- The Washington Times - Monday, September 21, 2009

President Obama used a speech at a community college in New York to urge congressional action on three major domestic initiatives, saying passage of his education, health care and environmental initiatives are keys to ending “the cycles of boom and bust that have wreaked so much havoc” on the American economy.

“As we emerge from this economic crisis, our great challenge will be to ensure that we do not simply drift into the future, accepting less for our children and less for America,” Mr. Obama said. “Instead, we must choose to do what past generations have done: shape a brighter future through hard work and innovation.”

In a midday speech to students and faculty at the Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y., Mr. Obama made the push for his domestic agenda as he heads into a week of meetings with foreign leaders at the United Nations and at a gathering of the world’s economic powers in Pittsburgh.

He made mention of his embattled health care plan, and of his interest in seeing Senators pass the major energy initiative before them. But the major focus of his remarks Monday were about his administration’s goals for higher education.

The president repeated an earlier pledge to put in place the building blocks that will by 2020 help the United States regain its position as the nation with the highest proportion of college graduates. That achievement currently belongs to Russia, which according to National Center for Education Statistics graduates 55 percent of its population — though the study does not measure the quality of the education they have received.

To reach that goal, Mr. Obama said he has worked to increased Pell Grants, created a simplified $2,500 tax credit for college tuition, and attempted to make student aid applications less complicated

He said a critical piece of his effort will require passage of legislation that the House of Representatives approved last week, a bill that attempts to reform the student loan system.

Mr. Obama said the legislation would cut banks out of the middle of a student loan process, and eliminates $80 million in subsidies the banks receive for processing loans that are already backed by American taxpayers.

“Ending this unwarranted subsidy for the big banks is a no-brainer for folks everywhere. Everywhere except Washington, that is,” Mr. Obama said. “In fact, we’re already seeing the special interests rallying to save this giveaway. The large banks many who have benefited from taxpayer bailouts during the financial crisis are lobbying to keep this easy money flowing.”

“This is exactly the kind of special interest effort that has succeeded before and that we cannot allow to succeed again. This is exactly the kind of waste that leaves people wary of government and leaves our country saddled with a trillion dollar deficit with little to show for it. This is exactly what I came to Washington to change,” Mr. Obama said. “And I look forward to winning this fight in the Senate, as we just have in the House, and signing this bill into law.”

Mr. Obama is heading from Troy to New York City, where he will make one final television appearance as part of the week long media blitz he has waged in support of his health care proposal. He will tape the first-ever visit by a sitting president to Late Night with David Letterman.

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