By Alison Sullivan
Less than 24 hours after his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, President Obama stopped in Iowa City to reiterate the issues he reflected in his speech Thursday night.
“We can do better,” said the president to the crowd of roughly 8,000 packed onto the University of Iowa Pentacrest. “We need to create jobs even faster. We need to come out of this crisis stronger than when we came in. There’s a lot more that we need to do.”
Obama said improving the economy was a priority, cutting the deficit and expanding job growth through focusing more on wind and renewable energy, providing more manufacturing jobs and easing the burden of taxes on the middle class.
And with students making up a significant portion in attendance, several students said policies that will provide them with jobs post-graduation are important.
“I know a lot of college kids who have degrees and are having a hard time finding jobs,” said UI student Steve Kelm.
Though the 19-year-old human physiology major said going into the medical field will be easier to find jobs than others, he wants to make sure the government can provide jobs for his peers.
Iowa’s unemployment has maintained much lower levels than the national average, which decreased from 8.3 percent in July to 8.1 percent in August, according to the unemployment report released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In July, the unemployment rate in Johnson County was 4.6 percent, compared to 5.3 percent the year before, according to statistics from the Iowa Workforce Information Network.
Also in attendance across the street in Hubbard Park were a small handful of students protesting the president’s visit.
UI sophomore Jake Marks said jobs is the most important thing for him as a college student, and he feels Obama had enough time to straighten things out.
“This country’s debt is on me, my kids, my great-grandkids,” Marks said. “It’s getting pushed onto us.”
Marks said he would feel safer under Republican candidate Mitt Romney and his background as a businessman will be beneficial if he were elected.
But one economic expert said turning around the economy isn’t as easy as either the candidates portray.
“If there was a magic wand or a secret formula that you could turn around the economy someone would do it and they’d win,” said University of Iowa Economics Professor John Solow. “As a general matter people put way too much emphasis on the individual candidate.”
Richard Parker, a lecture in public policy at the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government, said the long and slow recovery is typical and the economy will likely improve over the next four years, regardless of who is elected.
“This is the sort of recession caused be a financial system meltdown,” Parker said, adding on average that would take seven years to recover. “My own assumption yes things will continue to improve, but not sure at what pace.”
Solow said though most candidates declare promises of fixing the economy if elected, the state of the economy also faces efforts from Congress and even the global political climate.
“Its like a large ship; it turns very slowly,” he said.
And Obama didn’t forget to reach out to students, telling them by reducing spending in areas like bailing out banks and reducing military spending, more money could be provided to students to go to college.
“All of you who are students here, this is the ticket to a middle class life,” he said.
This evening also marked Obama’s continued efforts to snag the youth vote, which includes approximately 46 million eligible 18 to 29-year-olds in the coming election according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. That’s roughly 21 percent of the voting population.
And college students are the most likely to vote, according to a survey from CIRCLE. In the 2008 election, 70 percent of the college student population voted and 87 percent of registered college students casted a ballot.
Before Obama and Biden’s respective wives joined them onstage, Obama rallied the crowd, repeatedly telling them it was up to them to keep the progress he had in motion.
“We will win Johnson County. We will win Iowa and we will finish what we started,” he said to the roaring audience.