Obama warns of “Sputnik moment” for America

In a globalized economy, America must struggle to stay on top

Topics: Economics,

President Barack Obama warned Monday the United States faces a new “Sputnik moment” in an increasingly one-world economy and said it must move dramatically to hold its place as global leader.

Obama pressed anew in a North Carolina speech for an accommodation with Republicans on extending Bush era tax cuts, saying he would cede ground in his positions in order to help lawmakers reach a bipartisan compromise.

The president signaled a deal could be close, and said “weve got to make sure we’re coming up with a solution, even if it’s not 100 percent what I want or 100 percent what the Republicans want.”

The president used much of his 10-day Asian tour recently to argue America’s case for more open markets for U.S. goods, and in his remarks Monday at the Forsyth Technical Community College, he carried the appeal even further.

Proclaiming a “new Sputnik moment,” Obama recalled the shock in this country over the Soviet Union’s launch of the first satellite in 1957 and the national response that put America in the forefront of technology development. He said the most important competition for America today is not between Democrats and Republicans but with other nations.

“The hard truth is this: in the race for the future, America is in danger of falling behind,” he warned.

In Washington, Democrats and Republicans are seeking a compromise in Capitol Hill talks on extending the Bush-era tax cuts, which are due to expire at the end of the year. An outline is emerging that would temporarily extend the cuts for all taxpayers and extend jobless benefits for millions of American.

Obama said lawmakers are still engaged in “serious debate” as they work through differences. He reiterated his opposition to a permanent extension of tax cuts for top income earners, saying the country couldn’t afford them.

The negotiations between the administration and lawmakers of both parties have centered on a two-year extension of current rates.

With the nation’s unemployment rate hovering near 10 percent, Obama also said it was equally important for lawmakers to pass an extension of the jobless benefits.

Republicans have insisted that any extension of jobless aid be paid for with cuts elsewhere in the federal budget. The White House opposes that, saying such cuts are economically damaging during a weak recovery.



With the nation’s unemployment rate hovering near 10 percent, Obama said it was equally important for lawmakers to pass an extension of the jobless benefits. Republicans have insisted that the benefits be paid for with cuts elsewhere in the federal budget. The White House opposes that, saying such cuts are economically damaging during a weak recovery.

A month after his party suffered sweeping defeats in the midterm elections, Obama said it’s time for lawmakers to stop making decisions based on the political implications for the next election.

“I believe that right now there are bigger issues at stake for our country than politics,” he said.

During his three-hour stop in North Carolina, Obama also offered a glimpse of his 2011 agenda as he called for new investments that would put the U.S. in a better competitive position in the world.

Obama spoke in general terms, mentioning future investments in areas like education and infrastructure, though he outlined no specific initiatives he would promote. White House spokesman Bill Burton said Obama would likely speak about some of his plans in his State of the Union address early next year.

The president also said America’s competitiveness would be buoyed by favorable trade agreements, like the free trade deal completed with South Korea last week. Obama dismissed critics who argue that trade deals will hurt businesses at home, arguing instead that American companies will get a boost by expanding their markets overseas.

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