Obama praises tech industry in town hall

President Obama praised Silicon Valley at a town hall hosted by the social network LinkedIn on Monday, saying that every time he visits the region he gets excited about America’s future.

“No part of the country better represents the essence of America than here,” Obama said at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

{mosads}The president also attended a series of fundraisers on his trip to Silicon Valley as he revs up his 2012 reelection campaign. On Sunday, he visited the homes of Symantec CEO John Thompson and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

The tech industry was an important fundraising base for Obama during his 2008 campaign.

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.

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?” in what was likely a reference to the proposed “Buffett rule” that would increase taxes on top income earners, named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

The man said he is “unemployed by choice” because he made a fortune working for a start-up 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.

Obama agreed that taxes on the most wealthy need to be increased to pay for investments in infrastructure, research and education.

The president also said improving America’s education system is an important step in improving the country’s long-term economic position, warning 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 responded.

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