'Bring high-tech industry home,' Obama says in State of Union address

Obama made it clear that he intends to fight for and defend American jobs and products, by: providing incentives to businesses, especially high-tech firms, that bring jobs back to the United States; training returning troops and the unemployed to do the jobs of the future; supporting research and development programs that will catapult America to the forefront of technological innovation and clean-energy usage; and creating a Trade Enforcement Unit dedicated to investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China.

The latter was an obvious jab at America’s biggest trading partner, which is currently under investigation by the U.S. Commerce Department and the U.S. International Trade Committee following complaints by Hillsboro, Oregon-based SolarWorld Industries America LP and six other manufacturers of crystalline silicon solar cells and modules (now joined as The Coalition of American Solar Manufacturing) that Chinese companies received illegal financial backing from their government and sold solar panels below-cost in the U.S. market.

"It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized," said Obama.

In addition to fighting for fair trade, the president intends to bring more business back home. "We have a huge opportunity at this moment to bring manufacturing back. But we have to seize it. Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed."

Obama was especially eager to see technology companies, which he has identified as the sector that will bring back American innovation, reputation, and commerce leadership, make their headquarters in the United States and keep their workers on domestic soil.

"If you’re a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making products here," he stated. What’s more, he suggested that there should be penalties for sending jobs overseas. "If you’re a business that wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn’t get a tax deduction for doing it. That money should be used to cover moving expenses for companies … that decide to bring jobs home.

"My message is simple, he reiterated. "It’s time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America. Send me these tax reforms, and I’ll sign them right away."

Outlook

President Obama noted that the outlook would be good for companies that want to bet their futures on America, pointing out how the U.S. auto industry has been revived since he took office. "We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back," the President exclaimed. "What’s happening in Detroit can happen in other industries. It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh."

To be realistic, he said, "We can’t bring back every job that’s left our shores," adding, "But right now, it’s getting more expensive to do business in places like China. Meanwhile, America is more productive."

In a tribute to homecoming U.S. troops, and to his own role in defeating terrorism, the President pointed out that, "For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home."

As these troops return to their communities, and re-enter an economy that is still struggling, Obama said, they must be retrained, along with the long-term unemployed, to do the jobs of the future.

"I hear," said the President, that there are "many business leaders who want to hire in the United States, but can’t find workers with the right skills. Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job. Think about that – openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work."

He urged "a national commitment to train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job," saying that, "My Administration has already lined up more companies that want to help. Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, Orlando, and Louisville are up and running. Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers – places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing."

And to keep students from other countries who have earned degrees in business and science and engineering from being sent "home home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else," Obama urged, "Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away."

Solar specifics

Finally, the President urged the Congress to continue funding the technological research and development programs that will keep America number one in the future, especially in the area of clean energy development, which will decrease U.S. dependence on fossil fuels, and create new manufacturing, jobs, and trade opportunities.

"Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail," the President said, in his only reference to the spectacular bankruptcy of the Department of Energy-funded solar manufacturer Solyndra last fall. "But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. … I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany, because we refuse to make the same commitment here.

"We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits and create these jobs in order to jump-start the move toward renewable energy, which the Congress has been slow to support," Obama said.

"Tonight, I will. I’m directing my Administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes. And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history—with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year."

Obama ended on a note of hope: "America is back," he asserted. "Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about. That’s not the message we get from leaders around the world, all of whom are eager to work with us. That’s not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin; from Cape Town to Rio; where opinions of America are higher than they’ve been in years.

"Yes, the world is changing; no, we can’t control every event. But America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs – and as long as I’m President, I intend to keep it that way."

Opposition

As was to be expected during an election year, Republicans were not quick to praise the Democratic POTUS’s speech. In a comment to the UK’s Telegraph earlier in the day, Mitt Romney, the long-term national front-runner for the Republican nomination to face Obama, promised to lead America down a very different road if he was elected in November.

"This election is a choice between two very different destinies," he said in a major speech delivered on the primary campaign trail in Tampa, Florida.

"This President puts his faith in government. We put our faith in the American people. Ours is the party of free enterprise, free markets, and consumer choice. … He leads the party of big government. He believes in ever-expanding entitlement. He’s wrong. We’re right."