Secretary Kathleen SebeliusJanuary 28, 2010
10:00 AM EDT
If a friend or family member gets robbed, you would want to see the perpetrator brought to justice. The same is true for catching criminals who steal money from American taxpayers and businesses. This exact scenario is playing out in the form of health care fraud. Criminals are stealing billions of dollars from American taxpayers, the federal government, and corporations – and it is unacceptable. At a time when many families are scraping together every last dollar to pay their medical bills, fraud, waste, and abuse in our health care system are unacceptable.
This administration is taking a zero-tolerance approach to health care fraud. Yet this is not a job for just one agency or one law enforcement team. It requires a coordinated effort from the public and private sectors. Today, Attorney General Eric Holder and I convened a first-ever National Summit on Health Care Fraud, bringing together the public and private sectors to identify and discuss innovative ways to eliminate fraud in our health care system.
Participants at today’s summit include government officials; prosecutors and investigators; state law enforcement; private sector health plans and insurers; and representatives of consumers and providers to discuss and find innovative ways to detect, prevent and deter fraud.
Today’s Summit builds upon the work accomplished by HEAT, the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team. This initiative was launched last May and is led by Attorney General Holder and myself. Through this initiative, we’ve been able to employ better enforcement tools. We’ve significantly expanded our Medicare Fraud Strike Forces to operate in 7 major cities across the country.
Since 2007, the Strike Forces have charged more than 500 defendants for health care fraud crimes resulting in more than $1 billion in fraudulent billing. Over 200 defendants have been sentenced to prison, with sentences ranging from two months to 30 years. Added up, we’ve done more to fight health care fraud in 2009 than in any other year. But we’re not done fighting. Building on the investments the President made in fraud fighting in last year’s budget, he will request $1.7 billion in his budget to support programs to fight fraud..
Through our collective efforts, we will defeat health care fraud; we will protect American consumers and businesses by tracking down the criminals and holding them accountable, and we’ll put the brakes on future fraudulent activity.
For more information, visit our website at www.StopMedicareFraud.gov.
Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of Health and Human Services
January 27, 2010
11:43 PM EDT
Tonight the President made it clear once again that he will not back away from his commitment to enacting health reform that protects Americans from abusive insurance company practices, lowers rising health care costs, provides security and stability to all Americans seeking health insurance, strengthens Medicare and reduces the deficit. He called upon Congress to act:
And it is precisely to relieve the burden on middle-class families that we still need health insurance reform. (Applause.) Yes, we do. (Applause.)
Now, let's clear a few things up. (Laughter.) I didn't choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good politics. (Laughter.) I took on health care because of the stories I've heard from Americans with preexisting conditions whose lives depend on getting coverage; patients who've been denied coverage; families –- even those with insurance -– who are just one illness away from financial ruin.
After nearly a century of trying -- Democratic administrations, Republican administrations -- we are closer than ever to bringing more security to the lives of so many Americans. The approach we've taken would protect every American from the worst practices of the insurance industry. It would give small businesses and uninsured Americans a chance to choose an affordable health care plan in a competitive market. It would require every insurance plan to cover preventive care.
And by the way, I want to acknowledge our First Lady, Michelle Obama, who this year is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity and make kids healthier. (Applause.) Thank you. She gets embarrassed. (Laughter.)
Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan. It would reduce costs and premiums for millions of families and businesses. And according to the Congressional Budget Office -– the independent organization that both parties have cited as the official scorekeeper for Congress –- our approach would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades. (Applause.)
Still, this is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, the process left most Americans wondering, "What's in it for me?"
But I also know this problem is not going away. By the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber. (Applause.)
So, as temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we've proposed. There's a reason why many doctors, nurses, and health care experts who know our system best consider this approach a vast improvement over the status quo. But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. (Applause.) Let me know. Let me know. (Applause.) I'm eager to see it.
Here's what I ask Congress, though: Don't walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people. (Applause.) Let's get it done. Let's get it done. (Applause.)
Linda Douglass is with the White House Office of Health Reform
January 27, 2010
10:23 PM EDT
In his State of the Union Address tonight, the President laid out an agenda attempting to attack one problem from every conceivable angle: the terrible squeeze felt by America’s middle class. Fundamentally, that means prying government away from special interests and dedicating it to measures that put Americans to work and lay the foundation for a stronger economy for our country – lowering health care and tuition costs, spurring creation of the next generation of clean energy jobs. It also means putting a cop on the beat on Wall Street, so major banks can no longer take advantage of families and taxpayers.
To do all that, though, we need to change the way Washington works. Already the President has taken unprecedented steps in this direction, from releasing the names of all visitors to the White House for the first time ever to clamping down on the revolving door between government and lobbying. But as much progress was made on this front in this first year, it was still only the first year, and the President will keep pushing forward, whether that’s shining sunlight on any contact between lobbyists and the White House, or pushing Congress to disclose all earmark requests in one place for Americans to see.
This was the vision that shaped the President's address, but this is not just a matter of rhetoric. The President made clear that there is tremendously busy agenda ahead for his second year – the policies and proposals below are just examples of the plans the President laid out in his address to put government to work for the middle class.
Here are a few initiatives you might have missed in the course of the speech:
- The President called on the Senate to pass a financial reform package. “A strong, healthy financial market makes it possible for businesses to access credit and create new jobs. It channels the savings of families into investments that raise incomes. But that can only happen if we guard against the same recklessness that nearly brought down our entire economy.” Essential reforms include measures to protect consumers and investors from financial abuse; close loopholes, raise standards, and create accountability for supervision of major financial firms; restrict the size and scope of financial institutions to reign in excesses and protect taxpayers and address the ‘too big to fail’ problem; and establish comprehensive supervision of financial markets.
- A vision for a clean energy economy. “…to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, and more incentives.” We will build on the historic $80 billion investment made through the Recovery Act. The President’s vision includes investments in important technologies to diversity our energy sources and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, including: the renewal of our nation’s nuclear energy industry after a 30-year hiatus, cutting edge biofuel and clean coal technologies, and additional offshore oil and gas drilling. To fully transition to a clean energy economy and create millions of new American jobs, we must pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation to promote energy independence and address climate change.
- The President will continue his push to invest in the skills and education of our people. “This year, we have broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. And the idea here is simple: instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success... In this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential.” The Obama Administration supports a new vision for increasing student achievement, delivering opportunity, and supporting excellence in America’s public schools. The President’s 2011 budget supports a new framework for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that will foster innovation, reward excellence, and promote reform in our schools, as well as invests an additional $1.35 billion to continue the historic Race to the Top program to open it up to districts in order to spur innovation and additional progress. At the same time, the Administration is moving to consolidate ineffective policies and practices. The President’s Budget eliminates six programs and consolidates 38 others into 11 new programs that emphasize using competition to allocate funds, giving communities more choices around activities, and using rigorous evidence to fund what works.
- The President is committed to making college affordable for all Americans. “(I)n this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job.” To increase college access and completion, the Administration will make student loans more affordable by limiting a borrower’s payments to 10 percent of his/her income and forgives remaining debt after 20 years – 10 years for public service works. We will also make permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The President urges the Senate to pass the American Graduation Initiative, which invests more than $10 billion over the next decade in reforming our nation’s community colleges, promoting college completion, and moving toward the President’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. The President is also asking colleges and universities to do their share to make college affordable for all Americans cutting their own costs.
- The President is making investments to ensure that the middle class benefits from this economic recovery. “(T)he price of college tuition is just one of the burdens facing the middle class. That's why last year I asked Vice President Biden to chair a task force on middle-class families.” The President has outlined immediate steps to reduce the strain on family budgets and help middle class families manage their child and elder care responsibilities, save for retirement and pay for college. He will double the child tax credit this year, make it easier to save for retirement with automatic IRAs for workers without access to existing retirement plans, provide larger tax credits to match retirement savings for millions of additional workers, and provide new safeguards to protect retirement savings.
- Changing the way we do business. “To close that credibility gap we have to take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve.” The President has called for additional new lobbyist reforms, including enhanced disclosure of lobbyist contacts, strict campaign contribution limits by lobbyists, and a single earmark database, so American taxpayers find out what earmarks are being requested, and where their money is going.
- Countering Citizens United. “I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.” Last week’s Supreme Court Citizen’s United decision opens the floodgates to special interests and foreign countries and companies bankrolling national campaigns. The President called for bipartisan support for legislation that will remedy the Supreme Court’s unprecedented and troubling decision.
- The President stands by military families. “Tonight, all of our men and women in uniform...have to know that they have our respect, our gratitude, our full support.” The President’s 2011 budget announces significant new investments, totaling more than $8 billion, and protections for our nation’s military families, including increased military pay and housing allowances, increased funding for family support programs, expanded availability of affordable, high-quality child care, the renovation or replacement of schools, and expanded and improved care for wounded, ill and injured service members.
- The President is establishing a National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force. “We're going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws -– so that women get equal pay for an equal day's work.” To make sure we uphold our nation’s core commitment to equality of opportunity, the Obama Administration is implementing an Equal Pay initiative to improve compliance, public education, and enforcement of equal pay laws. The Task Force will ensure that the agencies with responsibility for equal pay enforcement are coordinating efforts and limiting potential gaps in enforcement. The Administration also continues to support the Paycheck Fairness Act, and is increasing funding for the agencies enforcing equal pay laws and other key civil rights statutes.
- Immigration reform. “And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system - to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation.” The President is pleased Congress is taking steps forward on immigration reform that includes effective border security measures with a path for legalization for those who are willing to pay taxes and abide by the law. He is committed to confronting this problem in practical, effective ways, using the current tools at our disposal while we work with Congress to enact comprehensive reform.
And here are still more initiatives the President spoke to just tonight:
- The President will fight to recover the money American taxpayers spent to bailout the banks. “To recover the rest, I've proposed a fee on the biggest banks. Now, I know Wall Street isn't keen on this idea. But if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need.” The President has proposed the Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee, which will require the largest and most highly leveraged Wall Street firms to pay back taxpayers and provide a deterrent against excessive leverage for the largest firms. The conservative estimate for the cost of TARP in the budget is $117 billion, but the Treasury Department expects it to be much less and the fee will be in place for a minimum of ten years or however long it takes to recoup every last penny to the American taxpayer.
- The President recognizes that Small Businesses will be key to our nation’s economic recovery. “I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat. I'm also proposing a new small business tax credit – one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages.” To get small businesses growing again, and growing our economy, the President has proposed a range of provisions that include tax incentives to spur investment; expanded access to capital and growth opportunities to create jobs; and increased support for entrepreneurship to foster innovation. He is proposing an employment tax credit for small businesses to encourage hiring, eliminating capital gains taxes on small business investments, extending enhanced small business expensing, and transferring $30 billion in resources from TARP to a new program to help community and smaller banks give small businesses the credit they need. The President and members of his Administration will announce additional details in the coming weeks.
- The President reiterates his support for continued investment in our nation’s infrastructure. “Tomorrow, I'll visit Tampa, Florida, where workers will soon break ground on a new high-speed railroad funded by the Recovery Act. There are projects like that all across this country that will create jobs and help move our nation's goods, services, and information.” Through the Recovery Act, we made the largest investment in our nation’s infrastructure since President Eisenhower called for the creation of our national highway system over half a century ago. In his speech, the President announced funding to make a down-payment on a new nationwide high-speed rail system being built in-part with ARRA dollars.
- Tax breaks to keep jobs at home. “(I)t’s time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America.” The President has called for an end for tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas to help fund tax cuts – like making the R & E credit permanent – that reward companies for investing and creating jobs in the United States.
- The President also called on the Senate to pass a jobs bill that he can sign. “The House has passed a jobs bill…. As the first order of business this year, I urge the Senate to do the same, and I know they will. People are out of work. They are hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay.” The bold and difficult steps the President took to stabilize the financial system have reduced the cost of TARP by more than $200 billion, providing additional resources for job creation and for deficit reduction. In December, the President outlined a package of targeted measures to help further stimulate private sector hiring, including measures to facilitate small business growth, green jobs and infrastructure. The House has passed strong legislation - it is time for the Senate to do the same.
- We must invest in American ingenuity and innovation. “We need to encourage American innovation.” The Obama Innovation Agenda will get us closer to the President’s long-term goal of increasing combined private and public R&D investment to three percent of GDP. The Obama 2011 budget will move us closer to restoring America to first in the world in college completion; and invest in the next generation of scientists so we will not lag behind countries like China in science and engineering graduates. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.
- We need to export more of our goods around the world. “We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support two million jobs in America.” To meet this goal, we’re launching a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports and expand their markets. Details will be announced in the coming weeks, but the NEI includes the creation of the President’s Export Promotion Cabinet and an enhancement of funding for key export promotion programs. We will work to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens markets and will continue to work with key allies like South Korea, Panama, and Colombia on trade agreements that provide real benefits to our workers. The President and members of his Administration will announce additional details in the coming week.
- The President remains committed to helping Americans stay in their homes and help their homes retain their value. “… we’re working to lift the value of a family’s single largest investment – their home.” Last year, we took steps allowing millions of Americans to take out new loans and save an average of $1,500 per family on mortgage payments. This year, we will step up programs that encourage re-financing so that homeowners can move into more affordable and sustainable mortgages. In addition to the changes proposed last week to ensure sound risk management, the FHA is continuing to evaluate its mortgage insurance underwriting standards and its measures to help distressed and underwater borrowers through other FHA initiatives going forward. In order to ensure American families receive the same consideration American corporations do, the Obama Administration remains supportive of efforts to allow bankruptcy proceedings to renegotiate all debts, including home mortgages.
- As Americans are getting their budgets in order, the President is getting the nation’s financial house in order. “Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t.” The President has announced the three year, non-security discretionary spending freeze, and also called for a bipartisan Fiscal Commissionto identify policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run. The President and members of his Administration will announce additional details in the coming weeks.
- The President’s focus on national security includes rooting out terrorists where they hide. “Since the day I took office, we have renewed our focus on the terrorists who threaten our nation.” In the last year, hundreds of Al Qaeda’s fighters and affiliates have been captured or killed – far more than in 2008.
- The President’s commitment to Non-Proliferation results. “Even as we prosecute two wars, we're also confronting perhaps the greatest danger to the American people - the threat of nuclear weapons.” The United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly twenty years. He will also host a Nuclear Security Summit in April, which will bring forty-four nations together behind a clear goal: to secure all loose nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.
- The President is launching a bioterror and pandemic threat initiative. “We are launching a new initiative that will give us the capacity to respond faster and more effectively to bioterrorism or an infectious disease - a plan that will counter threats at home and strengthen public health abroad.” The President called to action key U.S. Government leaders to re-design our medical countermeasure enterprise to protect Americans from bioterror or infectious health threats. We will pursue a business model that leverages market forces and reduces risk to attract pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry collaboration with the U.S. Government.
- The President announced that he will work this year to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “I will work with Congress and the military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.”
Mona Sutphen is Deputy Chief of Staff
January 27, 2010
04:53 PM EDT
Ed. Note: We asked Julia Frost, a guest of Dr. Biden's for the State of the Union tonight, to talk about her experience leading up to the event - many thanks to her for obliging. Dr. Biden, a community college instructor for over 16 years, met Julia while visiting her campus last fall, where they discussed the ways that community colleges are making a difference to millions of Americans.
I was shocked last fall when Dr. Jill Biden, the Vice President's wife visited my campus in North Carolina. I was very surprised and excited to have a representative like Dr. Biden for community colleges as an instructor herself, and wondered why I didn't know that already. It was great to get to talk to her last year to tell her about my background - being a former active duty Marine, wife of a current active duty marine, while taking courses at the community college with my GI Bill benefits and enrolled in the Elementary Education program to become a teacher.
Imagine my shock last week when I learned I was going to be invited to attend the State of the Union! I am very much looking forward to actually being in the presence of the First Lady and the Vice President with Dr. Biden, and maybe even the President! I am happy to get to be a representative of the Marine Corps and of military spouses working for their educational opportunities.
Today I have been inundated with calls from the White House along with the Secretary of Education, and the Chief of Education from the Marine Corps. As just another community college student working hard with aspirations of becoming a teacher (of all unappreciated careers), who would have thought I'd be a super star? I am absolutely without a doubt, thrilled and 110% honored, and truthfully I am also very nervous about it all as well. After relaying the news to my grandmother, she passed down some revered advice as one experienced elder to a young child unknowing of what the world might bring them: "there ain't no higher presence than these people so you best get it right the first time." I cannot wait to see what this experience brings me and how I will come out of all of this.
Jesse LeeJanuary 27, 2010
02:35 PM EDT
Tonight at 9:00PM EST, the President will give his first State of the Union Address. He will talk directly to the American people about restoring security for middle class families after a lost decade of declining wages, eroding retirement security and escalating health care and tuition costs.
Immediately afterwards, we will hold a live video discussion with top policy officials working on the domestic policy, jobs and the economy in particular, and foreign policy.
- Watch it all live at WhiteHouse.gov/live
- Join the discussion during the address, and the chat afterwards through Facebook
Also, as we announced earlier this week, we are partnering with YouTube, who will be soliciting questions for the President in the days following the speech - submit your own or vote on others'. The President will then answer some of those questions in a unique live event next week.
As a final note, for those who have their own websites, as always you can embed the live stream on your site using the code found at the "share" button at WhiteHouse.gov/live.
January 27, 2010
02:02 PM EDT
Last week, we were excited to help President Obama launch the Citizens Medal public nominations process. By asking the public to submit nominees, President Obama hopes to recognize exemplary citizens and local heroes who have significantly impacted their communities but who may not have garnered national attention.
We are thrilled to have received over 5,000 nominations so far, with more rolling in every hour. The deadline is 11:59 pm EST on Thursday, January 28, so please don’t delay in getting your nomination in!
The President is focused this year on seeking out ordinary citizens who have gone above and beyond, performing extraordinary deeds of service outside of their regular jobs, including in particular: those who have a demonstrated commitment to service in their own community or in communities farther from home, those who have helped their country or their fellow citizens through one or more extraordinary acts, and those whose service relates to a long-term or persistent problem.
In past Administrations, some truly amazing individuals have been honored with this award.
For example, in 2008, President George W. Bush presented the Citizens Medal to Dr. Mitch Besser, whose made great advances on behalf of women living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. He developed innovative strategies to reduce mother-to-child transmission of the disease.
In 2001, Sister Carol Coston and Marion Wiesel were among the honorees chosen by President Bill Clinton. Both women were tireless advocates against oppression and intolerance, working towards peace and basic human rights for all. Sister Carol worked to lift up low-income communities here in the United States through economic development, while Marion Wiesel’s work touched people across the globe – from writing a documentary about the children of the Holocaust to helping Ethiopian youth transition to living and thriving in Israel.
We’re heartened by the wonderful stories you’ve all sent in, and look forward to reading more as they come in over the next day! Thank you so much for your participation.
Tina Tchen is the Director of the Office of Public Engagement
January 27, 2010
12:05 PM EDT
Now that the Administration has served for more than a year, we are starting to see real progress on the openness and transparency front. For the most part, we have gotten high marks in this area, but we take exception to the views expressed in a Washington Post story today.
The Post acknowledges that, in his first full day in office, the President directed federal agencies to become more open, including by applying a presumption of openness to requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act. The Post questions whether these policies are having a real impact.
The numbers demonstrate that they are. Contrary to the Post's assertions, the amount of litigation is already declining. The Department of Justice found that 22 fewer FOIA cases were filed in 2009 than 2008. And agencies are making more voluntary releases of information. The Department of Justice granted 13 percent more FOIA requests in part in 2009 than it did in the last year of the previous Administration, and granted 5 percent more in full than it did in the previous year. Those are meaningful increases that illustrate the impact of the Administration’s FOIA policy.
The government isn’t just being more open when people ask for information. At the White House and across the agencies, we are using innovative platforms to engage citizens in shaping government policy. And in some instances we are taking actions to make government more open and transparent that prevent Americans from needing to file FOIA requests at all. The President issued an executive order to make it easier for the public to access historic records that are currently classified but no longer need to be kept secret to protect national security. Data.gov now hosts over 1,000 sets of government information available for download, and agencies' websites are being constantly updated to include more content. And for the first time in history, the White House is voluntarily publishing visitor records online – enabling the American people to see who is visiting the people's house. Click here for a list of our open government accomplishments so far.
We did this in the first year of the Administration, even though some said it would be impossible to change entrenched governmental practices on an issue like FOIA. We recognize that this is just a start, and that there is much more work to be done. Change takes time and persistence, and we expect government to become even more open in the years to come. But we know we have established a firm foundation and we are moving in the right direction.
Norm Eisen is special counsel to the President for ethics and government reform
Liz OxhornJanuary 27, 2010
09:21 AM EDT
Yesterday, we introduced you to some of the many people CNN has met through their Stimulus Project who are finding work, growing their businesses, buying their first homes and receiving needed financial assistance thanks to the Recovery Act. Here are even more Americans who have told CNN the Recovery Act is making a difference for their families and their communities.
Kitty Schaller, the head of MANNA Food Bank in Asheville, North Carolina says the Recovery Act has helped "provide for the most basic needs for people who are truly in need." "The economic stimulus package has helped us to provide for the most basic needs for people who are truly in need.” [CNN, 1/26/10]
Peter Wilf, a researcher at Penn State University, says his Recovery Act research grant is "stimulating the economy." “I want to mention this [funding] was not just for me, this is for 17 investigators and their students. It's not just for Penn State but many institutions. We are stimulating the economy. We have numerous people working under this grant. The money is circulating, a percentage of it, back into the US economy and we also feel that exciting science is good for the US economy. So, yes, I’m proud now that we are in this program. I’m proud of it and I'm happy to wear the badge.” [CNN, 1/26/10
Mayor John Fetterman, of Braddock, PA says the Recovery Act has "helped a great deal" and is "very beneficial." “It has helped a great deal. We have got about $250,000 to upgrade our sewer system to be in compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency. And not sexy kind of things, or head-line grabbing but still necessary in a community like Braddock where we are having to raise taxes because of revenue loss. We also got a smaller grant that allowed us to hire 30 young people, very beneficial.” [CNN, 1/26/10]
Steven Kyle, an economics professor at Cornell University, says the Recovery Act is "stimulating the economy." “Sure it's stimulating the economy. That food is produced here in the United States. That stimulates the U.S. economy. Those farmers then end up with more money and they turn around and buy more equipment, hire more laborers, maybe they buy themselves a new caterpillar tractor. Who knows?” [CNN, 1/26/10]
Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta says "the stimulus definitely saved jobs"and helped "avert furloughs of teachers, firefighters and state patrolmen." “The stimulus definitely saved jobs. Were it not for the stimulus, thousands of state employees ran the risk of being furloughed or laid off... I was in the state senate at the time and we had a large hole in our budget. Those stimulus dollars did help to avert furloughs of teachers, firefighters and state patrolmen.” [CNN, 1/26/10]
Mayor Phil Gordon, of Phoenix, says that because of the Recovery Act, "thousands of people are going back to work." "The picture in Phoenix, Arizona, is clear: Because of ARRA, key projects are under way, our environment is improving -- and thousands of people are going back to work." [CNN.com, 1/25/10]
James Ceaton, a construction worker from Phoenix, said he "would still be out of a job" if it weren't for the Recovery Act. "Without the stimulus I would still be out of a job." [CNN.com, 1/25/10]
Jeanne Simons, a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher in Phoenix, AZ says without the Recovery Act, she would have lost her teaching position. "Last year, she was told that if ARRA funds were not approved, she would lose her teaching position. If her position had been eliminated, the remaining teachers would have faced class sizes of between 40 and 50 students -- a daunting task for any educator to face.” [CNN.com, 1/25/10]
Liz Oxhorn is Recovery Act Communications Director
January 26, 2010
10:05 PM EDT
Monday was not an average day on the road for us. We’re in the middle of a long eight game road trip and flew into Washington, D.C. late Sunday night after tough game in Toronto. Fortunately, Monday had a couple opportunities for us that kept the team’s energy high despite the minimal sleep.
In the morning, we had the chance to team up with President Obama’s United We Serve initiative and City Year Washington, DC to invite about 30 kids from Stanton Elementary School over to our practice. They piled into the gym and got to watch us do one of our team shooting competitions before we brought them onto the court for a mini clinic.
Every summer I host a basketball camp for kids in LA. Working with youth and teaching them what I can is a big part of my life. So it was a lot fun to take these kids through some drills working on ball handling skills, shooting, and other fundamentals of the game. Afterward, we made it a point to talk with them about the importance of healthy eating and an active lifestyle. As professional athletes, it’s our job to take care of our bodies. But it’s just as important for these 10 and 11 year olds to eat right and get some regular exercise if they want to do well in school—and in life. Kids don’t always connect the two, so it was a good chance for us to reinforce this message.
After the clinic, we had to quickly clean up and rush over to the White House where the day got even better. President Obama was going to formally congratulate us on our 2009 NBA championship. It was my first time at the White House and I was amazed to be surrounded by such history. You can see how every president puts their personal touch on the place, like the Obamas’ swing set just outside the Oval Office. And as an animal lover, I just had to go play with the First Family’s dog Bo when I saw him near the Rose Garden.
In all, it was a huge honor to visit the White House and interact with the President. He comes across as a real down-to-earth, regular guy who knows basketball and loves the game like we do.
Jordan Farmar is a guard with the 2009 NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Jesse LeeJanuary 26, 2010
07:35 PM EDT
This afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to the Joint Armed Forces Officers Wives Club, highlighting military families’ remarkable strength and unyielding support. She reflected on the roundtable discussions she and Dr. Jill Biden held with military spouses that provided guidance for developing initiatives for President Obama's 2011 budget.
She discussed new support for military spouses and children to be included in the upcoming budget:
- Increasing funds for military family support programs
- Reducing shortages in military child care
- Increasing funds for youth programs for military children
- Increasing funds for spousal career development
- New funding for quality Coast Guard housing
The First Lady called for Americans to support military families and thanked the spouses and children for their service to their communities. "You put your own priorities aside. You take care of one another. You take care of America. And as First Lady, I can’t thank you all enough and I promise you that I will use every ounce of my being to make sure that America always takes care of you."
January 26, 2010
04:33 PM EDT
Ed. Note: You can watch video of each Cabinet member describing what his or her department or agency has accomplished this year and what to expect in the year ahead at our The President's Cabinet Reporting to You page.
I’ve been very lucky to be at OPM this past year for a few reasons. President Obama has generated energy and enthusiasm for public service that we haven’t seen in generations. That enthusiasm helps us bring in the best and the brightest new recruits. The government does a lot of hiring, so I have the chance to help fellow Americans who are looking for work.
I’ve gotten strong support from the top because this administration actually wants to make government – and your tax dollars – work. We have a great staff of career Feds here at OPM who come to me continuously with ideas and a can-do spirit. And the last reason (maybe secretly the first)… I love a good challenge.
Check out two of our most recent accomplishments, the brand new USAJOBS and FedsHireVets sites. Launched just this month, they’re simple and easy-to-use.
Everyone can check out Federal jobs and apply at www.USAJOBS.gov.
Veterans and transitioning service members can go to www.FedsHireVets.gov.
John Berry is Director of the Office of Personnel Management
Jared BernsteinJanuary 26, 2010
01:40 PM EDT
So I’m on my way to do a TV interview last night on a set of middle-class initiatives we announced yesterday, when I learn that what they really want to talk about is our proposed freeze on non-security discretionary spending. Ok — I’m flexible — and in fact, the two are related in an important way that folks need to understand.
First, an important note on timing. No one is arguing that we should take our foot off the accelerator today, when the economic recovery remains fragile and job growth has yet to return. In fact, you’ll hear from the President tomorrow night about measures we should undertake right away jumpstart job creation. In his words and deeds, the President has made clear that recovery comes first. But that doesn’t mean we should wait to start changing the same bad habits in Washington that left a $1.3 trillion deficit on our doorstep when we entered office in January 2009, especially when we can do so without cutting back on our jobs agenda.
Second, a little background on freeze-eology: there are two ways to do a freeze like this: (1) an across-the-board freeze on every program outside of national security; and (2) a surgical approach where overall totals are frozen but some individual programs go up and others go down. In short, a hatchet versus a scalpel.
During the campaign, you may recall that John McCain touted option 1 – the hatchet approach of an across-the-board freeze.
The President was critical of that approach then, and we would be critical of it now. It’s not what we’re proposing. To the contrary, the entire theory of the President’s proposed freeze is to dial up the stuff that will support job growth and innovation while dialing down the stuff that doesn’t. Under our plan, some discretionary spending will go up; some will go down. That’s a big difference from a hatchet.
Take, for example, the policies we announced yesterday — a significant expansion (a 20% increase) in a program that provides services for seniors, like respite care and in-home services; a program to limit student loan repayments to 10 percent of income (after living expenses); an expansion of two tax credits, one for child care and another for retirement savings.
How can we expand these programs in the context of a freeze? By making sure that the freeze either holds steady or increases those parts of the discretionary budget that support jobs and income security for folks who need them, while whacking the wasteful subsidies that support lobbyists and special interests.
President Obama deeply understands the various imperatives of this moment in time, even if they don’t always point in the same direction.
We must do all we can to help those who are still reeling from the impact of the great recession; we must create the economic conditions for robust, private-sector job growth, and we must make the investments in clean energy, health care, and education that will ensure that the next economic expansion is characterized by broadly shared prosperity, not narrow gains to financial speculators.
At the same time, we must take steps to move toward a sustainable fiscal position, and that’s where the discretionary freeze comes in.
You can’t thread that needle with a hatchet. You’ve got to use a scalpel. That may be a truly lousy metaphor, but it’s good public policy.
Jared Bernstein is Chief Economist to Vice President Biden, and Executive Director of the Middle Class Task Force
January 26, 2010
12:11 PM EDT
This week, CNN has been taking a good, hard look at the Recovery Act and examining some of the projects being funded across the country to create jobs and drive economic growth. As they do this, they’re asking some questions about how Recovery dollars are being spent. We wanted to provide the full set of facts about some of the projects featured. For example:
On the big picture, one report claims that the Recovery Act's weatherization program, part of an unprecedented investment in energy retrofits, is moving too slowly. A closer examination shows something different:
- After starting a little slower than we'd hoped, the program has picked up steam and we are now on a path to reach our target of weatherizing 20,000-30,000 homes a month.
- Grantees have now spent over $445 million in the weatherization program, and the pace of spending continues to accelerate. The states and local agencies spent the summer gearing up - training and hiring new workers and putting in place the accountability and transparency mechanisms that are central to the Recovery Act. In the fall, the local agencies began to weatherize homes in earnest and are continuing to increase the pace of weatherization every month.
- And states are already able to put to work the first 50 percent of their Recovery funds. As part of the oversight and management process under the weatherization program, states are required to weatherize 30 percent of their estimated units and demonstrate they are meeting the accountability, transparency and job creation goals of the Recovery Act before they can access the remaining 50 percent of obligated funds.
Chris LuJanuary 26, 2010
11:34 AM EDT
When President Obama and his Cabinet took office a year ago, they faced an array of historic challenges: an economy in freefall; job losses averaging almost 700,000 a month; a middle class under assault; two wars and badly frayed global alliances; and a staggering $1.3 trillion budget deficit.
Faced with these unparalleled challenges, the President and his Cabinet went straight to work. The Administration took bold steps to: rescue the country from a potential second Great Depression; rebuild the economy for the long-term by creating good-paying jobs, improving education, reducing health care costs, and promoting energy independence; and restore America’s standing and leadership in the world.
Over the past year, the Administration has made real progress towards these goals. Today, I’m pleased to announce a new interactive online feature, "The President’s Cabinet Reporting to You." Through short videos, members of the President’s Cabinet describe their agencies’ accomplishments over the past year, as well as their plans for moving the country forward.
- Energy Secretary Chu highlights the thousands of green jobs that have been created through Recovery Act dollars;
- Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius talks about the success in helping to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus;
- Secretary of State Clinton describes her department’s efforts to restore our global partnerships; and
- Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag discusses the President’s initiative to streamline government programs that work and eliminate those that don’t.
This Friday morning, President Obama will convene the fifth Cabinet Meeting of his Administration and continue his discussions with the Cabinet about their efforts to create more jobs, rebuild the middle class, and transform our economy for the 21st Century.
Chris Lu is Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary
Heather ZichalJanuary 26, 2010
11:15 AM EDT
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released their 4th Quarter 2009 industry assessment, in which they credited the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) with almost solely turning a potential decline into historic growth in the U.S. wind industry. According to their press release:
Early last year, before [ARRA], the industry anticipated that in 2009 wind power development might drop by as much as 50% from 2008 levels, with equivalent job losses. The clear commitment by the President to create clean energy jobs and the swift implementation of ARRA incentives by the Administration in mid-summer reversed the situation. Recovery Act incentives spurred the growth of construction, operations and maintenance, and management jobs, helping the industry to save and create jobs in those sectors and shine as a bright spot in the economy.
ARRA included more than $80 billion in clean energy investments. Through these investments, American companies and American workers are involved in unprecedented growth in the generation of renewable energy, expanding manufacturing capacity for clean energy, advancing vehicle and fuel technologies, and building a bigger, better, smarter electric grid... all while saving and creating jobs here at home. Some of the direct benefits this report identifies include:
- The nation's fleet of wind plants grew by 39% last year alone.
- America's wind power fleet will avoid an estimated 62 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, equivalent to taking 10.5 million cars off the road.
This report is good news, and it is consistent with the clean energy jobs numbers recently released by the President's Council of Economic Advisors. Across the country, communities are beginning to establish the clean energy industries that will power the 21st century global economy. Just last week, President Obama got to see firsthand how clean energy investments are putting people to work during his visit to the Wind Turbine Manufacturing and Fab Lab facilities at Lorain County Community College (LCCC) in Elyria, Ohio. LCCC is offering the first associate's degree credit program in Ohio in the burgeoning field of wind turbine power generation. This program will train students to become installation and maintenance professionals in the wind energy sector. The new associate's degree program will cover an overview of alternative energy sources, with specialized training in electronics, electronic controls, mechanical systems and more.
During the visit, the President spoke on the undertapped potential for clean energy jobs:
That's why I'm calling on Congress to pass a jobs bill to put more Americans to work building off our Recovery Act; put more Americans back to work rebuilding roads and railways; provide tax breaks to small businesses for hiring people; offer families incentives to make their homes more energy-efficient, saving them money while creating jobs.
That's why we enacted initiatives that are beginning to give rise to a clean energy economy. That's part of what's going on in this community college. If we hadn't done anything with the Recovery Act, talk to the people who are building wind turbines and solar panels. They would have told you their industry was about to collapse because credit had completely frozen. And now you're seeing all across Ohio some of the -- this state has received more funds than just about anybody in order to build on that clean energy economy -- new cutting-edge wind turbines and batteries that are going to be going into energy-efficient cars.
Almost $25 million of our investment went to a plant right here in Elyria that's helping produce the car batteries of the future. That's what we're going to keep on doing for the rest of 2010 and 2011 and 2012, until we've got this country working again.
The AWEA assessment shows the solid progress made over the last year, but there is still more to be done to both ensure a long-term market signal for renewables and to ensure the U.S. is the global leader in clean energy technology. To achieve this goal, Congress must pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation to make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy and provide business with the certainty and predictability they need. The House of Representatives has already passed such legislation and the Senate is working to do the same. The President will continue to make passage of legislation a top priority given its benefits for our economy, our security and the environment.
Heather Zichal is Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change
Liz OxhornJanuary 26, 2010
08:57 AM EDT
As we’ve been following CNN’s Stimulus Project coverage this week, we’ve noticed that, like us, they’re meeting Americans across the country who are finding work, growing their businesses, buying their first homes and receiving needed financial assistance thanks to the Recovery Act. Here is just a sampling of some of the people who have told CNN the Recovery Act is making a difference for their families and their communities.
Michael Johnson of Orlando, FL said the Recovery Act's Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program is “truly is an impactful program.” “This truly is an impactful program. That my kids could wake up in their own rooms on Christmas morning and walk out to the Christmas tree. I mean we never thought we’d have a place to put a Christmas tree.” [CNN, 1/25/10]
Bobby Jones, a general foreman from Aiken, SC said the Recovery Act is "keeping [him] employed.” “I'm working on the DUO project (depleted uranium oxide), I was in D&D (deactivation and decommissioning) and I moved over here [to DOE’s Savannah River Site] in October. They needed someone to run the night shift so I came over. It's still stimulus funded and it's keeping me employed.” [CNNMoney.com, 1/25/10]
Wellington Hall a traffic engineer from Providence, RI said “none of this would be possible without the stimulus and I’m very grateful for that.” “I just got assigned as a project manager of a highway safety improvement project -- the goal is to identify intersections with high crash rates and work with consultants to mitigate accidents and make them safer. It feels good to know that these are some of the roads I drive on and that my coworkers and friends drive on. It feels good to know I'm making an impact. Right now I'm working on other things too, like using renewable energy to save on electrical costs. There are always things to keep me busy. This job has definitely helped me. I bought a house in august with my fiancé, got engaged in November and graduated last week. None of this would be possible without the stimulus and I'm very grateful for that. We're planning on getting married sometime in 2011.” [CNNMoney.com, 1/25/10]
Officer Patrick Dunn of Englewood, CO said that “If it wasn’t for the stimulus I probably wouldn’t have been hired.” “If it wasn’t for the stimulus, I probably wouldn’t have been hired. We had one income. My wife has been supporting the whole income. We have three kids. I have a 6, 5 1/2-year-old daughter and 20-month-old twins. There was a lot of pressure put on her.” [CNN, 1/25/10]
Officer Eddie Blackwell of Englewood, CO says the Recovery Act “gave [him] a golden opportunity to become a police officer.” “The stimulus package opened the opportunity, gave me a golden opportunity to become a police officer. I jumped on it.” [CNN, 1/25/10]
Chief Tom Vandermee of Englewood, CO believes the Recovery Act “has been extremely rewarding for [his] community.” “Our slice of this stimulus package, I can tell you, has been extremely rewarding for this community.” [CNN, 1/25/10]
Troy Cooper, an electrician from Coatesville, PA says the Recovery Act is “definitely going to help” him re-hire workers he was forced to lay off last year. “What we're doing has some of the incentive money built into it, so I say, yeah it's definitely going to help. Hopefully within the next month or so I'll be able to start bringing people back on from layoff.” [CNN, 1/25/10]
Richard Bennett an Iraq War veteran and the President Fidelias Design and Construction from Coatesville, PA says the opportunity he now has because of the Recovery Act “feels amazing, almost surreal.” “Now I'm president of a multimillion dollar construction company. It feels amazing, almost surreal.” [CNN, 1/25/10]
Patricia Dunn, a nurse practitioner from Mount Kisco, NY says the Recovery Act “made it possible for [her] to have this job.” “I had wanted to work for this organization six months prior to being offered my current position. They had a part-time opening but I needed full-time. When the [stimulus] funding came through, they offered me a position. Without a doubt, the funding made it possible for me to have this job. We've also, through stimulus, been able to hire more employees and that's great. The organization has hired several new physicians who started a few months ago.” [CNNMoney.com, 1/25/10]
Valatisha Jacinto, a school teacher from Waco, TX, “never thought anything that good would ever happen to her” before she was able to buy a house with an $8,000 Recovery Act tax credit through the first-time homebuyers program. "Thanks to the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers, in March, Valatisha bought a three-bedroom, two-bath home for $105,000. She took out a 4.9% FHA-insured 30-year loan, putting her monthly expenses, including property taxes and insurance, at just $830. She says, 'I never thought anything that good would happen to me.'" [CNNMoney.com, 1/25/10]
Rob Logan from Ypsilanti, MI “wouldn’t have been able to afford [his] house” without the Recovery Act.
Rob bought his Ypsilanti, Mich., house for $71,000 in October because of the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers. "I wouldn't have been able to afford my house without it. It was one of the main reasons I started looking." [CNNMoney.com, 1/25/10]
Chris Saliture from St. Paul, MN says the Recovery Act is “what got [him] started” looking for a house. "For Chris, the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers credit was vital. 'That's what got me started. I knew the incentive program was going on. I may still have looked, but this had an impact on what I could afford." [CNNMoney.com, 1/25/10]
Liz Oxhorn is Recovery Act Communications Director
Liz OxhornJanuary 26, 2010
08:46 AM EDT
Last month, two Senators – who, by the way, opposed the Recovery Act from the beginning – released a report claiming that Recovery Act funds have largely been wasted or mismanaged and the program is not working. Curiously, their report came just as we learned the economy had begun to grow again for the first time in more than a year – something many economists say is largely due to the Recovery Act – and right after the Congressional Budget Office, Congress’s nonpartisan research arm embraced by Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, said that the Recovery Act was already responsible for well over 1 million jobs. At the time, we debunked many of the claims in the report.
But CNN recently decided to find out for themselves – and the verdict couldn’t be more clear:
“But we took a closer look at the Senators’ top ten examples of so-called waste, we found nine of the ten did not tell the whole story and in some cases were inaccurate.” [CNN, 1/25/10]
You may recall the Senators’ claim at the time that: “The tranquil hamlet of Bainbridge Island, Washington, received $190,000 to upgrade a patrol boat for which it has little need—while it considers downsizing its police force.” [McCain/Coburn Stimulus Checkup, 12/8/10]
- Not true, Lt. Bob Day of the Bainbridge Island Police Department told CNN:
- “There's some technology we'll be getting with this grant that is going to be able to help us better protect the port and to share information with port security partners.” [Lt. Bob Day, CNN, 1/25/10]
- In fact, Lt. Day questions whether the two Senators understand security priorities:
- “Unless Senators Coburn and McCain think that homeland defense and port security is something that really isn't important and it isn't a priority, I would take exception with their estimate on that.” [Lt. Bob Day, CNN, 1/25/10]
- And notes the purchase supports jobs:
- “The vendors we’re working with, it's keeping their people employed.” [Lt. Bob Day, CNN, 1/25/10]
- CNN’s verdict?
- “[T]hey called the upgrade to this boat unnecessary in a small town they call a tranquil hamlet. But more than 6 million passengers travel each year on the ferry between Bainbridge island and Seattle. City officials say the ferry system is a high risk security target and the stimulus money a valid investment. The Department of Homeland Security agrees.” [CNN, 1/25/10]
And then there was the Senators’ claim that: An “almost empty mall” was awarded an energy grant to install a geothermal heating and cooling system. [McCain/Coburn Stimulus Checkup, 12/8/10]
- Not true, developer Dave Thrash told CNN - the mall already has three department stores committed to the new project:
- “We're not going to heat an empty mall. We're developing the property into a modern open-air center, and the goal is to deploy this technology into the commercial space.” [Dave Thrash, CNN, 1/25/10]
- In fact, the project will create more than 200 jobs and cut costs the Department of Energy’s Matt Rogers notes:
- “Jobs, cost and innovation. What made us excited were the ability to create more than 200 jobs for just the construction of this project…. And in the particular technology that they are using here is an innovative approach to ground source heat pumps that actually makes the capital cost lower.” [Matt Rogers, CNN, 1/25/10]
If this were the first time the Senators had released a report on the Recovery Act that had more holes than a block of Swiss cheese, it might be easier to consider this a simple case of confusion. But we aren’t talking about a great track record with accuracy here. The last time the Senators went through this exercise, more than half of the items in that report turned out to be false or misleading claims as well – while other projects attacked included medical research to help hearing impaired children, and a state of the art project to create jobs in advanced technology.
While this may have been an entertaining exercise for the two Senators, the underlying issues here could not be more serious. Last year, we faced the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression – and while others, including the two Senators, would have preferred to do nothing, we chose to act through the Recovery Act and other economic rescue efforts. Nearly a year later, the evidence is now undeniable that the Recovery Act is working to create jobs and drive economic growth across the country. In fact, the CBO now says the Recovery Act is responsible for as many as 2.4 million jobs through projects like these:
- In Oklahoma, the Recovery Act is helping build new flood-control dams and repair old, unsafe, and obsolete dams across the state – a move that not only creates jobs, but saves taxpayer dollars usually spent cleaning up floods.
- In Arizona, a local company is putting $99 million in Recovery funds, which were matched by an equal amount of private capital, to launch the largest deployment of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in U.S. history – an effort the company says will create an additional 750 position across multiple states.
The question is not whether the Recovery Act is money well-spent. Everyone from independent economists and the CBO to Republican and Democratic governors and workers across the country on the job at Recovery projects says that it is. The question is whether critics like the two Senators will finally admit that they were wrong to oppose this vital job-creating legislation - and that it’s working in Arizona, Oklahoma and across the country.
Liz Oxhorn is Recovery Act Communications Director
- Not true, Lt. Bob Day of the Bainbridge Island Police Department told CNN:
Macon PhillipsJanuary 26, 2010
06:30 AM EDT
When President Obama walks into the Capitol on Wednesday to deliver his State of the Union speech, millions of American viewers will tune in. It is a unique moment for the President to address the public on a broad spectrum of issues, including economic recovery and job creation. Of course, many Americans will react to the speech with questions, comments, and concerns.
From our live webstream to a free iPhone app, the White House is using technology to make sure the President's State of the Union Address reaches as many people as possible. Now we are excited to announce how President Obama will also be using the web to offer the public a direct and participatory way to communicate back to him.
After the President's speech begins this Wednesday (1/27) at 9pm EST, anyone will be able to submit a follow-up question and vote on others at YouTube.com/CitizenTube. Then next week, the President will answer questions in a special online event, live from the White House.
Don't miss the speech at 9pm EST on Wednesday night and the chance to follow-up with your questions. We look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Jesse LeeJanuary 25, 2010
03:25 PM EDT
Ed. Note: Don't miss the new report (pdf) from the Commerce Department's Economics and Statistics Administration issued for the Middle Class Task Force: "Middle Class in America."
President Obama and Vice President Biden held a Middle Class Task Force meeting during which they discussed key initiatives for middle class families. Topics of discussion previewed the major themes of the President's State of the Union address, which include creating good jobs, addressing the deficit, changing Washington, and fighting for middle class families.
After travelling across the country and hearing from struggling parents, students, and workers, Vice President Biden and the Task Force proposed several policy initiatives to help middle class families, including:
- Nearly doubling the child and dependent care tax credit for families making under $85,000
- Limiting a student's federal loan payments to 10 percent of his/her income
- Creating a system of automatic workplace IRAs
- Expanding tax credits to match retirement savings
- Expanding support for families balancing work while caring for elderly relatives
Vice President Biden, emphasizing first and foremost that getting jobs back on track was the highest priority, explained why these measures are also of tremendous importance in remarks after the meeting: "We give them the tools, the flexibility, even just a chance to succeed, we're not only going to rebuild this economy, we're going to offer millions of Americans to build a future that they hope and still believe is available to them."
President Obama closed his remarks with the over-arching principle guiding his Administration during these times:
None of these steps alone will solve all the challenges facing the middle class. Joe understands that; so do I. So do all my members of the Cabinet and our economic team. But hopefully some of these steps will reestablish some of the security that's slipped away in recent years. Because in the end, that's how Joe and I measure progress -- not by how the markets are doing, but by how the American people are doing. It's about whether they see some progress in their own lives.
So we're going to keep fighting to rebuild our economy so that hard work is once again rewarded, wages and incomes are once again rising, and the middle class is once again growing. And above all, we're going to keep fighting to renew the American Dream and keep it alive -- not just in our time, but for all time.
January 25, 2010
02:15 PM EDT
Ed. Note: In addition to the post below, take a look at some photos and footage courtesy of the Navy.
America's young Sailors are serving with compassion and strength alongside their multi-agency partners as they distribute food, water, medical help and shelter to the Haitian people.
The U.S. Navy has 14 ships and 58 aircraft on station in the vicinity of Haiti and has provided over 1.4 million bottles of water, 36,433 pounds of medical supplies, 888,700 meals. And today USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), USS Bataan (LHD 5) and USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) are treating 595 patients aboard.
The experiences of these men and women are being shared first-hand through social media sites, like the official U.S. Navy Facebook page and the USS Bataan Twitter account. It is hope, compassion and determination that is most apparent in the testimonials and images coming from all participants - commanding officers to junior Sailors.
Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman (SW/AW/FMF) Brian E. Wenzel, assigned to Fleet Surgical Team 8 aboard USS Bataan shared his early impression upon the ship's arrival in support of Operation Unified Response:
"Just winding down from our first real mass casualty; 19 patients. Many crush injuries, open fractures, head trauma and infection. We have about 6 children on board now and they are the most beautiful children, I can't even describe the look in their eyes when they see us," said Wenzel. "Fortunately, we have quite a few Marines and Sailors from Haiti and the communication was very good for us today. The rest of the CRTS [Crisis Response Team-Surgical] augment arrived almost minutes after this kicked off. These folks have traveled from the west coast, had very little sleep in the airport at GITMO [Guantanamo Bay Naval Station] for two nights and endured the helicopter flight to us this morning - all on about 6 hrs of sleep and very little food. Yet not a one complained and every one of them gave 100% during this organized chaos. I can imagine they are ready to crash just about anywhere. Man, what an effort by over a 100 people who had never worked a day in their lives together. That's all for now. Who knows when the next ones will come."
Besides medical help, our military personnel are playing an indispensable role in making the logistics chain possible and distributing life-saving assistance. On Jan. 21 significant steps were made by the Navy/Marine Corps team completely clearing obstructions from a major highway and establishing a location to bring supplies ashore using amphibious vehicles.
Capt. Thomas Negus, Commander of the Bataan Amphibious Relief Mission, continues to update families and followers through constant tweets and social media updates.
"Our folks are working feverishly to find any and everyone who may need our help," said Negus. "Access to these people remains a challenge, but we are pushing through to help those in need. You can all take great pride in the work being done by your Navy, Marine and Coast Guard
Lt. Lesley Lykins, United States Navy
A unique view of 2012