Read all posts from September 2009
Jesse LeeSeptember 11, 2009
12:51 PM EDT
The Vice President spent the morning on this 8th Anniversary of the 9/11 tragedies at the ground zero reflecting pool in New York City. He read the poem entitled "Wild Geese" by American poet Mary Oliver:Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Jesse LeeSeptember 11, 2009
11:24 AM EDT
This morning Attorney General Eric Holder delivered remarks at a ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The ceremony, including the reading of names and placing of a wreath, honored the 72 law enforcement officers killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Read his prepared remarks below:Thank you, Craig, for your kind introduction, and for all the work you do on behalf of our nation’s police officers and families.
Several months ago, I stood here at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial at the annual candlelight vigil. That night I had the solemn honor of leading the recitation of the names of officers who had been killed in the line of duty. On that somber evening, we dedicated the names of those heroes to these hallowed walls, and to our grateful memory.
This morning, I once again have the sacred privilege of publicly acknowledging the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives on behalf of all of us.
Eight years ago today, the clear skies over New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania were pierced by acts of hatred that we will never be able to fully comprehend. Nearly 3,000 Americans were murdered that day, each one an unknowing martyr to the cause of freedom.
Seventy-two of those Americans were the officers whose names stand here in silent testimony to the type of public servants they truly were. These were extraordinary men and women who wanted nothing more than to serve their communities, and who went to work each day with the full realization that they may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their neighbors and their nation.
We will always remember the bravery they consistently demonstrated – not just on September 11, 2001, but on each and every day of their careers – not only because their names are etched on these walls, but because their deeds are etched in our hearts.
For me, as it is for so many Americans, today is also personal. My brother William is a retired Port Authority police officer, and my family and I will always be reminded of the courage his colleagues demonstrated, and the price so many of them paid in service to their country. My admiration, respect, and support for the men and women in blue is always at the front of my mind. But on September 11, I join you in taking special pause to reflect not only on what we lost, but to also remember what we gained from the deeds of these special heroes.
In the years since that terrible day, the Department of Justice has worked hard to strengthen its ability both to prevent terrorism and to ensure that terrorists answer for their crimes. I pledge to you today that as Attorney General, I will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my colleagues in law enforcement, the military, and the intelligence community to combat terrorism at every level and in every way so that we can keep the American people safe. The people responsible for those horrific attacks on September 11, 2001 will all be held accountable – this is my promise. We owe nothing less to those we lost, to the families who grieve, and to a nation whose principles inspire the hopes and dreams of millions around the world. Thank you.
Dr. Jill BidenSeptember 11, 2009
10:13 AM EDTI wanted to share some news with you that the First Lady and I are pleased to announce on this National Day of Service and Remembrance.As some of you may know, Michelle and I have been working together to find ways that we can support our military families. We have been meeting with Generals and their spouses, visiting bases, meeting with community and service groups to learn about what they are doing, what is working and how Americans can help. As the mother of a National Guardsman who is serving in Iraq, this is personal for me. I share the concerns, the anxieties, and the pride that come with being a member of a military family.When our troops are deployed, their families are left behind with a completely different set of duties, and I have seen first-hand what a difference it makes when people reach out to show support, whether in school, in the neighborhood, or in the workplace.That’s why Michelle and I are both happy to announce today that we have recorded a public service announcement which will hopefully encourage as many people as possible to join us in taking time to honor those who sacrifice for our nation. We each have the power to make a difference in the lives of service members and their families. Please join us in this effort with your own act of service.-Jill
Jesse LeeSeptember 10, 2009
10:54 AM EDTThe Federal Reserve’s latest Beige Book report indicated an improving economy, prompting several papers’ business sections to lead with the encouraging news.The AP article led with reassuring words:The recession is ending and the economy is finally growing again.That's the message implicit in the Federal Reserve's latest survey of businesses around the country, which found economic activity stabilizing or improving in most regions.In addition, the New York Times touched on specifics of the Federal Reserve’s report:While many parts of the economy, like retail sales and commercial real estate, remain frail, others are stabilizing or showing signs of improvement. Since the start of the year, the economic reports in the beige book have steadily brightened, from dismal to less bad to tepid, as the stock markets rebounded and the recession began to loosen its grip."The economy is making the transition from recession to recovery," said Alan D. Levenson, chief economist at T. Rowe Price, who said he expected the economy to grow at a rate of about 3 percent in the summer, then more modestly in the last months of the year.The Washington Post reported improvements in several industries, including manufacturing:There were positive signs from manufacturing, as most of the country reported modest improvements. The San Francisco Fed in particular said orders rose for manufacturers of semiconductors and other information technology products, and several districts reported increases in automobile and pharmaceutical production.
Jesse LeeSeptember 09, 2009
11:12 PM EDTWe will have much, much more on the President's remarks tonight and the plan he laid out, but for now enjoy the closing remarks. He refers to a letter from the late Senator Kennedy:Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it the most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true.That is why we cannot fail. Because there are too many Americans counting on us to succeed -- the ones who suffer silently, and the ones who shared their stories with us at town halls, in e-mails, and in letters.I received one of those letters a few days ago. It was from our beloved friend and colleague, Ted Kennedy. He had written it back in May, shortly after he was told that his illness was terminal. He asked that it be delivered upon his death.In it, he spoke about what a happy time his last months were, thanks to the love and support of family and friends, his wife, Vicki, his amazing children, who are all here tonight. And he expressed confidence that this would be the year that health care reform -- "that great unfinished business of our society," he called it -- would finally pass. He repeated the truth that health care is decisive for our future prosperity, but he also reminded me that "it concerns more than material things." "What we face," he wrote, "is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country."I've thought about that phrase quite a bit in recent days -- the character of our country. One of the unique and wonderful things about America has always been our self-reliance, our rugged individualism, our fierce defense of freedom and our healthy skepticism of government. And figuring out the appropriate size and role of government has always been a source of rigorous and, yes, sometimes angry debate. That's our history.For some of Ted Kennedy's critics, his brand of liberalism represented an affront to American liberty. In their minds, his passion for universal health care was nothing more than a passion for big government.But those of us who knew Teddy and worked with him here -- people of both parties -- know that what drove him was something more. His friend Orrin Hatch -- he knows that. They worked together to provide children with health insurance. His friend John McCain knows that. They worked together on a Patient's Bill of Rights. His friend Chuck Grassley knows that. They worked together to provide health care to children with disabilities.On issues like these, Ted Kennedy's passion was born not of some rigid ideology, but of his own experience. It was the experience of having two children stricken with cancer. He never forgot the sheer terror and helplessness that any parent feels when a child is badly sick. And he was able to imagine what it must be like for those without insurance, what it would be like to have to say to a wife or a child or an aging parent, there is something that could make you better, but I just can't afford it.That large-heartedness -- that concern and regard for the plight of others -- is not a partisan feeling. It's not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character -- our ability to stand in other people's shoes; a recognition that we are all in this together, and when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand; a belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgment that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.This has always been the history of our progress. In 1935, when over half of our seniors could not support themselves and millions had seen their savings wiped away, there were those who argued that Social Security would lead to socialism, but the men and women of Congress stood fast, and we are all the better for it. In 1965, when some argued that Medicare represented a government takeover of health care, members of Congress -- Democrats and Republicans -- did not back down. They joined together so that all of us could enter our golden years with some basic peace of mind.You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter -- that at that point we don't merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.That was true then. It remains true today. I understand how difficult this health care debate has been. I know that many in this country are deeply skeptical that government is looking out for them. I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road -- to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.But that is not what the moment calls for. That's not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it's hard. (Applause.) I still believe -- I still believe that we can act when it's hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test.Because that's who we are. That is our calling. That is our character. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
Jesse LeeSeptember 09, 2009
04:53 PM EDTWith all of the TV chatter and bickering, it might be easy to forget what makes health insurance reform such a monumental issue. It is not about the fortunes of one political party or another; it is about the anxiety and insecurity Americans face, about ensuring that the tragedy of illness is not compounded by a second tragedy in dealing with health insurance. Two brave parents who represent these struggles -- Laura Klitzka from Wisconsin and Nathan Wilkes from Colorado -- will join the First Lady at the Capitol to watch tonight's speech. Their powerful stories help underscore what's at stake with health insurance reform – watch:Tonight the President will make clear to Congress exactly what he would like to see in the health insurance reform legislation that gets sent to his desk. With four out of five committees in Congress having finished their work and the fifth announcing today that they are moving forward, more progress has been made today than in all the decades since reform was first proposed by Teddy Roosevelt. But tonight the President will explain how these bills should be pulled together to find the best solutions possible to bring peace of mind to Americans who have insurance and affordable coverage to those who don't.
Also note: the Department of Education is planning on a live-captioned version of the address here.
- We will be streaming the video live here at WhiteHouse.gov. You can also watch and discuss it through our Facebook chat application.
- You will also have a unique opportunity to talk to Anita Dunn, our Communications Director here at the White House, immediately after the speech when she answers your questions in a live video chat through WhiteHouse.gov and Facebook.
Jesse LeeSeptember 09, 2009
04:16 PM EDTLike many Americans, President Obama did not personally know revered newsman Walter Cronkite. But as he delivered remarks at the trusted reporter's New York memorial service, this simple fact did not seem to matter. Whether the living room belonged to a future American leader or an elderly couple in Nebraska, millions of people invited Cronkite into their homes each evening—his presence a calming and constant reassurance in a world oftentimes plagued by uncertainty:He was forever there, reporting through world war and cold war; marches and milestones; scandal and success; calmly and authoritatively telling us what we needed to know. He was a voice of certainty in a world that was growing more and more uncertain. And through it all, he never lost the integrity or the plainspoken speaking style that he gained growing up in the heartland. He was a familiar and welcome voice that spoke to each and every one of us personally.The President focused on the reporter's deep sense of duty to provide truthful information to a nation reliant on his integrity and honesty:I have benefited as a citizen from his dogged pursuit of the truth, his passionate defense of objective reporting, and his view that journalism is more than just a profession; it is a public good vital to our democracy. Even in his early career, Walter Cronkite resisted the temptation to get the story first in favor of getting it right.The President took the opportunity to thank those who have devoted their careers to the pursuit of truth and justice, and called upon journalists in particular to live up to Cronkite's legacy:Our American story continues. It needs to be told. And if we choose to live up to Walter's example, if we realize that the kind of journalism he embodied will not simply rekindle itself as part of a natural cycle, but will come alive only if we stand up and demand it and resolve to value it once again, then I'm convinced that the choice between profit and progress is a false one -- and that the golden days of journalism still lie ahead.
Terrell McSweenySeptember 09, 2009
12:00 PM EDTVice President Biden and the Middle Class Task Force just wrapped up a town hall meeting on college affordability at Syracuse University. The back-to-school discussion focused on helping families save and pay for college amid rising tuition costs and flat-lining middle class incomes. Joining the Vice President at his law school alma mater were Task Force members Secretary Geithner and Secretary Duncan, Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor, State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, and a panel of education policy experts.
Back in April, the task force held its first college affordability meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. The message from concerned parents, students, and administrators about what they saw on campuses was clear: more needed to be done. The process of saving and paying for college needed to be made fairer, simpler, and more efficient.
This afternoon in Syracuse, Vice President Biden and the members of the Task Force reported back on some of the work they’ve been doing, including simplifying the federal loan application process (pdf), implementing the new Income Based Repayment plan for student loans, studying ways to improve Section 529 (pdf) college saving plans, pushing for increased grants and loans paid for by reducing subsidies to private lenders, and working with Congress on a landmark higher education bill.
President Obama and Vice President Biden believe that a post-high-school education is important for a number of reasons:
- it helps students realize both their earnings and their educational potential;
- it is a gateway to the middle class; – it gives the United States a more competitive workforce in the global economy;
- for parents, sending their children to college is a top priority.
This is why the administration’s goal of having the highest proportion of students graduating from college in the world by 2020 is a central component of the Middle Class Task Force’s agenda.
And it’s why the administration has invested more than $100 billion dollars to improve our education system. It’s why the Recovery Act made Pell Grants larger and created the American Opportunity Tax Credit – a $2,500 a year credit for tuition. It’s why we’ll make historic investments in our nation’s community college system. And it’s why we significantly expanded the GI Bill, so that the service members who return from duty can get more help paying for their college education.
In conjunction with today’s meeting, the Middle Class Task Force released a staff report (pdf) documenting the barriers that still block the pathway to higher education for many students. Please check it out and share with others.
After a productive afternoon in central New York, it’s time to head back to D.C. The task force will continue working to expand access to quality education, because as Vice President Biden said today: there is no better ticket to the middle class than a college education.
Terrell McSweeny is Domestic Policy Advisor for the Vice President.
Jesse LeeSeptember 08, 2009
04:59 PM EDTThis afternoon President Obama and Vice President Biden attended the formal investiture ceremony for Justice Sonia Sotomayor, where Chief Justice Roberts called on Attorney General Holder to present Justice Sotomayor’s commission.They were joined by members of Justice Sotomayor’s family and friends, all eight of her Supreme Court colleagues, members of Congress, along with a number of judges from the Judicial Conference including the full complement of her former colleagues from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Jesse LeeSeptember 08, 2009
04:37 PM EDTThe President’s message to America's students today rested on two twin pillars of his vision: there is great hope and great potential in America; but the fulfillment of that hope is dependent on hard work and taking personal responsibility.There seemed to be a lot of hunger for this message, and thanks to all of the teachers, school administrators, parents and students who participated. As just one data point, we're happy to report that today’s live-stream of the President's speech on education and personal responsibility smashed our previous records for viewers here at WhiteHouse.gov. We don't have statistics on the total number of viewers yet, but we were able to gauge that the peak number of viewers at any given moment was around 184,000, almost triple the previous record set by the President’s initial online town hall.But back to the President's message -- he began emphasizing the "hope" side of the equation:I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself. Every single one of you has something that you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That's the opportunity an education can provide.Maybe you could be a great writer -- maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper -- but you might not know it until you write that English paper -- that English class paper that's assigned to you. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor -- maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or the new medicine or vaccine -- but you might not know it until you do your project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a senator or a Supreme Court justice -- but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.But he immediately added that none of that would be possible without an education. And while offering his sincerest sympathies -- sympathies we probably all remember from one time or another in our childhoods -- for the fact that school might not always be fun and every lesson might not be the most stimulating, he hammered home just how necessary and rewarding hard work can be no matter where you come from:But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life -- what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you've got going on at home -- none of that is an excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude in school. That's no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. There is no excuse for not trying.Where you are right now doesn't have to determine where you'll end up. No one's written your destiny for you, because here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.That's what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn't speak English when she first started school. Neither of her parents had gone to college. But she worked hard, earned good grades, and got a scholarship to Brown University -- is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to becoming Dr. Jazmin Perez.I'm thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who's fought brain cancer since he was three. He's had to endure all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer -- hundreds of extra hours -- to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind. He's headed to college this fall.And then there's Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods in the city, she managed to get a job at a local health care center, start a program to keep young people out of gangs, and she's on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.And Jazmin, Andoni, and Shantell aren't any different from any of you. They face challenges in their lives just like you do. In some cases they've got it a lot worse off than many of you. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their lives, for their education, and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.That's why today I'm calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education -- and do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending some time each day reading a book. Maybe you'll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you'll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all young people deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you'll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, by the way, I hope all of you are washing your hands a lot, and that you stay home from school when you don't feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.But whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.He closed by making it clear to our country's students that we are all in it together:Now, your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I'm working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books and the equipment and the computers you need to learn. But you've got to do your part, too. So I expect all of you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don't let us down. Don't let your family down or your country down. Most of all, don't let yourself down. Make us all proud.
September 08, 2009
01:29 PM EDTRepresentatives from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are holding a webcast this afternoon at 2 pm to discuss the updated recommendations for using antivirals for H1N1 flu. As with the previous influenza outbreaks, there has been interest in using antiviral medications for treatment and prevention of the flu. Influenza antiviral drugs are prescription drugs (pills, liquid, or inhaler) that decrease the ability of flu viruses to reproduce. While getting a flu vaccine each year is the first and most important step in protecting against flu, antiviral drugs are a second line of defense in prevention and treatment. Treatment with influenza antiviral drugs is generally not needed for people who are not at higher risk for complications or do not have severe influenza, such as those requiring hospitalization, however, doctors can best determine when the use of anitvirals is needed. Watch the webcast as it is streamed live to learn more about the use of anitvirals for H1N1 flu.This webcast is part of an ongoing effort to provide guidance and recommendations during the ongoing H1N1 flu pandemic. Learn more about the current guidance for schools (K-12 and higher education), childcare facilities, businesses, emergency personnel, and clinicians, and visit flu.gov for information about H1N1 and seasonal influenza.
- In addition to the formal guidance, there are steps that every citizen can take to stay healthy this fall:
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Put used tissues in a waste basket.
- Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve if you don't have a tissue.
- Clean your hands after coughing or sneezing. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
- Stay at home if you are sick
Jesse LeeSeptember 08, 2009
11:12 AM EDTToday the President addresses America’s students directly as they come back to school for another year.
The speech follows on similar remarks by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 and President George H.W. Bush in 1991 (watch either one by clicking the links). Former Republican Senate majority leader Bill Frist joined former secretary of education Richard Riley today in explaining why they encourage teachers and students to take part:Fully 30 percent of our nation’s students drop out of high school each year and most high school graduates don't complete college. While America was first in the world in high school and college graduation rates 30 years ago, we have slipped back into the middle of the pack among industrialized countries. Our results have stagnated while other nations are racing ahead of us.As a former U.S. secretary of education and a former majority leader of the U.S. Senate who is now dedicating a substantial portion of time to education reform in Tennessee, we believe America can and must do better. While government has a crucial role to play to ensure quality schools, government can't do it alone. The evidence and our common sense make it clear: a good education also depends on hard work and personal responsibility for learning and achievement from individual students, parents, grandparents, and educators.Indeed, this is precisely the message the President will be delivering. Here’s a brief excerpt:But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.Whether you’re a student, a parent, or just concerned about our children’s futures, don’t miss it.
- Watch the speech live here at WhiteHouse.gov.
- Get all the information to engage with the speech.
- Read the President’s prepared remarks.
Jesse LeeSeptember 08, 2009
10:15 AM EDTYesterday, the President spent Labor Day at the AFL-CIO Labor Day Picnic in Cincinnati. In his remarks he acknowledged one of the more upbeat traditions of Labor Day – "you're enjoying some good music, some good food, some famous Cincinnati chili" – before noting the more serious tradition being observed:But today we also pause. We pause to remember and to reflect and to reaffirm. We remember that the rights and benefits we enjoy today weren't simply handed to America's working men and women. They had to be won. They had to be fought for, by men and women of courage and conviction, from the factory floors of the Industrial Revolution to the shopping aisles of today's superstores. They stood up and they spoke out to demand a fair shake and an honest day's pay for an honest day's work. (Applause.)
Many risked their lives. Some gave their lives. Some made it a cause of their lives -- like Senator Ted Kennedy, who we remember today. (Applause.)
So let us never forget: much of what we take for granted -- the 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, health insurance, paid leave, pensions, Social Security, Medicare -- they all bear the union label. (Applause.) It was the American worker -- men and women just like you -- who returned from World War II to make our economy the envy of the world. It was labor that helped build the largest middle class in history. Even if you're not a union member, every American owes something to America's labor movement. (Applause.)He took some questions from the crowd gathered there after his remarks, and spoke with the same kind of fight in his voice that those who have fought for workers’ rights all these years demonstrated time after time:But let me just say a few things about this health care issue. We've been fighting for quality, affordable health care for every American for nearly a century -- since Teddy Roosevelt. Think about that -- long time. (Laughter.) The Congress and the country have now been vigorously debating the issue for many months. The debate has been good, and that's important because we've got to get this right. But every debate at some point comes to an end. At some point, it's time to decide. At some point, it's time to act. Ohio, it's time to act and get this thing done. (Applause.)We have never been this close. We've never had such broad agreement on what needs to be done. And because we're so close to real reform, suddenly the special interests are doing what they always do, which is just try to scare the heck out of people.But I've got -- I've got a question for all these folks who say, you know, we're going to pull the plug on Grandma and this is all about illegal immigrants -- you've heard all the lies. I've got a question for all those folks: What are you going to do? (Applause.) What's your answer? (Applause.) What's your solution? (Applause.) And you know what? They don't have one. (Applause.) Their answer is to do nothing. Their answer is to do nothing. And we know what that future looks like: insurance companies raking in the profits while discriminating against people because of preexisting conditions; denying or dropping coverage when you get sick. It means you're never negotiating about higher wages, because all you're spending your time doing is just trying to protect the benefits that you already fought for.It means premiums continuing to skyrocket three times faster than your wages. It means more families pushed into bankruptcy, more businesses cutting more jobs, more Americans losing health insurance -- 14,000 every day. It means more Americans dying every day just because they don't have health insurance.That's not the future I see for America. I see reform where we bring stability and security to folks who have insurance today -- where you never again have to worry about going without coverage if you lose your job or you change your job or you get sick. You've got coverage there for you. Where there is a cap on your out-of-pocket expenses, so you don't have to worry that a serious illness will break you and your family even if you have health insurance. (Applause.) Where you never again have to worry -- where you never again have to worry that you or someone you love will be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition. (Applause.)I see reform where Americans and small businesses that are shut out of health insurance today will be able to purchase coverage at a price they can afford. (Applause.) Where they'll be able to shop and compare in a new health insurance exchange -- a marketplace where competition and choice will continue to hold down costs and help deliver them a better deal. And I continue to believe that a public option within that basket of insurance choices will help improve quality and bring down costs. (Applause.)I see reform where we protect our senior citizens by closing the gaps in their prescription drug coverage under Medicare that costs older Americans thousands of dollars every years out of their pockets; reforms that will preserve Medicare and put it on a sounder financial footing and cut waste and fraud -- the more than $100 billion in unwarranted public subsidies to already profitable insurance companies.I want a health insurance system that works as well for the American people as it does for the insurance industry. (Applause.) They should be free to make a profit. But they also have to be fair. They also have to be accountable.That's what we're talking about -- security and stability for folks who have health insurance, help for those they don't -- the coverage they need at a price they can afford, finally bringing costs under control. That's the reform that's needed. That's the reform we're fighting for. And that's why it's time to do what's right for America's working families and put aside partisanship, stop saying things that aren't true, come together as a nation, pass health insurance reform now -- this year. (Applause.)A little later he told the story behind a chant he likes to use once in a while, "Fired up! Ready to go!" If you haven’t heard the story, might be worth clicking through to the full transcript.
Jesse LeeSeptember 05, 2009
12:01 AM EDTWith Labor Day approaching, the President commits to rebuilding the economy so that a lifetime of hard work leads to a comfortable retirement, and explains his proposal to help to get there.
September 04, 2009
02:56 PM EDTWe have previously reported six limited waivers that have been granted by the White House pursuant to the President’s Executive Order on Ethics for Executive Branch personnel – the strongest ethics standards in U.S. government history. Three of these waivers involved lobbying-related issues and three did not. We blogged about them here, here, and here.Several months ago, the public interest community suggested that we also make available in a central place limited waivers granted by other federal agencies besides the White House. Today, we are releasing all ten such agency-granted waivers (none of which involve lobbying). The President’s Executive Order calls for an annual report to be completed in early 2010 that will include all waivers granted pursuant to the Order. We are, however, pleased to make all of the pledge waivers granted to date by this Administration available now--more than four months early.
The ten waivers by agencies can be found here. All involve limited waivers of paragraph 2 of the President’s ethics pledge (none involve Paragraph 3, the lobbying provision). That is, they permit certain Executive Branch appointees to work on particular matters that may involve persons with which the appointees formerly had a professional relationship because there was a compelling public interest in allowing it. In each case, it was determined by an agency ethics officer after careful review that the public interest in permitting the appointee’s participation outweighed any appearance concerns.
We note that decisions to grant the limited waivers have been exceedingly rare. The six White House and ten agency waivers together apply to 16 out of approximately 1890 appointments that have been made: that is less than 1%. And out of the 1890 appointments, only 3 times has the Administration waived the ethics pledge lobbying provision – that is less than one tenth of one percent.As we have pointed out before, and as experts agree, even the toughest rules require some flexibility. Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute said the following: "It is important and necessary to have the highest ethical standards for service in an administration-- and also appropriate and necessary to strike a balance by having a limited number of waivers to make reasonable accommodations to attract the best possible talent to serve in key government posts. The Obama White House has done just that, as this additional disclosure of ten agency waivers makes clear." Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution said: "The steps taken today by the White House to shed additional light on the use of the waiver provision of the President’s Executive Order on Ethics should reassure critics of his policy and its implementation. By disclosing the ten waivers granted by other federal agencies and documenting that it has waived the ethics pledge lobbying provision only three times, the Administration has demonstrated that its new ethics standards are not being undermined by backdoor exceptions."Norm Eisen is special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform
September 04, 2009
11:07 AM EDTEd. Note: As the Administration continues to prepare for H1N1 and flu season across all federal agencies, we welcome Principal Hindman to give us a glimpse of what school administrators are doing to prepare locally.As an elementary school Principal, I join school administrators across our country who are concerned about the spread of flu-related illness among students and school staff. We know that preventive hygiene measures and classroom instruction designed to prevent the spread of flu is essential as students and school personnel begin the school year.At our school, we are telling students, teachers and staff with influenza to remain at home until they are symptom-free for 24 hours. We have eliminated attendance awards that might encourage sick children to attend school. To prevent or reduce the spread of flu-related illness, our staff is teaching children hand-washing techniques and cough/sneeze etiquette. We are making hand soaps, sanitizers and tissues available in classrooms, lavatories, gymnasiums, and cafeterias for use by all students and staff.The risks of flu –related illnesses are real. Find more about how schools can help prevent the spread of influenza at flu.gov.Robert Hindman is Principal of Zachary Taylor Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia
Jesse LeeSeptember 03, 2009
03:37 PM EDTAt noon on Tuesday, September 8th the President will be welcoming America’s students back to school – after all, sometimes they need a little extra motivation after a glorious summer. The President has spoken often about the responsibility parents have for their children and their education, but in this message he’ll urge students to take personal responsibility for their own education, to set goals, and to not only stay in school but make the most of it.To help make sure as many school districts, classrooms, and students are able to get this message we have launched a resources page where you can find out almost anything you’d want to know. There’s information on how you can watch it on TV or on the internet, classroom activities that teachers can engage their students in around the speech, even the satellite coordinates for school districts that want to access the feed.We’ve also put together a couple PSAs to help get the word out, one from the President and one for those students who might find NASCAR drivers a little more exciting than the President:
Jesse LeeSeptember 03, 2009
12:02 PM EDTThis video is worth watching for the full five minutes. It's another response to Vice President Biden’s call for videos on what health reform means to you, and it puts the phrase "reality check" in a different light.In a lot of ways the video is powerful because it's not that unique. It's not about some bizarre set of circumstances that made him fall through the cracks of insurance company bureaucracy, it's just the story of a guy who has had to go in and out of health care as his employment fortunes turned, and watched as his premiums and out-of-pocket costs just climbed and climbed.I just hopped over to the "What's In It For You" quiz and entered a description of this man based solely on what he discusses in the video. The results that came out are below, and again, this is based just on what he revealed – there may well be more in it for him based on things he didn’t discuss. All the more reason for you to take the quiz yourself. Also, click here to see all the video responses so far.· Reform will bring down costs generally and make insurance more affordable and accessible, ensuring more choices for quality coverage· Reform will allow you to keep the coverage you have if you want to· Reform will establish an insurance exchange that will provide easy one-stop shopping to compare rates and services and promote competition· Reform will streamline and simplify paperwork and cut the bureaucracy for you and your doctor· Reform will ensure you always have choices of quality, affordable health insurance no matter how often you move or change jobs· Reform puts a cap on what insurance companies can force you to pay in out of pocket expenses, co-pays and deductibles· Reform will prohibit insurance companies from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for you or your family members if you become seriously ill· Reform will prevent insurance companies from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive· Reform will require insurance companies to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full
September 03, 2009
10:00 AM EDT"You know, it all adds up to this, in my view at least: the Recovery Act has played a significant role in changing the trajectory of our economy, and changing the conversation about the economy in this country. Instead of talking about the beginning of a depression, we're talking about the end of a recession -- eight months after taking office."
-- Vice President Joe Biden, September 3, 2009
One-hundred days ago, Vice President Joe Biden announced the "Roadmap to Recovery," a summer initiative designed to accelerate the Administration’s recovery efforts. Ten major projects – from putting more cops on our streets to keeping more teachers in our classrooms to giving more people access to health care – were announced.
Today, at the 200-day milestone of the Recovery Act, the Vice President revealed in a letter to President Obama, "I am pleased to report to you that all ten agencies have met or exceeded their commitments." Here are a few highlights:
- The Department of Health and Human Services exceeded its goal of providing expanded service at 1,129 Health Centers in 50 states and 8 territories – providing that expanded service to approximately 500,000 patients.
- The Department of Education kept more educators in our schools – meeting their goal of funding over 135,000 education positions across the nation.
- The Department of Justice put more officers in our communities – funding 4,699 law enforcement officers’ salaries and benefits for three years.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs met their goal of beginning improvements at 90 Veterans Medical Centers across 38 states.
To learn more about the Recovery Act’s progress, visit WhiteHouse.gov/Recovery/Roadmap/. There, you can easily compare the commitments and results of the "Roadmap to Recovery" and also learn about the specific projects happening in your local community.
At the 200-day milestone, the Recovery Act isn’t just working; it’s working towards something – a more resilient, more transformative, economy. But, there’s more work to be done. On the Recovery blog, we’ll continue telling the stories of recovery in communities across the country. Help tell that story – share your photos, videos or comments about recovery projects happening in your neighborhood.
Jesse LeeSeptember 02, 2009
04:50 PM EDTSometimes it's easy to assume that health reform is only important to people who are in immediate need of care, those who have existing medical conditions, or those who are unemployed - and indeed, even those who are satisfied with their insurance often don't know the shortcomings of what they have until that need hits. But one of the reasons health care has been such a high priority for the American people for decades is that there's an anxiety that looms over it. What if my premiums or co-pays continue to rise forever while my pay stays more or less the same? What if I can't renew my insurance for some reason? What if I lose my job, or just want to change jobs?In the video below, responding to Vice President Biden's call for submissions on why reform is important, Jake and Jess make their case. As a young couple, they'd like to start planning a family, and although Jess has employer-provided health insurance, they watch as so many others around them are losing insurance and worry what would happen if for some reason they lost coverage during the duration of Jess' pregnancy for all the necessary prenatal procedures."We want health care reform not so we can be irresponsible, not so some one else will pick up the tab, but so we don't have to live with the fear of losing coverage when it would be most important," says Jess. The peace of mind Jess and Jake are searching for is what the core principles of President Obama’s Heatlh Insurance Consumer Protections are all about. As the President said in his June press conference:This is not just about the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance. Reform is about every American who has ever feared that they may lose their coverage if they become too sick, or lose their job, or change their job. It’s about every small business that has been forced to lay off employees or cut back on their coverage because it became too expensive.Health insurance reform will restore confidence in the health care system, provide a stable, reliable system of coverage, and ultimately help families like Jess and Jake plan for a healthy, happy future.