WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. — President Obama visited the U.S. Steel Corp. plant here to lay out his economic vision for the coming year, saying he was taking steps to “make sure hard work pays off for his country.”
Speaking before a crowd of roughly 1,500 steelworkers — some of them sporting bright-orange hard hats — Obama said he was creating a new form of retirement account called a MyRA to make it easier for Americans to save money.
The new savings vehicle, which Obama unveiled Tuesday as part of his State of the Union speech, will allow Americans to invest a portion of their salary into government bonds in an account that will be treated like a Roth IRA, a common type of retirement savings account. Contributions could be withdrawn at any time, tax-free.
“I want more people to have a chance to save for retirement through their hard work,” he said, adding that while he had been hoping lawmakers would “go along” with a more ambitious retirement savings plan, he decided to opt for a program he could launch without congressional approval.
“You can get started now,” Obama declared.
Obama chose to speak about the new initiative at U.S. Steel, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One, because the company’s employees have “exceptional retirement benefits” and the administration hopes to extend those opportunities more broadly.
“If you are here at U.S. Steel you know you’ve got good benefits,” the president said, standing in front of a 4,500-horsepower motor that turns a cold mill he toured earlier in the afternoon. “That’s why I’m a strong supporter of unions, because they fought for those benefits.”
And through this new savings vehicle and other executive actions, Obama said, he could work to "restore opportunity for every single person who is willing to work hard and take responsibility in this country.”
Jim Currie, a Union Railroad car repairman who came to hear the president speak, said he had a pension from an earlier job and wouldn't need a new retirement account. But he said it seemed like “a good thing for young people to start some sort of pension plan” if they couldn’t get one from their employer, and at least the initiative wouldn’t get stuck in Congress.
“Just by signing that bill there it is automatic, right?” Currie asked, after Obama signed the presidential memorandum with a flourish before departing for Washington.