Obama says U.S. "had gotten a little soft" before he took office

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 31: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement demanding that Congress to pass extensions of transportation and avaition bills in the Rose Garden August 31, 2011 in Washington, DC. Obama called on Congress to move forward in a bipartisan way to pass a clean extension of the Surface Transportation Bill, which expires at the end of September, and a clean extension of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization, which expires in mid-September. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Barack Obama
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Obama said Thursday the United States "had gotten a little soft" before he took office and needs to regain its competitive edge in the global economy because opportunities for younger Americans are not as plentiful as they were for their parents.

Mr. Obama was asked if he was worried that today's recent college graduates do not have the same opportunities that the baby boom generation had when they were younger.

"Absolutely," Mr. Obama told Orlando's WESH-TV.

"Even before the financial crisis hit, one of the reasons that I ran for president was that wages, incomes, had flat-lined at the same time that costs were going up," Mr. Obama said, adding "I think people felt that opportunities were becoming more constricted for the next generation."

"And that's why, making sure that we're revamping our education system, making sure we've got world class infrastructure, investing in basic science and research and technology, making sure that we are moving manufacturing back to the United States, and that we are being tough with our trading partners -- making sure that they're not taking advantage of us," Mr. Obama told the interviewer.

"There are a lot of things we can do," Mr. Obama added, "the way I think about it is, this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft and we didn't have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track."

Still, the president said he would not trade the position of the United States for any other country in the world.

"We still have the best universities, the best scientists, and best workers in the world," Mr. Obama said, "we still have the most dynamic economic system in the world. So we just need to bring all those things together."

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    CBSNews.com Deputy Politics Editor Corbett B. Daly is based in Washington. He has worked at Reuters, Thomson Financial News and CBS MarketWatch.

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