Our Top Stories
Secretary Shaun DonovanSeptember 21, 2010
02:06 PM EDT
Recently, I had the privilege to speak before the Congressional Black Caucus’ Annual Legislative Conference Summit, where HUD staff participated in several panels and roundtables addressing issues, such as minority contracting, that are particularly important to communities of color. There, I was proud to describe how the Obama Administration and HUD are building a New Foundation to make minority communities more livable, sustainable, competitive and prosperous. Before an audience of CBC members and community advocates, I described how HUD is working to strengthen our economy—how, for instance, the Federal Housing Administration helps 51 percent of African American borrowers purchase a home; to invest in communities—how HUD’s $7 billion Neighborhood Stabilization Program is targeting communities hit hard by the foreclosure crisis, including CBC districts; and to protect civil rights – by increasing by a third federal funding to combat mortgage fraud and lending discrimination.
Jen PsakiSeptember 21, 2010
01:27 PM EDT
Yesterday afternoon, Senator Richard Shelby laid out very clearly what Congressional Republicans consider to be one of their major priorities – rolling back legislation that will provide more security and stability to middle class families, and more accountability to Wall Street. He joins the Republican Leader in the House who promised to try to repeal Wall Street Reform in July.
Senator Shelby wants to go back to a time when there was no such thing as a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and when consumers were left without a voice at the table. This is an agency whose mission is to look out for American consumers and empower them with the clear and concise information they need to make the financial decisions that are best for them. Its existence is enormously important, because one cause of the financial crisis and the Lost Decade for the middle class was the unscrupulous practices of credit card companies and mortgage lenders, who reaped billions at the expense of consumers from hidden fees and penalties.
Jesse LeeSeptember 20, 2010
04:48 PM EDT
This morning the President took part in an unusual sort of town hall in conjunction with CNBC. The audience was made up of “CEOs, union workers, teachers and students” as host John Harwood put it, and the questions reflected a broad variety of perspectives on the economy and jobs in America.
In opening remarks, the President recounted the over-arching story of his Administration so far: how the Recovery Act and other emergency actions were responsible for millions of American jobs and brought the country back from the brink of another Great Depression.
But the President also made clear once again that the struggle is far from over for far too many families, and one of the first questions was about middle class families who are still feeling the squeeze not just of this recession, but of the past years and decades. The President talked about how, even as he’s worked to boost our recovery in the short term, he’s also focused on creating a new foundation for the country so the next generation won’t be squeezed the same way – reforming student loans, putting families in charge of their own health care, creating a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau dedicated solely to making sure families get a fair shake.
But the President didn’t ask for congratulations:
Beth NoveckSeptember 20, 2010
12:48 PM EDT
Today I am in Manor, Texas (pop. 6,500), to celebrate the burgeoning open government movement underway in America’s towns and cities. Manor is embracing the Obama Administration's vision of creating effective and efficient government that fosters transparency and innovation. By using new technology to enable open and collaborative ways of working, government—whether federal, state, or local—can deliver better citizen services with fewer resources.
Stephanie CutterSeptember 20, 2010
11:37 AM EDT
Today, the Department of Health and Human Services will make an important announcement about the new steps it is taking to fight waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicare program. The new anti-fraud efforts were made possible by the Affordable Care Act, and they will build on the Administration’s existing efforts to save money for Medicare beneficiaries, strengthen the Medicare program and protect taxpayer dollars.
But if some opponents of health reform in Congress get their way, these common sense rules will be stopped dead in their tracks.
Jen PsakiSeptember 20, 2010
06:00 AM EDT
In an oped for the Wall Street Journal this morning, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor took the Congressional Republicans' commitment to holding middle class tax cuts hostage to a new level by pledging to fight any effort to extend them without an extension for the top two percent of the wealthiest Americans.
Here’s what Cantor and the Republicans are holding hostage: a tax cut for all Americans on the first $250,000 of their income. Under the Obama plan, every middle class family would receive the immediate certainty and comfort of knowing their tax cuts were permanently extended. Every American making more than $250,000 per year they would receive a tax cut on the first $250,000 of their income. And for income above that amount, this change would leave their tax rates at or below the rates that existed when President Clinton was in office and when the economy created 23 million jobs.
And here’s what they’re holding middle class tax relief hostage for: having our nation borrow $700 billion that we can’t afford to provide an average tax cut of $100,000 to millionaires and billionaires. This tax cut would be, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, just about the worst way to jumpstart our economy and help create jobs. That is why the President remains focused on strengthening the middle class to help grow the economy.
September 18, 2010
02:52 PM EDT
Hiring veterans is right, and it's smart. They give our country more than we can ever repay, and they develop valuable skills along the way. To help keep veterans engaged in public service, President Obama created the Veterans Employment Initiative for the Federal government last November.
We just reported our first results, and the news is very good: we hired more than 32,800 veterans into Federal jobs in just six months this fiscal year. That's 2,600 more than in the same period last year.
Our motto is that America's VET is Valued, Experienced, and Trained. We set out to match the skills developed in the military with the critical needs of Federal agencies - everything from law enforcement officers to medical professionals. And we got the whole government involved. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis stepped up to co-chair the President's Council on Veterans Employment. As Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), I am the COO, and the cabinet departments and other agencies are members of the Council. The Agriculture, Interior, Justice, and Treasury Departments have shown particularly strong results.
The initial numbers are very good, but we're just getting started. At yesterday's Council meeting, we set new goals for hiring more veterans, including hiring disabled veterans. The unemployment rate for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is unacceptable, and we're doing something about it. We're also getting top-notch civil servants at the same time. Additionally, as part of the White House Interagency Policy Committee on Military Families, OPM and the Department of Labor are working to increase employment of military spouses and strengthen military families.
This is personal for me. My father enlisted in the Marine Corps before Pearl Harbor and served with the first Division at Guadalcanal. My uncle for whom I am named was a Marine pilot, killed in battle in the Pacific. I honor their memories by serving today's veterans.
John Berry is the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Jesse LeeSeptember 18, 2010
06:00 AM EDT
The President explains how the most dire warnings about the Citizens United case have been proven valid as Republicans in Congress have blocked legislation to fix it.
September 17, 2010
06:23 PM EDT
This week's Friday Highlights features articles on Elizabeth Warren’s new position, Valerie Jarrett’s Paycheck Fairness Act editorial, a webchat with the first American woman in space Dr. Sally Ride, the National HIVAIDS Strategy for The US and the Implementation Plan, the White House’s Dance Series launch, and West Wing Week. To join the Council’s email list, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- President Obama appointed Elizabeth Warren to be a “Watchdog for the American Consumer”
- Jenny Kaplan, Deputy Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, highlights Valerie Jarrett’s Washington Post editorial on the Paycheck Fairness Act
- Dr. Sally Ride, former NASA astronaut and first American woman in space, does a live chat and takes questions from the Denver School of Science and Technology
- Frances Ashe-Goins, from the Office of Women’s Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, writes about women engaging and responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic
- White House Social Secretary Julianna Smoot's post on the launch of the White House Dance Series
- Watch West Wing Week!
Jenny Kaplan is Deputy Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls
Jesse LeeSeptember 17, 2010
04:05 PM EDT
The President began his remarks today in the Rose Garden laying out the motivation for what was to come:
Before we begin I just want to mention a report that was released by the Census Bureau yesterday about what happened to wages during the last decade. It revealed that between 2001 and 2009, the incomes of middle-class families fell by almost 5 percent.
The fact that the middle class has been chipped away at is well known, and obviously is not easily reversed. The economic crisis of the past two years has been devastating in itself, but was all the more tragic because so many middle class families had been pushed to the brink even beforehand. That's why the President was again tenacious in demanding that "the leaders of the other party to stop holding middle-class tax cuts hostage and extend this relief to families immediately." As the President has been explaining all week, Republicans in Congress have been refusing to allow an extension of middle class tax cuts unless there's also an additional tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans -- an average of $100,000 for everybody making a million dollars or more per year.
But the news of the day was the announcement that Elizabeth Warren would lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- one of the central features of Wall Street Reform as explained in our animated video -- in getting it off the ground:
She’s a native of Oklahoma. She’s a janitor’s daughter who has become one of the country’s fiercest advocates for the middle class. She has seen financial struggles and foreclosures affect her own family.
Long before this crisis hit, she had written eloquently, passionately, forcefully, about the growing financial pressures on working families and the need to put in place stronger consumer protections. And three years ago she came up with an idea for a new independent agency that would have one simple overriding mission: standing up for consumers and middle-class families.
The President touched on some of issues the bureau will focus on:
Never again will folks be confused or misled by the pages of barely understandable fine print that you find in agreements for credit cards or mortgages or student loans. The bureau is going to crack down on the abusive practices of unscrupulous mortgage lenders. It will reinforce the new credit card law that we passed, banning unfair rate hikes and ensure that folks aren’t unwittingly caught by overdraft fees when they sign up for a checking account. It will give students who take out college loans clear information and make sure that lenders don’t game the system. And it will ensure that every American receives a free credit score if they are denied a loan or insurance because of that score.
Basically, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be a watchdog for the American consumer, charged with enforcing the toughest financial protections in history.
Katelyn SabochikSeptember 17, 2010
12:25 PM EDT
Yesterday, Dr. Sally Ride, former NASA astronaut and first American woman in space, joined us for a special live chat to take questions from students at the Denver School of Science and Technology and across the country. Dr. Ride talked about the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and answered questions about her experiences in space.
You can check out the full video of the chat below or use the links below to skip to your favorite questions. A special thanks to the students at the Denver School of Science and Technology and National Geographic Kids for participating in yesterday’s chat.
- What class in high school prepared you the best for space?
- What was it like being the first woman in space?
- What made you so interested in science, technology, engineering, and math? What would you tell an 11-year-old girl about the importance of these subjects and what she can do to pursue these?
- How did your training and education prepare you for your first trip to space?
- What kind of extracurricular activities did you participate in outside of school?
- What is the coolest thing that ever happened to you in zero gravity?
- How have you seen technology change since you went into space? And want do you think about the direction of those changes?
- How did your education influence your decision to become an astronaut?
- Why do you think so many kids worry about math and are scared of it?
- Did you ever think of giving up on your dreams?
- Do you feel there was any part of your education that was missing?
- Do you think that going on fast rides at places like Disneyland are good practice for going into space?
- Would you want to live on the moon?
- Is there a lot of garbage in space?
- Would you want to live on the moon?
- What animals have been into space?
- Is it good for pets to go into space?
- Can you get online when you are in space?
- Would you like to be our graduation speaker?
Elizabeth WarrenSeptember 17, 2010
06:00 AM EDT
Over the past several weeks, the President and I have had extensive conversations about the vital importance of consumer financial protection.
The President asked me, and I enthusiastically agreed, to serve as an Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He has also asked me to take on the job to get the new CFPB started—right now. The President and I are committed to the same vision on CFPB, and I am confident that I will have the tools I need to get the job done.
President Obama understands the importance of leveling the playing field again for families and creating protections that work not just for the wealthy or connected, but for every American. The new consumer bureau is based on a pretty simple idea: people ought to be able to read their credit card and mortgage contracts and know the deal. They shouldn’t learn about an unfair rule or practice only when it bites them—way too late for them to do anything about it. The new law creates a chance to put a tough cop on the beat and provide real accountability and oversight of the consumer credit market. The time for hiding tricks and traps in the fine print is over. This new bureau is based on the simple idea that if the playing field is level and families can see what’s going on, they will have better tools to make better choices.
If the CFPB can succeed at leveling the playing field, we can go a long way toward repairing a gaping hole in the budgets of millions of families. But nobody has ever thought or argued that the consumer bureau can fix everything. Lost jobs, stagnant incomes, rising costs for college, dwindling retirement savings—there’s a lot of work to be done.
When she was 16, my grandmother, Hannie Reed, drove a wagon in the Oklahoma land rush. Her mother had died, so she was up front with her little brothers and sisters bouncing around in the back. When I was growing up, she talked about life on the prairie, about marrying my grandfather and making a living building one-room schoolhouses, about getting wiped out in the Great Depression. She was hit with hard challenges throughout her life, but the moral of her stories was always the same: she would solve her problems one at a time by pulling up her socks and getting to work.
It’s time for all of us to pull up our socks and get to work.
Arun ChaudharySeptember 17, 2010
12:00 AM EDT
Welcome to West Wing Week, your guide to everything that’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. This week, walk step by step with the President as he travels to Arlington, Virginia to attend a wreath laying ceremony at the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, celebrates the start of a new school year with his second annual ‘Back to School’ speech in Philadelphia, and holds a Cabinet meeting looking for ways for the Federal Government’s agencies to work together to improve the economy.
For more information on the events in this edition of West Wing Week, check out the links below:
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
- The President's Back to School Speech: "We Not Only Reach For Our Own Dreams, We Help Others Do the Same".
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Thursday, September 15, 2010
- President Obama Announces Expanded Efforts to Promote Science, Tech, Engineering and Math Education with "Change the Equation."
Arun Chaudhary is the official White House videographer
September 16, 2010
06:16 PM EDT
Ed. Note: Today President Obama announced the launch of Change the Equation, a CEO-led effort to dramatically improve education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), as part of his “Educate to Innovate” campaign.
Years may go by and memories may fade but just about everyone remembers a special teacher they had in the K-12 years who made a big difference—don’t you? A teacher who opened your eyes to something new or beautiful or showed you something about the possibilities of a subject in school that you had not appreciated before?
Those of us who have the privilege of serving on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology were talking about this recently and comparing stories about our own favorite and life-changing teachers, and we had an idea: Why not make a short video in which we could tell our stories, as a means of amplifying a message we were already developing about the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education?
The discussion came up in the course of preparing a new report on STEM education that PCAST released today, and it resulted in the production of the short video you can see below, which was produced by Visualante Media and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. We hope you enjoy getting a peek into the academic beginnings of some of the President’s science and technology advisors, and that it inspires you to do your share—as a student, a teacher, a corporate donor or philanthropist—to reach for the stars and do whatever you can do to strengthen this important backbone of American education.
Jim Gates is a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
Katelyn SabochikSeptember 16, 2010
06:03 PM EDT
Today, President Obama announced the launch of Change the Equation, a CEO-led effort to dramatically improve education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), as part of his “Educate to Innovate” campaign. Change the Equation is a non-profit organization dedicated to mobilizing the business community to improve the quality of STEM education in the United States.
The United States is falling behind our foreign competitors in STEM subjects. According to one, study American 15-year-olds ranked 21st in science and 25th in math compared to other countries. In his remarks to day, the President emphasized the importance of providing American students with a solid foundation in these subjects in order to compete in the global economy:
Craig FugateSeptember 16, 2010
05:37 PM EDT
No matter where you live, emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere.
Whether it’s a personal emergency, a car accident, or a large scale disaster, an earthquake, taking a few simple steps now to prepare, can keep your family safe and secure.
The problem is, too few families in our country are taking those steps. According to a 2009 Advertising Council survey, 55 percent of Americans have taken steps to become ready – an improvement over previous years, but still not enough.
Whether you live in a city or in a rural area, along a coast or in a central state, it’s imperative that all Americans take steps to prepare for a natural or man-made disaster. These steps are as simple as getting an emergency supply kit, making a plan for how you will communicate with your family if a disaster strikes, and being informed of the types of emergencies that can happen in your area and how to respond.
Secretary Hilda SolisSeptember 16, 2010
03:00 PM EDT
My Latino heritage has always been a source of pride for me. It is a major part of who I am, and enriches my every experience.
Every summer, when I was growing up in Southern California, my father – who was born in the U.S. but moved to Mexico as a child — would pack up our whole family, including my mother and my six brothers and sisters, and drive for several days to visit relatives in Veracruz and Mexico City.
So, I could not help but think about my father as I boarded the plane at Andrews Air Force Base to lead the U.S. Presidential Delegation for the Celebration of the Bicentennial of Mexico. Sure, I know my dad is proud of me and what I have accomplished. But I also know that, deep in his heart, leading a delegation to Mexico ranks as one of the most important things I’ve ever done. I know that he’s feeling a great deal of satisfaction that his “all-American” daughter is returning “home” as the highest ranking Latina in President Barack Obama’s cabinet.
To be honest, the significance of this trip is not just personal. The U.S. Department of Labor, which I head, has an important relationship with Mexico. We are actively engaged with Mexican labor authorities in a dialogue on improving the functioning of the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), which is widely known as NAFTA’s side agreement on labor. And something else, which is very close to my heart: eliminating the worst forms of child labor. Approximately 3.6 million Mexican children work, many of them in agriculture. While some travel with their families, others are left behind in their home communities with little protection as a result of parental migration. Many of these children come from indigenous communities. In 2009, my department funded a $5 million, four-year project to combat the worst forms of child labor in Mexican agriculture, a sector in which an estimated 1.1 million children work. The project aims to withdraw and prevent thousands of children from exploitive work in agriculture through education, vocational training, and social services. The project is also working with the Mexican government to strengthen policy and legislative frameworks, and improve data collection, monitoring and inspections.
I chose to keep a diary of my brief Mexican adventure (I would only be in the country for about 24 hours.), because I wanted to remember all the special details of the trip – not just for myself, but for my father, and for those across America who live both the challenges and benefits that come with the dynamic relationship between the U.S. and Mexico.
Photos from the trip:
Nancy-Ann DeParleSeptember 16, 2010
02:33 PM EDT
Today, the Census bureau released new data on the number of Americans who went without insurance in 2009. The numbers are yet another reminder that the passage of the Affordable Care Act came at a critical time. The data show that the number of Americans without insurance increased by 4.4 million since 2008, with a total of 50.7 million uninsured Americans.
The Affordable Care Act marks a crucial turning point for our health care system and will help make affordable, high-quality care accessible to millions of Americans. Under the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans will be able to purchase better coverage in the new competitive private health insurance exchanges where individuals and small businesses will be able to choose coverage from a range of insurance options – the same options members of Congress will have. The law also helps cover millions of Americans who have been priced out of the market. Taken together, the provisions in the law will expand coverage to 32 million Americans. For more information on the new law please visit: www.HealthCare.gov.
Jared BernsteinSeptember 16, 2010
11:51 AM EDT
Today we learned from the Census Bureau that, as was widely expected, the nation’s poverty rate went up last year, from 13.2% in 2008 to 14.3% in 2009. These are more than just statistics: they’re a stark reminder of the hardship faced by so many American families.
But while we know that recessions always lead to higher poverty rates – and the recession that greeted our administration was no exception – the increase in 2009 was notable in that poverty rose less than expected. What’s more, middle-class incomes held steady, and full-time workers’ median earnings actually went up 2%. The evidence reviewed below points to the Recovery Act as the reason for these outcomes.
Before we examine the new data, let’s back up for a little historical context. While the recession that began in late 2007 was particularly tough on middle- and low-income families, many of these families struggled even as the economy expanded in the 2000s. Yes, the economy grew in those years, but growth was so skewed toward the well-to-do that poverty actually rose, from 11.3% in 2000 to 12.5% in 2007. The incomes of middle class families flat-lined during the last expansion.
Jesse LeeSeptember 15, 2010
06:05 PM EDT
Having just emerged from a Cabinet meeting focused on getting every agency doing all they can to help America create jobs, the President zeroed in on two major fights for the middle class.
The first was the long-overdue breaking of the Republican blockade against help for small business -- for which he thanked the two Republican Senators who stepped up and abandoned their party's parliamentary gimmicks. The second was the ongoing attempt by Republicans in Congress to hold middle class tax cuts hostage to additional, excessive tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans.
And while I am grateful for this progress, it should not have taken this long to pass this bill. At a time when small business owners are still struggling to make payroll and they’re still holding off hiring, we put together a plan that would give them some tax relief and make it easier for them to take out loans. It’s a bill that’s paid for. It won’t add a dime to the deficit. It’s a bill that was written by both Democrats and Republicans.