Our Top Stories
Kori SchulmanAugust 06, 2010
05:25 PM EDT
For 40 years, the Citizens Medal has recognized men and women who have “performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.” In one of his favorite events of the year, President Obama awarded 13 Americans from different backgrounds and every corner of the country the 2010 Citizens Medal.
In a series of video interviews, the honorees share their remarkable stories of service. From Jorge Muñoz, the “Angel of Queens,” who feeds the hungry 365 days a year, rain or shine, to Susan Retik, who, after her own husband was killed on September 11th, started an organization to empower Afghan widows – they each teach us that no matter the challenges, we each have the power to make the world a better place.
Watch these extraordinary citizens share their stories of service in their own words in the Citizens Medal video gallery.
Watch videos of all 13 Citizens Medal recipients tell their extraordinary stories of service here.
Jesse LeeAugust 06, 2010
05:15 PM EDT
You know what will make you look important to all your connections on LinkedIn? Being connected to the White House.
OK, maybe not, but today we have a good example of why it’s still worthwhile. Earlier this week we posted a link to our animated explainer video on Wall Street Reform and asked what questions people had about it. Our group of 57,109 people has spurred a lot of great, involved discussions on issues like health care reform since we started up last year, and we got a lot of good questions this time too. Today Jen Psaki, our Deputy Communications Director (and one of our most prolific bloggers on this topic) stopped by to address some of the most common themes we saw in the discussion.
See all of her answers below – get connected to us to get in on the discussion next time, act fast and you could be lucky member number 57,110:
Ambassador Ron KirkAugust 06, 2010
01:27 PM EDT
Recently, I’ve been traveling across the country to meet with local business leaders, workers and farmers to talk about how trade can support well-paying jobs right here at home. Yesterday I travelled to the Bangor State Fair in Maine. In its 161st year, this traditional Maine summer event was a perfect place to showcase the importance of agricultural exports to the economic recovery.
I had the opportunity to join Bangor State Fair Director Mike Dyer and USDA Rural Development State Director for Maine Virginia Manuel. With the help of Penobscott County 4-H students, I was able to see first-hand a wide selection of the great American farm products that are sold around the world. I met high school student Matt Davis and his best in show winning dairy cow. I also saw goats and chickens. College students Majorie Hardy and Haley Emery gave me a tour of the 4-H students' project area where I was able to talk with students about the importance of growing locally and selling globally.
Jesse LeeAugust 06, 2010
01:11 PM EDT
Speaking on the latest jobs numbers this morning, the President had words for Republicans who have been relentlessly blocking any measure to give the economy another boost: “We need to do what’s right, not what’s political, and we need to do it right now.”
The audience was made up of workers at Gelberg Signs, a small business in DC that’s currently hiring new workers and making new investments in their technology thanks in part to two Small Business Administration loans. It’s the kind of business that helped private employment grow for the seventh straight month just a year after the economy seemed to be falling off a cliff.
But while the worst kind of disaster may have been averted, and the approximately 3 million jobs the Recovery Act was responsible for have brought us back from the brink of another Great Depression, the President has also been consistent that more needed to be done. And for those who have been stalling job-creating initiatives in Congress, the President gave them a fresh sense of urgency.
Christina RomerAugust 06, 2010
09:45 AM EDT
Private sector employment grew 71,000 in July, the seventh consecutive monthly increase, including continued growth in manufacturing. But, the pace of growth was not enough to reduce the overall unemployment rate, which remained 9.5 percent. There was, however, important variation in employment growth across industries: employment in manufacturing as well as education and health services increased, while that in financial services and construction decreased. Employment in state and local government, including public school teachers, decreased 48,000, underscoring the importance of the additional state fiscal relief working its way through Congress.
Overall payroll employment decreased 131,000. However, much of this decline was anticipated because of the winding down of temporary Census employment. The sharp decline in state and local government employment also contributed to the overall decline. Private sector employment increased 71,000, above the revised levels of private sector job growth in May (51,000) and June (31,000). Private sector employment has grown by 630,000 since its low point in December 2009. Average weekly hours in the private sector rose another one-tenth of an hour; hours are now five-tenths of an hour higher than they were in October 2009.
A bright spot in the private sector jobs numbers for July was the growth of manufacturing employment. Manufacturing employment grew 36,000, the seventh consecutive monthly rise. Manufacturing employment is now up 183,000 since its low point. Both financial services and construction shed jobs. Temporary help employment also fell, the first such fall since November 2009.
Arun ChaudharyAugust 06, 2010
12:00 AM EDT
Welcome to a special Gulf Coast episode of West Wing Week. We spent this week traveling through communities on America’s Gulf Coast to give you a special behind the scenes look at the federal government’s historic and unprecedented effort to contain and clean up after the Deepwater BP oil spill.
Join responders as they skim sheen off the ocean and respond to oiled wildlife. Stop by a town hall with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, as he hears the concerns of locals. Join engineers as they pump mud into the well itself, creating a more permanent seal and much more.
Find more video, photos, and information on the events featured in this episode below:
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
- Goverment scientists release report saying, "74% of oil in BP Deepwater Horizon Spill either contained or mitigated"
Arun Chaudhary is the official White House videographer
Jesse LeeAugust 05, 2010
06:06 PM EDT
Nancy-Ann DeParleAugust 05, 2010
05:16 PM EDT
Today, we got more good news about the Affordable Care Act, the new law that will give seniors better benefits and save Medicare $575 billion over the next ten years. Many savings provisions in the new law kick in immediately, totaling about $8 billion in just the first two years. That’s real money, even in Washington, and it’s money we're saving by cutting waste, fraud and abuse and making Medicare more efficient -- not by changing seniors' guaranteed Medicare benefits. In fact, we’re making benefits for seniors even better. In the coming years, seniors will save an average of $200 per year in premiums and more than $200 in coinsurance, and we’ll completely close the Medicare prescription drug gap known as the “donut hole.”
This morning, the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees released a new report that demonstrates how the Affordable Care Act is helping to reduce costs and make Medicare stronger. The report shows that the Affordable Care Act will extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by 12 additional years – the biggest extension ever – and help preserve Medicare for generations to come.
But the Affordable Care Act isn’t just about saving money for Medicare. It’s about providing better services and giving seniors higher quality care. Many of the provisions on the Affordable Care Act are specifically designed to improve care and lower costs - like providing free preventive care and avoiding hospital readmissions.
Forty -five years ago, President Johnson signed Medicare into law – making a solemn commitment to provide to our seniors and some of the most vulnerable Americans with health care coverage. President Obama will always uphold that commitment. That’s why we fought for the Affordable Care Act in first place – to ensure that Medicare is protected for years to come.
Today we also learned that the Affordable Care Act is actually expected to strengthen Social Security and improve its solvency by bringing down health premiums, resulting in higher take-home pay for America’s workers. Social Security is a critical bedrock of economic security not just for America’s seniors but for people with disabilities and survivors and our Administration is committed to working to keep it that way not just for the current generation but for generations to come.
You can learn more about ways the Affordable Care Act is cutting costs and improving health care for seniors and all Americans at HealthCare.gov.
Nancy-Ann DeParle is Director of the White House Office of Health Reform
Jesse LeeAugust 05, 2010
03:58 PM EDT
A week ago, when the President was in Detroit visiting workers at GM and Chrysler plants that had survived the worst and begun to bounce back, we released a new report demonstrating the amazing comeback that the American auto industry has begun to forge from the brink of extinction. We also laid out an interactive map showing the locations across the country that were benefiting from the industry’s new turn towards the vehicles of the future, aided by the Recovery Act’s unprecedented investment in clean energy.
In Detroit, the workers roared as the President talked about how his stand helped save not only their companies, but an entire supply chain scattered across the country – about a million jobs all told. They jeered when he recalled critics who called it a “bad investment.”
Heather ZichalAugust 04, 2010
05:59 PM EDT
Today, a panel of government scientists released a report which said that the vast majority of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has either evaporated or been burned, skimmed, recovered from the wellhead or dispersed much of which is in the process of being degraded. A significant amount of this is the direct result of the federal government’s aggressive response to the spill.
The chart below outlines the breakdown of what has happened to the oil released into the Gulf of Mexico since the oil spill began in April:
Jesse LeeAugust 04, 2010
04:47 PM EDT
Speaking at the AFL-CIO Executive Council Meeting here in DC, the President thanked “all my brothers and sisters in the AFL-CIO” who have worked so hard to help get America’s economy back on track. He spoke of the progress that’s been made, with millions of people at work now because of the Recovery Act, and the length left to go until the millions still out of work find their jobs.
As for his plans going forward, he summed it up in “three powerful words”:
Together, we’re jumpstarting a new American clean energy industry -- an industry with the potential to generate perhaps millions of jobs building wind turbines and solar panels, and manufacturing the batteries for the cars of the future, building nuclear plants, developing clean coal technology. There are other countries that are fighting for those jobs, in China and India and in Germany and other parts of Europe. But the United States doesn’t play for second place. As long as I’m President, I’m going to keep fighting night and day to make sure that we win those jobs, that those are jobs that are created right here in the United States of America and that your members are put to work. (Applause.)
So the message I want to deliver to our competitors -- and to those in Washington who’ve tried to block our progress at every step of the way -- is that we are going to rebuild this economy stronger than before, and at the heart of it are going to be three powerful words: Made in America. Made in America. (Applause.)
That’s why we’re finally enforcing our trade laws -- in some cases for the very first time. That’s why we’re fighting for tax breaks for companies that invest here in the United States as opposed to companies that are investing overseas or that keep their profits offshore. Because it is my belief -- and I know it’s the belief of this room -- that there are no better workers than U.S. workers. There are no better workers than your members. (Applause.) And they are absolutely committed to making sure that America is on the rise again. And we are going to keep moving forward with them -- not moving backwards but moving forward with them.
As we rebuild our economy, we’re going to rebuild America as well. Over the last 20 months, bulldozers and backhoes have been whirring in communities across the country, as construction crews from local companies repair roads and bridges, railways and ports. That was part of our plan, and it’s put hundreds of thousands of folks to work. But there’s a lot more to do to rebuild our infrastructure for the 21st century, and a lot more Americans who are ready and willing to do that work. So that, too, is an area where we’ve got to keep moving forward.
August 04, 2010
01:18 PM EDT
When Congress passed and the President signed the Recovery Act, they made a $7.2 billion commitment to improving this country’s broadband infrastructure. They understood broadband will be an essential piece of a successful 21st century economy. But it can only be so if we deploy networks that offer all Americans quality service, while also teaching the skills to use broadband and encouraging its use to promote our national priorities, including education, health care, energy, and public safety.
Together, we’re excited to be moving quickly to make these goals a reality. Today, the Department of Agriculture is awarding roughly $1.2 billion for 126 projects across the country to connect homes, businesses, and critical community institutions like hospitals and police stations, that don't currently have adequate access.
Jared BernsteinAugust 04, 2010
11:05 AM EDT
To get the correct answer, you’ve got to ask the right question.
An article in USA Today mistakenly concludes that Recovery Act benefits are not reaching the communities that need the help. Now you might reasonably ask whether the 3 million or so people working because of the Recovery Act live in places where they don’t need those jobs – kind of an absurd proposition. And it’s also the case that USA Today reaches this conclusion using some incomplete data to begin with - but the article also makes two mistakes: First, USA Today fails to separate out programs directly keyed to joblessness, and second, they conflate state unemployment with need.
Before going into the details, it’s important to reflect on this second shortcoming, because it’s a fundamental flaw in their analysis. We put recovery projects where they’re needed, regardless of a state’s unemployment rate. We build roads where roads are needed, we clean up superfund sites where they are located and we repair schools where schools need fixing.
Kori SchulmanAugust 04, 2010
11:00 AM EDT
[Update: The live stream has concluded. Watch the event video here.]
Earlier this year the President invited you, the American public, to nominate candidates for the 2010 Citizens Medal. Today, President Obama will award 13 outstanding Americans the second-highest civilian honor in our nation. Watch the award ceremony live at 2:15 PM EDT on Wednesday, August 4th on WhiteHouse.gov/live.
Here is the President's announcement:
Later today, I will host a ceremony and reception to honor the recipients of the 2010 Citizens Medal at the White House, but I wanted you to be the first to know who will receive this prestigious award:
The Citizens Medal is the second highest civilian honor in our nation. For over 40 years, some of America’s most respected heroes and public figures like Muhammad Ali, Colin Powell and Bob Dole, and everyday heroes like Oseola McCarty, a washerwoman who left her entire life savings to establish a scholarship for students in need, have received this award.
This year, we decided to try something a little bit different. We asked you, the American public, to tell us about the heroes in your community, the folks who may not always get the recognition they deserve, but whose selfless work is making a real difference.
We received over 6,000 outstanding and inspiring nominations from around the country. It was a tough choice, but we were able to narrow it down to 13 recipients of the 2010 Citizens Medal:
Jesse LeeAugust 04, 2010
10:33 AM EDT
[UPDATE: This event has now concluded, watch the full video below.]
For those who have watched our animated video explainer on Wall Street Reform, there’s probably no question that there are benefits in there for every American as a taxpayer, a citizen, and a consumer.
That's true when it comes to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau passed as part of the bill as well, but there are communities for which that will have a particularly big impact. Throughout the debate in Congress, for example, we discussed how military families and our troops were often targets for shady lending practices and would get new protections under reform.
Today we’re going to take 45 minutes to focus on how Wall Street Reform will affect the African American community, which has long seen more than its share of the kinds of practices the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will put to an end.
Ceci Rouse, who sits on the Council of Economic Advisors, will take questions from representatives Black Enterprise, theGrio, and Jack & Jill Politics – all of whom have been collecting questions from their readers – at 1:00 EDT this afternoon. And, as usual, we’ll be tossing a few live questions into the mix.
Jesse LeeAugust 03, 2010
06:41 PM EDT
This afternoon the President held a town hall with 115 young leaders from more than 40 countries across Africa -- it was the kind of White House event under this President that surprises you, catching you off guard with its honesty.
For those interested in Africa and its development, or for that matter this President's engagement with not just heads of state, but with people all over the world, the video is well worth watching (for info on America's diplomatic progress see our fact sheet as well). Here's the transcript of the final Q&A:
Jesse LeeAugust 03, 2010
04:58 PM EDT
This morning the President signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduces the disparity in the amounts of powder cocaine and crack cocaine required for the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences and eliminates the mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine. It also increases monetary penalties for major drug traffickers.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the legislation in his daily press briefing and responded:
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me see if there’s any guidance on it. I will say this, April, I think the signing of today’s bill into law represents the hard work of Democrats and Republicans coming -- this is a good example -- of coming together and making progress on something that people had identified as a glaring blight on the law.
Look, I think if you look at the people that were there at that signing, they’re not of the political persuasions that either always or even part of the time agree. I think that demonstrates the, as I said, the glaring nature of what these penalties had -- the glaring nature of what these penalties had done to people and how unfair they were. And I think the President was proud to sign that into law.
Jared BernsteinAugust 03, 2010
02:30 PM EDT
As the American economy is starting to pull out of the deep recession that greeted us when we got to the White House, there are still far too many working people struggling to pay their bills and support their families. And the last thing we need at a time like this is deceptive, abusive business practices designed to take advantage of struggling middle-class Americans.
That’s why Vice President Biden held a Middle Class Task Force meeting on Thursday to talk about stronger consumer protection to protect American households from deceptive practices. The VP was joined by Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, who came to our Task Force meeting to announce new rules that will protect consumers of debt relief services.
Kori SchulmanAugust 03, 2010
10:30 AM EDT
The Administration is committed to serving our veterans as well as they have served us. With Vietnam veteran, wounded warrior and lifetime DAV (Disabled American Veterans) member Secretary Shinseki at his side, President Obama talked to Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta, Georgia about historic commitments to our veterans and their families.
President Obama charged Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Ric Shinseki with building a 21st century VA. Here’s what VA is doing to serve our vets:
- It’s easier for about 200,000 Vietnam veterans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange to get the health care and benefits they need.
- Co-pays for the catastrophically disabled have been eliminated and the half-million Priority 8 veterans will have their VA health care access restored.
- Funding for veterans health care across the board has dramatically increased – this includes improving care for rural veterans and women veterans.
- Funding delays for veterans medical care are over. VA is working overtime to create a single lifetime electronic record that our troops and veterans can keep for life.
- VA is hiring thousands of new claims processors to break the backlog once and for all and, for the first time ever, veterans will be able to go to the VA website and download their personal health records with one simple click. It will also be easier for vets to check on the status of their claims online or even from their cell phones.
- Today, there are about 20,000 fewer homeless veterans than there were before this Administration took office. We’re not stopping until every veteran who has fought for America has a home in America.
- The newest veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq will have the support and counseling they need to transition back to civilian life. This includes funding the post-9/11 GI Bill, which is already helping nearly 300,000 veterans and family members pursue their dream of a college education.
- VA is helping with job training and placement for veterans trying to find work in a tough economy.
- Unprecedented resources are being directed to treat the wounds of today’s wars -- traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder. The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act not only improves treatment for traumatic brain injury and PTSD, it gives new support to the caregivers who put their own lives on hold to care for their loved one.
- The Administration is making it easier for those suffering from PTSD to qualify for VA benefits. A veteran can now establish a claim based on his or her own testimony of events that caused PTSD without the requirement of corroborating evidence -- no matter what war you served in.
Jared BernsteinAugust 03, 2010
09:53 AM EDT
This morning two senators—John McCain and Tom Coburn—released their third report critiquing 100 Recovery Act projects. And just like the last two, this one was an inaccurate and misleading attack on programs that are putting Americans to work across the nation. I’ll present some details in a moment, but it’s very unfortunate that, once again, instead of trying to help create the conditions for stronger growth, to help build on the momentum of the Recovery Act, McCain and Coburn spend their valuable time cooking up phony critiques and, with their Republican colleagues, blocking votes of even bipartisan measures to help small businesses.
Let’s start with the bigger picture. Just last week two prominent, independent economists released a rigorous study on how actions by the government (and the Federal Reserve), including the Recovery Act, helped to end the Great Recession. One of the authors—Mark Zandi—was one of McCain’s top advisers during his presidential bid. He and Alan Blinder (a former vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve) found that the Recovery Act has created or saved about 2.7 million jobs so far, and shaved about a point and a half off of the unemployment rate.