AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)


THE PRESIDENT:  I know, it’s surprising, isn’t it?  (Laughter.)  But we’ve had a little difficulty getting our Republican friends to work with us to find a steady funding source for these projects that everybody knows needs to happen.  But in fairness, one of the problems we’ve had in the past is, is that sometimes it takes too long to get projects off the ground.  There are all these permits and red tape and planning, and this and that, and some of it’s important to do, but we could do it faster. 


So a while back, what I did was I ordered everybody who was involved in approving projects to speed up the permitting process for 50 different big projects all across the country, from the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York to the Port of Charleston in South Carolina.  And we’ve been able to, in some cases, cut approval times from seven years down to a year.  So we’ve made progress.  (Applause.) 


Today, I’m directing agencies across the government to do what it takes to cut timelines for breaking ground on major infrastructure projects in half.  And what that will mean is, is that construction workers get back on the jobs faster.  It means more money going back into local economies, and it means more demand for outstanding dredging equipment that is made right here in Baltimore.  (Applause.) 


Now, as some of you know, one of the guys who has been working on this, he’s Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari, your former transportation secretary here in Maryland before Governor O’Malley generously agreed to share him with the entire country.  (Laughter.)


So those are some of the ways that we can create the conditions for businesses like this one to generate even more good jobs.  And these are the kinds of ideas that we have to stay focused on every single day.  This should be our principal focus:  How are we making ourselves more competitive; how are we training our workers so that they can do the jobs that need to be done; how can we make sure that we stay on the cutting edge in terms of technology; how are we making it easier for businesses to succeed.


And I’m going to keep trying to work with both parties in Washington to make progress -- because our challenges are solvable.  I travel all around the world, and I meet people from all walks of life.  And I can tell you, there’s not a country on Earth that wouldn’t trade places with the United States of America.  That’s really true.  (Applause.)  They know we’ve got all the ingredients to succeed.  We’ve got the answers.  The only thing that’s holding us back sometimes is a lack of political will.  Sometimes our leadership isn’t focused where we need to be focused.  And that’s where you come in.  It’s up to you and all the people across the country to tell the people in Washington, focus on getting stuff done.  We may not agree on the way to do certain things, but I think we all love our country.  We all want what’s best for our kids and our grandkids. 


Wouldn’t we be better off if every American could find a good job that pays the bills and lets you afford a home, and maybe take a vacation, put some money away to retire?  Wouldn’t we be better off if we knew that all of our kids were getting a good education from an earliest age; if we reformed our high schools for this new economy; if we’re helping more young people afford to go to college? 


Wouldn’t we be better off if every worker’s wage was a wage you could live on?  Nobody wants to be on welfare.  Nobody wants to have to rely on a handout.  They want to work.  But let’s make sure that work pays. 


Wouldn’t we be better off if every American could afford quality healthcare, and the peace of mind that comes with it?  That's why we passed health care reform.  (Applause.)  Wouldn’t we be better off if we did what’s necessary to protect more of our children from the horrors of gun violence?  (Applause.)