Read all posts from November 2011

  • Watch former Republican Mayor of Meridian Mississippi, John Robert Smith, discuss the importance of investing in our nation's infrastructure here

    John Robert Smith says we can’t wait to invest in our nation's infrastructure. Smith, the former Republican Mayor of Meridian, Mississippi, said that expanding and improving our system of roads, highways, railways, and airports creates jobs for people who need them now as well thriving, well-connected communites and engines of economic growth.

    “We can’t walk away from transportation infrastructure investment and expect to ever grow ourselves out of the recession that we’re in today,” he said.

    Smith is president of a coalition called Reconnecting America that helps cities and towns make smart investments in transportation infrastructure. He believes that easy access to transportation is critical to because it connects people to their communities and resources like jobs, health care, education, and more. Plus, well-planned infrastructure links towns and cities with other towns and cities, creating a vibrant network of connected communities.

    Smith said that infrastructure is “not a red issue, a blue issue, or a Republican issue, or a Democrat, liberal or conservative. It’s about how we connect our people to jobs and our children to their future.

    “I was mayor of my hometown in Meridian, Mississippi for 16 years and there I never met a pothole that could identify itself as a Republican or a Democrat. It was an issue to be resolved,” he said. “I want our country to face the transportation infrastructure investment we need today with that same type of approach.”

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  • 20111104 POTUS G20 Press Conference

    President Barack Obama answers a question at his press conference at the G20 Summit in Cannes, France, Nov. 4, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    When world leaders gathered this week in France, they acknowledged that the global economy was facing significant challenges that put recovery from the recession at risk.

    The debt crisis in Europe has put stress on the continent's banking system, and countries like Greece and Italy are struggling to restore fiscal order.

    In our country, the economy hasn't rebounded how anyone had hoped. We're adding jobs, but not at anywhere near the pace we need, and too many remain out of work.

    And in emerging economies, the rate of growth seems to be slowing as continued financial instability in the rest of the world begins to drag these countries down, as well.

    To counter these threats, the G20 leaders in France pledged to coordinate actions and policies to reinvigorate the global economy.

    And the focus of that coordination? Jobs.

    "There's no excuse for inaction," President Obama said in a press conference earlier today. "That's true globally and it's certainly true back home right now."

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (229MB) | mp3 (22MB)

    Watch President Obama's full remarks here

    While European governments were vowing to do everything necessary to ensure the stability of the euro, the United States made a pledge of its own in the G20 action plan:

    The US commits to the timely implementation of a package of near-term measures to sustain the recovery, through public investments, tax reforms, and targeted jobs measures, consistent with a credible plan for medium-term fiscal consolidation.

    This commitment puts even greater emphasis on the need for Congress to take action on the American Jobs Act.

    The world is looking for American leadership, and that's exactly what the President's job proposal is.

  • Today’s employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, but the pace of improvement is not fast enough.

    Private sector payrolls increased by 104,000, and overall payroll employment rose by 80,000 in October. The unemployment rate edged down 0.1 percentage point to 9.0 percent, a level that remains unacceptably high. Despite adverse shocks that have created headwinds for economic growth, the economy has added private sector jobs for 20 straight months, for a total of 2.8 million jobs over that period. We need faster economic growth to put more Americans back to work. Today’s report provides further evidence for why it is so important that Congress pass the President’s American Jobs Act to put more money in the paychecks of working and middle class families; to make it easier for small businesses to hire workers; to keep teachers in the classroom; to put construction crews to work rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure; and other measures that will help the economy grow while not adding to the deficit over ten years. The report underscores that one area that remains notably weak is the construction sector. That’s why it is disappointing that the Senate was not able to proceed to the infrastructure part of the American Jobs Act.

    Sectors with employment increases included professional and business services (+32,000), leisure and hospitality (+22,000), retail trade (+17,800), health care and social assistance (+16,300), and manufacturing (+5,000). Sectors with employment declines included government (-24,000) and construction (-20,000). State and local governments lost 22,000 jobs and have shed more than 430,000 jobs since February 2010.

    The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and employment estimates are subject to substantial revision. There is no better example than August’s jobs figure, which was initially reported at zero and in the latest revision increased to 104,000. This illustrates why the Administration always stresses it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.

    20111104 Updated Jobs Chart

     
    Alan Krueger is Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

  • This week, the President urged Congress to pass the infrastructure component of the American Jobs Act and continued to take executive action to strengthen the economy and put folks back to work. The President also celebrated Diwali and hosted Halloween, spoke at the Italian American Heritage Gala, signed two Executive Orders, welcomed NASA Astronauts in the Oval Office, and interviewed with local news stations from across the country.

  • This evening, Vice President Biden sent the email below to the White House email list.  If you didn't get it, be sure to sign up for our list.

    I want to make sure you heard a piece of news from Capitol Hill today.

    This morning, Holly Petraeus, who has been leading an office at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect military families, went to Capitol Hill to highlight some of the most abusive practices our service members face in today's financial marketplace.
     
    She explained that military families are the targets of predatory lenders. She talked about how many service members and their families struggle to make ends meet -- especially during deployments. And she said that the CFPB will help combat the lenders who try to take advantage of people with deceptive, unfair, and abusive lending practices.
     
    But here's the thing: The Senate still hasn't confirmed President Obama's nominee to lead the CFPB, a former Attorney General from Ohio named Rich Cordray. The bureau needs a director to fully ensure that the debt collectors, private student loan providers, and payday loan providers are properly supervised and that consumers are not put at risk of falling prey to the same kinds of abusive practices that helped cause the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
     
    Rich has spent his career advocating for middle class families, and enjoys broad, bipartisan support from the elected officials, business leaders, and consumer groups who have worked with him.

    Take a minute to read what Holly had to say, and share her testimony with those you know.

  • 20111103 President Obama at the G20

    President Barack Obama is greeted by French President Nicholas Sarkozy for the start of the G20 Summit in Cannes, France, Nov. 3, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    Today, President Obama is in France for a meeting of the G20 -- a gathering of 20 nations that represent the world's most important industrialized economies. In addition to working sessions with the full assembly of leaders, the President also held bilateral talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    In his conversation with President Sarkozy, he discussed the focus of this week's talks:

    I think it's no surprise that we spent most of our conversation focused on strengthening the global economic recovery so that we are creating jobs for our people and stabilizing the financial markets around the world. The most important aspect of our task over the next two days is to resolve the financial crisis here in Europe. President Sarkozy has shown extraordinary leadership on this issue. I agree with him that the EU has made some important steps towards a comprehensive solution, and that would not have happened without Nicolas's leadership. But here at the G20 we're going to have to flesh out more of the details about how the plan will be fully and decisively implemented.

    The President elaborated on that theme in his conversation with Chancellor Merkel:

    This is going to be a very busy two days. Central to our discussions at the G20 is how do we achieve greater global growth and put people back to work. That means we’re going to have to resolve the situation here in Europe. And without Angela’s leadership we would not have already made the progress that we’ve seen at the EU meeting on October 27th.

    Talks will continue tomorrow.

  • It's been a little over a month since We the People launched and it's still going strong.  Here's a chart of its growth:

    we the people growth

    We the People is averaging nearly 20,000 new users and 31,000 new signatures every day. Our most active day for new users and signatures was the day of our launch, but we certainly haven’t slowed down: more petitions were created on October 26 than any other day since We the People has been active. Not surprisingly, we saw a spike when we started posting responses -- it was important to show people that we would follow through on our commitment to respond to petitions that meet the threshold.

    Last week, we posted our first petition response to the site and since then have published six more. All of the responses are posted here, and more are coming soon.

    At the risk of getting a little "meta," it's been interesting to see the response to our responses. There has been some frustration with the answers from those who disagree with Administration policy, and that's fair. But even more importantly, there has been subsequent debate about the merits of the Administration position based on the arguments laid out in the response. That's a big deal: while people may not agree with a position, it's crucial to understand its rationale. Take for example, this blog post about a recent response on patent reform.  If these petitions are fostering a debate that might not otherwise take place about the issues Americans care about, that’s a positive thing.

  • This morning, Holly Petraeus -- the assistant director for the Office of Servicemember Affairs in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- testified before the Senate Banking Committee.

    She was there to talk about the way that predatory lenders often target servicemembers and how military families cope with economic hardships -- especially during deployments.

    She told Senators

    In my role as a military family member, I have seen the problems that can arise for our servicemembers who may experience “too much month and not enough money.” I have also seen first-hand the devastating impact financial scams and predatory lending can have on servicemembers and their families. Unfortunately there are still too many young troops learning about wise spending through hard experience and years of paying off expensive debt.

    Her remarks make a powerful argument for the ways that the CFPB will help combat the lenders who try to take advantage of consumers -- and underscores why it's so important that the Senate confirm Rich Cordray.

    Take a minute to check them out: http://go.usa.gov/XMf

     

  • The National Christmas Tree Shines Bright

    The National Christmas Tree shines bright during the lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    Want to attend this year’s National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony?  The event is free and open to the public, and will be held Thursday, December 1 at 5:00 p.m. on the Ellipse of President’s Park. Tickets are available through an online lottery system, open now through 10:00 a.m. EST on Monday, November 7.

    To enter the lottery, visit www.thenationaltree.org, and follow the link to the online ticket lottery application page.

    For more information, please see:

  • 44 million

    Entrepreneurs and the businesses they create play a critical role in sparking new industries, expanding our economy, and generating new job growth across the country. Companies less than five yeas old created 44 million new jobs over the last three decades. In fact, these firms accounted for all net new jobs created in the United States during that time. Huge Fortune 500 companies like Apple, FedEx, and Boeing all began as startups from entrepreneurs with big ideas.

    Entrepreneurship has long been a cornerstone of America's economic power. Helping entrepreneurs access the capital and support they need to get new businesses off the ground in these tough economic times is one of the most important things we can do to help our economy grow. That's why President Obama included help for entrepreneurs in the American Jobs Act and introduced the Startup America Initiative earlier this year. Both the Jobs Act and the initiative help entrepreneurs cut through regulatory red tape and access the investment capital they need, enabling them  to turn new ideas into new businesses and new jobs more quickly and easily. The President also signed the America Invents Act in September of this year to fast-track startups and help them put their products on the market more efficiently. enable them to put their products on the market more quickly.

  • 20111102 Construction workers listen as the President speaks at the Key Bridge

    Construction workers listen as President Barack Obama delivers remarks at Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington, D.C., regarding the infrastructure piece of the American Jobs Act, Nov. 2, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Yesterday, with the Key Bridge, which connects Washington, DC with Arlington, Virginia, as a backdrop, President Obama discussed the ways that the American Jobs Act will invest in the nation's highways, airports, roads, and bridges -- and create new jobs for construction workers.

    Today, the Senate is set to take up one idea that the President touted -- the creation of a national infrastructure bank.

    Here's how it would work:

    1) Congress would appropriate an initial $10 billion in startup money to capitalize the bank.

    2) The new bank would identify transportation, energy, and water infrastructure projects that lack funding, offer a clear benefit for taxpayers, and are worth at least $100 million or $25 million for rural projects.

    3) Loans made by the bank would then be matched by private sector investments or money from local governments -- so that the infrastructure bank provides half or less than half the total funding.

    4) Each project would generate its own revenues to help ensure repayment of the loan.

    5) Decisions would be made by a seven-person board of governors -- of whom, no more than four could be from the same political party -- and a CEO chosen by the President.

    One bonus fact: The legislation that would create the bank has serious bipartisan backing -- and the support of both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO.

  • Ed. Note: Cross-posted with the NASA blog

    Earlier today at an awards ceremony in Herndon, Virginia, I got a chance to recognize the men, women and companies that have made outstanding contributions to NASA’s indispensable partnership with small business. The Fourth Annual NASA Small Business Symposium and Awards Ceremony was a two-day event, providing opportunities for small businesses to network and learn about NASA programs and initiatives, while recognizing outstanding individuals and companies that support the agency’s small business program. Awards were presented to both NASA civil servants and large and small businesses that were instrumental in NASA awarding $4.3 billion to small businesses in FY 2011. This represented 17.9 percent of NASA contracting and exceeded our goal for 2011.

    Small businesses are not only crucial to NASA’s trailblazing achievements in space exploration; they are the backbone of the American economy.  As the wheels of our economy continue to pick up speed, it is important to remember that small business is the engine that is getting us moving again.  According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small firms have generated 65 percent of net new jobs over the past 17 years. And federal procurement for women, minority and veteran-owned small businesses are a big part of that equation.

  • Watch First Lady Michelle Obama's full remarks here

    Today, First Lady Michelle Obama honored organizations from across the country that are committed to providing enriching arts and humanities programs for young people. These organizations, recipients of the President’s Council on Arts and the Humanities Youth Award, work both in and out of schools to encourage young people to experience every facet of the arts, from dance and theater to media arts and music composition.  

    Groups being honored include:

    • An art center in South Philidelphia that provides free art classes to 2,000 students a year, many of them immigrants
    • A summer workshop in Seattle that teaches students about Shakespeare
    • A 10-day, five-state “moving classroom experience” that takes students along the path of the Civil Rights in the southern United States

  • First Lady Michelle Obama shares a group hug with children at Royal Castle Child Development Center

    First Lady Michelle Obama shares a group hug with children at Royal Castle Child Development Center during her visit as part of her Let's Move! initiative in New Orleans, La., Nov. 1, 2011. Mrs. Obama read to the children and led them in exercises to highlight the importance of building healthy habits at a very young age. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    First Lady Michelle Obama visited the Royal Castle Child Development Center in New Orleans yesterday, where she led the toddlers in some exercises and read them a book that is an Obama family favorite.

    Mrs. Obama was in New Orleans to highlight the importance of building healthy habits at a very young age, a key component of the Let's Move Child Care initiative, which is designed to get child care centers to promote healthy eating and exercise habits. After she finished a round of stretching, jumping and marching in place, the First Lady read two books to the children and their parents. First up was "Lunch" by Denise Fleming, about a mouse that eats vegetables and fruit, followed by "Where the Wild Things Are," the children's classic (beloved by the Obamas) by Maurice Sendak. 

  • Every day I have the pleasure of meeting and working with the best this generation has to offer and it’s been my mission to spotlight and support the extraordinary work of America’s youth. Today, I’m thrilled to present a new opportunity to do just that.

    The White House Office of Public Engagement and mtvU are proud to announce the first ever Campus “Champions of Change” Challenge. The Challenge invites college and university students from across the country to demonstrate how their student led project is improving their campus community and helping America win the future.

    Here’s how it works:

    • Submit an online application detailing your student-led program at www.WhiteHouse.gov/CampusChallenge.
    • The White House will select 15 finalists based on input from a panel of judges.
    • The public will then have an opportunity to weigh in and vote on the top five projects they think best embody the President’s goal to win the future.

    The top five finalists will be named Campus Champions of Change, and will be invited to the White House for a culminating event.  Additionally, they will have the opportunity to work with mtvU, and MTV Act to create short features about their projects that will air on mtvU and be featured on MTV.com.  The winning team will also host an episode of mtvU’s signature program, “The Dean’s List”.

    Today’s students are not just winning the future, but creating effective change in the present.  As the President has said: “All Across America, college and university students are helping our country out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.  I hope this challenge shines a light on their efforts, and inspires Americans of all ages to get involved in their communities.” 

    For more information and to submit your application visit: www.whitehouse.gov/campuschallenge. The deadline for applications is Friday, December 9, 2011. 

    For the latest news on this and other engagement opportunities for young Americans sign-up for email updates.

  • 20111102 The President speaks at the Key Bridge

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks at Georgetown Waterfront Park by the Key Bridge, which spans the Potomac River between Arlington, Va., and Washington, D.C., regarding the infrastructure piece of the American Jobs Act, Nov. 2, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    Ed. Note: Cross-posted with the Department of Transportation blog, Fastlane.

    It was an honor to stand with President Obama earlier today by the Francis Scott Key Bridge between Washington, DC, and Virginia.  There, the President urged Congress to pass the infrastructure provisions in the American Jobs Act.

     I've been pretty vocal about how important it is to put these transportation investments into action and get hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads, bridges, airports, and transit systems. So it was my pleasure, today, to hear the President make the case for what has been historically the kind of bill that gets bipartisan support.

    I hope the United States Senate heard his call and will pass the transportation provisions of the American Jobs Act this week.

    It was entirely fitting that the President made his case at the Key Bridge because this important crossing, which carries 62,000 vehicles each day, is one of America's more than 70,000 bridges in need of repair.  Like many of the other bridges on the Federal Highway Administration's list of structures that need to be monitored, inspected, and repaired, thousands of people rely on this bridge to get to work and school and to deliver goods every day.  And, like many of the other bridges, the Key Bridge is years away from getting the rehabilitation it requires.

    However, if Congress passes the transportation pieces of the American Jobs Act, state departments of transportation across the country can finally begin long-deferred repairs on many of these aging bridges and put construction workers back on the job.

    America's economy relies on transportation infrastructure; without a well-functioning system of roads and highways, public transit, railways, seaports, and aviation, much of our economic activity would simply grind to a halt.  But, to meet the needs of a growing economy, we must maintain, upgrade, and expand that infrastructure.

    That's not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea--it's a common-sense idea: Investments that create, maintain, or expand transportation networks create construction jobs even as they promote economic activity.

    To demonstrate this, the White House released a report (pdf) today that highlights the economic value of improving the nation's transportation system.  The report documents the terrific benefits of projects in 20 different states and the District of Columbia.

    The Administration has also asked DOT to step up our awarding of TIGER grants by several months, so we can get workers back to their jobsites more quickly.  And, we're shortening the 2012 TIFIA application process to accelerate private financing for bridges, tunnels, transit, and other projects. 

    President Obama and the Department of Transportation are doing what we can to connect the men and women who need work with the work America needs to get done.   But we can't do it alone.  We need Congress to pass this bill.

  • 2 percent

    The United States is falling behind on investing in the roads, bridges, airports, and transit systems that keep our economy humming. We spend just 2 percent of our GDP on infrastructure projects. Europe and China invest 5 percent and 9 percent of their respective GDPs on developing infrastructure.

    Functioning infrastructure provides a critical backbone for a strong economy. Research shows that investments in creating, maintaining, or expanding transportation networks promote efficiency, productivity, and more rapid economic growth.

    Today, President Obama is calling on Congress to pass a piece of the American Jobs Act that will invest $50 billion in our nation’s transportation infrastructure and $10 billion in a National Infrastructure Bank. Together, these initiatives will put hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads, rails, and runways. With 1.1 million constructions workers out of work, we can’t wait to invest in our infrastructure.  

  • As we continue to climb out of the worst recession since the Great Depression and Americans continue to struggle, it is clear that the need for continued action is urgent. There are things that Washington can do right now to create jobs and grow the economy, and the President has put together the American Jobs Act to do exactly that. 

    Unfortunately, even as the President is doing all he can through his executive powers in the "We Can't Wait" campaign, the American Jobs Act is being blocked by Republicans in the Senate who have voted in unison against these common sense, broadly supported proposals, and Republicans in the House refuse to even give the bill a vote.  Senate Republicans have offered their own alternative as an excuse to oppose the President's plan, but a look at them side by side leads to only one conclusion: one is truly a jobs plan, and one is not.

    View Full Size

    Infographic: Is It a Jobs Plan

  • In 2009, President Obama challenged the Federal Government to lead by example by becoming leaner, greener and more efficient. He asked agencies and departments to become more energy efficient, reduce waste and water use, and use its purchasing power as the largest energy consumer in the U.S. economy to support more environmentally responsible products and technologies in their operations.

    The GreenGov Presidential Awards celebrate extraordinary achievement in the pursuit of President Obama's challenge. Given in six different categories, the awards honor Federal civilian and military personnel, agency teams, agency projects and facilities, and agency programs that exemplify President Obama's charge to lead by example toward a clean energy economy.

    Meet this year’s winners and learn about the award they are receiving below.

  • Bonnie Frawley is a pharmacy manager for Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston, and drug shortages have become a too frequent fact of her work life.

    She says the situation has reached a "critical level" and that it affects patient care, "sometimes on a daily basis."

    Watch as she describes why we can't wait to help our nation's hospitals -- and how the President Obama's executive order will bring attention to the issue and mean fewer drug shortages.

    Also, don't miss Jay Cuetara discuss how a drug shortage affected his cancer treatment and what the President's actions mean for patients.

     

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