Robert GibbsFebruary 18, 2010
05:44 PM EDT
Shortly after the plane crash in Austin, TX, John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism informed President Obama of the incident. The President expressed his concern, commended the courageous actions of the first responders and asked to be kept up to date as the investigation moves forward.
Robert Gibbs is White House Press Secretary
Liz OxhornFebruary 18, 2010
04:41 PM EDT
Take a look at what independent economists and economic observers from across the political spectrum have had to say about the success of the Recovery Act on its one-year anniversary:
Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Bank: "The stimulus worked," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Bank. Without it, "the unemployment rate would probably be closer to 11 percent" and the economy might not have grown at all last year.” [ABC News, 2/18/10]
Economist Stephen Herzenberg: “Cut through all the numbers, though, and this is what you find: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act saved us from plunging into a second Great Depression… The Recovery Act brought the economy back from the brink. And these figures probably underestimate its impact, because they don't take market psychology into account. When the legislation passed, the economy was plunging at a pace similar to that of the 1930s. If Congress had sat on its hands, unemployment now could easily be 12 percent to 15 percent - and on its way to 20 percent.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/17/10]
Mark Zandi of Moody’s Economy.com: “The economy has shed some three million jobs over the past year, but it would have lost closer to five million without stimulus,” said Mark Zandi, who is currently advising Congressional Democrats but also advised Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. “The economy is still struggling, but it would have been much worse without stimulus.” [New York Times, 1/17/10]
Lawrence Mishel, President of the Economic Policy Institute: “If you go to the economic forecasters, who make their money doing this, they confirm that the -- you know, we have saved around two million jobs in the process. If you look at what actually happened in the economy, in the beginning of 2009, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month. In the last three months, we were losing about 35,000. This wasn't by accident that we went from a deep, you know, decline in the economy to an actual growing economy…. And the administration's actually done something pretty marvelous of trying to actually track where all the money went, who got it, and how many jobs were created. And, if anything, they understate the amount of jobs being created. Yes, so, I think there's been a tremendous effort to actually document the impact of this.” [PBS Newshour, 2/17/10]
Nariman Behravesh, chief economist of IHS/Global Insight: “It prevented things from getting much worse than they otherwise would have been,’ Nariman Behravesh, Global Insight’s chief economist, says. ‘I think everyone would have to acknowledge that’s a good thing.” [New York Times, 2/17/2010]
OMB Watch: “[T]he one thing that cannot be denied is that the Act has substantially advanced the cause of fiscal transparency. We could complain that the transparency provisions of the Act are not perfect, but without the Act, we wouldn't even have anything to gripe about. We'd still be stuck arguing whether timely recipient reporting is a feasible goal or not. In this sense, the Recovery Act provided a convenient pilot program for fiscal transparency. Now, one year later, the Act has not only proved that broad-based recipient reporting is feasible, it has shown that the reporting is useful. By showing how multiple levels of recipients (although not all levels of sub-recipients) have used their federal funding, the Recovery Act has provided the government and its citizens an unprecedented ability to see where its money has gone.” [OMBWatch.org, 2/17/10]
Associated General Contractors economist Ken Simonson: “’The stimulus is saving construction jobs, driving demand for new equipment and delivering better and more efficient infrastructure,’ said Ken Simonson, an economist with Associated General Contractors, which represents a large part of the construction industry. Simonson calculated that roughly 15,000 jobs have been created or preserved for every $1 billion the government has spent on infrastructure projects, which is well above the association’s year-ago estimate of 9,700 jobs. He said that stimulus-funded road construction projects alone have created 280,000 jobs over the past year, as well as an unknown number of ancillary jobs for subcontractors supplying equipment and raw materials.” [San Diego Union Tribune, 2/17/10]
Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association: “One year ago today, President Obama visited a solar installation to sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The purpose of the bill was to stimulate immediate job growth with a strong emphasis on clean energy technologies like solar. And that is exactly what happened. In 2009, the Recovery Act helped the solar industry create 18,000 new American jobs. More than 50 new solar energy manufacturing plants are under construction now with the support of ARRA.” [Solar Energy Industries Association, 2/17/10]
Michael Graetz, a former George H.W. Bush Treasury official: "’It was right 40 years ago, and it's right today, and it's nice that something good comes out of the stimulus,’ says Michael Graetz, a Columbia Law School tax professor who did a stint at Treasury in the George H. W. Bush years. Today, beneath partisan gunfire and ideological clashes in Washington, one of the few things on which Democrats and Republicans in the Senate agree is that Build America Bonds should be made permanent. It probably will be.” [Wall Street Journal, 2/17/10]
Liz Oxhorn is Recovery Act Communications Director
Jesse LeeFebruary 18, 2010
04:40 PM EDT
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said of the meeting today:
The President met this morning at the White House with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama. The President stated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China. The President commended the Dalai Lama's "Middle Way" approach, his commitment to nonviolence and his pursuit of dialogue with the Chinese government. The President stressed that he has consistently encouraged both sides to engage in direct dialogue to resolve differences and was pleased to hear about the recent resumption of talks. The President and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of a positive and cooperative relationship between the United States and China.
Dan PfeifferFebruary 18, 2010
01:20 PM EDT
This morning the Department of Health and Human Services released an alarming new report on health insurance companies looking to raise rates by double digits in states across the country. And in the ultimate irony, the insurers' lobby has now piped up to complain about being "vilified" – and say that the solution to the huge increases is to pass reform.
Let's get this straight: the insurance companies have spent millions and millions on television ads and lobbyists to block health insurance reform. You've seen the ads they’re running. They're pulling out all the stops to maintain that status quo.
They want to defeat reform, which means they will be able to continue to deny you coverage if you have a pre-existing condition and water down or eliminate your coverage when you need it the most. And as we saw in today’s report, they want to continue to raise your premiums by outrageous margins – often 5-10 times greater than health costs are rising. And all the while, they've been pulling down massive profits.
Of course the insurance companies don't like having the spotlight on their behavior. But at this critical juncture in our health reform debate, it's time to get beyond the TV ads and the press releases. This isn't "the politics of vilification," it's a sober look at the reality facing millions of hardworking American families and small businesses if we do nothing.
We’re going to continue to push for meaningful health insurance reform that gets control of skyrocketing costs, puts an end to insurance company abuses, extends coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, and lowers our deficit. Meanwhile, the insurers are defending their increases on American families by calling for passage of health reform, while running ads to defeat it... Imagine that.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
Jesse LeeFebruary 18, 2010
11:28 AM EDT
In his latest such conversation, President Obama joined Congressional leaders and middle school children to congratulate astronauts aboard the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Endeavour during a call from the Roosevelt Room of the White House:
I just wanted to let you guys know how proud we are of all of you at what you guys have been accomplishing. I've had a chance to take a look at what Tranquility Module is doing. Everybody here back home is excited about this bay on the world that you guys are opening up, and Stephen Colbert at least is excited about his treadmill.
And so we just wanted to let you know that the amazing work that's being done on the International Space Station not only by our American astronauts but also our colleagues from Japan and Russia is just a testimony to the human ingenuity; a testimony to extraordinary skill and courage that you guys bring to bear; and is also a testimony to why continued space exploration is so important, and is part of the reason why my commitment to NASA is unwavering.
Incidentally, there aren't many better agencies on the internet than NASA -- check out their new release of photos from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer for example, and get a daily dose of the best of outer space by following them on Twitter.
UPDATE: Check out our "Educate to Innovate" initiative page to learn more about the program that brought these middle schoolers to the White House.
Nancy SutleyFebruary 18, 2010
11:17 AM EDT
Last fall, President Obama asked all Federal and military personnel to join in the GreenGov Challenge to share their ideas on how we can lead by example, green the government, and meet the goals of the Executive Order on Federal Sustainability. Today, the President is calling on us to turn those ideas into action to put the Federal Government on the path to a clean energy future, and to meet our greenhouse gas pollution reduction target of 28% by 2020.
The GreenGov Challenge gathered more than 5,300 ideas and 165,000 votes from thousands of our colleagues in the Federal and military community from every agency, across America and around the globe.
The top ideas are summarized in the GreenGov Final Report. Among the most popular ones were expanding teleworking, landscaping with native plants that require less watering, making use of digital signatures to reduce printing documents, replacing non-recyclable materials with biobased cups and other service items in Federal cafeterias, and installing solar panels of Federal buildings. An initial summary of the GreenGov Challenge was presented to the Steering Committee on Federal Sustainability at a recent meeting, and each Federal Agency’s Senior Sustainability Officer is already working to incorporate your suggestions into their annual Sustainability Plans.
Today President Obama is issuing a new challenge to Federal and military personnel to put these ideas to work. To get started, check out the GreenGov Challenge Final Report and pick an idea you can champion in your workplace. Then sign up for the GreenGov Collaborative to work with colleagues across the government to put your ideas into action. You’ll be able to share your strategies, ask questions, and create a “green team” in this online community.
You answered the GreenGov challenge, now be part of the GreenGov transformation.
Nancy Sutley is the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
Peter OrszagFebruary 18, 2010
11:02 AM EDT
This morning, the President signed an executive order establishing a new, bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The Commission’s co-chairs – former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican Senate Whip Alan Simpson – will bring Republicans and Democrats together to help tackle one of our looming fiscal challenges.
With members appointed by the leaders from both political parties in both houses of Congress as well as the President, the Commission’s objective is to put forward proposals to balance the budget excluding interest payments on the debt (the so-called primary budget) by 2015 and to meaningfully improve the long-term fiscal outlook. Meeting the medium-term target means that by the middle of this decade, we would be paying for the operations and programs of the federal government and not increasing our debt relative to the size of the economy; under current projections, the result would be stable overall deficits (including interest payments) hovering around 3 percent of GDP. The Commission will also examine changes to address the growth of entitlement spending and the gap between the projected revenues and expenditures of the Federal government over the long term.
To report out a recommendation, the Commission would need 14 out of 18 votes, ensuring that any report will have bipartisan support. The Commission will issue its recommendations by December 1, 2010, and the leaders of both the Senate and the House have assured us that they will bring these recommendations to a vote before the end of the current Congress.
In the past, our nation’s leaders used extraordinary processes – much like this fiscal commission – to construct solutions that, for example, helped address Social Security’s looming imbalance in the early 1980s. We believe that the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform can be just as successful.
Erskine Bowles was a key architect of the 1997 bipartisan budget agreement which helped put it into surplus, and Alan Simpson – throughout his almost two decades in the Senate – was a consistent voice for fiscal discipline and commonsense solutions. I am glad that they have decided to serve their country once more, and look forward to the leadership of both parties on Capitol Hill making their appointments so that this Commission can begin its important work for the American people.
Peter Orszag is the Director of the Office of Management and Budget
February 17, 2010
06:48 PM EDT
In a month, the Federal Communications Commission will deliver a National Broadband Plan, as it was asked to do by Congress and the President in the Recovery Act.
This will be a meaningful plan for U.S. global leadership in high-speed Internet to create jobs and spur economic growth; to unleash new waves of innovation and investment; and to improve education, health care, energy efficiency, public safety, and the vibrancy of our democracy.
I believe this plan is vitally important to America's future.
Studies from the Brookings Institute, MIT, the World Bank, and others all tell us the same thing -- that even modest increases in broadband adoption can yield hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Broadband empowers small businesses to compete and grow and will ensure that the jobs and industries of tomorrow are created in the United States.
The economic benefits of broadband go hand-in-hand with social benefits and the potential for vast improvements in the quality of life for all Americans.
The National Broadband Plan will describe concrete ways in which broadband can be a part of 21st century solutions to some of our nation’s most pressing challenges, including:
- Extending the availability and lowering the costs of quality care by putting digital health tools in the hands of doctors and hospitals across the country and removing geographic barriers for patient treatment.
- Providing our kids with a world class, 21st century education, connecting them to the global library and giving them the digital skills they need for the future.
- Making our electric grid smart and efficient and providing Americans with the information they need to make their homes and buildings smarter.
- Ensuring that law enforcement officers and first responders across the country have cutting-edge, reliable communications technologies to respond to emergencies efficiently and effectively.
These are real benefits for real people -- like the unemployed forty-seven-year-old I met in the Bronx who got job training over the Internet to become a telecom technician. And the employees of Blue Valley Meats, in the small town of Diller, Nebraska, which doubled its workforce and saw 40 percent growth by setting up a website and selling its beef online -- once Diller got broadband.
But right now, we are at a crossroads. For while the United States invented the Internet, when it comes to broadband we are lagging behind where we should be.
Roughly 14 million Americans do not have access to broadband, and more than 100 million Americans who could and should have broadband don't. That’s an adoption rate of roughly 65 percent of U.S. households, compared with 88 percent adoption in Singapore, and 95 percent adoption in South Korea. The U.S. adoption rate is even lower among low-income, minority, rural, tribal, and disabled households.
This country can and must do better. In today’s global economy, leading the world in broadband is leading the world.
This is where the National Broadband Plan comes in. By setting ambitious goals and laying out proposals to connect all Americans to a world-class broadband infrastructure, we will help secure our country's global competitiveness for generations to come.
The FCC's National Broadband Plan will include the following key recommendations:
- 100 Squared Initiative: 100 million households at a minimum of 100 megabits per second (Mbs) -- the world’s largest market of high-speed broadband users -- to ensure that new businesses are created in America and stay in America.
- Broadband Testbeds: Encourage the creation of ultra high-speed broadband testbeds as fast, or faster, than any Internet service in the world, so that America is hosting the experiments that produce tomorrow's ideas and industries.
- Digital Opportunities: Expand digital opportunities by moving our adoption rates from roughly 65 percent to more than 90 percent and making sure that every child in America is digitally literate by the time he or she leaves high school.
The quantitative and qualitative benefits of these proposals -- and the many others that the FCC's plan will contain -- are vast. Connecting the country to higher speeds means more jobs, more innovation, and more economic growth.
The National Broadband Plan will chart a clear path forward -- ensuring that broadband is our enduring engine for creating jobs and growing our economy, for spreading knowledge and enhancing civic engagement, for advancing a healthier, sustainable way of life.
Pursuing the opportunity of universal broadband is, I believe, a universal goal. Our technology future is one that we can -- and must -- create together.
Julius Genachowski is Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission
Jesse LeeFebruary 17, 2010
06:03 PM EDT
There's been a lot of commentrary today about the Recovery Act that you might have missed. Christina Romer, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, writes on her new blog about the employment effects and investments in the clean energy economy, complete with the usual illustrative charts. If you haven't subscribed to the White House email list, you may have missed the email this morning form Vice President Biden -- subscribe now so you don't miss the next one. And agencies across government are taking stock of where they are and how they are contributing to recovery, and of course pushing ahead. Check out the video of construction worker Rhea Mayolo filmed by DOT and the new innovative transportation awards they announced today; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has an outstanding map of all their Recovery Act projects; and for an amazing in-depth look at one particular project, check out California's High Speed Rail Authority.
In the video below, the Department of Education brings home one of the most important benefits of the Recovery Act, one that most parents may never know it provided for their kids -- keeping their teachers, guidance counselors, and other educators on the job.Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
Kori SchulmanFebruary 17, 2010
04:34 PM EDT
This evening, President Obama will call the astronaut crews of the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Endeavour from the Roosevelt Room of the White House and congratulate the astronauts on their successful ongoing mission. The call will be livestreamed at 5:15pm EST on WhiteHouse.gov/live.
Building on the "Educate to Innovate" campaign, the President will be joined by middle school students from Michigan, Florida, North Carolina and Nebraska who are visiting for the “Future City” engineering competition -- an event that drew 34,000 7th and 8th graders from across the nation to Washington, D.C. this week to discuss innovative ideas and designs for a city of tomorrow.
February 17, 2010
03:00 PM EDT
America is facing some of the greatest challenges in a generation. At the same time, promising nonprofit organizations across the country are making heroic efforts to meet overwhelming need and, implement effective and innovative ways to meet these challenges. But their impact is often hampered by a lack of resources and support to evaluate and improve their programs, and expand them so they can serve more communities of need.
Yesterday, the Corporation for National and Community Service launched the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grant competition, which takes a new approach to addressing our nation’s most critical social challenges.
The SIF will direct funding through innovative, hands-on grant makers (or intermediaries) across the country. These grant makers will identify fund and support over a period of years promising nonprofit organizations working in low-income communities.
It’s an approach that has clear benefits.
It leverages private funding from grant makers and others. Each federal dollar will be matched with at least $3 of private funding, for a total of $200 million or greater.
It offers nonprofits critical support with respect to management, staffing, data collection, fundraising and other challenges that they will need to overcome as they grow.
It provides for investments in multiple nonprofits in an issue area or geography, allowing the best innovations to rise to the top.
Critical to this last point, the SIF provides funding and incentives for nonprofits to evaluate their effectiveness. Grant makers will be true partners in these evaluation efforts and be jointly held accountable for results.
The SIF’s focus on evaluation is so critical, especially for government.
Billions of taxpayer dollars are spent each year on programs in the issue areas that the SIF will focus on – economic opportunity, youth development and school support, and healthy futures.
What if that funding could be more accurately focused on the best solutions? And what if the knowledge about what works were shared broadly, so it could be used in any community across the country? The benefits would be enormous. Through evaluation and knowledge-sharing, the SIF has the potential to transform how our nation tackles social challenges.
Discussing the SIF last year, the First Lady said it best when she noted:
“By focusing on high-impact, results-oriented non-profits, we will ensure that government dollars are spent in a way that is effective, accountable and worthy of public trust.”
SIF applications are due by April 8, 2010 and awards will be made by July 2010.
Stephen Goldsmith, Board Chair of the Corporation for National and Community Service
February 17, 2010
02:45 PM EDT
As a White House Fellow in the Office of the Vice President, part of my job is monitoring how the Recovery Act is helping put communities across the county on a path toward economic recovery. Yesterday I had the opportunity to see the Recovery Act in action when I traveled to Saginaw, Michigan with Vice President Biden ahead of the program's one-year anniversary.
Saginaw has been hard hit by the economic downturn and changes in the automotive industry, but it is quickly reinventing itself to be competitive in the 21st century economy with investments in the renewable energy industry.
We started the day at Delta College where students, with support from the Recovery Act, are getting trained for jobs in manufacturing in the solar industry. The Vice President received a heartfelt introduction from Justo Gonzalez, a recent graduate of the job training program. Justo began by explaining how almost one year ago, he was laid off from his job in the automotive industry. But after going through training at Delta College, he was recently hired at Hemlock Semiconductor as a Reactor Care Operator. Justo looked to his wife and two daughters in the crowd and nodded as the Vice President later spoke about how a job is more than just a pay check, it’s about dignity and knowing you can care for your family.
Then we were off to Fuzzy's Diner in downtown Saginaw for a discussion with local business leaders and community members over lunch. Paul Furlo, the CEO of Morley Companies Inc., spoke about how a recent loan that was backed by the Small Business Administration through the Recovery Act, has allowed him to expand his company’s capacity and hire another 650 associates.
And it all came full circle when we ended the day at Hemlock Semiconductor, Justo’s new employer and a recipient of an energy manufacturing tax credit. Justo's words from that morning came alive, "This is a new era. Like when the automotive industry took over the lumber industry here in the Saginaw Bay Region, the solar industry is now taking us forward into the future. We are just at the early stages and with the sky not just being the limit, it's another source of energy. With solar and wind energies our growth is unlimited. Michigan has a vast knowledge of manufacturing products. We need to stay positive."
We're only part-way through the Recovery Act and there is still much work to do – but it’s clear it’s making a difference for people like Paul and Justo all over the country.
Annie Maxwell is a White House Fellow in the Office of the Vice President
Dan PfeifferFebruary 17, 2010
01:57 PM EDT
Today, on the one year anniversary of the signing of the Recovery Act, like clockwork we're seeing opponents of the bill on the attack on cable TV and in the newspaper. That's no surprise. What is surprising, though, is that many of these very same Members who voted against the bill and take every opportunity to go on national television and attack it have actually celebrated and taken credit for Recovery Act money making an impact in their own districts.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) voted against the Recovery Act twice, but then touted the job-creation and economic development potential of a stimulus-funded high speed rail project in Virginia. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted against the Recovery Act twice but then touted a military project in Kentucky funded by the stimulus as "a source of significant employment."
They can't really have it both ways. Yet Recovery Act opponents across the country are trying to do just that: bash the Recovery Act in Washington while taking credit for it at home. Just take a look at some of these stories from the Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal for more examples.
As David Leonhardt highlighted in the New York Times today, the bottom line is that the Recovery Act has created jobs that otherwise would not have existed and cushioned the blow of the economic downturn. Well-known independent economic research firms IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody's Economy.com have all estimated that the Recovery Act has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs to the economy so far, and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimate of jobs created thus far is even higher: 2.4 million. While we won't be satisfied until we begin to see net job growth, the fact is that job losses today are a fraction of what they were a year ago before the Recovery Act was passed.
The President is also working with Congress on additional jobs measures, many of which are rooted in the early successes of the Recovery Act. The President continues to work every day to find more ways to create more jobs and drive economic growth and he won’t be satisfied until our economy is back on firm footing.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
Jesse LeeFebruary 17, 2010
12:28 PM EDT
In order to fully understand the scope of the Recovery Act, there are three levels to consider: the national, the local, and the individual.
Recovery Act: The National Level
This morning the Vice President – who has overseen the implementation of the Recovery Act as one of his primary responsibilities – marked the one-year anniversary with his first annual report to the President on progress (pdf). A White House release, "Recovery by the Numbers," breaks out some key bullet points – here are just a few:
- CBO: According to the nonpartisan CBO, the Recovery Act is already responsible for as many as 2.4 million jobs through the end of 2009.
- CEA, Other Private Forecasters: Analysis by the Council of Economic Advisers also found that the Recovery Act is responsible for about 2 million jobs – a figure in line with estimates from private forecasters like IHS Global, Moody’s Economy and even the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
- GDP/Economic Growth: In the fourth quarter of 2009, the economy grew 5.7 percent – – the largest gain in six years and something many economists say is largely due to the Recovery Act. Before the Recovery Act, the economy was shrinking by about 6 percent.
- Job Losses: Job losses for the fourth quarter of 2009 were one-seventh what they were in the first quarter of 2009 when the Recovery Act was passed.
There's plenty more in there, including breakdowns on infrastructure, technology and innovation, immediate relief, and aid to state and local governments. The Vice President also penned an op-ed in USA Today where he discussed the job creation estimates and the role the Recovery Act played in bringing us back from the brink of outright depression, but also what lies ahead:
And yet, to me, the most exciting thing about the Recovery Act is not what we've done, but what lies ahead. Many Recovery Act programs that will build the groundwork for the economy of the 21st century will be implemented in the next few months. Broadband access for small and rural communities. New factories where electric cars and clean fuel cells will be made. Wind farms, solar panels — and the facilities to construct them. New health technologies and smarter electrical power grids will be creating jobs this year thanks to the Recovery Act. Truly, the best is yet to come.
In remarks this morning, the President touched on another top level guiding principle of the Recovery Act – creating a new foundation for the American economy. From building a clean energy economy and creating a smarter energy grid, to revitalizing America’s infrastructure and transportation, to making our health records electronic and efficient, to rewarding excellence in teaching our children, people were put to work building a better future for America.
Recovery Act: The Local Level
Here at WhiteHouse.gov/Recovery, we looked at a more local level, with an interactive map looking at a sample of key projects, and the video below featuring the Mayors of Charleston, SC, Philadelphia, PA, Des Moines, IA, Columbus, OH, and Fresno, CA, all telling the story of how the Recovery Act affected cities and towns across the country:
Recovery Act: The Individual Level
With job losses, it always feels like missing the point to talk about numbers and figures, when every job lost can mean almost infinite pain and struggle for a given family. And in the same way that the President and Vice President understand the tough times Americans are going through with that lens, that is also the most meaningful way to look at what the Recovery Act has accomplished. Joining the President this morning, the Vice President took a moment to talk about just one person:
Just yesterday, as I said, in Saginaw, Michigan, I was with a gentleman who has his B.A. -- his name is Gonzalez -- Mr. Gonzalez. He worked for an automobile company and he got laid off. His wife and two kids were there at this event. But because of the Recovery Act and the job training program at a community college in his town, he went back and took a 16-hour course in being able to begin to deal with -- 16-week course -- in being able to deal with chemicals related to how they produced solar panels. And DOW Corning has a plant nearby. They added a thousand people over the last year because of some help they got as well, and in their great reach, he's now working. He's working at a decent salary. And that community college is going to train this year -- another hundred people are going to go right from that training program directly to a job.
The President closed out his remarks referring critics to two other individuals: Blake Jones, Co-Founder of Namaste Solar in Boulder, and Charles Niederriter of Golden Triangle Construction Co. in Imperial, PA, who joined him and the Vice President today:
But for those skeptics who refuse to believe the Recovery Act has done any good, who continue to insist that the bill didn't work, I'd ask you to take that argument up with Blake and his employees. Take that argument up with Chuck and his construction workers. Take it up with the Americans who are working in those battery plants, or building those new highways, or teaching our children new skills -- all because the Recovery Act made it possible.
Jesse LeeFebruary 16, 2010
02:45 PM EDT
Earlier today in Maryland, President Obama spoke about the importance of clean energy for the country's future.
Whether it’s nuclear energy, or solar or wind energy, if we fail to invest in the technologies of tomorrow, then we’re going to be importing those technologies instead of exporting them. We will fall behind. Jobs will be produced overseas, instead of here in the United States of America. And that's not a future that I accept.
As one plank of that future, he announced loan guarantees through the Department of Energy to operate two new nuclear reactors at a plant in Burke, Georgia. It will be the first new nuclear power plant in nearly three decades. The plant is expected to create approximately 3500 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs. When the nuclear reactors come online, they will provide reliable electricity for 1.4 million people in Georgia.
Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the plants will be held to strict standards to find ways of disposing waste safely, and avoid or reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The President discussed the need to increase the supply of nuclear power to meet growing energy needs and prevent the worst consequences of climate change. The plant is expected to cut carbon pollution by 16 million tons each year. "That's like taking 3.5 million cars off the road," he explained.
President Obama called for a bipartisan energy and climate legislation to create incentives that will make clean energy profitable.
What I hope is that with this announcement, we're underscoring both our seriousness in meeting the energy challenge and our willingness to look at this challenge not as a partisan issue but as a matter that's far more important than politics - because the choices we make will affect not just the next generation but many generations to come.
Project sponsors include Georgia Power Company (GPC), Oglethorpe Power Corporation (OPC), the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG) and the City of Dalton, Georgia (Dalton).
Valerie JarrettFebruary 15, 2010
02:56 PM EDT
Before leaving Vancouver, the U.S. Delegation attended our final Olympic competition at the Pairs Figure Skating Short Program. I’ve always loved figure skating – it’s about not only the lifts, jumps and twists, but also the artistry, form and style. Watching Peggy Fleming compete in 1968 almost made me feel that I too could skate because of the grace and ease with which she skated. Last night, we watched both American pairs – Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett, and Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig – skate with speed, power and beauty.
U.S. champions Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett were the first American pair to perform. Skating to a powerful piece of music, these teammates were dazzling and made each lift look easy – and this is their first Olympics. Just a few minutes later, Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig took the ice for a dazzling and heartfelt performance that was meant for the Olympics. Both couples smiled from ear to ear, as the audience cheering enthusiastically. The passion they feel for ice skating came across with each glide and turn.
There’s no question that all of our athletes train to perform at their peak at the Olympics, but I was especially taken by the energy and chemistry that our team members displayed as they executed challenging routines with poise and strength. Last night's performances were breathtaking.
At the end of the day, Ambassador David Jacobson and his wife Julie, joined Olympic champions Peggy Fleming, Vonetta Flowers and Mike Eruzione, and I for a closing dinner at Lok's Chinese restaurant to help celebrate the Chinese New Year and an incredible visit to the Olympic Games.
As we head back to Washington, it's a little hard to leave. We've met some of the most talented athletes over the last few days. I feel a deep sense of patriotism and pride because of our extraordinary Team USA who go all out, fearlessly competing to do their very best.
Valerie Jarrett is a senior advisor to the President, and heads the White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic, and Youth Sport
Brian LevineFebruary 15, 2010
12:30 PM EDT
On January 25th, the Middle Class Task Force unveiled several initiatives designed to relieve the strain on family budgets, including a cap on student loan payments. A few days later, the President talked about this student loan proposal during his State of the Union address. The President’s words generated a lot of interest and excitement, so we wanted to tell you a little more about our plan.
Over the past three decades, college tuition has grown ten times faster than real median incomes for families with children. So it’s no surprise that about two-thirds of graduates take out loans to pay for college and their average debt is over $23,000. But we didn’t need statistics to understand how challenging it can be to pay for college; the Vice President and other members of the Task Force heard about it directly from students, parents, faculty and administrators when we held meetings at Syracuse University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
We are proposing to make federal student loans more affordable by limiting a borrower’s payments to 10 percent of the income he or she has left over after covering basic expenses. Here is an example: The monthly payment for a single borrower earning $30,000 who owes $20,000 in loans would be $115 a month, compared to $228 a month under the standard 10-year repayment plan.
Our proposal has been praised by a number of student aid experts. According to Dr. Michael Lomax, the President and CEO of UNCF, this change “will decrease the loan payments of hundreds of thousands of low-income borrowers with significant student loan debt, lightening the load of many Americans and enabling them to get the education they need, and our nation needs them to have.”
Debt can be especially difficult to manage for borrowers in low-paying public service careers, as well as those who have lost their jobs. Lauren Asher, the President of the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) noted that “this is a well-targeted and well-timed change that would help people who are struggling to stay afloat financially.”
In addition to lowering monthly payments, we are proposing to keep the total cost of loan repayment manageable by forgiving all remaining debt after 20 years of payments, or 10 years of payments for those in public service work. As Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of finaid.org said, the “acceleration of the loan forgiveness will ensure that borrowers are not still paying back their own federal student loans when their children enroll in college.”
These changes build on the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan for student loans that was implemented last summer. Lauren Asher of TICAS explained that IBR “was supported by a broad coalition of student, parent, loan industry, and higher education groups to make college more affordable and accessible,” and our proposal is “a way to make the program even more helpful to responsible borrowers.”
This initiative complements other key pieces of the Administration’s agenda, like extending the American Opportunity Tax Credit for college expenses and passing legislation, which is currently before the Senate, to reform student lending to eliminate tens of billions of dollars in wasteful subsidies to banks. The savings will be used to expand Pell Grants and invest in community colleges. Together, these proposals will make it easier for millions of Americans to pursue their college dreams.
Brian Levine is the Deputy Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President
Valerie JarrettFebruary 15, 2010
10:50 AM EDT
What an exhilarating start for the U.S. Olympic Women's Ice Hockey Team! I sat in the stands yesterday at the University of British Columbia's Thunderbird Arena as the U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey Team defeated China 12-1 in their first game this Olympics. At the moment the team took the ice, the crowd broke out in wild applause, and that was just the beginning.
Going into the Games, I had heard the buzz about Team USA – how impressive and dedicated they are on the ice - but it was even more exciting for me to see the strength of our team in person. Not only does the team have a great coach, Mark Johnson from the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team, but they seem to be thriving with talent, perseverance and the experience of Olympic veterans like team captain Natalie Darwitz, Angela Ruggiero and Jenny Potter. They have trained for these Games for months, even years. It was fun to be there for this blow-out game, to hear American fans cheer and watch as the stars and stripes waved in the stands.
Asked about the game, Mike Eruzione, captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team and one of the Olympic champions on our delegation, said, "the U.S. had a great performance today, and they're on their way to a gold medal."
I couldn’t agree more.
Valerie Jarrett is a senior advisor to the President, and heads the White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic, and Youth Sport
Valerie JarrettFebruary 13, 2010
05:17 PM EDT
It is an honor to join Vice President and Dr. Biden and Ambassador David Jacobson here in Vancouver for the XXI Olympic Winter Games. Before the Opening Ceremony, the U.S. Presidential Delegation attended a kick-off for Team USA. Yesterday's pep rally was just that - a chance to greet the team and wish them the very best of luck. Along with former Olympic champions Peggy Fleming, Mike Eruzione and Vonetta Flowers, we could feel the excitement and energy of our athletes like Shaun White and Rachael Flatt. Without a doubt, they are ready to go and ready to win!
The Opening Ceremony welcomes the world to the Olympics with incredibly memorable performances - music, traditional and modern dance, and customs. I have warm memories of watching the Opening Ceremony with my family, but seeing it live at BC Place last night was more than I could have imagined. The audience - full of heads of state and sports fans from around the world - was electric as each country's team marched in, waving their nation's flag with pride, beaming with enthusiasm on the world's stage.
Last night's Opening Ceremony paid beautiful tribute to Canada's rich history, highlighting the country's vast diversity of people, nature and wildlife, with warm greetings from the Lil'wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. The joyous ceremony paused for a moment of silence in memory of the Georgian luger who died in a fatal accident just hours before the Opening Ceremony.
And finally, last night's torch lighting was spectacular. Vancouver's torch rally was one of longest distances traveled by a torch in Olympic history and the passing of the torch came full circle as hockey legend Wayne Gretzky served as the final torch bearer. With the torch lit and Games already beginning, this is an Olympics I will never forget and I know Team USA will go for the gold!
Valerie Jarrett is a senior advisor to the President and heads the White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport
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