Our Top Stories
Matt ComptonApril 17, 2012
04:37 PM EDT
Lately, President Obama has spent a lot of time discussing his all-of-the-above strategy for American energy.
The central idea is this: It's going to take a range of initiatives, from increased drilling to scientific breakthroughs in the development of renewable fuel sources, to put the United States on solid footing when it comes to our energy future.
But one of the reasons that fuel prices can jump unpredictably has nothing at all to do with production or even consumption. There are those who work to manipulate the energy markets for their own financial gain.
And today, President Obama announced a new series of steps to strengthen oversight over those markets -- while asking lawmakers to pass legislation aimed at curbing illegal behavior and holding the people who manipulate markets accountable.
At an event this morning in the Rose Garden, the President outlined the reasons for action:
We can't afford a situation where speculators artificially manipulate markets by buying up oil, creating the perception of a shortage, and driving prices higher -- only to flip the oil for a quick profit. We can’t afford a situation where some speculators can reap millions, while millions of American families get the short end of the stick. That’s not the way the market should work. And for anyone who thinks this cannot happen, just think back to how Enron traders manipulated the price of electricity to reap huge profits at everybody else’s expense.
The President's plan would do five things:
1) Increase funding to increase the number of surveillance and enforcement staff charged with oversight of the oil futures market;
2) Allow the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to upgrade the technology used to monitor the energy markets;
3) Increase the civil and criminal penalties for those convicted of manipulating the oil futures market;
4) Provide the CFTC with additional the authority to limit disruptions in the oil market; and
5) Expand access to CFTC data so that analysts can better understand trading trends in the oil markets.
Read his full remarks here.
- President Obama Describes an All-of-the-Above Strategy for Energy
- Everything You Need to Know About President Obama's Blueprint for American-made energy
Kori SchulmanApril 17, 2012
01:23 PM EDT
Today, we’re excited to announce our first Google+ photowalk at the White House. Photo enthusiasts and White House followers on Google+ are invited to join us for the 2012 Spring White House Garden Tour, a tradition since Pat Nixon first opened the White House gardens in 1972.
Tourists take pictures from the South Lawn during the White House Gardens and Grounds Tour which is open to the public April 17, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
The President and Mrs. Obama are committed to opening the doors of the White House to all Americans. Google+ photowalks bring the online community offline to photograph places and events around the world. The White House Garden Tour Photowalk will take place in the morning on Saturday, April 21st and are invited to tour and photograph the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Rose Garden and the South Lawn. They’ll also visit the White House Kitchen Garden – the first vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden. With the Garden Tour Photowalk, people across the country and around the world will be able to tour the White House grounds in pictures on Google+.
Interested in joining? Here’s how you can apply through Google+:
- Share a favorite nature or garden photo that you have taken on Google+ with the tag #WHPhotowalk
- Briefly tell us why you’d like to join the White House Garden Tour Photowalk
- Make sure that you follow the White House on Google+
If selected, you will receive a message via Google+ with additional information no later than Wednesday, April 18th at 5 p.m. ET.
The White House on Google+ offers news from the blog, behind the scenes photos and videos, and opportunities to join administration officials in Google+ Hangouts on topics ranging from the Let's Move! initiative to raise a healthier generation of kids to Startup America. We even hosted a Hangout with President Obama. Check out the White House on Google+ for more more opportunities to engage with us.
Megan SlackApril 17, 2012
01:02 PM EDT
Today is Tax Day, the final day to file your 2011 tax return on time. President Obama thinks it is important that Americans understand how and where their federal tax dollars are being spent so we created a tool that will show you just that. Enter a few pieces of information about your taxes into the Federal Taypayer Receipt and you'll learn how much of your money went to different national priorities such as education, health care and veterans benefits.
Cecilia MuñozApril 17, 2012
12:25 PM EDT
Today – Tuesday, April 17 – is Equal Pay Day, which marks the fact that, nearly 50 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the average woman still has to work well into the calendar year to earn what the average man earned last year. According to the latest U.S. Census statistics, on average, full-time working women earned 77 cents to every dollar earned by men, and the gap is significantly more for women of color. This substantial gap is more than a mere statistic. It has real-life consequences. Women, who compose nearly half of the workforce, are bringing home 23 percent less than their male counterparts – which means less for families’ everyday needs, less for investments in our children’s futures, and, when added up over a lifetime of work, substantially less for retirement.
President Obama understands how much this issue impacts our nation’s economic well-being, and that’s why, from his earliest days in office, he has been committed to closing the pay gap. Today, in conjunction with Equal Pay Day, we are proud to announce the following additional initiatives:
- First, the White House released the Equal Pay Task Force Accomplishments Report: Fighting for Fair Pay in the Workplace. The Equal Pay Task Force (“Task Force”), which the President established in 2010, brings together the best expertise of professionals at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor and the Office of Personnel Management, who work daily to combat pay discrimination in the workplace. Since the Task Force’s creation, enforcement actions have increased; the government has recovered unprecedented monetary recoveries for women seeking their fair share for performing the same work as men; and investments in outreach to both employers and employees are paying big dividends. The report details the significant progress that the Task Force has made to fight pay discrimination – including improving inter-agency coordination and collaboration to ensure that the full weight of the federal government is focused on closing the gender pay gap once and for all. I commend the professionals who represent the member agencies on the Task Force for the extraordinary work they and their teams undertake each day to realize the President’s directive.
- Second, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today announced the winners of the “Equal Pay App Challenge.” In January of this year, the Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Equal Pay Task Force, launched this challenge – inviting software developers to use publicly available data and resources to create applications that provide greater access to pay data organized by gender, race, and ethnicity; provide interactive tools for early career coaching or online mentoring; or provide data to help inform pay negotiations. A solution to the pay gap has been elusive, in part because access to basic information – e.g., typical salary ranges and skill level requirements for particular positions, advice on how to negotiate appropriate pay – is limited. Because of the enthusiastic response to the “Equal Pay App Challenge” and the creative apps that were developed, anyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer can access answers to these basic, but important, questions. This challenge represents just one more way that women can empower themselves with the tools they need to make sure they get equal pay for equal work.
- Finally, in our ongoing effort to educate employees and employers about their rights and responsibilities under our nation’s equal pay laws, the Department of Labor today published two brochures that will educate employees regarding their rights under the existing equal pay laws and enable employers to understand their obligations.
April 17, 2012
12:19 PM EDT
The Joining Forces Community Challenge, launched last July, captured the innovative ways Americans have stepped up to support and honor our military families. Explore the map below -- blue dots represent all entries, and the red stars highlight the finalists. Roll over each to learn more information about the winners.
April 17, 2012
11:00 AM EDT
Illegal drugs not only harm a user’s mind and body, they devastate families, communities, and neighborhoods. They jeopardize public safety, prevent too many Americans from reaching their full potential, and place obstacles in the way of raising a healthy generation of young people.
To address these challenges, today we are releasing the 2012 National Drug Control Strategy – the Obama Administration’s primary policy blueprint for reducing drug use and its consequences in America. The President’s inaugural National Drug Control Strategy, published in 2010, charted a new direction in our approach to drug policy. Today’s Strategy builds upon that approach, which is based on science, evidence, and research. Most important, it is based on the premise that drug addiction is a chronic disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated. Simply put, we are not powerless against the challenge of substance abuse – people can recover, and millions are in recovery. These individuals are our neighbors, friends and family members. They contribute to our communities, our workforce, our economy, and help make America stronger.
Our emphasis on addressing the drug problem through a public health approach is grounded in decades of research and scientific study. There is overwhelming evidence that drug prevention and treatment programs achieve meaningful results with significant long-term cost savings. In fact, recent research has shown that each dollar invested in an evidence-based prevention program can reduce costs related to substance use disorders by an average of $18.
But reducing the burden of our Nation’s drug problem stretches beyond prevention and treatment. We need an all of the above approach. To address this problem in a comprehensive way, the President’s new Strategy also applies the principles of public health to reforming the criminal justice system, which continues to play a vital role in drug policy. It outlines ways to break the cycle of drug use, crime, incarceration, and arrest by diverting non-violent drug offenders into treatment, bolstering support for reentry programs that help offenders rejoin their communities, and advancing support for innovative enforcement programs proven to improve public health while protecting public safety.
Matt ComptonApril 16, 2012
04:03 PM EDT
This weekend, President Obama was in Colombia for the sixth annual Summit of the Americas.
The nations involved in this conference are some of our closest allies -- and some of our strongest economic partners.
That's why it's fitting that President Obama was able to announce that the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement will enter into force on May 15th. Speaking with Colombian President Santos, he said:
[This] agreement is a win for both our countries. It's a win for the United States by increasing our exports by more than $1 billion, supporting thousands of U.S. jobs and helping to achieve my goal of doubling U.S. exports. It's a win for Colombia by giving you even greater access to the largest market for your exports -- the United States of America. And I'd add that this agreement is a win for our workers and the environment because of the strong protections it has for both -- commitments we are going to fulfill.
Megan SlackApril 16, 2012
02:40 PM EDT
The share of national income earned by the very wealthiest Americans in recent years is among the highest it's been since the 1920s. The top one percent of households—the wealthiest one out of every 100—now takes home 17 percent of the national income. The top .1 percent—the wealthiest one out of every 1,000 households—makes more than 7 percent of the national income.
Meanwhile, the average tax rate, including federal income and payroll taxes, for that .1 percent has dropped a stunning 50 percent over the last 50 years, from 51 percent to 26 percent. This is nearly the lowest rate in over 50 years and is, in fact, one-half the rate they would have paid in 1960. Tax rates for middle-class families, who are earning a smaller percentage of the national income, have actually increased slightly during the same period.
President Obama has proposed the Buffett Rule to make sure that everyone does their fair share and plays by the same rules, so that millionaires and billionaires pay at least the same share of their income in taxes as middle class families pay.
April 16, 2012
01:54 PM EDT
Ed. note: The Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation is celebrating National Volunteer Week on April 15th – 21st to recognize individuals who serve their communities. This blog post introduces readers to Wendy Spencer, the new Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
It’s an old saying and a profound truth that it is better to give than to receive. During National Volunteer Week, April 15-21, we celebrate the millions of Americans who volunteer and recognize the extraordinary benefits of service to individuals, communities, and our nation.
America always has had a strong spirit of neighbor helping neighbor. Since our earliest days, citizens have given generously of themselves to improve the lives of others. Today, over 64 million volunteers serve annually, strengthening the nation’s safety net and providing hundreds of billions of dollars in vital services to our communities. They are doing hard but necessary work: tutoring and mentoring youth, assisting seniors who live independently, supporting veterans and military families, helping communities recover from disasters, and so much more.
As a lifelong volunteer – and a dedicated volunteer coordinator - I know the power of citizens in action. In 2004 and 2005, after a series of storms hit my home state of Florida, we saw an extraordinary outpouring of compassion: more than 250,000 volunteers came to assist in the recovery effort.
Kasie CoccaroApril 16, 2012
11:49 AM EDT
For more 40 years, the Presidential Citizens Medal has recognized Americans who have "performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens." Starting today, the President is inviting you, the American public, to nominate everyday heroes for one of our nation’s highest civilian honors.
As 2011 Citizens Medal recipient Roberto Perez said, “The best thing we can leave with this world is that we made a difference in the life of somebody.”
Who is your hero? Who has gone above and beyond, performing extraordinary deeds of service? Help us recognize the exemplary citizen from your community -- and bring them the public attention they deserve by nominating them for this year’s medal.
Here are a few inspiring examples of heroes honored last year:
Ida Martin created Bluffton Self Help to assist working families, disabled residents, and senior citizens in the Bluffton, South Carolina area when they suffered a financial crisis. She provided families with short-term emergency financial assistance for housing and utility assistance, medical assistance, or children's program assistance. Martin received the Citizens Medal for providing relief to many in moments of despair.
John Keaveney, a Vietnam combat veteran, founded New Directions, a home for homeless and disabled veterans with addiction and mental health problems. Keaveney overcame personal struggles and turned his life around in the 1980s. He decided that no veteran who asked for help should suffer as he did. Keaveney received the Citizens Medal for ensuring that America keeps its promises to veterans.
- Margaret Martin founded the Harmony Project in 2001 to make quality arts education available to those in the most underserved, gang-reduction zones of Los Angeles. This organization has provided instruments and tuition-free music lessons to thousands of children in Los Angeles who would otherwise have no access to classical music. Martin received the Citizens Medal for replacing violence in children's lives with music.
If you know someone like Ida, John or Margaret, please take a moment to nominate him or her for the 2012 Citizens medal before April 24, 2012.
Nominees must be citizens of the United States, as required by the 1969 Executive Order. If you want to nominate someone for the 2012 Citizens Medal, please review the full criteria for this year's Medal. The deadline to submit is Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 11:59 p.m. EST.
- Ida Martin created Bluffton Self Help to assist working families, disabled residents, and senior citizens in the Bluffton, South Carolina area when they suffered a financial crisis. She provided families with short-term emergency financial assistance for housing and utility assistance, medical assistance, or children's program assistance. Martin received the Citizens Medal for providing relief to many in moments of despair.
Matt ComptonApril 14, 2012
07:55 PM EDT
President Obama is in Cartagena, Colombia this weekend for the Summit of the Americas -- a gathering of more than 30 leaders from North, South, and Central America.
In a panel discussion with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, President Obama discussed what he called enormous progress in the region:
Trade between the United States and Latin, Central -- South America, Central America and the Caribbean has expanded 46 percent since I came into office -- 46 percent.
Before I came to Cartagena, I stopped in Tampa, Florida, which is the largest port in Florida. And they are booming and expanding. And the reason is, is because of the enormous expansion of trade and commerce with this region. It's creating jobs in Florida, and it's creating jobs in Colombia, and it's creating jobs in Brazil and throughout the region. Businesses are seeing that if they have an outstanding product or an outstanding service, they don’t have to restrict themselves to one market, they now have a regional market and ultimately a global market in which they can sell their goods and succeed.
Read the full remarks here.
Matt ComptonApril 14, 2012
05:30 AM EDT
President Obama urges Congress to pass the Buffett Rule -- which asks those who make more than $1 million a year to pay at least the same percentage of their income in taxes as middle class families -- as a principle of fairness.
For more information:
April 13, 2012
06:30 PM EDT
A quick look at what happened this week on WhiteHouse.gov:
Women and the Economy: On Friday, the White House Forum on Women and the Economy brought together nearly 200 women from all over the country to join in a conversation about the critical role that women play in driving our economic progress. “When it comes to our efforts on behalf of women and girls, I’m proud of the accomplishments we can point to,” President Obama explained.” Yes, we’ve got more to do. But there’s no doubt we have begun to make progress.”
134th Annual #EasterEggRoll: Monday’s Easter Egg Roll brought more than 30,000 people from all 50 states to the South Lawn of the White House for reading, crafts, cooking demonstrations, sporting activities, Easter eggs and more. You can check out a gallery of images from the day and videos from many of the performances, readings, and demonstrations on our YouTube channel.
In the Oval Office with President Rousseff: On Monday, President Obama was joined by President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil to discuss the bilateral relationship between the two countries, which are the two largest economies and democracies in the Western hemisphere. The two discussed a wide range of global issues, including global economic growth, the situation in the Middle East, and progress the two countries have made as co-chairs of the Open Government Partnership.
The Case for the Buffett Rule: Speaking from Florida Atlantic University on Tuesday, President Obama outlined the Buffett Rule, which is based on the simple idea that people who make more than $1 million each year pay at least the same share of their income in taxes as middle class families do. With the Buffett Rule in place, the President explained Tuesday, “it makes it affordable for us to be able to say for those people who make under $250,000 a year – like 98 percent of American families do – then your taxes don’t go up.”
Happy 1st Birthday, Joining Forces: Twelve months ago, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched Joining Forces– a commitment to honor and serve military families as they have served us. As the two marked the one year anniversary of the initiative’s launch with an event on the South Lawn of the White House, they renewed their call to action by challenging all Americans to keep finding new ways to show their support for military families.
Brad CooperApril 13, 2012
03:34 PM EDT
It was a great day in Shreveport, Louisiana, yesterday. First Lady Michelle Obama joined the leadership of the Kansas City Southern (KCS) Railway Company in announcing Michael Abitago, Junior as the 50,000 veteran or military spouse to have been hired by a company through the Joining Forces employment efforts this past year! Abitago literally left active duty in the Army last Saturday after 4 years of service (including 2 tours in Iraq) and starts work on Monday as a Conductor-trainee. He was hired by KCS in mid-March at a Joining Forces hiring event in Ft Hood, Texas.
And there’s even more great news. A couple of months ago when we first wanted to highlight this event, we had planned on announcing our 50,000 hire. But as we approached our visit to Shreveport we had already hit that mark. By April another 8,000 veterans and military spouses were hired. And yesterday, Mrs. Obama revealed the news that the surge in hiring pushed the number of veterans and military spouses hired through Joining Forces to 60,000!
Through Joining Forces, American businesses have not only hired more than 60,000 veterans and military spouses to date, they have also pledged to hire at least 160,000 more in the years ahead.
More than 1,600 companies have been involved in this effort, including Microsoft, Comcast, Honeywell, Safeway and Sears. JPMorgan Chase and the 40 companies of the “100,000 jobs mission” hired more than 6,000 veterans -- alone – in the January-March 2012 timeframe.
Heather ZichalApril 13, 2012
11:56 AM EDT
A key part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy is expanding production of American energy resources. Since the President took office, energy from renewable sources like wind and solar has nearly doubled, the administration provided funding for the first nuclear power plant in over 30 years, and production of domestic oil and gas has increased each year, trends the President has made clear he wants to make sure continue.
The most dramatic expansion has been in natural gas. Since taking office the President has made clear that he believes this important, abundant domestic resource holds unique promise to fuel our energy sector, fuel our vehicles, as well as fuel job growth – all while reducing harmful emissions. U.S. natural gas production grew in 2011 – the largest year-over-year volumetric increase in history – and easily eclipsed the previous all-time production record set in 1973.
To ensure that we can successfully tap this critical resource for decades to come, we must develop it safely and responsibly, taking full advantage of the opportunity while also giving American families and communities the confidence that our air and water are safe.
At the same time, as the administration develops a framework for safe and responsible production that builds on steps already taken by states across the country, we must ensure that those efforts continue to happen in a coordinated way.
That is why, in line with his goal of expanding safe and responsible production of natural gas, today the President issued an Executive Order to create a new Interagency Working Group to Support Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources.
April 13, 2012
10:30 AM EDT
Today, the President released his 2011 federal income and gift tax returns. He and the First Lady filed their income tax returns jointly and reported adjusted gross income of $789,674. About half of the first family’s income is the President’s salary; the other half is from sales proceeds of the President’s books. The Obamas paid $162,074 in total tax.
The President and First Lady also reported donating $172,130 – or about 22% of their adjusted gross income – to 39 different charities. The largest reported gift to charity was a $117,130 contribution to the Fisher House Foundation. The President is donating the after-tax proceeds from his children’s book to Fisher House, a scholarship fund for children of fallen and disabled soldiers.
The President’s effective federal income tax rate is 20.5%. The President believes we must reform our tax system which is why he has proposed policies like the Buffett Rule that would ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share while protecting families making under $250,000 from seeing their taxes go up. Under the President’s own tax proposals, including the expiration of the high-income tax cuts and limitations on the value of tax preferences for high-income households, he would pay more in taxes while ensuring we cut taxes for the middle class and those trying to get in it.
The President and First Lady also released their Illinois income tax return and reported paying $31,941 in state income tax.
The Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden also released their 2011 federal income tax returns, as well as state income tax returns for both Delaware and Virginia. The Bidens filed joint federal and combined Delaware income tax returns. Dr. Biden filed a separate non-resident tax return for the state of Virginia. Together, they reported adjusted gross income of $379,035. The Bidens paid $87,900 in total federal tax for 2011. They paid $13,843 in Delaware income tax and $3,614 in Virginia income tax. The Bidens contributed $5,540 to charity in 2011.
American taxpayers are able to go online and see exactly how their federal tax dollars are spent. You can visit the taxpayer receipt and after entering a few pieces of information about your taxes, the taxpayer receipt will give you a breakdown of how your tax dollars are spent on priorities like education, veterans benefits, or health care.
Secretary Tom VilsackApril 13, 2012
09:58 AM EDT
Since taking office, President Obama has been committed to an all-of-the-above approach that expands production of American energy resources. Already, there are signs that this strategy is making an impact. Last year, domestic oil production reached the highest level in nearly a decade. Imports of foreign oil fell to the lowest level in 16 years. We’re producing more natural gas than at any time in our history. Since 2008, renewable energy generation from sources like wind, solar, and geothermal has nearly doubled. And the Obama Administration has supported the first nuclear power plant in thirty years.
Strengthening the domestic biofuels industry has been another critical component of this overall strategy. And today, U.S. biofuel production is at its highest level in history. In fact, average monthly production increased more than 40 percent between 2008 and 2011. That means more jobs – especially in rural America – and greater energy security.
At USDA, we continue to support cutting-edge efforts to reduce America’s reliance on fossil fuel. For example, earlier this month, USDA announced approval of a $5 million payment to Western Plains Energy, LLC to support the construction of a biogas anaerobic digester in Oakley, KS. The completed project will utilize waste energy resources from a local cattle feedlot to replace almost 90 percent of the fossil fuels currently used by Western Plains Energy. In Blairstown, Iowa, USDA funding will be used to construct a 55,000 square foot facility that will produce cellulosic ethanol by converting municipal solid waste and other industrial pulps into advanced biofuels, as well as using conventional renewable biofuel derived from seed corn waste. When operational, the facility is expected to produce approximately 3.6 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year. Support for renewable energy projects such as these is an example of the many ways USDA is helping revitalize rural economies.
April 13, 2012
09:00 AM EDT
“This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. Because what’s at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement.” -- Remarks by the President on the Economy in Osawatomie, Kansas, December 6, 2011
The President has been focused on working to ensure an America that grows together, rather than one in which the gains go disproportionately to the wealthy. His policies have already made a real contribution to achieving this ideal—benefiting millions of people, principally middle-class Americans and those struggling to get into the middle class—and he continues to push tirelessly for policies, including the Buffett Rule, that will help us get closer.
The best available data on incomes refute the baseless claim recently made by some that income inequality is worse under President Obama than it was under President George W. Bush. More fundamentally, whereas the previous Administration’s policies were tilted towards the wealthiest Americans, President Obama has been focused on the middle class and those working to get into the middle class.
Inequality Was Worse Under President Bush than Under President Obama
According to the latest data from economist Emmanuel Saez, when the last economic expansion ended in 2007, the fraction of income going to the top 1 percent was the highest since 1928 and the fraction of income going to the top 0.1 percent was the highest ever recorded (the data go back to 1913). The share of income going to the very top remains high, but has come down and was lower in both 2009 and 2010 than in any year from 2005 through 2008.
It is difficult to evaluate changes in inequality over very short periods of time, especially when these coincide with a deep recession and dramatic fluctuations in equity prices. But there is no basis in the data for claiming that inequality under President Obama is greater than the historic levels reached under President Bush. Any suggestion to the contrary is based on a combination of ignoring the most obvious facts and treating the dramatic recovery of the stock market in 2009 and 2010 as if it tells a deeper structural story about the economy.
Matt ComptonApril 13, 2012
12:00 AM EDT
This week, the President hosted a forum on Women and the Economy, welcomed the President of Brazil, traveled to Florida to urge the Senate to pass the Buffett Rule, and took part in the great annual White House tradition -- the Easter Egg Roll.