MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- President Obama pressed his case for a $447 billion jobs bill in the heart of Silicon Valley, where there aren't enough engineers and tech leaders yearn for more math and science education.
"No part of the country better represents America's driving spirit than Silicon Valley, with its entrepreneurship, dynamism, blood, sweat and tears," Obama said Monday at a digital town hall meeting at the newly refurbished Computer History Museum here.
In a one-hour meeting similar in structure and tone to one held at Facebook in April, Obama took questions about job creation and the economy from about 300 employees and members of LinkedIn, the social network for professionals. And he didn't hesitate to use the potential of the digital economy to score political points.
"The economy is more (digitally) linked, with more opportunity," Obama said. But unless America better trains its workforce, builds infrastructure and invests in research and education, he said, the U.S. cannot effectively compete with China, India and others.
The "American Jobs Act" relies heavily on slashing the Social Security payroll tax for an extra year. This would give employees more money to spend and employers an incentive to hire, but it would further deplete a program that is already in the red. The plan also calls for spending on roads, bridges, school construction and other infrastructure.
Obama, hosted by LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, said the jobs plan would prevent discrimination against the long-term unemployed, and he vowed the Defense Department and others should help veterans get credentials to leverage their skills.
Obama is being closely watched by tech leaders who are coping with a shortage of engineers and shrinking research-and-development (R&D) budgets. The president has some challenges of his own: a daunting 9.1% unemployment rate, with more than 14 million people out of work.
Questions were selected based on a representative sampling from thousands of queries from LinkedIn members.
One audience member, Google employee No. 59 Doug Edwards, implored the president to raise taxes on the wealthy — to shouts of approval from the crowd.
"We want to hear a discussion about the long-term economic plan in addition to the short term," says Rey Ramsey, CEO of TechNet, a bipartisan policy and political network with strong ties to Silicon Valley. "R&D, for example, stimulates jobs in the short term and creates industries of the future."
Obama underlined that his administration had cut taxes for small businesses 16 times and has proposed no capital gains tax on start-ups. Most of regulations we have focused on involve utilities regarding environment.
The White House approached LinkedIn about hosting the event because they have worked together on jobs-related issues, Weiner says. LinkedIn is the world's largest professional network with more than 120 million members.