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PITTSBURGH — President Obama visited a robotics center here Friday to stress the importance of investing in creating new jobs while he also prepared to become far more involved in negotiations with Congress over reining in the national debt.
At Carnegie Mellon University, Obama said it is crucial to for the government to spend money on new technologies that will keep the U.S. competitive in the future and create jobs, while at the same time it cuts spending to reduce the deficit.
“I have a larger vision for America ... where we work together, Democrats and Republicans, to live within our means, to cut our deficit and debt, but also to invest in what our economy needs to grow,” Obama told a crowd of professors, members of the business community and local officials.
Shortly after Obama spoke, the White House announced that he would begin one-on-one negotiations with key lawmakers next week over deficit reduction. On Monday, he will meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Obama and his team are trying to salvage deficit reduction talks after Republicans on Thursday abandoned negotiations led by Vice President Biden.
Republicans said it was time for Obama to intervene directly in the talks, saying they had reached an impasse over the question of whether tax increases would be a part of the deficit reduction plan.
In Pittsburgh, Obama announced his latest effort to spur new jobs, called the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, which will involve corporate America, universities and the government and invest in technologies that could generate new manufacturing jobs.
Obama said that just as the government helped the private sector develop the microwave, jet engine and the Internet, this initiative could help cement the United States’ status as the world’s most technologically advanced economy in the decades to come.
“If we want a robust, growing economy, we need a robust, growing manufacturing sector,” Obama said.
But the government will spend just $500 million on the endeavor, some of it already appropriated, in a sign of how difficult it is to use the public purse to stimulate economic growth. Deficit reduction talks are looking at trillions of dollars in spending cuts.
The trip to Pittsburgh is just one in a series of weekly visits Obama is making this summer to key battleground states to promote his economic policy. On Tuesday, Obama will travel to Iowa, where he will visit an Alcoa factory to discuss manufacturing jobs.
Obama is confronting a weakening economic picture just as the 2012 presidential campaign has gotten under way. Recent economic data indicate that the economic recovery is slowing, if not stalling, as the unemployment rate hovers about 9 percent.
Ahead of Obama’s visit, Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney attacked the president’s economic policy in the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, and his campaign circulated a Web video describing the “Obama Misery Index.”
“The president has failed the American people on the economy,” Romney told the local paper.
“Is he proud of the 160,000 jobs lost in Pennsylvania since he was elected president?” Romney said. “Or the 51,000 manufacturing jobs lost in Pennsylvania?”
Obama’s new initiative will attempt to reverse these trends, partly by investing in cutting-edge areas such as nanotechnology. The effort will be led by Andrew Liveris, the chief executive of Dow Chemical, and Susan Hockfield, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.