Read all posts from October 2011

  • Today’s report shows that the economy posted the ninth straight quarter of positive growth, as real GDP (the total amount of goods and services produced in the country) grew at a 2.5 percent annual rate in the third quarter of this year. The level of real GDP now exceeds its level at the business cycle peak in the fourth quarter of 2007. While the continued expansion is encouraging, faster growth clearly is needed to replace the jobs lost in the recent downturn and to reduce long-term unemployment.

    Notable strength in the third quarter included business investment, which grew 16.3 percent at an annual rate. Residential construction increased 2.4 percent at an annual rate, and was up 1.6 percent during the past four quarters, the first positive four-quarter percent change since 2006 except for a brief period when the home buyer tax credit was active. Positive contributions to real GDP growth included consumer spending (1.7 percentage point), fixed investment (1.6 percentage point), and net exports (0.2 percentage point).  Inventory investment subtracted 1.1 percentage point from real GDP growth.

    We are, nonetheless, at a fragile moment in the world economy, and cannot afford to do anything to undermine our economic recovery. That’s why the President continues to urge Congress to pass the American Jobs Act without delay. The American Jobs Act includes measures that would accelerate the recovery, including extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance, keeping teachers in the classroom and police and firefighters on the beat, and investing in our nation’s infrastructure to help put Americans back to work.  Independent economists say it could increase employment by up to 1.9 million, increase growth and lower the unemployment rate. This report also underscores the need to put in place a balanced approach to deficit reduction that phases in budget cuts, instills confidence, and allows us to live within our means without shortchanging future growth.

      .

  • War, famine and drought are currently devastating 13 million people in the Horn of Africa. The worst drought the world has seen in 60 years is devastating farmlands, uprooting families and killing tens of thousands in Kenya, Ethiopia, Dijibouti and Somalia. If long-term changes are not made soon, there will be more extremism, more threat and more instability in this part of the world.

    To respond to this crisis, U.S. Agency for International Development announced the FWD campaign to raise awareness across America about this worsening situation.

    In a special "Open for Questions," USAID Administrator Raj Shah and Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the National Security Council Gayle Smith shared their knowledge, took your questions and explained how Americans can contribute. Aired live on whitehouse.gov/live, Office of Public Engagement Director John Carson moderated the conversation and took questions from the audience, as well as Twitter followers who used the hashtag #askFWD.

    You can jump to see answers to specific questions posed by the audience and Twitter followers by clicking on the links below.  

    Download Video: mp4 (426MB) | mp3 (41MB)

    Watch Open for Questions: Crisis in the Horn of Africa here.

     

  • First Lady Michelle Obama dances with students during Diwali

    President Barack Obama watches as First Lady Michelle Obama dances with students during a Diwali candle lighting and performance at Holy Name HIgh School in Mumbai, India, Nov. 7, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today is Diwali, and millions across the world are celebrating the Festival of Lights. Last year, the President and First Lady had the opportunity to participate in Diwali festivities during their trip to India, and today, he marked the occasion again:

    Diwali is a time for gathering with family and friends and—as we experienced in India—celebrating with good food and dancing.  It is also a time for contemplation and prayer that serves as a reminder of our obligations to our fellow human beings, especially the less fortunate.  To all who are observing this sacred holiday here and around the world, Happy Diwali and Saal Mubarak.

    In 2009, President Obama became the first president to partcipate in Diwali celebrations at the White House.

    Download Video: mp4 (192MB) | mp3 (12.2MB)
    Watch President Obama's full remarks here

    To check out more photos from the India trip, click here.

     

  • Ed. note: This has been cross-posted from Treasury.gov

    Monday night, former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker sat down with Charlie Rose to discuss ongoing Administration efforts to prevent a future financial crisis and spark economic growth. He offered his views on many topics, from the need to keep moving forward to implement Dodd-Frank reforms, to the first proposals of his namesake rule—the Volcker Rule. 

    The Volcker Rule is a critical component of Dodd-Frank that prohibits banking entities that benefit from government protections—such as FDIC insurance on customer deposits or access to the Federal Reserve discount window—from engaging in proprietary trading and from certain relationships with hedge funds and private equity funds. President Obama fought hard to make sure this important provision was a part of Wall Street reform legislation, and the banking regulators are hard at work to effectively implement the law.

    Below are key excerpts from the interview and a link to watch the full video

  • Update: The signatures threshold for petitions on the We the People platform to receive an official response from the White House has changed since this blog post was published. See the latest signature thresholds.

    Today, one of President Obama's top education advisors, Roberto Rodriguez, issued the first response to a petition created through We the People. Here are the first few lines:

    Thank you for taking the time to participate in the "We the People" petition process. We launched this online tool as a way of hearing directly from you, and are pleased that you have responded by presenting this idea.

    We agree that reducing the burden of student loans is an effective way to stimulate the economy and save taxpayer dollars. That's why we're excited to announce a new policy that speaks to the concerns expressed in this petition.

    In the little more than a month since the White House launched We the People, 755,000 people used the platform to create or sign more than 12,400 petitions that have gathered over 1.2 million total signatures (some people sign multiple petitions). Here are the numbers in more detail:

    We the People stats graphic

  • President Obama talks students loans at University of Colorado Denver

    President Barack Obama waves to the crowd after arriving at the University of Colorado Denver campus, in Denver, Colo., Oct. 26, 2011. The President delivered remarks on the steps the Administration is taking to increase college affordability by making it easier to manage student loan debt. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    In this globally competitive, knowledge-based economy, higher education has never been more important. Simply put, America cannot lead in the 21st century without the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world. Nations that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow, which is why some form of higher education is an absolute must.

    We also know that college costs have never been higher -- or more difficult to manage. The Administration has already provided aid to millions of students with historic investments in programs like Pell Grants and the American Opportunity Tax Credit. But we realize that many borrowers are struggling to both pay off their loans and make ends meet every month. And fear of being saddled with debt in the long run may deter many potential students from enrolling in college. They need help now.

    That’s why today, President Obama announced new efforts to make college more affordable by helping millions of borrowers better manage their federal student loan debt. We’re taking executive action with two measures that will bring relief to borrowers by lowering their monthly loan payments -- at no cost to taxpayers.

  • 1.6 million borrowers

    President Obama has made historic investments in making college more affordable for millions of students. But many people who took out loans to pay for their education are struggling to make monthly payments on those loans, making our tough economic times a little bit more challenging. We can't wait to help these people keep up with their student loans.

    Today, the Obama Administration announced steps we are taking to help borrowers better manage their student loan debt by moving forward with a new “Pay As You Earn” proposal that will reduce monthly payments for more than 1.6 million people. Starting in 2014, borrowers will be able to reduce their monthly student loan payments from 15 percent to 10 percent of their discretionary income. But President Obama realizes that many students need relief sooner than that. The new “Pay As You Earn” proposal will fast track the initiative to begin next year. 

    The questions below will help you understand income based repayment and find out if you are able to take advantage of these changes.

  • This week, President Obama kicked off a new effort to urge Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, piece by piece, to put folks back to work and strengthen the economy. During a session of White House Hours, Brian Deese, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, answered your questions about the Jobs Act and steps the President is taking to help homeowners refinance their mortgages.

    See the full questions and answer session below, or on Storify.

    Follow @Whitehouse for the latest from the Administration and upcoming opportunities to engage. Have ideas on how we can improve Office Hours or our online program? Share feedback with us using the hashtag #WHWeb.

    10/25/11 Office Hours with Brian Deese

    On Tuesday, October 25th, Brian Deese Tweets back at followers for White House Office Hours (Photo by Mori Rothman)

  • President Barack Obama talks with Jay Leno

    President Barack Obama talks with Jay Leno during an interview on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” at the NBC Studios in Burbank, Calif., Oct. 25, 2011 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Yesterday, President Obama stopped by the Tonight Show to sit down for an interview with Jay Leno. The two talked about Libya, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and reality television -- including a show on C-SPAN called Congress.

    Watch!

     

  • Tonight, I’ll be making my first public appearance as Federal CIO at an event at the Churchill Club in Palo Alto, CA – a fitting venue to talk about my priorities and vision for the Federal IT landscape. In my remarks, I’ll focus on my plan for doing more with less and devising solutions with a “shared first” and a “future first” perspective to yield a higher return on our IT investments, increase productivity, and improve the way the government interacts with the American people. 

    I’m looking forward to sharing these ideas tonight in California, and I’m also excited to hear from you. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to share your thoughts about my plan by sending an email to futurefirst@cio.gov or DM me via Twitter at @stevenvDC.

    For those of you who can’t make it out to California, my remarks will be live-streamed here at 7PM PT, 10PM ET – so please tune in!

     

  • First Lady Michelle Obama at Iron Street Farm

    First Lady Michelle Obama learns about growing mushroom chandeliers from Erika Allen, National Outreach Director for Growing Power, during a tour of Iron Street Farm in Chicago, Ill., Oct. 25, 2011. Sam Kass, White House Assistant Chef and Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives, left, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel toured the seven-acre urban farm with Mrs. Obama. October 25, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    For too many American families, serving healthy food as part of a regular diet isn’t actually an option. That’s because, in many communities across the country, there is no place to purchase any groceries, much less fresh fruits and vegetables. These neighborhoods are known as food deserts, and in recent years, as economic difficulties caused grocery stores to shut their doors or consolidate locations, they have been proliferating. 

    Eliminating these food deserts and making sure parents in every part of the country have access to fresh produce and healthy choices is a primary goal of Let’s Move, and today First Lady Michelle Obama was in Chicago where she challenged attendees at the Mayor’s Summit on Food Deserts to look for ways to attract grocery stores and other businesses selling fresh produce to their communities.

    Studies have shown that people who live in communities with greater access to supermarkets, they eat more fresh fruits and vegetables – surprise. And that can have a real impact on the health of our families.  

    I mean, truly, we all grew up in communities with grandmothers who cooked two, three vegetables that you had to eat. There was no ifs, ands or buts about it. But that’s because many of our grandparents, they had community gardens; there was the vegetable man that came around.  There were many other resources that allowed them to have access. So it’s not that people don't know or don't want to do the right thing; they just have to have access to the foods that they know will make their families healthier. 

  • Tyrone Booth and Jesse Carpenter are police officers in Flint, Michigan -- where Vice President Biden visited earlier this month. Because of budget cuts, they've seen their department shrink since the start of the recession. In fact, at various times in recent years, each has been laid off from the force. Both are keenly aware of the ways in which these reductions have put public safety at risk.

    Officer Booth says the Flint police must now prioritize the calls to which they respond. A shooting or an assault must come before a break-in or a burglary, which can be hard for citizens affected. "When someone's home has been burglarized, it's a very sensitive and serious offense to them,” he said. “And we're just unable to get there in a timely manner."

    Watch:

    Download Video: mp4 (39.6MB)
     
    Download Video: mp4 (44.2MB)

    Keeping Americans safe is a top priority for President Obama, which is why the American Jobs Act will provide $5 billion to help states and local communities keep first responders on the job. Earlier, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at a gathering of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and discussed the Administration's support for the nation's fire fighters and police officers.

    Read more here.

     

  • Ed. note: This has been cross-posted from DHS.gov

    Keeping our nation safe from evolving terrorist threats requires strong partnerships at all levels. Nowhere are those partnerships more important than with our federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers who work on the frontlines every day to keep our cities and communities safe.

    These courageous men and women, who put their lives on the line to protect others, must have the tools, training, and resources they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.

    This week at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) General Assembly in Chicago, we each had an opportunity to reiterate our support for police officers and first responders across our country, many of whom are struggling to hire or retain personnel in the face of tough economic challenges.

    As part of ongoing work to better understand and overcome current fiscal challenges, this week, the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office released a new report on how the economic downturn has impacted police departments nationwide. According to the Department's research, we expect that, by the end of this year, nearly 12,000 police officers and sheriff's deputies will have been laid off. Already, law enforcement agencies nationwide currently have nearly 30,000 unfilled vacancies. And an estimated 28,000 more officers and deputies experienced week-long furloughs last year. In 25 years of collecting data, this is the first national decrease in law enforcement positions ever recorded.

    There is great demand for existing federal fire fighter hiring funding. In FY10 alone there were $1.8 billion in applications for $420 million in SAFER funds.

  • Over the last two and a half years, President Obama has placed a high priority on making government more effective, transparent, and responsive to the needs of citizens. Nowhere is transparency more important than in the management, development, and collection of revenues from energy and minerals in our public lands and oceans. Oil, gas, coal, renewable fuels, and minerals that the Department of the Interior oversees belong to every American, and every American deserves a fair return from development. That is why we have strengthened our royalty and revenue collection program; proposed to bring oil and gas royalty rates on public lands in line with those on private lands; strengthened requirements in energy leases to encourage timely exploration and development; and taken a number of other steps that will help guarantee the taxpayer a full and fair return from their resources.

    A critical component of our reform efforts is the President's commitment to implementing what is known as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). This international initiative sets a global standard for managing revenues from natural resources, and I am honored to serve as the official representative of the United States.

    In many ways, the U.S. is now among the world leaders in transparency for royalty and revenue collections. By playing a central role in EITI, we can share best practices that will help governments, companies, and civil societies around the world manage their resources responsibly. U.S. companies, in particular, will benefit from improved disclosure policies around the world that will allow them to compete on a level playing field in a healthy marketplace.

    Our work under this initiative is only beginning, and I look forward to working closely with industry, stakeholders, and the public on EITI as we move forward.

    For more information about the United States Open Government National Action Plan, click here.

  • 1 for 1

    Today, the Obama Administration challenged each of the 8,000 Community Health Centers around the country to hire one veteran, effectively opening up 8,000 jobs to our unemployed vets. These health centers, which provide primary care services in typically underserved areas, are a major piece of President Obama’s historic health care reform law.

    Veterans who are committed to serving their country and their communities are well suited to serve in a number of capacities at community health centers, both in administrative and care-providing positions. Yet many former military medics who want to work as nurses, physician assistants, or in other health care jobs when they leave the military are often not given credit or credentials for the skills they developed while serving.  

    Health centers are also an integral source of local employment and economic growth in many low-income communities. Thanks in part to support from the Affordable Care Act, health centers across the country have added more than 18,600 new full-time positions since the beginning of 2009, many of them in the nation’s most economically distressed communities. Jobs like these are crucial to the health of our economy.

    In order to fast-track former military medics into jobs in community health centers and other parts of the health care system, today the Health Resources and Services Administration pledged to open up career-paths into a variety of health care jobs and expand opportunities for veterans to become physician assistants. Through this initiative, HRSA will give priority in physician assistant grant awards to universities and colleges that help train veterans for careers as physician assistants. 

    We can’t wait any longer to help our unemployed veterans find jobs. The initiatives announced today aren’t a replacement for the bold steps we need to strengthen our economy for the long-term, but our problems are too serious, and the stakes are too high to do nothing. While President Obama will continue to work with Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, piece by piece, he will increase his focus on executive actions like this one that helps our veterans because the American people simply can’t wait.

  • I think all Americans can agree that veterans shouldn’t have to fight for a job once they’ve come home from the fight overseas. But, all too often, those who have sacrificed so much for America struggle to find a job worthy of their talents. As the President has said, “if you can save a life in Afghanistan, you can save a life in an ambulance. If you can oversee millions of dollars of assets in Iraq, you can help a business balance its books here at home.” Ensuring our nation’s veterans get the opportunities they have earned has been one of President Obama’s top priorities as Commander in Chief. 

    That's why President Obama called for a new Returning Heroes Tax Credit of up to $5,600 for firms that hire unemployed veterans and a Wounded Warriors Tax Credit that will increase the existing tax credit up to $9,600 for firms that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities.These credits are included in the American Jobs Act. Unfortunately, these tax credits that could help companies hire veterans are held up in Congress.  

    While we will continue to work with Congress to bring up the American Jobs Act piece by piece, we will increase our focus on taking executive actions that fight for the middle class because the American people simply can’t wait. That’s why today, the Obama Administration is announcing two new initiatives to help create jobs for veterans. 

    1. Hiring 8,000 Veterans in Three Years: The Community Health Center Veterans Hiring Challenge 

    Today, the Obama Administration challenged Community Health Centers to hire 8,000 veterans – approximately one veteran per health center site – over the next three years. The National Association of Community Health Centers will also contribute to this effort and joined the Administration in announcing this Community Health Center Veterans Hiring Challenge. 

    2. Helping Veterans Become Physician Assistants 

    Under this initiative, the Administration will make it easier for veterans to use the training they have received in the military to become physician assistants. We will begin to give priority in physician assistant grant awards to universities and colleges that help train veterans for careers as physician assistants. In an effort to expand the number of training programs that accommodate veterans, the Administration also will identify model programs that offer expedited curricula for veterans and that offer enhanced veteran recruiting, retention, and mentoring services, and help bring these best practices to other programs. 

    These efforts build on previous Administration efforts to create jobs for veterans including sending 600,000 veterans back to school on the Post-9/11 GI Bill and hiring over 100,000 veterans into the federal government over the past year and a half. And just last week, First Lady Michelle Obama announced that the American Logistics Association (ALA) and their 270 affiliate companies committed to hiring 25,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013. This commitment is part of the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative to support veterans and military families. The ALA’s commitment will fulfill a quarter of the President’s challenge to the private sector to hire or train 100,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013. 

    This work is also happening across the federal agencies.The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, are working closely with other agencies and the President’s economic and domestic policy teams, to lead a new task force to ensure that every member of the military receives the training, education, and credentials they need to transition to the civilian workforce or to pursue higher education. This initiative includes the design of a “Transition Boot Camp,” which will give service members additional counseling and guidance and help them depart their active duty service “career-ready.” 

    Over the weeks and months ahead, we’ll continue to take actions like these that will improve the economy and help middle class families including our nation's veterans because we simply can't wait.

    President Obama also can't wait for Congress to:

  • Over the past several months, the worst humanitarian crisis in the world has placed more than 13.3 million people across the Horn of Africa at risk - a greater number than the populations of New York and Los Angeles combined.  Quickly becoming incomprehensible, the emergency has its roots in a devastating combination of famine, war and drought.
     
    Last month, I announced the FWD campaign to raise awareness across America about this worsening situation.
     
    Please join us this Wednesday, October 26th, at 12:30 p.m. EDT to learn about the steps we have taken to build this campaign by informing and engaging our friends and family in order to harness the compassion and generosity of the American people.
     
    In a special “Open for Questions" event, Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the National Security Council, and I will take your questions during a live streamed event moderated by Jon Carson, Director of the Office of Public Engagement. Whether you are wondering about the famine, the global response to the crisis, or what you can do to help, we will be there to answer your questions.
     
    We will also be releasing special public service announcements on the crisis from some familiar faces. You can submit your questions now through Facebook and Twitter, and during the live event:
     
    Right now, submit your questions:

     
    Wednesday, October 26th at 12:30 p.m. EDT, we hope you'll watch and participate:

    We know that these types of crises are preventable. Through Feed the Future, the U.S. Government is working with partner governments, smallholder farmers, and the private sector to help nations invest in agricultural development to avoid repeating this situation.

  • Yesterday, President Obama kicked off a new effort to urge Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, piece by piece, to put folks back to work and strengthen the economy. The President declared “we can’t wait." On Twitter and Facebook, people around the country have been talking about why we can't wait and the issues they care about the most.

    Today, Brian Deese, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, is holding a session of Office Hours on Twitter to answer your questions. At 4:00 p.m. EDT, he’ll be on the @WHLive account to answer questions on why we can’t wait for Congress to act and a series of executive actions to put pressure on Congress, including steps to make it easier for homeowners to refinance their mortgages.

    Here’s how White House Office Hours work:

    • Ask your questions now and during the live event on Twitter with the hashtag #WHChat
    • Follow the Q&A through the @WHLive Twitter account
    • If you miss the live session, the full session will be posted on WhiteHouse.gov and Storify.com/WhiteHouse

    So, stop by for Office Hours at 4:00 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, October 25th with Brian Deese. We can’t wait to join the conversation. Be sure to follow @WhiteHouse on twitter for the latest news and more opportunities to engage.

    Brian Deese American Jobs Act Office Hours

    During White House Office Hours, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese answers questions from the public on the American Jobs Act through Twitter. September 9, 2011 (Photo by Thomas Kelley)

  • $7.25 trillion

    Nearly 11 million Americans are underwater on their mortgage, meaning they owe more to the bank than their homes are worth. In fact, homeowners have lost $7 trillion in home equity--the difference between the actual value of a home and the balance of what's owed on the mortgage--since the peak of the housing bubble in 2005. This loss in home equity is devastating for a family’s financial security, and makes it more difficult to take out other loans, save for a bigger house, or build a nest egg for retirement. It also means families are making payments that are higher than they would be if their mortgage was based on the actual current value of their home, giving them fewer dollars to spend on other economy-bolstering goods and services.

    We can’t wait any longer to help Americans struggling to make their mortgage payments.

    Today, President Obama traveled to Las Vegas to announce that the Federal Housing Finance Agency is expanding eligibility for the Home Affordable Refinancing Program. The changes will help responsible borrowers with little to no equity in their homes take advantage of today’s historically low interest rates to refinance their mortgages.

    These new steps will save underwater homeowners thousands of dollars each year, and they didn’t take an act of Congress. This executive action will not only save homeowners hundreds of dollars each month, it will put pressure on Congressional Republicans to put country before party and pass the American Jobs Act. The President believes we can’t wait, so he will act where they won’t.

    Today’s announcement isn’t a substitute for the bold actions we need to grow the economy, and President Obama knows this. The situation is too serious to not move forward. That’s why he’s pursuing executive actions like this one while continuing to work toward passing the American Jobs Act. The legislation will help keep teachers in the classroom and first responders on the job, invest $50 billion in our nation’s infrastructure, and create tax breaks for small businesses. It also includes Project Rebuild, which helps the private sector put construction workers to work rehabilitating vacant or abandoned homes and business across the country, helping stabilize home prices everywhere. Most importantly, the American Jobs Act will create the jobs we need to improve our economy and help middle class families.

  • Last week, Republicans in the Senate blocked a jobs bill that would have meant jobs for around 400,000 teachers and first responders. Twice.

    This week, President Obama is back on the road with a new message, which today, he shared with a crowd in Nevada:

    So I'm here to say to all of you -- and to say to the people of Nevada and the people of Las Vegas -- we can’t wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job. Where they won't act, I will.

    Instead of waiting for Congress to fix No Child Left Behind, the President directed his administration to move forward with a plan to give states the flexibility they need to help students meet higher standards. The Administration acted to cut dramatically the time it takes for small businesses who contract with the federal government to get paid. And last week, the President eliminated outdated regulations that will save hospitals and patients billions of dollars in the years ahead.

    Now, President Obama is taking on housing.

    President Obama participates in a kitchen table discussion regarding the American Jobs Act

    President Barack Obama participates in a kitchen table discussion regarding the American Jobs Act, with Jose and Lissette Bonilla at their home in Las Vegas, Nevada, Oct. 24, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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