Jesse LeeApril 27, 2010
10:57 AM EDT
This morning the President’s Bipartisan Fiscal Commission holds its first meeting, taking on one of the most difficult challenges facing any government. The Commission was established by Executive Order in February, when the President appointed co-chairs former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican Senate Whip Alan Simpson, along with four other members a week later. The other dozen members of the Commission were appointed by Democratic and Republican leadership in Congress.
The President talked briefly with the Commission before they began their meeting, and said a few words about the importance of their mission. He spoke about the work he has done already towards trying to restore a stable fiscal path, from asking Congress to restore the “pay as you go” rule, to going line by line through the budget for more than $20 billion in savings, to challenging long-entrenched but outdated defense projects, to proposing a freeze in most of the discretionary budget for the next three years. As he made clear though, these steps are not enough:
Now, I’ve said that it’s important that we not restrict the review or the recommendations that this commission comes up with in any way. Everything has to be on the table. And I just met briefly with the commission and said the same thing to them. Of course, this means that all of you, our friends in the media, will ask me and others once a week or once a day about what we’re willing to rule out or rule in when it comes to the recommendations of the commission. That’s an old Washington game and it’s one that has made it all but impossible in the past for people to sit down and have an honest discussion about putting our country on a more secure fiscal footing.
So I want to deliver this message today: We’re not playing that game. I’m not going to say what’s in. I’m not going to say what’s out. I want this commission to be free to do its work.
In theory, there are few issues on which there is more vigorous bipartisan agreement than fiscal responsibility. But in practice, this responsibility for the future is often overwhelmed by the politics of the moment. It falls prey to special interest pressures, to the pull of local concerns, and to the reality familiar to every single American -- it’s a lot easier to spend a dollar than to save one. That’s what, at root, led to these exploding deficits. And that is what will lead to a day of reckoning.
But I believe, with the help of these gentlemen and this commission, we can begin to meet this challenge in a serious and thoughtful way. And I believe we must, for the future of our country.
April 27, 2010
09:41 AM EDT
Rural areas are home to about 50 million Americans and are an essential part of the overall economy. As the President embarks on the next stops on the White House to Main Street Tour in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri, the CEA today released a report that surveys the current state of rural America and describes the Obama Administration’s policies for strengthening the rural economy. The map below shows the distribution of rural counties across the county.
Among the report’s key findings are that rural America has a diverse economy. Rural residents are employed in a range of industries including manufacturing, services, government, and wholesale and retail trade. Agriculture, which has traditionally been a key base of the rural economy, continues to record strong productivity gains and is highly competitive in international markets. However, while rural America offers many opportunities, it also faces a number of challenges. Its educational attainment lags behind that of urban areas. Improvements in health status also have not kept pace, and access to doctors and health services has been a key challenge in rural areas.
The newly-released CEA report outlines four categories of Administration’s policies to lay a foundation for 21st-century growth that will continue to strengthen and diversify the rural economy, support rural workers and businesses, and put rural America on a path toward a more prosperous future. Many of these policies are already being implemented through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. But further work remains to ensure the prosperity and vitality of Main Streets across America.
The first category of Administration policies for strengthening rural America is focused on growing businesses and expanding employment opportunities. These policies include increased support for small business lending through Recovery Act funds to the Small Business Administration. They also include incentives to greatly expand biofuel production and renewable energy generation, which are often centered in rural areas. For instance, with the Renewable Fuels Standard just put into place, it is expected that over 100 ethanol plants will be built over the next decade, while incentives for renewable energy generation in the Recovery Act are expected to double wind generation. There are also important new opportunities for rural tourism and recreation.
A second category of policies is aimed at strengthening rural infrastructure. Without roads, bridges, water projects, and telecommunications, rural America cannot get its products to market efficiently or be fully integrated with the rest of the economy. For this reason, the Federal government has traditionally supported rural infrastructure projects. The Obama Administration has continued that support in important and innovative ways, such as by supporting the expansion of broadband internet access to rural areas and upgrading and improving the efficiency of existing rural water infrastructure.
A third category of policies focuses on strengthening the agricultural sector. As part of the National Export Initiative, the Administration has proposed measures to further open international markets to U.S. agricultural products. It has also proposed reforms to better target farm support programs, and urged a greater focus on local and regional food systems through initiatives such as Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.
The fourth category of policies is aimed at strengthening the labor force and improving the quality of life in rural America by investing in education and health care. For instance, the President’s proposed American Graduation Initiative, together with infrastructure investments in rural broadband, will help make high-quality online courses available, especially benefiting rural areas. The Administration is also investing in the health of rural America by taking actions to increase the affordability and quality of health care, while bolstering the medical workforce and infrastructure to address the unique challenges rural residents face in accessing doctors and hospitals. Health insurance reform through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also provides special support for the rural medical workforce by expanding graduate medical education positions in rural teaching hospitals and by supporting training for doctors and nurses in rural health care.
The history of rural America is one of proud accomplishment, and the President is committed to ensuring that the future of rural America is as distinguished as its past.
Christina Romer is the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers
Ann Wolverton is Senior Economist at the Council of Economic Advisers who focuses on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources
Dan PfeifferApril 27, 2010
05:00 AM EDT
It’s a favorite talking point among opponents of reform that the new health reform law will threaten Medicare or weaken guaranteed benefits for seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans – when the truth is that law strengthens Medicare and overall health care for our seniors.
When it comes to Medicare Advantage, the new law simply puts these privately-administered plans on equal footing with traditional Medicare by cutting wasteful subsidies that pad insurance company profits. And a news story out yesterday makes it clear, in the words of the insurance company executives and health care experts, that Medicare Advantage plans and the seniors who use them won’t be hurt by the health reform law:
From Bloomberg News:
Stephen J. Hemsley, chief executive officer of UnitedHealth Group Inc., told analysts on an earnings call this week that reduced payments won’t keep the company’s products from competing with Medicare insurance offered directly from the government. Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary, told a House Appropriations subcommittee that she expects “a robust array of choices for Medicare recipients.”
Insurers offering the plans could pressure health providers to lower their prices, McGlynn said. Also, Senate Democrats and the White House “did some smart things” to mitigate the effect of the Advantage cuts in the final version of the health law, said Robert A. Berenson, a former Medicare official now at the Urban Institute, a research foundation in Washington.
The law lets Advantage plans operating in areas where Medicare’s costs are lower than private insurers’ costs be paid more than the government program, said Berenson, who served in the Clinton administration. Plans where Medicare’s costs are higher than private insurers’ costs would get less.
Beginning in 2014, Advantage plans can earn 5 percent bonus payments if they implement programs to improve the health of their customers or the efficiency of care, he said. Insurers could qualify if they created programs to manage chronic diseases, for example, or new payment systems for doctors.
More broadly, the health reform law signed by the President strengthens Medicare by taking aggressive new steps to fight waste, fraud, and abuse within the system and reforming the payment system to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and reduce health care acquired infections. Together, these proposals will extend the financial health of Medicare by 12 years. On top of that, not a penny of Medicare taxes or trust funds will be used for health reform.
In fact, the law is packed with improvements for all seniors. To name a few, the bill:
- Closes the “donut hole” in Medicare prescription drug coverage;
- Provides for free preventive care under Medicare, whereas seniors today often pay 20 percent of these costs;
- Invests in innovations in new ways to treat and control chronic disease;
- Creates news standards to improve the quality of care in nursing homes.
To learn more about the benefits that the Affordable Care Act offers America’s seniors, see our fact sheet.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
April 26, 2010
07:26 PM EDT
(Ed. Note: The President will continue his recent series of White House to Main Street tours with stops in Iowa. In the early afternoon, President Obama will tour the Siemens Wind Turbine Blade Manufacturing Plant in Fort Madison and share ideas with workers for continuing to grow the economy and put Americans back to work. Listen to the audio live on April 27, 2010 at 2:10 PM EDT. Later in the afternoon, the President will hold a town hall meeting at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa.Watch the town hall live on Tuesday, April 27 at 5:35 PM EDT)
We are so proud to have the opportunity to share with President Obama what we’re doing at the Siemens Energy Ft. Madison Wind Turbine Blade Manufacturing Plant. Our employees – and the whole town – are buzzing with excitement. And I am honored to be his personal tour guide during his visit with us. I’m looking forward to showing him around our 600,000-square-foot plant where we have more than doubled our capacity in just the past two years. Of course, I’ve been practicing a bit to make sure my nerves don’t get the best of me, and my kids Nicholas and Marisa have taken turns playing “President Obama,” and then critiquing me…..so I’m think I’m ready.
We have a team of 600 employees who manufacture the blades for the Siemens 2.3-MW wind turbines, each of which produces enough power for 600-700 homes. These blades are approximately half the length of a football field and weigh 12 tons, so I think President Obama will be very impressed with their size….and with how innovative they are. We won’t have time to walk the entire factory, but I’ll certainly tell him about all the highlights, including the fact that we ship approximately 90% of our blades via rail to our customers’ wind plant sites, which helps us reduce our carbon footprint.
This plant is evidence of the more than $25 billion that Siemens has invested in the U.S. in the past 10 years to grow many of its clean energy technologies. Last fall, we started construction on a plant in Hutchinson, Kansas, where we will have 400 people assembling the structures that house all the generating components for our wind turbines. And just a couple weeks ago, we announced that we will build a new plant at our site in Charlotte, North Carolina, and hire 825 people over the next five years to make our advanced natural gas, power-generating turbines. I can’t tell you how good it feels to work for a company that is growing and investing in clean technologies at a time when many companies aren't.
Of course, we want to show off a bit to President Obama, and we’ve spent the past few days preparing the plant. I want him to see firsthand how we make our wind turbine blades, and also how we’re using tax credits from his stimulus program to expand the production capacity of our latest generation of blade technology. I will show him proof that the programs he helped put in place are in fact doing exactly what they were intended to do: grow our U.S. manufacturing base in clean technologies, create new jobs and revitalize towns like Ft. Madison, Iowa. Not only does each new blade mold we install result in 60-70 more jobs here at our factory, but that investment trickles into the local economy – whether it’s for companies like Huffman Welding & Machine, Inc. right here in Ft. Madison, Iowa, that helps us with fabricating and machining, or KPI in Burlington, Iowa, that processes the balsa wood we use in the manufacture of our blades or the local Hy-Vee grocery store that runs the food service for employees every day. We’re glad to be part of putting people to work in this region, an area that has struggled with tough times over the past 10 years.
That’s what tomorrow is all about: building a new clean technology economy that creates jobs in America. That’s what the President wants, and we’re going to show him what it looks like right here in Ft. Madison.
Robert Gjuraj is Plant Manager at Siemens Energy Wind Turbine Blade Manufacturing Plant in Ft. Madison, Iowa
Jesse LeeApril 26, 2010
06:48 PM EDT
The President issued the following statement after Republicans blocked Wall Street Reform from even coming up for debate:
“I am deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans voted in a block against allowing a public debate on Wall Street reform to begin. Some of these Senators may believe that this obstruction is a good political strategy, and others may see delay as an opportunity to take this debate behind closed doors, where financial industry lobbyists can water down reform or kill it altogether. But the American people can’t afford that. A lack of consumer protections and a lack of accountability on Wall Street nearly brought our economy to its knees, and helped cause the pain that has left millions of Americans without jobs and without homes. The reform that both parties have been working on for a year would prevent a crisis like this from happening again, and I urge the Senate to get back to work and put the interests of the country ahead of party.”
April 26, 2010
06:07 PM EDT
This afternoon, President Obama welcomed the New York Yankees into the White House to honor their 2009 World Series Championship. The President was also joined by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood – both Yankees fans. The President congratulated the team for winning back their title and praised them for “that attitude, that success, that has always made the Yankees easy to love.”
[F]or the millions of Yankees fans in New York and around the world who bleed blue, nothing beats that Yankee tradition: 27 World Series titles; 48 Hall of Famers -- a couple, I expect, standing behind me right now. From Ruth to Gehrig, Mantle to DiMaggio, it’s hard to imagine baseball without the long line of legends who’ve worn the pinstripes. Last season, this team continued that legacy, winning 103 games and leaving no doubt who was the best team in baseball.
But what people tend to forget -– especially after watching their teams lose -– is that being a Yankee is as much about character as it is about performance; as much about who you are as what you do. Being successful in New York doesn’t come easy, and it’s not for everybody. It takes a certain kind of player to thrive in the pressure cooker of Yankee Stadium -– somebody who is poised and professional, and knows what it takes to wear the pinstripes. It takes somebody who appreciates how lucky he is, and who feels a responsibility for those who are less fortunate.
The President commended Manager Joe Girardi for HOPE Week, a program where the Yankees help make a difference in the lives of those in need, thanking them for “bringing hope and joy to folks who really need it at a time of great difficulty,” and recognizing that “it’s the people underneath the pinstripes that set this team apart.”
Liz OxhornApril 26, 2010
05:45 PM EDT
The National Association for Business Economics (NABE) has a new survey of 68 of its members out today that shows that the group, which is made up of private sector and industry trade association economists, is newly optimistic about hiring and job growth. That’s good news – and right in-line with what many public and private forecasters have had to say about our economy recently.
But you may have also noticed an item in their survey that stands in pretty stark contrast to what leading economists have found. According to NABE:
- The vast majority (73%) of respondents “reported the fiscal stimulus in February 2009 has had no impact on employment to date.”
Now we know that that the Recovery Act hasn’t just had an impact on employment so far – it’s had a BIG impact on employment. From private forecasters like Moody’s Economy.com and IHS Global to public economists like the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, economists across the board have gone on-the-record saying that the Recovery Act is already responsible for millions of jobs nationwide and contributing to the economic growth that is fueling our recovery. Here are just a few of them:
- IHS Global Insight chief economist Nariman Behravesh: Without the stimulus, said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, 3 million more Americans would be out of work and the national unemployment rate, just below 10 percent, would be 12 percent - or higher. “There is no doubt that it had an impact,’’ Behravesh said. “When there is a shortfall in private sector demand, there is a role for government to step in and fill the gap.’’ [The Boston Globe, 3/7/2010]
- 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 catalyst for the transition from recession to recovery was the unprecedented monetary and fiscal stimulus provided by government policymakers...The Recovery Act’s expanded unemployment insurance benefits, financial aid to state governments, tax cuts for households and businesses, and tax credits for home purchases all contributed to the turn in the economy. The recovery has gained traction in recent months as the sources of GDP growth have broadened to include consumer spending, business investment and exports. The job market has also stabilized. After declining by some 8.4 million jobs between December 2007 and February 2010, payroll employment expanded by 162,000 in March.” [Testimony before Senate Finance Committee, 4/14/2010]
And economic experts at major trade associations say that the Recovery Act has had a substantial impact on employment in their industry:
- 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]
So how exactly did this group of 68 NABE members get it so wrong? Well, there is more than meets the eye here…
If you take a closer look at the survey, you will find that they were asked about conditions at their company:
- The NABE April 2010 Industry Survey report presents the responses of 68 NABE members to a survey conducted between March 25, 2010, and April 10, 2010, on business conditions in their firm or industry and reflects first-quarter 2010 results and the near-term outlook.
Now keep in mind that the Recovery Act was specifically designed to get the most employment bang for the taxpayer buck through a combination of targeted relief for hard-hit families and businesses and seed money to jump-start job-creating projects across a wide array of industries and communities. Those targeted investments multiply down the supply chain and across industries to grow the economy as a whole. What it wasn’t designed to be is a handout to every company across the country – so we wouldn’t expect that every company surveyed would have received Recovery Act funding. But interestingly, if 73 percent of the companies surveyed saw no impact on employment to-date, that could mean more than 25 percent of them did see a direct employment benefit – which would be a pretty impressive sign that the Recovery Act has had a broad reach so far.
And keep in mind that the Recovery Act hasn’t just created jobs directly by paying salaries for workers. Recent analysis from the Council of Economic Advisors found that about half of the jobs created by the Recovery Act so far were as a result of tax relief and income supports like unemployment benefits – money that doesn’t go to companies, but to consumers. When consumers have more money in their pockets, they spend it purchasing from companies just like the ones surveyed by NABE. So while the economic experts at these companies may not have seen the dollars themselves, they are no doubt seeing the impact of them as they, along with other companies nationwide, have helped create the roughly 2.5 million jobs supported by the Recovery Act so far.
But don’t just take our word for it. This is what NABE had to say as recently as last month about how the Recovery Act is helping grow the economy:
- "Eighty-three percent believe that GDP is currently higher than it would have been without the 2009 stimulus package (ARRA)."
- And more than half of the respondents to that survey “view[ed] the 2009 stimulus package as a positive factor for the economy over the longer term.”
Liz Oxhorn is Recovery Act Communications Director
April 26, 2010
05:30 PM EDT
The old rules governing our health insurance market hurt families across the country, and women in particular suffered in a system that allowed discrimination and failed to provide affordable coverage options for all Americans. Consider Jody Miller’s experience, as recently reported by National Public Radio:
Take the case of Jody Miller, an exercise physiologist who wanted to have a baby. She had insurance, but it didn't cover most of her infertility costs. So, she paid about $22,000 out of pocket.
After her triplets were born, she and her husband went looking for a less expensive insurance policy. Miller says one company told them, "Fine, we're happy to insure your children, but because of your infertility, we won't insure you or your husband." That was even without infertility coverage. Other insurers denied her as well.
"I'm as healthy as they come," Miller says. She wound up in a special Maryland state pool for people who can't get insurance.
Thankfully, the Affordable Care Act will help eliminate these hurdles and make stories like Jody’s a thing of the past. The new law will prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to any woman because of a pre-existing condition, excluding coverage of certain conditions or discriminating against her because of her gender.
The law will also give women and their families the affordable health choices they need and access to critical preventive services. Under the Affordable Care Act:
- This year, new insurance plans must cover prevention and wellness benefits at no charge.
- Insurance plans in the new exchange must cover maternity benefits.
- Health insurance exchanges will make it easy for all Americans to compare prices, benefits and performance of health plans to decide which quality affordable option is right for themselves and their families.
- Women and families who cannot afford health insurance will be eligible for tax credits.
- The law requires coverage of not only basic pediatric services under all new health plans, but also oral and vision needs for children, starting in 2014.
- This year, the law will prohibit insurance companies from denying children coverage based on preexisting conditions.
- This year, all lifetime limits on how much insurance companies cover if women get sick will be eliminated and the law bans insurance companies from dropping women from coverage when they get sick.
Check out this fact sheet to learn more about how women will benefit from the Affordable Care Act.Tina Tchen is Director of the Office of Public Liaison
April 26, 2010
02:00 PM EDT
Today is World Intellectual Property Day, a perfect time to update readers about all the work we are doing to protect intellectual property and do so in a way that fosters creativity and job creation.
The last time I wrote was to tell you I was starting my new job as the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator for the White House, and to ask for your input on what the U.S. government should be doing to protect the ideas and creativity of the American public.
As we move forward with putting together an effective and coordinated IP strategy, I realize just how much we have to consider. We have been pouring over the tremendous response we received from you. Today, we are posting all of your comments on our website so that everyone can see for themselves what we are reviewing.
During the past month, I have also met with dozens of companies throughout the country to whom intellectual property is very important. I have heard concerns from the semi-conductor industry, tractor manufacturers, all facets of the music industry —from the recording studios to publishers, composers, and performers — the apparel industry, cement manufacturers, product safety certifiers, pharmaceutical companies, aerospace industry, labor unions, movie industry, cell phone manufacturers, software companies, car part suppliers, internet auction sites, biotech companies and many more. The number of industry sectors hurt by rampant counterfeiting and piracy is unacceptable. As a result of these meetings, I came away with a greater appreciation of the myriad of concerns out there. And I intend to continue to meet with groups that have a stake in all that we are doing here in Washington as we move forward with developing and implementing the White House enforcement strategy.
In recognition of World Intellectual Property Day, the US government is engaging in activities all over the world to highlight the importance of intellectual property and our commitment to protecting it.
Our law enforcement agencies, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, announced today the formation of a national network of law enforcement personnel.
- The Department of Justice announced that the FBI is increasing its manpower that focuses of IP significantly, by creating regional IP squads in major cities around the nation and adding an additional 20 new agents to those squads.
- In addition, the DOJ announced that it will be adding 15 new prosecutors throughout the country to add to its current force of 200 prosecutors specially trained to handle IP enforcement.
- In collaboration, the Department of Homeland Security announced that its multi-agency IPR Center is creating partnerships with 70 federal, state and local law enforcement in 22 cities to collaborate on IP enforcement actions.
And ICE announced the efforts of a major sweep – Operation Spring cleaning - that resulted so far in 45 arrests, the seizure of 701,384 counterfeit items valued at $44 million.
Many other agencies that also work on IP enforcement are joining this united effort. Secretary Clinton and Secretary Locke and Ambassador Ron Kirk are issuing statements highlighting the importance of intellectual property. There are also a numbers of events taking place today where senior government officials are speaking on intellectual property, including Ambassador Miriam Sapiro of USTR at the National Press Club, Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats at the US Chamber of Commerce. I will be speaking at an event with the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers, the head of USTR, Ambassador Ron Kirk, the head of our US Patent and Trademark Office David Kappos and other senior Commerce officials, including Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez. And embassies throughout the world are reaffirming those same sentiments in statements issued by their ambassadors and in a number of educational programs they are holding.
The President has made clear that strong enforcement of America’s intellectual property is a critical part of our plan to promote exports and create jobs. I look forward to continuing our dialogue and utilizing the expertise out there to harness and protect what has always been one of America’s greatest strengths – the diversity of great ideas.
Victoria Espinel is the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator
Jeffrey S. CrowleyApril 26, 2010
11:21 AM EDT
On Friday, May 14, 2010, the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) will hold a community meeting to provide an update and gain additional recommendations for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). For those who cannot attend the meeting in person, ONAP will hold a conference call shortly after the meeting to discuss the strategy.
We know the strategy’s success will rely on the participation of our community partners across the country. That’s why we hosted 14 community discussions across the country, and conducted an online call to action to solicit recommendations via our website. In February, we co-hosted with the Department of Health and Human Services, a community meeting to update the public on our progress and introduce the Federal HIV Interagency Working Group. Earlier this month, we released a report summarizing community recommendations we received for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
During the May 14 meeting and the conference call, ONAP will provide a brief overview of key priorities and identify issues where additional feedback would be helpful. Participants will be able to offer suggestions for the strategy, and we encourage public input on the following topics:
• Involving non-traditional stakeholders in fighting HIV/AIDS
• Expanding the engagement of key partners including businesses and philanthropy, faith communities, and HIV service providers
• Ensuring that implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy is successful
Below are details for both the community meeting and conference call:
ONAP COMMUNITY MEETING
When: Friday, May 14th at 11:00 am (Eastern Time). Guests should arrive by 10:15am to ensure smooth security processing.) The meeting will end by 12:30 pm.
Where: South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House
To RSVP for this event, please submit the following information to email@example.com by Close of Business Monday, May, 10th: Full Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number, Country of Origin, Citizenship. Members of the public will be accommodated on a first come first served basis as meeting room space is limited. We will respond to RSVPs to confirm all reservations to attend the event.
ONAP COMMUNITY CONFERENCE CALL
When: Friday, May 14th at 1:00pm (Eastern Time). The call will end at 2:00 pm (Eastern Time).
Conference Call Phone Number: (800) 288-8961
Media wishing to attend must send the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org by close of business on Monday, May 10: News Outlet, Full Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number, Country of Origin, Citizenship.
Jeffrey S. Crowley is the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy and Senior Advisor on Disability Policy
Secretary Arne DuncanApril 26, 2010
08:44 AM EDT
The White House and Department of Education are kicking off the final phase of the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge – your input.
Starting today at WhiteHouse.gov/Commencement you can view a three minute video and short essay from each of the six high school finalists and rate them from 1-5. President Obama will choose from one of the top three publicly rated schools to visit and deliver the commencement address this spring.
The Commencement Challenge launched on February 19th, when the White House and Department of Education invited public high schools across the country to submit applications to have President Obama speak at their graduation. Over 1,000 high schools submitted applications, demonstrating how they are making significant strides on personal responsibility, academic excellence and college readiness, and how they are working toward the President’s national goal of having the most college graduates by 2020.
The six finalists, Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, KS, Clark Montessori in Cincinnati, OH, Denver School of Science and Technology in Denver, Colorado, Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale, CA, Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, MI and MAST Academy in Miami, FL, were announced on April 9th. Over the last two weeks, the Get Schooled Foundation, which includes founding partners Viacom and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, worked with each school to create short videos highlighting how the school best fulfills the Commencement Challenge’s criteria. Starting today, you can watch the videos, read the essays and submit your ratings. Your top-three rated schools will go to the President and from there he will select one national winner.
The Commencement Challenge highlighted stories of success in schools across the country and I am especially proud of these six finalists for their dedication to producing and promoting academic excellence. Visit WhiteHouse.gov/Commencement anytime between 8 AM EDT on Monday, April 26th through 11:59 PM EDT on Thursday, April 29, and help decide the best high school for the President’s first annual high school commencement address.
Arne Duncan is the Secretary of Education
Jesse LeeApril 25, 2010
08:43 PM EDT
Today the President and the Vice President were in West Virginia attending a memorial service for the miners lost in the tragedy at Upper Big Branch mine. President Obama delivered a eulogy honoring the lives of those who perished and offering his deepest condolences to the loved ones they left behind.
The Vice President offered his sympathies first:
To every member of every family that has been touched by this tragedy, I can say that I know what it’s like to lose a spouse and a child. And I also know when the tributes are done and the flags are once again flying at full-staff, once the miners you see today go back to work, that's when it will be the hardest for you all. When life has moved on around us, but is yet to stir within you, that's when you're most going to need one another.
He concluded his remarks saying, "I can tell you from my own personal experience that eventually the painful heartache you feel will be replaced by the joyful memory of the ones you love so dearly. My prayer for you is that that day will come sooner than later."
The President's remarks in full:
April 25, 2010
10:34 AM EDT
Each year on April 25 the world recognizes World Malaria Day to call attention to the disease that kills nearly one million people each year and, negatively affects educational achievement, worker productivity, and economic development, and to mobilize action to combat it. This year, a success story in development assistance is emerging in Africa, with global donors, national governments and local partners making major strides against malaria.
Across the continent, malaria control programs are scaling up efforts to protect people from this deadly disease and to diagnosis and treat infections with highly effective new drugs. Emerging data are showing significant reductions in malarial illnesses and deaths.
Partnerships with national governments and development partners, including, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Bank Booster Program for Malaria Control, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the UN Envoy for Malaria, which has mobilized thousands of partners with the goal of reaching the universal coverage of long lasting insecticide treated bed-nets by the end of this year, have made these successes possible.
The results in global malaria prevention and control are encouraging, but, as before, this progress is fragile and can be easily reversed. Therefore, as we expand and consolidate these gains, it is vitally important to ensure that our efforts not only sustain momentum, but also continue to adapt to emerging challenges.
Today, I am proud to release the U.S. Government six-year strategy to combat malaria (pdf) globally. By 2014, our goal is to halve malaria illnesses and deaths in 70 percent of at-risk populations, by accelerating and intensifying malaria control efforts in the high burden countries of sub-Saharan Africa. The release of the President’s Malaria Initiative whole-of-government global strategy also outlines contributions to stop the spread of multi-drug resistance in Southeast Asia and the Americas; increase emphasis on strategic integration of malaria prevention and treatment activities with programs for maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, neglected tropical diseases, and tuberculosis, through multilateral collaboration to achieve internationally-accepted goals; and intensify efforts to strengthen health systems.
The U.S. Government’s commitment to fight malaria is a key component of President Obama’s foreign assistance strategy and his Administration’s Global Health Initiative -- a global commitment to invest in healthy and productive lives and maximize the sustainable health impact the United States achieves for every dollar invested.
Over the past 50 years the U.S government has been a major player in coordinated global efforts to beat back major killers like smallpox, polio and measles. With sufficient and sustained international commitment, we continue to achieve sustainable progress for malaria as well.
Rear Adm. (RET) Tim Ziemer is the coordinator of U.S. Global Malaria Programs
April 24, 2010
01:09 PM EDT
Starting on Monday the public will have a chance to weigh in on the six finalists in the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge, but we wanted to give you a sneak peek of the schools today.
Over the past few weeks students from the six finalist schools worked with Get Schooled to create a short three minute video demonstrating how their school best meets the criteria of the Commencement Challenge. We’ll debut those videos and a short essay by each school on Monday morning on WhiteHouse.gov/Commencement. Visitors to the site will have a chance to rate each finalist on a scale of 1-5 and President Obama will choose one of the top three highest rated schools to visit and deliver the commencement address. Be sure to check back Monday morning to weigh in on the finalists!
Lauren Paige is Director of Special Projects for White House Communications.
Jesse LeeApril 24, 2010
06:00 AM EDT
As the auto industry and financial markets begin to stabilize, the President says the government’s emergency interventions are now winding down. He pledges that real reform, particularly on Wall Street, must now begin.
April 23, 2010
05:24 PM EDT
Yesterday, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and hundreds of other onlookers witnessed a major step forward in the Navy’s initiatives to improve our energy independence and safeguard our environment. In honor of Earth Day, the Navy conducted a test flight of the Green Hornet, an F/A-18 Super Hornet multirole fighter jet powered by a biofuel blend. Check out video of the flight on Navy.mil.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus noted the Navy’s commitment to exploring alternative energy solutions:
The alternative fuels test program is a significant milestone in the certification and ultimate operational use of biofuels by the Navy and Marine Corps. It's important to emphasize, especially on Earth Day, the Navy's commitment to reducing dependence on foreign oil as well as safeguarding our environment. Our Navy, alongside industry, the other services and federal agency partners, will continue to be an early adopter of alternative energy sources.
This is the latest sign of progress in the work taking place across the Administration to encourage the development of advanced biofuels. These efforts simultaneously strengthen the economic recovery in rural America and enhance our national security by decreasing our dependence on foreign oil and addressing the challenge of climate change.
Tony Russell is Communication Advisor for the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change.
Dan PfeifferApril 23, 2010
05:15 PM EDT
You may have seen an Associated Press story published this morning about the new report from the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services. The AP took a decidedly breathless tack in describing the report – and of course their story is now popping up in some familiar outlets that always opposed reform.
In reality, the Actuary’s report is little changed from a previous report issued months ago by the same office, and it underscores many of the major strengths of the new health reform legislation, as we noted here.
If you haven’t already seen it, here’s a piece from TIME Magazine on the same report. It offers a lot more context on the report itself, and should help put to rest some of the concerns kicked up by the AP’s coverage.
"Another Critical Health Reform Report," Kate Pickert Friday, April 23, 2010
Health reform proponents got another round of bad headlines today, as the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a report saying that the new law will increase costs. According to an AP story by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, the report is "a worrisome assessment for Democrats," showing that while cost savings could come sometime after 2020, there is little hope of reducing spending in the next ten years. This sounds pretty bad, right?
Well, it is - if you consider it in a vacuum. The truth is the actuary who wrote the report, Richard S. Foster, authored a nearly identical report released January 8, 2010. Some of his figures changed in the interim - he wrote about the Senate bill in January and this week's report includes changes made by the reconciliation package that altered the Senate bill - but overall, Foster's assessment is the same.
The health reform law will increase overall spending in the near future because more people will have insurance and therefore access to medical care. Those who are now going without care because of cost will, post-implementation of reform, seek care, insurance or Medicaid card in hand. Reductions in Medicare reimbursements to providers may cause some to limit the Medicare patients they accept; future cuts to Medicare reimbursements called for in the bill may never happen due to political pressure; the long-term care insurance program created by the law may be unsustainable. This is all important, truthful information and provides a worthy counter-balance to those celebrating the health reform law's less contentious implications. But it's worth stressing what this report is not - surprising new information that was kept under wraps during the health reform debate. For instance, I wrote a story back in December about the potential pitfalls of the long-term care program.
Ezra Klein, who supports health reform, says he thinks "the report makes health-care reform look pretty good." I don't know if I'd go that far, but Klein does point out a few more things to consider when evaluating Foster's report - and news coverage of it:
The Congressional Budget Office's estimates look at the deficit. CMS is looking at total national health expenditures. This often confuses people into thinking that there's conflict between the two sets of numbers when there isn't: CBO says that federal spending is going to go up to pay for the coverage expansion, but that savings and revenue will go up by even more, leading to a net reduction in the federal deficit.
CMS is looking only at the spending side. And here's what it finds: In 2019, implementation of the Affordable Care Act will reduce the ranks of the uninsured by 34 million people and increase nation health expenditures by 1 percent.
And that 1 percent is actually 1 percent and falling: When the legislation is fully implemented in 2016, the spending increase will be 2 percent. But cost controls kick in over those years and bring it down to 1 percent. Assuming the trend holds, the second decade will see national health expenditures fall below what spending would've been if the bill hadn't passed. So that's the bottom line of the report: We're covering 34 million people and come 2019, spending is expected to be one percentage point -- and falling -- above what it would've been if we'd done nothing.
The bottom line is that no one knows for sure if health reform will "bend the curve" of increasing medical spending. The law will experiment with cost controls that economists and health policy experts think could curb spending, but there's little certainty and a lot of politics likely to interfere while reform is being implemented and tweaked. Here's what Karen and I wrote recently about cost controls called for in the law.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
Secretary Janet NapolitanoApril 23, 2010
04:23 PM EDT
Today, I was humbled to join the President at the White House to administer the oath of allegiance to 24 American service members as they became citizens of our nation. These men and women were born in 16 different countries, but they came to the United States sharing a common purpose, and chose to defend their adopted country even before they became citizens.
These men and women are shining examples of the energy, talent, and commitment that immigrants have always brought to our country. I am proud to call each of them fellow Americans.
All of today's new citizens joined or reenlisted in the military after 9/11, and made a commitment to defend America and its ideals even though they could be deployed to a hostile combat zone. But they stepped forward anyway to defend America’s safety and our nation’s ideals. For some of them, this meant serving three tours of duty in Iraq, or celebrating Mother’s Day with their children over videoconference.
While the sacrifice that these men and women have given – even while noncitizens – is extraordinary, their stories are not unique. Since 9/11, 58,000 members of our Armed Forces have become American citizens, oftentimes taking the oath of allegiance while deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Americans are born in every part of the world, yet – like these men and women who became citizens today – they come to America because of their commitment to our ideals and their belief in the American Dream. Many of them risk their lives for their country even before they officially become citizens. The 24 service members who became Americans today remind us that immigrants like them have always been a tremendous strength of our country. This is a strength that we must continue to foster in the 21st century.
Janet Napolitano is Secretary of Homeland Security
April 23, 2010
02:15 PM EDT
In his June 4th, 2009 address in Cairo, President Obama announced that the U.S. would host a Summit on Entrepreneurship to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations, and entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world. The Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship will be held this coming Monday and Tuesday, April 26-27th at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.
Co-hosted by the Departments of State and Commerce, the Summit will bring together more than 275 participants from over 50 countries around the world – from Morocco to Indonesia, Uganda to Kazakhstan, France to India. They include men and women from many different walks of life – business leaders from diverse sectors, educators, community organizers, and social entrepreneurs among others. With attendance by the President and various Cabinet Secretaries and senior U.S. Government officials, this Summit is meant to highlight the importance of entrepreneurship to fostering economic opportunity and community development. And, as the President said in Cairo almost one year ago, education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century, and the Summit will help build relationships that lead to greater opportunity at home and abroad.
We have some amazing participants from all around the world attending the Summit. They’re here to identify ways to advance economic and social entrepreneurship, build networks among stakeholders in entrepreneurship, and provide an opportunity to establish partnerships that advance entrepreneurship. Check out some great coverage of the participants here and get additional information at www.entrepreneurship.gov/summit.
We want you to be able to participate in this discussion, too. At the Summit on Entrepreneurship, GOOD, an independent media platform and community for the globally-conscious people, businesses, and NGOs will interview featured entrepreneurs to capture their perspectives on how to advance entrepreneurship around the world. You can also watch the President’s remarks here on whitehouse.gov/live.
Jenny Urizar is Director for Global Engagement at the National Security Council
Nancy-Ann DeParleApril 23, 2010
01:00 PM EDT
Yesterday, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary released its analysis of the Affordable Care Act. The analysis was requested by Congressional Republicans and is largely similar to previous analyses done by the Actuary. This report examines features in the new law that will help strengthen our health care system and found that under reform, Medicare will be stronger, with premiums decreasing by nearly $200 per person per year by 2018 and that the life of the Medicare Trust fund is extended by an additional 12 years. The Actuary also noted that an additional 34 million Americans will gain health insurance by 2019.
But there are some areas where we disagree with the Actuary, particularly when it comes to the new law and the growth of health care costs. Even the Actuary states that its predictions aren’t set in stone, and notes that the estimates are “subject to much greater uncertainty than normal.” And as a former CMS Administrator, I helped implement the Balanced Budget Act and saw how both the Office of the Actuary and the Congressional Budget Office substantially underestimated the savings that were achieved.
Most importantly, the analysis discounts proposals that other independent experts credit with getting at the root causes of health care cost growth. The Affordable Care Act, for example:
- Creates a health insurance exchange that will demand accountability from insurers and set up a competition choice system that would pressure insurers to lower premiums.
- Establishes ways for Medicare to adopt cutting-edge payment reforms, such as the new Innovation Center that will transform Medicare payment policies, whose benefits will spill over to the private sector.
- Creates Accountable Care Organizations and other ways to promote value – so that beneficiaries are getting better care not just expensive care. The plan gives health care providers incentives to coordinate care to improve the quality of care as well as efficiency.
Health policy experts and economists who have studied the bill have agreed that the new law will help bring down health care costs, and that it utilizes almost all the possible tools to reduce health care costs. In fact, a broad coalition of economists wrote to President Obama and Congress calling for reform, precisely because it will help bring down health care costs.
The analysis also raises questions about whether reform will lead to a shortage of doctors and hospitals for Medicare patients. But contrary to the Actuary’s speculation, there is no evidence that providers would not continue to serve Medicare patients, and the report ignores key provisions that will strengthen our health care workforce. And when the Actuary raised similar concerns months ago, hospital leaders reaffirmed their commitment to serving America’s seniors. Moreover, organizations like the American Hospital Association and American Medical Association supported reform and would have been unlikely to back the law if they believed it would hurt their own viability.
Now, the President and his administration are fully focused on the next challenge: making sure the law is implemented quickly and effectively. As we continue this important work, we will be answering your questions about the new law. Yesterday, leaders from AARP and the Department of Health and Human Services took your questions in a live town hall and we’ll continue to providing important information about the benefits of reform for all Americans.
Nancy-Ann DeParle is Director of the White House Office of Health Reform
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