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Columbia Missourian

Obama emphasizes green economy during rural Missouri economic tour

By JACOB BARKER
July 30, 2008 | 11:08 p.m. CDT
Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama speaks during a town-hall style meeting Wednesday afternoon in Rolla. Obama said the nation needs to invest in green energy.

ROLLA — In front of a roaring, standing-room-only crowd at the Missouri University of Science and Technology on Wednesday, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., detailed his economic plan for the nation if he is elected president. The senator stopped in Springfield, Rolla and Union on Wednesday as part of his economic tour through rural Missouri.

Obama was introduced by prominent Missouri Democrats, but after he took the stage, the crowd continued to stand throughout his opening remarks. After telling the crowd they could sit down, Obama launched into his plan to revitalize the economy and took questions from the audience.

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“A lot of people are losing their faith in the essence of the American dream,” he said. “Which is not only that we do well, but we’re able to pass on to the next generation a better life.”

The rising cost of gas and food, rising foreclosures and an increase in corporate profits while “ordinary families saw their real incomes decline” warrant some short-term relief for middle-class families, Obama said. He promised tax cuts for families making under $250,000, which would cover 95 percent of families, he said. He would also not require seniors to pay taxes on their social security if they are making $50,000 or less a year and would close corporate tax loopholes.

Obama also spoke on the need to close the achievement gap by investing more in education and detailed a plan to give “$4,000 in tuition breaks to every student every year in exchange for community service or national service.”

One man, who was recently laid off from a manufacturing plant in Rolla, asked Obama how he could keep companies from shipping jobs overseas.

“We can’t stop them from moving,” Obama said. “But we can change our tax code.”

He said he would offer tax breaks to companies investing in local jobs and take away tax breaks from companies outsourcing jobs overseas.

Obama also talked about the need to reduce the national debt, which he called “taking a credit card out in our children’s and grandchildren’s” names.

“We can start to get serious about fiscal responsibility by starting to wind down this war in Iraq where we’re spending tens of billions of dollars every month,” he said.

One of the main platforms of his economic plan was investing in green energy, which he said would create millions of new jobs across America “in a new green economy” and reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil while lowering energy prices.

“When John F. Kennedy said we are going to go to the moon in 10 years, no one knew how we were going to do it,” Obama said. “But when America sets a goal, we meet it. And our goal needs to be — we need to reduce our consumption of oil by 30 percent and develop solar and wind and biodiesel.”

The audience asked varying questions on foreign policy, and Obama used his recent trip overseas as a talking point.

“One thing that was clear to me as I was traveling overseas is people are hungry for American leadership,” he said.

The U.S. needs to shift troops from Iraq to Afghanistan — the real front of the “War on Terror,” Obama said. The country should begin to lift sanctions on Cuba, impose sanctions and provide a joint U.N. force in Darfur, and make it easier for American manufactured goods to be sold in other countries.

In response to questions, Obama continually came back to his plan for a green economy as a way to create sustainable growth in the nation and combat global warming.

“I am not somebody who’s just going to tell you what you want to hear, I’m going to tell you what you need to hear,” he said. “The moment we’re in right now is just too serious. We are at a fundamental crossroads where we make a decision at the fork in the road. Are we going to keep taking the easy way out and end up passing all these difficult problems to our children or grandchildren? Or are we going to finally come together and get serious to solve these problems?”