April 05, 2010
07:11 PM EDT
It’s been a big day of sports and games around the White House today. The President kicked off the annual White House Easter Egg Roll this morning where thousands of visiting children pushed eggs down the South Lawn. He then headed across town to Nationals Park where he threw out the ceremonial first pitch on the Nats’ Opening Day. That pitch marked the 100th anniversary of Presidential first pitches on Opening Day of baseball season, a tradition inaugurated by William Howard Taft on April 14, 1910.
And you better believe that the President will be watching tonight’s NCAA men’s basketball championship. In the run-up to the Final Four, he took on former NBA player and CBS Sports college basketball commentator Clark Kellogg in a game of HORSE -- rather, POTUS -- at the White House. Watch how he fared against the pro:
UPDATE: New photo of the first pitch:
Jesse LeeApril 05, 2010
03:16 PM EDT
On Friday we got some encouraging news on the economy, learning that 162,000 jobs were created in March – “the most positive jobs report we have had in three years,” as CEA Chair Christina Romer pointed out. But as the President said later: “At the same time, it’s important to emphasize: while we have come a long way, we still have a ways to go.”
That’s why the President and his Administration have maintained, and will continue to maintain, job creation as our number one priority. The jobs forum at the White House a few months ago brought together some of America’s leading CEOs, small business owners, labor leaders, and thinkers to generate ideas to put Americans back to work and set the stage for a series of new initiatives to build upon the progress made by the Recovery Act. And in the time since, we have seen some of those ideas come to fruition in measures like the HIRE Act, a major jobs bill signed by the President a couple weeks ago that will be helping to boost the economy in the months to come.
At the jobs forum, the President also made clear that he would be looking for ideas and insights from outside Washington:
“And I want to continue this conversation outside of Washington, which is why I'll be meeting with some of the small business owners that you saw in the video in Allentown, Pennsylvania, tomorrow, to get their ideas. It's also why we've asked state and local officials and community organizations to hold their own jobs forums over the next week or so and to report back with the ideas and recommendations that result.”
In the months that followed, hundreds of citizens, mayors, and other local officials came together with their neighbors and community leaders to hold Community Jobs Forums in every corner of the country. Jared Bernstein, Chief Economist for the Vice President, helped us sort through all the feedback we got from those forums to compile a memo to the President which we’ll be submitting to the President soon.
There were a lot of new and innovative ideas that the White House will be keeping in mind as we continue work on the economy, and you can see some of the most interesting ones in the memo. But the honest truth is that the most striking thing about the feedback was how much demand there was for the jobs programs that were part of the HIRE Act and were already in development here.
Here’s what President Obama said at the signing of the HIRE Act, alongside some representative quotes from folks who reported back on their forums – we hope that we, and they, are right that this will help our economy keep getting back on the right track.
President Obama: “What we can do is help promote a strong, dynamic private sector – the true engine of job-creation in this country.”
- Alvaro Bermudez from CA asked for the government to “help small businesses – historically, small businesses have gotten us out of trouble economically.”
President Obama: “First, we’ll forgive payroll taxes for businesses that hire someone who’s been out of work for at least two months – a tax benefit that will apply to unemployed workers hired between last month and the end of this year.”
- Kenneth from Tennessee and Linda from Arizona wrote us aboutextending tax credits for local, small businesses that take on new hires.
- Janice in Illinois: “The President has to focus providing incentives to businesses (tax or otherwise) that would encourage them to begin hiring again.”
President Obama: “By the way, I’d also note that part of what health insurance reform would do is provide tax credits to over 4 million small businesses so they don’t have to choose between hiring workers and offering coverage.”
Laura, a Ph.D. from Oklahoma: Offer “financial support for health coverage for employees, tax incentives to hire and maintain new hires, incentives for additional training and re-training.”
President Obama: “Second, this jobs bill encourages smaller businesses to grow and hire by permitting them to write off investments they make in equipment this year. These kinds of expenses typically take years to depreciate, but under this law, businesses will be able to invest up to $250,000 – in say, factory equipment – and write it off right away.”
- Susan in New York told us government should provide tax relief to “allow small business to expense new equipment in the year purchased.”
- Tom, Ohio: “Permit small businesses to expense capital equipment purchases.”
- Alvaro, CA : “We need more tax help in the forms of equipment, tools, and systems.”
President Obama: “Third, we’ll reform municipal bonds to encourage job-creation by expanding investment in schools and clean energy projects.”
- Mayor Jim Clarke, CA: “Clean energy and water technology is our strength. People are coming to invest here in those markets and have thousands of acres under development right now in that and creating jobs.”
- Timothy, WA: “Energy will become a well defined industry cluster affecting almost every sector of our economy.”
- Adama, MD: “Innovative small business services are opportunities for growth and are poised to rebound. Clean energy, green infrastructure and non-profits could be important jobs sources in/of the future.”
- Tim, MD: “Education fuels growth.”
President Obama: “Finally,this jobs bill will maintain crucial investments in our roads and bridges as we head into the spring and summer months, when construction jobs are picking up.”
- Bill: “Continue and expand government construction jobs to put more people to work. The Interstate 80 construction project has put many out of work construction workers back to work in our state.”
- Jim in Missouri called for “new Construction Projects and Remodel Projects in the Federal and State level, and Highway and road Construction.”
- Ralph in NC: “Invest federal money in local and interstate transportation systems that will take people to and from work and to visit other states... Jobs will be created to get the light rail and bus system ready as well as to operate and maintain it.”
- Margaret in California said we should focus on “Security of basic infrastructure- federal funding allocated through the state, county and local communities.”
Kori SchulmanApril 04, 2010
10:02 AM EDT
The White House recently announced details on the 2010 Easter Egg Roll – an event that will bring 30,000 people from all 50 states and DC to the White House. But you don’t have to be on the South Lawn to enjoy Monday’s festivities – we’ll be livestreaming all day on WhiteHouse.gov.This year’s theme is Ready, Set, Go!, following the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative – a national effort to combat childhood obesity. So in addition to the egg roll classics, there will be new activities like sports, gardening and dancing to promote healthy and active living.The Rock ‘n’ Egg Roll Stage will feature live music with performances by Sara Bareilles, Justin Bieber, the cast of TV show Glee, Yo Gabba Gabba, Sesame Street and more. J.K. Rowling, Reese Witherspoon, Apolo Ohno, Mariska Hargitay, Dylan and Cole Sprouse, Elmo and Maria of Sesame Street and Betty DeGeneres will read on the Storytime Stage.Update: The Easter Egg Roll livestream schedule for Monday, April 5, 2010 has been added below. Watch the events live on WhiteHouse.gov/live
Rock 'n' Egg Roll Stage:
- The President and First Lady Speak at the 2010 Easter Egg Roll: 10:45 AM EDT
Story Time Stage:
- Little Beat Music Performs: 7:45 AM EDT
- Cast of Glee Performs: 8:35 AM EDT, 11:10 AM EDT
- Sara Bareilles Performs: 9:25 AM EDT, 1:25 PM EDT
- Yo Gabba Gabba Performs: 10:00 AM EDT, 12:00 PM EDT
- Justin Bieber Performs: 12:35 PM EDT, 2:35 PM EDT
- Sesame Street Performs: 2:00 PM EDT, 4:00 PM EDT
- Billy Jonas Performs: 3:25 PM EDT, 4:35 PM EDT, 5:25 PM EDT
- Elmo and Maria Read: 8:00 AM EDT
- Shellie Pfohl Reads: 8:30 AM EDT
- Marian Robinson Reads: 9:00 AM EDT, 12:30 PM EDT
- Reese Witherspoon Reads: 9:30 AM EDT, 10:00 AM EDT
- Special Guests Read: 11:10 AM EDT, 4:00 PM EDT
- Betty DeGeneres Reads: 11:30 AM EDT, 1:00 PM EDT
- Mariska Hargitay Reads: 12:00 PM EDT
- JK Rowling Reads: 1:30 PM EDT, 2:00 PM EDT
- Cole Sprouse Reads: 2:30 PM EDT
- Apolo Ohno Reads: 3:00 PM EDT, 4:30 PM EDT
- Dylan Sprouse Reads: 3:30 PM EDT
- DJ Lance Reads: 5:00 PM EDT
- Art Smith Reads: 5:30 PM EDT
April 02, 2010
05:08 PM EDT
This week, the Vice President took his commitment to ending violence against women to Peoria, Illinois where he spoke at the Center for the Prevention of Abuse’s Partners in Peace awards.
The 1100 member audience was mesmerized by the Vice President’s story about his early efforts to pass the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The first VAWA hearing was held on June 20, 1990, and over the next four years then-Senator Biden held moving hearings on domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.
“I found out that the problem was much deeper than I imagined,” Vice President Biden said, describing three obstacles that had to be overcome: the notion that domestic violence is a family matter; a culture that blames the victim; and the belief that if the woman didn’t report it, it must not have happened.
The Violence Against Women Act changed all that - sending resources to communities to improve the criminal justice response to abuse, creating tougher penalties for federal crimes, and bringing communities together to combat abuse. Since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, domestic violence has dropped by 58%.
Despite the progress being made in reducing domestic violence across the country, the Vice President noted that there are still 2 million injuries and 1400 deaths to women each year. During the Vice President’s remarks on Wednesday, he said that the White House is stepping up its efforts in this arena, announcing an unprecedented $730 million in the President’s proposed FY2011 budget to shore up services, help victims find housing and legal assistance, and make sure every call for help is answered.
The Vice President pledged to continue his commitment to change attitudes and to “free women from the oppressive cultural norm that causes them in any way to feel they are responsible for or contributed to their own abuse.”
As one audience member said after the speech, the Vice President was “such a fitting representative for this issue."
Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women
Jesse LeeApril 02, 2010
03:32 PM EDT
The President travelled to Charlotte, North Carolina today, where he visited Celgard, Inc., a manufacturing company that is benefiting from the Recovery Act investments towards clean energy. Before he went down, we had a chance to get to know this company at the frontier of clean energy economy -- and the frontier of recovery -- here's what we saw:
There, the President delivered remarks about the current state of the economy and job growth, noting that the economy created 162,000 new jobs created in March, instead of losing them: “the best news we’ve seen on the job front in more than two years.”
He warned that while the economy appears to be picking up, there is still a lot of work to be done:
Economic statistics don’t do justice to the pain and anxiety that results from unemployment. Lasting unemployment takes a toll on families, takes a toll on marriages, takes a toll on children. It saps the vitality of communities, especially in places that have seen factories and other anchoring businesses shut their doors. And being unable to find work -- being able to provide for your family -- that doesn’t just affect your economic security, that affects your heart and your soul. It beats you up. It’s hard.
So we have to be mindful that today’s job numbers, while welcome, leaves us with a lot more work to do. It will take time to achieve the strong and sustained job growth that we need.
The President said that the private sector is the “true engine of job growth in this country,” and that while the government "can’t reverse the toll of this recession overnight", it can help to spur job growth by providing incentives for companies to begin hiring again. The President recently signed the HIRE Act, a jobs bill that provides tax cuts for businesses that hire new employees, and makes investments in clean energy and schools to encourage job creation. He talked about the Recovery Act, which made significant investments in infrastructure, helping to create private sector jobs.
He explained that Celgard, Inc. received a $50 million grant through the Recovery Act to expand the facility and lead in the clean energy sector, and that this story is being repeated all over the country:
So here’s the bottom line: This investment is expected to create nearly 300 jobs for this company, more than a thousand jobs for your contractors and suppliers -- and these are all jobs helping America build the batteries that will power cleaner and more efficient cars and trucks. And through investments like this one across the country, we’re already seeing an incredible transformation. Here’s an interesting statistic: Before the Recovery Act, before I took office, we had the capacity to make less than 2 percent of the world’s lithium ion batteries -- less than 2 percent. In the next five years, on the trajectory that we’re now on, we’re going to be able to make 40 percent of the advanced batteries right here in the United States of America. Right here.
So the next time somebody asks you, when you’re at the grocery store, well, what did this Recovery Act do? You can tell them, one of the things it helped do is to expand and catalyze an entire new industry, where the United States of America can gain enormous market share across the globe. And that’s the kind of strategy we need -- helping the private sector thrive in entirely new industries, the industries of the future. It’s a strategy that will not only create jobs in the near term, but also sustained growth and opportunity in the long run.
Sam KassApril 02, 2010
03:30 PM EDT
On a gorgeous Spring day on the South Lawn of the White House, 45 students from Bancroft Elementary and Hollin Meadows Academy joined the First Lady for the annual Spring planting of the White House Kitchen Garden.
Students from Bancroft have been helping the First Lady in her garden since the ground-breaking last year, and this new class of fifth graders proved to be just as talented in the garden as their former schoolmates. The kids from Hollin Meadows had impressed the First Lady with their amazing school garden when she had visited their school last year, so she invited them to come and lend their expertise.
Fellow gardeners included Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and his wife Christy, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, National Gardening Association President Michael Metallo, Susan Sher, the First Lady’s chief of staff, Melody Barnes and Heather Higginbottom from the Domestic Policy Council, and White House Chefs Cris Comerford and Bill Yosses.
After cheers for broccoli, carrots, spinach, lettuce and peas, the First Lady made the call to plant! With an extra 400 sq ft of new land, we had a little more work to do than last year, but we also have an incredible array of vegetables including: broccoli, rhubarb, carrots, spinach, cauliflower, lettuce, peas, collard greens, chard and kale, cabbage, radishes, herbs and more.
The White House Kitchen Garden is a four-season garden and last year we harvested over 1,000 lbs of food. More important than the harvest though is the national conversation that has been started about the need for all of us to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and ensuring that everyone has access to fresh produce in their neighborhoods – key components of the the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative which is an effort to tackle the problem of childhood obesity in this country.
With Let’s Move! the First Lady is calling on everyone to come together to provide parents the information they need to make healthy choices for their families, to create healthier school environments, particularly school meals, to make sure that kids get 60 minutes of active play a day, and to make sure that everyone has access to fruits and vegetables in their communities. The garden is a beautiful and tangible piece of this national conversation.
Like the seeds and sprouts we just planted, Let’s Move! will continue to grow over the coming months. We will be sure to keep you up to date on how the First Lady’s garden, and Let’s Move! are growing. And in the mean time, Let’s Move!
Sam Kass is the White House Assistant Chef and the Food Initiative Coordinator
Macon PhillipsApril 02, 2010
03:09 PM EDT
As someone who grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, it was a real treat when the Alabama Crimson Tide -- the current BCS National Football Champions -- came to the White House. But they did a lot more than meet with President Obama and give him a jersey (#1) and helmet (#13).
The Tide continued to roll with some much appreciated public service. As the President summed it up:
... the team met with a group of kids from one of D.C.'s roughest neighborhoods, and helped teach them about the importance of staying in school and making healthy choices. That's how champions act -– in football and in life. As Coach Bryant once said, "I think the most important thing of all for any team is a winning attitude." I think this team would make him proud, because they’ve got that winning attitude.
While they were at the White House, Alabama's head coach, Nick Saban, and Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram took some time to share their thoughts about public service. Check them out in this video and then head over to Serve.gov to find out how you can make a difference in your community.
April 02, 2010
01:50 PM EDT
The Urban Team just returned from Brazil where we attended the UN-Habitat World Urban Forum V. This year's theme was The Right to the City: Bridging the Urban Divide. With over half of the world's population living in cities, this global conversation on urban development commanded attention.
The U.S. Delegation, led by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, included a wide breadth of senior Administration leadership. The White House Office of Urban Affairs' participation was particularly well received as a symbol of President Obama's commitment to addressing the challenges and opportunities of an urbanized reality.
The event, which attracted over 9,000 people and leaders from over 160 countries, allowed for a collective examination of the question, “How do we use this ‘urban-growth moment' to plan for future generations and improve the quality of urban living today?” Each participant's answer was informed by his or her particular world urban view. Several consistent themes emerged, including: the need for comprehensive planning and standards for sustainable development, mobility as a tool of social and economic opportunity, the need for governments to consciously develop policies that promote inclusion, collaboration across levels of government, private and non-profit sectors, and civic society; and the need for industry and land use to adapt to economic, environmental and demographic shifts.
Throughout the conference, participants explored ways to apply climate change innovations and energy efficiency tools to the increased demand for housing and demands on infrastructure resulting from urbanization. During a webcast at the U.S. exhibition booth, Director Adolfo Carrion explained, “We are working to ensure that investments in infrastructure and land use are responsible and supportive of our future generations.”
HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims highlighted the Sustainable Communities Partnership among HUD, DOT, and EPA as a cross-cutting national approach to investing in sustainability during a dialogue on the Energy and Climate Change Partnership for the Americas. Indeed, in a bilateral meeting, the Secretary of Urban Development for Mexico expressed interest in our Sustainable Communities Partnership principles because her office is implementing similar guidelines for "Integrated Sustainable Urban Development."
The Forum also addressed the ways in which former industrial cities are grappling with economic transition, land use, and the challenges of attracting new industries. Rio de Janeiro, itself a former textile and manufacturing town, is developing strategic plans for use of vacant factory space while struggling to resolve housing challenges, and preserve the culture of the city. Professor Marco Ponti, of the Politecnico in Milan, Italy, explained that many “rusty” European cities, as he referred to them, are experiencing a concentration of services and high housing prices in the urban core, which has displaced low-income residents to the outskirts of the city. He urged leaders in European cities to create more affordable housing, encourage greater density, and give careful consideration to the unintended consequences of transit plans that may further marginalize the working poor.
Urban Policy Director Derek Douglas shared the experience of American cities in economic transition. For example, Youngstown, Ohio recently developed a citywide land use plan in response to decades of industrial decline and an alarming vacant property rate. "[The White House Office of] Urban Affairs and the Domestic Policy Council are working very closely with agencies across the Federal Government to develop integrated interventions and policies that will support capacity building, long-term strategic planning, and provide technical assistance to cities suffering from economic distress," Douglas said.
The World Urban Forum provided six days of in-depth, quality exchanges on a myriad of issues that will serve to inform the work of the Obama Administration and the work of other leaders across the globe. It demonstrated that stakeholders worldwide are responding to the phenomenon of increased urbanization with open minds, a desire to share best practices, and a commitment to developing the best places possible in an increasingly urban world.
Alaina C. Beverly is Associate Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs
Heather ZichalApril 02, 2010
01:20 PM EDT
Today, President Obama visited workers at Charlotte, North Carolina-based Celgard, Inc. and delivered remarks on jobs and the economy. Celgard is a global leader in the development and production of components for state-of-the-art batteries - batteries that will help fuel a clean energy economy and create jobs. (Watch a personal testimonial by Celgard’s workers on the role the Recovery Act played in their employment).
It is American innovative companies like this that are developing the technologies and industries that will power the global economy in the 21st Century. With the help of a $50 million American Recovery and Reinvest Act grant under the Department of Energy’s Electric Drive Vehicle Battery and Component Manufacturing Initiative, Celgard is not only adding nearly 300 jobs – and more than a thousand jobs for contractors and suppliers – but it is also helping America build the batteries that will power cleaner and more efficient cars and trucks. Before the Recovery Act, we had the capacity to make less than 2 percent of the world’s lithium ion batteries. In the next 5 years, we’ll be able to make 40 percent of these advanced batteries right here in the United States, so we are not just talking about creating jobs in the near-term, but also sustained growth and opportunity in the long run.
Celgard is just one of dozens of electric drive vehicle battery and component manufacturers benefiting from Recovery Act investments and contributing to the reduction in the use of oil and greenhouse gas emissions. Advanced batteries, capable of meeting standards for durability, performance, and weight, are a key technology for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles capable of getting up to 100 miles per gallon.
As the President said in his energy security remarks on Wednesday, the Administration’s efforts are all part of a comprehensive energy plan. A plan that reduces dependence on foreign oil, increases domestic energy production, improves energy efficiency…all while developing the new technologies and industries that will drive the global clean energy economy and create millions of new jobs here in America.
Heather Zichal is Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change
Secretary Ray LaHoodApril 02, 2010
12:45 PM EDT
Today I was proud to join President Obama and my fellow Cabinet members around the country in highlighting the tremendous role the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act continues to play in putting Americans back to work.
This morning we learned that the American economy created 162,000 jobs last month and that the revised estimates for January now put average job growth for the first quarter of 2010 at 54,000 per month.
This is the most positive jobs report in three years. And it is a far cry from the same quarter in 2009, when President Obama had just taken office and the economy was losing 753,000 jobs each month.
To see firsthand the positive effects of the Recovery Act across the country, I visited the Amtrak Maintenance Facility in Beech Grove, Indiana, this morning. I toured the passenger car and locomotive shops and met many of Beech Grove's dedicated workers.
One of those workers is Mike Fischer, a machinist in the Beech Grove facility whom President Obama first met in April 2008. Mike had worked for Amtrak for 22 years, but was about to lose his job last year as the Beech Grove facility planned to lay off 77 workers. He was faced with the decision to either move to Chicago or Wilmington, Delaware, or lose his job altogether.
Fortunately for Mike, the Recovery Act intervened. The Beech Grove facility secured $32 million to restore 21 passenger cars and 15 locomotives. This infusion not only helped save the jobs of Mike and his coworkers; it also created over 100 new jobs right in Beech Grove.
This money has helped the workers of the Beech Grove facility support their families. It has helped Beech Grove get back on its feet. And this success has been repeated around the country as Amtrak has added over 200 new jobs.
I really enjoyed touring the car shops where six Amtrak passenger cars have already been rehabilitated--with more in the works--and locomotive shops where the first of the locomotives was refurbished. This work adds important capacity to the Amtrak passenger rail system and provides riding comfort to Amtrak's passengers.
The story of Beech Grove is just one of many I could tell here. People are going back to work. Towns like Beech Grove across the country are waking up as their residents' new paychecks allow them to buy the groceries they need or the school clothes for their kids they've put off for so long.
But we are not done yet. President Obama and I will not rest until every American who wants a job can find one.
It won't be easy, but as our economy continues to recover, the optimism and hard work of the American people I meet--in Beech Grove and all across the country--continues to inspire me.
Ray LaHood is Secretary of Transportation
April 02, 2010
12:45 PM EDT
I was honored to address over 700 national leaders in the food safety field last week at “Advancements in Food Safety Education: Trends, Tools and Technologies,” a conference co-hosted by USDA.
This was our largest-ever gathering for this event, drawing an audience of educators, scientists, public health officials, industry leaders, consumer representatives and others in the food safety field.
President Obama made it clear early in his presidency that food safety is among his highest priorities. Less than 60 days after taking office, the President established the Food Safety Working Group to advise him on how to upgrade the U.S. food safety system.
One goal of the group is to communicate critical food safety messages to food preparers. For example, avoiding cross contamination and staying home from work when you have a stomach virus. Educators and health professionals play a critical role in delivering these messages. Millions of foodborne illnesses are caused by contamination during food preperation, thus training food handlers to prepare food safely is a key part of the President’s goal.
April 02, 2010
10:12 AM EDT
Again over the last few days, we've been reminded that opponents of reform will say and do anything, no matter how outrageous the charge, to cast doubt on health reform legislation that will reduce costs for American families and small businesses, expand coverage to millions of Americans and end the worst practices of insurance companies.
In the latest example from an ever-growing list of willful distortions, the American people are being warned that because of health care reform, the federal government will hire over 16,000 new IRS agents to enforce the new law. Indeed, in a March 22 interview with Fox Business News, Rep. Ron Paul declared that the bill would mean “16,500 armed bureaucrats.” This is a thoroughly debunked charge that has absolutely no basis in reality. In fact, earlier this week the widely-respected FactCheck.org looked into this charge and concluded that it was a “wildly inaccurate…partisan assertion” that is “based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation.” FactCheck concluded: the “claim of 16,500 new agents simply lacks any foundation in fact.”
What makes this whole attempt at fear mongering even more ridiculous is that this legislation represents the largest middle class tax cut for health care in our nation’s history. The major task of IRS employees that will work on implementing this legislation will be to inform the American people of the different aspects of reform that they stand to benefit from and to make sure the historic health care tax relief is administered smoothly and efficiently. Indeed their first task is to inform millions of small business owners that they are eligible this year for tax credits that will cover up to 35 percent of their premium contributions for their employees and to start planning for delivering $400 billion in affordability tax credits the IRS will work with the health exchanges to deliver starting in 2014.
Getting the word out about these tax credits and delivering them smoothly and accurately will require relatively modest investments in technology and staff – even if that is less interesting to some than their fantasies about 16,000 gun-toting bureaucrats.
What’s clear from all of this is that there are people who refuse to have a debate on the merits of health care reform. Maybe that’s because these ardent defenders of the status quo are worried about the consequences of stopping at nothing to deny the American people quality and affordable health insurance.
Linda Douglass is with the White House Office of Health Reform
Christina RomerApril 02, 2010
09:39 AM EDT
Today’s employment report shows continued signs of gradual labor market healing. Payroll employment rose significantly in March, and the unemployment rate remained constant despite a substantial increase in the labor force.
Payroll employment increased 162,000. Even after adjusting for the 48,000 temporary Census workers hired and a rebound effect from the February snowstorms, this number suggests an increase in underlying payroll employment. Moreover, revised estimates now show a small job gain in January and a smaller job loss in February than previously reported. As a result, for the first quarter of 2010 as a whole, job growth averaged 54,000 per month. This is a dramatic change from the first quarter of 2009, when average job loss was 753,000 per month.
The unemployment rate remained constant at 9.7 percent. This stability reflects roughly proportional rises in the labor force and employment, as measured by the household survey. This pattern of rising labor force and household employment has been repeated in each of the last three months. Indeed, according to the household survey, the labor force has increased by 1.1 million since December 2009 and employment has increased by 1.4 million.*
At the same time that we welcome today’s encouraging labor market news, it is obvious that the American labor market remains severely distressed. More than eight million Americans have lost their jobs since the start of the recession in December 2007. It will take sustained, robust employment growth to bring the unemployment rate down. Further targeted actions to spur private sector job creation are critically needed to ensure a more rapid, widespread recovery.
While this is the most positive jobs report we have had in three years, there will likely be bumps in the road ahead. The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative. It is essential that we continue our efforts to move in the right direction and generate steady, strong job gains.
Christina Romer is Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers
* The reported numbers are adjusted to remove the impact of revised population controls that the Bureau of Labor Statistics introduced in January 2010. Without this adjustment the labor force increased by 851,000 and employment increased by 1.11 million.
Arun ChaudharyApril 02, 2010
05:46 AM EDT
With everything that President Obama does in a given week, it can be easy to miss important news and interesting events. “West Wing Week” sums up the past seven days at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or wherever the President may travel. It features highlights from last week’s events plus behind-the-scenes footage of life in the White House. Alongside the "West Wing Week," we will provide links to more in-depth coverage and full videos of the mentioned events.Links for content referred to in this video
Friday, March 26th
Saturday and Sunday, March 27th-28th
Monday, March 29th
Tuesday, March 30th
- Signing of the Healthcare and Education Reconciliation Act and French President
- Nicolas Sarkozy visits the White House (video only)
Wednesday March 31st
- The Green Hornet
- The First Lady plants her vegetable garden with help from DC elementary school students (video only)
- The Recovery Act Tax Credit Savings Tool
Thursday, April 1st
Arun Chaudhary is the official White House videographer
April 02, 2010
05:30 AM EDT
Have you ever tried to open a web link on a mobile device and the page looked jumbled or just hard to read? It can be pretty annoying, particularly in this day and age when more people are getting their info on the go. So here at the White House, we're addressing this problem with a new feature that optimizes WhiteHouse.gov for your mobile device, such as a BlackBerry, Palm Pre or really anything with a mobile browser. The best part is that it is pretty easy to try out, because it works automatically: just visit WhiteHouse.gov from your mobile device. (Of course, don't forget that we recently launched the White House App for iPhone and iPod Touch).
The Mobile.WhiteHouse.gov program is just the latest in our effort to make our content available on a broad number of platforms as technology changes how--and where--people get their information. And we'll continue look for new opportunities to develop applications for even more mobile platforms.
Oh, and one more thing.
April 01, 2010
08:02 PM EDT
For this week's episode of Recovery Act in action, I spoke to a business owner who started out skeptical about the benefits of the Recovery Act.In fact, he was so concerned that the Act wouldn't help the economy, he worried that the Recovery Act was "mortgaging the future."
Fast forward to the present, where the Recovery Act has created a wave of new demand for the energy efficient windows his company makes.Based on that demand, his sales have picked up such that he's added 100 new workers, in occupations ranging from line workers to managers.
"He" is Alan Levin, owner and CEO of Northeast Building Products, a Philadelphia-based manufacturer of energy-efficient windows.When the Recovery Act was passed last February, he figured it was another government program that was going to bypass the little guy.A small business like his would never see any of the benefits.
"I was skeptical," Alan told me when I reached him this week."These numbers people were throwing around—hundreds of billions of dollars—they're unfathomable. We see ourselves as just a little mom and pop operation and I never imagined a program like this would reach down and help the way it has."
Yet just a few months after the Act went into effect, he was getting calls for new orders generated by two different measures in the Recovery Act.
One is a grant program for cities and states to do energy-efficient retrofits of public housing.The other is a program that gives homeowners a tax credit for putting in high-efficiency windows and making other energy-saving improvements to their own homes.
That tax credit can put up to $1,500 straight into a homeowner's pocket, not to mention the savings on energy bills from the windows themselves.
The way Alan tells the story, the credit has had a dramatic impact on his industry. "It used to be the contractors wanted to know, ‘What's your cheapest window?' Now they're asking, ‘What's the most energy efficient window at the best price? They're looking at value in a way they never have before."
In other words, not only are these programs providing jobs for Alan's new hires and income for their families, they're "greening" the market while lowering energy bills for his customers.For middle-class families feeling squeezed, those lower bills provide some much-needed relief to their budgets.
In fact, this tax credit is still available, so it's not too late to take advantage of it yourself (check out this new tool to learn about this and other Recovery Act tax benefits).You can get up to $1,500 to make your home more energy efficient, save yourself some money by cutting down on your energy bills, and maybe even put someone back to work at a business like Alan's.
Jared Bernstein is Chief Economic Advisor to the Vice President
April 01, 2010
07:15 PM EDT
The city of Charlotte, North Carolina will play host to President Obama tomorrow as he drops by a fascinating company called Celgard. The high tech company produces a component for lithium-ion batteries—polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), or trilayer PP/PE/PP electrolytic membranes if you really want to know. These batteries can be found in products ranging from cell phones to electric drive vehicles. Celgard recently won $49.2 million in Recovery Act grants to expand its capacity, growth that will create between 200 and 300 new jobs in North Carolina and provide more than 1,000 jobs among Celgard's contractors and suppliers. These are real jobs held by real people--meet a few of them in this new video:
After touring Celgard’s facility, President Obama will host a discussion with its employees. Watch it live at whitehouse.gov/live at 11:55am ET.
Jesse LeeApril 01, 2010
06:47 PM EDT
Today, President Obama spoke to an audience in Maine to discuss how health reform will benefit individuals, families, and small business owners, making good on the promise he made during his last visit “that our government would once again be responsive to the needs and aspirations of working families, of America’s middle class.”
He talked about the misinformation that has been spread by opponents of the bill, including House Minority Leader John Boehner’s labeling of health reform as “Armageddon.” The President said:
After I signed the bill, I looked around. I looked up at the sky to see if asteroids were coming. I looked at the ground to see if cracks had opened up in the earth. You know what, it turned out it was a pretty nice day. Birds were still chirping. Folks were strolling down the street. Nobody had lost their doctor. Nobody had pulled the plug on Granny. Nobody was being dragged away to be forced into some government-run health care plan.
The President also referred to the polls and headlines stating that the nation is still divided on health care reform, replying, “It’s only been a week. Can you imagine if some of these reporters were working on a farm? You planted some seeds, and they came out the next day, and they looked, and nothing’s happened!”
He said that several major components of health reform will not be available until 2014, but that there’s plenty going into effect this year – benefits for small businesses being a good example. The President explained that Bill Milliken, a small business owner in Portland, can now qualify for tax credits that make it easier for him to provide his employees with health insurance.
Starting now, small business owners like Bill will have the security of knowing that they can qualify for a tax credit that covers up to 35 percent, over a third of what they pay for their employees’ health insurance. And starting now -starting now, small business owners that provide health care for their workers can sit down at the end of the week, they can look at their expenses, and they can begin calculating how much money they’re going to save. And for small business owners who don’t currently provide health insurance, they’re going to be able to factor in this new benefit when they’re deciding to do so.
Now, it won’t solve all our problems, but it means that employees that work for Bill have a better chance of keeping their health care or getting health care. And if they’re already getting health care, it means Bill has got some extra money. That means he might hire that extra worker, right?
So this health care tax credit is pro-jobs, it’s pro-business, and it starts this year.
Terrell McSweenyApril 01, 2010
05:59 PM EDT
Yesterday, as noted by Valerie Jarrett in her post this afternoon, the White House hosted a first-of-its-kind forum on workplace flexibility. Businesses (large and small), employees, advocates, labor leaders and experts spent the afternoon discussing why workplace flexibility matters – and trading information about options that are working in the workplace, such as telecommuting, flextime, job sharing, helping with childcare and eldercare, and predictable scheduling.
I finished the day with three strong impressions: a lot has been tried, tested and learned about workplace flexibility in the last decade; there is a business case for flexibility and basic protections that allow workers to balance work and caregiving responsibilities; and this issue matters for everyone (men and women, managers and workers, people with kids and without, hourly workers and salaried workers).
Yesterday’s forum was testament to the evolution in thinking and policy development around flexibility that has occurred in the last decade. First, it was pretty extraordinary to have the First Lady and President host a discussion on workplace flexibility at the White House. But beyond that, there was also recognition by all participants that this is not a niche “mommy” issue or even just an issue for parents. As the President noted yesterday, flexibility affects the strength of our economy, the well-being of communities and the health of families.
One of the things that was most compelling about the discussion yesterday was the evidence companies brought to it. In one breakout session, Dick Clark of JetBlue noted that as a relatively new company JetBlue had benefited from the work of many forum attendees, like Johnson & Johnson, that pioneered flexibility policies. They applied what they learned, creating a highly flexible environment in their reservation center. The result? High employee productivity and engagement, and - critically important for their business – better customer service.
This example, and the dozens like it brought to the discussion, underscore the business case for flexibility. I was struck by the level of consensus among the employers at the table that flexibility policies increase engagement, productivity, and retention. The excellent Council of Economic Advisors report released yesterday also found that companies with flexible work arrangements can actually have lower turnover and absenteeism, higher productivity and healthier workers.
But workplace flexibility also makes sense for the economic security of the middle class – as the Middle Class Task Force has laid out in various reports. More than ever families need both parents to work in order to maintain a middle class lifestyle. This is especially true after a decade in which income growth for the middle class has been flat. Two-thirds of American families with children are headed by two working parents or a single working parent. Women are in the workforce in virtually equal numbers as men. Of course, not everyone has children. But as a friend recently pointed out, almost all of us have parents. Nearly one-fifth of employed people in 2009 were caregivers who provided care for a person over the age of 50. Put simply, the new normal for American families and workers is juggling family caregiving, lifelong learning and work. In his remarks yesterday, the President acknowledged this - and reiterated the call for the enactment of two Middle Class Task Force proposals that will help improve middle class family economic security: increasing the Child and Dependent Care Tax credit for middle class families and providing more support for people caring for elderly family members or a person with a disability.
These proposals and workplace flexibility make sense for all workers -not just parents and families. If you don’t have kids, you might have parents you need to care for, an evening class to attend or a community activity that you care about. As the President said, “workplace flexibility isn’t just a women’s issue… it reflects our priorities as a society.”
Terrell McSweeny is Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President
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