Read all posts from March 2009
Jesse LeeMarch 24, 2009
08:58 AM EDTWith the G20 meeting approaching on April 2nd, this morning the President published a rare "simultaneous op-ed" in thirty papers around the world, calling for a collective effort to address the economic peril found in all corners of the globe. "The United States is ready to lead, and we call upon our partners to join us with a sense of urgency and common purpose," he writes. His op-ed appeared in the following publications:Al Watan (Gulf States), Arab Times (Gulf States), Asharq Al Awsat (Arab-wide paper in Arabic), The Australian (Australia), Bangkok Post (Thailand), Chicago Tribune (United States), Clarin (Argentina), Corriere della Sera (Italy), Die Welt (Germany), El Pais (Madrid), El Mercurio (Chile), Eleftyropiea (Greece), Estado de Sao Paulo (Brazil), Gulf News (Gulf States), The Hindustan Times/ The Hindu (India), International Herald Tribune (London), Kristeligt Dagblad (Denmark), Le Monde (Paris), Lidove Noviny (Czech), Los Angeles Times (United States), The News (Pakistan), NRC Handelsblad (Netherlands), Saudi Gazette (Saudi Arabia), South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Straits Times (Singapore), Sunday Times (South Africa), Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden), Syndey Morning Herald (Australia), WProst (Poland), Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan)The President calls for a coordinated approach to three central issues, namely the need to "stimulate growth" (pointing to the Recovery Act as an example); the need to "restore the credit that businesses and consumers depend upon" including an "honest assessment of the balance sheets of our major banks" (pointing to the plans laid out yesterday); and extending "a hand to countries and people who face the greatest risk" to help emerging economies remain stable and avoid plunging the global economy into deeper trouble.The President closes with a broader vision:While these actions can help get us out of crisis, we cannot settle for a return to the status quo. We must put an end to the reckless speculation and spending beyond our means; to the bad credit, over-leveraged banks and absence of oversight that condemns us to bubbles that inevitably bust.Only coordinated international action can prevent the irresponsible risk-taking that caused this crisis. That is why I am committed to seizing this opportunity to advance comprehensive reforms of our regulatory and supervisory framework.All of our financial institutions -- on Wall Street and around the globe -- need strong oversight and common sense rules of the road. All markets should have standards for stability and a mechanism for disclosure. A strong framework of capital requirements should protect against future crises. We must crack down on offshore tax havens and money laundering.Rigorous transparency and accountability must check abuse, and the days of out-of-control compensation must end. Instead of patchwork efforts that enable a race to the bottom, we must provide the clear incentives for good behavior that foster a race to the top.I know that America bears our share of responsibility for the mess that we all face. But I also know that we need not choose between a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism and an oppressive government-run economy. That is a false choice that will not serve our people or any people.
Jesse LeeMarch 23, 2009
06:10 PM EDTToday the President held an event focused on "Investing in Our Clean Energy Future" --we asked Greg Nelson of the Office of Public Liaison to give us a rundown of what the event was all about.Behind every great company can usually be found a couple of key ingredients: an innovative inventor or scientist, a dogged and passionate entrepreneur, and a community of employees and supporters that make the vision a reality.Earlier today, President Obama spoke in front of a crowd that represented all aspects of this spectrum, from an idea in a lab that creates jobs and a better standard of living for all of us. The focus was on building the clean energy economy, and how investments in research and development today will pay off in high-quality green jobs tomorrow.The President’s budget helps lead the way (read the fact sheet), giving businesses the tools and stability needed to grow -- $150 billion over 10 years in clean energy and energy efficiency, and a 10-year commitment to make the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit permanent. Through this funding, projects have been able to start at institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and turn into growing green businesses like Serious Materials. To illustrate the point, MIT President Susan Hockfield and Serious Materials Vice Chairman Paul Holland joined the President on the stage to tell their stories.The pre-program was a lot of fun, an example of the dynamism and innovative partnerships that are happening right now in this time of necessity. Van Jones, newly minted as the Senior Advisor for Green Jobs, Innovation, and Enterprise at CEQ, lead a discussion about how to help companies and technologies make that leap across the chasm. How do we capture the imagination and turn it into meaningful work making products that matter?Joining Van were two great examples of the spectrum – Deepika Singh from Sinmat and Neal Verfueth from Orion Energy Systems. Both have been growing their dynamic businesses in this recession by focusing on technology and products that help us solve some of our most pressing needs – energy efficiency, smarter technology, and more integrated systems.The President wrapped up the conversation with a commitment and a call to action – "all of you, you are helping us to build a cleaner, brighter future, and a stronger, more prosperous economy. And my administration and our country will support you in that difficult work."From the labs at MIT to the shop floors at Orion and Serious Materials – let’s get to work.
Jesse LeeMarch 23, 2009
01:21 PM EDTLast week the President and the Treasury Department focused on ensuring that homeowners take advantage of the President’s Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan to keep people in their homes and stabilize the mortgages that underlie the assets involved in the financial crisis. This morning the President and the Treasury unveiled the plan to unlock the credit markets, one of the most complex and intractable obstacles to economic recovery. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner penned an extensive op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, and posted a detailed explanation of how the plan will function on the Treasury Department’s website. The President spoke to the press about the plan this morning after receiving the Economic Daily Briefing in the Roosevelt Room:As I've said before, there are a number of legs in the stool in the economic recovery. Step one is making sure that we had a stimulus package that was robust enough to fill the huge gap in demand that was created by the recession. Step two was making sure that we had a effective homeowners' plan to try to keep people in their homes and to stabilize the housing market. Because of the work that's already been done, you are starting to see glimmers of hope in the housing market that stabilization may be taking place. Mortgage rates are at a very, very low level, and you're starting to see some activity in the housing market.We then took a series of steps to improve liquidity in what had been secondary markets that had been completely frozen. And we are now seeing activity in student loans and auto loans. We announced last week a small-business initiative that ensures that we have more activity and you start seeing small businesses being able to get credit again in order to sell products and services and make payroll.And this morning, Secretary Geithner announced the latest element in this multi-pronged approach, and that is a mechanism that he, in close consultation with the Federal Reserve and the FDIC, has initiated in order to allow banks to take some of their bad assets off their books, sell them into a market, but do so in a way that doesn't just obligate taxpayers to buy at whatever price they're willing to sell these assets; instead, involves a public-private partnership that allows market participants who have every interest in making a profit to accurately price these assets so that the taxpayers share in the upside as well as the downside.And we believe that this is one more element that is going to be absolutely critical in getting credit flowing again. It's not going to happen overnight. There's still great fragility in the financial systems. But we think that we are moving in the right direction. And we are very confident that, in coordination with the Federal Reserve and the FDIC, other relevant institutions, that we are going to be able to not only start unlocking these credit markets, but we're also going to be in a position to design the regulatory authorities that are necessary to prevent this kind of systemic crisis from happening again.
Jesse LeeMarch 23, 2009
12:16 PM EDTToday the President is hosting an event focused on "Investing in Our Clean Energy Future," with experts from inside and outside government (watch his remarks live-streamed at 12:30). So it’s appropriate that this edition of Recovery in Action focus on green jobs, and given that Susan Hockfield, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of featured speakers, it’s also appropriate that we start off with an inspiring story out of Massachusetts.Erin Ailworth of the Boston Globe had an in-depth piece on the "Renewable job market":If you're readying a resume, it might help to use recycled paper. The clean-tech and green industries in Massachusetts are hiring.Companies looking to add employees include Aeronautica Windpower in Plymouth, lithium-ion battery maker Boston-Power Inc. in Westborough, and Conservation Services Group, also in Westborough. Eco-friendly experience is a plus, but not required.The workforce expansions are being partly spurred by the federal economic stimulus package, which includes billions for home energy-efficiency upgrades and an extension of a tax credit for renewable energy technologies such as wind power. Within the next two years, stimulus spending is expected to create or save 79,000 jobs in Massachusetts, and an estimated 3.5 million nationwide, according to the federal government.Soon after Congress passed the nearly $800 billion bill last month, Stephen Cowell, chief executive of Conservation Services Group, said he told his staff, "Get the resumes together." In the last six months, the energy-efficiency company has hired about 50 employees in its main office. Because of the stimulus bill as well as several new contracts, Cowell plans to add 200 more jobs this year. The company currently employs about 400 and does business in 22 states. At least 30 to 40 of the new jobs will be in Massachusetts, he said."We're sort of the tip of the iceberg," Cowell said. "A couple of hundred people will be hired here, but that means that 2,000 people will be hired at the local level to do the work that we spec out and help facilitate."It goes through company after company and industry after industry from there. And we’re off!Governor Mitch Daniels announced plans to distribute $132 million in federal stimulus funds for energy conservation. The money will go to weatherization projects for low income homeowners who are already a part of the state's energy assistance program. The program's budget will be expanded by a multiple of 11. Groups looking to do the work can apply beginning next week. "We will be looking for those organizations, non-profit in every case, who can make a good showing that they can achieve the most conservation, help the most Hoosier households per dollar spent in the shortest amount of time," said Gov. Daniels. Daniels said 2300 jobs will be created by the stimulus money.The federal economic stimulus will send Nevada about $37 million to weatherize buildings and homes and another $28 million to train workers for green jobs, Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford said Friday. The Senate Energy, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee unanimously voted to move forward with Horsford’s bill, SB152, which would set guidelines for how to spend federal economic stimulus money meant to create "green jobs." Horsford said Nevada could get training for at least 3,200 unemployed or underemployed workers, and provide money to weatherize low-income housing, schools and public buildings.At the 25th annual Home Show, green is in… Among the traditional remodelers, homebuilders and lenders are signs proclaiming the rebates, tax incentives and money-saving offers on the next generation of green building products. Businesses are hoping the incentives, many of them introduced with the recent economic stimulus package, will draw consumers looking to build or renovate into what has been a slow market.In his latest effort to combat global warming, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to enlist the state's hard-luck youth. The governor on Monday announced the new California Green Corps, a statewide effort to train young adults between 16 and 24 years old to work in the state's fledgling green-tech industry. "It's the kind of program President Obama envisioned when he put together the economic stimulus package. It's all about jobs, jobs, jobs," Schwarzenegger said after touring a solar-installation certificate program at a Sacramento community college. The program will be administered by Schwarzenegger's volunteerism czar Karen Baker and will receive about $20 million in initial funding. Half the money will come from the U.S. Department of Labor as part of the federal stimulus package, while the other half is expected to be raised from the private sector. The idea is to create a 20-month pilot program in at least 10 locations to train at least 1,000 people for jobs such as solar-panel installation and sheet-metal manufacturing for wind turbines, Schwarzenegger said.
Jesse LeeMarch 23, 2009
10:55 AM EDTRebecca Adelman of the Department of Health and Human Services gives us a play-by-play on the third of five White House Regional Forums on Health Reform, watch it streamed livefrom Des Moines, Iowa at HealthReform.gov.
1:27: Governor Culver thanks the audience for their spirited participation and encourages people to continue the discussion by visiting www.healthreform.gov. He also thanks President Obama for his commitment to health reform. He said, on every front, the President and his team have been extremely responsive.1:23: Nancy-Ann DeParle closes the event promising to brief her colleagues in the White House on the suggestions and concerns brought up in the forum today. She urged participants to visit www.healthreform.gov to submit more suggestions, and said "I have a lot to be optimistic about as I go back to the White house." She says she heard frustration from small business, farmers, providers that premiums are out of reach. She also says she heard the desire of clinicians to be at the table, to break down the barriers that exist to providing care, and she heard intelligent advocates from all different angles today. Finally, she expressed hope that everyone will continue to provide input as we work to lower costs and cover more Americans.
1:18: Senator Harkin makes his closing remarks and talks about how members of Congress are working to make health reform happen this year. He said they are setting deadlines, and hope to have a bill on the floor in late June to debate it in July. He said his goal, and the President is pushing very hard on this, is to get this done in Congress before the August recess, and to have a bill to the President in September or October. "We are not going to kick the ball down the field," he said. "This is going to happen this year."
1:10: A gentleman with a "Livestrong" t-shirt wraps up the discussion talking about cancer. He asks for a show of hands of how many participants have been touched by cancer in their own families or personally, and nearly 100 percent of those in the room raised their hands. He said we need to continue to keep this very important issue part of the national discussion about health care.
1:02: Responding to the question proposed by Governor Rounds about rural health, a participant brought up the importance of long-term care providers in rural communities. This participant said he came from a rural area, and many people there just want to stay in their homes and communities. He said if we pay greater attention to the importance of long-term care providers, and if we invest in them, people in rural communities will visit hospitals less frequently and fewer citizens will need to live in expensive nursing homes.12:55: Governor Rounds takes a few minutes to speak about the challenge of attracting doctors and nurses to serve in rural communities. He said the demand for medical professionals in rural areas is so great that each provider is stretched thin, making it even more difficult to maintain a workforce of doctors and nurses. He asked the participants for suggestions on how to attract medical professionals to rural areas, and how to support them once they establish a practice. The Governor said we need a plan to bring good medical services to rural Americans.
12:41: A participant named Tracey brought up the cost of treating chronic diseases. She suggested that the health system reform include a focus on primary and secondary prevention. She said it is crucially important to think about how to keep the well healthy, to identify the at-risk individuals, and to help the chronically ill manage their conditions to keep the costs for treating these illnesses down.12:30: Governor Culver reads a question from Audrey Wiedemeier, a resident of Iowa City who submitted her question online at www.healthreform.gov. She asked, "What is being done to address the fact that many low income communities don’t have access to affordable fresh healthy food?" Governor Culver and Senator Harkin discuss at length what prevention methods we could employ that would be accessible to Americans of all income brackets. Senator Harkin argues in particular that we need to rethink what food options kids have in schools to start prevention early in life .
12:20: A chiropractor brings up the issue of electronic medical records. He says the adoption of that technology could save $77 billion annually. Now that $19.5 billion has been put forth in the Recovery Act for Health Information technology, we must think about how to make that transition. He urges that an important question in the health reform effort is how can we use technology to drive best practices and efficiency.
12:10: After Darlyne Neff addresses the group, Governor Culver turns the microphone over to the participants in the audience. A small businessman from Iowa speaks first, and stresses the particular difficulties that small businesses face as they strive to insure their employees when health care costs are skyrocketing. A woman who was recently laid off from her job said she is not sure how she will get insurance, but hopes her former employer will be able to provider her with health insurance with the help of money from the Recovery Act. Later, a man named Bruce from Iowa brought up the fact that people between the ages of 50 and 64 are among the fastest growing group of uninsured Americans. Nancy-Ann DeParle said it is an issue the President is very aware of, and that solutions are being discussed.
11:55: Darlyne Neff, from Iowa City, Iowa addressed the assembled group after Nancy-Ann DeParle. Neff is a 75-year-old retired teacher living in a life-care residential community. She taught kindergarten, grade school, and speech at the junior high and community college level. She said if she could go back to teaching now she would stress with her students the importance of listening to their bodies and would try to impress upon them the importance of health and wellness. Darlyne was one of 30,000 Americans who participated in health care reform community discussions over the holidays. She said she has survived operations for breast cancer and a brain tumor, and when she heard that the President’s health care team was seeking input from Americans on how to reform the health care system, she thought, "this is something I really need to do."
11:45: White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle addressed and thanked the participants next – she especially singled out the clinicians she met in the audience, who are on the front lines of this health care reform effort. She spoke about the first forum on health reform that brought together Democrats, Republicans, insurance executives, providers and everyday Americans at the White House to begin the discussion. These regional forums, she said, are a continuation of that discussion.11:40: South Dakota Governor Rounds addressed the group next. He said that in South Dakota, the pressing concern is how to provide the best possible care in small, rural communities. 9 percent of South Dakotans are uninsured. Governor Rounds said, "We can do better…and we must not leave out rural areas."
11:34: Senator Harkin just addressed the group – he stressed that we urgently need to change the health care system. The Senator said, "the good news is, we have a President who gets it." He urged the incorporation of prevention measures in to the health system, so that we can transform our system from a sick-care system to a health care system.11:25: Governor Culver welcomes the group and thanks President Obama for his commitment to tackling the "national challenge" that is health care reform. He says he hopes the discussion today can provide some useful input for the President and his health care team (since the Transition, that team has been exceptional in listening carefully and turning the input they get into serious points and data to inform policy-making). Two Iowa lawmakers - Congressman Leonard Boswell and Senator Tom Harkin, are next up to speak.
11:15: Governor Culver kicks off the forum with a video message from President Obama. The President thanks the group for participating and says he looks forward to hearing about the concerns and ideas raised at the forum today. For background, the regional forums were designed to bring everyone with a stake in the health reform debate together, not just in Washington but across the country where people deal with the realities of health care every day, not just the policy analysis and politics of it. Forums in Dearborn, Michigan and Burlington, Vermont were held over the last two weeks, and two more health reform discussions in Greensboro, North Carolina and Los Angeles, California are coming up.
11:05: The third Regional White House Forum on Health Reform just began in Des Moines, Iowa. Today’s event is coming to you live from the Polk County Convention Center (which was also home to the Iowa Caucuses in 2008) Thomas Newton, the Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health just began his opening remarks to the forum, welcoming the participants. It will be moderated by Governor Chet Culver of Iowa and Governor Mike Rounds of South Dakota, with Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office on Health Reform, representing the White House.
Jesse LeeMarch 23, 2009
10:37 AM EDTAt 11:00: The third Regional Forum of Health Reform, streamed over at HealthReform.gov. We’ll also host Rebecca Adelman of HHS, who live-blogged the initial White House Forum, covering this one as well here at WhiteHouse.govAt 12:30: The President speaks at a Green Jobs event here on the White House grounds, which we’ll be streaming at WhiteHouse.gov/live (as we do all his remarks here). He’ll be speaking to approximately 120 researchers, lab directors, and CEOs from start-up and established companies, focusing on the importance of investing in Research & Development so we can continue to develop and build the Clean Energy Economy here in the United States.
Jesse LeeMarch 21, 2009
05:30 AM EDTThe President reflects on lessons from his time spent outside Washington recently, which only reinforced the core principles in his budget. The budget will be his central focus throughout this week:"These investments are not a wish list of priorities that I picked out of thin air – they are a central part of a comprehensive strategy to grow this economy by attacking the very problems that have dragged it down for too long: the high cost of health care and our dependence on oil; our education deficit and our fiscal deficit."Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
Jesse LeeMarch 20, 2009
03:51 PM EDT"This is a big day. We've been talking it since the day we moved in," said the First Lady as she and two dozen local students broke ground on the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn of the White House. Those students will be involved in the garden as it develops and grows, producing delicious, healthy vegetables to be cooked in the White House Kitchen and given to Miriam's Kitchen, which serves the homeless in Washington, DC.
March 20, 2009
03:41 PM EDT
We welcome OMB Director Peter Orszag, who has agreed to lend his expertise for a post discussing the new Fiscal Responsibility Summit Report. Read Director Orszag regularly at his own blog at http://www.omb.gov.
Today, the Administration is releasing the Fiscal Responsibility Summit Report (pdf)that the President announced during the final session of the Summit on February 23.
The Summit was convened so that the President could solicit ideas and discuss solutions to our long-term fiscal imbalance with a broad array of national leaders—from both political parties, from in and out of government, and from Washington, DC and the country as a whole. The President and the Administration are committed to seeking out the best ideas, wherever they may be found, and the Fiscal Responsibility Summit was an important early step in this vital effort.
The Report offers a summary of the Summit’s events, which encapsulates the comments and insights contributed by the full array of Summit participants.
As I have stated elsewhere, our nation is currently being forced to grapple with a pair of trillion-dollar deficits. One is the trillion-dollar deficit between what the economy is producing each year and what it could produce. The other is the trillion-dollar budget deficits that this Administration is inheriting.
The first deficit, the trillion-dollar income gap this year, is an urgent crisis. The longer it persists, the more jobs that are lost, the more income that households lose, and the more businesses that are closed. The Recovery Act that was enacted last month is intended to address that crisis.
The second deficit, the budget deficit, may be somewhat less urgent, but it's no less important. Over the medium to long term, the nation is on an unsustainable fiscal course, and to be responsible, we must begin the process of fiscal reform now.
That's why the President convened the Fiscal Responsibility Summit, because we can no longer let the urgent get in the way of the important. In charting a new fiscal course, we need to be clear in diagnosing the problem. The single most important thing we can do to put this nation back on a sustainable long-term fiscal course is to slow the growth rate of health care costs.
So, as I stated during my remarks at the Summit, let me be very clear: Health care reform is entitlement reform. The path to fiscal responsibility must run directly through health care.
This is part of the reason why the President had said, time and again, that he is committed to reforming the health system this year. And at the Summit, there was consensus on this point across a range of voices. From Senator Alexander and Douglas Holtz-Eakin on one side of the aisle, to Senator Baucus and Senator Dodd and Representative Waxman on the other, all agreed to try to tackle health care this year.
With the President’s leadership, and with the support of a diverse set of voices, we can reform health care this year, start to bend the curve on long-term costs, and get our economy back on a path of long-term fiscal sustainability.
Jesse LeeMarch 20, 2009
02:00 PM EDTThe President has made a point of looking for ways to puncture the presidential bubble that has so often resulted in America’s leaders losing touch with the majority of the America people, whether it’s been by fighting to keep his blackberry so he can always hear from a variety of voices outside the White House, or by traveling to town halls to get out of Washington altogether. This afternoon, when the President and the Vice President met with representatives from the National Conference of State Legislatures, he brought some lessons home with him from his town halls in California this week, namely the need for investments and the need for accountability in those investments:Over the last two days I've been traveling in California, talking with Americans about the challenges they're facing as a result of this economic crisis. And these are challenges that all of you know very well. You're on the front lines of this recession. It's your states that are struggling with shrinking revenues, your budgets are being cut, services that your families depend on in a moment of need are being placed under tremendous strain. And as a former state legislator, I know how difficult your work can be, and how important it is to have a strong partner in Washington. I want you to know I'm committed to being that kind of partner.The President heard a lot about the need for those investments in California, but he also made clear today in the meeting that the accountability effort, which only began with Recovery.gov, will have teeth:That starts with a fundamental commitment. Decisions about how Recovery Act dollars are spent will be based on the merits. Let me repeat that: Decisions about how Recovery money will be spent will be based on the merits.
They will not be made as a way of doing favors for lobbyists. Any lobbyist who wants to talk with a member of my administration about a particular Recovery Act project will have to submit their thoughts in writing, and we will post it on the Internet for all to see. (Applause.) If any member of my administration does meet with a lobbyist about a Recovery Act project, every American will be able to go online and see what that meeting was about. These are unprecedented restrictions that will help ensure that lobbyists don't stand in the way of our recovery.
And this plan cannot and will not be an excuse for waste and abuse. Whenever a project comes up for review, we're going to ask a simple question: Does it advance the core mission of the Recovery Act? Does it jumpstart job creation? Does it lay the foundation for lasting prosperity?
The initiatives that will get priority will be ones that have demonstrated how they meet this test; initiatives that maximize the number of jobs we are creating so we can get the most bang out of every taxpayer buck; initiatives that help make health care more affordable, and rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges, or provide other enduring benefits to the American people.The President thanked the U.S. Conference of Mayors for their commitment to the effort as well, with Vice President Biden having sent a letter (pdf) to them today detailing the accountability standards that will be applied. The President pledged that he would lead by example, forgoing much needed repairs in the Executive offices because they simply don’t fit the mission of the Recovery Act, but he held up Harry Truman, who crusaded against waste, fraud, and profiteering in the war effort as an even better example: "What Harry Truman understood was that spending tax dollars wisely isn’t just about keeping our books straight, it’s about fulfilling our obligation as keepers of the public trust."
March 19, 2009
11:55 PM EDTPresident Obama released a special video message for all those celebrating Nowruz. Translated "New Day," Nowruz marks the arrival of spring and the beginning of the New Year for millions in Iran and other communities around the world. This year, the President wanted to send a special message to the people and government of Iran on Nowruz, acknowledging the strain in our relations over the last few decades. "But at this holiday we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together," he says.
After committing his administration to a future of honest and respectful diplomacy, he continues on to address Iran's leaders directly: "You, too, have a choice. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create."Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
Jesse LeeMarch 19, 2009
02:51 PM EDTThe President just spoke at the Edison Electric Vehicle Technical Center in Pomona, California. The Center "provides a broad range of electric transportation services, focusing on solutions for automakers, battery manufacturers, government agencies, business and industrial fleet customers, residential customers and more" – a mission that dovetails perfectly with the President’s vision for green transportation and a green economy. The President explained that in addition to green jobs being a key element of the Recovery Act, it will be a focus of his economic blueprint throughout his presidency:And that is the forward-thinking purpose of the budget that I submitted to Congress. It's a budget that makes hard choices about where to save and where to spend; that makes overdue investments in education, health care and, yes, in energy -- investments that will catalyze innovation and industry, create green jobs, and launch clean renewable energy companies right here in California.
Over the next three years, we will double this nation's supply of renewable energy. We've also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history -- an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in science and technology. We will invest $15 billion a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power, advanced biofuels, clean coal, and fuel-efficient cars and trucks that are built right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can create new energy in cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bill, just like you've done in California for decades. And we will put 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles on America's roads by 2015. (Applause.)He went on to announce the availability of $2.4 billion in funding Americans to work producing next generation Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles and the advanced battery components that will make these vehicles run. The initiative will create tens of thousands of jobs, and Americans who decide to purchase these Plug-in Hybrid vehicles can claim a tax credit of up to $7,500. He went on to announce that:
- The Department of Energy is offering up to $1.5 billion in grants to U.S. based manufacturers to produce these highly efficient batteries and their components.
- The Department of Energy is offering up to $500 million in grants to U.S. based manufacturers to produce other components needed for electric vehicles, such as electric motors and other components.
Learn more at Energy.gov/Recovery.
- The Department of Energy is offering up to $400 million to demonstrate and evaluate Plug-In Hybrids and other electric infrastructure concepts -- like truck stop charging station, electric rail, and training for technicians to build and repair electric vehicles.
Jesse LeeMarch 19, 2009
10:48 AM EDTToday’s the day for the second meeting of the Middle Class Task Force, this time in St. Cloud Minnesota to discuss the Recovery Act as the beginning of a strengthened middle class in America. The Task Force has been taking your questions through the website and will be connecting the Recovery Act to the real day-to-day lives of working Americans.
[UPDATE: Read the full staff report (pdf)]
A couple preview stories out this morning:Larry Bivins, Gannett newspapers – March 19, 2009The Middle Class Task Force road show rolls into St. Cloud today, with Vice President Joe Biden leading a cast of Cabinet chiefs and White House advisers.But they're not coming to talk so much as they're coming to listen, to hear how Minnesotans are handling the economy and how they want their government to help."We're not just going to toot our own horn, we're going to hear how people are coping with this very tough economy," said Jared Bernstein, the task force executive director.In that sense, the town hall meeting at the New Flyer of America Inc. will be markedly different from the group's first meeting Feb. 27 in Philadelphia, where a group of experts sounded off on the merits of so-called green jobs in enhancing the economy.Thursday's meeting centers on how the $787 billion economic stimulus package can benefit the middle class.For example, the combination of job and tax initiatives will add $3,000 to the incomes of some middle-class families, "significantly offsetting their income losses over the recession," according to a draft of a task force report to be released today.Darlene Superville, Associated Press - March 19, 2009Middle-class families can look to the promise of new jobs, and rely on the economic recovery package for help getting through the recession, an Obama administration economist says.President Barack Obama has set up a task force to study ways to aid the middle class, and a town-hall style meeting set for Thursday in St. Cloud, Minn., offered people a chance to talk directly to Vice President Joe Biden and other officials. The session was to examine how middle-class people can benefit from the $787 billion stimulus measure Obama signed last month."If you look at the benefits that the typical middle-income, working family yields from a better jobs outlook, along with some of the tax benefits that are in the package, you're talking about adding something in the neighborhood of $3,000 to the average income of middle-class families," said Jared Bernstein, Biden's chief economist and executive director of the Middle-Class Task Force.The legislation aims to save or create 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year and reduce unemployment, which hit 8.1 percent in February. A draft of a report to be released at the meeting says every 1 percentage point drop in unemployment raises family incomes by up to 2 percent, which could mean as much as an extra $1,300 for middle-class families.
Jesse LeeMarch 19, 2009
09:33 AM EDTStephanie Valencia with the Office of Public Liaison wanted to give an update on a new resource on the President’s housing plan for people who need help to find out if they are eligible.At midnight last night the Treasury Department took a great step to ensure that everybody who can take advantage of the President housing plan can do so, helping to put the brakes on the foreclosure crisis, launching MakingHomeAffordable.gov – a site where you can find out everything you need to know about the President’s plan and whether you qualify. As somebody involved in conversations about this effort over the past weeks, I was excited to be able to talk about it here on the White House blog -- be sure to check out the calculator that allows homeowners to estimate the reduction to their monthly mortgage payment that they might get under the plan.Yesterday Marketwire reported that the Homeowner's HOPE Hotline (888-995-HOPE) is being overwhelmed with calls – more than 124,000 homeowners have called in looking for help since the President announced his housing plan. That’s good news because it means the word is getting out about how to get help, and as it happens that’s part of what we do here in the Office of Public Liaison – help make sure the word gets out. But to fight back against this epidemic we need to do everything we can to make the information as prevalent as possible, and that’s what MakingHomeAffordable.gov is about.Last week, we met with over 50 people from the PICO National Network, a faith based, grassroots organization, who trekked cross country on busses they call the Recovery Express to highlight and bring the true face to the housing and foreclosure crisis that has enveloped our nation to Washington, DC. They traveled from Antioch, California to Denver, to Kansas City, to Springfield, IL, to Chicago, IL, to Flint, MI, to Camden, NJ all the way to DC. They put a face to the 3 million families who have lost their homes. There were stories of heart break, injustice and down right criminality on behalf of some predatory and irresponsible lenders. Their hardship and heartbreak are a reminder that while this crisis is vast, it begins just one house – and one family – at a time. A reminder about why we are here to try and undo some of the fiscal mess that we are in. See the video at the site to hear more stories of how good, responsible people can end up in situations like that, and how the plan can help.We talked to them about the President’s Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, which will help between seven and nine million families restructure or refinance their mortgages so they can avoid foreclosure. It will allow refinancing of loans for millions of families in traditional mortgages who are underwater or close to it by modifying loans for families stuck in sub-prime mortgages they can’t afford as a result of skyrocketing interest rates or personal misfortune; and by taking broader steps to keep mortgage rates low so that families can secure loans with affordable monthly payments.While our plan may not save every homeowner in trouble, it will give millions of families a chance to rebuild. Solving this crisis will require more than resources – it will require each of us to take responsibility, to reach out to our neighbors and offer support and guidance, to engage with the government and work together to find solutions. And it will require those of us who are eligible to participate in the President’s plan to reach out and get the help like 124,000 people already have. Like the families from the PICO Network that came by and shared their stories with us it will require each of us to take action. Together we can help rebuild the American Dream house by house, neighborhood by neighborhood and city by city.So again, if you need help and think you might be eligible, go to MakingHomeAffordable.gov, if you know somebody else who has been responsible but like so many others is struggling to stay afloat, send them that link. All hands on deck!
Jesse LeeMarch 18, 2009
08:13 PM EDT
- OMB Director Peter Orszag debunks the attack that the President’s budget represents "the biggest increase ever" in domestic spending.
- The State Department supports the UN Statement on "Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity." The President also joined Secretary Clinton in announcing the appointment of Major General J. Scott Gration as the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan.
- Transportation Secretary LaHood blogs about his new partnership with Secretary Donovan in HUD on livable communities: "In Secretary Donovan, I have a great partner who gets the relationship between housing and transportation. In his Hill appearance with me today, he captured the need for joint action perfectly: ‘HUD’s central mission – ensuring that every American has access to decent, affordable housing – can be achieved only in context of the housing, transportation, and energy costs and choices that American families experience each day.’"
- The United States Senate today overwhelmingly approved (pdf) the nomination of USTR designee Ron Kirk as the nation’s 16th trade representative. The vote was 92-5.
- The Labor Department issued guidance to states on the $3,514,500,000 in Recovery Act funding for the nation’s workforce system and network of One-Stop Career Centers. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis: "Through the One-Stops, the workforce system will play a vital role in America's economic recovery by assisting workers who are facing unprecedented challenges to retool their skills and re-establish themselves in viable career paths."
- Kudos to the White House Counsel’s office for helping to uphold the President’s Executive Order on Ethics, whole-heartedly commended today (pdf) by several good government groups.
Jesse LeeMarch 18, 2009
08:03 PM EDTThe President just finished up in Costa Mesa, California holding a town hall with local residents, telling them "It’s always good to get out of Washington for a little while and come to places like Costa Mesa – because the climate’s a lot nicer and so is the conversation."He started off talking about the AIG bonuses that have been dominating the news:I know a lot of you are outraged about this. I’m outraged, too. It’s hard to understand that a company that is relying on extraordinary assistance from taxpayers to keep its doors open would be paying anyone lavish bonuses. It goes against our most basic sense of what is fair and what is right. It offends our values.But these bonuses, outrageous as they are, are a symptom of a much larger problem. And that is the system and culture that made them possible – a culture where people made enormous sums for taking irresponsible risks that have now put the whole economy at risk. So we are going to do everything we can to deal with these specific bonuses. But what’s just as important is that we make sure we don’t find ourselves in this situation again, where taxpayers are on the hook for losses in bad times and all the wealth generated in good times goes to those at the very top.That is the kind of ethic we’ve had for too long. That is the kind of approach that led us into this mess. And that is something we have to change if we’re truly going to turn our economy around and move this country forward.He went on to talk about the Recovery Act, the budget, and the economy at largeYou know what I’m talking about. I don’t need to tell you these are challenging times. I don’t need to tell you this because you’re living it every day. One out of every ten Californians is out of work. You’ve got one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation. And budget cuts are threatening the jobs of thousands of teachers across this state. But here’s what I want you to know: we are not only going to make it through this crisis, we are going to come out on the other side a stronger and more prosperous nation. I can’t tell you how long it will take or what obstacles we will face along the way, but I can promise you this – there will be brighter days ahead.We’re already seeing signs of progress. Because of the Recovery Act that your two outstanding senators, Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer worked so hard to pass and that I signed into law the other week, a new hospital will be built at Camp Pendleton that will give our servicemen and women the care they deserve. Over in Inglewood, the police department is planning to expand its staff by thirty people. And Orange County is hoping to add a new lane on SR-91, creating about 2,000 jobs, and easing congestion in the process. These are just a few of the 396,000 jobs we will create or save in California – and the 3.5 million jobs we will create or save across America – over the next two years.During the Q&A portion of the town hall he assured the people of Costa Mesa that their concerns about their educational system would be met with real investments in his budget. He expressed support for the idea that the banks and companies bilking people on credit cards should be put in check by a credit card holders’ bill of rights. He explained why he’s had to go against his own gut and everybody else’s to help prevent banks from failing even when it was due to their own irresponsibility because of the cascading financial disasters that would ensue without action. He closed on the auto industry, talking to one out-of-work auto worker about how the future will belong to the companies that master the next big advances in fuel efficiency.It was the kind of conversation that’s hard to find inside Washington, look for more like this from the President and his Administration.
Jesse LeeMarch 18, 2009
03:53 PM EDTPresident Obama had a productive meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus this morning in the State Dining Room. The press weren't there, but we can give you this exclusive photo and the "readout" the Press Office sent out (that's what they send when the meeting is closed press to in order to give an idea of what happened without violating any participant's sense of privacy).Readout on the President’s Meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus
The President had a robust and strategic meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus today on the topic of immigration. The meeting lasted approximately one hour. The President discussed how the administration will work with the CHC to address immigration concerns in both the short and long term. During the meeting, the President announced that he will travel to Mexico next month to meet with President Calderon to discuss the deep and comprehensive US-Mexico relationship, including how the United States and Mexico can work together to support Mexico’s fight against drug-related violence and work toward effective, comprehensive immigration reform. Since their meeting in January, the President has repeatedly praised President Calderon for his extraordinary work to solve these challenges, which are important to communities and families on both sides of the border.
March 18, 2009
12:00 AM EDTThe President released his 2009 NCAA College Basketball Tournament bracket today. President Obama played it safe for the most part, picking Louisville (1 seed), Memphis (2), Pittsburgh (1), and North Carolina (1) as his Final Four to meet in Detroit. After some deliberation, the First Hoops Fan is calling the Tar Heels as this year's national champs.
Jesse LeeMarch 17, 2009
08:11 PM EDT
We’ll start with another inspirational moment, call it the "spirit of the Recovery Act" – Mrs. Obama at YouthBuild AmeriCorps Green Homebuilding Service Day, speaking to young people working hard to help alleviate poverty and build a green future. From the transcript of her remarks on the National Mall in DC, where the enthusiasm on all sides jumps off the page:
The work you've done here is quite impressive, and the evolution of your work to include green building, something that we're talking more and more about as a nation, energy-saving practices, and environmental awareness, it demonstrates how YouthBuild has endured as a leading non-profit organization, keeping up with the times, making sure that the training and education that you get is current.
However, for me, it's your core principle that I am so impressed with, of providing opportunities for amazing young people -- amazing young people -- (applause) -- giving folks a second, and third, and fourth chance, particularly low-income youth. Sometimes we overlook them, we think that they can't be, they can't do. And it's places like YouthBuild that help you to find yourselves and to be reborn in so many ways, and to help rebuild communities all across this country, but to also complete high school and to graduate, and to do some really special things. (Applause.)
And now for a trip around the country.
Stimulus funds to aid state adoptions, foster care… The federal agency said increasing the federal matching rate for federal foster care and adoption assistance programs is intended to provide fiscal relief to states and help allow them to maintain core operations and undertake projects that will put Americans to work during the worst economic crisis in decades.
The state of California will use federal economic stimulus money to put at-risk young adults into green jobs, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Monday. After meeting with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis in Sacramento, Schwarzenegger announced the launch of California Green Corps. "Green jobs are exactly what our economy and environment need right now -- and the California Green Corps targets that need while helping at-risk young adults realize a brighter future," Schwarzenegger said.
Stimulus boosts Bay area electronic health records plan… Funding included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for electronic health records is expected to lead to 132 new jobs in the Tampa Bay area. The new jobs will be for people who would work alongside physicians as trainers and support staff. They will help doctors convert from writing paper prescriptions to using electronic prescribing, according to a release from PaperFree Tampa Bay, a new public/private partnership. The effort is a first step toward implementing connected electronic health records to improve patient safety and cut costs, the release said.
State officials are hoping that a big new portion of the federal stimulus package will generate more than 3,000 jobs in local construction for transportation projects. Gov. Linda Lingle announced yesterday that the state was applying for $248.2 million in federal stimulus money… Brennon Morioka, state transportation director, said "we tried to be diverse" when asked how they selected projects for the stimulus money. "We tried to look at jobs for all the trades," Morioka said.
Louisville's second federal stimulus boost in two weeks will give the city nearly $15 million to create hiking and biking trails, resurface 70 miles of streets, and build and repair sidewalks throughout the county. Mayor Jerry Abramson said yesterday that the projects will create 1,300 jobs… Smaller cities -- Jeffersontown, Middletown, Pewee Valley and St. Matthews -- will receive a total of more than $3 million from the stimulus program. Last week, the Transit Authority of River City announced that it will get $17.7 million in stimulus money to buy 10 hybrid buses and build an environmentally friendly maintenance annex… "Will it help a lot? Oh, heavens yes," [Public Works Director Ted] Pullen said. "This is three years' worth of normal funding, so it's a good shot."
Louisiana is expected to get $122.3 million in federal economic recovery money to improve the energy efficiency of the homes, government buildings and public transportation over the next three years and to jump start renewable energy projects for electricity generation. The funds should create scores of new jobs for tradesmen willing to learn green building practices. It will also help moderate-income households around the state improve the energy-efficiency of their homes and lower their utility bills… "What's the word? Unprecedented," said Charlette Minor, program administrator for the energy, home and neighborhood stabilization program at the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency, which will administer $50.6 million of the money. "For us as an agency to be able to reach so many families who need that assistance to get their energy costs reduced is incredible."
Stimulus to Create Up To 23,000 Construction Jobs in Mich… Under the spending plan, Michigan is expected to receive about $850 million for projects designed to fix or improve its roads, highways and bridges. The timing couldn't be better. Thanks to the severe downturn in the state's construction industry, there are more than enough workers to fill the 20,000 to 23,000 jobs expected to be created.
The Salisbury Housing Authority will use most of $1.2 million in federal stimulus money to bring central air-conditioning and new heating to three of its public housing developments. "It really is a godsend," Layton Woodcock, executive director of the housing authority, said of money coming from the recently passed American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. "We didn't know how long it would take for all of our apartments to get central air." The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is distributing stimulus money to local housing authorities based on a complicated formula tied to capital funding, Woodcock said.
Millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds are now available in Oregon and Washington for public lands projects. The money is expected to create hundreds of jobs. The U.S. Forest Service will start awarding $10 million in contracts this week for hazardous fuel reduction projects in Oregon. That work will go to private companies already under contract with the Forest Service and is expected to employ about a hundred workers. "It’s the kind of work we’ve been doing for many years. Reducing fuel in the fire prone areas, thinning trees out," says Tom Knappenberger, a spokesman for the Forest Service. "In some cases, it’s mechanical. In other cases, it’s prescribed burns. All the normal tools we use to reduce the fuels in places that are likely to burn and would cause threats to resources."
Highway and bridge projects financed by $1 billion in federal stimulus money are expected to create thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania, according to Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler. A list of about 240 projects was released at a news conference in Harrisburg on Monday afternoon and posted on www.recovery.pa.gov, the state's Web site for stimulus projects… Biehler estimated that the road projects will directly and indirectly create 30,000 jobs.
Gladys Elementary to stay open, in large part to stimulus money… Campbell County Schools officials said they will not close Gladys Elementary School and likely will not lay off personnel, due in large part to the federal stimulus plan. "The budget you have tonight does not have any closings in it," said Robert Johnson, assistant superintendent for administration. At a school board meeting last month officials discussed a handful of possible cuts to make up for a budget shortfall, one of which was the closure of the 208-student Gladys school.
Jesse LeeMarch 17, 2009
01:44 PM EDTOn this St. Patrick’s Day, the President announced his intention to nominate Dan Rooney, co-founder of the Ireland Fund, as ambassador to Ireland. Later he hosted Taoiseach Brian Cowen and once again used his diverse roots to find humor and common ground:Now, before I turn it over to the Taoiseach, it turns out that we have something in common. He hails from County Offaly. And it was brought to my attention on the campaign that my great-great-great grandfather on my mother's side came to America from a small village in County Offaly, as well. We are still speculating on whether we are related. (Laughter.)I do share, though, a deep appreciation for the remarkable ties between our nations. I am grateful to him for his leadership of Ireland. The bond between our countries could not be stronger. As somebody who comes from Chicago, I know a little bit about Ireland, and the warmth, the good humor, and the fierce passion and intelligence of the Irish people is something that has informed our own culture, as well. And so that's why this day and this celebration is so important.[Download full size]
After that he also met with Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, and Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness: