at unemployment, which remains at 7.5% more than four years into his presidency.

MANOR, Texas – U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday launched yet another effort to pressure Congress to act on his plans to invest in education and innovation to create a new generation of high-paying jobs.

Obama flew to Texas to highlight school and industry programs seen as a model method of firming up sluggish growth and taking aim at unemployment, which remains at 7.5% more than four years into his presidency.

He argued that his policies had cleared away the "rubble" of the worst economic crisis in decades, and that house prices, corporate profits, stock markets and energy production were rising while manufacturing was thriving.

However, though the American economy was "poised for progress," more needed to be done, Obama said in a speech that highlighted his frustration at getting his investment plans past Republican lawmakers dedicated to slashing budgets.

"We have got to make sure middle-class wages and incomes are also going up. Most families haven't seen their take home pay rise for years now," Obama said at Manor New Technology High School, close to Austin.

"Sometimes I am going to need constituents to press their members of Congress to just go ahead and do the right thing," he said, accusing Republicans of stalling his plans for innovation and investment in Congress.

Aides said Thursday's trip was the first of a number of visits designed to position Obama, as he begins his second term, as fighting for the middle class and as a patron of cutting-edge U.S. industries.

"Our country cannot succeed unless our young people have the skills that they need to succeed," Obama said, after touring classrooms and pouring praise on robotic projects which won students top prizes on local competitions.

Calls for $1 Billion Investment in Innovation Institutes

In line with his State of the Union address, Obama also launched competitions for three new Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, which partner business, universities and government to build new manufacturing technologies.

He also called on Congress to back his plan for a $1 billion investment to create a network of 15 of the institutes across the country.

Freeing Government Data

Obama also signed an executive order requiring that troves of government data must be made freely available in open, machine-readable formats to entrepreneurs, researchers and other innovators.

One example of how government data can power innovation can be seen in the way various websites and smartphone applications use Global Positioning System information and weather information released by the US government.

Republicans however argued that Obama should learn from the success of locals, rather than trying to take his prescriptions, which they see as state interference in the free markets, to Texas.

"I hope the president will come to Texas ready to take a few notes and learn from one of the most successful states in the nation when it comes to job creation and economic growth," said Texas Senator John Cornyn.

"As the nation's economy continues to remain stagnant, I hope he'll see the power low taxes, reasonable regulations, and a business-friendly environment have in driving a Texas economy that continues to grow and put people to work."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013

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