Read all posts from August 2011

  • Watch the President's Rural Town Hall here.

    The final day of President Obama's bus tour across America's heartland was jam packed with meetings and spontaneous stops to enjoy the local landscape. On his way to a town hall in Atkinson, Illinois to talk about strengthening the economy, the President pulled in to the Whiteside County Fair and checked out the dairy cow judging.

    President Barack Obama stops by the Whiteside County Fair in Morrison, Ill.

    President Barack Obama talks with people watching the dairy cow judging during a stop at the Whiteside County Fair in Morrison, Ill., , Aug. 17, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

    During the town hall, President Obama discussed how inspiring the conversations he's having with Americans have been:

    Now, what’s been striking as I’ve been traveling through over the last few days -- you guys, you’re all fulfilling your responsibilities.  You’re working hard, you’re looking after your families, you’re volunteering at church, you’re coaching Little League -- you’re doing everything right.  And all you’re asking for, if I’m not mistaken, is that your political representatives take their responsibilities just as seriously. 

    And part of that means that you have to put politics aside sometimes to do what’s right for the country.  People have been asking me, well, why didn’t you call Congress back after this whole debt ceiling thing?  Why’d you let them leave town?  I say, well, I don’t think it would be good for business confidence and certainty just to see members of Congress arguing all over again.  I figured it was time for them to spend a little time back in their districts, hear your frustrations, hear your expectations. 

    As I’ve been driving on this bus, just seeing all those flags on the way in, seeing folks waving, little kids ready to go back to school, and grandparents in their lawn chairs, and folks out in front of the machine shop and out in front of the fire stations -- you go through small towns all throughout America, and it reminds you how strong we are and how resilient we are and how decent we are.  And that should be reflected in our politics; that should be reflected in our government. 

  • This morning I read Speaker Boehner and Rep. Cantor’s op-ed in the USA Today. Let me address a few of their points.

    First of all, we all know we’re going through a tough economic time.  Our problems are eminently solvable, and it’s going to take some real work and some tough decisions to get there.  So, there’s nothing wrong with our country, but there is something seriously wrong with the political games being played in Washington.  If we want to get this economy moving again, we must stop the kind of political brinksmanship that we saw in the House during the debt ceiling debate and get to work.

    We need to get our fiscal house in order and take a balanced, long-term approach to deficit reduction.  That’s not just the President’s belief.  It’s a bipartisan position over on Capitol Hill and a belief held by millions of Americans across the nation.   In fact, Speaker Boehner was close to striking a balanced deal that raised significant revenues by closing loopholes and asking the wealthiest to pay a little more with the President – a deal that would have taken a balanced approach to reducing the deficit while investing in areas that will help the economy grow– but he decided to walk away from the table.  We actually heard members of the Republican Party rooting for the United States to go into default and send shockwaves through our financial system.  That’s not the kind of leadership the American people expect, and that’s not the type of leadership they deserve. 

  • Yesterday, President Obama announced that our Departments will jointly invest $510 million over the next three years to develop the domestic capacity for advanced biofuels.  The funds will be leveraged with at least a one-to-one private industry match to construct or retrofit advanced biofuel plants to produce drop-in aviation and marine biofuels that will power our military’s ships and aircraft and our commercial transportation fleet.  For the first time, our Departments’ efforts have been put behind a single project to help create the new energy future and new energy economy set out in the President’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future (pdf) issued this March.

    As the President said yesterday at the White House Rural Economic Forum in Iowa, “We're going to do more to speed the development of next-generation biofuels, and we’re going to promote renewable energy and conservation.”

  • Alpha, Illinois

    After a surprise stop at the Whiteside County Fair, President Obama is heading to the Country Corner Farm in Alpha, Illinois for his fourth town hall in three days. The President has been traveling through the Midwest discussing ideas on how the government can help promote economic growth, accelerate hiring and spur innovation in rural communities like Cannon Falls, MN, Decorah, IA and Atkinson, IL

    Tune in to the town hall live stream starting at 4:30 p.m. EDT on WhiteHouse.gov/live.

    Alpha, Illinois

  • President Obama is not the only one traveling to hear from people from all around the country. There are more than 100 events being held throughout the summer so senior Administration officials can talk with Americans about their ideas for creating jobs and rebuilding our economy. Here are just some of the recent and upcoming events related to the White House Rural Council:

    Secretary Shinseki Listen to Questions from the Audience

    A veteran asks Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., a question during a roundtable in Billings, Mont., July 8, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    Alaska

    • Department of Health and Human Services: On August 29, Secretary Sebelius will travel to Alaska, where she will visit several remote towns and villages to highlight the rural health and human services needs of tribal populations. The Secretary’s Alaska visit includes stops in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Anaktuvuk Pass, Barrow, and Tanana.
    • Department of Interior: From August 6-13, Secretary Salazar traveled to Alaska for a series of meetings, roundtables with business and Native leaders, and tours of key sites pertaining to energy, conservation, and Native Alaskan issues. In Anchorage, Secretary Salazar met with business leaders in Anchorage to discuss the need for safe and responsible development of Alaska’s energy resources. In Fairbanks, Secretary Salazar toured the Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service firefighting facilities with Sens. Murkowski and Reed.  In Alaska’s North Slope region, Secretary Salazar visited an Indian Health Services funded hospital currently under construction in Barrow – the northernmost community in the United States – as well as the Denali National Park, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

  • V.P. Biden Visits the Hoyas in China.

    Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke greet the Georgetown Mens basketball team in their locker room before an expo game against China, in Beijing, China, August 17, 2011. August 17, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Shortly after arriving in Beijing, Vice President Biden joined Georgetown men's basketball fans at the Olympic Sports Center to cheer on the Hoyas in an exhibition game against the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons -- a member of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).

    The team's two-week visit to China reflects an ongoing push to expand people-to-people exchanges between our two countries, as well as an effort to strengthen the U.S.-China relationship through sport.

  • Ed. Note: Cross-posted from HealthCare Notes

    Having affordable, quality health insurance is incredibly important. But how can you pick the plan that is best for you and your family if insurance plans are written in words you cannot understand or in type so small you can barely read it? And how can you take advantage of the health benefits you have if you don’t know what your plan covers?

    You’re not alone in your confusion. Too many Americans don’t have access to information in plain language to help them understand the health coverage they have.

    Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, every American consumer will receive an important new tool to understand their coverage. Under proposed rules announced today, health insurers and employers who offer coverage to their workers must provide you with clear and consistent information about your health plan.

    Specifically, you will have access to two important insurance forms:

    • An easy to understand Summary of Benefits and Coverage
    • A uniform Glossary of terms commonly used in health insurance coverage

    This will include basic information that every person should have, including:

    • What is your annual premium?
    • What is your annual deductible?
    • What services are NOT covered by my policy?
    • What will my costs be if I go to a provider in my network versus one that is not in my network? 

    Below is an example of a page from the proposed new form:

    These common sense rules benefit from a public process led by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and a working group composed of consumer advocates, employers, insurers, and other people involved in your insurance and care. As with all changes to health care, we are giving the public a chance to review this proposal and send us their comments before we make the rules final.

    But starting in March 2012, if you are one of the 180 million Americans with private health insurance, help is on the way to make sure you understand your health insurance.

    And this means you and your family will have an easier time accessing the health benefits you currently have--and you will be able to make a more informed decision about purchasing the coverage you need.

    For more information about this announcement, please visit our factsheet on health insurance coverage.

  • Atkinson, Illinois

    President Obama will meet with locals in Atkinson, Illinois later today for a town hall where he will take questions from the crowd and outline ways we can strengthen the middle class and increase economic opportunity for everyone. He’s been on the road for three days now, travelling to rural communities and talking directly with the American people about a wide variety of issues that impact our economy. In his closing remarks at the White House Rural Economic Forum in Peosta, Iowa yesterday, the President told the crowd that this trip has reminded him why he wanted to go into public service in the first place:

    But getting out of Washington and meeting all of you, and seeing how hard you're working, how creative you are, how resourceful you are, how determined you are, that just makes me that much more determined to serve you as best I can as President of the United States.

    Earlier this week, President Obama spoke with local citizens during town hall meetings in Cannon Falls, Minnesota and Decorah, Iowa before heading to Peosta, where he announced a series of new job initiatives.

  • Last week, President Obama welcomed the Super Bowl XLV Champion Green Bay Packers to the White House. In the South Portico, the President honored  the team on their victory and recognized their efforts off the field to give back to the community, noting the Packers Fit Kids program to promote childhood health. 

    Go behind-the-scenes with the team as they tour the White House, present President Obama with a Green Bay jersey, and hear about the visit from players Aaron Rodgers, Mason Crosby and Greg Jennings:

    Watch the behind-the-scenes video on the Green Bay Packers' visit to the White House here.

     

     

  • Today in Peosta, Iowa, President Obama took a moment to reflect on what his trip through rural America has meant:

    Watch the President's remarks on public service here.

    As I was driving down those little towns in my big bus we slowed down, and I'm standing in the front and I'm waving, I'm seeing little kids with American flags, and grandparents in their lawn chairs, and folks outside a machine shop, and passing churches and cemeteries and corner stores and farms -- I'm reminded about why I wanted to get into public service in the first place.  Sometimes there are days in Washington that will drive you crazy.  But getting out of Washington and meeting all of you, and seeing how hard you're working, how creative you are, how resourceful you are, how determined you are, that just makes me that much more determined to serve you as best I can as President of the United States.

    President Obama Waves To People Along The Road In Decorah, Iowa

    President Barack Obama waves to people along the road in Decorah, Iowa, Aug. 15, 2011, during a three-day bus tour in the Midwest focusing on ways to grow the economy. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • It’s been almost a year since President Obama signed legislation to create the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), an innovative program that enhances state efforts to get billions of dollars of additional capital into the hands of small businesses owners across the country.

    Today, the Treasury Department announced $360 million in new SSBCI funding to 11 states and the District of Columbia.  But the good news does not stop there.

    As part of the application for funding, recipients had to demonstrate a reasonable expectation that these federal funds will enable them to leverage additional capital from private lenders and investors  - at least $10 in private lending for every $1 in federal funding. So today’s announcement will generate more than $3.6 billion in new lending, and help create new  private sector jobs in communities across the country.

    An example of programs include the Iowa Business Growth Corporation’s Capital Access Program, which will target its outreach to rural communities throughout Iowa, and the “INCITE” Fund in Tennessee, a new venture capital program that is able to launch solely because of today’s funding announcement.

  • Watch the President's closing remarks at the White House Rural Economic Forum here.

    President Obama ended today's White House Rural Economic Forum feeling energized by the ideas he heard all day from small business owners, students, entrepreneurs, ranchers, farmers and clean energy companies. He told the crowd of 125 rural leaders at the Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa  that the task of the entire nation "has to be to get behind what you’re doing; our task has to be making sure that nothing stands in your way, that we remove any obstacles to your success."

    In addition to the President's opening and closing remarks, the day included breakout-sessions moderated by senior administration officials that covered topics ranging from initiatives on broadband access and renewable energy to job creation in small, rural towns nationwide. He told the crowd that his time on the road this week has underscored his deep confidence that the American people can put the nation’s economy back on track:

    I am absolutely confident about our future.  And I’m confident because I know that while we face serious challenges -- and there’s no sugarcoating that -- there’s not a nation on Earth that would not want to trade places with us.  There’s nothing wrong with our country -- although there is some problems with our politics.  That’s what we need to fix.  That’s how we’re going to unlock the promise of America, and the incredible dynamism and creativity of our people.

    And having a chance to meet with some of the men and women in this room have only made me feel more confident.  I’m excited about the future that you’re working towards each and every day.  And it ought to remind us of a simple lesson:  It’s always a mistake to bet against America. It’s always a mistake to bet against the American worker.  It’s always a mistake to bet against the American worker, the American farmer, the American small business owner, the American people.

  • As too often happens in the debate over immigration, anger and heated rhetoric from all sides dominate while the facts tend to get lost along the way. So it’s important to set the record straight. Fixing the broken immigration system so that it meets America’s economic and security needs has been and continues to be a priority for President Obama. The President has laid out a clear, detailed blueprint for reform, but the only way to do what’s necessary is for Congress to act and pass bipartisan legislation the President can sign into law. Failing to act simply perpetuates a broken system. Unfortunately, as the President has said, he needs a dance partner across the aisle to move legislation forward, and so far the floor is empty.

    While the President continues to work every day to fix what’s broken about our immigration system, he has also been clear that the executive branch has a responsibility to enforce the law, and to do it in a way which is both vigorous and smart. So while legislation is pending, this Administration has focused on improving our immigration system by making enforcement smarter and more effective. The fact is, Congressional funding for immigration enforcement and deportations has been on the rise for the past decade. For the first time ever, those resources are being used in a strategic and targeted way to ensure we’re maximizing public safety.  

    Under the President’s direction, the Department of Homeland Security for the first time ever has prioritized the removal of people who have been convicted of crimes in the United States. The Secure Communities Program, which relies on a federal information sharing program that utilizes FBI fingerprint checks conducted by law enforcement officials as they fight crime in their communities, is central to this strategy.  It is the primary reason that the deportation statistics show a dramatic increase in the number of criminals deported from the United States. The results of this strategy are striking:

    • There was a greater than 70% increase in the deportation of those with criminal records from FY2008 to FY2010, and a decrease of those without criminal records.
    • Today more than half of all removals are people with criminal records.
    • And among those removed who had no criminal records, more than two thirds were either apprehended as they crossed the border, were recent arrivals, or were repeat violators of immigration law, meaning that they had previously been deported.

  • President Obama at a Breakout Session during the White House Rural Economic Forum

    President Barack Obama, accompanied by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, participates in a breakout session at the White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa, Aug. 16, 2011, as part of his three-day economic bus tour of the Midwest. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

    Today, the President announced several important new initiatives to continue strengthening the rural economy and to create jobs in rural areas.

    As part of the White House Rural Council’s efforts to improve federal government coordination on rural economic development, the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) have been focused on rural small business growth. And for good reason: Half the people who work in America either own or work for a small business, and two out of three new private sector jobs are created by small businesses.  

    Many of these small businesses are in rural areas and we are making sure that they have the tools they need to grow, create jobs and drive the economy. 

  • Earlier today, Vice President Biden departed for Beijing, China, the first stop on a nine-day swing through Asia that also includes visits to Mongolia and Japan. While this may be his first visit to Asia as Vice President, as a Senator, Vice President Biden traveled extensively throughout Asia, including to China in 1979 as part of the first Senate delegation to the country after normalization.

    This time, the Vice President is visiting China at the invitation of Vice President Xi Jinping – the first of the planned reciprocal visits between the Vice Presidents announced by President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao during his state visit to Washington earlier this year.  One of the primary purposes of the trip is to get to know Vice President Xi. Bottom line – this visit is an investment in the future of the U.S-China relationship.

    Our partners at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the five consulates around China are also using the Vice President’s visit as an opportunity to share American culture and values with Chinese netizens by microblogging and blogging about the trip in Chinese. Their followers on the two largest microblog sites in China – Sina and QQ – number over 1 million. Posts about the Office of the Vice President, interesting facts about Vice President Biden, his upcoming trip to Chengdu, Dr. Biden’s recent call for famine aid to Africa, and Peace Corps Volunteers in Sichuan have generated thousands of positive comments and retweets from Chinese netizens.

  • Watch the President's opening remarks at the White House Rural Economic Forum here.

    On the second day of his tour through rural America, President Obama participated in a Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa. He and members of his Cabinet joined a group of farmers, small business owners, private sector leaders, rural organizations and government officials to discuss ideas and initiatives that will spur job creation and economic innovation in small towns across the nation. In his opening remarks, the President announced several new initiatives that will promote economic growth in rural communities, including:

    Helping Rural Small Businesses Access Capital

    • Doubling SBA Investment Funds for Rural Small Businesses over the Next 5 Years: As part of the Startup America Initiative, the Small Business Administration (SBA) recently announced the creation of a $1 billion Impact Investment Fund through its Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Program.  The Impact Fund will invest in distressed areas as well as in emerging sectors such as clean energy.  SBA provides up to a 2:1 match to private capital raised by this fund, partnering with private investors to target “impact” investments.  SBA and USDA will partner together to drive $350 million of investment capital through the Impact Fund and existing SBICs into rural small businesses over the next five years, doubling the current rate of investment.
    • Connecting Rural Small Businesses with Private Investment Capital: To further achieve this goal, SBA and USDA will launch a series of Rural Private Equity and Venture Capital conferences nationwide to provide a platform for connecting private equity and venture capital investors with rural start-ups.  USDA, SBA, Treasury, Interior and other relevant agencies will also create rural capital “marketing teams” that pitch federal funding opportunities to private investors.  These “marketing teams” will leverage existing personnel with expertise about rural funding sources across all federal departments and agencies. 

  • Watch the President's Rural Town Hall here.

    The second stop on President Obama's tour of rural America was a town hall meeting in Decorah,Iowa, where he talked with 500 local citizens about how we can grow the economy and put people back to work. The crowd asked questions on topics ranging from reforming the tax code and the rights of unions to whether Congress is a good partner, and what the current Washington gridlock means for democracy.

    The President addressed the frustration that many have expressed with the dysfunctional government in Washington and said he shares that feeling:

  • Peosta, Iowa

    After a full day spent talking and listening to Americans at town halls in Cannon Falls, Minnesota and Decorah, Iowa yesterday, this morning the President's economic bus tour pulls into Peosta, Iowa for the White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College. President Obama and members of his Cabinet will meet with private sector leaders, farmers and small business owners to discuss ideas to grow the economy, accelerate hiring and spur innovation in small towns across the country.

    The focus of the forum is how we can create good jobs that put more Americans back to work, and President Obama will announce new job initiatives for rural America that will do just that. The initiatives will include recommendations from the White House Rural Council that include helping small businesses in rural areas access capital, expanding rural job search and training services and increasing rural access to health care workers and technology.

    Watch President Obama's opening remarks at 12:50 p.m. EDT and closing remarks at 3:30 p.m. EDT on WhiteHouse.gov/live to learn more about the President's plan to create jobs in small cities and towns across America.

  • The White House is now on Foursquare, a location-based social networking website, which is the latest way for you to engage with the administration. There are over 10 million people already “checking in” around the world, and now you’ll be able to discover “tips” from the White House featuring the places President Obama has visited, what he did there, plus historical information and more.

    We’re excited to launch this week as President Obama kicks off his economic bus tour across the Midwest. You can follow the President on the road through Cannon Falls, Minnesota; Decorah and Peosta, Iowa; and Atkinson and Alpha, Illinois. Through the new White House page on Foursquare, you can keep up with the President's tour and check-in to let your friends know you're there.

    Here’s what you can expect from the new White House page on Foursquare:

    • Follow White House "Tips": See the places the President and administration officials visit around the country and the world, follow news and events by location, learn about the White House and more.
    • “Check-in” to the White House and events: Are you visiting the White House or attending a Town Hall with the President? Check-in.
    • And more: We’re new to Foursquare and always looking for ways to improve our online program. Tell us how we’re doing and what we can do better.

    Sound good? Follow the White House on Foursquare. You can also stay up-to-date and engage with the White House on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, or sign-up for email updates.

  • Watch the President's Rural Town Hall here.

    During the first stop on his rural road trip, President Obama took questions on topics ranging from using renewable energy to create jobs and helping young farmers buy land and market their products effectively to the future of Social Security and his Administration’s plans to bolster education.

    Speaking with a crowd of 500 people at Hannah’s Bend Park in Cannon Falls, MN, the President discussed the “extraordinary challenges” our nation has faced over the last two and a half years, but extolled the “extraordinary hope that America represents” around the world, and reiterated his belief that there is “nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed; what’s broken is our politics.”

    Many of the questions focused on health care, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, and the President stressed his commitment to making sure we preserve the integrity of these programs while ensuring they are still in place for future generations:

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