Obama praises Silicon Valley, pushes jobs creation package

President Obama praised Silicon Valley at a town hall hosted by social network LinkedIn Monday, continuing his outreach to the tech industry as he revs up his reelection campaign.

Obama said he gets excited about America’s future every time he visits Silicon Valley.

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“No part of the country better represents the essence of America than here,” Obama said at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., pointing to the tech industry's record of entrepreneurship.

The town hall was the most public event in Obama’s swing through Silicon Valley. On Sunday, he held fundraisers at the homes of Symantec CEO John Thompson and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Obama credited the tech industry with helping him get elected and referred to the tech community as his “stockholders” at the event at Thompson’s house. 

Obama isn’t the only politician to recognize the importance of social media. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg moderated a discussion Monday night with Republican “Young Guns” Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.), one day after hosting Obama at her home.

The events indicate Silicon Valley's growing influence in politics. The Hill reported Monday that Facebook has formed its own Political Action Committee to back candidates.

At the town hall, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner introduced Obama and gave a plug for the president’s American Jobs Act, saying Obama is leading the way in fixing the economy.

Obama touted his jobs bill as the short-term fix for America’s slumping economy and said that investments in education and research hold the key for long-term economic success.

The president took questions from the audience and from users online.

A wealthy man in the audience asked the president, “Will you please raise my taxes?”

The man said he is “unemployed by choice” because he made money from a startup tech company located down the street. When Obama asked what company he worked for, the man said it is a “search engine.” Google is also based in Mountain View.

"Worked out pretty well, eh?" the President joked.

Obama agreed that taxes on the wealthiest need to be raised to pay for government investments.

The Republican National Committee issued a statement on Obama’s appearance.

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"President Obama’s venue of the day was LinkedIn as he continues his fundraising swing down the West Coast to line his campaign coffers and sell his unpopular jobs bill, but what the president doesn’t understand is that the venue doesn’t matter when your policies are failing," said RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski.  "Millions of Americans use LinkedIn in their search for employment, but Obama’s policies have only made it worse for their search."

The president warned that America’s educational system was slipping behind other countries and that tech companies need more graduates with skills in engineering and science.

He praised an IBM initiative in New York City that offers jobs to students who complete an educational program.

An unemployed man who had worked in information technology for 22 years asked Obama for advice.

“The problem is not you, the problem is the economy as a whole,” Obama said.