"I'm willing to work with Republicans on reforming our corporate tax code, as long as we use the money from transitioning to a simpler tax system for a significant investment in creating middle-class jobs," President Obama said.
The president spoke before a crowd of about 2,000 in an Amazon.com distribution center.
CHATTANOOGA (WATE) - President Barack Obama traveled to Chattanooga Tuesday to offer a solution to the fiscal stalemate in Washington.
Speaking before a crowd of about 2,000 in an Amazon.com distribution center, the president said he wants to cut corporate tax rates in exchange for more spending on jobs programs.
"I'm willing to work with Republicans on reforming our corporate tax code, as long as we use the money from transitioning to a simpler tax system for a significant investment in creating middle-class jobs," Obama said. "That's the deal."
The president pointed out weaknesses in the system that could be fixed in the deal he is proposing.
"Right now, our tax code is so riddled with wasteful loopholes that many companies doing the right thing and investing in America pay 35 percent, while the corporations with the best accountants stash their money abroad and pay little or nothing at all," Obama told the crowd.
Obama called for ending incentives that allow businesses to ship jobs overseas, and instead provide tax incentives for manufacturers that keep jobs in the U.S.
The president added that he wanted to simplify tax codes for small business owners and provide investment incentives to encourage expansion and more hiring.
Republicans view speech from a distance
Before Obama reached Chattanooga congressional Republicans were already casting doubts about the his proposal.
Republicans insist on tying corporate and individual tax reform. They say small business owners who pay taxes with the individual tax form should get the same cuts as large corporations.
Politicians traditionally appear with the president when he travels in their home state, but no Republicans chose to appear with Obama in Chattanooga.
"I hated for the president to come to my hometown and not accompany him, especially because it would have provided an opportunity for us to talk more about our country's fiscal challenges," Republican Sen. Bob Corker said in a statement released Tuesday. "But ultimately, with only three days left in this work period and several scheduled hearings and votes today, it seemed best to stay in Washington and do the work Tennesseans elected me to do."
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, also a Republican, said his schedule was too full of previous commitments to come to Chattanooga.
"We always welcome the president to the state. We are very proud, while he's there he will see Amazon, one of their biggest distribution centers," Haslam said.
"In today's speech the president mentioned a lower corporate tax rate and an increased focus on manufacturing jobs and infrastructure. However, until he does more than give a speech on these issues I'll remain in the 'believe it when I see it' category," Republican Rep. Chuck Fleischmann said in a statement released immediately after the speech.
Rep. Fleischmann represents Tennessee's 3rd District, which includes Chattanooga. He too stayed in Washington, but brought up an issue close to home.
"In his past two budgets the president has completely cut all funding to the Chickamauga Lock and his overly burdensome policies have continued to impede actual job growth," he said.
Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, a Democrat, was in attendance for the speech.
"Our strategy is to invest so that the private sector feels confident to make its investments," she said. "Government can't do it all, but needs private sector. That's what he was talking about."
Zach Wamp is no longer in office, but held what is now Fleischmann's seat in Congress. Though a Republican and was popular with tea party members, Wamp said Republicans must find a way to compromise.
"This great divide is a cancer on America and we must find a way to work with him," Wamp said.
Crowd cheers president's call for ending gridlock
The crowd gave the president an enthusiastic welcome, with cheers at several points during the speech.
"If Washington spent as much time and energy these past two years figuring out how to grow the economy and the middle class as it spent manufacturing crises in pursuit of a cut-at-all-costs approach to deficits, we'd be much better off," he said, to a loud ovation.
Before the speech the president toured the giant Amazon distribution facility. He viewed a sorting station where employees take items from rolling carts and place them into individual bar coded bins.
In his speech Obama noted the size of the facility, saying, "Last year, during the busiest day of the Christmas rush, customers around the world ordered more than 300 items from Amazon every second – many of them traveling through this building. So it's kind of like the North Pole of the South."
After the speech, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Dr. Thom Mason said he is interested in Obama's strategy.
Mason says ORNL can benefit from Obama's two-pronged approach of tax cuts and targeted investments in infrastructure job training, with the tripling of manufacturing innovation hubs.
"We've had a long tradition working as an interface between manufacturing and technology and science, and if we can find ways to push our technology to the marketplace that helps us meet our objectives," Mason said.