May 26, 2010
06:14 PM EDT
As part of the Obama administration’s work to turn the economy around and create jobs, one of the most important roles we have at USDA is to act as a catalyst for business development in rural America. Small businesses are the economic engine that drives our economy. And every year, USDA supports thousands of small businesses. Just this year we have assisted a sawmill in Northeast Wisconsin that was provided loan funds to buy new equipment and create 23 new jobs, and a Pennsylvania potato products maker that received loan funds to build a new plant employing 40 workers.
USDA plays a major role in ensuring good access to credit in rural America. So far this fiscal year, using funds provided by Congress through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) and separate funding appropriated to the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program, we have provided $2 billion dollars in investments to stimulate business development across the nation. These business loan guarantees are provided to lending institutions as they make loans to rural business owners.
Earlier today I joined USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager, Business Programs Administrator Judith Canales, Ginger Lew, Senior Counselor, National Economic Council, and 35 lenders from across the country at a day-long meeting at USDA to discuss ways to provide even more support to American businesses in their efforts to create good jobs. These lenders, and many more like them, worked with us this year to make it possible for USDA to commit all of the Business and Industry Recovery Act funding provided to us by Congress to stimulate economic growth. We could not have done it without them.
And our accomplishments are substantial. Recovery Act funding alone has helped us work with 200 banks, guaranteed 500 loans and created or saved an estimated 27,000 jobs. The best part is that we still have about $1 billion left in “standard” guarantee funds and we are actively seeking partners for additional loans.
In addition to conventional business loans, we are also seeking partners to promote the expansion of lending for renewable fuels production as we transition to a clean energy economy. While we value the lenders we have worked with this year and in the past, we are looking for additional lenders to partner with us.
Today’s meeting was highly successful, but in order to fully restore the economy, we need to take the next steps together. To do that, contact our business programs staff here in Washington or contact any of the 47 USDA Rural Development business programs offices across the country. I’m asking you to join with me and President Obama to continue the progress we’ve made in turning the economy around and putting Americans back to work.
Tom Vilsack is the Agriculture Secretary
Katelyn SabochikMay 26, 2010
05:46 PM EDT
Today, President Obama visited Solyndra, Inc. in Fremont California – a solar panel manufacturer that is building a new facility (and creating new jobs) thanks to funding from the Recovery Act. So far, construction of the new facility has created over 3,000 construction-related jobs and the new factory could create up to 1,000 long-term new jobs. And this is just one of countless stories that together account for the up-to-2.8 million jobs the Recovery Act is responsible for by the CBO’s count.
During his remarks at the Solyndra facility the President stressed the importance reviving our economy by spurring innovation and creating new manufacturing jobs:
So we recognized that we’ve got to go back to basics. We’ve got to go back to making things. We’ve got to go back to exports. We’ve got to go back to innovation. And we recognized that there was only so much government could do. The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra, will always be America’s businesses. But that doesn’t mean the government can just sit on the sidelines. Government still has the responsibility to help create the conditions in which students can gain an education so they can work at Solyndra, and entrepreneurs can get financing so they can start a company, and new industries can take hold.
So that’s why, even as we cut taxes and provided emergency relief over the past year -- we also invested in basic research, in broadband networks, in rebuilding roads and bridges, in health information technology, and in clean energy. Because not only would this spur hiring by businesses -- it would create jobs in sectors with incredible potential to propel our economy for years, for decades to come. There is no better example than energy.
The President also stressed the importance of investing in clean energy to help wean Americans off our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil and to compete in the international economy. The recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico underscored the importance of that goal.
But even as we are dealing with this immediate crisis, we’ve got to remember that the risks our current dependence on oil holds for our environment and our coastal communities is not the only cost involved in our dependence on these fossil fuels. Around the world, from China to Germany, our competitors are waging a historic effort to lead in developing new energy technologies. There are factories like this being built in China, factories like this being built in Germany. Nobody is playing for second place. These countries recognize that the nation that leads the clean energy economy is likely to lead the global economy. And if we fail to recognize that same imperative, we risk falling behind. We risk falling behind.
The President reiterated the simple truth that investing in clean energy is “the right thing to do for our environment, it’s the right thing to do for our national security, but it’s also the right thing to do for our economy.”
The Solyndra project is just one of the many ways the Administration is supporting clean energy manufacturing in America. Today Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman participated in a ground breaking ceremony for Nissan North America’s new advanced batter manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tennessee.
The Department of Energy closed a $1.4 billion dollar loan with Nissan North America to retool their facility in Smyrna to build advanced electric automobiles and batteries. Nissan has put that money to work by producing its all-electric vehicle, the LEAF, at its existing plant in Smyrna. The loan will also help Nissan will offer 150,000 electric vehicles to fleet and retail customers annually. Nissan has already created 250 jobs to retool the factory and anticipates the project may result in an increase of up to 1,300 jobs when full production is reached.
May 26, 2010
05:01 PM EDT
Every day, in communities across America, promising non-profit organizations direct heroic efforts to implement innovative, effective solutions to our nation’s most daunting social challenges. Tackling a wide variety of issues, from poverty to failing schools, non-profits are at the forefront of what I call the “solutions business.” The impact of their good work is only hampered by a lack of resources and insufficient capacity to gauge their programs’ impact, improve on them, and grow them to serve more people in more communities.
What if non-profit funding could be better focused on the best solutions? And what if we could share what works more broadly, so leaders in any community could tackle these challenges with ideas and approaches that have demonstrated success? The benefits would be enormous.
A new program called the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) will do just that. Run by the Corporation for National and Community Service, this fund represents an extraordinary opportunity to drive results-oriented responses to critical social challenges, stimulate innovation in the non-profit sector, and support community-led approaches.
The SIF will drive the best solutions and reward results. Instead of providing resources directly to non-profits, the SIF channels funding through foundations and other grantmakers who will competitively select, fund, and support promising non-profit organizations working in low-income communities over a period of years. Through evaluation and knowledge-sharing, the SIF has the potential to transform how our nation tackles social challenges.
It’s an approach that has clear benefits.
- The Best Ideas. The SIF provides investments to multiple non-profits in an issue area or a geographic area, allowing the best innovations to rise to the top.
- Capacity Building. It provides non-profits with critical support for management, staffing, data collection, fundraising and other challenges that they will need to overcome as they grow.
- Accountability. The SIF provides funding and incentives for non-profits to evaluate their effectiveness. Grantmakers will be true partners in these evaluation efforts and will be jointly held accountable for results. This focus on evaluation is a critical part of expanding non-profit capabilities.
- Matching Funds. The SIF leverages private funding from grantmakers and others. Each federal dollar will be matched with private funding, enhancing the government’s investment to result in greater impact..
First Lady Michelle Obama said: "By focusing on high-impact, results-oriented non-profits, we will ensure that government dollars are spent in a way that is effective, accountable and worthy of public trust.”
Tomorrow at the White House, the First Lady, Melody Barnes, and I will join over 100 philanthropists, foundations, and innovators for an exciting announcement about progress on the SIF. We hope you’ll watch it live here at 11:45 AM EDT.
Patrick Corvington is the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service
May 26, 2010
12:41 PM EDT
Ed. Note: For more information on federal response resources, volunteer opportunities, and assistance for those in affected areas visit WhiteHouse.gov/Deepwater-BP-Oil-Spill.
On Friday morning, President Obama will travel to the Louisiana Gulf Coast to assess the latest efforts to counter the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The President will join more than 22,000 people in the region, including many of the brightest scientific minds from both the public and private sector, who are working around the clock to mitigate the oil's impact. Below is the latest in the ongoing Administration-wide response provided by the Joint Information Center.
Heidi Avery is White House Deputy Homeland Security Advisor
May 26, 2010
12:08 PM EDT
President Obama is in Fremont, California today to visit Solyndra, Inc, an innovative solar panel manufacturer that is building a new facility with funding made possible by the Recovery Act. Here's a look at what they're doing:
The direct benefits of this investment are easy to see. The plant expansion now underway has already enabled the creation of over 3,000 construction-related jobs and Solyndra estimates that the new factory could create as many as 1,000 long-term jobs in operations and supply. Likewise, a formerly empty field will soon be home to a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant that produces clean energy products that can be exported to the world.
What the television cameras won’t capture are the indirect benefits of supporting Solyndra. The impact of Solyndra’s success is being felt throughout the chain of companies that supply Solyndra with goods and materials.
The project is creating jobs around the country. Construction materials for the facility itself are being manufactured by workers in Arkansas, Washington, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and 18 other states. The advanced manufacturing equipment is being made by workers in Michigan, Tennessee, Colorado, and 8 other states. The raw materials to run the facility will come from 15 states including Wisconsin, Ohio, and Kentucky. When the first solar panels are shipped in late 2010, they will be delivered by freight companies and installed by even more new workers.
The map below from Solyndra shows where they have ordered the materials to construct the new facility. Many of the companies in these states have added workers of their own to handle the new orders.
This map from Solyndra shows the states supplying advanced manufacturing equipment to the company.
The Recovery Act’s investment in clean energy is having a ripple effect throughout our economy. A recent survey by Frost and Sullivan of 676 clean energy companies found that while only 3 percent of those companies directly received Recovery Act funds more than 50 percent recognized a positive impact from that legislation.
We still have a long way to go to get America’s economy back on track and to make the United States the world leader in clean energy technologies, but companies like Solyndra and Recovery Act investments like this one are helping drive progress across the country.
Matt Rogers is Senior Advisor to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu
May 25, 2010
09:05 PM EDT
President Obama's love for basketball is well known. TNT's play-by-play announcer and Basketball Hall of Fame broadcaster Marv Albert sat down with the First Fan on the White House basketball court to discuss the state of the NBA, LeBron James’ future, his NBA Finals pick and more. This was the first ever sit-down interview on the White House basketball court which is a new feature of the Obama Administration.
May 25, 2010
07:24 PM EDT
This afternoon the First Lady welcomed nearly 100 local students to the White House to kick off the South Lawn Series – events throughout the summer season to bring local children, sports leagues, community programs and coaches to the South Lawn to participate in sports, games and activities. Today’s event featured sports trainers from the Washington Redskins, Capitals, Nationals and Wizards as well as PE teachers from DC Public schools who demonstrated ways for kids to get 60 minutes of active play per day. The First Lady, alongside Shellie Pfohl, Executive Director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness, moved too – taking part in obstacle courses, knee lifts and running drills.
The Series is in support of Let’s Move! – the First Lady’s initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation. In remarks to the very first group of participants, the First Lady stressed the importance of getting in at least 60 minutes of exercise, not just at the White House today, but everyday:
You know, there’s a report out that says kids should get no less than 60 minutes of exercise every single day. And around the country we just got a report that shows that in states across the country, a lot of kids aren’t coming close. They’re not getting just what they need. And it’s hard if your schools don't have P.E. and gym, right?
If you can’t do it at school, if you don't live in a community where you have sports teams and things like that, if you can’t play outside because neighborhoods aren’t safe, right, so your parents want to keep you inside, if you’re watching too much TV and playing too many computer games -- (laughter) -- sometimes that cuts into your ability to move.
And went on to explain that the series isn’t just to get kids moving on the lawn, but will hopefully inspire lots of children to get active in their own backyards:
And this series that we’re doing on the South Lawn is really to encourage kids, because we got this press all behind you, and they're going to show you guys on TV, and there are going to be a lot of kids going, how do I do that? You know, how do I get moving like that? They're at the White House moving. Maybe I can do this in my own back yard, in my own community.
So you guys are going to be the first example this summer of really encouraging kids to move. But we are going to need you, not just here today, but you’re going to have to go home and take some of what you’ve learned here and teach your families and folks -- the other kids in your schools who haven’t had a chance to come, and figure out how you guys can get other people in your lives moving. Can you promise me that you’ll help me on this?
MRS. OBAMA: You promise?
The White House Visitors Office, the Office of Public Engagement, and the First Lady’s office will continue to invite local Sports leagues, community programs and students to the White House throughout the summer to participate in the South Lawn Series and engage them in the Let’s Move! campaign.
Trooper SandersMay 25, 2010
06:04 PM EDT
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden met at the White House today with Leadership 18, a coalition of national non-profit chief executive officers, to discuss military family matters. They were joined by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his wife Deborah Mullen, Dr. Cliff Stanley, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, and other White House officials. The First Lady and Dr. Biden have issued a national call to action to address the unique challenges facing military families, build stronger civilian-military community ties, and engages and highlights the service and sacrifice of military families. The meeting today provided an opportunity to discuss ways to build a lasting national commitment to support and engage military families.
Leadership 18 is a coalition of the some of the country’s largest and most well respected human development non-profit CEOs. Altogether, the 22 member organization serves more than 87 million people annually and has more than 5.5 million staff and volunteers. The coalition represents long established charities, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits focusing on social and health issues supporting and promoting the safety, health, well-being, social and economic development of individuals and families.
Leadership 18 attendees included: Peter Goldberg, Alliance for Children and Families; Gail Mc Govern, American Red Cross; Roxanne Spillett, Boys and Girls Club of America; Father Larry Snyder, Catholic Charities USA; Kathy Cloninger, Girl Scouts of the USA; Judy Vredenburgh, Girls Incorporated; Jim Gibbons, Goodwill Industries International; Jill Schumann, Lutheran Services in America; Dr. David Shern, Mental Health America; Stephen Bennett, United Cerebral Palsy; Brian Gallagher, United Way Worldwide; Charles Gould, Volunteers of America; Neil Nicoll, YMCA of the USA; and Lorraine Cole, YWCA USA.
Earlier this month during a speech at a summit hosted by the National Military Family Association, the First Lady challenged every sector of American society to mobilize and take action to support and engage military families today and for decades to come. During the May 12 speech the First Lady said, “One percent of Americans may be fighting our wars, but we need 100 percent of Americans to support them and their families. This has to be all hands on deck.” The hope is that events like this one build a coalition to make this a reality.
Trooper Sanders is Deputy Director of Policy to the First Lady
May 25, 2010
04:30 PM EDT
This Administration opened its doors to the first class of White House interns in 2009. Since that time, over three hundred promising leaders have come through the program and served a vital role in the White House. These individuals have participated in service project partnerships with nine D.C. high schools and a local soup kitchen. The professional development speaker series has remained a favorite pillar of the program, and interns have worked to build successful professional development groups centered around topics such as International Affairs and Communications.
The application for the Fall 2010 White House Internship Program will be closing on June 6. Don’t miss your chance to apply to become a part of the next class of White House Interns! To learn more about the internship program, the application process, and who is eligible to apply for internships, visit the White House Internship Program page.
Melissa McNeal is the Director of the White House Internship Program
Stephanie CutterMay 25, 2010
04:05 PM EDT
As the Administration works to implement the Affordable Care Act, it is critically important to ensure that consumers across the country have accurate information about their new rights and benefits under the new health insurance law. Throughout the Congressional debate on health reform, Americans were bombarded by the opponents of reform with rumors, misinformation and false claims. Unfortunately, those efforts persist.
For example, there is now an email circulating with false information about the W2 form. The email states that because consumers will now see the value of their employer provided health care on their W2 form, their taxes will go up. Here’s what part of it claims:
“Starting in 2011 (next year folks) your W 2 tax form sent by your employer will be increased to show the value of what ever health insurance you are given by the company. It does not matter if that's a private concern or governmental body of some sort. If you're retired? So what; your gross will go up by the amount of insurance you get. You will be required to pay taxes on a large sum of money that you have never seen. Take your tax form you just finished and see what $15,000 or $20,000 additional gross does to your tax debt. That's what you'll pay next year. For many it also puts you into a new higher bracket so it's even worse. This is how the government is going to buy insurance for the 15% that don't have insurance and it's only part of the tax increases.”
Don’t believe it. This claim is simply false.
Here are the facts: Next year, your W2 form will only change to show the value of the health care benefits that you have received so you can know more about your benefits and you are an empowered consumer, but you will absolutely not pay taxes on these benefits.
Throughout this year and the coming years, we will work with Congress, states and all other stakeholders to ensure consumers get accurate information on the Affordable Care Act so that they can take advantage of the new cost savings, benefits, insurance reforms as well as the affordable private insurance choices available to them.
Be sure to get the facts. You can learn more about the Affordable Care Act and how it affects you and your community here and check the White House blog for more information about the new law in the days and weeks ahead.
Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects
Jesse LeeMay 25, 2010
03:35 PM EDT
There's no question that the economy has seen a dramatic turnaround since the President came into office -- but the President knows full well that it is not enough. That's why he continues to look for every opportunity for government to help spur hiring and get the economy growing at an even fast pace than it has been. And from the beginning of his term, promoting small business has been a central focus of the President's efforts.
Earlier this month, the President sent legislation on the Small Business Lending Fund to Congress along with a new state small business credit initiative that will help expand lending for small businesses and manufacturers at a time when budget shortfalls are forcing states to cut back on lending programs.
So when the President hosted award-winning small business owners from around the country this morning in the Rose Garden, he honored them not just by recognizing their individual acheivements, but by citing their example to push Congress to pass the Small Business Jobs Package:
Frank and Donna Masley are here. They are Delaware’s Small Business Owners of the Year. Where are they? There they are, right there. Congratulations.
Ten years ago, they launched a glove-making business to provide flexibility and protection for our men and women in uniform. When they won a contract to supply gloves for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009, they received a Recovery Act loan through the SBA and saved thousands on fees. It was that loan that allowed Frank and Donna to rehire some employees who had been laid off during this recession, and today their business is growing and thriving once more.
So many people who are here today have stories just like this. Their success isn’t the result of a heavy-handed government. It’s the result of a government that lent a helping hand -- that complements the sheer grit and determination of America’s small business owners. And I believe we need to do even more to give these men and women a boost.
So that’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass small business jobs -- a small business jobs package as soon as possible. This legislation should ensure that creditworthy small business owners can get the capital they need to expand and create jobs. It should include needed tax relief, like our proposal to completely eliminate capital gains taxes for those making key long-term investments in small businesses. It should include expansions of vital Small Business Administration loan programs that are needed now more than ever. And it should include two important lending initiatives that I recently sent to Congress.
The first initiative is the $30 billion Small Business Lending Fund I called for in my State of the Union address. This fund would target only small community and neighborhood banks, and it would help these institutions increase lending to small businesses. The second initiative is a new state small business credit program that we recently proposed, working with governors like Governor Doyle and Governor Granholm. It’s an initiative that will help expand private lending for small businesses and manufacturers at a time when budget shortfalls are leading states to cut back on vitally important lending programs.
Now, I’m very pleased that elements of this small business jobs package have already passed the House Financial Services Committee last week, and I know that the Senate is working on the issue as well. I urge both chambers to act on these proposals as soon as possible.
This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. This is not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue. This should not be an issue about big government versus small government. This is an issue that involves putting government on the side of small business owners who create most of the jobs in this country. It’s about giving them tax credits and loans and tax cuts so they can keep growing and keep hiring. It’s about unleashing the great power of our economy and the ingenuity of our people.
Stephanie CutterMay 25, 2010
01:52 PM EDT
Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services announced new information regarding a program in the Affordable Care Act that will make it easier for large employers to provide health benefits to early retirees who aren’t eligible for Medicare. The $5 billion early retiree reinsurance program will provide resources to businesses that offer coverage to retirees age 55-64.
We knew business leaders and retirees were excited about this program and a new study confirms that companies are eager to sign up and continue to provide coverage their early retirees. A new study out today from Hewitt Associates finds that 76 percent of eligible companies plan to apply to participate in the early retiree reinsurance program. The study also estimates that the program will reduce the cost of retiree coverage from 25 to 35 percent – anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 per retiree, per year
The study is good news for retirees and their former employers. In recent years, high health care costs have made it difficult, if not impossible for employers to offer coverage to early retirees. 66 percent of large firms offered health benefits to their retirees in 1988. By 2008, the percent of large firms offering health benefits dropped to only 31 percent. And retirees without employer-sponsored often found it difficult to afford coverage in the individual market.
The early retiree reinsurance program will help maintain current coverage until 2014, when millions of Americans will have affordable coverage options through the new health insurance exchange. Businesses will be able to apply to participate in the program in June. You can learn more about how the Affordable Care Act will benefit early retirees here.
Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects.
Jesse LeeMay 25, 2010
09:50 AM EDT
Given the elaborate financial instruments, products, and schemes that helped lead to the financial crisis of the past two years, one might be forgiven for thinking Wall Street Reform is too complex for any normal person to get his or her head around. But while there are plenty of complex details, there are also some core problems, and some fundamental solutions.
A new infographic from the Washington Post lays out those core problems, along with what Wall Street Reform would do to solve them, in a clear, concise way. It identifies and explains the issues surrounding consumer protections, “Too Big to Fail,” derivatives, risk to the global financial system, and “regulator shopping” – give it a look, and you’ll understand why the President has been so focused on making sure every one of these issues is addressed.
May 24, 2010
08:04 PM EDT
Last week I was proud to join President Obama to honor the 2010 President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA)winners.
These young people could be our next clean energy innovators and environmental advocates and they’re setting the bar for environmental stewardship in every corner of our country – from places as far apart as Westerly, Rhode Island and Homer, Alaska.
As Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency I was proud to honor each and every one of them – and glad to thank them for making our jobs at EPA a little easier.
The projects focused on everything from environmental education, recycling and conservation to clean energy, local cleanups and international outreach.
In these ten projects, chosen out of more than 140 entries, we see a future filled with healthier, cleaner communities, and a safer planet for today's generation and generations to come.
This year's PEYA award winners and participants put in lots of hard work and showed amazing dedication. Most importantly, they made an impact in their communities and inspired change in the places they call home. I’m excited to see what’s in store for our country with all of these young people as our future leaders.
Lisa P. Jackson is the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Jesse LeeMay 24, 2010
05:36 PM EDT
This morning the President took part in the daily briefing call with Gulf Coast Governors on the BP oil spill. Governors Jindal of Louisiana, Barbour of Mississippi, Riley of Alabama, and Crist of Florida. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued the following statement about the call:
The President reiterated the Administration’s sense of urgency for dealing with the oil spill, assured the governors that the federal government is bringing the best science and expertise to the table and underscored his commitment to continuing our strong collaboration with the state and local governments. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, Rear Admiral Neffinger, EPA Administrator Jackson and Commerce Department Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere Monica Medina provided the regular daily briefing on operations, leak stabilization, environmental impact and oil trajectories.
Stephanie CutterMay 24, 2010
03:22 PM EDT
Today’s New York Times takes a look at the Affordable Care Act’s provisions regarding the shared responsibility of health care between taxpayers and employers. The story claims part of the law will saddle employers with new hidden penalties. That is not that case. What it will do is help bring down health care costs and give more Americans the insurance they need and deserve.
Here are the facts:
The Affordable Care Act will strengthen our current system in which most people get their insurance at work. Under the new law, employers with more than 50 fulltime workers will not be required to offer health insurance to their workers. However, the employer will have to pay a shared responsibility fee if their employee purchases coverage through a new exchange with the help of a premium tax credit targeted toward middle to low income families. In other words, employers can’t be “free riders” and let the taxpayers pay for the cost of covering their workers.
If the insurance provided by an employer would cost workers more than 9.5 percent of their household income, that insurance is considered unaffordable and workers have a new option: purchase affordable coverage on the new health insurance exchanges, and receive a tax credit to make it easier to get the coverage they need.
Under this scenario, employers would no longer be paying to provide benefits to their employee. Instead, they would contribute up to $3,000 to help support the cost of the tax credit provided by the government.
If the employer provides no insurance at all, and any employee obtains premium tax credits through the new exchanges, the employer would pay a maximum of $2,000 per full time employee.
Whether a large business provides affordable coverage to their employees or their employees purchase coverage in the exchange, employers will make one – and only one – contribution to the cost of their employees’ health care. It’s an important provision and it ensures large employers aren’t off the hook if taxpayers are subsidizing health insurance coverage for their employees.
A good way to understand this part of the law is to think about…donuts. When the Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed its version of health insurance reform, many businesses began offering insurance to their workers. Unfortunately, employees at a chain donut shop found that they couldn’t afford the insurance they were offered. But under the Massachusetts law, they could not purchase affordable coverage in the state’s version of the exchange because their employer offered coverage.
This catch-22 left some without the affordable, quality care they need. So when it came time to pass the Affordable Care Act, we took steps to ensure that this problem would not be repeated in donut shops and other businesses nationwide by making sure workers can get care they can afford and by making sure that employers aren’t relying on taxpayers to subsidize coverage for their employees.
The bottom line is that this provision is a common-sense way to ensure more Americans have high-quality care and it’s just one of the many ways the Affordable Care Act will strengthen the health care system for all of us.
Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects
Jen PsakiMay 24, 2010
03:05 PM EDT
Later this afternoon, the Senate will vote on a motion to instruct conferees on the Brownback Amendment. That basically means members of the Senate will cast a nonbinding vote on whether or not they think the House and Senate conferees should consider carving out a loophole for auto dealers that make auto loans from the financial reform bill.
The President has been clear on this issue, repeatedly urging members of the Senate to fight efforts of the special interests and their lobbyists to weaken consumer protections. The fact is, auto dealer-lending is an $850 billion industry, which is larger than the entire credit card industry and they make nearly 80 percent of the automobile loans in our country.
Is there any question that these lenders should be subject to the same standards as any local or community bank that provides loans?
Auto dealer-lenders sell auto loans to working families every single day, and while most dealers are no doubt above board, some cannot resist the bigger profits that come from inflating rates, hiding fees, and tacking on over-priced add-ons.
These profits can lead some dealers to treat their customers unfairly. There are countless stories of hard-working people who are never even contacted when they are hit with a higher interest rate or who are forced to swallow the cost already paid toward the purchase of their car while giving up the vehicle.
People like Lacie Riso and Jarred Whited, a sailor on the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, as NPR reported:
Riso, 18, and Whited, 20, an aviation ordnance man, needed a car because their old one was breaking down. They went to a dealer near their base in San Diego and found a used Hyundai Sonata they liked. Then, Riso says, the salesman contacted a finance company.
"And they say, you know, 'We'll approve them. They need to pay $394 a month.' So we are like, you know, we can do that; that's fine," she says.
Riso and Whited got the keys. They left Riso's old Ford Focus as a trade-in. The next day, they went back to the dealer to set up an automatic payment to the finance company from Whited's military paycheck.
But after several weeks, the finance company said the loan wasn't approved after all. The couple then asked the dealer for new payment information.
"So we say, you know, 'What bank do we pay this to? What's the account number? What's the loan number that you have?' And he told us, 'No, I don't have anything like that. You can pay me cash or personal check to me at the dealership.'"
Riso and Whited turned that offer down and the dealer repossessed the Sonata. They told him to give back the more than $500 they had made in payments, along with Riso's Focus.
"And he said, 'Oh no, you're never going to see your Focus again. Your car was repossessed for nonpayment and you can pay me $800 to get back in this contract,' " Riso says.
In a letter to the Treasury Department last February, Clifford Stanley, the Undersecretary of Defense also raised concerns about the impact the “unscrupulous practices” of auto dealer-lenders on military families. Army Secretary John McHugh recently sent a letter to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., “voicing his objection to Brownback's amendment." As that same story notes, "Holly Petraeus, wife of U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus, also joined the fight. As director of the Council of Better Business Bureau's Military Line Program, she reiterated assertions that many service members are in financial trouble with their auto payments, locked into loans with interest rates of 15 percent or higher.”
The dealer-lenders who engage in such deceptive behavior are struggling to hold on to the unfair advantage that they have over hardworking Americans and responsible dealer-lenders. According to recent news reports, lobbyists and allies of Wall Street are not letting up and they plan to throw millions of dollars toward efforts to weaken provisions including an auto dealer carve out in the bill as it moves to conference.
While the Senate passage last week was a significant step forward for the bill, the President will not rest as attempts are made to weaken the bill.
Jen Psaki is Deputy Communications Director
Peter OrszagMay 24, 2010
12:12 PM EDT
Today, the President sent to Congress the Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2010 to establish a new, expedited tool to reduce unnecessary or wasteful spending. Under this new expedited procedure, the President would submit a package of rescissions shortly after a spending bill is passed. Congress is then required to consider these recommendations as a package, without amendment, and with a guaranteed up-or-down vote within a specified timeframe.
The Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act will empower the President and the Congress to eliminate unnecessary spending while discouraging waste in the first place. This is critically important both because we should never tolerate taxpayer dollars going to programs that are duplicative or ineffective and because, especially in the current fiscal environment, we cannot afford this waste.
Indeed, the expedited rescission authority in the Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act would be particularly effective in reining in programs that are heavily earmarked or not merit-based as well as those that are plainly wasteful and duplicative. For instance:
- The State Assistance Grants for Water Infrastructure at the Environmental Protection Agency currently consists of $157 million in non-merit-based, earmarked funding instead of being allocated through the regular formula allocation process.
- The Department of Transportation was given $293 million for earmarked surface transportation projects that also circumvent formula grant funding.
- The Department of Commerce was allocated $20 million and the USDA was given $5 million to fund public broadcasting even though this activity is ably supported through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development was allocated $17 million for the Brownfields Economic Development Initiative, a worthy goal that duplicates the function of the CDBG program.
The Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2010 alone is not enough to cut waste, streamline government operations, and create a government that is more responsive to the American people. Rather, it is part of a larger effort the President has undertaken to rein in wasteful spending. This effort includes: the $20 billion in terminations, reductions, and savings the President included in both his budgets; our work with Congress to curb earmarks; the signing into law of statutory PAYGO; the Administration-wide effort to curb the $100 billion in improper government payments; and the three-year freeze on non-security discretionary funding that the President put forward in the FY 2011 Budget.
We look forward to working with Congress in passing the Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act and creating a government that is effective and efficient.
Peter R. Orszag is Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Katelyn SabochikMay 24, 2010
11:36 AM EDT
On Saturday, President Obama delivered the commencement address at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. This year one thousand and two cadets entered into the “Long Gray Line” of West Point graduates.
The class of 2010 is the ninth consecutive class to graduate while our nation is at war. Last year, President Obama visited West Point to his strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan. During the commencement address the President reflected on the changing nature of the war over the past nine years: .
We face a tough fight in Afghanistan. Any insurgency that is confronted with a direct challenge will turn to new tactics. And from Marja to Kandahar, that is what the Taliban has done through assassination and indiscriminate killing and intimidation. Moreover, any country that has known decades of war will be tested in finding political solutions to its problems, and providing governance that can sustain progress and serve the needs of its people.
So this war has changed over the last nine years, but it’s no less important than it was in those days after 9/11. We toppled the Taliban regime -- now we must break the momentum of a Taliban insurgency and train Afghan security forces. We have supported the election of a sovereign government -- now we must strengthen its capacities. We’ve brought hope to the Afghan people -- now we must see that their country does not fall prey to our common enemies. Cadets, there will be difficult days ahead. We will adapt, we will persist, and I have no doubt that together with our Afghan and international partners, we will succeed in Afghanistan.
The President stressed the importance of looking beyond the immediate task at hand to building a more prosperous and peaceful future for our country and the international community.
Now even as we fight the wars in front of us, we also have to see the horizon beyond these wars -- because unlike a terrorist whose goal is to destroy, our future will be defined by what we build. We have to see that horizon, and to get there we must pursue a strategy of national renewal and global leadership. We have to build the sources of America’s strength and influence, and shape a world that’s more peaceful and more prosperous.
Time and again, Americans have risen to meet and to shape moments of change. This is one of those moments -- an era of economic transformation and individual empowerment; of ancient hatreds and new dangers; of emerging powers and new global challenges. And we’re going to need all of you to help meet these challenges. You’ve answered the call. You, and all who wear America’s uniform, remain the cornerstone of our national defense, the anchor of global security. And through a period when too many of our institutions have acted irresponsibly, the American military has set a standard of service and sacrifice that is as great as any in this nation’s history.
Howard A. SchmidtMay 24, 2010
11:12 AM EDT
Earlier this month I had the privilege of attending the awards ceremony at Fort Gillem, Georgia for one of our nation’s top cyber-defenders. At this event Special Agent Thomas M. Williamson received the outstanding special agent of the year award from U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command’s Computer Crime Investigation Unit.
As stated at the ceremony:
Special Agent Thomas M. Williamson delivered the highest levels of support...He directly contributed to successful prosecutions that resulted in over 20 years of combined confinement, with several other high-visibility cases equally postured for future prosecutive success. Special Agent Williamson often mentored other [special agents], and he went above and beyond to bolster [the Army’s] overarching computer crimes and digital evidence program through methodical research and untiring support. Special Agent Williamson’s contributions were truly outstanding during the preceding year.
The President has declared cybersecurity to be a top national and economic security priority. Every day there are thousands of attempts to penetrate sensitive military networks to steal our nation’s secrets and military technology. The Army’s Computer Crimes Investigation Unit is one of a variety of organization that the Department of Defense has established to defend our networks and track down our cyber adversaries. Special Agent Williams is a shining example of the type of men and women we need in the Federal government to secure cyberspace.
Howard A. Schmidt is a Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator
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