Unemployment seems to be edging
down. But there are people who
are still hurting. What do we do for
the 50-plus group, dubbed “the
A: Well, first of all, that particular
segment of the workforce will benefit
if the unemployment rate generally comes down and the economy’s
growing. So the fact that over the last
two years we’ve created over 4 million
new jobs, the fact that manufacturing jobs are coming back in a way
we haven’t seen since the 1990s—all
that makes a difference. Because the
tighter the labor market, the more
employers are going to look outside
of the narrow, stereotypical target
that they want.
You’re absolutely right, though,
that when you lose your job in your
50s, it’s a lot tougher, because a lot of
employers say to themselves, “Well, I
might have to pay those people more.
I may have to retrain them. I may
not keep them as long. Their health
care costs may be higher.” So what
we’ve tried to do is to make sure that
retraining is linked to jobs that we
know are going to be in high demand.
Last week I was at Lorain County
Community College in Ohio. What
they’ve been able to do is to take
older workers who have a lot of skills
and training, but maybe for jobs
that no longer exist, and specifically
shape their training experience to an
industry or a job that is hiring now.
The other thing is that for workers
over 50 who’ve got a wealth of experience, some may want to start their
own business. And we’ve actually put
more financing through the Small
Q: But what would you say to a guy
like my brother, a small-business
owner who took out a second mortgage many years back, took a big
risk. Four kids, nobody was going to
BEACH BOYS Obama at age 2 in Hawaii
with “Gramps,” Stanley Dunham.
be there to bail him out if he failed.
Over the years he’s built a successful business with 300 employees.
But he feels now that he’s being
singled out as one of “the most
fortunate among us,” almost in a
negative way. He feels he should be
rewarded rather than taxed more.
A: What I would say to him, first of all,
is that I’ve cut taxes on small businesses 17 times since I’ve been in office.
Q: But he says that he doesn’t
really feel that.
A: Well, people don’t generally feel
tax cuts. They feel tax hikes. But the
tax burden on small businesses is
lower now than it was when I came
into office. It is true that if he’s a suc-
cessful CEO of a company with 300
employees, earning a really good
salary, the tax burden on those folks—
I’m one of them, by the way—is
actually lower than probably at any
time in 50 years. And all I’ve said with
respect to that $250,000-to-$1 million
group is, we can afford to go back to
the Clinton tax rates if we want to
close the deficit, which ultimately
will be good for his business.
Q: Your other wish was lower gas
prices. Fuel is America’s top export
now. If we have the supply, why are
prices still so high?
A: The biggest reason is that China
in 2010 bought [more than] 10 million cars. India is suddenly using a lot
more oil. All these emerging countries, as their standards of ;living rise,
suddenly want to use more oil. U.S.
oil production is higher than it’s been
in eight years. [But] you have a world
oil market, and even as we’re producing more, demand is going up faster
than supply. So we can’t just drill our
way out of the problem.
Q: Is the Keystone XL pipeline
more about jobs than oil?
A: Canada has what are called tar
sands. It’s an expensive way of extracting oil, but they’re producing a
lot of it now. And they want to build
a pipeline to pump from Canada to
the Gulf of Mexico, where they can
then export that oil all around the
world. It’s not going to make a dent in
gas prices here in the United States.
Ultimately, the way we free ourselves
from this annual spike in gas prices is
to diversify our energy to solar, wind,