Our Top Stories
Sam KassMay 13, 2010
08:14 PM EDT
Since the groundbreaking of the White House Kitchen Garden more than a year ago, local students have spent time on the South Lawn of the White House planting seeds, harvesting vegetables and learning about health and nutrition along the way. Through the garden, the First Lady started a discussion on the role food plays in living a healthy life. The discussion grew into the Let’s Move! campaign and like the garden – we just keep on growing.
Today, I’m excited to announce the “Chefs Move to Schools” program – an opportunity for chefs around the country to adopt a local school to help solve the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. In the words of the Mrs. Obama:
We are going to need everyone’s time and talent to solve the childhood obesity epidemic and our Nation’s chefs have tremendous power as leaders on this issue because of their deep knowledge of food and nutrition and their standing in the community. I want to thank them for joining the Let’s Move! Campaign.
“Chefs Move to Schools” will pair chefs with schools in their communities to bring fun to fruits and vegetables, and teach kids about food, nutrition and cooking in an engaging way. And by working with school food service employees, administrators and teachers -- chefs can help deliver these messages from the cafeteria to the classroom. After hearing fifth graders cheer for broccoli, I know firsthand that chefs can have a huge impact on kid’s health and well being.
Sam Kass is the White House Assistant Chef and the Food Initiative Coordinator
Melody BarnesMay 13, 2010
07:16 PM EDT
We know that economic prosperity and educational success go hand in hand, which is why the Obama Administration is concerned by looming state and local budget cuts that threaten the jobs of hundreds of thousands of teachers across the country. As the President has said, we live in a global economy where the greatest job qualification isn't what you can do but what you know. Our teachers are vital to our nation’s success and if we don’t act now and act boldly, we will not only endanger the future of tens of millions of students but threaten to undermine the recovery of our economy.
At this year’s Teacher of the Year Awards, President Obama highlighted our Administration’s work to save over 400,000 jobs through the Recovery Act’s emergency aid.
And it’s why, through our recovery efforts, we’ve provided emergency aid that saved the jobs of more than 400,000 teachers and other education jobs -– and why I believe these efforts must continue. I believe these efforts must continue as states face severe budget shortfalls that put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk. We need and our children need our teachers in the classroom. We need your passion and your patience, your skill and experience, your determination to reach every single child.
Now we need swift, bold action from Congress to respond to state and local budget cuts that are placing public education at risk and endangering teacher jobs. Thanks to the leadership of Senator Harkin and Congressmen Miller and Obey, we have legislation to avert this crisis. Today, our Administration wrote to Congressional leaders indicating the President's support for this critical legislation, and urging Congress to include education jobs funding in the supplemental appropriations bills soon to be considered in the House and Senate. See below for the Obama Administration’s letter to Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid on this legislation.
May 13, 2010
06:41 PM EDT
Today the President submitted the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) – an arms control agreement with Russia that he signed last month in Prague -- to the United States Senate. Before the Treaty can be ratified, the Senate must provide its advice and consent by a two-thirds majority. Next week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will open formal hearings on the treaty, with Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defense Gates, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mullen scheduled to testify. Over the coming weeks, the Committee is likely to hold several hearings with other Administration witnesses, as well as with former officials from both Democratic and Republican Administrations. Two other Senate committees – Armed Services and Intelligence - will also hold hearings on the Treaty.
In addition to the Treaty, the President also sent a report to Congress required by last year’s National Defense Authorization Act on our plan to modernize our nuclear weapons complex and the strategic systems used to deliver nuclear weapons (long-range missiles and bombers) over the next decade. This plan includes a projection for the funds needed over the next ten years to meet these modernization requirements.
The report is largely classified, but because of the public’s interest in the issue, we are releasing an unclassified summary that highlights how we plan to reduce our forces but maintain a nuclear triad (land- and sea-based ballistic missiles and long-range bombers) under the Treaty. The U.S. military strongly favors the Treaty in large part because it allows the United States significant flexibility in how we structure and deploy our nuclear forces – including retaining this triad – to meet nuclear deterrence requirements.
The report also underscores that the President is committed to rebuilding our nuclear weapons infrastructure and our workforce that maintains our weapons. The President wants to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our security policy, but has made clear that as long as we rely on nuclear weapons, they must be safe, secure and effective. That’s why he has increased the budget for our nuclear weapons complex by nearly 10% in the coming fiscal year, and committed to spend $80 billion over the next decade. These investments reverse a period of declining budgets for our nuclear weapons complex that both Democrats and Republicans believe must be reversed. The President recognizes that we need to make these investments, not only to maintain our nuclear deterrent for us and our allies, but also because the nuclear complex and its scientists and engineers play a critical role in verifying nuclear agreements, preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, and detecting nuclear smuggling here and abroad.
We believe the agreement makes Americans safer and hope that the Senate will continue the history of the past two decades of overwhelming bipartisan support for nuclear reduction agreements.
The Secretary of Defense makes the case for the Treaty today on the oped page of the Wall Street Journal.
Brian McKeon is a senior adviser to the NSC and Deputy National Security Adviser to the Vice President
Jesse LeeMay 13, 2010
05:21 PM EDT
President Obama travelled to Buffalo, New York this afternoon, where he visited Industrial Support Inc. and discussed the important role that small businesses have as the “backbone of America’s economy.” He explained that the government has been removing barriers to help businesses get loans as part of the President's broader economic agenda, and that this agenda is starting to bear fruit:
All those tough steps we took, they’re working. Despite all the naysayers who were predicting failure a year ago, our economy is growing again. Last month we had the strongest job growth that we’d seen in years. And by the way, almost all of it was in the private sector, and a bunch of it was manufacturing. So this month was better than last month. Next month is going to be stronger than this month. And next year is going to be better than this year. Last month we gained 290,000 jobs -- that was the largest increase in four years.
Check out the chart below to see the job losses and gains by month over the last year and half:
You need to upgrade your Flash Player
The President talked about business owner Dave Sullivan who received a loan from the Small Business Administration as part of the Recovery Act, which allowed him to pay bills, purchase new equipment, and increase his workforce. The President explained that the Administration has continued to take steps to help companies grow, including enacting seven tax cuts for small business last year, and supporting over 63,000 loans through the Recovery Act. The President also signed a law a few weeks ago that makes businesses eligible for tax cuts for hiring unemployed workers.
He referred back to his State of the Union address, when he called for a $30 billion small business lending fund to help ensure that business owners would get the capital they need. The President said that the legislation has been sent to Congress and now includes a new state small business credit initiative that will help expand lending for small businesses and manufacturers.
He pointed out that Republicans have been criticizing the initiatives as “big government,” and explained that government helping businesses grow and create jobs isn’t just “another debate about big versus small government.”
That’s our jobs agenda -- empowering small businesses so they can hire. I hear a lot of noise from some of our friends out there that say, this is nothing more than “big government.” I want everybody here to understand, I don't -- I personally don't think that giving tax cuts to businesses is big government. I don’t understand how helping businesses get loans so they can grow and hire more workers is big government.
I’m not interested in another debate about big government versus small government. I care about whether government is meeting its responsibilities to the people it represents. And I want to unleash the great power of our economy, so Americans who are looking for work can find it. And I'm hopeful that our small business agenda doesn’t fall victim to the same partisanship that we’ve seen over the last year. Helping businesses to create jobs should be something that both parties can agree to.
Liz OxhornMay 13, 2010
04:04 PM EDT
For months now, a team at an Indiana plant has been hard at work preparing to manufacture electric delivery trucks that are entirely powered by plug-in power. They’ve been installing equipment, retrofitting an old manufacturing facility, assembling parts, testing the new technology – and today they became the very first Recovery Act recipient to deliver an electric vehicle with the advanced battery and electric drive grants the President announced last year as they unveiled their new truck today and handed the keys off to the customer.
Perhaps the President was on to something last year when he chose Navistar’s Wakarusa plant as the location to announce these awards – because that Indiana team marking this important milestone today is none other than the fine folks at Navistar. You may remember some of them from this video of the President’s visit there last year. Their community was hard-hit when a local employer, RV manufacturer Monaco Coach, went bankrupt during the economic downturn. Like communities across the country, they’re still making their way to back to economic recovery – but they’re starting to see a brighter future thanks to the Recovery Act. The electric truck being unveiled today? It was manufactured at one of Monaco’s old facilities - which is today Navistar’s new electric vehicle facility. And it was made with the help of some former Monaco employees – who, thanks to the Recovery Act, are now on the job at Navistar.
The folks at Navistar took a few minutes in the middle of their busy launch day to take a phone call from a special guest.
Vice President Biden congratulated the team not only reaching this important milestone, but on playing a leading role in putting Recovery Act dollars to work manufacturing smarter, cost-efficient vehicles and helping build an industry that will create good middle-class jobs for years to come. This is just the beginning for Navistar’s electric vehicle program – they plan to eventually develop and deploy 400 of these trucks and put sixty people to work in the process thanks to the Recovery Act investment.
And this wasn’t just an accomplishment for Navistar, but for the entire advanced battery and electric vehicle industry. In fact, the battery that is powering the new electric delivery truck unveiled today was built in Michigan by Michigan workers at A123 Systems – also thanks to a Recovery Act award announced last year.
It’s easy to get a look at this electric delivery truck and the other advanced technology the Recovery Act awardees are producing and think this is just about the future. But Navistar and companies like it are bringing the future to market today. In fact, this truck isn’t a model or test vehicle – it’s going to be immediately put on the road by the customer making deliveries in a smarter, more cost-efficient way. A plug-in powered vehicle that can carry in excess of 2 tons a distance of up to 100 miles per charge – that’s not the future, that’s today.
And because of the advances the more than 40 recipients of the Recovery Act’s $2.4 billion investment in electric vehicles are making today, we’re going to go from two advanced vehicle battery factories last year to 30 by 2012. We’ll go from two percent of the world’s advanced vehicle battery market share to 20 percent by 2012. And we’re not just making the parts here at home, we’re also helping plant the power stations to fuel electric cars all over the country. So while Navistar’s customer will hit the road with a brand new electric vehicle soon – it may not be long before you do too.
Liz Oxhorn is Recovery Act Communications Director
Secretary Kathleen SebeliusMay 13, 2010
03:59 PM EDT
Ed. Note: Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will discuss the Obama Administration’s efforts to fight fraud today using new tools provided by the Affordable Care Act at 4:00 PM EDT today. Click here to watch.
As the Affordable Care Act has kicked in over the last few weeks, Americans around the country have been getting some long overdue good news about health care. While most of us see this historic new law as an opportunity to give all of us more control over our own health care and bring down health care costs, there are others who are trying to use the new law to defraud seniors and try to rip off the system.
Sadly, criminals see health insurance reform an opportunity to launch new schemes. My message to them is this: there has never been a worse time to try to steal Americans’ health care dollars.
What these criminals may not know is that the Affordable Care Act is not just about making our health insurance system work better for families. It’s also has some of the strongest anti-health care fraud provisions in American history.
Over the past year and a half, we have made great strides in fighting fraud, working with the Department of Justice and state and local partners to deploy innovative fraud-fighting strategies like our HEAT strike force.
A new report released today by the Attorney General and I shows that our fraud-fighting efforts are working – in FY 2009 anti-fraud efforts put $2.51 billion back in the Medicare Trust Fund, a $569 million, or 29 percent, increase over FY 2008, and over $441 million in federal Medicaid money was returned to the Treasury, a 28 percent increase from FY 2008.
But criminals aren’t quitting yet. In just the past few weeks, in states from Delaware to Wyoming, we’re hearing unfortunate examples of schemers promising medical benefits to seniors in exchange for their personal information. These schemes are not only a threat to taxpayer dollars, but are potentially devastating to seniors seeking care.
That is why we’re turning up the heat on scam artists who try to defraud taxpayers and exploit consumers. The Affordable Care Act will improve our ability to detect, track and prevent fraud, through enhanced communication and transparency across agencies and geographic regions, and stronger penalties for criminals.
Over the next 10 years, we’ll be investing $600 million towards these detection and enforcement efforts – investments that studies have shown pay for themselves many times over. And we’ll be working to empower Americans to help us fight fraud by building strong coalitions on the state and local level with law enforcement and seniors groups to educate people about their rights and to enlist them to become fraud fighters too.
As the new law is implemented, we will aggressively work to safeguard our tax dollars and protect our seniors every step of the way. Fighting fraud, strengthening Medicare and protecting seniors is the core of our mission when it comes to this new law and we will act swiftly and aggressively to both prevent fraud from happening and against those who break the law.
Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services
May 13, 2010
03:18 PM EDT
States have always played an important role in protecting their citizens - including enforcing consumer protections. The Wall Street reform bill protects that role, preserving states' enforcement powers while asking them to play an essential role in new efforts to protect American consumers.
The consumer protection agency created in the Wall Street reform bill puts forth the strongest federal consumer protections ever. But these protections are not meant to replace the states' efforts, they are intended to work with them.
That's why efforts in the Senate to take away states' ability to supplement federal consumer protections are shortsighted.
States are a first line of defense responding quickly to new consumer abuses developing in local communities, for example, in acting against predatory subprime mortgage practices as seen in the recent crisis. State initiatives can also be an important signal to Congress and federal regulators of a need for action at the federal level - a welcome canary in the coal mine for the new consumer protection agency, America's families and responsible providers of consumer financial products and services.
When it comes to protecting American families, states and the federal government are partners. The Senate bill works to strengthen that partnership, implementing coordination among state and federal agencies to help ensure that there will be consistent interpretations of federal laws and consistent enforcement everywhere against everyone.
And the Wall Street reform bill protects the states' powers by ensuring that national banks may be held accountable to state Attorneys General through court actions to enforce applicable laws, including rules issues by the new consumer protection agency. The Supreme Court has specifically recognized that federal law prohibiting state officials from examining national banks does not prevent them from exercising their longstanding authority to file court actions enforcing federal predatory lending, consumer protection and other banking laws.
With more than 115,000 financial service providers nationwide and hundreds of thousands of consumer complaints against financial firms every year. This is no time to be taking cops off the beat.
Richard Blumenthal is Attorney General in the State of Connecticut and Diana Farrell is Deputy Director of the White House National Economic Council
Vivek KundraMay 13, 2010
10:41 AM EDT
Today, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board announced that it is moving Recovery.gov to the cloud. As the world’s largest consumer of information technology and as stewards of taxpayer dollars, the Federal Government has a duty to be a leader in pioneering the use of new technologies that are more efficient and economical.
For those of you not familiar with cloud computing, here is a brief explanation. There was a time when every household, town, or village had its own water well. Today, shared public utilities give us access to clean water by simply turning on the tap. Cloud computing works a lot like our shared public utilities. However, instead of water coming from a tap, users access computing power from a pool of shared resources. Just like the tap in your kitchen, cloud computing services can be turned on or off as needed, and, when the tap isn’t on, not only can the water be used by someone else, but you aren’t paying for resources that you don’t use. Cloud computing is a new model for delivering computing resources – such as networks, servers, storage, or software applications.
Recovery.gov is the first government-wide system to move to the cloud. The move is part of the Administration’s overall efforts to cut waste and fix or end government programs that don’t work. By migrating to the public cloud, the Recovery Board is in position to leverage many advantages including the ability keep the site up as millions of Americans help report potential fraud, waste, and abuse. The Board expects savings of about $750,000 during its current budget cycle and significantly more savings in the long-term.
In April, HHS leveraged cloud computing to support implementation of Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems. To coordinate healthcare providers’ implementation of new Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems, HHS is deploying a cloud-based customer relationship and project management solution provided by Salesforce.com. The solutions will support HHS’s Regional Extension Centers in assisting doctors and rural hospitals in the selection, implementation and meaningful use of EHRs. Various implementation approaches can be analyzed to quickly identify best practices for EHR implementation as they emerge.
By using cloud services, the Federal Government will gain access to powerful technology resources faster and at lower costs. This frees us to focus on mission-critical tasks instead of purchasing, configuring, and maintaining redundant infrastructure.
The Obama Administration is committed to leveraging the power of cloud computing to help close the technology gap and deliver for the American people. I am hopeful that that the Recovery Board’s move to the cloud will serve as a model for making government’s use of technology smarter, better, and faster.
Vivek Kundra is U.S. Chief Information Officer
Carol BrownerMay 12, 2010
07:51 PM EDT
The Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster. It’s implications could be devastating: in the damages it could impose on the region’s economy, and in terms of the scars it will impress upon the Gulf states’ ecology. For the citizens of the Gulf, the BP Oil Spill has jeopardized the livelihoods of thousands of Americans who live throughout the region, and participate in the far-reaching exchange of its industries.
The President has been clear from the beginning: his Administration will not rest until the leak is contained and cleaned up and we will aggressively pursue full compensation for damages from BP and other responsible parties. That is why, this morning, the President sent a legislative package to Congress that will enable the BP Oil Spill response to continue expeditiously, speed assistance to people affected by this spill, and strengthen and update the oil spill liability system to better address catastrophic events. And while the President’s proposal will ask for additional funds in some cases, the federal government will not relent in pursuing full compensation for the expenses it has incurred, and for damage caused by the spill.
The Gulf Coast is one of our planet’s richest and most precious ecosystems. Its richness comes not just from its economic importance, but also its refuge to this nation’s natural wealth – our coral reefs, seashores, and unique wildlife that have drawn millions of tourists to the region and supported a vibrant commercial and recreational fishery over generations. We will continue to do everything in our power to protect this treasure, to rebuild what has been destroyed, and to seek compensation from those responsible.
To learn more about the President’s proposed legislation, please visit this site:
Carol Browner is Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change
May 12, 2010
06:23 PM EDT
Earlier today, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at a summit hosted by the National Military Family Association and called it the country's "moral obligation" to recognize the state of military families today. She commended families for their resilience and dedication to service and called for the “vision of a nation that truly supports our military families.”
The First Lady discussed hardships that military spouses endure, including struggling to access benefits and assistance and mental health counseling for the stress of separation. She called for the nation to support and engage military families not only during their time of military service, but at every stage of their lives.
And although I think it would pain most Americans to hear this, we have to be honest. Too many of our military families still think a lot of Americans don’t fully appreciate what they’re going through, how they sacrifice for us. As one military mom appealed to me in a letter, she said, “Please don’t let Americans forget or ignore what we live with.” She said, “We are at war.”
And finally, we know that the needs of our military families are only going to grow. Our forces and their families face more deployments. That means more veterans needing care, especially those with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. It means more caregivers needing support. It means more survivors who can never be forgotten.
The First Lady explained that the Administration has made military families an important priority by increasing benefits and funds for military housing, childcare, counseling and career development, and also expanding health care for veterans and support for caretakers. She praised the Department of Defense for launching the Military Family Life Project, a study of over 100,000 spouses and service members to assess their quality of life for a better understanding of how families are affected by deployments. She also talked about the Department of Agriculture’s 4-H program, which forged partnerships with the armed services to help military children when their parents are deployed.
The First Lady announced that the President has directed the national security staff to lead a government-wide review to identify new priorities and partnerships to support military families. She explained that the initiative will lay the foundation for a coordinated government approach to supporting and engaging military families.
And it won’t be easy. It’s going to take many years. It’s going to require a great deal of patience, as you all know. But if Americans respond to this challenge; if we mobilize every segment of society; if we work together; if we hold ourselves to the same high standard of excellence that our military families live by every day, then I know we can succeed. I know we can realize our vision of an America that truly supports and engages our military families not just now, but for decades to come.
Jesse LeeMay 12, 2010
05:30 PM EDT
Today, President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a Joint Statement and reaffirmed their commitment to a solid and strategic partnership between the U.S. and Afghanistan. The Joint Statement is also available in Dari and Pashto.
President Obama recognized the resolve of the Afghan people and government to increase responsibility for security and continue to ensure that Afghanistan doesn’t become a safe haven for terrorists. President Obama commended American soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice to secure a better future for the Afghan people:
Our solidarity today sends a unmistakable message to those who would stand in the way of Afghanistan’s progress. They may threaten and murder innocent people, but we will work to protect the Afghan people. They will try to destroy, but we will continue to help build Afghan capacity and allow Afghans to take responsibility for their country. They will try to drive us apart, but we will partner with the Afghan people for the long term -- toward a future of greater security, prosperity, justice and progress. And I’m absolutely convinced we will succeed.
President Karzai conveyed his appreciation for the vital support of the 46 countries that contributed troops towards stabilization of the country. He expressed his gratitude to the U.S. for its help and support:
Mr. President, I once again would like to convey to you and to the people of the United States our deep, heartfelt gratitude to the help that America has provided Afghanistan. Because of that, it is once again on the world map in a significantly impartial way. Our flag is flying all around the world. We are present in all the important occasions. We once again have a voice as the people of Afghanistan. And this would have not been possible without the sacrifices and the resources that the United States and our other allies have put in.
Afghanistan is grateful. Afghanistan will definitely, with your help, succeed toward the future. There are of course issues that are still of concern to all of us. We have shortcomings in Afghanistan still. Afghanistan is still a very, very poor country. The work that we have done promises a better future for all of us, and Afghanistan will assure you, Mr. President, that it will take the right steps in bringing a better government to Afghanistan for the benefit of the Afghan people and in partnership with the United States of America.
The Presidents recognized the continued need for international military assistance to train and equip the Afghan National Security Forces to defend their country against internal and external threats. The U.S. reaffirmed that it will transition responsibility for detention facilities to the Afghan government with the goal to have the Afghan government assume full responsibility over detention operations, a pledge that President Karzai made during his inauguration. President Karzai expressed his deep appreciation that the U.S. remains committed to helping ensure that the Afghan government can meet the needs of civilians by developing its own institutions and resources. Both Presidents resolved to fight against sources of corruption in Afghanistan by strengthening key judicial and oversight mechanisms and to sustain Afghanistan’s democratic progress.
Both countries committed to a series of bilateral discussions to conclude with the signing of a strengthened U.S.-Afghanistan Partnership Declaration in 2010 to build on a long-term relationship and enduring commitment.
Dan PfeifferMay 12, 2010
05:20 PM EDT
When it comes to trying to defeat financial reform, Wall Street lobbyists just won’t give up. This afternoon the Senate began consideration of a Republican effort to wipe out the strong derivatives provisions written by Senators Lincoln and Dodd in the Senate’s financial reform bill.
Here’s the bottom line: the Republican substitute has weak standards for major market players and no transparent trading. It doesn’t require major firms to hold capital against their derivatives transactions, doesn’t require an open and transparent market, and doesn’t regulate the next AIG or ENRON.
So what does the substitute amendment do? It keeps risky derivatives trading in the dark and strips the Senate bill of provisions that would help prevent the build-up of risk that threatened the financial system in the financial crisis. It strips provisions that make the derivatives market safer and more transparent. It deletes whistleblower protections. It weakens rules on conflicts of interest. It eliminates a requirement that cleared transactions be publicly reported. And it deletes new authority for the SEC to set position limits – leaving room for Wall Street’s manipulation and abuse.
Derivatives exist to help businesses manage risk. They can help airline companies protect against an unexpected rise in fuel prices and they can help farmers lock in a price for their produce.
But derivatives can also allow big financial firms make large, risky bets in the shadows. For example, because of a lack of transparency in the derivatives market, AIG was allowed to place hundreds of billions of dollars in bets without the money to back them up if the bets went bad. And in the end, AIG built up so much risk through derivatives that it put the entire financial system at risk.
The Dodd bill would help prevent excessive risk in derivatives from threatening the system again.
In place of the unregulated market we have today, the Dodd bill would bring the derivates markets into the open. It would subject derivatives dealers to strong, comprehensive oversight with robust capital and margin buffers. And it would require that all standard derivatives be traded on exchanges or other electronic trading platforms.
Despite the enormous damage wrought by unregulated derivatives trading, Wall Street lobbyists are spending millions of dollars to weaken reform with loopholes and carve-outs that would exempt large derivatives traders from the rules of the road. The lobbyist might keep fighting, but it’s up to the Senate to show which side they are on, and throughout this process reform for the American people have won. We hope the Senate keeps up this winning streak and defeats this dangerous amendment.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
Sarah BernardMay 12, 2010
04:02 PM EDT
On Monday HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius posted about new regulations related to health reform that let young adults under 26 stay on their parents' health plans. If you missed it, you now have plenty of other options to learn all about it:
May 12, 2010
03:34 PM EDT
As a former middle school science teacher, I know teachers and students rarely have an opportunity to interact with the scientific community on common ground. Yes, there are great professional development opportunities for teachers at research facilities and college tours for students, but seldom do we put all three groups in the same room and offer an opportunity for conversation. This was the impetus for our National Lab Day event Dinner with a Scientist, an event where we invite local scientists to talk about their work and share activities in a format that is part career day, part prom, and part speed dating.
On May 5th, 250 Oakland secondary students, teachers, and scientists gathered at the Oakland Zoo to see the animals up close and talk about science in a semiformal setting.
Twenty-five scientists attended including researchers from UC Berkeley who shared about particle astrophysics, engineers from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab who discussed materials in computer chips, and chemists from Chevron who talked about the environment. Every thirty minutes, scientists would change tables and meet a different group of teachers and students.
The global importance of science was also highlighted by Oakland Zoo’s Amy Gotliffe who shared about her work as a conservationist and how important it is to change the habits and mindsets of people in the United States and Africa.
Abbey Barnard a teacher from United for Success Academy, brought three eight graders who were really interested in science. Among them was a student that recently immigrated to the United States. He was excited learn about conservation around the world and also commented on the fact that eating with silverware was a cross-cultural experience!
Dinner with a Scientist is a unique opportunity for teachers to link their students with working scientists. Discussions ranged from the daily work of scientists to life in college to early childhood experiences, and teachers who influenced their careers. No topic was off limits or too rigorous. The eighth graders discussed multiverses with a physicist from the Space Science Laboratory with ease!
This event was so successful that we’ll host a second Dinner with a Scientist event on June 2nd for upper elementary students and teachers. For more details, checkout the Science in Oakland website.
Whether you’re a teacher or a scientist, getting involved with National Lab Day is easy. To learn more about how to get involved check out these videos on the National Science Foundation website or visit NationalLabDay.org.
Caleb Cheung is the Science Manager for Oakland Unified School District
Peter OrszagMay 12, 2010
03:24 PM EDT
A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) letter released yesterday has sparked a new round of old questions about the cost of the recently enacted health insurance reform law, the Affordable Care Act. The letter simply updates CBO’s calculation of the size of discretionary authorizations included in the legislation.
CBO’s tally, which is not included in its estimate of the cost of the law, has led some to erroneously conclude that the law includes more spending and less deficit reduction than CBO has previously reported.
- Authorizations are just that — they are not spending. That is, they are expressions of what Congress would like to spend money on, not what it will spend money on. This is important since Congress frequently does not fully fund authorizations and many are never funded. As CBO itself says in the letter, authorizations “are subject to future appropriation actions, which could result in greater or smaller costs than the sums authorized by the legislation.”
- The President has made a firm commitment to freezing non-security discretionary funding for the next three years — a commitment he has said would be enforced by his veto pen. As a result, any actual new funding would have to fit within this freeze and so would have to be offset by budget cuts elsewhere.
- It is also worth noting that a number of these authorizations — including the largest authorization reported in the CBO letter — are simply new authorizations of spending that already exists. In other words, funding such authorizations does not result in new spending.
The bottom line remains the same: the Affordable Care Act is the largest deficit reduction package enacted in over a decade according to CBO. It will reduce deficits by more than $100 billion in the current decade and more than $1 trillion in the decade after that — and that will not change.
Peter R. Orszag is Director of the Office of Management and Budget
May 12, 2010
01:35 PM EDT
Ed. Note: Also see the President's statement out this afternoon.
As debate over Wall Street reform continues on the Senate floor, opponents of the legislation and their lobbyists continue to try to spread mistruths about the bill, particularly when it comes to the impact of financial reform on small businesses.
Let’s set the record straight once again: neither the Senate bill nor the Administration’s original proposal has ever applied to small businesses – not to florists, not to butchers, and not to orthodontists. When it comes to authorities for the new consumer financial protection agency, we have absolutely no interest in any company that is not significantly engaged in providing financial goods and services.
The Snowe-Landrieu amendment that will be considered soon makes clear once and for all that the Senate bill does not apply to small businesses – any small business. That means if you are a small business owner that simply extends credit to facilitate sales of nonfinancial goods or services to your customers and keeps the credit on your own accounts, you will not be affected.
But it’s important to be equally clear on who IS covered: with or without the Snowe-Landrieu amendment, this bill covers banks, it covers auto-dealer-lenders, it covers payday lenders, and all other companies engaged in providing financial services to consumers. As it should.
As we mentioned here yesterday and articles in the New York Times and Washington Post note today, there's a fight looming as lobbyists argue for unjustifiable loopholes and carve-outs. Auto dealer-lenders -who compete directly with banks and are responsible for originating 80 percent of car loans nationwide - are looking for a total exemption from the bill's consumer financial protection provisions. Given the fact that, after a house, a car is the biggest purchase most American families make, the attempt to exempt auto lenders from consumer protection rules is particularly egregious.
We saw in the financial crisis that companies that originate loans for the purpose of selling them off to Wall Street— which is exactly what auto dealer-lenders do—often have skewed incentives. For example, Wall Street pays dealer-lenders more to bring in loans with higher interest rates than the borrower qualifies for. This encourages dealer-lenders to inflate rates and pack loans with expensive and unnecessary add-ons, while using deceptive tactics to make customers think they’re getting a good deal.
For the sake of responsible consumers – as well as for responsible community banks and credit unions --we must ensure that all businesses that are significantly engaged in providing consumer financial products and services play by the same basic rules of the road. That puts auto dealer lenders and payday lenders squarely within the parameters of this bill. But it puts the butcher, the orthodontist and the floral arrangement maker squarely beyond its scope.
Beware of any and all misleading attempts to blur those lines.
Michael Barr is Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Institutions
May 12, 2010
09:20 AM EDT
It's no secret that America is going to need many more young people to pursue science and technology professions in the future. As we celebrate National Lab Day on May 12, we have an opportunity for people currently in these careers to work with students and teachers and get them excited about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. But National Lab Day is more than just one single day in the year. It's really a collaborative movement to support people who work in our classrooms to inspire tomorrow’s innovators.
I have a particular interest in activities like this. I was born and raised in Columbia, SC – the son of two public school teachers who, despite very long hours and modest wages, loved each and every day of their work. They made the hard choice to remain in public education because they knew it was their opportunity to inspire thousands of students and to give them the foundation they would need to take their places in national, state, and local leadership. My parents’ dedication instilled in me a deep and personal passion for education.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to follow in my parents’ footsteps for a day and work with Lisa Hedgepeth’s fifth grade students at Langdon Education Campus, a school located in Washington, DC. These students have been studying the solar system, and I had the opportunity to share with them my experience of living and working in space as a NASA astronaut before I became the NASA Administrator. We spent time discussing Newton’s Laws of Motion with me giving them examples of ways in which we are able to demonstrate those laws real-time while in the weightless environment of space. We had an energetic discussion on how these laws are present in everyday life.
May 11, 2010
03:55 PM EDT
Last week, Vice President Biden traveled to Belgium and Spain. In a major address to the European Parliament, the Vice President talked about the relationship between the U.S. and Europe:
What began as a simple pact among a half-a-dozen nations to create a common market for coal and steel grew into an economic and political powerhouse; a community dedicated to free thought, free movement, and free enterprise; a Europe that one historian has called, not so much a place but an idea.
And I’m here to reaffirm that President Obama and I believe in this idea, and in a better world and better Europe it has already helped to bring about; a Europe where all member states benefit by negotiating trade agreements and fighting environmental degradation with one unified voice; a Europe that bolsters the cultural and political values that my country shares with all of you; a Europe that is whole, a Europe that is free, and a Europe that is at peace.
As President Obama said in Prague a little more than a year ago, a strong Europe makes a stronger partner for the United States, and we need strong partners. That is why we will do everything we can to support this great endeavor of yours. Because the past 65 years have shown that when Americans and Europeans devote their energies to common purpose, there is almost nothing we are unable to accomplish.
During his first stop in Brussels, the Vice President met with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek, leaders of the European Parliament, and Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme. The Vice President also attended a lunch meeting with President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, and a dinner meeting with all 28 allied Permanent Representatives to the North Atlantic Council.
While in Madrid, Vice President Biden met with King Juan Carlos to discuss the ongoing cooperation between the United States and Spain to address major global challenges. On Saturday, the Vice President and Spanish President Zapatero spoke to the press about the strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Spain and visited Spanish troops where the Vice President told them, "Our country is proud and grateful to be partners with all of you, with Spain - a partnership we are committed to strengthening and deepening in the years ahead."
Secretary Hilda SolisMay 11, 2010
03:06 PM EDT
"Nice to meet you. What do you do?"
For many, this is one of the first conversations we have when meeting someone new. But our jobs are more than simply a topic of conversation -- they are an important part of our lives. They can be an extension of us and a matter of pride. What we “do” is part of who we are.
So now that we’ve met, I’d like to hear more about your job.
Here’s your chance to tell me, and the world, about your work through the Department of Labor’s Career Video Challenge.
We are asking America to create short videos highlighting 15 in-demand occupations including nursing, medical lab technicians, weatherization, carpentry, steamfitting and more.
Our Employment and Training Administration staff will narrow it down to the top three videos in each field -- but the final choice is up to you. Your votes will determine the $1,000 cash prize winner in each field.
Through June 18, you can submit your entries on the Department of Labor website.
Some of these occupations have been around for ages and others are just emerging. The one thing they all have in common - the potential for growth.
In today’s competitive environment, America’s job seekers face tough choices. For those that are thinking about their first job or those that are changing directions mid-career, it’s important to find a job that’s a good fit. These videos will help provide a firsthand look into all the opportunities available.
So tell your story. Be creative. What’s the best part of your day? How did you get into your career and what keeps you coming back? What skills and experience do you need to succeed?
I can’t wait to see what you come up with. June 18 is right around the corner, so check out the site, review the occupations, read the rules for the contest, and get filming!
Hilda Solis is the Secretary of Labor.
Jesse LeeMay 11, 2010
01:43 PM EDT
Yesterday you heard the President speak at length about Solicitor General Elena Kagan's brilliant career, her deep understanding of how the law affects real lives, and the family that instilled values of education and service in her from childhood. We also posted an extensive list of commentary from the media, Congress, and legal experts praising her experience and reputation for building consensus.
Today we wanted to share a look at Kagan in her own words. We had a chance to speak with her during the hectic day yesterday, here's what she had to say: