Katelyn SabochikOctober 22, 2010
02:18 PM EDT
Last week, President Obama participated in a live town hall with young people from across the country sponsored by MTV, BET, and CMT. The President took questions from young people in the audience and questions submitted via Twitter. While the President answered as many questions as he could on topics ranging from education to jobs and the economy, there were many of questions from the audience and Twitter that he didn’t have a chance to answer.
We thought it would be a good idea to follow up with answers to some of your questions that the President didn’t have a chance to answer. Check out the videos below from Melody Barnes, Director of the Domestic Policy Council, and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor, answering questions about education policy and foreign aid.
We’ll be posting more video answers from senior White House officials over the next week, so be sure to check back!
How do international development assistance programs promote U.S. national security?
Secretary Tom VilsackOctober 22, 2010
11:43 AM EDT
Our country needs a strong, vibrant rural economy. Advanced biofuel production will help create it. Not only will biofuel production from non-food sources create new jobs and new streams of farm income, it will improve environmental quality and reduce our dependence on fossil fuel imported from foreign countries.
Speaking to the members of the National Press Club here in Washington yesterday morning, I explained that the heart of President Obama’s vision for rural America combines new technologies and new markets with better use of our natural resources-more home grown biofuels and renewable energy.
October 22, 2010
09:44 AM EDT
Just over a year ago, President Obama asked the Federal government to lead by example when he signed Executive Order 13514: Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance. This Order directs federal agencies to set aggressive sustainability goals, and to promote “green practices” more generally. The Department of Veterans Affairs has responded enthusiastically to the President’s request. Indeed, we have long been leading by example in the area of environmental sustainability. For instance, as far back as 2005, when the Energy Policy Act ordered federal agencies to purchase 7.5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2013, VA responded by setting its own target at 15 percent—double the mandated amount. This increased use of renewable energy also helps VA to accomplish another aggressive goal we have recently set ourselves: reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020.
This week brings more good news regarding VA’s leadership in environmental performance, and its commitment to renewable energy in particular. On Monday, we proudly announced that we have awarded nearly $78 million in contracts to build solar photovoltaic (PV) systems at VA facilities nationwide.
Arun ChaudharyOctober 22, 2010
12:00 AM EDT
Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Walk step by step with the President as he hosts former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the White House, holds the first ever White House Science Fair, signs an Executive Order renewing the Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, then heads out West to speak in Oregon, Washington State, California, Nevada, and Minnesota, and much more...
For more information on the events in this edition of West Wing Week, check out the links below:
October 18th, 2010
October 19th, 2010
- President Obama Signs Executive Order On Education and Hispanics
- White House White Board: CEA Chair Austan Goolsbee Explains the Jobs Trends
October 21st, 2010
Brian BondOctober 21, 2010
11:30 PM EDT
Recently, several young people have taken their own lives after being bullied for being gay – or perceived as being gay – by their peers. Their deaths are shocking and heartbreaking tragedies. No one should have to endure relentless harassment or tormenting. No one should ever feel so alone or desperate that they feel they have nowhere to turn. We each share a responsibility to protect our young people. And we also have an obligation to set an example of respect and kindness, regardless of our differences.
This is personal to me. When I was a young adult, I faced the jokes and taunting that too many of our youth face today, and I considered suicide as a way out. But I was fortunate. One of my co-workers recognized that I was hurting, and I soon confided in her. She cared enough to push me to seek help. She saved my life. I will always be grateful for her compassion and support – the same compassion and support that so many kids need today.
In the wake of these terrible tragedies, thousands of Americans have come together to share their stories of hope and encouragement for LGBT youth who are struggling as part of the It Gets Better Project. Their messages are simple: no matter how difficult or hopeless life may seem when you’re a young person who’s been tormented by your peers or feels like you don’t fit in: life will get better.
President Obama is committed to ending bullying, harassment and discrimination in all its forms in our schools and communities. That’s why he recorded this message.
Last year, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services joined forces with four other departments to create a federal task force on bullying. In August 2010, the task force staged the first-ever National Bullying Summit, bringing together 150 top state, local, civic, and corporate leaders to begin mapping out a national plan to end bullying. The task force also launched a new website, www.bullyinginfo.org, which brings all the federal resources on bullying together in one place for the first time ever.
If you’re a young person who’s been bullied or harassed by your peers, or you’re a parent or teacher who knows a young person being bullied or harassed, here are a few resources that can help you:
The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project is determined to end suicide among LBGTQ youth by providing resources and a nationwide, 24 hour hotline. If you are considering suicide or need help, call: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).
BullyingInfo.org is a project of the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP) focused on providing tools and resources for youth, parents, teachers and mental health providers to prevent and address bullying.
It Gets Better Project
President Obama’s video is just one of thousands of videos submitted by people across the country to inspire and encourage LGBT youth who are struggling. You can watch more videos at ItGetsBetterProject.com.
For even more information and resources visit or call:
- Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
- Matthew Shepard Foundation
- Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
- National Suicide Lifeline 800-273-TALK (8255)
A transcript of the President’s video is here.
Kori SchulmanOctober 21, 2010
07:15 PM EDT
Today, the National Economic Council released a report on how the Obama administration’s economic policies address the challenges facing American women, both in the tough economic times we’re going through now and in the long term. From day one, the President has focused on laying the foundation for economic growth that creates good jobs for all Americans -- many of these policies have been particularly important for women.
Here are 10 ways the Administration’s policies benefit women:
1. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill the President signed, ensures fair treatment in the workplace.
3. SBA Recovery Act loans make it easier for women to grow their businesses and create jobs. More than 12,000 SBA Recovery Act loans have driven $3 billion in loans to women small business owners.
4. Wall Street reform helps women make smart financial choices by empowering women through financial education and financial literacy. This legislation ends predatory practices, simplifies credit card bills, stops hidden fees and unfair rate hikes, and sets up a Consumer Financial Protection Agency to enforce the toughest financial protections in history.
5. The Affordable Care Act addresses women’s unique health care needs. Health Care reform protects women from insurance company abuses, makes coverage more affordable, and makes preventive care like mammograms, neonatal care, and newborn carefree under all new plans.
Jesse LeeOctober 21, 2010
06:17 PM EDT
The report out this morning on how the Administration has worked to ensure economic stability for women as part of our economic recovery and America’s new economic foundation was well worth a read. So was the blog post discussing it from Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett. But as powerful as the statistics are, there’s nothing like hearing it first-hand.
That’s why the President took some time in a backyard in Seattle, Washington to talk with women who are moving forward in every sector of our economy. From teachers who have been able to give their students just a little more because of the President’s investments in education, to clean energy entrepreneurs who got a boost from the Recovery Act to help them get going, to a woman who was making money the old fashioned way – cupcakes:
Kori SchulmanOctober 21, 2010
05:54 PM EDT
As part of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt answered your questions in a live video chat. We took your questions from Facebook and About.com, and covered a range of questions from cyber crime to social network safety to mobile technology protection -- plus a lot more.
You can watch the full video of the chat or use the links below to jump to the questions that you're interested in. Visit DHS.gov/Cyber and OnGuardOnline.gov for more information about practices that can enhance the security of our shared cyber networks.
Stephanie CutterOctober 21, 2010
05:02 PM EDT
This morning, the Governor of Tennessee voiced concerns that the Affordable Care Act would lead many businesses to drop coverage for their employees. Independent experts have concluded the opposite. The new law will provide tremendous benefits for employers, including tax credits for small business and savings for employers. According to a Business Round Table (BRT)/Hewitt Associates study, employers that offer and contribute to health insurance coverage for their workers could experience cost savings of as much as $3,000 a person from reforms included in the Act. And the Congressional Budget Office has found that any decrease in employer sponsored coverage would be minimal.
This afternoon, Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology analyzed the Governor’s arguments and declared:
“The Affordable Care Act will not lead to widespread erosion of employer-sponsored insurance. Rather, it will provide the necessary protection for those who are suffering from the erosion that is already taking place.”
Read Gruber’s complete post here.
Jared BernsteinOctober 21, 2010
01:09 PM EDT
A recent article in the New York Times pointed out that a lot of people don’t know that the Recovery Act cut their taxes.
Well, I’m here to tell them that it did. A lot. Or, to be more precise, by $240 billion so far, going up to nearly $290 billion before we’re done (assuming Republicans fail in their efforts to raise your taxes by canceling the rest of the tax breaks, something they’ve pledged to do).
Those tax cuts have helped American families make ends meet. They’ve helped them pay their kids’ college tuition, cover the cost of health care, and even offset the costs of energy-efficiency improvements to their homes. And they’ve helped move the economy from free fall to growth.
As the Times article points out, there are good reasons why folks may not be familiar with these tax cuts. For example, even though the Recovery Act provided states with billions of dollars to help avoid Medicaid cuts and keep teachers on the job, some states were forced to go the other way, raising taxes to help offset their budget shortfalls.
Take another example—the Making Work Pay Tax Credit. It reached 95% of working families—over 100 million American taxpayers, more people than any other tax cut in the history of tax cuts. Taxpayers received up to $800 through the credit, which came to them incrementally by reducing how much money was withheld from their paychecks for taxes both this year and last.
This incremental nature probably explains part of the lack of recognition—if you get a tax credit little by little instead of all in one big check, you’re less likely to notice that your income went up. And of course, there’s been a lot of very tough stuff going on with people’s jobs and paychecks throughout this downturn. But the data confirm that workers are spending the benefits they got during this period.
Look at the following graph, which first appeared in this analysis by Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institute (we’ve updated it). As Gary put it:
The severity of the recession caused private incomes to plunge…[but] Federal government programs and stimulus dollars cushioned the massive blow to private family incomes. Disposable income fell less than 1 percent after the start of the recession, a stunning fact too often ignored given the severity and length of the current downturn.
The bottom line shows how much income folks got from the private sector, from paychecks, profits, and capital income. The top line shows their take-home, after-tax disposable income, including benefits like Social Security and Unemployment Insurance. And as you can see, even as private income has fallen, disposable income has remained steady, thanks in large part to reduced tax payments and higher benefit payments to folks hit hard by the recession.
The gap between the two lines is historically very large, and it’s a great picture of the Recovery Act at work. To be clear, we’re not claiming—not by a long shot—that these tax breaks offset anything approaching the full spate of economic pain families are experiencing as a result of the Great Recession. But we are strongly asserting that they helped.
In fact, as you can see in the chart below, consumer spending is almost back to its pre-recession peak, suggesting that families have been using these tax cuts and benefits to make ends meet.
And as I noted, there’s a lot more than Making Work Pay at work here. Other key Recovery Act tax credits include:
- The American Opportunity Tax Credit, which gives students and families up to $2,500 in tax savings to help pay for college tuition and other expenses. The AOTC and other tuition benefits have helped more than 12.5 million students and their families pay for college, an increase in tax benefits for higher education of more than 90 percent from the year before (see here for details).
- The Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps moderate-income working families make ends meet. The Recovery Act increased the credit for families with three or more children, bringing the maximum amount to $5,657.
- The Child Tax Credit, which helps low-and moderate-income families with children. More families are benefitting from the child tax credit under the Recovery Act, which reduced the minimum amount of earned income used to calculate the additional child tax credit to $3,000 from $12,550.
- COBRA and Unemployment Benefits:For those who lost their jobs in the recession, to help them get back on their feet, the Recovery Act provided a 65 percent tax credit to help cover the cost of health care and made the first $2,400 in unemployment benefits tax-free, when normally 100 percent of those benefits are taxable.
- Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Incentives: Taxpayers are eligible for up to $1,500 in tax credits for making some energy-efficiency improvements to their homes such as adding insulation and installing energy efficient windows.
Moreover, the President continues to support significant new cuts, to middle-class families and to small businesses, to help preserve the gains we’ve made so far and build on the economy’s momentum.
Like I said, there’s a lot of moving parts when it comes to taxes, and families have enough to deal with these days without taking a quiz on how changes to the tax code have helped them. But the facts, supported by clear evidence, are that President Obama has presided over hundreds of billions in tax cuts that continue to help families get through these tough times.
Jared Bernstein is Chief Economic Advisor to the Vice President
Melody BarnesOctober 21, 2010
12:21 PM EDT
This morning at the National Press Club, I joined HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, and EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson to discuss the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The Partnership is an initiative that brings together the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of Transportation to ensure that the agencies’ policies, programs, and funding consider affordable housing, transportation, and environmental protection together. Founded on the idea that how and where we build our communities affects our economy, our environment, and our everyday lives, the Partnership is supporting communities that want to give Americans more housing choices, make transportation systems more efficient and reliable, and support vibrant neighborhoods that attract businesses. This is good for our communities and good for our economy.
Since June of 2009, the Partnership for Sustainable Communities has been building economic competitiveness by connecting housing with good jobs, quality schools and transportation. Examples include:
- EPA grants to develop area-wide plans for the reuse of formerly contaminated properties and targeted technical assistance to communities tackling growth and development issues;
- HUD Sustainable Community Regional Planning Grants to assist in the development and execution of regional plans that integrate affordable housing with neighboring retail and business development and realize more livable and sustainable communities across the country;
- DOT TIGER II Grants to fund innovative surface transportation projects that can improve communities’ quality of life while advancing broader transportation goals;
- And, awarded in conjunction with DOT’s TIGER II grants, HUD Community Challenge Planning Grants to support local planning activities that integrate transportation, housing, and economic development.
Coordinating federal investments in infrastructure, facilities, and services meets multiple economic, environmental, and community objectives with each dollar spent. At a time when every dollar the federal government invests in jumpstarting the economy is critical, the President’s plan ensures that all these agencies are coordinating efforts and targeting resources with precision. This collaboration gets better results for communities and uses taxpayer money more efficiently.
The Sustainable Communities Partnership is yet another foundational pillar of the President’s urban agenda; last month you learned more about the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative. Both of these initiatives show that the federal government is doing business in a new way to more effectively serve the American people and our communities in urban, suburban and rural neighborhoods.
Secretary Ray LaHoodOctober 21, 2010
11:33 AM EDT
Yesterday the Department of Transportation officially announced nearly $600 million in competitively awarded TIGER II grants. The 75 innovative projects this money makes possible will put people to work today building a 21st century foundation for tomorrow's economic growth.
To mark this important day, I traveled from Atlanta, Georgia, to the bridge between Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Kittery, Maine, visiting two of the projects these grants support.
Valerie JarrettOctober 21, 2010
06:00 AM EDT
Today, President Obama is holding a backyard event in Seattle focusing on women and the economy. Here at the White House, the National Economic Council (NEC) is releasing a report titled Jobs and Economic Security for America’s Women. Since his first day in office, President Obama has focused on laying the foundation for economic growth that creates good jobs and a healthy economy for all Americans. Strengthening opportunities for women in our economy is a key focus of the President’s Economic Agenda.
Women are a growing share of our workforce, our entrepreneurs, and our innovators. As the majority of college graduates and nearly 50 percent of the workforce, women are in the position to drive our 21st century economy. Women are an increasing share of breadwinners for their families. In almost two thirds of American families, women are either the primary or co-breadwinner.
Kori SchulmanOctober 20, 2010
06:23 PM EDT
Ed. Note: In case you missed it, watch the live video chat with members and co-chairs of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, including visual artist Chuck Close, ballet dancer Damian Woetzel, and co-chairs Margo Lion and George Stevens.
Today, First Lady Michelle Obama, honorary chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), celebrated fifteen exemplary programs from across the country that reach underserved youth by hosting the PCAH’s National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards.
Secretary Tom VilsackOctober 20, 2010
04:02 PM EDT
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is a driving force in job creation and economic renewal in rural America.
Earlier today, I released a report (pdf) outlining how funds allocated to seven programs administered by USDA Rural Development have sparked economic growth, created or saved over 300,000 jobs, and funded projects in almost 3,000 counties. USDA staff approved 95,000 loans, made 2,500 grants and assisted 2,000 rural businesses with loan guarantees. We also assisted 93,000 American families close home loans, either by guaranteeing a loan from a lending institution or making a loan through our direct program. We approved Internet projects that will provide an estimated 7 million people, many of them in remote areas including Tribal lands, access to improved state-of-the-art broadband service.
Kori SchulmanOctober 20, 2010
02:26 PM EDT
For the second of two Tuesday Talks this week, we hosted members and co-chairs of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, including visual artist Chuck Close, ballet dancer Damian Woetzel, and co-chairs Margo Lion and George Stevens, Jr., in celebration of National Arts and Humanities Month. We took your questions from WhiteHouse.gov and facebook, and covered a range of topics from the mission of the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities to the steps that can be taken on a local level for artists to get involved. You can check out the full video of the chat or use the links below to jump to the questions you're interested in.
Jared BernsteinOctober 20, 2010
02:19 PM EDT
Over the past year, the Vice President and Middle Class task Force have visited revived auto plants, clean energy manufacturers, and other factories where Americans are making things to drive this economy forward. And he’s always stressed how important these plants are to their communities.
One difficult challenge these communities face is how to move old and abandoned properties back into productive use. Too often, a combination of insufficient resources, uncertain environmental liabilities, and inadequate commitment from responsible parties puts shuttered facilities in a devastating limbo for years or even decades. Empty buildings and chain link fences not only represent lost opportunities but have the potential to create a vicious cycle, driving down property values increasing crime and keeping communities from moving their economies forward.
Dan PfeifferOctober 20, 2010
01:05 PM EDT
In Washington, it’s often hard to cut through it all the political rhetoric and examine the facts of what is being claimed. Today’s New York Times did that with a critical issue: government spending.
In “As G.O.P. Seeks Spending Cuts, Details Are Scarce,” David Herszenhorn reports that all over the country, Congressional Republicans are calling for spending restraint, but offering few if any details on what they would cut.
The scarcity of those details is probably explained by the fact that, as the Times puts it, “federal budget statistics show that Republican policies over the last decade, and the cost of the two wars, added far more to the deficit than initiatives approved by the Democratic Congress since 2006.” In particular, the previous administration’s failure to pay for two large tax cuts and a prescription drug benefit for Medicare added trillions of dollars to our deficits. Congressional Republicans certainly don’t mention that their call to extend tax cuts to the wealthiest of the wealthy would add another $700 billion to the deficit or that their call to repeal the Affordable Care Act actually would make the deficit $100 billion larger over the next decade.
Jesse LeeOctober 20, 2010
12:15 PM EDT
On the first of two Tuesday Talks this week, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Austan Goolsbee answered your questions about the economy. We took questions from CNNMoney.com, whitehouse.gov and facebook, and covered a range of topics from the Administration's effort to support small businesses to the things that citizens can do in their everyday lives to support economic growth. You can check out the full video of the chat or use the links below to the questions you're interested in.
- What are you doing to create jobs?
- What are you doing to stop foreign IT workers from taking American jobs?
- Why did the President choose to work on Health Care first?
- When will the debt become a real problem, and what can be done about it?
- Should action be taken when the President’s Fiscal Commission comes out with its report on December 1st?
- What bailout, if any, are you imposing for people who are in foreclosure?
- Is there any reason not to restart the home purchase rebate and the car purchase rebate?
- Have you considered the fact that massive amounts of credit expansion brought on by the Federal Reserve through low interest rates, cause asset bubbles that ultimately have to pop?
- Where do you stand on the legalization of Marijuana?
- What can the White House do to help graduating students acquire jobs?
- Is there any consideration being given to suspending tax penalties for being forced by unemployment to withdraw retirement funds?
- Can the downward spiral of the Dollar be stopped?
- What more can ordinary citizens do other than try to be good consumers to try to boost the economy?
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