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Secretary Kathleen SebeliusFebruary 04, 2010
02:00 PM EDT
One year ago today, within weeks of taking office, President Obama signed into law a reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This legislation, along with provisions in the Recovery Act strengthening Medicaid, brought much-needed health coverage to millions of families.
The expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program and the strengthening of Medicaid helped ensure 40 million kids from all across America could see a doctor if they got sick. It meant that, in the face of a recession, their parents did not have to choose between the health of their kids and paying rent or the heating bill. These programs have been critically important for families.
Taking a closer look at the last year, we found that millions of children's lives were changed as a result of these federal programs. An additional 2.6 million children gained coverage through Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program during the 2009 fiscal year.
While we are proud of how far we've come, we think we can do better. There are millions of children who are eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, but don't have coverage.
That’s why we're challenging states, local governments, community-based organizations, health centers, faith-based organizations, as well as other federal departments to help enroll the 5 million children who are eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program but do not currently have coverage. To do our part, we've already issued outreach grants, launched a new website, and brought together 500 people at a National Child Health Summit, and we will be doing much more to reach out to federal agencies and states on ways to cut out the red tape in enrollment and renewals. We will also be closely monitoring progress on all fronts.
We've compiled resources and information, both in English and in Spanish, in one website called www.InsureKidsNow.gov. This website offers state-specific information about the Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid for families and professionals.
Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children. We are determined to build on our existing efforts to cover kids and to make sure that no child goes without health care in America.
Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of Health and Human Services
Jesse LeeFebruary 04, 2010
01:05 PM EDT
At the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama reflected that it is often during the times when others are in great need that bring Americans together, as the nation united in its efforts to help the people of Haiti.
It's inspiring. This is what we do, as Americans, in times of trouble. We unite, recognizing that such crises call on all of us to act, recognizing that there but for the grace of God go I, recognizing that life's most sacred responsibility -- one affirmed, as Hillary said, by all of the world's great religions -- is to sacrifice something of ourselves for a person in need.
And on his hopes for progress and civility in the face of difficulty:
Progress comes when we open our hearts, when we extend our hands, when we recognize our common humanity. Progress comes when we look into the eyes of another and see the face of God. That we might do so - that we will do so all the time, not just some of the time - is my fervent prayer for our nation and the world.
Aneesh ChopraFebruary 04, 2010
12:24 PM EDT
The best ideas are those that make you say “I can’t believe we don’t already have this.”
Today, I am happy to report a historic collaboration between industry, the health community and government to bring you something you can’t believe we don’t already have: a free (yes, free) mobile health service for pregnant women and new mothers giving them useful tips timed to their pregnancy or age of baby.
The service is called text4baby, and it is an educational program of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition.
As a parent of two young children, I can tell you that my family would have signed up for text4baby in a instant. My wife and I wanted to learn as much as possible about pregnancy and the first year of our baby’s life. I’m thrilled that this service provides a convenient way for moms all over the country to learn this information. This is particularly important for moms who may not already have access to health information or care.
Here’s how it works: women who sign up for the service by texting BABY to 511411 (or BEBE for Spanish) receive three free SMS text messages each week timed to their due date or baby’s date of birth. Text4baby messages also connect women to local clinics and support services for prenatal and infant care.
Here are some things I find most exciting about this program and why it shows that the President’s focus on public-private partnerships is already paying off for the American people:
- By using text messaging on cell phones, this partnership uses a technology that has already been widely adopted. Research shows that 90 percent of Americans have a mobile phone, and texting is more prevalent among women of childbearing age and minority populations who face higher infant mortality rates.
- It provides the information moms need to keep themselves and their babies healthy. These are short messages, but incredibly important. The messages focus on topics critical to the health of moms and babies, including immunization, nutrition, seasonal flu, mental health, smoking and alcohol, oral health, and safe sleep.
- It represents an extraordinary public private partnership – a true “all-hands-on-deck” approach. There are more than 100 entitites participating in this partnership, so I can’t possibly list them all here. Founding partners include the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, mobile health platform provider Voxiva, the CTIA Wireless Foundation and wireless providers, Grey Health Group, and Johnson & Johnson. This program has now attracted private sector media partners, health care plans, academic evaluators, health professional associations, and government partners at every level – local, state, and national. It’s an incredible partnership.
- It could help save lives and reduce the number of premature births in America. More than 500,000 babies – 1 in every 8 – are born prematurely each year in the US. Premature babies can face lifelong health and intellectual development problems. The risk of premature birth can be reduced if moms take care of themselves and their babies during pregnancy (e.g. don’t smoke!) and seek prenatal care. Text4Baby can help by giving moms information and connecting them to care.
- It could save America money on health care costs. This free service could save us money by ensuring moms are connected to health knowledge and services as early as possible. Catching problems early can help avoid expensive and potentially harmful complications at birth and in the first year of life. This helps families as well – the average first year medical costs for premature babies are about 10 times greater than for full-term babies.
This is an exciting opportunity for moms and babies, and for our nation. For more information on text4baby, please visit text4baby.org.
Aneesh Chopra is the Federal Chief Technology Officer.
February 04, 2010
12:22 PM EDT
Ed. Note: More from Daily Finance, "Obama Plans to Create Millions of Jobs by Doubling Exports"
Today, I am at the National Press Club in Washington, DC to announce the details of President Obama's National Export Initiative (NEI), which is a key part of his strategy to get America's economy growing strongly again.
The NEI is an extremely ambitious effort that aims to double American exports over the next five years and support 2 million jobs here at home.
And it is unprecedented.
There have, of course, been previous endeavors by the U.S. government to elevate the importance of exports. But what sets this effort apart is that this is the first time the United States will have a government-wide export-promotion strategy with focused attention from the president and his cabinet.
This initiative was designed with one overriding goal in mind: to get people back to work in jobs that provide security, dignity and a sense of hope for the future.
For much of this last decade, America's economic growth was built on a speculative mania that enriched a select few while leaving many Americans out in the cold. Since 2000, most families have seen their wages stagnate or decline, while the necessities of life like health care and tuition skyrocketed.
The National Export Initiative will help build a stronger economic foundation and allow us to return to the type of sustainable growth that not long ago , helped build the strongest middle class in history.
From the advent of the phone, to the automobile to new drug therapies and the Internet, America's strength has always led been our businesses ability to create and sell products and services that help others around the world lead healthier, wealthier and more productive lives.
That's what we've got to get back to: creating, building and innovating. That is what this country is all about.
With the NEI, American businesses that want to export – especially small and medium-size enterprises -- are going to have a more vigorous partner in the US government.
The NEI is going to impact a whole array of issues that affect our ability to export, but we’re fundamentally focused on three things:
- Expand the US government's export promotion efforts in all its forms. Many American companies don't export, or export less than they should, because they simply don't have the resources to identify promising new markets or the necessary contacts in foreign countries. The National Export Initiative will funnel $132 million to the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA), and the US Department of Agriculture to educate U.S. farmers and businesses about opportunities overseas and directly connect them with new customers.
- Improve access to credit, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses that want to export.
- Increase the government's focus on knocking down barriers that prevent U.S. companies from getting open and fair access to foreign markets.
The American people can feel confident that when we’re party to an agreement that gives foreign countries the privilege of free and fair access to our domestic market, we are treated the same in their country .
The National Export Initiative is one more step in this administration's singular focus on one goal: making sure every American who wants a job can find one.
Gary Locke is Secretary of Commerce
Heather ZichalFebruary 03, 2010
07:05 PM EDT
In his State of the Union Address last month, the President promised that this Administration would move aggressively to catalyze American innovation and economic growth, especially in a competitive global environment -- and he pointed out that, "no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy."
Today, at a meeting with a bipartisan group of Governors from around the country, the President announced actions to accelerate the development of biofuels and clean coal technologies, two critical components of his comprehensive plan for transitioning to a clean energy economy.
On biofuels, three complementary actions will help create new opportunities for job growth, infrastructure development, and technological innovation, encouraging Americans to produce clean, homegrown energy.
Renewable Fuel Standard: The Environmental Protection Agency issued its final rule setting a new renewable fuel standard, which will create a market for advanced biofuel producers in the U.S. and help America fulfill the renewable energy mandate set by Congress. By 2022, the new fuel standard is projected to increase farmers’ incomes by $13 billion annually, create a stabilizing effect for prices at the pump, and increase our energy independence.
Biomass Crop Assistance Program: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed a new Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which will provide financial incentives to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners who invest in and establish production of biomass for energy and other purposes. The program will reduce the financial risk to these entrepreneurs, helping kick-start this new industry and spurring the economic recovery of rural America.
Biofuels Report: The President’s Biofuels Interagency Working Group released its first report – Growing America’s Fuel, which lays out a strategy to advance the development and commercialization of a sustainable biofuels industry to meet or exceed the nation’s biofuels targets.
Presidential Memorandum for a Comprehensive Federal Strategy on Carbon Capture and Storage: The President established a new interagency task force on Carbon, Capture and Sequestration (CCS). CCS technologies aim to collect heat-trapping gases released during the burning of coal and to sequester them so that they do not contribute to climate change. The President has consistently emphasized the need to invest in advanced technology as it is a critical part of the transition to a clean energy economy.
Whether we’re talking about coal states or coastal states – urban states or rural – we can all agree these investments in clean energy mean progress for all Americans. Even if you disagree with the need to take action on climate change, investing in the promise of a new clean energy economy is the right thing to do to secure American competitiveness and ensure future prosperity. The President said it best:
China’s not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany’s not waiting. India’s not waiting. These nations aren’t standing still. These nations aren’t playing for second place. They’re putting more emphasis on math and science. They’re rebuilding their infrastructure. They are making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs.
This is about strengthening our country to compete in the global market. And that’s why the President is committed to passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation for our economy, for our security and for our future.
Joshua DuBoisFebruary 03, 2010
06:14 PM EDT
On February 5, 2009, President Obama launched the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He charged this Office with a specific and critical mission: shifting the focus of the previous initiative from funding to programmatic impact, and helping the federal government partner with faith-based and other nonprofit organizations to better serve all Americans. And over the last year, this Office has done just that. Here's a just brief snapshot of the Office’s work:
- The Office has coordinated President Obama's national fatherhood agenda, implementing strategies to address the challenge of father absence in communities across the country.
- It has built partnerships between federal agencies and local nonprofits on a range of key issues, from making sure that faith-based organizations can respond to the H1N1 crisis to ensuring that these groups are a part of the government's disaster response efforts.
- It has brought people together across religious lines, working with groups on over 4,000 interfaith service projects this summer, organizing a new President's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships of some of the top faith and community leaders in the country, and helping to lead the Administration's efforts on interfaith cooperation abroad.
- It has worked to help local organizations to respond to the economic crisis, from implementing foreclosure prevention programs to strengthening nonprofit capacity building.
Each of these and the many other priorities of the faith-based office are central to President Obama’s vision for our country. The President realizes that government programs alone cannot solve all of our problems, and that only by connecting with individuals, families, and community- and faith-based organizations across the country will we address our most pressing challenges. The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships is working to form those partnerships every day, on behalf individuals, families and communities.
To following the ongoing work of the faith-based office, just visit www.whitehouse.gov/partnerships.
Joshua DuBois is the Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships
February 03, 2010
02:42 PM EDT
We recently released a fun behind-the-scenes video on the White House Presidential Advance team as it prepared for President Obama's trip to Lorain County in Ohio on January 22nd. I'm sure the cliff-hanger ending kept you antsy for more. Well, here at last is the follow-up. See how the President's day unfolds from the point of view of his trip staff--from getting him the best burger in Elryia on a surprise stop at a local diner to a tour of the Riddell football helmet assembly plant.
February 03, 2010
01:58 PM EDT
“We need to encourage American innovation. Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history – an investment that could lead to the world’s cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched.”
- President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 27, 2010
Since taking office, the President has taken historic steps to lay the foundation for the innovation economy of the future, including well over $100 billion of support for innovation in the Recovery Act, novel regulatory and executive order initiatives, and a comprehensive Strategy for American Innovation that offers a blueprint for how these investments and policy priorities will foster sustainable growth and help create high-quality jobs.
But we cannot stop there. The FY 2011 budget builds on that strategy. To create the jobs of the future and to ensure that the United States remains the world’s most dynamic economy, we must invest in American innovation by supporting the building blocks of research, development, education, and infrastructure, by promoting competitive markets that spur productive entrepreneurship, and by catalyzing breakthroughs for national priorities.
More details on the innovation components in the budget are available in this Innovation Fact Sheet.
At 5 pm EDT today, four of the architects of innovation within the White House will be discussing the innovation components of the FY 2011 budget in a live chat. Tune in at WhiteHouse.gov/Live or Facebook to watch and participate.
Diana Farrell is Deputy Director for the National Economic Council.
Jesse LeeFebruary 03, 2010
11:07 AM EDT
It's been a little over a year since First Lady Michelle Obama stepped into her role at the White House, and she sat down today with Matt Lauer from the Today Show and reflected on her time so far and her future goals -- click here to watch the video.
She noted that she would like to look back and feel like she affected somebody's life because she was here, which brings on her new initiative on childhood obesity, an increasing problem in the nation, since statistics show that one in three kids is obese. "The most shocking sort of reality that really hits you is that the young generation is on track for the first time in this nation’s history of being less healthy, having a shorter life span than their parents." The First Lady said the problem is solvable, and they will be striving for attainable goals, but the broad vision is to "change the health status of an entire generation."
On balancing her work with being a mother: "I find a level of comfort in that role." She acknowledged that there are challenges, but that she remains the same person she was before she entered the White House. "What people have seen over the course of the year is really Michelle." She maintained the same for the President, who she says despite challenges that face the nation, "handled the pressure with that same level of grace that he came here with."
Jesse LeeFebruary 03, 2010
08:50 AM EDT
There did seem to be something even nicer than usual about the snow last night and this morning -- one of those times when it's nice to have Pete Souza around.
Update: I am urged by Pete's adoring White House colleagues to clarify that while it may be especially nice to have Pete Souza around on snowy White House mornings, it is still supremely nice to have him around at any and all times of day -- which of course is very true.
February 02, 2010
10:09 PM EDT
Last week, we told you how CNN had fact-checked the top ten items in a report issued by two opponents of the Recovery Act and found that nine of their top ten claims were false.
- “We took a closer look at the Senators’ top ten examples of so-called waste. We found that nine of the ten did not tell the whole story and in some cases were inaccurate.” [CNN, 1/25/10]
But recently, CNN and others in the press have taken a look at #11 on the Senators’ list: which they call the “The Napa Wine Train” project, but is really a job creating flood protection project that will make the city of Napa safer while putting up to 600 people on the job.
In their report, the Senators’ titled the project “All Aboard The Wine Train!,“ and imply that the Recovery Act is frivolously funding a three hour Napa Valley train tour:
- “The Napa Wine Train has proven to be a popular tourist attraction, providing, ― a relaxing three hour journey along the thirty six-mile round-trip… through one of the world's most famous wine valleys. One of the most popular meals on the train is the $124 Vista Dome Lunch, where guests enjoy ―a complimentary glass of California sparkling wine [that] continues with a four course lunch of their choice.”
Thankfully, CNN and others have recently corrected this report:
- CNN said: “In fact, the money is not being spent on the wine train. The stimulus money is for a massive flood control project for the valley.” [CNN, 1/28/10]
- A spokesperson for the Napa River Flood Control Project agreed, “This is perfectly fitting into what stimulus was intend to do. As you see here, people are on the job working today who may not be otherwise.” [CNN, 1/28/10]
- And you can check with the Napa Wine Train folks, “The person who did the research for the senators didn't do a thorough job and I think if they had done a thorough job we wouldn't have been on the list at all.” [CNN, 1/28/10]
Even the San Francisco Chronicle posted a blog calling out Senators’ McCain and Coburn:
- “It made for good sound bytes: Obama's handing money to the rich liberals in California! (Lunch on the train runs into three figures.) But it turns out that's not what happened at all. The stimulus is actually funding the Napa River Flood Project's efforts to elevate the train's tracks and build a flood wall at the depot. These projects are just a small part of an overall plan to manage flooding in the area.” [SF CHRONICLE]
Here’s what’s really going on:
- “Supporters of the project say the stimulus fund will create at least 600 jobs and those jobs are expected to last two to three years until the project is done. But that's for the whole flood project. The contractor expects the track work will employ some 200 people. Once complete it should mean Napa won't flood every few years.” [CNN, 1/28/10]
As the President puts forward new measures to ensure every American who wants a job can get one, here’s what we know: 2 million jobs already funded by the Recovery Act, two quarters of GDP growth helping pave the road to recovery, and a flood protection project in Napa Valley is creating jobs while protecting a community against flooding.
Here’s what we expect moving forward: as the President introduces new jobs measures like he did today, we hope that the Administration’s opponents get off the sidelines and engage in meaningful dialogue that will help rebuild America’s middle class.
Jim Gilio is White House Spokesperson for the Recovery Act
Jesse LeeFebruary 02, 2010
03:15 PM EDT
Today, President Obama held a town hall meeting in Nashua, New Hampshire to discuss new initiatives and proposals to create jobs and encourage the growth of small businesses. He outlined the details of the new Small Business Lending Fund, which will be created using $30 billion from money repaid by Wall Street banks.
The fund will provide capital for community banks on Main Street to lend to small businesses that are struggling to obtain loans since bank lending standards have tightened. The fund offers incentives for banks to increase small business lending by providing better deals on capital for banks that provide more loans to creditworthy businesses. "This will help small banks do even more of what our economy needs – and that's ensure that small businesses are once again the engine of job growth in America."
President Obama also explained new tax credits that provide incentives for small businesses to hire new workers and increase wages, while eliminating all capital gains taxes on small business investments. The relief will allow people to gain capital in order to accelerate growth and the creation of jobs.
President Obama reflected on steps the administration has already taken to create jobs, including the Recovery Act that provided tax reliefs and increased unemployment benefits.
I won’t rest until businesses are hiring again, and wages are rising again, and the middle class is thriving again, and we’ve finally got an economy that works for all Americans, not just some Americans.
February 02, 2010
11:36 AM 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.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) stands for safety, particularly the safety of our children. Our dedicated staff works every day to protect you and your family How do most folks know us? We’re the ones who recall unsafe products, including nearly 7 million cribs since 2007. Millions of strollers, clothing with drawstrings, window coverings, dangerous toys, jewelry and household products have been pulled from store shelves. Why? Because some of these products can harm children and cause tragic accidents for anybody, whether that’s ingesting lead or posing burn and fire hazards where we least expect them. We also work with businesses to make products safer. We have strengthened the oversight of imported products at the ports with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and we’ve reached out to Chinese officials to strengthen product safety.
We at the CPSC want to help you; we also want you to do your part. Sign up to receive recall alerts and make sure to contact companies for repairs or replacements of unsafe products in your homes. Join us online at our On Safety blog, on Twitter and via YouTube for the latest safety information and important safety messages for your families.
Inez Tenenbaum is Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Lynn RosenthalFebruary 02, 2010
09:00 AM EDT
For six months now, I have held the first-ever White House position dedicated to combating violence and sexual assault against women and continuing the important work of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Every morning when I’ve walked into the White House, I’ve brought with me the stories of the many survivors I have worked with over the years. I’ve focused on raising the profile of violence against women issues across Federal Agencies, states, tribal communities, and localities; coordinating interagency collaboration on these issues; implementing victim assistance programs; and integrating these issues into Administration-wide programs such as the White House Fatherhood Initiative, the White House Council on Women and Girls, HUD’s fight against homelessness, and the Justice Department’s recent effort to better combat disproportionate violence in tribal communities.
Yesterday, I met with a group of 16 leaders of organizations that combat violence against women, provide resources for women who face domestic violence and sexual assault, and advocate for victims. During this meeting, I shared with these leaders the same information I am sharing with you -- information on how the White House, through the President’s FY 2011 budget, is making combating violence against women a real priority.
Violence Against Women Act as a Budget Priority
The FY 2011 budget will provide a record total of $730 million to combat violence against women -- a $130.5 million increase in funding from the previous fiscal year. The VAWA, passed in 1994, already provides thousands of victims with life-saving services, improvements in the criminal justice system and increased public awareness. The President’s FY 2011 budget not only continues this strong response, but bolsters current funding and responds to the emerging needs of communities.
Crime Victims Fund
The budget provides a $100 million increase from the Crime Victims Fund, specifically for emergency shelter, transitional housing, and other local services for domestic violence and sexual assault victims. By focusing on both immediate safety and long-term housing assistance, we can help ensure that victims don’t have to choose between living with abuse or becoming homeless. Furthermore, the Crime Victims Fund does not consist of a single taxpayer dollar; it is self-sustaining and supported by criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, and penalties for Federal offenders. In addition to a fund increase from the Crime Victims Fund, the FY 2011 budget provides $140 million for battered women’s shelters and services, an increase of $10 million from the previous fiscal year.
Victim Resources and Legal Support
The $730 million also provides vital funding for victim resources. The National Domestic Violence Hotline and Teen Dating Violence Helpline are receiving increased funding of $4.5 million to ensure every call is answered. The budget also provides $30 million in VAWA funding for victims of sexual assault -- a $15 million increase from the previous year -- which will be utilized by the Sexual Assault Services Program to provide crisis intervention, advocacy within the criminal justice system, support during forensic exams, and other related assistance.
The FY 2011 budget bolsters legal support for domestic violence and sexual assault victims by providing $50 million in VAWA funding for legal assistance for victims, a $9 million increase from the previous year. The Civil Legal Assistance Program will use this funding to help victims more easily obtain protective orders and other assistance available through the court system.
To build upon the above improvements in the criminal justice system, the budget also provides $188 million in STOP grants that provide better training, improved data collection, specialized law enforcement and prosecution units, and courts specialized for domestic violence and sexual assault cases.
Support Across the Board
Ending domestic violence and sexual assault is a priority for President Obama and Vice President Biden. I’ve written about numerous fund increases and initiatives that are testaments to this fact. In my meeting yesterday, the White House’s commitment to violence against women issues was clear -- we are increasing support for women across the board.
Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women
Jesse LeeFebruary 01, 2010
09:23 PM EDT
This afternoon the President sat down to answer some of the questions on the minds of Americans across the country. The questions were submitted and voted on in a process open to the public, conducted through YouTube. It's no surprise that the questions didn't match up up perfectly with what the White House hears from the beltway press and pundits every day, after all it was intended as an opportunity for the public to ask precisely those kinds of questions. It made for an interesting interview.
One good example was a question about what's called "net neutrality":
MR. GROVE: Great. Well, let's move back to the questions. And I got to tell you, the number one question that came in, in the jobs and economy category had to do with the Internet. And it came from James Earlywine in Indianapolis. He said: "An open Internet is a powerful engine for economic growth and new jobs. Letting large companies block and fill their online content services would stifle needed growth. What is your commitment to keeping Internet open and neutral in America?"
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm a big believer in net neutrality. I campaigned on this. I continue to be a strong supporter of it. My FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, has indicated that he shares the view that we've got to keep the Internet open; that we don't want to create a bunch of gateways that prevent somebody who doesn't have a lot of money but has a good idea from being able to start their next YouTube or their next Google on the Internet. So this is something we're committed to.
We're getting pushback, obviously, from some of the bigger carriers who would like to be able to charge more fees and extract more money from wealthier customers. But we think that runs counter to the whole spirit of openness that has made the Internet such a powerful engine for not only economic growth, but also for the generation of ideas and creativity.
Jesse LeeFebruary 01, 2010
04:34 PM EDT
Earlier today, President Obama discussed the 2011 budget, reflecting on the challenges for the country and the steps the administration is taking to meet them. While acknowledging that the inherited $1.3 trillion deficit from the previous administration can’t be brought down overnight, he relayed his continuing efforts to rein in spending and "lay a new foundation for lasting growth."
The President mentioned essential investments in areas of clean energy and scientific research included in the budget to foster jobs of the future. He proposed a 6 percent increase in funding for the Education Department to revitalize community colleges and make colleges more affordable. "In the 21st century there is no better anti-poverty program than a world-class education."
While making investments for future economic success, President Obama outlined the tough spending cuts to reduce the current deficit, and proposed a freeze in government spending for three years, excluding benefits from Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and benefits for veterans. He discussed the $20 billion in cuts for programs that are inefficient or have outlived their usefulness, and cuts for worthy programs that must be trimmed accordingly. "We have to do what families across America are doing: Save where we can so that we can afford what we need."
The freeze will not apply towards national security, though the President made clear that this does not mean a free pass: "even though the Department of Defense is exempt from the budget freeze, it's not exempt from budget common sense."
Helping to bring the deficit down in the coming years, a responsibility fee on big banks to compensate taxpayers for the bailout, and tax breaks for oil companies, investment fund managers, and those making over $250,000 a year would be ended.
To enforce responsible spending, the budget restores pay-as-you-go legislation, which allows Congress to spend a dollar only if it cuts a dollar elsewhere. President also proposed a bipartisan fiscal commission to encourage Democrats and Republicans to work together to create deficit-reducing proposals by a deadline.
These budget policies are projected to decrease the deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Visit the FY 2011 Budget website for details about different departments, terminations and reductions, or to learn how the budget will affect your state.
Terrell McSweenyFebruary 01, 2010
11:01 AM EDT
Last week the Middle Class Task Force previewed a series of initiatives in the President’s FY 11 budget aimed at costs -- like child care costs, care-giving, paying for college and retirement – that are squeezing middle class family budgets. These are costs that -- along with health care -- have risen dramatically for families at a time when their incomes have not.
Today the President’s FY 11 budget is out – with greater detail about what we’re proposing and additional initiatives that will help middle class families get ahead. In coming weeks the Middle Class Task Force is going to focus on making the case for action on these issues. You can check out the details on our Supporting Middle Class Families fact sheet.
Terrell McSweeny is Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President
Peter OrszagFebruary 01, 2010
10:34 AM EDT
Today, the President transmitted the FY 2011 Budget to the Congress. In about an hour, he will deliver remarks about the Budget, and after that I will be taking questions from the press with CEA Chair Romer. This post gives readers of OMBlog a brief overview of the document.
After a year in which we took immediate and unprecedented action to rescue the economy from the brink of a second Great Depression, the FY 2011 Budget takes steps to jumpstart job creation, strengthen the economic security of middle-class families, and make the tough choices to put our Nation back on the path to fiscal sustainability.
When the President took office, the economy was on the brink of a depression. The economic crisis required that we take immediate and extraordinary steps to prevent a complete economic collapse that would have caused millions more to lose their jobs. Not all of the efforts we undertook to avoid a deeper recession were popular. Nonetheless the President did what was right for our country’s future: signing into law the Recovery Act to jumpstart economic growth and taking steps to prevent the collapse of the financial system.
A year later, the economy is back from the brink – and is growing again. This "statistical recovery," however, is cold comfort for the millions of Americans who have lost their job. The President has therefore called for a package to spur job creation now – including small business tax cuts and investments in clean energy and infrastructure.
To sustain job creation and economic growth into the years ahead and provide room for the private sector to expand, we are also making tough choices in the Budget: cutting what doesn’t work or isn’t necessary and investing in what will help to expand the economy and employment in the coming years.
The Budget thus institutes a three-year non-security discretionary freeze that will save $250 billion over the next decade. We're not putting forward an across-the-board freeze, but rather an overall cap on non-security discretionary funding in which key investments are expanded but we cut back on programs that are ineffective, duplicative, or just wasteful. As part of that overall effort, we identified more than 120 programs across the government that should be terminated or reduced – generating $20 billion in savings.
At the same time, we are making critical investments in the areas critical to building a strong economy in the 21st century. That is why we increase funding at the Department of Education by $2.9 billion or 6.2 percent, make the largest proposed request for Elementary and Secondary Education Act programs while reforming it to be more effective, and provide more money for Pell grants and Race to the Top.
To build a more modern infrastructure, the Budget establishes a new $4 billion dollar National Infrastructure Innovation & Finance Fund to focus on infrastructure investments of national and regional significance.
To help put the nation at the top of the pack when it comes to the new clean energy economy, the Budget includes more than $6 billion in funding for clean energy technologies while also eliminating existing fossil fuel subsidies. And to continue our country’s proud, innovative history, the Budget invests $61.6 billion for civilian research and development – an increase of $3.7 billion, or 6.4 percent, over 2010 levels.
As we focus our efforts on spurring job creation and jumpstarting economic growth, we also have to change business as usual in Washington and restore fiscal responsibility. Because of the irresponsibility of the past decade, we’ve seen a projected 10-year surplus of over $5 trillion at the end of the Clinton administration turn into a projected 10-year deficit of over $8 trillion the day President Obama took office.
The Budget lays out a plan to put the country back on a sustainable fiscal path.
First, we have already taken action to avoid making the hole any deeper. The Administration proposed, and the Senate just joined the House in passing, statutory pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) legislation. PAYGO forces us to live by a simple but important principle: Congress can only spend a dollar on an entitlement increase or tax cut if it saves a dollar elsewhere. In the 1990s, statutory PAYGO encouraged the tough choices that helped move the Government from large deficits to surpluses, and it can do the same today.
Second, economic recovery – on its own – would take our deficits from 10 percent of GDP to 5 percent of GDP. To take them down further, the Budget proposes a series of policies including: the three-year non-security freeze mentioned above; restoring some balance to the tax code by allowing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to expire only for those making more than $250,000 a year and reducing the rate at which these same households write-off itemized deductions; ending subsidies for oil, gas, and coal companies and closing other loopholes; and putting in place a responsibility fee on the largest banks to compensate taxpayers for the extraordinary direct and indirect help they provided while also discouraging excessive leverage.
Third, these policies will take deficits down to 4 percent of GDP – amounting to $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction excluding war savings. But that is still not enough, and the only way to solve this is to change Washington, and bring Republicans and Democrats together to work on this problem. That is why the President wants to establish a bipartisan, fiscal commission to look at a range of proposals and put forward a bipartisan recommendation to balance the budget excluding interest payments on the debt by 2015. This type of process has worked in the past, and if everyone in Washington puts the national interest first, we are confident it will again.
Finally, as I have said many times before and will again (since it’s still true!), the key to our long-term fiscal future is fiscally-responsible health insurance reform. All our steps to rein in the deficit will be for naught if we do not reduce the rate of health care cost growth over time. The legislation passed by both the House and Senate will reduce the deficit over the next decade and put in place the key pieces that will help to bring down health care costs over time. Congress must now deliver on this promise of fiscally responsible health reform – the stakes are high, both for the millions of Americans who lack a stable source of health insurance coverage and for the fiscal well-being of the Nation itself.
If we take follow the plans laid out in the Budget, I am confident that we will be able to spur job creation now and in years to come and put our Nation back on a fiscally sustainable path, which is critically important to the future growth and prosperity of the United States.
Peter Orszag is Director of the Office of Management and Budget
February 01, 2010
09:18 AM EDT
We noted with interest reports that subsidiaries of foreign corporations from across the globe have launched a lobbying campaign in Washington to protect their newfound power to influence American elections under the Citizens United case. About 160 of these U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-owned or controlled corporations are involved in a lobbying group trying to stop President Obama and Congress from enacting limits on their spending in political campaigns. Worse still, the lobbyist leading the effort refused to disclose all the companies involved in the lobbying campaign. But it appears that the group of companies has the potential to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to influence American elections.
All of this demonstrates why the President was right to criticize the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizens United – and why he is also right to call for reform of the lobbying laws, including tough new rules on lobbyist disclosure, that build on the dramatic steps he has already taken in his first year in office to change Washington.
In Citizens United, a narrow 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court overturned a century of law that had barred corporations from using their financial clout to directly interfere with elections. As a result of this decision, American corporations owned in whole or in part by foreign companies—and even by foreign governments—are no longer restricted from making expenditures to elect or defeat federal candidates.
Some have argued that Citizens United will not increase foreign influence, but they are mistaken. The four Justice dissent, authored by Justice Stevens, specifically pinpoints the fact that the majority opinion opens the door to foreign influence -- see page 33 and page 75. The majority openly acknowledged that foreign influence could pose a potential issue here, as did the lawyer for Citizens United. And, a stream of independent, non-partisan experts have echoed the President’s concerns:
- Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 stated that “there is no statutory prohibition against foreign-controlled domestic corporations from making expenditures to influence federal elections, following the Citizens United decision.”
- Common Cause and Public Campaign issued a joint statement that the Court’s opinion “will allow corporations, including those owned by a majority of foreign entities, to spend without limit to influence US elections.”
- Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute stated that: “Citizens United opens up opportunities for American subsidiaries of foreign companies, including those owned by foreign governments, to spend huge amounts to influence American elections.”
- Gerald Hebert of the Campaign Legal Center stated that “With the corporate campaign expenditure ban now being declared unconstitutional, domestic corporations controlled by foreign governments or other foreign entities are free to spend money to elect or defeat federal candidates.”
Others assert that subsidiaries of foreign companies already spend millions on independent expenditures and so the Citizens United decision will make no difference. That misses the point. The electioneering communications law that was struck down restricted corporate ads naming elected officials in the crucial 60 days before general elections and 30 days before primary elections. Now those corporations can spend freely on those ads during the most critical periods in elections and the express message can be to vote for or against a named candidate. That constitutes an enormous expansion of corporate power to influence elections.
Others claim existing law is sufficient to protect against foreign influence in our elections. That too is wrong. Although the Federal Election Commission (FEC) restricts foreign nationals from spending or directing spending in American elections, it does not prohibit corporations in which foreign nationals are shareholders or hold significant sway or de facto control from making such expenditures. For example, foreign-controlled corporations making independent expenditures cannot be relied upon to make decisions contrary to the political interests or preferences of their owners. Before Citizens United, these problems did not exist at the federal level since the corporations themselves were limited in what they could do regardless of whose money or influence was behind them. But now that restriction is no more. Accordingly, because of these realities of how foreign control can operate, a stronger rule is needed to protect our domestic politics from foreign influence.
In the State of the Union, the President called for a series of steps to fix the problems caused by this case and also by the problem of special interests and their lobbyists having too much influence in Washington. In addition to closing the loopholes opened by Citizens United, including the one that could allow foreign interests to influence our elections, the President also called on Congress to:
- Establish carefully-tailored, low-dollar limits on the contributions lobbyists may bundle or make to candidates for federal office;
- Toughen lobbyist disclosure rules so that – like the voluntary step the President has taken to disclose visitors to the White House – lobbyists must disclose the details of every lobbying contact, including what the meeting was about;
- Close the loophole that allows foreign agent lobbyists to avoid full disclosure of their activities;
- Fully disclose all earmark requests on a comprehensive, bipartisan, state-of-the-art disclosure database that allows Americans to examine the details of every proposed request.
The proposals are detailed in this White House fact sheet.
For at least a century, it was considered perfectly legal to treat corporations differently than people in the context of political activity. The Supreme Court’s decision changes that century-old legal principle. As Justice Stevens wrote in dissent, “Congress has placed special limitations on campaign spending by corporations ever since the passage of the Tillman Act in 1907... The Court today rejects a century of history when it treats the distinction between corporate and individual campaign spending as an invidious novelty born of [more recent Court decisions].”
The American people have a compelling interest in preventing foreign interests from influencing our domestic political process. A strong legislative response is required given the stakes: Americans’ control over their own electoral process. That is why the President is working with Congressional leadership to move rapidly to pass legislation that protects our politics from undue special interest influence.
Norm Eisen is Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform