Our Top Stories
Matt ComptonDecember 08, 2011
01:53 PM EDT
This morning, Senate Republicans blocked the confirmation of Richard Cordray.
Shortly after, President Obama walked into the briefing room here at the White House to address that vote -- and the refusal of Congress to extend the payroll tax cut.
The President spoke first about his nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:
Consumers across the country understand that part of the reason we got into the financial mess that we did was because regulators were not doing their jobs. People were not paying attention to what was happening in the housing market; people weren’t paying attention to who was being taken advantage of. There were folks who were making a lot of money taking advantage of American consumers.
This individual's job is to make sure that individual consumers are protected -- everybody from seniors to young people who are looking for student loans, to members of our Armed Services who are probably more vulnerable than just about anybody when it comes to unscrupulous financial practices.
There is no reason why Mr. Cordray should not be nominated, and should not be confirmed by the Senate, and should not be doing his job right away in order to carry out his mandate and his mission.
President Obama promised to explore all options and take nothing "off the table" with respect to ensuring that the CFPB is able to fulfill its mission of protecting consumers.
Megan SlackDecember 08, 2011
01:30 PM EDT
Watch the video on Wall Street Reform here.
President Obama signed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act last June to prevent another financial crisis like the one in 2008 that erased trillions of dollars of household debt, left millions of Americans without jobs, and collapsed some of nation’s biggest financial institutions as well as our housing market.
The financial crisis was the result of a fundamental failure from Wall Street to Washington. Wall Street took irresponsible risks that they didn’t fully understand and Washington didn’t have the authority to properly monitor or constrain risk-taking at the largest firms. When the crisis hit, the government didn’t have the tools to break apart or wind down a failing financial firm without putting the American taxpayer and the entire financial system at risk.
The Wall Street Reform Act changed that. It established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to oversee and regulate banks and a whole range of financial industries--including some that had never been regulated before like payday lenders, private mortgage brokers, and debt collectors--to ensure we have the tools to avoid another crisis. And CFPB is the first-ever government agency charged with protecting and empowering American consumers-- the people who keep their money in banks, pay for goods and services with their credit cards, and rely on mortgages to buy homes or pay for college.
Unfortunately, the Senate is blocking the confirmation of the Richard Cordray, who President Obama has appointed to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Without a Director in place, the Bureau's abilities to protect Americans from unfair, abusive, and deceptive practices at the hands of the financial industry are hamstrung, and our economy remains at risk.
Matt ComptonDecember 08, 2011
11:24 AM EDT
Yesterday afternoon, President Obama welcomed Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the White House. Their conversation was wide-ranging, touching on the Eurozone crisis, the war in Afghanistan and the democratic transitions in the Middle East and North Africa. But the central focus of their talks was on creating jobs and boosting the economy:
[In] this mission, Canada has a special role to play. As most of you know, Canada is our single largest trading partner, our top export market, and those exports -- from cars to food -- support some 1.7 million good-paying American jobs. Canada, in turn, is one of the top foreign investors in the United States, and that creates even more jobs and prosperity.
And the Prime Minister and I are determined not just to sustain this trade but to expand it, to grow it even faster, so we’re creating even more jobs and more opportunity for our people. Canada is key to achieving my goal of doubling American exports and putting folks back to work.
The President and the Prime Minister announced two new iniatives to help achieve those aims.
First, our two nations will coordinate to introduce new technology to improve cargo security and screening at points of entry along the border. That will ease congestion and reduce the time it takes to transport products between the U.S. and Canada. That in turn will make it easier for businesses to export their goods.
Second, the U.S. and Canada will work to streamline regulations and, in some cases, eliminate them altogether. The goal here will be to align standards where possible, and this effort will focus on series of key sectors -- starting with automobiles, agriculture, and health care. The aim here is also to reduce costs for businesses.
Watch President Obama and Prime Minister Harper speak here.
Gene SperlingDecember 08, 2011
10:45 AM EDT
Today, we can do more to increase the amount of capital that flows into the hands of entrepreneurs at every stage in the growth of their companies.
Helping these businesses grow is a top priority for the Obama Administration, as we know that small businesses create most of net new jobs that are added to the economy each year. We have an economic imperative to make sure we support these firms through creating an environment where they have access to capital markets to help facilitate growth at every stage.
Over the past three years, we have made great progress in helping small businesses. The President has signed into law 17 tax cuts for small businesses, from greater expensing provisions to the President’s signature call to eliminate capital gains taxes on certain investments in small businesses as well as two new small business lending funds. SBA loans also had an all-time record year. Right now, the President continues to call on Congress to cut payroll taxes in half for nearly 6 million small businesses, providing even more incentives for them to hire and grow.
Startups and high-growth firms – the biggest job creators – have different capital needs than other small businesses. That’s why almost a year ago, we launched Startup America, a White House initiative to create the best possible climate for high-growth entrepreneurs across the country. Today, at the Startup America Partnership board meeting hosted at the White House, we are announcing two important initiatives that show how we are working to specifically address the needs of startup businesses. And the President is calling on Congress to do more.
First, today we’re announcing that the Administration has taken action to create a new Early Stage Innovation Fund through SBA’s existing Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program. We’re making $1 billion available over the next 5 years to match private capital in funds that invest in early-stage, high growth-potential startup companies. SBA’s existing SBIC program just had a record year of helping over 1,000 businesses get $2.6 billion in capital, and created new vehicles like SBA’s first Impact Investment Fund, which recently launched in Michigan.
At the same time, the independent Startup America Partnership has mobilized commitments from more than 50 private-sector partners to deliver over $1 billion in value – from free software to free consulting and legal services – to 100,000 startups over the next three years.
And there’s more action we can take. In September, when the President announced his American Jobs Act, he called on Congress to take specific steps to help small businesses raise the funds they need to innovate and grow. Consistent with this call to action, the President is urging Congress to work on a bipartisan basis to develop these ideas by passing legislation related to:
- Crowdfunding: Nonprofits have already harnessed the power of online fundraising and social media to help meet their mission. In a similar way, we can create an appropriate regulatory framework for small businesses and startups to raise the capital they need from many small-dollar investors, while ensuring investor protections.
- Regulation A “Mini-Offerings”: For small businesses seeking to raise less than $5 million, there is an existing exemption from certain SEC requirements. But very few businesses are taking advantage of this “Regulation A” exemption today. The President has called for raising that limit to up to $50 million, making it easier for small companies to raise the capital they need to grow.
- Creating an On-Ramp for Emerging Growth Companies: For emerging growth companies, the vast majority of new jobs are typically created after they “go public.” Yet from 1995 to 2010, listings on U.S. exchanges shrank from 8,000 to 5,000 while listings on non-U.S. exchanges grew from 23,000 to 40,000. In March, after we held an Access to Capital conference, entrepreneurs and other private sector stakeholders formed an “IPO task force” and reported back to the Treasury Department with recommendations to help scale regulations for emerging growth companies while providing strong investor protections. Some of these ideas are being explored by Congress and the Administration right now.
While moving quickly to pass these initiatives, Congress must develop these proposals in ways that will continue to protect American investors. Over the past few months, we have begun to make real progress. Members on both sides of the aisle have supported legislation consistent with the ideas that the President called for. Legislation has passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support. And last week, these issues were highlighted at a Senate Banking Committee hearing where Chairman Tim Johnson noted “This is an issue where I believe there is real potential for bipartisan cooperation.”
Overall, efforts like these could help improve liquidity for entrepreneurs, and help jump-start the innovative American companies of tomorrow. At the same time, we need to ensure that as we develop these initiatives we are taking necessary measures to ensure that investors are protected – and the Administration will continue working with Congress to achieve this outcome.
The President, both of us, and leaders across the private sector understand that “one size doesn’t fit all” when it comes to helping small businesses, especially startups and high-growth firms. Let’s make sure they can get access to the kinds of capital they need to grow and create the jobs we need now.
Matt ComptonDecember 08, 2011
09:29 AM EDT
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a new agency, created just last year. They have a big responsibility -- acting as a watchdog for all of us who hold a mortgage, use credit cards, or otherwise need to apply for a loan.
The staff there has already gotten to work. Just this week, they've announced a project to simplify credit card agreements and make them less confusing for consumers.
But right now, the Bureau is hamstrung by the simple fact that the Senate has so far refused to confirm Richard Cordray -- the man who President Obama has nominated to be its director.
This isn't a question of credentials. Cordray has a wealth of experience as a public servant. He has clerked for the Supreme Court, been elected to the Ohio state legislature, and served as Ohio's State Treasury and Attorney General. He understands the issues facing middle class families and has been a champion for consumers throughout his career.
This isn't really even a question of bipartisan support. Cordray has the backing of a majority of the nation's Attorneys General. So far, 37 of them, Republicans and Democrats, from across the country, have called on the Senate to confirm Cordray. That's a call that's been echoed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, who have issued their own letter calling for Cordray's confirmation.
Instead, this is about Republicans trying to make the CFPB less effective. President Obama talked about that refusal to confirm Cordray yesterday in Kansas:
Does anyone think the problem before that led to this crisis was too much oversight of mortgage lenders or debt collectors? Every day we go without a consumer watchdog in place is another day when a student, or a service member, or a senior citizen could be tricked into a loan they can’t afford – something that happens all the time. Financial institutions have plenty of lobbyists looking out for their interests. Consumers deserve to have someone whose job it is to look out for theirs. And I intend to make sure they do.
Now, it appears that the Senate will finally vote on Cordray's nomination. We'll keep you posted as that vote unfolds.
Megan SlackDecember 07, 2011
05:20 PM EDT
Payday loans, sometimes called cash-advance loans or check-advance loans offer borrowers short‐term funds at very high interest rates that are not always clearly disclosed. On average, payday lenders charge fees of roughly $16 for a $100 two‐week loan. If borrowers miss payments, fees can begin to accumulate, resulting in extremely high total payments. Payday loan borrowers are paying nearly $4.2 billion in fees annually, according to some studies.
Even when rates and penalties are disclosed, borrowers in desperate need of cash may agree to disadvantageous loan terms. Many times, these borrowers’ financial resources have already been depleted by an emergency, sustained unemployment, or illness. Relying on payday loans to make ends meet can create a debt‐and‐fee‐spiral that some people may find extremely difficult to exit.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established to provide federal supervision and oversight over a full range of financial service providers that consumers rely on--from banks and credit unions, to payday lenders and independent mortgage brokers. President Obama has nominated Richard Cordray to head the CFPB, and the Senate will vote on his confirmation this week. Having a director in place will allow the Bureau to protect consumers from unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices from providers like those that issue payday loans.
Megan SlackDecember 07, 2011
11:14 AM EDT
In August, Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Pearl Harbor after his trip to Asia to pay his respects at the USS Arizona Memorial -- a 184-foot structure that rests atop the midsection of the sunken World War Two battleship.
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The USS Arizona, one of 21 battleships attacked on December 7th, 1941, is the final resting place for 1,177 American crewmen. It represents the greatest loss of life on any ship that day and about half of the total number of Americans killed in the attack.
The Vice President, his daughter-in-law Kathleen, and his granddaughter Naomi visited the memorial at sunset, and had the opportunity to reflect on the overwhelming loss of life in the memorial’s sanctuary, where 1,177 names of the fallen are etched in marble on the wall.
After laying a wreath at the foot of the wall, the Vice President and his family silently sprinkled flower petals into the sea -- a symbolic tribute to all those lost in the attack.
Aneesh ChopraDecember 07, 2011
10:27 AM EDT
Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services, through the Affordable Care Act, launched the Health Care Innovation Challenge, which will award $1 billion in grants to applicants who will implement the most compelling new ideas to deliver better health and improved care at lower costs to people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)—particularly those with the greatest health care needs.
The Challenge is a signature initiative of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, and promises to catalyze new approaches that support health care delivery transformation. It offers an unprecedented opportunity for innovators and entrepreneurs who have been working tirelessly on new care improvement models but have often faced great difficulty bringing them to the patients who need them in today’s reimbursement environment. This Challenge will help us by:
- Identifying new ways of paying for health care that improve care at reduced cost and can be scaled nationally by CMS and the Department of Health and Human Services.
- Engaging a wide variety of innovators to help come up with new and promising ideas. Interested parties of all types are welcome to apply. Doctors, nurses and other care providers, hospitals, health systems, payers, technology entrepreneurs and other private sector organizations, faith-based organizations, local governments, and public-private partnerships are some of the professionals and organizations we expect to apply. In addition, certain organizations may apply as conveners to assemble and coordinate groups of participants.
- Helping to create jobs. The Challenge gives priority to applicants that identify opportunities for job creation. By rewarding public sharing and rapid deployment of such ideas, the Challenge will boost our ability to deliver on the promise of health care delivery innovation. We also believe that by attracting top talent to the health care sector and identifying pathways for innovators to build rewarding careers in this industry, we will both solidify our position as the world’s most competitive healthcare workforce and also help strengthen the foundation for better health for our citizens well into the future.
- Encouraging “enhanced infrastructure” to support more effective system-wide function. In this context, we hope this Innovation Challenge will serve as a call to action for technology and data innovators to team with care innovators to propose solutions that can be implemented with speed and have the capacity to scale.
- Promising smart answers fast. We need your “letters of intent” by December 19th, 2011, with full applications by January 27th, 2012. Winners will be awarded by March 2012 with three-year grants ranging from $1 million to $30 million.
Some of the greatest transformations American healthcare has seen have come from sources outside its traditional boundaries — for example, health care has borrowed widely from the automotive, aerospace, and defense industries to innovate. So please share this post far and wide to innovative thinkers in every corner of American industry – even to those who haven’t yet actively engaged in the health care delivery sector. There’s never been a better time to innovate in health care – as more and more of the information required to power innovations that safeguard and improve health becomes available and accessible, and as the health care system begins to reward providers for keeping patients healthy and delivering value, not just volume. Answer the Health Care Innovation Challenge, and play your part in improving the nation’s health care system by proposing new ideas that deliver better health and improved care at lower costs to people with Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP.
December 07, 2011
10:00 AM EDT
Yesterday, Republicans in the United States Senate blocked Caitlin Halligan’s nomination to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She had been nominated to fill the 9th seat on this 11-seat court – which is now more than a quarter vacant – and yesterday’s filibuster is unwarranted and irresponsible.
Based on her record, it is indisputable that Ms. Halligan should be confirmed to this important court.
Ms. Halligan currently serves as General Counsel at the New York County District Attorney’s Office, which investigates and prosecutes approximately 100,000 cases a year. Ms. Halligan served as New York State’s Solicitor General for nearly six years, where she managed the 45 attorneys in the State Attorney General’s office and was in charge of overseeing hundreds of court filings annually in the federal and state appellate courts. She has served as counsel of record in nearly 50 matters before the United States Supreme Court. She also has argued five cases before the Supreme Court and many cases before both federal and state appellate courts. Ms. Halligan clerked on the Supreme Court for Justice Stephen Breyer and on the D.C. Circuit for Judge Patricia Wald. She received her A.B. with honors from Princeton University in 1988 and her J.D. with high honors from Georgetown University Law Center, where she served as managing editor of the Georgetown Law Journal.
Ms. Halligan has broad bipartisan support from the law enforcement and legal communities. To give just a few examples, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau support Ms. Halligan, as does the New York Association of Chiefs of Police and the New York State Sheriff’s Association. The ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, a non-partisan peer review body, rated Ms. Halligan “unanimous well-qualified” to serve on the D.C. Circuit.
Despite Ms. Halligan’s extraordinarily strong record, Republicans filibustered her nomination – refusing to allow for a simple up-or-down vote.
Worse still, even consensus judicial nominees are being needlessly delayed by the Senate Republicans. There is a vacancy crisis in our courts, and it could be cut by more than a quarter if the Senate would simply confirm the nominees who already have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. In addition to Ms. Halligan, 20 nominees have been approved by the Judiciary Committee after thorough consideration, but have been waiting – many for months – to be confirmed. Seventeen of these judicial nominees have been approved unanimously by the Judiciary Committee – there is no stated opposition to their nominations, and no explanation has been provided for why they cannot be confirmed immediately. On average, President Obama’s judicial nominees have waited five times as long as President Bush’s judicial nominees to be confirmed after receiving Judiciary Committee approval.
As Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said, there is “an urgent need for the political branches to find a long-term solution to this recurring problem,” which has “created acute difficulties for some judicial districts” and left some sitting judges “burdened with extraordinary caseloads.”
It is time for the Senate to act responsibly and to meet this need.
Valerie JarrettDecember 06, 2011
07:48 PM EDT
Lady Gaga is a source of strength for many young people who feel isolated and scared at their schools. Today, I had the opportunity to welcome her to the White House, where we discussed ways we could work together to make sure that no child comes under attack, regardless of his or her race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other factor.
One of Lady Gaga’s newest projects is joining together with the MacArthur Foundation and Harvard University to launch the Born This Way Foundation, which will explore ways to help change the culture, the policies, and the curriculum surrounding the safety of our children in school.
Lady Gaga has described this cause as a personal one – she has said that as a child, she was often picked on for being different. I am deeply moved by the way she has used her story, and her success, to inspire young people, and shine the spotlight on important issues.
I am proud to be part of an Administration that has taken steps to address bullying. In 2010, the Department of Education made it clear to schools that allowing bullying against LGBT students can violate anti-discrimination statutes. In 2011, the Department reaffirmed students’ rights to form gay-straight alliances and other similar groups. Earlier this year, President Obama and the First Lady held a White House Conference on Bullying Prevention. And today the Administration released a new analysis of state bullying laws and policies, summarizing the efforts currently in place to prevent bullying in and out of schools. The report shows that while states have made recent progress in enacting policies and legislation to address bullying, more must be done.
Matt ComptonDecember 06, 2011
06:47 PM EDT
Watch President Obama's full remarks here.
In the state where his mother was born, President Obama made an argument about laying a new foundation for broad-based prosperity in America.
"It starts," he said, "with making sure that everyone has a fair shot at success."
That means giving Americans the education, infrastructure, and resources necessary to out-innovate our global competitors, structuring our tax system fairly to pay for those investments, and it means creating an environment where everyone -- from Main Street to Wall Street -- plays by the same set of rules. The President said:
As infuriating as it was for all of us, we rescued our major banks from collapse, not only because a full blown financial meltdown would have sent us into a second Depression, but because we need a strong, healthy financial sector in this country.
But part of the deal was that we would not go back to business as usual. That’s why last year we put in place new rules of the road that refocus the financial sector on this core purpose: getting capital to the entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and financing to millions of families who want to buy a home or send their kids to college. We’re not all the way there yet, and the banks are fighting us every inch of the way.
And Republicans are standing with Wall Street to block broader reform by refusing to confirm a head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- the watchdog group is charged with protecting everyday Americans from lenders who are out to take advantage of them. Here's what President Obama had to say:
The man we nominated for the post, Richard Cordray, is a former Attorney General of Ohio who has the support of most Republican and Democratic Attorneys General throughout the country.
But the Republicans in the Senate refuse to let him do his job. Why? Does anyone think the problem before that led to this crisis was too much oversight of mortgage lenders or debt collectors? Every day we go without a consumer watchdog in place is another day when a student, or a service member, or a senior citizen could be tricked into a loan they can’t afford – something that happens all the time. Financial institutions have plenty of lobbyists looking out for their interests. Consumers deserve to have someone whose job it is to look out for theirs. And I intend to make sure they do.
The Senate is slated to vote on Richard Cordray's confirmation later this week. Check back at WhiteHouse.gov for more information.
Matt ComptonDecember 06, 2011
05:43 PM EDT
More than a century after Teddy Roosevelt outlined a vision for a "New Nationalism" in a Kansas town called Osawatomie, President Obama visited the same community to talk about what he called a make-or-break moment of the middle class.
He described how the world has undergone an economic transformation unlike any other in our collective history -- and how that change has upended our expectations of social mobility in this country. Where professionals ranging from factory workers to travel agents to accountants once enjoyed the promise of a good job and steady income in exchange for their hard work, today they and a range of people like them must compete with new technology and individuals from around the world.
The President told the 1,200 people gathered in Osawatomie that there are two ways to respond to these challenges.
Some in Washington, he said, argue that we should let the markets take care of everything -- rolling back regulation and slashing taxes:
Now, it’s a simple theory. And we have to admit, it’s one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That’s in America’s DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. But here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the ‘50s and ‘60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade.
Thankfully, President Obama said, we can choose a different path:
[T]here’s another view about how we build a strong middle class in this country -- a view that’s truer to our history, a vision that’s been embraced in the past by people of both parties for more than 200 years.
It’s not a view that we should somehow turn back technology or put up walls around America. It’s not a view that says we should punish profit or success or pretend that government knows how to fix all of society’s problems. 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.
Read the entire speech here.
Aneesh ChopraDecember 06, 2011
05:14 PM EDT
On September 20, 2011, on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly, the President announced the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan. The Plan was developed through a process that involved extensive consultations with external stakeholders, including a broad range of civil society groups and members of the private sector, to gather ideas on open government. As we continue our work to implement the National Action Plan, we want your help. Specifically, we’d like your input and recommendations on how to improve and help facilitate public participation – your participation – in government.
The United States committed to undertake 26 Open Government initiatives in the National Action Plan, and we are working to implement each of them now. For example, the White House recently announced that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will be the senior U.S. official to lead implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, an effort to ensure that taxpayers receive every dollar due for extraction of our natural resources. A major milestone was also reached in the development of an open government platform that will enable governments around the world to stand up their own open government data sites. And just last week, the President fulfilled a commitment made in the National Action Plan to begin a government-wide effort to reform and modernize records management policies and practices.
We are now requesting your assistance with one of the initiatives in the U.S. National Action Plan designed to promote public participation:
Develop Best Practices and Metrics for Public Participation. We will identify best practices for public participation in government and suggest metrics that will allow agencies to assess progress toward the goal of becoming more participatory. This effort will highlight those agencies that have incorporated the most useful and robust forms of public participation in order to encourage other agencies to learn from their examples.”
Given the focus of this initiative, we thought it would be most appropriate to invite you to provide input and ideas on best practices and metrics for public participation, including but not limited to suggestions and recommendations that address the following questions:
- What are the appropriate measures for tracking and evaluating participation efforts in agency Open Government Plans?
- What should be the minimum standard of good participation?
- How should participation activities be compared across agencies with different programs, amounts of regulatory activity, budgets, staff sizes, etc.?
- What are the most effective forms of technology and web tools to encourage public participation, engage with the private sector/non-profit and academic communities, and provide the public with greater and more meaningful opportunities to influence agencies’ plans?
- What are possible mechanisms for agencies to increase the level of diversity of viewpoints and backgrounds brought to bear in their activities and decisions?
- What are the most effective strategies for ensuring that participation is well-informed?
- What are some examples of success stories involving strong public participation, as well as less-than-successful efforts, and what lessons can be drawn from them?
Please send your thoughts to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the web form provided, by January 3, 2012. We will consider your ideas and input as we continue to implement the U.S. National Action Plan and develop this best practices guidance on public participation.
December 06, 2011
04:00 PM EDT
Ed. Note: This has been cross-posted from the United States Department of Agriculture blog.
In recent years, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – formerly known as food stamps – has demonstrated an exceptional record in program integrity and stewardship of taxpayer dollars. The program currently serves as a bridge to success for over 46 million Americans who are at risk of being hungry when they face challenging economic times. More than half of those who rely on the program are children, elderly or the disabled, and many participants are newly unemployed and never thought they would be living in poverty. The program has never been more important and neither has the need to be a good steward of its dollars. In this vein, President Obama and Vice President Biden launched the Administration’s new Campaign to Cut Waste in government spending in June to eliminate misspent tax dollars and USDA strongly supports this effort.
Today we are reinforcing this commitment, strengthening our resolve to ensure program integrity and working on behalf of American taxpayers to protect the federal investment in SNAP and make sure the program is targeted towards those families who need it the most. While we recognize that fraud occurs relatively infrequently in SNAP, it has great potential to undermine public confidence in government and jeopardize the ability of the program to serve the millions of struggling families who rely on benefits each month.
Thankfully, the vast majority of SNAP recipients are honest people who spend their benefits to meet basic nutritional needs and to put food on the table. Data shows that illegal activity – such as selling benefits to others for cash – only affects roughly one cent on the dollar. Still, we cannot tolerate even the smallest abuse of taxpayer resources. That’s why we have implemented aggressive strategies to continue to improve SNAP integrity.
Megan SlackDecember 06, 2011
03:36 PM EDT
In the run-up to the financial crisis, independent, unregulated mortgage lenders were among the largest originators of subprime mortgages. The default rate on subprime mortgages made in 2006, the height of the housing bubble, now exceeds 50 percent.
In part to prevent future homeowners from being saddled with mortgages they can't pay, as well as regulate practices that led to the housing market crash in the first place, President Obama created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.
The Bureau consolidates consumer protection authorities that previously existed in seven different agencies under one roof. Prior to the passage of the Wall Street Reform Act, no single agency had effective tools to set the rules for and oversee the whole market, and consumer financial protection was not anyone’s top priority. The result was a system where no one was sufficiently accountable for getting the job done.
In addition to being tasked with the authority to supervise financial institutions like banks and credit unions under laws that already existed, CFPB will also be able to supervise financial institutions like independent mortgage lenders payday lenders, private student loan companies, credit bureaus, and debt collectors. The Bureau will be able to make and enforce rules that protect people who rely on these types of services from abusive practices, and ensure consumers have the information they need to make good financial decisions.
In fact, CFPB is already working to make mortgage disclosure forms more clear and easier to understand by redesigning the two key federal disclosure forms that people recieve when taking out a loan to purchase a home or refinance their mortgage. To find out more about Know Before You Owe, head on over to CFPB's web site.
To exercise its full authority to protect consumers, however, CFPB needs a director. President Obama has nominated Richard Cordray, Chief of Enforcement at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and former Attorney General of Ohio, to lead the Bureau. The Senate will vote on his confirmation this week, but as a new report makes clear, while Congress, the President, and the American public have made historic progress in establishing a single agency dedicated to protecting consumers, every day that CFPB goes without a Director is another day that American families remain at risk.
Megan SlackDecember 06, 2011
02:50 PM EDT
On August 31, 1910, President Theodore Roosevelt visited Osawatomie, Kansas and laid out his vision for what he called a "new nationalism."
In the speech, he called for the end of special protections for businesses in government. He declared that anyone who worked hard should be able to provide for themselves and their family, and that no one person was more entitled to special privileges than another. He stood by fair play under the rules of the game ensuring the rules made opportunity available to everyone.
Today President Obama traveled to Osawatomie to talk about some of the very same things. In his speech, the President talked about how this is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. At stake is the very survival of a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement.
Read President Obama's speech here and read President Roosevelt's new nationalism speech below.
Kori SchulmanDecember 06, 2011
11:33 AM EDT
This afternoon, President Obama will be in Osawatomie, Kansas to talk about how he sees this as a make-or-break moment for the middle class and those working to join it. Just over one hundred years ago, President Teddy Roosevelt came to Osawatomie and called for a New Nationalism, one where all Americans would get a fair chance, a square deal, and an equal opportunity to succeed.
Today, President Obama will lay out the choice we face between a country in which too few do well while too many struggle to get by, and one where we’re all in it together – where everyone engages in fair play, everyone does their fair share, and everyone gets a fair shot.
Watch the President’s speech live, join the discussion on Twitter and share a video response through YouTube. We’ll highlight some of your responses in the coming days and weeks.
Here's how you can watch and respond:
- Watch the speech live on Tuesday, December 6th at 1:55 p.m. EDT on WhiteHouse.gov/live or YouTube.com/WhiteHouse
- On Twitter, use the hashtag #Osawatomie to discuss the President's speech now, during and after
- Then, share your video response on YouTube. To submit a response, title your video "My Response to the President's Speech in Osawatomie"
Please note that responses may be highlighted on WhiteHouse.gov.
Secretary Kathleen SebeliusDecember 06, 2011
09:42 AM EDT
If you’ve had a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan for a few years, you’ll know that December is the end of Medicare Open Enrollment. This year, the last day for you to choose new Medicare health or prescription drug coverage for 2012 is December 7, earlier than it’s been in previous years.
December 7 is tomorrow. But you still have until midnight tomorrow if you want to make a change to your medical or prescription drug coverage.
And as you are reviewing your plan, remember that Medicare is only getting stronger. New data released today shows how millions of seniors have gotten cheaper prescription drugs and free preventive services, all thanks to the President’s health reform law.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the donut hole is starting to close. Through the end of October, 2.65 million people with Medicare have received discounts on brand name drugs in the donut hole. These discounts have saved seniors and people with disabilities a total of $1.5 billion on prescriptions – averaging about $569 per person. For State-by-State information on the number of people who are benefiting from this discount in 2011, visit this page.
Over the coming years, the Affordable Care Act will help close the coverage gap completely. Each year from now to 2020, you’ll pay less for brand name and generic drugs in the coverage gap. And in 2020, the coverage gap will be eliminated and the donut hole will be closed for good.
In addition to cheaper prescription drugs, the Affordable Care Act also made preventive services available to people with Medicare for free. Preventive care helps people stay healthy and live longer lives. Through the end of November nearly 24.2 million people with Medicare have received one or more free preventive services, including Medicare’s new free Annual Wellness Visit. For State-by-State information on the numbers of people who are utilizing preventive services in 2011, visit this page.
Colleen CurtisDecember 05, 2011
05:34 PM EDT
President Obama and the First Lady last night welcomed the 2011 Kennedy Center Honorees to the White House where he praised their lifelong contributions to the arts, and thanked them for sharing their talents with the world:
At a time of year when Americans everywhere are counting their blessings, we want to give thanks to their extraordinary contributions. They have been blessings to all of us. We are grateful that they've chosen to share their gifts, to enrich our lives, and to inspire us to new heights.
Every year the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts celebrates individuals who have made a lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts—whether in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures, or television. This year’s honorees are singer Barbara Cook, singer and songwriter Neil Diamond, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins and actress Meryl Streep. The President recognized the unique place each of the honorees holds in American culture and the importance of their work in American society:
So each of them have made these extraordinary contributions, and it's worthwhile, then, for us to commit ourselves to making this a place where the arts can continue to thrive. Because right now, somewhere in America, there is a future Kennedy Center honoree -- practicing on some phone books, or writing songs to impress a girl, or wondering if she can cut it on the big stage. Let's make sure our young people can dream big dreams, and follow them as far as they can go. And let's make sure the arts continue to be an important -- no, a critical part of who we are in the kind of world that we want to live in.
Katelyn SabochikDecember 05, 2011
05:22 PM EDT
This afternoon, President Obama went to the briefing room to urge Congress to pass tax cuts for the middle class before they go home for the holidays. Immediately following 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 unless Congress acts.
It's simple. If lawmakers don't vote to extend the payroll tax cut, taxes for 160 million Americans will go up on January 1st.
President Obama just left the press briefing room at the White House where he called on Congress to extend the tax cut, pay for it responsibly, and expand it so middle class families get a $1,500 break next year.
He told Congress to put country before party and stop wasting time.
Every day, folks are fighting to make ends meet and businesses are working to keep their doors open. The longer Congress waits to extend the payroll tax cut, the more uncertainty it creates for ordinary Americans. So we've put a clock on every page of the White House website, counting down the days, hours, and minutes until taxes for the middle class increase. In the briefing room, where the President just spoke, that same clock is ticking down as well.
And to make sure you have the information you need to know exactly what this means for your family, we've put together a calculator to show how much of your money hangs in the balance.
This calculator illustrates for you what nearly every independent economist has said: letting this tax cut expire will be a blow to the economy. We can’t let that happen. Now is the time to make a real difference in the lives of the people who sent us here.
Check it out and pass it along:
Senior Advisor to the President