Matt ComptonDecember 13, 2011
01:00 PM EDT
From Day One, President Obama has promised to bring our troops home from Iraq.
In his Inauguration speech, he said, "We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people."
In the time since, the President has worked to make good on that promise -- and ensure that our veterans get the care and benefits they've earned through their service.
This month, after nearly nine years, the final American military units in the country will return to the United States, and the war will end.
We've put together a timeline to show the milestones that have brought us to this point. Take a look: WH.gov/Iraq
Jack LewDecember 13, 2011
12:46 PM EDT
When is the last time you used a dollar coin? If you’re like most Americans, it’s been a while.
Back in 2005, Congress enacted the Presidential $1 Coin Act, which mandated that the US Mint issue new Presidential $1 Coins with the likeness of every deceased President. The only problem: nobody wants to use them. As a result, more than 40 percent (or 1.3 billion) of the Presidential coins that the US Mint has issued are sitting in storage at the Federal Reserve – enough to meet demand for more than a decade. And until today, the Mint was set to produce another 1.6 billion coins through 2016. That’s why Vice President Biden and Secretary Geithner announced at today’s Cabinet meeting that the Administration will stop the wasteful production of excess $1 coins for circulation, and will produce only a small number to be sold to collectors as required by law – but at no cost to taxpayers. Overall, this change will save at least $50 million annually over the next several years.
Megan SlackDecember 12, 2011
07:30 PM EDT
Today, First Lady Michelle Obama visited patients at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., a tradition that dates back more than 60 years to First Lady Bess Truman. After touring the neonatal intensive care nursery and another unit at the hospital, Mrs. Obama settled in with Santa Claus and First Dog Bo to read T’was the Night Before Christmas to a group of children gathered in the hospital’s atrium.
After story time, the First Lady answered some questions about the Obama family’s Christmas Eve traditions (enjoying a big meal with extended family in Hawaii and waiting for Santa to arrive), her favorite Christmas movie (“It’s a Wonderful Life”), and what she’s getting the President for Christmas (it’s a surprise, of course!).
Megan SlackDecember 12, 2011
06:33 PM EDT
In the coming days, the final troops will cross the border out of Iraq and America’s war there will end. Over nearly nine years of fighting, tens of thousands of American troops who were wounded, and 4,500 lost their life in service to our country. The war cost $1 trillion.
American is safer and stronger because we ended the Iraq War, as President Obama promised to do. But now it’s time to invest in the American people. We must work on creating jobs, rebuilding our strong middle class, and sustaining the growth that supports our prosperity and leadership around the world.
Part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who have fought it and providing all who served with the care and benefits they have earned. And, President Obama is enlisting our veterans in the mission of rebuilding America by funding a post-9/11 GI Bill that helps our veterans and their families pursue a college education, and creating jobs for our veterans so they can become the backbone of the middle class.
If we come together to tackle the big challenges that we face with the same sense of common purpose that our troops showed in Iraq, there’s nothing we can’t do as a country.
Megan SlackDecember 12, 2011
03:27 PM EDT
Back in July of 2009, President Obama hosted Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, just three weeks after all U.S. troops withdrew from Iraqi cities and transferred power to Iraq's security forces.
In his remarks that day, President Obama reiterated his committment to continue supporting Iraq as the country moved toward national unity and peace, and to remove all American troops by the end of 2011.
Watch President Obama give remarks after meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at the White House.
True to his word, the last American troops will cross the border out of Iraq in the coming days. To mark the end of the war and the impressive progress Iraqi's have make, President Obama welcomed Prime Minister Maliki to the White House again today. Together, they honored the sacrifices of all those who served, and discussed beginning a new chapter in the relationship between our two countries--an equal partnership between two sovereign nations based on mutual interests and mutual respect.
For more information:
Secretary Arne DuncanDecember 12, 2011
03:25 PM EDT
When President Obama took office, he set a bold goal: for the US to reclaim its place as the world's leader in college completion rates, and have the world's most competitive workforce by 2020.
With this goal, the President set our sights on achieving excellence and equity for every student in America. To achieve this goal, we must vastly improve the opportunity to learn for all Americans and we must unleash technology's potential to power up the education experience and to fully support the development of our workforce.
Matt ComptonDecember 12, 2011
02:50 PM EDT
President Obama met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday to discuss the end of the Iraq war and the steps necessary to realize a new phase in the relationship between the two countries.
Since the President has taken office, nearly 150,000 U.S. servicemembers have left Iraq, and hundreds of bases have been closed. Before the end of the year, the last of our troops will cross the border and return home. After nine years, the war is over.
The President and the Prime Minister met at the White House -- first for a bilateral session in the Oval Office where they were joined by Vice President Joe Biden, then for a joint press conference.
Before answering questions from reports, President Obama said:
Today, I’m proud to welcome Prime Minister Maliki -- the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq. We're here to mark the end of this war; to honor the sacrifices of all those who made this day possible; and to turn the page -- begin a new chapter in the history between our countries -- a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect.
Iraq faces great challenges, but today reflects the impressive progress that Iraqis have made. Millions have cast their ballots -- some risking or giving their lives -- to vote in free elections. The Prime Minister leads Iraq’s most inclusive government yet. Iraqis are working to build institutions that are efficient and independent and transparent.
Nearly 4,500 Americans lost their lives in the Iraq War. After the press conference, President Obama and Prime Minister Maliki visited the Arlington National Cemetery where they participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Sarah BernardDecember 11, 2011
01:17 PM EDT
On Saturday, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Dr. Jill Biden attended the 112th edition of the annual Army vs. Navy football game at FedEx Field, which ended in the 10th straight victory for Navy, scoring 27-21. The President's attendance kicks off a number of observances to mark the end of the Iraq war and honor all Americans who have served in Iraq.
Megan SlackDecember 10, 2011
05:30 AM EDT
President Obama calls on Congress to do what's right for the American people by extending the payroll tax cut and confirming Richard Cordray to lead a new consumer-watchdog agency that will protect families from dishonest business practices.
Watch President Obama's full remarks here.
Megan SlackDecember 09, 2011
06:22 PM EDT
One out of every five Americans over the age of 65 has reported being a victim of a financial scam. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will help put an end to the kind of unscrupulous financial practices that target our senior citizens.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created as part of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to protect all consumers, especially the most vulnerable groups, from abusive and scam-ridden tactics. In addition to regulating large banks financial industries like those whose unchecked risk-taking and shady practices led to the financial crisis, CFPB will establish and enforce rules that ensure other types of services like payday lenders, mortgage lenders, and debt collectors don’t build their businesses around taking advantage of consumers.
President Obama has nominated Richard Cordray to direct CFPB. His confirmation will allow the bureau to exercise its full authority and protect borrowers from unfair, deceptive or abusive financial practices, regardless of the type of bank, business or industry that uses them. Republicans in the Senate, however, refused to even vote on Cordray’s nomination this week, leaving Americans at risk of falling prey to many of the harmful practices that contributed to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Kori SchulmanDecember 09, 2011
05:26 PM EDT
This week, we invited 150 of our Twitter followers from around the country to the White House for a special holiday tweetup. Tweetup attendees heard from White House officials, ranging from Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra to "Crust Master" (or White House pastry chef) Bill Yosses. In the afternoon, tweeps toured the White House, joining more than 85,000 visitors that will visit this holiday season. Visitors tweeted along the way -- sharing what they heard from White House officials, Bo decor sightings, and more.
Follow their experience in tweets. Have a look at the holiday tweetup story below, or on Storify. And check out at some of the blog posts tweetup guests put together after they left, including posts by @clarendoncultur here, @theaofa here, @erincarly here, @tbridge here and @Beachmom01 here.
December 09, 2011
05:26 PM EDT
Watch West Wing Week here.
Here’s what happened this week on WhiteHouse.gov:
Tax Countdown The clock is ticking. On Monday, the President urged Congress to pass tax cuts for the middle class before they go home for the holidays. Immediately after the briefing, the White House launched a countdown clock on WhiteHouse.gov and in the press briefing room, to let people know exactly how much time is left before taxes go up for middle class families without congress. Later in the week, Senate Republicans blocked the tax cut extension as well as Richard Cordray’s nomination to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—a job that ensures consumer protection. In a press briefing, the President addressed that vote and Congress’ failure to extend the payroll tax cut. President Obama promised to explore all options and take nothing "off the table" in ensuring that the CFPB is able to fulfill its mission of protecting consumers.
Make or Break Moment More than 100 years since Teddy Roosevelt gave his historic New Nationalism speech in Osawatomie,Kansas, President Obama traveled to this same small town to address the make-or-break moment for the middle class. Some in Washington argue that we should let the markets take care of everything -- rolling back regulation and slashing taxes.Thankfully, President Obama said, we can choose a different path: “There’s another view about how we build a strong middle class in this country. It is a view that says in America we are greater together -- when everyone engages in fair play and everybody gets a fair shot and everybody does their fair share.”
College Affordability Vice President Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach, Florida to talk about college affordability in a town hall meeting. They spoke with parents and students about steps the administration has taken to reduce college costs and the need to keep college tuition low so more Americans have the opportunity to obtain a degree. President Obama and Vice President Biden have focused on making college affordable for middle-class families since the day they took office. Before making his speech, the Vice President made a surprise visit to Mayport in Jacksonville as sailors returned from overseas to be welcomed home by their families.
Canada Visit The President welcomed Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the White House Thursday to discuss the economy and make commitments to ease trade and travel between the two neighboring nations. The President also discussed Canada’s role in helping put Americans back to work. “Canada is key to achieving my goal of doubling American exports and putting people back to work and the important initiatives that we agreed to today will help us do just that.”
Kennedy Center Honors President Obama and the First Lady honored Meryl Streep, Neil Diamond, Sonny Rollins, Yo-Yo Ma and Barbara Cook for their lifelong contributions to the arts and thanked them for sharing their talents with the world. The award winners were honored at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C.
Matt ComptonDecember 09, 2011
03:55 PM EDT
Officially, Hanukkah doesn't begin for another 11 days -- but last night, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama decided to kick things off a little early with a celebration of the holiday at the White House.
They were joined by Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in attendance, along with Israel's Ambassardor to the United States Michael Oren, the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir, and a large group of faith and community leaders.
Hanukkah, the President said, is "an opportunity to recognize the miracles in our own lives:"
Let’s honor the sacrifices our ancestors made so that we might be here today. Let’s think about those who are spending this holiday far away from home -– including members of our military who guard our freedom around the world. Let’s extend a hand to those who are in need, and allow the value of tikkun olam to guide our work this holiday season.
This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations. And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.
Jon CarsonDecember 09, 2011
02:53 PM EDT
Lately, many Americans have asked me if the payroll tax cut will affect Social Security. The answer is simply no.
The payroll tax cut has given tax breaks to millions of families across the country this year, providing a boost to their pocketbooks. Extending it would ensure that taxes do not go up for nearly 160 million hardworking Americans on January 1st -- an increase of $1,000 for the typical household.
While more money stays in workers’ paychecks, the law specifies that Social Security receive every dollar it would have gotten even without the payroll tax cut. This happens by automatically transferring resources from the government’s general coffers to the Social Security Trust Fund. And indeed, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration has confirmed that the payroll tax cut would have no impact on the Trust Fund.
The President believes that Social Security is a sacred compact, that in return for a lifetime of hard work, America’s seniors will have a chance to retire with dignity. We have an obligation to keep that promise and safeguard and strengthen Social Security for seniors, people with disabilities and all Americans, both now and in the future.
The President also believes in the need to spur economic growth. The payroll tax cut will generate growth and put people back to work.
Jon Carson is Deputy Assistant to President and Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement
Kori SchulmanDecember 09, 2011
12:24 PM EDT
Yesterday, the White House announced $2 billion in public and private resources to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. In the spirit of open and participatory government, we also announced the Startup America Policy Challenge. We're calling on entrepreneurs and the broader public to share their ideas on how to accelerate entrepreneurial innovation in the areas of healthcare, energy and education. Aneesh Chopra, US Chief Technology Officer, kicked off the challenge in a post on Quora and asked a few questions to get the dialogue going.
Read Aneesh's post below and participate in the challenge by sharing your ideas on Quora:
Startup America is President Obama’s initiative to celebrate, promote, and inspire high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the nation. We’re working to expand access to private sector capital, accelerate the time it takes to get technologies from lab-to-market, and promote mentorship and entrepreneurship education.
We’re also working to reduce barriers for entrepreneurs. I was part of an eight-city listening tour earlier this year, where top Obama Administration officials heard ideas from over 1,000 entrepreneurs across the country about how we can make government work better for startups. The tour helped lead to recenthigh-skill immigration reforms and a new initiative to help reduce student loan burdens —relevant to startup founders who are living cheap and pouring every dollar into their big idea.
Brian LevineDecember 09, 2011
12:16 PM EDT
This week, Vice President Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach, Florida to talk to students and their parents about college. President Obama and Vice President Biden have focused on making college affordable for middle-class families since the day they took office. We increased the value of the maximum Pell Grant award by more than $800 and created the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which is worth up to $10,000 over four years for tuition and other expenses. Even after grants and tax credits, most students still need to borrow money for school. That’s why we are allowing borrowers to cap federal student loan payments at 10 percent of their discretionary income.
The Vice President reminded the audience of all these accomplishments, but he didn’t stop there. As proud as we are of this Administration’s record, increasing student aid is just one part of keeping college affordable. State higher education leaders and individual schools must also do their part. On Monday, the President gathered a group of college presidents at the White House to talk about rising college costs and strategies they can pursue to reduce these costs. In Florida, the Vice President argued that colleges "can cut cost and limit student debt without in any way compromising the quality of an education." He acknowledged that "it won’t be easy" but forcefully concluded that "there is no excuse for complacency."
Finally, the Vice President assured students who might be concerned about rising tuitions and debt loads that going to college is an excellent investment. College graduates earn more money and have a significantly lower unemployment rate than high school graduates with no post-secondary degree. And as the Vice President told the audience, "having a college degree is about a lot more than how much money you make. It’s about the independence it bestows upon you, the significantly broader range of choices it gives you…it’s about your sense of self-worth…it’s about being able to fulfill your potential."
Brian Levine is Deputy Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President
December 09, 2011
11:02 AM EDT
This week, Jason Furman, Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, answered questions from 7&4 News and UpNorthLive.com readers on jobs and the economy. Look at some of the highlights below or see the full chat over at UpNorthLive.com. And learn more about how the American Jobs Act will increase jobs and improve the economy at WhiteHouse.gov/JobsAct.
Q: Eric Kane:
As the economic powers shift from West to East, how can Americans prepare?
A: Jason Furman, The White House:
Eric, that is probably the most important question facing our economy. America is still the #1 economic power in the world, with the best educated and trained workers, the best capital stock, and the best knowledge and technology. But we won't maintain this by staying on autopilot. One lesson is that we can't cut our way to prosperity and have to continue the research, education and infrastructure investments that have made us the #1 power in the world. We also have to tackle our challenges, like inequality and the budget deficit.
Amy DudleyDecember 09, 2011
08:52 AM EDT
Yesterday morning, Vice President Biden made a surprise visit to Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Florida to welcome over 300 sailors home from a seven month deployment to the Middle East.
The sailors serve on the USS Gettysburg, which was returning to its homeport in Mayport. The Gettysburg deployed last May – along with helicopters and crew from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 70 (the “Spartans”, based at nearby Naval Station Jacksonville) – as part of the George H.W. Bush Strike Group.
As the Gettysburg slowly made its way into port, the Vice President said a few words to the hundreds of family and friends gathered to welcome home their loved ones. He was joined by Rear Admiral Nora Tyson, Commander of Carrier Strike Group 2 – the first woman in U.S. Navy history to assume command of a carrier strike group. The Vice President thanked the families for the sacrifices they have made while their loved ones served overseas. “They also serve who only stand and wait,” he said, quoting poet John Milton.
He also recalled his own son Beau’s homecoming after serving a year in Iraq.
“I learned early, early on,” the Vice President said, “if anyone got - no matter who it was, the president, the Lord almighty - got between his mother and him or his wife and him as he was getting off that bus, they would have been trampled.”
“I promise I'm not going to get between you and that ship coming in here,” he told the crowd.
Matt ComptonDecember 09, 2011
12:00 AM EDT
This week, the President gave a major address on the defining issue of our time, restoring economic security to the middle class. He also hosted former President Clinton, the Canadian Prime Minister and Startup America, honored five giants from the art world, and urged Congress to extend the payroll tax cut.
Watch West Wing Week here.
Megan SlackDecember 08, 2011
04:40 PM EDT
Enlisted service members are often lured into easy credit offers. Installment loan companies often have offices near military bases and market their loans online exclusively to the military. The Department of Defense found that many of these installment lenders don't disclose the cost of the loans they offer and service members sometimes pay annual rates as high as 782 percent for two-week installment loans.
According to the Department of Defense, nearly 50 percent of enlisted service members are under the age of 25. They often lack experience in managing finances and a cushion of savings to help them through emergencies, making it more likely they might turn to a high-interest loan. Even older military members often move to new locations where they may be unfamiliar with local financial institutions and susceptible to deceptive marketing practices.
To protect all consumers, including service members, from these types of unscrupulous financial practices, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established as part of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that President Obama signed into law last June. President Obama has nominated Richard Cordray as Director of the Bureau, and Cordray’s confirmation by the Senate will allow CFPB to establish robust federal supervision over financial service providers such as high cost lenders and debt collectors that have never been regulated before, as well as banks and credit unions. CFPB will be able to combat practices by these financial institutions and others that harm consumers, helping our service members to avoid hidden fees and keep more money in their wallets.
Although the Senate blocked an attempt to vote on Cordray’s nomination today, President Obama vowed not to back down from ensuring consumers--and particularly our service members--are fully protected from unfair, abusive, or deceptive practices by financial services providers.
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