Our Top Stories
Jesse LeeDecember 04, 2009
03:20 PM EDT
Ed. Note: Bumped to the top of the blog.
Today, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Department of Energy Undersecretary Dr. Kristina M. Johnson join Washington Governor Chris Gregoire and Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski in hosting a Clean Energy Economy Forum in Seattle, WA. The group will be discussing the need for a comprehensive energy plan that will help grow the American clean energy sector and create jobs while enhancing national security and reducing dangerous pollution.
Watch it here, streaming live at 3:30 EST/12:30 PST.
Austan GoolsbeeDecember 04, 2009
01:06 PM EDT
Starting at 3:00 PM EST today, the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB) will hold its next public meeting to provide an update on the research and preparatory work conducted in the subcommittees. Listen to the meeting live at www.whitehouse.gov/live.
The PERAB will vote on presenting formal advice and recommendations to the President through the following memos:
- Infrastructure Investment and the Creation of a National Infrastructure Bank (pdf)
- Home Retrofits for American Jobs, Efficiency and Economic Growth (pdf)
Also, the PERAB has launched a new website. Our hope is to keep visitors informed on the PERAB's meetings and analysis as they advise the President. One of the major duties of the PERAB is to ensure the President has independent, nonpartisan information, analysis, and advice. The PERAB will solicit information and ideas from all sectors to promote the growth of the economy, establish a stable and sound financial and banking system, and create jobs. The site gives some insight into areas the PERAB is focusing on and provides opportunities to give PERAB feedback and input on economic recovery ideas. You will also be able to find up-to-date news on PERAB meetings and announcements.
We hope that you will use this site and share it with others. We want you to come back and visit us often.
Austan Goolsbee is the staff director and chief economist on the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board
Jesse LeeDecember 04, 2009
11:25 AM EDT
It's no secret that institutions of all stripes focus their communications on certain messages day to day. We thought it would all be a little more open and transparent if we went ahead and published what our focus will be for the day, along with any related articles, documents, or reports.
Supporting editorial: "Good News on Premiums," New York Times, December 3, 2009
There They Go Again: Insurance Industry Puts Out Another Bogus Study That CBO Contradicts
New York Times Editorial Pans Latest Report
- Yesterday's Blue Cross Blue Shield report is the latest in a series of insurance industry-sponsored works of fiction.
- This bogus new study contains many of the old standbys of the industry's widely-panned previous reports – like cherry-picking pieces of the bill to ignore cost-control measures. It also contains a new twist: attacking the independent Congressional Budget Office and conclusions of health experts across the political spectrum.
- But as the New York Times points out today, the CBO "persuasively contradicted" the claims of an earlier industry study this week and, the Times writes, "We find this second industry report no more persuasive than the first."
- As the Times reminds us, "the C.B.O. estimates that most Americans would pay the same or less in premiums in 2016, after reforms have kicked in, than they would pay under current law."
- So how did the insurance company juke the stats to reach its alarmist conclusions? Well, most egregiously, it completely ignores the impact that new tax credits will have on the cost of health insurance for families.
- The Times reiterates what those tax credits would mean: most people buying coverage on their own "would be eligible for federal tax credits that would reduce their premiums on average by 56 percent to 59 percent below what they would pay for skimpier coverage if no bill passed."
- The paper also notes that the industry study contradicts the CBO on a variety of other assumptions – such as who will be buying coverage in the individual market and whether sick people will wait to buy insurance.
- The Times’ ultimate conclusion: "[W]e have far more confidence in the C.B.O.’s expertise in evaluating a wide array of databases and in its objectivity. The chief message Americans should derive from the C.B.O.’s analysis is that tens of millions of uninsured Americans can be covered without driving up costs for everyone else."
December 04, 2009
10:25 AM EDT
The Congressional Research Service has released a report concluding that President Obama's historic reforms to the culture of lobbying in Washington have "already changed the relationship between lobbyists and covered executive branch officials." We're pleased that CRS recognized a fact that is apparent every day to those of us who work in government: the President's historic restrictions on lobbying are having a significant impact in making sure that the government serves the public interest and not special interests. We hear constantly from public servants across the executive branch how appreciative they are that the President's high standards and tough rules allow them to do their jobs. That represents the change that the President promised and that CRS recognizes he has delivered.
The report details the numerous steps the Obama Administration has taken since Day One to change the way business is done in Washington, including:
- On January 21, 2009, the President signed an Executive Order imposing stricter ethics standards on this Administration than any in history. The Order restricts anyone who has been a registered federal lobbyist within the past two years from being appointed to an agency they lobbied or from working as an appointee on particular matters or specific issue areas on which they lobbied. The Order also prohibits all appointees from lobbying the Obama Administration after leaving government service.
- On March 20, 2009, the President issued a memorandum imposing restrictions on lobbyists' abilities to communicate with federal officials regarding Recovery Act funding. Those restrictions were expanded on July 24, 2009.
- On September 10, 2009, the Treasury Department announced that similar rules would apply to communications regarding Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA) funds. (PDF)
- On September 23, 2009, the White House announced a goal of no longer appointing or reappointed federally registered lobbyists to agency advisory boards and commissions and federal agencies have implemented policies to achieve that goal.
Finally, we'd like to point out one other important initiative that affects lobbyists but was outside the scope of the CRS report: on September 10, 2009 we announced we would post White House visitoir records, including for registered lobbyists, as well as unregistered lobbyists and everyone else who comes here.
All of these initiatives are intended to change Washington by putting the public interest ahead of the special interests, and we are very pleased the word is getting out.
Norm Eisen is special counsel to the President for ethics and government reform
Macon PhillipsDecember 04, 2009
10:20 AM EDT
Today, the President heads out of Washington, DC to Allentown, PA. He plans to meet with workers and small business owners who have felt the impact of our current economic crisis first-hand. I'll be traveling with the President to give an inside perspective into the day's events. So keep an eye on the blog for some posts from the field and more frequent updates via twitter and photos on facebook - like this one.
To get a sense of what's happening in Allentown, check out this video that profiles two small businesses in the area, and which was shown at the opening of the President's Jobs Forum yesterday:
The President will arrive in Allentown with some news about the job market, as the unemployment rate began to decline slightly this month. As Christina Romer, Chair of the President's Council on Economic Advisors reported:
Today's employment report was the most hopeful sign yet that the stabilization of financial markets and the recovery in economic growth may be leading to improvements in the labor market.
This trip also comes a day after the President held a forum on jobs at the White House, where participants focused on a number of topics including infrastructure, exports, green jobs, small business, investment, and helping workers on Main Street. And the White House isn't the only place where these discussions are happening - across the country, people have signed up to host their own community jobs forum (you can learn more about that here).
Christina RomerDecember 04, 2009
09:30 AM EDT
Today's employment report was the most hopeful sign yet that the stabilization of financial markets and the recovery in economic growth may be leading to improvements in the labor market.
Payroll employment declined 11,000 in November. This is a dramatic improvement from the decline of 597,000 in November 2008 and 741,000 in January 2009. It is by far the closest we have been to stable employment since the recession began almost two years ago. Furthermore, the employment loss in both September and October was revised down substantially, with the result that employment as of October is nearly 160,000 higher than was reported last month. As was true in October, the largest employment gains in November were in temporary help services, which is often a leading indicator of labor demand. 21,000 jobs were also added in state and local public education. Both the work week and aggregate hours increased, another early sign of labor market healing.
The unemployment rate, which had risen to 10.2% in October, declined to 10.0% in November. This decline primarily reflects an increase in the number employed, as measured by the household survey. Despite the welcome decline, the unemployment rate remains unacceptably high. This underscores the need for the responsible actions to jumpstart private-sector job creation that the President highlighted at yesterday’s Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth at the White House.
There are many bumps in the road ahead. The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative. But, it is clear we are moving in the right direction.
Christina Romer is Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers
Jesse LeeDecember 03, 2009
05:38 PM EDT
UPDATE: Due to overwhelming response, the deadline has been extended through January 7, 2010.
It was an intensive afternoon at the Jobs and Economic Growth Forum, with opening remarks from the President and Vice President, with smaller discussions on creating jobs through infrastructure, exports, green jobs, small business, investment, and helping workers on Main Street. The President spoke at length with the participants to hear what came of those discussions and to hear any ideas that didn’t come out during those sessions. But all of this was only the beginning – not only will these ideas be evaluated carefully within the White House, but as we announced on Monday, the White House is inviting citizens, community leaders, and local officials to hold their own Community Jobs Forums. Sign up and we’ll get you all the materials you need.
The President discussed all of this in his opening remarks today:
Many of you run businesses yourselves. Each of you is an expert on some aspect of job creation. Collectively, your views span the spectrum. That was deliberate. We've looking for fresh perspectives and new ideas.
I want to hear about what unions and universities can do to better support and prepare our workers -- not just for the jobs of today, but for the jobs five years from now and 10 years from now and 50 years from now. I want to hear about what mayors and community leaders can do to bring new investment to our cities and towns and help recovery dollars get to where they need to go as quickly as possible. I want to hear from CEOs about what's holding back our business investment and how we can increase confidence and spur hiring. And if there are things that we're doing here in Washington that are inhibiting you, then we want to know about it.
And I want to continue this conversation outside of Washington, which is why I'll be meeting with some of the small business owners that you saw in the video in Allentown, Pennsylvania, tomorrow, to get their ideas. It's also why we've asked state and local officials and community organizations to hold their own jobs forums over the next week or so and to report back with the ideas and recommendations that result.
Get your family, friends, and neighbors together and help get America back on track.
Jesse LeeDecember 03, 2009
05:01 PM EDT
The Jobs Forum is undoubtedly the focus today, but one CEO made an important point explaining once again why health insurance reform is such a pivotal economic issue in explaining why he could not attend. We wanted to make sure you saw this letter (pdf) from Comcast CEO Brian Roberts to the President, in which he writes that "enactment of comprehensive health care reform legislation is, in my judgment, critical to putting this country on a path of sustained growth and prosperity." Here's a bit more:
"While there has been much controversy and debate over hundreds of provisions and alternatives, it is my view that the current legislation pending in the Senate provides a workable framework for this country to take an important step toward enhancing health care accessibility, promoting operational efficiencies and technological innovation, and reducing the cost of health care and the federal deficit."
December 03, 2009
04:33 PM EDT
Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and while the President himself gave his full support in a proclamation, I had the great pleasure and honor of accompanying Stevie Wonder at United Nations Headquarters on the occasion of his appointment as the 11th UN Messenger of Peace.
Stevie Wonder has a vision of a world in which every child can learn in their public school in the manner best for them; in which, upon graduation, they can apply for a job without fear of discrimination, and live and work independently in their communities if that's what they choose. The United States is pleased to work with the United Nations towards that goal.
Currently 650 million people—10 percent of the world's population—live with a disability. Discrimination against people with disabilities is not just simply unjust; it hinders economic development, it limits democracy, and corrodes societies. And it is holds us back from achieving a better, stronger, more equitable world.
In July of this year, I was deeply honored to be able to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first human rights convention of the 21st century, which urges equal protection and equal benefits under the law for all citizens, which rejects discrimination in all its forms, and calls for the full participation and inclusion in society of all persons with disabilities.
This was an important first step, but great challenges lie ahead. We have far more work to do. And we must never lose sight of our vision of a better world.
I look forward to working with Stevie in the months ahead as he carries the message of peace: signed, sealed and delivered.
Susan Rice is the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
December 03, 2009
03:01 PM EDT
On Tuesday, President Obama outlined his strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan. While his speech was delivered at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, NY, part of his speech was directed to the Afghan people. Specifically:
The people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades. They've been confronted with occupation -- by the Soviet Union, and then by foreign al Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes. So tonight, I want the Afghan people to understand -- America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering. We have no interest in occupying your country. We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens. And we will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect -- to isolate those who destroy; to strengthen those who build; to hasten the day when our troops will leave; and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron.
Looking at data on Whitehouse.gov, we don’t have a lot of traffic coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan because Internet penetration in the region is relatively low at 2% and 11% respectively. However, mobile penetration is much higher. 52% of the 177 million people in Pakistan have at least 1 mobile device and 30% of the 28.4 million in Afghanistan. Given this trend, we produced short video clips of the President’s segment to Afghans and had it dubbed in Arabic, Dari, Pashto, and Urdu in order for them to be distributed locally on mobile devices. Given the small screens on phones, subtitling wasn’t an appropriate option. The original version in English is also available.
This is a new feature for both the White House and State Department New Media teams. We’re hopeful that leveraging technology this way will help us achieve the President's goal of increasing America's security and undercutting the appeal of Al Qaeda and other extremists through global engagement.
UPDATE: Click here to access President Obama or Secretary State Clinton's messages via mobile phone.
December 03, 2009
12:16 PM EDT
On Friday, December 4th, President Obama will travel to Allentown, PA to spend some time out of Washington and take the temperature on what Americans are experiencing during these challenging economic times. We visited Allentown in advance to tell the stories of two local small businesses making their way in these difficult times. One, Egypt Star Bakery, is a Lehigh Valley institution, with a close-knit staff dedicated to serving one another and their community. They've weathered the recession by tightening their belts and making some personal sacrifices for the sake of the business. The other, Applied Separations Inc., is a small engineering firm that hires and trains people in green technologies, in some cases retraining workers who have been laid off from other industries. Watch the video that was shown today at the White House Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth to help keep everybody’s focus on what matters:
Dan PfeifferDecember 03, 2009
12:07 PM EDT
Later today, the insurance industry releases their latest in a string of flawed analyses designed to confuse the debate around health reform. After the now-infamous AHIP report, these studies have become more than a little predictable. Today, to make it more interesting, we will beat the insurers to the punch and give you our response before the insurers release the report. (We saw an early copy.)
While the new study contains many of the same arguments that were de-bunked in previous sham reports, this one contains a new twist: it attacks the independent Congressional Budget Office and the conclusions of health experts across the political spectrum.
The CBO recently found that health insurance reform legislation will lower premiums for American families by encouraging lower administrative costs, increased competition, and better pooling for risk. But the new industry-funded report explicitly disregards these conclusions because, simply put, they’re not what the insurance companies want to hear.
In addition to ignoring Congress's independent budget experts, the new report reaches its conclusions by cherry-picking which policies to analyze – a tactic we've seen the industry use repeatedly. Most egregiously, its alarmist headline conclusions leave out the impact that new tax credits will have on the cost of health insurance for families. That makes no sense. In reality, the report itself acknowledges that: “[s]ubsidies will entirely or partially offset these premium increases for some individuals.” In fact, the tax credits will lower premiums for individuals purchasing insurance on the exchange by up to 60 percent.
The report also ignores the legislation's provisions that protect those who don’t wish to change the coverage they have. As the CBO explained, "if they wanted to, current policyholders in the nongroup market would be allowed to keep their policy with no changes, and the premiums for those policies would probably not differ substantially from current-law levels."
Finally, the report doesn't acknowledge all of the bill's measures to control costs and improve coverage. For instance, it does not fully capture the effects of the excise tax on high-cost plans, which will slow the growth in health costs over the long-term. A group of prominent economists – including two Nobel laureates and previous members of both Democratic and Republican administrations – recently concluded that this provision is: "the most promising approach to reducing private-sector health care costs while also giving a much needed raise to the tens of millions of Americans who receive insurance through their employers."
We’re closer than ever before to passing meaningful health insurance reform. And you can bet as we continue to make progress, the insurance industry will continue to try and distract and misinform because they know their very profitable status quo is in grave danger.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
Jesse LeeDecember 02, 2009
07:46 PM EDT
It's no secret that institutions of all stripes focus their communications on certain messages day to day. We thought it would all be a little more open and transparent if we went ahead and published our focus for the day, along with any related articles, documents, or reports.
Talking Points: Defenders of the Status Quo Obstructing Progress
- The health care status quo is unsustainable for American families, businesses, and the country as a whole. And with each passing day it only worsens. Yet opponents of reform continue their cynical attempts to delay change and preserve the status quo for as long as possible.
- After more than two full days of debate, deliberation, and consideration, Republican leaders have obstructed and objected their way to preventing voting on even a single amendment.
- To put that in perspective, in 2003, the Republican-controlled Senate debated President Bush’s tax cut proposal for a total of just two legislative days. And in 2005 they voted on a full tax-cut reconciliation bill after just two days of debate as well.
- Delaying change to death might be a time-honored Washington tactic for winning political points – but it's a guaranteed loss for American families.
- Each day reform is delayed, more than 14,000 Americans lose their insurance.
- Health care costs are rising 3 times faster than wages, premiums have doubled over the past decade, and costs for American families will continue to skyrocket without action
- A recent media article reported that many small businesses may see their premiums rise 15 percent over the coming year – twice the rate they rose last year.
- Since the last time many of these people killed health insurance reform:
- Individual and family premiums have each more than doubled.
- National health expenditures have tripled.
- Health care costs have consumed a growing portion of the national GDP.
- And millions of Americans have lost insurance.
- So while we continue to welcome a robust and constructive debate, we won’t sit idly by as defenders of the status quo continue to execute their self-professed strategy to "delay, define, and derail" reform at all costs.
December 02, 2009
07:20 PM EDT
Last night, I accompanied the President to West Point as he spoke to the American people about his decision on the way forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This was an important moment for America, delivered in a stirring yet sober setting. Over four thousand people filled Eisenhower Hall -- proud and patriotic cadets and their families, West Point leadership, and members of the local community. Also in the audience were Secretary Clinton, Secretary Gates, Secretary Shinseki, General Petraeus (a graduate of West Point, along with General McChrystal), Admiral Mullen, members of Congress, and General Doug Lute and John Tien (also West Point graduates and members of my National Security Staff).
President Obama announced that he is ordering an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan. He highlighted that a large portion of these troops will be trainers, critically important as we have to start partnering Afghan security forces with our security forces in the field so that they are actually getting experience in securing these areas, and are then prepared to take a handoff as U.S. troops draw down. In the summer of 2011, we will begin a transition from this extended surge and start to transfer security responsibility to Afghan Security Forces. The slope, pace, and end point of this drawdown will be based on conditions on the ground. We will begin to make those assessments in December of 2010 after these additional troops have been in country for a year and we will be able to measure the progress that has been made with this strategy.
The President made it clear that he did not make this decision lightly. He made it because our own national security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan: it is from this region that our country was attacked on 9/11, and it is where new attacks are being plotted. This is the reason American troops and those of our international allies are risking their lives. This resonates with Americans from all backgrounds. And having served in Afghanistan and Iraq during my forty years in the Marine Corps, I know this was the right decision. Our entire national security team is committed to the success of this strategy and we will hold ourselves and our partners accountable as we move forward to implement the President’s vision.
The President emphasized that the core goal of our mission in Afghanistan is unchanged from the strategy decision he made in March of this year: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda. We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region. And in this process, the President is going to hold the government of Afghanistan accountable for its performance, as he declared that the days of providing a blank check are over. We are committed to good governance in Afghanistan, all the more important now that their President begins his second term in office. The President speaks directly with President Karzai often, and has outlined to him the steps that we expect the Afghan government to take in improving governance and delivering services to its people.
We cannot separate our strategy in Afghanistan from our strategy in Pakistan. We will continue to use all aspects of our diplomatic and development tools to work with the Pakistanis to keep up the pressure on the extremists that are within their borders and the safe havens that exist there.
As the President said last night, we must come together to end this war successfully. What is at stake is the security of our homeland, our allies, and the common security of the world.
General Jim Jones, USMC (Ret) is National Security Advisor
Jesse LeeDecember 02, 2009
04:41 PM EDT
Today, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina issued this memo to all White House staff summarizing the White House review that was conducted after the State Dinner Tuesday night:
Dan PfeifferDecember 02, 2009
11:28 AM EDT
As the Senate debate gets into full swing this week, we thought we'd address a half dozen of the myths you will most certainly hear from critics of health insurance reform. If it feels like you have heard these arguments before, it is because you have... you have heard them over and over and over again. You heard them during the mark ups in the House and the Senate, you heard them at townhalls this summer, and you heard them on the House floor. However, repetition does not equal veracity. These claims have been proven false by independent fact checkers time and again. Consider the below information, a viewing guide of sorts for the Senate floor debate.
1. CLAIM: Health insurance reform will cut seniors' guaranteed Medicare benefits.
REALITY: Health insurance reform will not cut guaranteed Medicare benefits. Period. Perhaps unlike many of these same critics who have repeatedly proposed privatizing Medicare or slashing benefits, President Obama believes Medicare is a sacred trust with America's seniors. Reform protects and strengthens Medicare, adding 5 years to the Medicare trust fund by cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse. It doesn’t use a dime of the Medicare trust fund to pay for reform and does not cut guaranteed Medicare benefits.
Specifically, reform will end wasteful overpayments to insurance companies through Medicare Advantage, and there is no evidence these overpayments improve the quality of care for seniors, yet they contribute to higher premiums for all Medicare beneficiaries.
Here's what the defenders of the status quo won't tell you: the Senate bill will provide a 50% discount to initially reduce the cost of prescription drugs for seniors who fall into the gap in coverage known as the Donut Hole. It will make preventive services free. It will also improve quality of care for seniors in too many ways to list here – all of this we imagine will be very good news for these critics who are so concerned about our seniors.
2. CLAIM: Health insurance reform will open the door to spending government funds on abortion.
REALITY: This legislation is about health insurance reform---protecting Americans from unfair insurance industry practices, providing affordable options and lowering costs. This is not about changing the status quo on abortion policy. Health insurance reform legislation should respect existing conscience statutes and follow existing policy that prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the woman is at stake. At the same time it is important that the legislation not erode the insurance choices women have today. So to be clear: The President believes federal funds should not be used to pay for abortions. And health insurance reform should not erode the insurance choices women have today.
3. CLAIM: Health insurance reform will make coverage available to undocumented immigrants.
REALITY: We have procedures in place to ensure that undocumented immigrants don't participate in the exchange – they're ineligible, and we will use well-tested verification systems that states have been using successfully for decades to screen out people who are not authorized to receive public benefits.
Nothing in the bill authorizes employers to hire and provide insurance to undocumented immigrants; this is already against the law and that won't change. The President has also said he is committed to enacting comprehensive immigration reform, something that should not be tackled piecemeal in the health insurance reform legislation.
4. CLAIM: Health insurance reform will create new financial burdens for small businesses.
REALITY: Health insurance reform will actually lower costs for small businesses. Small businesses will have access to the insurance exchange, where small businesses and their employees can pool together with millions of other Americans to increase purchasing power and benefit from increased competition.
A report from the Business Roundtable concluded that the cost-savings measures in the health reform bills could lower health care spending per employee by $3000. From the beginning, we made clear that most small businesses would be exempt from the employer responsibility requirement, because we do not want to increase the burden on small business. But at the same time, most small business owners want to provide coverage, which is why millions of small businesses would receive a tax credit to make coverage for their employees even more affordable. Today, small businesses pay 18% more for health insurance than large companies do -- with reform, small businesses and their employees will be able to purchase insurance through the insurance exchange, where pooling and competition will lower prices. Today, small businesses can see their premiums skyrocket if just one or two workers fall ill and accumulate high medical costs -- reform will prevent insurance discrimination based on health status, meaning that small businesses will no longer be unfairly penalized if a worker falls ill. To be clear, those critics who claim to be standing up for small business are actually just fighting tooth and nail against all of this – hopefully this good news will turn them around.
5. CLAIM: Health insurance reform will cost jobs.
REALITY: Few claims more fundamentally misunderstand both health care and the economy more than this one. Right now the skyrocketing health care costs represent one of the biggest disadvantages our economy faces, and lowering the cost of healthcare will help jumpstart job growth. The President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) estimated that if the annual growth rate of health spending slows by 1.5 percentage points per year, then the unemployment rate could fall by 0.24 percentage point and jobs could rise by 500,000. A newly released Congressional Budget Office report finds that premiums will fall by as much as 3 percent in the large group market and 2 percent in the small group market after reform, showing that employers will reap the cost savings necessary to hire more workers and invest in new property, plant, and equipment. And of course, as discussed in #4, reform will lower costs for small businesses through tax credits and pooled purchasing on a competitive exchange – reducing their competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis larger firms, thus helping to fuel a key engine of job creation in the economy. As icing, of course there will also be plenty of new jobs for doctors, nurses, medical technicians who are updating our health IT, medical researchers, on and on...
6. CLAIM: Health insurance reform will not lower costs.
REALITY: The CBO just recently had more great news for these critics, finding that lower administrative costs, increased competition, and better pooling for risk will mean lower premiums for American families. We had been trying to tell this good news to these critics for some time, but hopefully the CBO will break through where we couldn’t. Among the CBO’s findings:
- Americans buying comparable health plans to what they have today in the individual market would see premiums fall by 14 to 20 percent.
- Those who get coverage through their employer today will likely see a decrease in premiums as well.
- And Americans who currently struggle to find coverage today would see lower premiums because more people will be covered.
Jesse LeeDecember 01, 2009
09:35 PM EDT
Read the transcript of the speech in the following languages: English | Albanian | Arabic | Chinese | Croatian | Czech | Dari | Estonian | French | Georgian | German | Hindi | Hungarian | Indonesian | Italian | Japanese | Korean | Latvian | Pashto | Persian | Polish | Portuguese | Romanian | Russian | Spanish | Slovenian | Turkish | Urdu
Tonight the President outlined his strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. Read the transcript or watch the full video below, we will update this post with translations of the address as they come in:
During the President's speech we sent out key lines as they were delivered on Twitter, which together offer a taste of the President's key messages:
"We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, nineteen men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people."
"Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end."
"Although a legitimate government was elected by the Afghan people, it's been hampered by corruption, the drug trade, an under-developed economy, and insufficient security forces."
"Afghanistan is not lost, but for several years it has moved backwards... the status quo is not sustainable."
"As your Commander-in-Chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined, and worthy of your service."
"I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan."
"After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home."
"I opposed the war in Iraq precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force..."
"Years of debate over Iraq and terrorism have left our unity on national security issues in tatters..."
"As President, I have signed a letter of condolence to the family of each American who gives their life in these wars."
"So no – I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake."
"We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region."
"First... a military strategy that will break the Taliban’s momentum and increase Afghanistan’s capacity over the next 18 months"
"Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan. And now, we must come together to end this war successfully."
"Second, we will work with our partners, the UN, and the Afghan people to pursue a more effective civilian strategy"
"This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over"
"I want the Afghan people to understand – America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering"
"Third… our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan"
"...the absence of a timeframe for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government..."
"...we can’t simply afford to ignore the price of these wars... the nation that I am most interested in building is our own."
"America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars and prevent conflict -- not just how we wage wars."
"...we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim World... mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict."
"That's why we must promote our values by living them at home -- which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay... respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are."
"it's easy to forget that when this war began, we were united... I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again."
"And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering."
December 01, 2009
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Many families across the country are struggling to make ends meet. For homeowners who are struggling with their mortgage, or have fallen behind, the threat of foreclosure can be devastating. Foreclosure threatens a family’s stability, and the stability of our neighborhoods.
The Making Home Affordable Program was designed to help eligible homeowners modify or refinance their mortgage payments to make them more affordable. It gives eligible homeowners an opportunity to get back on track and rebuild their financial future. It is an important part of the Obama Administration’s broader plan to strengthen the housing market and the economy.
More than 650,000 homeowners have already received a mortgage modification under the program, reducing their monthly payments by an average of $640. The program is gaining momentum, but we know that many more homeowners are eligible for help.
Too many of the homeowners we meet at Making Home Affordable events go into foreclosure without ever talking to their mortgage servicer or seeking the help of a housing counselor. They may feel ashamed or afraid to reach out, or are unsure about where to go for help.
Others homeowners are frustrated by the process of trying to work with their mortgage servicer. They may speak to a different customer service representative each time, or are required to submit the same paperwork over and over again.
President Obama said when he launched the program in February that this plan will require both homeowners and lenders to step up and do their part, to take on some responsibility. This week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a new campaign that marks unprecedented engagement to hold mortgage servicers accountable for timely decisions and reach out to eligible borrowers to make sure that they understand their responsibilities to get in – and stay in – the program.
One-third of the homeowners currently in trial mortgage modifications under the program are eligible to receive a permanent modification by the end of this month. These homeowners deserve a timely decision from their mortgage servicer. Treasury received plans last week from the country’s biggest servicers that explain how they propose to convert each one of these trial mortgage modifications.
The majority of homeowners in trial plans still owe their servicer paperwork. Thirty-seven percent of homeowners have submitted paperwork that is incomplete. More than twenty percent of homeowners have submitted no paperwork at all. As part of this campaign, Treasury and HUD will be engaging the 2700 HUD-approved housing counseling organizations to reach out to these borrowers.
Homeowners should not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. They do not have to go through this alone. Homeowners can visit www.MakingHomeAffordable.gov or call the Homeowner’s HOPE™ Hotline at 1-888-995-HOPE (4673) to get free help from a HUD-approved housing counselor who will help them complete their paperwork and work productively with their mortgage servicer. Even if the Making Home Affordable Program turns out not to be the right solution for a particular family, a HUD-approved housing counselor will work with homeowners to get them the help they need. For the homeowners we talk to around the country, this gives them hope.
Phyllis Caldwell is Chief of the Homeownership Preservation Office at the U.S. Department of the Treasury
Aneesh ChopraDecember 01, 2009
05:37 PM EDT
For the past day and a half, several Senior Administration officials and I joined leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors to discuss the role of innovation in achieving sustainable economic growth and quality jobs. We wish to extend our thanks to the Aspen Institute, Intel, the PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer, and Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, for bringing people together on this important Presidential priority, reflected in President Obama's Strategy for American Innovation.
Much of the discussion centered around our national investments in the building blocks of innovation - increased support for basic research & development, a world-class educational system focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and a modern infrastructure that includes broadband alongside roads, high-speed rail, and airports.
Demonstrating our commitment to this conversation, I was joined by six colleagues - National Economic Council Director Larry Summers, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, Staff Director of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board Austan Goolsbee, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and his Executive Director for the national broadband plan Blair Levin.
In the coming weeks and months, we hope to extend this conversation throughout the country to hear directly from you on the set of policies that will expand the nation's innovation capacity.
Until then, please feel free to watch video segments at http://www.theinnovationeconomy.org/videos/.
Aneesh Chopra is the Federal Chief Technology Officer and the Associate Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
December 01, 2009
05:30 PM EDT
The United State Agency for International Development (USAID) is responding to President Obama's call to promote women’s empowerment throughout the world by strengthening the Agency's gender policy. USAID funds development projects all around the world which strive to promote greater socioeconomic development.
In the diverse cultures where USAID works, project assistance may impact men and women differently. In order to understand the sometime divergent effects of our assistance on men and women, USAID has recently required all USAID Missions to conduct a gender analysis prior to providing assistance. In fact, USAID has developed a comprehensive policy package designed to promote gender equality throughout USAID.
These new reforms are designed to insure that USAID assistance makes the optimal possible contribution to gender equality by making mandatory gender equality measures in USAID strategies, projects, procurements, monitoring and evaluation. Equally important, these new requirements make it the responsibility of everyone in the organization to assure that gender equality issues are acted upon.
Margot Ellis is Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia and Chair of USAID's Strategic Planning Policy Committee