Our Top Stories
Jesse LeeMay 22, 2009
05:40 PM EDTIt can be difficult to think of an issue that touches more people, or can get a rise out of more people, than credit card fine print, fees, and staggering interest rate hikes. For some it is an irritation, for others who may have already hit a rough patch, it can become a brutal weight.But as the legislation the President signed today goes into effect, those problems will phase out as normal parts of life for our friends, our neighbors, our families or ourselves. It is a sweeping bill -- as you read through the White House fact sheet on the details, you are sure to be reminded of a dozen angry or frustrated stories you have heard over the years. Just for starters, it bans unfair rate increases, prevents unfair fee traps, requires plain language in plain sight for disclosures, increases accountability all around, and institutes protections for students and young people.Having recounted a few stories of hard-working people who took real hits, and a litany of ways credit card companies can find to take advantage, the President described the new rules:So we're here to put a change to all that. With this bill, we're putting in place some common-sense reforms designed to protect consumers like Janet. I want to be clear about this: Credit card companies provide a valuable service; we don't begrudge them turning a profit. We just want to make sure that they do so while upholding basic standards of fairness, transparency, and accountability. Just as we demand credit card users to act responsibly, we demand that credit card companies act responsibly, too. And that's not too much to ask.And that's why, because of this new law, statements will be required to tell credit card holders how long it will take to pay off a balance and what it will cost in interest if they only make the minimum monthly payments. We also put a stop to retroactive rate hikes that appear on a bill suddenly with no rhyme or reason.Every card company will have to post its credit card agreements online, and we'll monitor those agreements to see if new protections are needed. Consumers will have more time to understand their statements as well: Companies will have to mail them 21 days before payment is due, not 14. And this law ends the practice of shifting payment dates. This always used to bug me -- when you'd get like -- suddenly it was due on the 19th when it had been the 31st.Lastly, among many other provisions, there will be no more sudden charges -- changes to terms and conditions. We require at least 45 days notice if the credit card company is going to change terms and conditions.So we're not going to give people a free pass; we expect consumers to live within their means and pay what they owe. But we also expect financial institutions to act with the same sense of responsibility that the American people aspire to in their own lives.And this is a difficult time for our country, born in many ways of our collective failure to live up to our obligations -- to ourselves and to one another. And the fact is, it took a long time to dig ourselves into this economic hole; it's going to take some time to dig ourselves out.But I'm heartened by what I'm seeing: by the willingness of old adversaries to seek out new partnerships; by the progress we've made these past months to address many of our toughest challenges. And I'm confident that as a nation we will learn the lessons of our recent past and that we will elevate again those values at the heart of our success as a people: hard work over the easy buck, responsibility over recklessness, and, yes, moderation over extravagance.
Jesse LeeMay 22, 2009
04:07 PM EDTThis morning the President spoke at the US Naval Academy Commencement in Annapolis, Maryland, and reminded us that our military is made up of hundreds of thousands of individual stories, each guided by a common set of values:After an era when so many institutions and individuals acted with such greed and recklessness, it's no wonder that our military remains the most trusted institution in our nation. (Applause.) And in a world when so many forces and voices seek to divide us, it inspires us that this class came together and succeeded together, from every state and every corner of the world. By building an institution that's more diverse than ever -- more women, more Hispanics, more African Americans -- the Naval Academy has reaffirmed a fundamental American truth: that out of many, we are one. (Applause.)We see these values in every one of these sailors and Marines, including those who have already served their country -- the dozens among you with prior enlisted service.It's the perseverance of Elvin Vasquez, a Marine supply chief in Iraq -- (applause) -- who finally got into the Naval Academy on his third try -- (applause) -- who never gave up trying because he says, "there's just something about being a Marine."It's the example of Carlos Carbello -- (applause) -- who left the tough streets of L.A. to serve on a destroyer in the Pacific and who has used his time here to mentor others, because he's the oldest midshipman -- the old man -- at the age of 26. (Applause.)It's the patriotism of Sade Holder -- (applause) -- who came to America as a child from Trinidad, enlisted in the Navy and then earned the titles she values most: "U.S. citizen" and "Navy Midshipman" and today, "Ensign." (Applause.)And it's the reverence for tradition shown by James P. Heg -- (applause) -- a communications -- a communications maintenance Marine in Iraq who today is joined by the man who first urged him to sign up, his grandfather, returning six decades after he was a midshipman, a submariner from World War II, 89-year-old Captain James E. Heg. (Applause.)Honor. Courage. Commitment. These are the values that have defined your years in the Yard and that you'll need in the years ahead as you join the fleet, and as you join and lead the Marines, as you confront the ever-changing threats of an ever-changing world.Towards the end of his speech, he connected his admiration for their service to the values he espoused yesterday at the National Archives:Yesterday I visited the National Archives and the halls that holds our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence, and our Bill of Rights. I went there because, as our national debate on how to deal with the security challenge that we face proceeds, we must remember this enduring truth: The values and ideals in those documents are not simply words written into aging parchment, they are the bedrock of our liberty and our security. We uphold our fundamental principles and values not just because we choose to, but because we swear to; not because they feel good, but because they help keep us safe and keep us true to who we are.Because when America strays from our values, it not only undermines the rule of law, it alienates us from our allies, it energizes our adversaries, and it endangers our national security and the lives of our troops. So as Americans, we reject the false choice between our security and our ideals. We can and we must and we will protect both. (Applause.) And that is just what you will pledge to do in a few moments when you raise your right hand and take your oath.But that simple act -- by that simple act, you will accept a life of great sacrifice: long deployments, separation from loved ones, tests and trials that most Americans can't imagine. But that is the oath you take, the life you choose, the promise you make to America.And today, this is the promise I make to you. It's a promise that as long as I am your Commander-in-Chief, I will only send you into harm's way when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy and the well-defined goals, the equipment and the support that you need to get the job done. (Applause.) This includes the job of bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end and pursuing a new comprehensive strategy to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Applause.)
Jesse LeeMay 22, 2009
02:44 PM EDTNext week on May 26th the Middle Class Task Force will hold its fourth official meeting entitled "Building a Strong Middle Class through a Green Economy." The town hall style meeting will be held at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science where the President signed the Recovery Act and kicked off a new wave of green jobs across the country.The first meeting of the Task Force was also on this topic -- held in Philadelphia it explored the vision and possibilities of green jobs. This meeting will start looking at how those possibilities are becoming reality, and how the full potential of that vision be reached. The impressive roster of attendees will include Vice President Biden (Chair of Task Force), Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and Van Jones, Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Jesse LeeMay 22, 2009
10:25 AM EDTThis morning the President signed legislation that seems an obvious step, and yet it is one that has not been taken despite all of the incidents that have cried out for it: reform of the defense procurement and contracting system. This accomplishment for American taxpayers ,and for our military who can now stretch every dollar that much further for those who serve our country, was made all the more gratifying by the bipartisan consensus that it finally found.The President recognized Senator McCain in particular in his remarks:Last year, the Government Accountability Office, or the GAO, looked into 95 major defense projects and found cost overruns that totaled $295 billion. Wasteful spending comes from exotic requirements, lack of oversight, and indefensible no-bid contracts that don't make our troops or our country any safer. To put this in perspective, these cost overruns would have paid our troops' salaries and provided benefits for their families for more than a year.At a time when we're fighting two wars and facing a serious deficit, this is unexcusable and unconscionable. As Secretary Gates has said, one dollar of waste in our defense budget is a dollar we can't spend to support our troops, or prepare for future threats, or protect the American people. Well, it's finally time to end this waste and inefficiency.Already, I've announced reform that will greatly reduce no-bid defense contracts and save the government billions of dollars. And Secretary Gates, working with our military leadership, has also proposed a courageous set of reforms in our defense budget that will target waste and strengthen our military for the future. In taking on this enormously difficult task, he's done a tremendous job, and I want to publicly commend Secretary Gates for that.The bill I'm signing today, known as the Weapons System Acquisition Reforms Act, represents an important next step in this procurement reform process. It reforms a system where taxpayers are charged too much for weapons systems that too often arrive late -- a system that suffers from spending on unproven technologies, outdated weapons, and a general lack of oversight.The purpose of this law will be to limit cost overruns before they spiral out of control. It will strengthen oversight and accountability by appointing officials who will be charged with closely monitoring the weapons systems we're purchasing to ensure that costs are controlled. If the cost of certain defense projects continue to grow year after year, those projects will be closely reviewed, and if they don't provide the value we need, they will be terminated. This law will also enhance competition and end conflicts of interest in the weapons acquisitions process so that American taxpayers and the American military can get the best weapons at the lowest cost.And this legislation is long overdue, and it's been a long time coming. But we're finally signing it into law because of the dedication and commitment of a few key members of Congress who've been fighting for years for this reform: Senators Carl Levin and John McCain; Representatives Ike Skelton, John McHugh, Rob Andrews, and Mike Conaway. I'm very proud of the extraordinary work that all these gentlemen have done who are standing behind me today. Senator McCain couldn't be here today because he's making sure he has a good seat to watch his son graduate from the Naval Academy in a few hours, and that's where I'm headed as soon as I catch my ride over here.But I will tell you that defense procurement reform was one of the issues that John McCain and I discussed in our first meeting after the election. We pledged to work together to get it done, and today I'm extraordinarily proud to stand here and sign a bill that passed with unanimous support from both parties at every step of the way.
Jesse LeeMay 21, 2009
05:21 PM EDTAfter a pivotal speech this morning, the President took a moment this afternoon to welcome the Superbowl Champions to the White House, along with approximately 50 Wounded Warriors from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center and their families. Afterwards they all joined up to work with USO to assemble 3,000 care packages for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Peter OrszagMay 21, 2009
01:53 PM EDTOMB Director Peter Orszag drops by to introduce us to what will be a key milestone in government transparency:Today, I'm pleased to announce that the Federal CIO Council is launching Data.gov. Created as part of the President's commitment to open government and democratizing information, Data.gov will open up the workings of government by making economic, healthcare, environmental, and other government information available on a single website, allowing the public to access raw data and transform it in innovative ways.Such data are currently fragmented across multiple sites and formats—making them hard to use and even harder to access in the first place. Data.gov will change this, by creating a one-stop shop for free access to data generated across all federal agencies. The Data.gov catalog will allow the American people to find, use, and repackage data held and generated by the government, which we hope will result in citizen feedback and new ideas.Data.gov will also help government agencies—so that taxpayer dollars get spent more wisely and efficiently. Through live data feeds, agencies will have the ability to easily access data both internally and externally from other agencies, which will allow them to maintain higher levels of performance. In the months and years ahead, our goal is to continuously improve and update Data.gov with a wide variety of available datasets and easy-to-use tools based on public feedback and as we modernize legacy systems over time.Democratizing government data will help change how government operates—and give citizens the ability to participate in making government services more effective, accessible, and transparent.Ed. Note: Watch Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra describe the site, and learn more on this from the Open Government Initiative Innovation Gallery:
Jesse LeeMay 21, 2009
01:00 PM EDTVivek Kundra, our Chief Information Officer, and Beth Noveck, Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government, explain the Open Government InitiativeOn January 21, 2009, his first full day in office, the President issued a Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government and called for recommendations for making the Federal government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative.As Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President says in the video below, we are proud "to announce an important next step in this historic call to action – one that will help us achieve a new foundation for our government – a foundation built on the values of transparency, accountability and responsibility."The Administration is committed to developing those recommendations in an open fashion. Consistent with the President’s mandate, we want to be fully transparent in our work, participatory in soliciting your ideas and expertise, and collaborative in how we experiment together to use new tools and techniques for developing open government policy.Today we are kicking off an unprecedented process for public engagement in policymaking on the White House website. In a sea change from conventional practice, we are not asking for comments on an already-finished set of draft recommendations, but are seeking fresh ideas from you early in the process of creating recommendations. We will carefully consider your comments, suggestions, and proposals.Here’s how the public engagement process will work. It will take place in 3 phases: Brainstorming, Discussion, and Drafting.Beginning today, we will have a brainstorming session for suggesting ideas for the open government recommendations. You can vote on suggested ideas or add your own.Then on June 3rd, the most compelling ideas from the brainstorming will be fleshed out on a weblog in a discussion phase. On June 15th [UPDATE: Now June 22nd], we will invite you to use a wiki to draft recommendations in collaborative fashion.These three phases will build upon one another and inform the crafting of recommendations on open government.Also check out the Innovations Gallery and see some of the innovations and innovators across the Government who are already translating the values of open government into practice. For example, just today the CIO Council launched Data.gov. Data.gov is a one-stop repository of government information and tools to make that information useful. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management and Budget today launched Regulations.gov Exchange, a website for taking public input on the best ways to achieve public participation in Federal agency rulemaking. These are just two of the many outstanding innovations featured in the Open Government Innovations Gallery.The President has welcomed the open government innovations being developed across the Government and has encouraged each of his Cabinet departments to adopt more open government innovations in the coming year.Thank you for participating. Open and effective government can only be achieved with everyone’s active engagement. We hope you will lend your insights, experience, and expertise to improve your government and strengthen democracy. Join the Brainstorming that has already begun!
Jesse LeeMay 21, 2009
12:37 PM EDTThis morning the President spoke at length on the values that guide his foreign policy decisions, including the closing of Guantanamo. He began by speaking of the importance of robust national security efforts and upholding American’s core identity and Constitutional principles, explaining how each can enforce the other:For the first time since 2002, we're providing the necessary resources and strategic direction to take the fight to the extremists who attacked us on 9/11 in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We're investing in the 21st century military and intelligence capabilities that will allow us to stay one step ahead of a nimble enemy. We have re-energized a global non-proliferation regime to deny the world's most dangerous people access to the world's deadliest weapons. And we've launched an effort to secure all loose nuclear materials within four years. We're better protecting our border, and increasing our preparedness for any future attack or natural disaster. We're building new partnerships around the world to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates. And we have renewed American diplomacy so that we once again have the strength and standing to truly lead the world.These steps are all critical to keeping America secure. But I believe with every fiber of my being that in the long run we also cannot keep this country safe unless we enlist the power of our most fundamental values. The documents that we hold in this very hall -- the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights -- these are not simply words written into aging parchment. They are the foundation of liberty and justice in this country, and a light that shines for all who seek freedom, fairness, equality, and dignity around the world.I stand here today as someone whose own life was made possible by these documents. My father came to these shores in search of the promise that they offered. My mother made me rise before dawn to learn their truths when I lived as a child in a foreign land. My own American journey was paved by generations of citizens who gave meaning to those simple words -- "to form a more perfect union." I've studied the Constitution as a student, I've taught it as a teacher, I've been bound by it as a lawyer and a legislator. I took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution as Commander-in-Chief, and as a citizen, I know that we must never, ever, turn our back on its enduring principles for expedience sake.I make this claim not simply as a matter of idealism. We uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and it keeps us safe. Time and again, our values have been our best national security asset -- in war and peace; in times of ease and in eras of upheaval.Fidelity to our values is the reason why the United States of America grew from a small string of colonies under the writ of an empire to the strongest nation in the world.It's the reason why enemy soldiers have surrendered to us in battle, knowing they'd receive better treatment from America's Armed Forces than from their own government.It's the reason why America has benefitted from strong alliances that amplified our power, and drawn a sharp, moral contrast with our adversaries.It's the reason why we've been able to overpower the iron fist of fascism and outlast the iron curtain of communism, and enlist free nations and free peoples everywhere in the common cause and common effort of liberty.The President summarized what he believes happened in recent years:And during this season of fear, too many of us -- Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists, and citizens -- fell silent.In other words, we went off course. And this is not my assessment alone. It was an assessment that was shared by the American people who nominated candidates for President from both major parties who, despite our many differences, called for a new approach -- one that rejected torture and one that recognized the imperative of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.He recounted and explained the decisions he has made as President to date in that context, discussing his banning of torture, his closing of Guantanamo, and the ordering of a comprehensive review of all cases there. He detailed the rationale of closing the detention facility, noting how deeply it has tarnished America in the war for hearts and minds, and noting that as a result "the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained." He went into detail about the five categories these cases were likely to fall into, closing on what he described as by far the most difficult: "detainees at Guantanamo who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people," including those for whom evidence may have been tainted. He explained that every avenue to prosecute them would be exhausted, and only then would questions of further detainment would have to be addressed with the most thorough Congressional and Judicial oversight. The President went on to directly address the politics that are so often played on these matters:Now, as our efforts to close Guantanamo move forward, I know that the politics in Congress will be difficult. These are issues that are fodder for 30-second commercials. You can almost picture the direct mail pieces that emerge from any vote on this issue -- designed to frighten the population. I get it. But if we continue to make decisions within a climate of fear, we will make more mistakes. And if we refuse to deal with these issues today, then I guarantee you that they will be an albatross around our efforts to combat terrorism in the future.I have confidence that the American people are more interested in doing what is right to protect this country than in political posturing. I am not the only person in this city who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution -- so did each and every member of Congress. And together we have a responsibility to enlist our values in the effort to secure our people, and to leave behind the legacy that makes it easier for future Presidents to keep this country safe.The President spent the latter half of his speech discussing matters of government secrecy, recalling that "whether it was the run-up to the Iraq War or the revelation of secret programs, Americans often felt like part of the story had been unnecessarily withheld from them. That caused suspicion to build up. That leads to a thirst for accountability." Acknowledging that often in such decisions there is not a singular clear cut principle to guide decisions, and almost always there are competing concerns, he made clear that this need not prevent an honest relationship between the American people and their government:I will never hide the truth because it's uncomfortable. I will deal with Congress and the courts as co-equal branches of government. I will tell the American people what I know and don't know, and when I release something publicly or keep something secret, I will tell you why. (Applause.)Read the full transcript for the rest.
May 21, 2009
10:00 AM EDTBev Godwin, Director of Online Resources & Interagency Development here in White House New Media, knows internet and government. She is on detail to the White House from the U.S. General Services Administration, where she serves as Director of USA.gov and Web Best Practices. She showcases some examples of new media you may or may not know about from across government:Did you know your government may be cooler and more approachable than you think? It really is. I know. I work here.Answering President Obama’s call for engagement with the public, federal agencies continue to expand their online presence. As Macon Phillips, Director of New Media @ The White House says in this video "Your government is delivering online content in new ways and new venues as technology impacts how and where people consume content."
Download mp4 (56.3)So, look for opportunities to jump in and connect with your government -- at our websites and blogs, through videos and photos, in social networks, through widgets, podcasts, and more. Abraham Lincoln knew what he was talking about. This is government of the people, by the people, for the people.View, comment, rate, participate, and share. The government is paying attention, even as we continue to learn ourselves. The more people engage, the more meaningful all of this becomes, and the more progress we can make.Here’s a sampling from the video of what’s been happening. Keep your eye – and mouses -- out for lots more.
More ways to connect with government online:
- EPA’s Pick 5 to help the environment http://www.epa.gov/pick5
- FBI widgets http://www.fbi.gov/widgets.htm
- Library of Congress Flickr photo stream http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/
- National Park Service Facebook App to share stories and photos http://apps.facebook.com/mynationalparks/
- Peer-to-Patent project http://www.uspto.gov/web/patents/peerpriorartpilot/
- Presidential Directives and Executive Orders /briefing_room/PresidentialActions/
- Freedom of Information Act /the_press_office/Freedom_of_Information_Act/
- Transparency and Open Government /the_press_office/Transparency_and_Open_Government/
- Recovery.gov http://www.recovery.gov
- Serve.gov http://www.serve.gov
- State Department’s DipNote blog on Twitter http://twitter.com/dipnote
- State Department on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Washington-DC/US-Department-of-State/15877306073?v=wall&viewas=0
- Troop Tube http://www.trooptube.tv/
- TSA blog http://www.tsa.gov/blog and other federal blogs http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Reference_Shelf/News/blog.shtml
- U.S. Government channel on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/usgovernment
- USA.gov http://www.usa.gov
- USA.gov’s government FAQs, email and online chat http://answers.usa.gov
- USA.gov on Twitter http://twitter.com/usagov
- And of course Whitehouse.gov /
- Blog /blog/
- Health Care Reform Forum (slideshow) /photogallery/White-House-Forum-on-Health-Reform/
- Live Streaming from the White House /live/
- Open for Questions /OpenForQuestions/
- Podcasts /assets/images/get_connected_01-iTunes_ove.jpg
- President’s Weekly Address /weekly_address/
- Town Hall in Turkey /blog/09/04/07/The-Student-Roundtable-in-Turkey/
Jesse LeeMay 20, 2009
06:49 PM EDTThe President has just signed the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act and the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act into law, landmark pieces of legislation addressing the problems that helped set off the economic crisis we are fighting through now.The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act gives the federal government more tools to crack down on the kind of fraud that put thousands of hardworking families at risk of losing their homes despite doing everything right to live within their means. It expands the Department of Justice’s ability to prosecute at virtually every step of the process from predatory lending on Main Street to the manipulation on Wall Street. It also creates a bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to investigate the financial practices that brought us to this point, so that we make sure it never happens again.Before signing it, the President said:Last year, the Treasury Department received 62,000 reports of mortgage fraud -- more than 5,000 each month. The number of criminal mortgage fraud investigations opened by the FBI has more than doubled over the past three years. And yet, the federal government's ability to investigate and prosecute these frauds is severely hindered by outdated laws and a lack of resources.And that's why this bill nearly doubles the FBI's mortgage and financial fraud program, allowing it to better target fraud in hard-hit areas. That's why it provides the resources necessary for other law enforcement and federal agencies, from the Department of Justice to the SEC to the Secret Service, to pursue these criminals, bring them to justice, and protect hardworking Americans affected most by these crimes. It's also why it expands DOJ's authority to prosecute fraud that takes place in many of the private institutions not covered under current federal bank fraud criminal statutes -- institutions where more than half of all subprime mortgages came from as recently as four years ago.The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act expands on the success of the Making Home Affordable Program first announced in February. By reducing foreclosures around the country, the average homeowner could see their house price bolstered by as much as $6,000 as a result of this plan, and as many as 9 million homeowners could get help making their mortgages affordable and avoid preventable foreclosures. This bill makes this help easier to access and take advantage of, helps get credit flowing again, establishes protections for renters living in foreclosed homes, and establishes the right of a homeowner to know who owns their mortgage. It also provides $2.2 billion to address homelessness, helping families be part of the recovery one by one.Before signing it, the President said:Let me talk a little bit about the housing bill. The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act advances the goals of our existing housing plan by providing assistance to responsible homeowners and preventing avoidable foreclosures. Last summer, Congress passed the HOPE for Homeowners Act to help families who found themselves "underwater" as a result of declining home values -- families who owed more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. But too many administrative and technical hurdles made it very difficult to navigate, and most borrowers didn't even bother to try.This bill removes those hurdles, getting folks into sustainable and affordable mortgages, and more importantly, keeping them in their homes. And it expands the reach of our existing housing plan for homeowners with FHA or USDA rural housing loans, providing them with new opportunities to modify or refinance their mortgages to more affordable levels.Any plan is only as effective as the number of people who take advantage of it. This bill recognized that, but if you think you might benefit from refinancing as millions of other Americans could, go to MakingHomeAffordable.gov to find out if you or your family is eligible. Learn more about these bills through the White House fact sheet out today.
Jesse LeeMay 20, 2009
09:22 AM EDTAustan Goolsbee, Staff Director and Chief Economist of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, gives us the agenda for the Board’s first official quarterly meeting:[UPDATE: This event has now concluded.]The first official quarterly meeting of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board will be today at 9:30am in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. The focus of the meeting will be on energy and green jobs and the board will provide recommendations on how to enhance the strength and competitiveness of the nation’s economy through the creation of a comprehensive energy plan that will generate millions of clean energy jobs.
The purpose of the board is not to work inside the White House, but to be bring a diverse set of perspectives and voices from different parts of the country and different sectors of the economy to bear in the formulation and evaluation of economic policy.
Members have been gathering information, conducting research, and analyzing relevant issues in preparation for the first full board meeting. Individual members are also in regular contact with officials at Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and the White House.
The full meeting will be live streamed on whitehouse.gov and the board will issue a report that will be posted online following the meeting.Members
Below is the agenda:9:30-9:35 Austan Goolsbee welcome and opening statement, Administrative business: bylaws, forming of subgroups, etc.
- Paul Volcker, Chairman
- Austan Goolsbee, Staff Director and Chief Economist
- William H. Donaldson, Former Chairman, SEC
- Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., President & CEO, TIAA-CREF
- Robert Wolf, Chairman & CEO, UBS Group Americas
- David F. Swensen, Chief Investment Officer, Yale University
- Mark T. Gallogly, Founder & Managing Partner, Centerbridge Partners L.P.
- Penny Pritzker, Chairman & Founder, Pritzker Realty Group
- John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers
- Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO, GE
- James W. Owens, Chairman and CEO, Caterpillar Inc.
- Monica C. Lozano, Publisher & Chief Executive Officer, La Opinion
- Charles E. Phillips, Jr., President, Oracle Corporation
- Anna Burger, Secretary-Treasurer, SEIU
- Richard L. Trumka, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO
- Laura D'Andrea Tyson, Dean, Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley
9:35-9:55 John Doerr presents overview of letter on energy policy: discussion and vote on whether to forward to the President
10:00-10:05 President Obama gives overview
10:05-10:35 Discussion of Energy Policy and the Green Economy
A. Potential for green jobs
B. How to make US more competitive in clean technologies
C. What energy policy is needed to help innovation thrive
10:35-10:55 Wider issues of job growth in the economy
A. How to stimulate job growth
B. How to help small business
C. How to unleash credit
D. How to make America more competitive in key sectors
10:55-11:00 President Obama gives closing remarks
Jesse LeeMay 19, 2009
02:17 PM EDT"For what everyone here believes, even as views differ on many important issues, is that the
status quo is no longer acceptable."This week the makings of a change in the culture of Washington will be on display, and as the President’s words above indicate there could be no better example than today’s announcement of a breakthrough on fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards. Whereas these issues seemed destined to be the subject of eternal political clashing just last year, today the President was joined on stage by the Presidents, CEOs, or other top executives from Ford, Toyota, General Motors, Honda, Chrysler, BMW AG, Nissan, Mercedez-Benz, Mazda, Volkswagon, and the United Auto Workers to announce a new consensus.In the course of his remarks, the President made clear that ending America’s dependence on fossil fuels will be one of the greatest challenges the country has faced, and that this is only one of steps already being taken to address it. However, he also made clear that this was a historic day:Think about this. Consider how much has changed all around us. Think of how much faster our computers have become. Think about how much more productive our workers are. Think about how everything has been transformed by our capacity to see the world as it is, but also to imagine a world as it could be.That's what's been missing in this debate for too long, and that's why this announcement is so important, for it represents not only a change in policy in Washington but the harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington. No longer will we accept the notion that our politics are too small, our nation too divided, our people too weary of broken promises and lost opportunities to take up a historic calling. No longer will we accept anything less than a common effort, made in good faith, to solve our toughest problems.And that is what this agreement seeks to achieve.Addressing those concerned about whether these changes would mean a higher cost for their cars, the President explained that any costs would be offset in just three years, and that "over the life of a vehicle, the typical driver would save about $2,800 by getting better gas mileage."A top auto industry spokesman summed it up in a statement before the event began: "What's significant about the announcement is it launches a new beginning, an era of cooperation. The President has succeeded in bringing three regulatory bodies, 15 states, a dozen automakers and many environmental groups to the table… We're all agreeing to work together on a National Program."Indeed, leaders from environmental groups were in the audience applauding. One environmental group put it the same way this morning that the President did this afternoon: "Everybody wins." The program covers model year 2012 to model year 2016 and ultimately requires an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 mpg in 2016 with a projected reduction in oil consumption of approximately 1.8 billion barrels over the life of the program. Or, in the President’s words, "more oil than we imported last year from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Libya, and Nigeria combined."The President was also joined on stage by Carol M. Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, who helped spearhead what she called "an incredible step forward for our country"; EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, who noted that "A supposedly 'unsolvable' problem was solved by unprecedented partnerships"; and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who called the program "the biggest leap in history to make automobiles more fuel efficient."
Jesse LeeMay 19, 2009
01:11 PM EDTAt her press briefing this morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed a worsening humanitarian crisis in Pakistan, announcing a pledge of more than $100 million in humanitarian support. She explained that "Providing this assistance is not only the right thing to do, but we believe it is essential to global security and the security of the United States, and we are prepared to do more as the situation demands."
She also invited the American people to join in the world-wide effort to bring stability to Pakistan:Now, Americans can use technology to help, as well. Using your cell phones, Americans can text the word "swat" -- to the number 20222 and make a $5 contribution that will help the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees provide tents, clothing, food, and medicine to hundreds of thousands of affected people. And before I came over here, we did that in the State Department. So we are making some of the first donations to this fund.
Jesse LeeMay 19, 2009
10:47 AM EDTSecretary of State Hillary Clinton will make an announcement about humanitarian aid to Pakistan today at 11:15AM EDT in the Brady briefing room here at the White House.UPDATE: This event has concluded, read details provided by the Press Office:Background on Secretary Clinton’s announcement of Humanitarian Aid to PakistanToday, Secretary Clinton will announce that the United States will supply $110 million in humanitarian aid from the State Department and Defense Department to help Internally Displaced Persons in Pakistan.Prime Minister Gillani recently appointed Brigadier General Nadeem Ahmad to lead the Pakistani relief effort. General Nadeem’s appointment has been universally praised given how successfully he led relief efforts following the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir.Here is how the $100 million from State breaks down:
In addition, there is $10 million from DOD:
- $20 million from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to provide family relief kits, tents, FM radios, and generators that will provide light and water.
- $26 million for the immediate purchase of wheat, other food, and related items from local sources.
- $17 million from Food for Progress for 50,000 tons of wheat arriving in May and June.
- $10 million to respond to forthcoming emergency appeals by the United Nations.
- $15 million for shipments of food items such as lentils, dried peas, and other basic foodstuffs.
- $12 million for an emergency response center for direct humanitarian needs.
- $10 million to be used water trucks, halal food, and large tents with environmental units, such as air conditioning, for hot weather.
Jesse LeeMay 18, 2009
05:35 PM EDTOn Sunday the President gave the commencement address at Notre Dame University. Acknowledging at the outset that the invitation for him to speak "has not been without controversy," he calmed the crowd and spoke about finding respect and common ground even if all Americans will never agree completely on an issue.The question, then -- the question then is how do we work through these conflicts? Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort? As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without, as Father John said, demonetizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?And of course, nowhere do these questions come up more powerfully than on the issue of abortion.As I considered the controversy surrounding my visit here, I was reminded of an encounter I had during my Senate campaign, one that I describe in a book I wrote called "The Audacity of Hope." A few days after I won the Democratic nomination, I received an e-mail from a doctor who told me that while he voted for me in the Illinois primary, he had a serious concern that might prevent him from voting for me in the general election. He described himself as a Christian who was strongly pro-life -- but that was not what was preventing him potentially from voting for me.What bothered the doctor was an entry that my campaign staff had posted on my website -- an entry that said I would fight "right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman’s right to choose." The doctor said he had assumed I was a reasonable person, he supported my policy initiatives to help the poor and to lift up our educational system, but that if I truly believed that every pro-life individual was simply an ideologue who wanted to inflict suffering on women, then I was not very reasonable. He wrote, "I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words." Fair-minded words.After I read the doctor’s letter, I wrote back to him and I thanked him. And I didn’t change my underlying position, but I did tell my staff to change the words on my website. And I said a prayer that night that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me. Because when we do that -- when we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe -- that’s when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.That’s when we begin to say, "Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions."So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let’s reduce unintended pregnancies. (Applause.) Let’s make adoption more available. (Applause.) Let’s provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term. (Applause.) Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women." Those are things we can do. (Applause.)Now, understand -- understand, Class of 2009, I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. Because no matter how much we may want to fudge it -- indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory -- the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words. It’s a way of life that has always been the Notre Dame tradition. (Applause.) Father Hesburgh has long spoken of this institution as both a lighthouse and a crossroads. A lighthouse that stands apart, shining with the wisdom of the Catholic tradition, while the crossroads is where "¼differences of culture and religion and conviction can co-exist with friendship, civility, hospitality, and especially love." And I want to join him and Father John in saying how inspired I am by the maturity and responsibility with which this class has approached the debate surrounding today’s ceremony. You are an example of what Notre Dame is about. (Applause.)
Jesse LeeMay 18, 2009
05:10 PM EDTThe President dedicated his day today to a one-on-one meeting, an expanded meeting, and a working lunch with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel. Speaking to the press afterwards, they gave the opening remarks below before taking questions:PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, listen, I first of all want to thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for making this visit. I think we had a extraordinarily productive series of conversations, not only between the two of us but also at the staff and agency levels.Obviously this reflects the extraordinary relationship, the special relationship between the United States and Israel. It is a stalwart ally of the United States. We have historical ties, emotional ties. As the only true democracy of the Middle East it is a source of admiration and inspiration for the American people.I have said from the outset that when it comes to my policies towards Israel and the Middle East that Israel’s security is paramount, and I repeated that to Prime Minister Netanyahu. It is in U.S. national security interests to assure that Israel’s security as an independent Jewish state is maintained.One of the areas that we discussed is the deepening concern around the potential pursuit of a nuclear weapon by Iran. It’s something the Prime Minister has been very vocal in his concerns about, but is a concern that is shared by his countrymen and women across the political spectrum.I indicated to him the view of our administration, that Iran is a country of extraordinary history and extraordinary potential, that we want them to be a full-fledged member of the international community and be in a position to provide opportunities and prosperity for their people, but that the way to achieve those goals is not through the pursuit of a nuclear weapon. And I indicated to Prime Minister Netanyahu in private what I have said publicly, which is that Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon would not only be a threat to Israel and a threat to the United States, but would be profoundly destabilizing in the international community as a whole and could set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that would be extraordinarily dangerous for all concerned, including for Iran.We are engaged in a process to reach out to Iran and persuade them that it is not in their interest to pursue a nuclear weapon and that they should change course. But I assured the Prime Minister that we are not foreclosing a range of steps, including much stronger international sanctions, in assuring that Iran understands that we are serious. And obviously the Prime Minister emphasized his seriousness around this issue as well -- I’ll allow him to speak for himself on that subject.We also had an extensive discussion about the possibilities of restarting serious negotiations on the issue of Israel and the Palestinians. I have said before and I will repeat again that it is I believe in the interest not only of the Palestinians, but also the Israelis and the United States and the international community to achieve a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians are living side by side in peace and security.We have seen progress stalled on this front, and I suggested to the Prime Minister that he has an historic opportunity to get a serious movement on this issue during his tenure. That means that all the parties involved have to take seriously obligations that they’ve previously agreed to. Those obligations were outlined in the road map; they were discussed extensively in Annapolis. And I think that we can -- there is no reason why we should not seize this opportunity and this moment for all the parties concerned to take seriously those obligations and to move forward in a way that assures Israel’s security, that stops the terrorist attacks that have been such a source of pain and hardship, that we can stop rocket attacks on Israel; but that also allow Palestinians to govern themselves as an independent state, that allows economic development to take place, that allows them to make serious progress in meeting the aspirations of their people.And I am confident that in the days, weeks and months to come we are going to be able to make progress on that issue.So let me just summarize by saying that I think Prime Minister Netanyahu has the benefit of having served as Prime Minister previously. He has both youth and wisdom --PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I’ll dispute youth, but -- (laughter.)PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- and I think is in a position to achieve the security objectives of Israel, but also bring about historic peace. And I’m confident that he’s going to seize this moment. And the United States is going to do everything we can to be constructive, effective partners in this process.PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: President Obama, thank you. Thank you for your friendship to Israel and your friendship to me. You’re a great leader -- a great leader of the United States, a great leader of the world, a great friend of Israel, and someone who is acutely cognizant of our security concerns. And the entire people of Israel appreciate it, and I speak on their behalf.We met before, but this is the first time that we’re meeting as President and Prime Minister. So I was particularly pleased at your reaffirmation of the special relationship between Israel and the United States. We share the same goals and we face the same threats. The common goal is peace. Everybody in Israel, as in the United States, wants peace. The common threat we face are terrorist regimes and organizations that seek to undermine the peace and endanger both our peoples.In this context, the worst danger we face is that Iran would develop nuclear military capabilities. Iran openly calls for our destruction, which is unacceptable by any standard. It threatens the moderate Arab regimes in the Middle East. It threatens U.S. interests worldwide. But if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, it could give a nuclear umbrella to terrorists, or worse, it could actually give terrorists nuclear weapons. And that would put us all in great peril.So in that context, I very much appreciate, Mr. President, your firm commitment to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear military capability, and also your statement that you’re leaving all options on the table.I share with you very much the desire to move the peace process forward. And I want to start peace negotiations with the Palestinians immediately. I would like to broaden the circle of peace to include others in the Arab world, if we could, Mr. President, so -- this (inaudible) that one shouldn’t let go, maybe peace with the entire Arab world.I want to make it clear that we don’t want to govern the Palestinians. We want to live in peace with them. We want them to govern themselves, absent a handful of powers that could endanger the state of Israel. And for this there has to be a clear goal. The goal has to be an end to conflict. There will have to be compromises by Israelis and Palestinians alike. We’re ready to do our share. We hope the Palestinians will do their share, as well. If we resume negotiations, as we plan to do, then I think that the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; will have to also enable Israel to have the means to defend itself. And if those conditions are met, Israel’s security conditions are met, and there’s recognition of Israel’s legitimacy, its permanent legitimacy, then I think we can envision an arrangement where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in dignity, in security, and in peace.And I look forward, Mr. President, to working with you, a true friend of Israel, to the achievement of our common goals, which are security, prosperity, and above all, peace.