Read all posts from March 2012

  • This morning, I had the opportunity to address Oxfam’s Sister Ambassadors at their International Women’s Day Summit in Washington, D.C.  I was proud to be able to say that over the last three years, our work with organizations like Oxfam has resulted in more international support for food security, more game-changing innovations, and most importantly, more people living without hunger.

    However, we have much more work to do, particularly when it comes to confronting the often tragic circumstances facing women and girls around the world.

    Today, women make up the majority of those living below the poverty line. Women grow more than half the food produced in many developing countries, but when prices rise, they are often the first to go hungry. Discrimination, both legal and cultural, still prevents too many women from contributing fully to their families and their communities.

    President Obama believes that the United States must fight hunger, both at home and abroad, and he believes we can only win that fight if we empower women to be true agents of change. From the day he took office, the President has worked to, as he has put it, “strengthen our common security by investing in our common humanity.”

  • International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on the significant gains made by women throughout our history, to recognize those who made those gains possible, and to reaffirm that their legacy is working to make a world that protects the rights, security, and dignity of women everywhere.

    From his first days in office, President Obama has made a steadfast commitment to honoring that legacy by ensuring women have access to the full range of opportunities and freedoms that all people in all places deserve. From establishing the White House Council on Women and Girls, to fighting pay discrimination through the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, expanding women’s access to health care, and combatting international human trafficking, the Administration has made great strides protecting the rights and ensuring the equality of women in the United States and around the world.

    Of course, much work remains. As President Obama has said, “we cannot rest until our mothers, sisters, and daughters assume their rightful place as full participants in a secure, prosperous, and just society.” That’s why in his FY 2013 Budget, the President put forward a series of proposals to protect and build on the progress we’ve already made when it comes to the advancement of women:

  • President Barack Obama tours a Daimler Trucks North America plant (March 7, 2012)

    President Barack Obama tours Daimler Trucks North America Mt. Holly Truck Manufacturing Plant in Mount Holly, North Carolina, March 7, 2012. On this part of the tour the President saw the Chassis Airing Station where multi-colored nylon air lines are installed for the brake system. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today, President Obama made a trip to a manufacturing plant for Daimler Trucks North America in Mount Holly, North Carolina. He was in the Tar Heel state to discuss more ways his administration is taking an all-of-the-above approach to American energy. 

    He talked about how his administration is pursuing new domestic energy sources, expanding oil and gas production, and reducing our overall reliance on oil through development of renewable energy. 

    But at a place where workers are busy assembling trucks that run on natural gas, the President also announced a new $1 billion National Community Deployment Challenge to help boost the deployment of clean, advanced vehicles all over America:

    To cities and towns all across the country, what we’re going to say is, if you make a commitment to buy more advanced vehicles for your community -- whether they run on electricity or biofuels or natural gas -- we’ll help you cut through the red tape and build fueling stations nearby. And we’ll offer tax breaks to families that buy these cars, companies that buy alternative fuel trucks like the ones that are made right here at Mount Holly. So we’re going to give communities across the country more of an incentive to make the shift to more energy-efficient cars.

    Have questions about President Obama's Blueprint for American-Made Energy? Learn more here.


     

  • This afternoon, the White House honored eleven Champions of Change for their extraordinary service as mentors for startups and small businesses across the country. By sharing their expertise and hard-won experience with first-time entrepreneurs, these mentors are not only “paying it forward” – they are enabling countless American businesses to grow faster and create more jobs. 

    Some of these Champions have done exemplary work through programs affiliated with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), including SCORE, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, and the Emerging Leaders (e200) Initiative. Others are working to grow regional “entrepreneurial ecosystems” through the Startup America Partnership, a private-sector response to the White House Startup America initiative.

    A strong mentor can offer invaluable support to entrepreneurs. Check out this new video on what makes an effective entrepreneurial mentor, drawn from interviews with leaders from the Startup America Partnership, who share their own experience on both sides of the relationship.

     

  • Ed. note: This was cross-posted from The Commerce Blog, the US Department of Commerce blog.

    As co-chair of the National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Privacy and Internet Policy, I am proud to have worked on the Obama administration’s comprehensive blueprint to improve consumer privacy protections, the “Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy” (PDF).  As the president stated in the report, “we must reject the conclusion that privacy is an outmoded value.  It has been at the heart of our democracy from its inception, and we need it now more than ever.”

    This is the message I took to European lawmakers, officials, and businesses about the administration’s privacy policy framework. Central to the framework is the tenet that consumers who have confidence their privacy is respected are more likely to express themselves online, engage in commercial activity, and form social connections on the Internet. Consumer trust is essential for a strong digital economy, which in turn provides a platform for greater innovation and job creation.

  • President Obama welcomed questions from the press Wednesday, in his first news conference of the new year, just days after the AIPAC Policy Conference and a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Before taking questions, the President announced a series of reformative housing steps aimed at American service members, veterans and their families.

    Watch footage from the entire news conference or jump to specific questions posed by reporters:

    Download Video: mp4 (1536MB) | mp3 (40MB)

  • Vice President Joe Biden Greets Mexican President Felipe Calderon

    Vice President Joe Biden greets Mexican President Felipe Calderon at Los Pinos in Mexico City, Mexico, March 5, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    This week, Vice President Biden traveled to Mexico and Honduras as part of the administration’s sustained, high-level engagement with the Americas. The Vice President’s visit comes in advance of the President’s participation in the Summit of the Americas this April in Colombia, which will focus on leveraging Hemispheric connections and partnerships to improve the lives of people throughout the region.

    On Monday, Vice President Biden met with President Calderon at Los Pinos, the Presidential Palace in Mexico City. On the agenda was the close U.S.-Mexico partnership including a wide range of economic and security issues related to a shared border that sees more than a million legal crossings and more than $1 billion in trade every day.

    While in Mexico City, Vice President Biden also met with presidential candidates from the country’s three major political parties – Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party and Josefina Vázquez Mota of the National Action Party. He learned about each candidate’s vision for Mexico, as well as the future of the U.S.-Mexico relationship, but also expressed that he and President Obama look forward to working with whomever the people of Mexico elect.

  • President Barack Obama at the Business Roundtable Quarterly Meeting

    President Barack Obama takes questions following the Business Roundtable Quarterly Meeting held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., March 6, 2012. BRT Chairman James McNerney is seated with the President. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    President Obama met with top business leaders on Tuesday night and he talked about the need to focus on our core strengths in order to grow the American economy: American manufacturing; American energy; American innovation; and ensuring American workers have the best skills and education.

    The association, whose members include top executives from some of the largest corporations in the country, gathered in Washington, DC to discuss a report it is releasing today called “Taking Action for America: A CEO Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth.” It had been two years since the President last met with the group, and he highlighted many of the gains the economy has made in that time, including the addition of more than 3.7 million new jobs in the private sector and the resurgence of the American auto industry. President Obama also discussed the need to do more than restore our economy to pre-crisis levels -- we need to position ourselves to be competitive in this 21st century economy over the long term and create an economy built to last:

    We’re also going to have to make significant investments in American energy.  I am very proud of the fact that American energy output is reaching record levels.  We are seeing the highest oil production in the last eight years.  At the same time, because so many of your companies have become more efficient, we’re actually seeing a reduction in imports -- in fact, below 50 percent for the first time back in 2010, the first time in a decade. 

    But we’ve got more work to do, and it’s going to require an all-of-the-above strategy.  Obviously, folks are getting killed right now with gas prices.  And that has an impact on all of your companies, because consumers are more price sensitive when it comes to filling up their gas tank than just about anything else.  That means, yes, we’ve got to produce more oil and more natural gas, and we are game for that.  It also means, though, we’ve got to invest in the energy sources of the future. 

     

  • This week, Syracuse University’s Institute for Veteran and Military Families (IVMF) -- a national leader in veteran and military family research -- released an extraordinary study entitled “The Business Case for Hiring a Veteran: Beyond the Cliches.” 

    Among others things, the study confirmed what many of us already knew – hiring America’s veterans makes great sense and is a terrific investment for any company in America. I encourage wide dissemination of this report to corporate leaders throughout the nation.

    Significant findings include:

    • Veterans are entrepreneurial:  It’s true – there are more than 66,000 veteran-owned small businesses in franchising alone. America is also stepping up in big ways to support the veteran entrepreneurial spirit -- several new programs aim to entice veterans to the world of franchising. The International Franchise Association runs one called VetFran, which requires that parent companies give veteran franchisees their “best deal” possible — often resulting in thousands of dollars off the initial franchising fee. There are more than 450 companies participating, and at least 2,100 veterans have opened franchises through the program so far.  Some companies go even further — the UPS Store recently announced it was giving away free franchises to 10 veterans who qualify (five have already been given out.) In February, CiCi’s Pizza announced it will waive the franchise fee and offer a 50 percent cut on royalty fees to all qualified veterans who open CiCi’s franchises and hire a veteran manager.
    • Veterans have - and leverage - advanced technical training: Beyond just having the technical training, veterans are already graduates of the world’s best training program – the Unites States military!
    • Veterans exhibit advanced team-building skills: When I was in command of a Guided Missile Destroyer, I use to tell my crew, “When the team wins, you win…” It’s true – when companies do well; employees benefit (and vice versa). Veterans understand the meaning of “the team comes first” and they bring that same mentality to any company.
    • Veterans exhibit strong organizational commitment: Loyalty goes a long way in the military – and that same organizational commitment stays with Veterans when they join corporate America. It’s an intangible that can’t be taught.
    • Veterans have experience mastering diverse work settings: Veterans have had to perform in the toughest of circumstances. The mountains of eastern Afghanistan; villages in Kandahar; Baghdad; Mosul; Ramadi and so many more… the acquired skills and experience that American veterans have gained in the last 10 years of war can’t be taught or replicated in the classroom. 

  • Vice President Biden with Clergy at the Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe in Mexico City

    Vice President Joe Biden with clergy during his visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Mexico City, Mexico, March 5, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Capping his day of official activities in Mexico City yesterday, Vice President Biden visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe – one of the most visited Roman Catholic sites in the world and the most holy Roman Catholic site in Mexico.  

    After touring and saying a prayer at the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Vice President crossed the Basilica square to visit the Antigua Parrogquia de Los Indios (Old Church of the Indians). Calling the site a “great treasure,” Vice President Biden remarked that he would have come to Mexico City if only just to see the Basilica.

    Vice President Biden Visits the Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe in Mexico City

    Vice President Joe Biden visits the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Mexico City, Mexico, March 5, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

  • Ed note: this was originally posted on the CFPB's blog

    When I was at Fort Drum, NY last week I heard from a military spouse who said her family has been separated for four years – partly because of deployments but also because they can’t sell their house. At the same meeting an officer told me that he is underwater on a home he bought at a previous assignment. He wondered if there were any options for him that wouldn’t ruin his credit or require a large sum of money he didn’t have.

    I’ve had conversations like these repeatedly in my travels to military communities across the country during the past year. The housing crisis has had a devastating impact on military homeowners, and their unique challenges have made it difficult for them to get help. So I’m glad to see that important protections for military homeowners were included in the recent settlement between the Federal government, 49 state Attorneys General, and five of the largest mortgage loan servicers: Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Ally Financial.

    The mortgage servicers who signed the settlement have agreed to review their files for violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). They will give monetary relief to those families who saw their homes taken from them in violation of the SCRA, or who did not receive the SCRA interest-rate reduction to which they were entitled. In one way the settlement goes farther than the SCRA: it protects from non-judicial foreclosure all military homeowners who are deployed to a combat zone, even if the mortgage was not obtained before the servicemember entered active duty.

    The settlement also has provisions for military homeowners who get Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders. The banks will provide short-sale agreements and deficiency waivers to those servicemembers who were forced to sell their home at a loss due to a PCS and were not eligible for the military’s Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP). This will help servicemembers who were underwater on homes they bought between July 1, 2006 and December 31, 2008, or who received a PCS after October 1, 2010.

  • President Barack Obama holds a press conference (March 6, 2012)

    President Barack Obama holds a press conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, March 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    In the State of the Union, President Obama introduced a basic principle: Every homeowner who is current on his or her payments ought to have a chance to refinance their mortgage at today's historically low rates.

    To make that idea a reality for everyone, Congress must take action.

    But today, the President is taking another step to make refinancing easier for millions of Americans who have government-sponsored mortgages. He's cutting fees -- to help families save money and make refinancing more attractive.

    And at a press conference that just wrapped up, President Obama announced a series of steps aimed at helping homeowners who have served in the Armed Forces.

    When the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers reached a settlement with the federal government and 49 state attorneys general, they agreed to provide substantial relief to the nation's veterans who were victims of wrongful foreclosures or who were otherwise disadvantaged in the mortgage process because of the obligations of their service.

    Here's how veterans and their families will benefit because of the settlement:

    • Any service member who saw their home wrongfully foreclosed will be substantially compensated for what the bank did;
    • Any member of Armed Forces who was wrongfully denied the chance to refinance and reduce their mortgage payments through lower interest rates will receive a refund from their bank equal to the money he or she would have saved;
    • Many service members who lost money because they were forced due to sell their homes due to Permanent Change of Station orders will also receive relief; and
    • Finally, under the settlement, the banks will also pay $10 million into the Veterans Housing Benefit Program Fund, which guarantees loans on favorable terms for service members.

    Learn more: 

     

  • Winning 2010 Easter Egg Roll Poster

    The White House is inviting elementary and middle school students from across the country to submit poster designs for the 2012 Easter Egg Roll. The posters should interpret this year's theme, “Let's Go, Let's Play, Let's Move”, and highlight ways kids can have fun while staying active, a key component of of Let’s Move!,  First Lady Michelle Obama's national campaign to combat childhood obesity. The First Lady will select the winning design, which will be used as part of the this year's official Easter Egg Roll program. 

    The poster contest is open to all elementary and middle school students, and the deadline for submissions is Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 at 11:59p.m. EST.  Please note, submissions may be made public during the selection process. You can submit entries here.

     2010 Winner

  • Over the past three years, the Obama administration has made it a top priority to increase access to capital for small business owners across America.  When I came to SBA in early 2009, small business owners would say to me, “I need a loan to survive.”  Since that time, SBA has worked hard to provide small businesses with access to capital – even during the depth of the recession. Thanks to the Recovery Act and the Small Business Jobs Act, SBA had a record year in FY2010, supporting more than $30 billion in small business lending across the country

    Now we’re getting encouraging news that business lending is showing new signs of strength. You may have seen that the FDIC recently released data showing that banks had their biggest increase in business lending in four years.   And the Wall Street Journal recently wrote “At Last! Banks Are Making New Loans.” Lately, small business owners are no longer telling me they’re fighting for survival; they’re talking about needing a loan to take advantage of a new opportunity, hire another worker or buy more inventory. There are additional signs that more money is getting into the hands of business owners. The Department of Treasury began receiving reports from the banks that participated in the Small Business Lending Fund (SBLF). Already these financial institutions, mostly community banks, have increased their small business lending by $3.5 billion. And, the 27 states participating in the State Small Business Credit Initiative are also putting the funds to use, supporting lending to small businesses and small manufacturers.

    Of course, we all know that even though lending is on the rise, there’s still more to be done. That’s why SBA is working hard to continue filling gaps in the market place. For example, we’re working with some of the largest lenders around the country, who last year committed $20 billion for small business lending over the next three years.  We’re also working to streamline our processes and make it easier for small businesses to benefit from our programs.  We recently revamped the CAPLines program to provide a working line of capital to certain businesses, including manufacturers and government contractors. We also created new programs, such as Small Loan Advantage and Community Advantage, which incentivizes lenders to make small-dollar loans and opens up SBA programs to new lenders, such as CDFIs.  

    We’re confident that this is just the beginning of the momentum small businesses need to keep growing and creating jobs. Everyone at SBA recognizes that this is a critical time for small businesses, and we’re committed to helping them get the financing they need so they can lay the foundation for an economy built to last.

  • President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel (March 5, 2012)

    President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel deliver statements to the press prior to their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, March 5, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    A day after speaking at the AIPAC Policy Conference, President Obama welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House.

    Before the two leaders sat down for their meeting, they spoke briefly with reporters. President Obama said:

    This visit obviously comes at a critical time. We are seeing incredible changes that are taking place in the Middle East and in North Africa. We have seen the terrible bloodshed that's going on in Syria, the democratic transition that's taking place in Egypt. And in the midst of this, we have an island of democracy and one of our greatest allies in Israel.

    As I've said repeatedly, the bond between our two countries is unbreakable. My personal commitment -- a commitment that is consistent with the history of other occupants of this Oval Office -- our commitment to the security of Israel is rock solid. And as I've said to the Prime Minister in every single one of our meetings, the United States will always have Israel's back when it comes to Israel's security. This is a bond that is based not only on our mutual security interests and economic interests, but is also based on common values and the incredible people-to-people contacts that we have between our two countries.

    Read the full remarks from both leaders here.

  • In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month to honor the contributions women have made to our society throughout history, and the work they continue to do today. We also commemorate the centuries of progress toward securing equal rights for women, and reaffirm our steadfast commitment to the rights, security, and dignity of women in America and around the world.

    Today, and in the coming weeks, we’ll take a look back at some of the ways the White House has honored and celebrated Women’s History Month.  

    In March of 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to servicewomen at Arlington National Cemetery’s Women in Military Service for America Memorial Center. She honored the important role women have played in our military women, and their work navigating the many twists and turns of the struggle for women’s rights in order to secure a more equal and fuller place in the United States military. Thousands of women served bravely in Iraq and Afghanistan—a long way from the days of the Revolutionary War, when Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment.

  • Last month, during the second White House Science Fair, White House guest Bill Nye the Science Guy, who also serves as CEO of the Planetary Society, commented on the many successful corporations—including Amazon, Apple, Boeing, Ford, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Pay-Pal, and now Facebook—were started by engineers, people who use science and math to create things and solve problems.  He said that for the United States to remain the world leader in technological innovation, we need more engineers and more scientists.  We need more people who can do math, design software, and create new applications for machines that have yet to be invented. 

  • For the past year, Amy Ward of West Des Moines, Iowa has been living through a medical emergency that sounds like a TV plotline. Months after returning from a vacation, she came down with a rare fungal infection – a disease that only a tiny fraction of the population contracts – and nearly died.

    On her road to recovery, Amy's had to be on ventilators and dialysis. She's needed potent antifungal agents that cost up to $1,600 a dose. Her medical expenses quickly added up.

    Without the Affordable Care Act, Amy and her husband may not have been able to afford all the care she needed to recover. Before the new health reform law, Amy's health insurance policy had a lifetime dollar limit of $1 million. While it sounds like a lot, Amy's expenses exceeded that amount within months.

    Lifetime limits used to be common – in 2009, nearly 60 percent of employer-sponsored plans and 89 percent of individually purchased coverage had them.

    Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Amy is one of 105 million Americans – and nearly 1.2 million Iowans – with private health insurance who no longer will face lifetime limits on their care. You can read the Department of Health and Human Services' latest research on the number of people who no longer have a lifetime limit on their insurance plan here.

    This lifetime limit ban is just one of many new consumer protections created by the new law. Annual dollar limits on coverage are being phased out. And 54 million Americans received new coverage of prevention without cost sharing in 2011.

    Today, the Obama Administration released a new source of data, Health Reform: Results in Your State, to show how the law's benefits and protections are helping Americans across the country. To see how many people in your state are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, click here (23.5KB XLSX file).

  • President Barack Obama delivers remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    This morning, President Obama addressed the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., where he reaffirmed the strength of our Nation’s special bond with Israel. Tomorrow, President Obama will hold a bi-lateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.

    During his remarks today, the President discussed the actions his Administration has taken to support Israel:

    But as you examine my commitment, you don’t just have to count on my words. You can look at my deeds. Because over the last three years, as President of the United States, I have kept my commitments to the state of Israel. At every crucial juncture – at every fork in the road – we have been there for Israel. Every single time.

    Four years ago, I stood before you and said that “Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable.” That belief has guided my actions as President. The fact is, my Administration’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unprecedented. Our military and intelligence cooperation has never been closer. Our joint exercises and training have never been more robust. Despite a tough budget environment, our security assistance has increased every year. We are investing in new capabilities. We’re providing Israel with more advanced technology – the type of products and systems that only go to our closest friends and allies. And make no mistake: we will do what it takes to preserve Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge – because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

  • President Obama talks about how the American auto industry is back and creating cars that are better than ever -- and says we need to fight for a clean energy future that is within our reach.

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

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