Obama: Innovation key to improving the economy

WASHINGTON: Future economic prosperity depends on building a new, stronger foundation and recapturing the "spirit of innovation," President Barack Obama says.

"Innovation has been essential to our prosperity in the past, and it will be essential to our prosperity in the future," Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address.

The president cited Friday's Commerce Department report showing that in the past few months the economy overall has done "measurably better than expected." He credited his $787 billion economic stimulus program for much of that progress.

"This and the other difficult but important steps that we have taken over the last six months have helped put the brakes on this recession," Obama said. He mentioned his administration's efforts to limit home foreclosures and unlock frozen credit markets to encourage lending to people and businesses, along with the mixture of tax cuts and spending included in the stimulus program.

Obama reminded the nation that full recovery will not happen overnight, but rather will take many more months.

"Even as we rescue this economy, we must work to rebuild it stronger than before," he said. "We've got to build a new foundation strong enough to withstand future economic storms and support lasting prosperity."

That means having the best-educated, highest-skilled workers in the world, a health care system that fosters innovation by holding the line on costs, building a clean energy economy and investing in research and development, Obama said.

"It is only by building a new foundation that we will once again harness that incredible generative capacity of the American people," the president said. "All it takes are the policies to tap that potential — to ignite that spark of creativity and ingenuity — which has always been at the heart of who we are and how we succeed."

Also Saturday, Obama hailed as a "historic step" a House committee vote on health care overhaul bill he has said will benefit the economy by controlling rising health care costs. Obama has said that without changes to the system, health care costs that are rising many times faster than inflation threaten to bankrupt the U.S.

He said the vote moved the country closer than ever before to health insurance reform and urged lawmakers to "seize this unprecedented opportunity for the future of our economy and the health of our families."

In the GOP address, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota contended that the Democrats' current proposals do not improve health care because it would force millions of people in employer-based coverage into a government-run system.

Looking ahead, Obama said he will discuss the foundation he wants to lay when he makes a second presidential visit to Elkhart, Ind., on Wednesday. Layoffs in the recreational vehicle industry account for much of the job loss in northern Indiana, which is struggling with an unemployment rate near 17 percent.

"For communities like Elkhart to thrive, we need to recapture that spirit of innovation that has always moved America forward," he said.