Read all posts from August 2010

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (508MB) | mp3 (17MB)

    Having returned hours earlier from a conversation with troops at Fort Bliss, Texas – troops who had seen every phase of what has become one of America’s longest wars – the President spoke to the Nation for just the second time from the Oval Office to announce the end of America’s combat role in that war.  Americans in high school today may barely remember a time when America was not in combat in Iraq, and young adults – including so many of our troops who have sacrificed so much – have almost by definition gone their entire adult lives in a country divided over the war.  Today, as the President put it, was a day to begin to “turn the page” – a day when America could turn its focus towards building itself back up from a devastating recession.

    Over all that time, though, as the President pointed out, “there has been one constant amidst those shifting tides”:

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (88MB) | mp3 (9MB)

    Over the past week, we’ve been inviting you to join us in saluting the troops for their service. The response has been overwhelming, and has made clear that while the end of the combat mission is an appropriate time to recognize the sacrifice the troops and their military make, the gratitude is always there, and never forgotten with the American people.

    It was in that same spirit that the President flew to Fort Bliss in Texas today, home to troops who have served at every stage of the Iraq War, including troops who are redeploying back home throughout the fall, and troops supporting our new support mission in Iraq.

    President Barack Obama Greets Members of the Military at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas

    President Barack Obama greets members of the military at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas August 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    The President will address the nation from the Oval Office tonight at 8:00PM EDT, you can watch live here and submit questions for a live chat afterwards now. He told those listening that they would be the focus:

  • Tonight at 8pm EDT, President Obama will address the nation from the Oval Office regarding the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq.  Immediately following the President's remarks, Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications will answer questions directly from Americans across the country.

     

    Now is your chance to hear the White House's response to your questions about the change of mission.  Submit your questions now and vote your favorite ones to the top.  Then tune in tonight at 8pm EDT to watch and participate at whitehouse.gov/live.

  • If you are an employer, you know how difficult it can be to find – and provide– health insurance for your retired employees who are age 55 or older and not yet eligible for Medicare. 

    Some Americans who retire before they are eligible for Medicare see their life savings disappear because of medical bills and exorbitant rates in the individual health insurance market.  And the cost of insurance can be out of reach for individuals looking to buy health coverage on their own.

    Many employers would like to help their employees make this transition comfortably and provide access to health insurance past retirement. But in these tough economic times, it is difficult for employers to keep up with skyrocketing health care costs for employees and retirees.

    The Affordable Care Act’s Early Retiree Reinsurance Program will make it a little easier for employers to provide high-quality health benefits to their retirees.

  • Over the past week, we’ve been remembering the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, highlighting the progress made, and restating the Administration’s commitment to the region.  This past weekend, several members of the Cabinet, the First Lady and President Obama traveled to the Gulf Coast, where the President spoke about the stories of communities and families working to restore what was lost.

    Watch the video:

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (249MB) | mp3 (24MB)

    Throughout our Hurricane Katrina: 5 Years of Remembering & Rebuilding series, we heard stories of dedication and restoration from across the federal government.  Here are just a few examples of the Administration’s continued support for the individuals, families and communities who were affected:

  • With the unwavering support of President Obama, VA is transforming to meet its 21st Century responsibilities.  Advocacy, on behalf of every generation of Veterans, is central to this transformation.
     
    Agent Orange was a blend of herbicides used by the U.S. military, during the Vietnam conflict, to deny concealment to enemy forces.  More than 19 million gallons of herbicides were sprayed to remove foliage and undergrowth.  The most common, Agent Orange, was sprayed in all four military zones of South Vietnam.

  • As I travel around the country, I meet many small business owners who are poised to take that next step to grow their business and create jobs. In fact, this morning’s USA Today looks at one of those business owners - Amarjit Kaur who runs a convenience store and gas station in Wood Village, OR.  Amarjit has been approved for an SBA loan so she can buy the property she now leases. But today her application sits in a queue waiting for passage of the Small Business Jobs Act currently before the Senate.

    Here’s what’s happening:  Up until a few months ago, SBA was able to waive the fees for SBA loan borrowers.  This allowed small business owners to put more money back into their business. In fact, these fee reductions will save Amarjit about $35,000.  At the same time, we  were able to increase the government guarantee on SBA loans, to encourage more banks and credit unions to go ahead and make SBA loans to good, creditworthy small businesses.

  • Cross-posted from HealthCare.gov

    On August 10th, you may have seen Jenny Backus’ post on HealthCare Notes noting that the third round of donut hole rebate checks went into the mail.
     
    Recently, we hit a major milestone: the millionth check was sent out over the weekend.
     
    If you haven’t heard about the rebate checks before, they are the first step in closing the prescription drug coverage gap under the Affordable Care Act. This gap is commonly referred to as the ‘donut hole.’ We know that many people with Medicare have tight budgets and some may skip or alter the medicines their doctors recommend they take in order to save money in the donut hole. That is dangerous and unacceptable. And that’s why the Affordable Care Act takes steps to close this coverage gap.

    This year, as qualifying people with Medicare enter the ‘donut hole,’ Medicare will send them a tax-free, one-time rebate check for $250.  Next year, if you reach the ‘donut hole,’ you will receive a 50 percent discount when buying covered brand-name prescription drugs. 
     
    If you are eligible for this assistance, remember, you don’t need to do anything special to receive the check. People who qualify for the one-time check do not need to sign up, since their checks are mailed automatically when they enter the donut hole. So just make sure to check the mailbox.
     
    Just a reminder: you should never give out personal information to anyone who is not a trusted source. If anyone asks for your personal information you are encouraged to contact 1-800-MEDICARE and report the inquiry. You can also visit www.stopmedicarefraud.gov for more information.
     
    We hope that the latest round of checks will ease the burden on individuals recently entering the donut hole. This is just one of several ways that the Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare so make sure you check out Medicare.gov and other areas of HealthCare.gov for more information.

    Don Berwick is Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (52MB) | mp3 (5MB)

    Speaking in the Rose Garden in the heat, the President began his remarks this morning on the economy by once again noting that for all the progress that's been made since "that terrible September when our economy teetered on the brink of collapse," there is much left to do -- and that millions of Americans are still struggling:

    That’s why my administration remains focused, every single day, on pushing this economy forward, repairing the damage that’s been done to the middle class over the past decade, and promoting the growth we need to get our people back to work.

    So, as Congress prepares to return to session, my economic team is hard at work in identifying additional measures that could make a difference in both promoting growth and hiring in the short term, and increasing our economy’s competitiveness in the long term. Steps like extending the tax cuts for the middle class that are set to expire this year.  Redoubling our investment in clean energy and R&D.  Rebuilding more of our infrastructure for the future.  Further tax cuts to encourage businesses to put their capital to work creating jobs here in the United States.  And I’ll be addressing these proposals in further detail in the days and weeks to come.

    Having laid out this broader agenda, though, and making clear that no one bill would be the silver bullet, the President zeroed in on the obstruction that is standing in the way of even the most immediate and obvious of steps:

    And there’s currently a jobs bill before Congress that would do two big things for small business owners: cut more taxes and make available more loans.  It would help them get the credit they need, and eliminate capital gains taxes on key investments so they have more incentive to invest right now.  And it would accelerate $55 billion of tax relief to encourage American businesses, small and large, to expand their investments over the next 14 months.

    Unfortunately, this bill has been languishing in the Senate for months, held up by a partisan minority that won’t even allow it to go to a vote.  That makes no sense.  This bill is fully paid for.  It won’t add to the deficit.  And there is no reason to block it besides pure partisan politics. 

    Small business owners and the communities that rely on them, they don’t have time for political games.  They shouldn’t have to wait any longer.  In fact, just this morning, a story showed that small businesses have put hiring and expanding on hold while waiting for the Senate to act on this bill.  Simply put: holding this bill hostage is directly detrimental to our economic growth.

    So I ask Senate Republicans to drop the blockade.  I know we’re entering election season.  But the people who sent us here expect us to work together to get things done and improve this economy.

  • The old adage goes that Presidents often wish for one-handed economists, to avoid all that “on the one hand, sir, we could be looking at X; though on the other hand, it could be Y.”

    So when economic consensus forms around the outcome of a policy like the Recovery Act, it’s worth taking note. That’s why this article from USA Today, entitled (online) “Economists Agree: Stimulus Created 3 Million Jobs” is worth noting.

  • An update out from the White House moments ago:

    Vice President Joe Biden in Iraq

    Vice President Joe Biden has arrived in Iraq to participate in a Change of Command and Change of Mission Ceremony, fulfilling the commitment made by the President in his first month in office. 

    This is the Vice President’s sixth trip to Iraq since January 2009.  The United States ends its combat mission in Iraq on August 31st, having drawn down to fewer than 50,000 troops from approximately 144,000 troops in January 2009.  The remaining troops will advise and assist Iraq’s security forces, conduct partnered counter-terrorism operations, and protect U.S. civilians.  In accordance with an agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments, all U.S. forces will leave Iraq by December 31, 2011.

    President Obama will deliver a National Address on Iraq on August 31st.  The Vice President’s visit at this juncture will reinforce the long-term U.S. commitment to Iraq.  The Vice President will meet with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, leader of the Iraqiyya coalition Ayad Allawi, Chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council Ammar al-Hakim and other political leaders to discuss the latest developments in Iraq and to urge Iraqi leaders to conclude negotiations on the formation of a new government.     

  • It's difficult to look back on the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina with anything but sadness. Sadness for the lives lost, sadness for the displacement of so many people.

    As we mark the fifth anniversary of Katrina, there is still work to be done. And the Department of Transportation's (DOT) commitment to help rebuild Gulf communities remains strong.

  • Ed. Note: Read posts from Members of the Cabinet on Katrina recovery in our "Five Years of Remembering & Rebuilding" series.

    play

    Today the President and First Lady were down in New Orleans, joined by members of the Cabinet who have been working on recovery from Hurricane Katrina since they came into office.  The President spoke at Xavier University on the fifth anniversary of the disaster.

  • Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina destroyed schools throughout New Orleans. Since then, the state and city have worked together to make the city’s schools a model for school reform. New Orleans schools have made remarkable progress. They have been an inspiration to those of us who are working to provide a world-class education to all of America’s children.

    Despite the progress, New Orleans still has a lot of work to do. More than 100 school buildings were devastated by the floods of Katrina. The city still needs to replace, rebuild and rehabilitate buildings that were destroyed by the floods. Working together, state and city leaders have produced a master plan to will rebuild and renovate its schools.

    Today, I joined Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano in announcing more than $1.8 billion in federal funds to support the rebuilding of New Orleans’ schools. This money will support the city in building the excellent learning environments that the children of New Orleans deserve.

  • With the end of combat operations in Iraq days ahead, the President salutes our troops for their service and pledges to fulfill America’s commitment to them as veterans.  90,000 troops have left Iraq since the President came into office, and by the end of next year even the troops taking part in the non-combat mission will be home.  The administration is upholding the sacred trust with our veterans by building a 21st century VA, making it easier for veterans with PTSD to receive the benefits they need, funding and implementing a Post-9/11 GI Bill, and devoting new resources to job training and placement to help those veterans looking for work in a tough economy. 

  • Cross-posted from the Energy Department's blog.

    Yesterday, Vice President Biden visited a New Hampshire homeowner and announced that more than 200,000 homes have been weatherized as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, helping families across the nation cut their energy bills. The Associated Press ran an article today critical of the announcement and suggesting – incorrectly – that the Administration hasn’t acknowledged that the program got off to a slower start than was anticipated.

    While it is true that it took longer than hoped to ramp up weatherization efforts, it’s also important to recognize the incredible progress that has been made and dramatic acceleration of the program. In June, more than 31,000 homes were weatherized – the most in history, and above our target rate, putting us on track to meet the program’s goal of completing 600,000 homes.

  • As we approach the fifth anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it’s important to note how far our nation has come in improving our ability to respond to and recover from disasters and the progress we’ve made in helping our Gulf Coast recover from one of the worst natural disasters in our country’s history. 

    Since taking office, the Obama administration has made Gulf Coast rebuilding a top priority. Over the past 20 months, we’ve obligated more than $2.5 billion in funding for new schools and universities, fire houses, police stations, and critical infrastructure, including roads, bridges, hospitals, and public health assets across the Gulf.

  • In September 2009, the President announced that – for the first time in history – the White House would routinely release visitor records. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were created in May 2010. Today’s release also includes several visitor records created prior to September 16, 2009 that were requested by members of the public during July 2010 pursuant to the White House voluntary disclosure policy. This release brings the grand total of records that this White House has released to over 600,000 records. You can view them all in our Disclosures section.

    Norm Eisen is Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform

  • Shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I traveled there with other members of Congress.  We flew in helicopters to survey entire neighborhoods submerged in dirty water.  Those neighborhoods not underwater were abandoned.  We toured the 9th Ward and saw the broken levees.  Trash was everywhere.  We visited hospitals jammed to over-capacity, and in chaos. We met with students at a local public school.

    I knew then that we would have a lot of work to do to restore the community’s trust, respect and confidence in government.  When I returned home to Los Angeles, I donated cleaning supplies and clothing to displaced hurricane victims.  A small gesture, but I hoped to encourage others to do whatever they could to help, no matter what that was.

  • Today, the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB) approved its report on tax reform and sent it to the President.

    The PERAB report fulfills the specific mandate they were given: to discuss the pros and cons of a spectrum of reform ideas relating to tax simplification, improving compliance with existing tax laws, and reforming the corporate tax system.  They were also instructed not to consider policies that would raise taxes on families making less than $250,000.

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