Nikki SuttonAugust 15, 2011
05:22 PM EDT
For the second stop of President Obama’s economic tour, the bus pulls into Decorah, Iowa for a town hall meeting with 500 local residents. While in Decorah, the President will be at the Seed Savers Exchange to discuss ways to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class and accelerate hiring.
The Seed Savers Exchange is a 850-acre farm that saves and shares heirloom seeds like Strawberry Crown Squash, Lemon Drop Tomato, Stone Mountain Watermelon and Champion of England Pea for future generations. Shannon Carmody from the Seed Savers Exchange describes heirlooms as rare seeds with a historic context, "Maybe they were offered in a seed catalog in the 1930's, and are no longer offered commercially today, or they could have been brought to North American by immigrant families and are maintained for generation after generation." Watch the town hall live beginning at 6:15 p.m. EDT on WhiteHouse.gov/live.
Stephanie ValenciaAugust 15, 2011
02:43 PM EDT
This past Friday, White House and senior administration officials – including representatives from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of Education, and HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement - met with African community leaders to discuss immigration issues specific to the African immigrant and refugee population. The convening brought together leaders and advocates representing communities from the countries of Mauritania, Somalia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Guinea Bissau.
Cecilia Munoz, Director of White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, opened the forum and highlighted the challenges in fixing the legal immigration system and reassured the community leaders in the room of the President’s continued commitment to a legislative solution to fixing the broken immigration system. Bakary Tandia, Coordinator of African Services Committee and long time advocate for African immigrant communities shared a touching story of a wheelchair bound activist who came to Washington, DC two years ago for a major immigration reform mobilization even though he couldn’t walk he wanted to lend his voice to the debate. He asked “What can we do concretely as community leaders to contribute and galvanize support?” In response, Stephanie Valencia, Deputy Director of the Office of Public Engagement, encouraged everyone in the room to help broaden the dialogue and elevate the debate by hosting immigration action roundtables in their own communities check out the roundtable toolkit to sponsor your own immigration roundtable.
Colleen CurtisAugust 15, 2011
11:55 AM EDT
President Obama wants to hear from Americans about how national economic policies are affecting life in your communities. He is spending the next three days on the road in the Midwest, and will participate in four town hall meetings, two on Monday and two on Wednesday. Each of the question and answer sessions will be live streamed on whitehouse.gov/live.
The President kicks off his three day rural tour today in Cannon Falls, Minnesota with a meeting at Lower Hannah's Bend Park at 1:05 pm EDT. Later this afternoon, he will be in Decorah, Iowa for another town hall session with locals at the Seed Savers Exchange, which starts at 6:15 EDT.
August 15, 2011
11:44 AM EDT
The administration recently announced a series of new policies and outreach efforts that will help drive the nation’s economy by making it easier for high-skill immigrants to start businesses and create American jobs. With the help of streamlining and clarification of current immigration policies, America can continue to out-innovate and out-compete the world in a global economy.
As part of our White House Asks series, we asked our Twitter followers and Facebook fans, “What do these new policies enabling immigrant entrepreneurship mean to you?” We wanted to take some time to respond to some of the thoughtful and interesting feedback that we received:
Kyle LiermanAugust 15, 2011
08:38 AM EDT
Immigration is at the beginning of every American story. Since this country’s founding, immigrants and the children of immigrants have built America’s cities, fought in our wars, and helped to author our history. The issue of immigration reform, then, is one whose importance extends beyond the boundaries of any single demographic. Last week, leaders from a variety of ethnic communities – from Irish, to Polish, to Macedonian and many others - met at the White House to discuss the way forward on immigration reform.
It was a spirited discussion featuring representatives from communities that do not necessarily share common domestic or foreign policy goals. What they do share – and what came through at the meeting – was their deep pride for their immigrant heritage and the agreement that their voice is critical to the debate on fixing our broken immigration system. White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley stopped by to reiterate the President’s commitment to addressing this issue, and to listen to ideas about how the Administration and the country can make progress.
President Obama is determined to create an immigration system that makes sense and meets the needs of America’s 21st century economy. He will continue to fulfill the federal government’s responsibility to secure our borders while strengthening our economic competitiveness by creating a legal immigration system that reflects our values and diverse needs. The Administration has also taken important steps to improve our immigration system within the boundaries of existing laws, dedicating unprecedented resources to border security and making interior and worksite enforcement smarter and more effective.
The people around the table at last week's meeting shared a wide range of ideas, and they didn’t always agree on everything. What they did agree on, though, was that the first step in addressing this issue effectively must be to mobilize Americans in cities all across the country and ensure that the debate has a diverse array of voices calling for immigration reform. They committed to joining other Americans to dedicating their voices to the debate and will host several immigration roundtables across the country in the coming months.
You can learn more about this important issue, by reading the President’s Blueprint for Building a 21st Century Immigration System or by visiting www.whitehouse.gov/immigration. Make your voice a part of the debate by visiting www.whitehouse.gov/immigrationaction to see how you can host a conversation in your own community.
Kyle Lierman is the White House Liaison to Ethnic Americans.
Nikki SuttonAugust 15, 2011
06:00 AM EDT
This morning, President Obama will visit Cannon Falls, Minnesota to kick off his economic bus tour. The President is traveling around the Midwest to stress the vital role rural America plays in ensuring the growth of our economy, the affordability of our food, the independence of our energy supply, and the strength of our communities. Cannon Falls, Minnesota, 35 miles south of Minneapolis and St. Paul, is the first stop in a three day tour across America’s heartland. President Obama will take questions from small business owners, rural organizations and local families during a town hall beginning at 1:05 pm EDT at Lower Hannah's Bend Park. Tune in to the town hall live at WhiteHouse.gov/live.
Nikki SuttonAugust 13, 2011
05:30 AM EDT
August 12, 2011
06:00 PM EDT
A quick look back at what happened this week on WhiteHouse.gov
Common Sense Solutions: On Monday, August 8th, President Obama addressed our nation’s credit downgrade and said that our nation's problems are "eminently solvable." He laid out steps Congress can take right now to jumpstart the economy. "Specifically, we should extend the payroll tax cut as soon as possible, so that workers have more money in their paychecks next year and businesses have more customers next year," said the President. Watch the remarks.
Crisis in Africa: Right now, thousands of families are starving as a result of a famine caused by the worst drought in the Horn of Africa in 60 years. This week, Dr. Jill Biden led a delegation including former Senator Bill Frist and USAID Director Rajiv Shah to the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya where they witnessed the suffering first hand. If you are as touched by their plight as Dr. Biden and her team, there are many ways you can help,
New Fuel Rules: On Tuesday, President Obama announced historic new fuel efficiency standards for work trucks, buses and other heavy-duty vehicles. These new standards will save American businesses approximately $50 billion over the life of the program, while reducing oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood calls the new standards a “significant win.” On Thursday, the President travelled to Holland, MI where he visited an advanced battery plant making the batteries that will be needed to power these vehicles of the future and talked about his goal to see more products that are made in America sold around the world.
Celebrating Ramadan: The ninth month of the Islamic calendar marks Ramadan, a holy month of prayer and fasting for Muslims around the world. On Thursday night, the President marked this occasion at an Iftar dinner with Muslim-American members of Congress and diplomatic corps, as well as Muslim-American families. According to the CIA World Fact Book, there are approximately 1.8 million Muslims in the United States. Watch President Obama's speech.
Bright Ideas: Thomas Edison would be amazed. The conventional light bulb now has some serious competition. Philips Lighting North America has invented a revolutionary 10-watt light emitting diode (LED) bulb. Phillips is the first winner of the Energy Department's Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize(L Prize). The L Prize challenged the lighting industry to develop high performance, energy-saving replacements for conventional light bulbs that will save American consumers and businesses money.
Special Education: On Friday, the Department of Education announced more than $5 million in grants to 19 Parent Training and Information (PTI) Centers in 13 states and Puerto Rico. These centers will help parents understand their child's disability early on and offer information on special education services and opportunities. For the full list of Education Department-funded special education parent information and training centers, visit www.parentcenternetwork.org
Ezra MechaberAugust 12, 2011
05:23 PM EDT
President Obama welcomed the 2011 Super Bowl champs, the Green Bay Packers, to the White House this afternoon. This event continued the President's tradition of recognizing sports champions for their achievements, both on the field and in their communities.
Despite his guests having beaten his hometown team, the Chicago Bears, for the title, the President commended the Packers both for their Super Bowl victory and for their service throughout the Green Bay community. The Packers created Fit Kids, a program to promote healthy living to fourth graders in the Green Bay area, offered scholarships to local students and helped support American forces.
Secretary Tom VilsackAugust 12, 2011
05:02 PM EDT
Today, the White House Rural Council released a new report titled Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America (pdf). This is a product of what we have been working on since President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council on June 9.
I hope that you’ll take a few minutes to read the report because it gives a really good picture of the economic landscape in rural America today. It also shows the commitment and key investments the Obama Administration has already made in rural communities.
The Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America (pdf) report, focuses on 5 critical areas:
- Creating jobs and promoting economic growth
- Improving access to quality health care and education
- Fostering innovation
- Expanding outdoor opportunities
- Supporting veterans and military families
Stephanie CutterAugust 12, 2011
02:37 PM EDT
There has been no shortage of court cases regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Before today, four courts, including the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, examined the health reform law and found it constitutional.
Today, a different court ruled against the Affordable Care Act’s individual responsibility provision. We strongly disagree with this decision and we are confident it will not stand.
The individual responsibility provision – the main part of the law at issue in these cases – is constitutional. Those who claim this provision exceeds Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce are incorrect. Individuals who choose to go without health insurance are making an economic decision that affects all of us – when people without insurance obtain health care they cannot pay for, those with insurance and taxpayers are often left to pick up the tab.
Judge Sutton, a Judge in the Sixth Circuit who upheld the law, declared that the individual responsibility provision is constitutional and wrote: “In choosing how to regulate [people who choose to self-insure], Congress also did not exceed its power.”
Judge Martin, another Judge who upheld the law in the Sixth Circuit, said the Affordable Care Act is constitutional under the Commerce Clause because “(1) virtually everyone requires health care services at some unpredictable point; and (2) individuals receive health care services regardless of ability to pay. Virtually everyone will need health care services at some point, including….those without health insurance.”
That’s why the Affordable Care Act requires everyone who can afford it to take responsibility for their own health care and carry some form of health insurance.
For the 83% of Americans who have coverage and who are already taking responsibility for their health care, the Affordable Care Act will help insurance premiums to decrease over time. And only those who are able to pay for health insurance will be responsible for obtaining it. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that only 1 percent of all Americans would pay a penalty for not having health insurance in 2016.
Without the individual responsibility provision, people could wait until they’re sick or injured to apply for coverage since insurance companies could no longer say no or charge more. That would lead to double digit premiums increases – up to 20% – for everyone in the individual insurance market.
By bringing everyone into the health insurance system, we can not only lower costs for everyone but also finally ban discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions.
Today’s ruling is one of many decisions on the Affordable Care Act that we will see in the weeks and months ahead. In the end, we are confident the Act will ultimately be upheld as constitutional.
Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President and Deputy Senior Advisor
Nikki SuttonAugust 12, 2011
09:41 AM EDT
This week, Dr. Jill Biden visited Kenya with Senator Bill Frist, USAID Administrator Raj Shah, Assistant Secretary of State Eric Schwartz, and Special Assistant to the President Gayle Smith to bring attention to the humanitarian crisis as thousands of Somalis flee famine and seek refuge in Kenya and Ethiopia. Courtney O’Donnell, Communications Director to Dr. Jill Biden, also traveled with Dr. Biden and visited the world's largest refugee camp. The camp was originally built for 90,000 people, but now has more than 420,000 Somalis who have traveled there seeking aid. Upon her return, Courtney shared her experience with More.com:
In the weeks prior to our trip, Dr. Biden had seen the news reports and the images from the region and wanted to find a way to help. So the goal of our trip was a simple one - to try to bring attention to this famine and the need for aid, and to tell the stories of the people we met. As Communications Director, my role is to find ways to make more people aware of this need and get the message across to as many people as possible.
While our government and others around the world have acted to support the region, there is an urgent need for individuals to act. The pace of the famine is relentless, and without additional assistance, hundreds of thousands of children could die of starvation and disease in the coming months.
Already more than 29,000 children under the age of five have died in the past three months in the region. In an interview with More.com, Courtney reflected on how the trip impacted her as a mother:
August 12, 2011
12:00 AM EDT
Welcome to West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. This week, the President announced new initiatives that will put unemployed veterans back to work and new fuel economy standards for trucks, buses and other heavy duty vehicles that will reduce oil consumption and pollution and save businesses money. He also traveled to Holland, Michigan to visit an advanced battery facility that is using innovative technologies that will help America achieve these new fuel standards and used an address to the nation on the credit downgrade to talk about how we can create more jobs. That's August 5th to August 11th or "Made In America."
Colleen CurtisAugust 11, 2011
05:09 PM EDT
President Obama today urged Americans to use the current Congressional break as an opportunity to talk to their Representatives and tell them to take the necessary steps to grow our economy.
He was visiting an advanced battery manufacturing plant in Holland, MI to highlight the key role that innovative technologies will play in the future of the U.S. auto industry. He sympathized with the frustration Americans are feeling over the inaction in Washington, and acknowledged that partisan politics are getting in the way of our nation’s ability to create jobs and erase the legacy of debt that is hanging over the economy. “There is nothing wrong with our country,” he told the audience of auto workers. “There’s something wrong with our politics that we need to fix.”
The President outlined a series of things that can be done right now to put more money in the pockets of American workers, and said that the best way to make sure they happen is to let Congress know “you’ve had enough of theatrics.” Among the steps Congress can take as soon as they return to Washington:
- Extend the payroll tax cut so that middle class families have more money in their paychecks next year. If you've got more money in your paycheck, you're more likely to spend it, and that means businesses of all sizes will have more customers. They'll be in a better position to hire.
- Extend unemployment benefits so that millions of workers who are still pounding the pavement looking for jobs can support their families.
- Pass a bipartisan road construction bill. There are over a million construction workers out of work after the housing boom went bust, just as a lot of America needs rebuilding. We can put these workers back to work by rebuilding our roads and bridges and railways.
- Pass the patent reform bill to help our innovators and entrepreneurs get their job-creating ideas to market faster.
- Pass the trade agreements that will help businesses sell more American-made goods and services to Asia and South America, supporting tens of thousands of jobs here at home.
- We’ve got hundreds of thousands of bright, talented, skilled Americans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and the President recently proposed several initiatives to make sure our veterans are able to navigate this difficult labor market and succeed in the civilian workforce. He proposed the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior Tax Credits, challenged the private sector to train or hire 100,000 Unemployed Veterans, and proposed programs to ensure the men and women in uniform are career ready and transition back to the private sector.
Nikki SuttonAugust 11, 2011
12:14 PM EDT
Continuing a tradition at the White House, last night President Obama hosted his third Iftar dinner to celebrate Ramadan. The Iftar is the meal that breaks the day of fasting, when Muslim families and communities eat together after sunset. The President was joined in the State Dining Room by two Muslim American members of Congress, Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, members of the diplomatic corps, and Muslim American families and service members. During his remarks the President wished a blessed Ramadan to Muslim Americans and Muslims around the world:
To the millions of Muslim Americans across the United States and more -- the more than one billion Muslims around the world, Ramadan is a time of reflection and a time of devotion. It’s an occasion to join with family and friends in celebration of a faith known for its diversity and a commitment to justice and the dignity of all human beings. So to you and your families, Ramadan Kareem.
This evening reminds us of both the timeless teachings of a great religion and the enduring strengths of a great nation. Like so many faiths, Islam has always been part of our American family, and Muslim Americans have long contributed to the strength and character of our country, in all walks of life.
In one month, we will mark the 10th anniversary of those awful attacks that brought so much pain to our hearts. It will be a time to honor all those that we’ve lost, the families who carry on their legacy, the heroes who rushed to help that day and all who have served to keep us safe during a difficult decade. And tonight, it’s worth remembering that these Americans were of many faiths and backgrounds, including proud and patriotic Muslim Americans.
Colleen CurtisAugust 11, 2011
10:39 AM EDT
A fundamental part of President Obama’s strategy to energize our economy is making smart investments in research and technology to create jobs for American workers. Today, the President will be visiting the Johnson Controls advanced battery manufacturing plant in Holland, MI to highlight the key role that innovative technologies will play in the future of the U.S. auto manufacturing industry, helping automakers achieve historic fuel efficiency standards, spurring economic growth, and creating high-quality domestic jobs in cutting edge industries across America.
Today’s trip builds on the President’s recent announcement of historic fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks which will bring fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 and which, combined with steps already taken by this administration, will save American families $1.7 trillion at the pump and reduce oil consumption by 12 billion barrels by 2025. It also builds on this week’s announcement of first-of-their-kind fuel-efficiency standards for work trucks, buses and other heavy-duty vehicles, which will save American businesses who operate and own these commercial vehicles approximately $50 billion in fuel costs over the life of the program. These new standards will also protect public health by cutting air pollutants such as air toxics, smog, and soot. New cars and light duty trucks built with the recently announced standards for Model Year 2017 through Model Year 2025 will reduce carbon dioxide pollution by over 6 billion metric tons – equivalent to the emissions from the United States last year, or what the Amazon rainforest absorbs in three years.
Because the Administration was able to create a single, national program that runs through 2025, companies like Johnson Controls have the certainty they need that investments in new, game-changing technologies will pay off, enabling them to create good-paying jobs across the United States – a fact that was highlighted in a report released this week by the United Auto Workers, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the National Wildlife Federation. The report lists the top 15 states employing the highest number of autoworkers in clean, efficient technologies: Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas, Alabama, California, South Carolina, Tennessee, New York, Illinois, Virginia, and Arizona.
Aneesh ChopraAugust 11, 2011
07:55 AM EDT
Last week, I joined the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness for a discussion in Silicon Valley on the importance of high growth companies to job creation in the US. On Friday, my travels to Blacksburg, VA, on behalf of the White House Rural Council, validated three key messages discussed earlier in the week with the Jobs Council:
Colleen CurtisAugust 10, 2011
04:22 PM EDT
Dr. Jill Biden and the US officials who joined her on a trip to a refugee center in Kenya want the American people to understand how severe the crisis caused by a combination of drought, famine and war has become, especially on the most vulnerable population, the children of Somalia.
“It touched my heart,” said Dr. Biden about reading the news and seeing the footage of the spreading humanitarian crisis, “as a mother, I watched these children … saw them starving and thought, we have to do something.” Earlier this week, she traveled to the Dadaab refugee complex in Eastern Kenya, where approximately 420,000 people who have fled war-torn Somalia in search of food, water and shelter, are currently living in a tented city originally built to accommodate 90,000.
Former U.S. Senator Bill Frist, another member of the delegation, says more must be done to help famine victims. "A lot of people don't realize, especially in this environment of what's happening in terms of the economy here and at home, that this is the most acute food security emergency anywhere in the world now and in recent years," he said.
Rajiv ShahAugust 09, 2011
05:58 PM EDT
Ed. Note: Cross-posted from the USAID Impact blog.
Eighty kilometers from Kenya’s border with Somalia, the Dadaab Refugee Complex—already the world’s largest refugee camp—has seen on average 1,500 exhausted and starving men, women and children arrive each day. Fleeing from famine that is now gripping a large portion of southern Somalia largely inaccessible to aid workers, thousands of refugees have walked days—or even weeks—to reach help. The United Nations estimates that over 12.4 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid, including food, water and medical care, across the drought-stricken eastern Horn of Africa.
Yesterday, I arrived in Dadaab with representatives from across the United States Government, including Dr. Jill Biden, Special Assistant to the President Gayle Smith, Senator Bill Frist and Assistant Secretary of State Eric Schwartz. The trip underscored the commitment of the U.S. Government—the single largest donor in the region—to respond to the immediate crisis with life-saving assistance and investments in long-term solutions to hunger. Ultimately, we know that it is smarter and cheaper to invest in food security than face the consequences of famine and food riots.
Secretary Ray LaHoodAugust 09, 2011
03:06 PM EDT
Ed. Note: Cross-posted with the Fast Lane.
At the Department of Transportation we have been working to encourage safer, more innovative, and more cost effective ways to move goods across our nation’s highways. Today, President Obama introduced one more step toward that goal.
“While we were working to improve the efficiency of cars and light-duty trucks, something interesting happened,” said President Obama. “We started getting letters asking that we do the same for medium and heavy-duty trucks. They were from the people who build, buy, and drive these trucks. And today, I’m proud to have the support of these companies as we announce the first-ever national policy to increase fuel efficiency and decrease greenhouse gas pollution from medium and heavy-duty trucks.”
The 2014-2018 fuel efficiency standards for trucks are designed to account for the different kind of work done by different kinds of trucks. Long haul trucks will save an average of 4 gallons for fuel for every 100 miles traveled. Heavy-duty pickups and vehicles like buses, delivery trucks, or vans would save one gallon for every 100 miles traveled. Altogether, we're looking at saving a projected 530 million barrels of oil.
That is a huge benefit to truck owners and operators. Over the life of a new truck built to fit these standards, a semi-truck driver will see a net savings of $73,000 through reduced fuel costs. Will the technology required to meet these standards add to the cost of a new truck? Yes, but the fuel-savings will more than match that cost within one year of driving.
In fact, I'd call $50 billion in total fuel savings a significant win for a hard-working industry.
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