Our Top Stories
Matt ComptonJuly 26, 2012
05:15 PM EDT
Kicking off a Cabinet meeting this afternoon, President Obama again pushed the House of Representatives to follow the lead of the Senate and extend tax cuts for the middle class before the looming January 1 deadline.
"[My] administration is focusing on our economy, and how do we make sure that this is an economy in which people who work hard, who act responsibly, can get ahead," the President said.
At midnight on New Year's Eve, tax cuts for 114 million middle class families are set to expire, even though there's broad consensus in Washington about the need for a solution. Without an extension, a typical family of four would be asked to pay an additional $2,200 in 2013.
"[Yesterday], the Senate voted to ensure that 98 percent of Americans don’t see their taxes go up next year, that 97 percent of small businesses don’t see their taxes go up next year," the President told his Cabinet. "It was the right thing to do."
The President said he would push the members of the Cabinet to join him in amplifying that message in the days ahead.
"[One] of the things that I’m going to be doing, my Cabinet members are going to be doing over the next several days, is to make sure that the American people understand that we can provide them certainty right now for next year that their taxes will not go up, and they will then be able to plan accordingly,” he told reporters before the meeting.
Valerie JarrettJuly 26, 2012
05:14 PM EDT
On Wednesday, during his remarks at the National Urban League conference in New Orleans, President Obama announced an Executive Order to improve outcomes and advance educational opportunities for African Americans. On Thursday, he signed that Executive Order surrounded by some of the key leaders who have been at forefront of promoting those priorities.
The President has made it a top priority to provide a complete and competitive education for all Americans – from cradle to career. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, created by this Executive Order, will work across Federal agencies and with partners and communities nationwide to produce a more effective continuum of education programs for African American students. The initiative aims to ensure that all African American students receive an education that fully prepares them for high school graduation, college completion, and productive careers.
In the nearly 60 years since the Brown v.Board of Education decision put America on a path toward equal educational opportunity, America’s educational system has undergone a remarkable transformation. Many African American children who attended substandard, segregated schools in the 1950s have grown up to see their children attend integrated and effective elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities. Nonetheless, substantial obstacles to equal educational opportunity still remain in America’s school systems. Disproportionately, students of color, including African Americans, lag in equal access to highly effective teachers and principals, safe schools, and challenging college-preparatory classes. And they experience school discipline and referrals to special education at higher rates than their peers.
Improving the educational outcomes of African Americans will provide substantial benefits for our country, like increasing college completion rates, employment rates, and the number of African American teachers. So, through this Executive Order, President Obama is taking an important step to promote a more promising future for all Americans.
For more on the Initiative, please click here.
Valerie Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to President Obama.
Secretary Hilda SolisJuly 26, 2012
03:45 PM EDT
The Bay Area has long been a hub of innovation and technology, so it is critical that local employers are actively engaged in developing a skilled workforce for the 21st century. Ensuring that young people learn the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math while in school is crucial to maintaining our culture of innovation, but so is exposing youth to the types of career opportunities available in these and other high-growth fields.
That’s why I was so pleased that the Mayor of San Francisco and many local employers signed on to President Obama’s Summer Jobs+ Initiative. Together, we’re working hard to provide our young people with the skills, experience, and opportunities they need to succeed.
Earlier this week I had a chance to sit down with the Mayor and employers like BRE Properties, Starbucks, and Jawbone who understand that summer jobs offer young people a chance they desperately need, while at the same time helping businesses develop a stronger pipeline to the local workforce.
Matt ComptonJuly 26, 2012
03:35 PM EDT
Summer Jobs+ is a call to action for businesses, non-profits, and government to work together to provide pathways to employment for young people in the summer of 2012. It's about helping people find their first jobs.
For NBA Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Alonzo Mourning, it was tough to pick just one experience. Growing up, he spent summers cutting grass, hanging drapes, packing boxes, and parking cars. For him, those first jobs were an opportunity to learn about responsibility -- and how to drive a stick shift.
July 26, 2012
01:49 PM EDT
Today, I had the pleasure of delivering remarks at the White House observance of the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 1990, America took a bold step forward when President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law. This law was based on the fundamental principle that Americans with disabilities should have the same basic rights and opportunities as everyone else, and it established America as a world leader on disability rights.
From the day he took office, President Obama has sought to extend this legacy and fight for Americans with disabilities. He championed the Affordable Care Act, so insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime or restrictive annual dollar limits on coverage. And, beginning in 2014, no one will be denied insurance based on a preexisting condition or charged more based on health status or gender. More than 5 million Americans with disabilities and senior citizens on Medicare have already received an average of over $600 to help pay for prescription drugs, and in 2014 30 million people who do not have insurance will be able to obtain it.
July 26, 2012
01:16 PM EDT
America’s national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other outdoor spaces are treasured for their beauty, their enjoyment, and for their value to our culture and history -- sometimes, it can be easy to overlook that they also serve as economic drivers for American communities. In sectors ranging from tourism to outdoor recreation and energy development, our nation’s public lands and waters are creating jobs and supporting local economies across the country.
Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released an annual visitor survey, which highlights how our nation’s forests are contributing billions of dollars to the economy and creating jobs in tourism, restoration, and renewable energy. The report showed that USDA Forest Service lands attracted 166 million visitors in 2011, and, as a result, visitor spending in nearby communities sustained more than 200,000 full- and part-time jobs. The survey also reveals that these jobs produced labor income of more than $7.6 billion, while forest and grassland visitor spending contributed more than $13 billion to the gross domestic product.
In addition, a recently-released report from the Department of the Interior shows that in Fiscal Year 2011, the activities of the Department contributed $385 billion to the economy and supported over 2 million homegrown, American jobs. The findings show the real, lasting impacts of these activities—which range from facilitating energy and mineral development to encouraging tourism and recreation at national parks, monuments, and refuges—on our economy.
These are not the first reports to show the positive impact public lands have on the U.S. economy. An earlier study by Interior’s Office of Policy Analysis found that recreation in national parks, refuges, and other public lands alone led to nearly $47 billion in economic contribution and 388,000 jobs in 2010. Another report released by the Outdoor Industry Association revealed that 140 million Americans spent a combined $646 billion on hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, and other outdoor recreation on public and private lands supporting more than 6 million American jobs.
President Obama is working to bolster these impacts through a number of initiatives, including:
Dr. Jill BidenJuly 26, 2012
11:40 AM EDT
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to view some panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt with Julie Rhoad, the president and CEO of The Names Project Foundation, at The National Building Museum.
I was so moved by what I saw. Every piece of the AIDS Memorial Quilt tells a poignant story – and is a powerful reminder of the many lives lost to this epidemic
First displayed on the National Mall in 1987, the quilt now contains the names of more than 94,000 of individuals who have died of AIDS on more than 47,000 panels.
This week, as the 19th International AIDS Conference is in the United States for the first time since 1990, panels of the quilt have been shown on the Mall and at more than 50 locations throughout the D.C. area.
The quilt is a powerful reminder of how far we have come. As President Obama said on World AIDS Day, we will win this fight.
Matt ComptonJuly 26, 2012
11:24 AM EDT
This week, Washington, DC is hosting the International AIDS Conference. To mark the occasion, we asked a group of White House officials to sit down and discuss the impact that HIV/AIDS has had in their own lives and how far we’ve come in the fight against the terrible disease.
Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Development and Democracy for the National Security Staff, described how she first heard about the disease and how the progress we've made in combating the illness has been built on a foundation of science, collaboration, and human dignity.
See additional accounts and testimonials videos from other Obama Administration officials:
- Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President
- John Berry, Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management
- Grant Colfax, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy
- Brad Kiley, Director of the Office of Management and Administration
- Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council
- Gayle Smith: Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Development and Democracy for the National Security Staff
- Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to the First Lady
Megan SlackJuly 26, 2012
11:23 AM EDT
Last night, President Obama addressed the National Urban League, and discussed his Administration's work to help strengthen our nation’s communities and support a strong and growing middle class.
Helping build strong communities has been a part of the Urban League’s mission since its founding, the President said:
For nearly a century, the National Urban League has been inspiring people of every race and every religion and every walk of life to reach for the dream that lies at the heart of our founding -- the promise that no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you came from, no matter how modest your beginnings, no matter what the circumstances of your birth, here in America, you can make it if you try.
The President explained that although this dream has never come easy, it’s this very promise that drew him to his work rebuilding neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago, and later, into politics.
That idea that everybody should have a fair shot, not just some -- that this country is special because it has grown this magnificent middle class and has provided ladders of access for those striving to get into the middle class -- that's the idea that drove me. That's the idea that has driven the Urban League. That idea that everyone should have equal opportunity -- that's what brought me to Chicago. That belief that this country works best when we are growing a strong middle class and prosperity is broad-based -- that's what led me into politics.
July 26, 2012
09:00 AM EDT
This year marks the twenty-second anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Act into law on the White House South Lawn in front of an audience of 3,000 people. On that day, America became the first country to adopt a comprehensive civil rights declaration for people with disabilities. The ADA was a landmark moment in history, designed to provide universal accessibility in the areas of employment, public service, public accommodations, and telecommunications.
As President Obama noted in 2009 at the signing of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Proclamation, the ADA “was a formal acknowledgment that Americans with disabilities are Americans first, and they are entitled to the same rights and freedoms as everybody else: a right to belong and participate fully in the American experience; a right to dignity and respect in the workplace and beyond; the freedom to make of our lives what we will.”
Among the holdings of the Presidential Libraries of the National Archives are many letters, meeting notes, photos, and White House memos that document the collaborative process of creating the ADA. The Presidential Libraries protect and share the records of every Presidential administration since 1929, and the history of people with disabilities is woven throughout.
Sierra Gregg is a second year intern in the Office of Presidential Libraries who recognizes the importance of sharing Presidential records related to disability history. She has been closely involved in a project to make a selection of these documents accessible to a wide audience. The following post is written by Sierra, about the Americans with Disabilities research page that is now available on the National Archives website.
July 25, 2012
09:37 AM EDT
In August 2011, President Obama visited the Washington Navy Yard to discuss his plans to ensure that all of America’s veterans have the support they need and deserve when they leave the military, look for a job, go to school, and enter the civilian workforce. Our service members receive training of the highest quality to ensure they have the skills necessary to protect our country, yet service members who are preparing to leave the military lack access to expansive, personalized training and counseling necessary for success in the civilian sector. That is why, as part of his August address, the President directed the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to lead a task force to develop a career-ready military and design a “reverse boot camp” for separating service members.
On July 23, 2012, President Obama addressed the VFW in Reno, Nevada and announced the first major re-design of the military’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) since the program’s inception over 20 years ago. Previously, TAP was a voluntary, one-size fits all program. Many service members complained of that the workshops were “death by PowerPoint” and did not provide the interactive education and training required to be prepared to join civilian life. Under the President’s new transition program, Transition GPS, our military will no longer feel as if they are in a one-size-fits-all program.
Nancy-Ann DeParleJuly 24, 2012
05:39 PM EDT
This afternoon, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its latest look at the Affordable Care Act – the health care law. This report affirms that repealing the health care law would deny tax credits for millions of middle class families and result in higher deficits and fewer Americans with insurance.
Once again, the Congressional Budget Office has found that repealing the health care law will increase the federal budget deficit by more than $100 billion in the first decade and more than a trillion dollars in the next decade. CBO also found that 30 million Americans would remain uninsured without the Affordable Care Act.
And CBO projects that most Governors will choose to expand their Medicaid programs. The Medicaid expansion is completely paid for by the Federal government in the first three years, and the Federal government will cover at least 90 percent of these costs in the years ahead. According to CBO “…states and local governments will probably realize savings in existing programs that provide direct care to people who are uninsured or that cover uncompensated costs incurred by providers serving uninsured residents.” Other independent analysts have also found that states that fully implement the Affordable Care Act could save money through reductions in the amount they spend to care for the uninsured.
We hope states will take advantage of the options in the health care law to improve access to affordable coverage. And history suggests that they will act. All but two states implemented Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) within five years of enactment – despite less generous financial support than the Affordable Care Act provided for this Medicaid expansion.
As the President has said, this law is here to stay, and we will continue our efforts to work with States to deliver the benefits of the law to the American people.Nancy-Ann DeParle is the Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff
Megan SlackJuly 24, 2012
02:15 PM EDT
Three years ago today, the Obama Administration kicked off Race to the Top, a historic initiative to invest in systemic and innovative school reforms nationwide.
Originating with funds from the Recovery Act, Race to the Top offers funding on a competitive basis to states that develop and committ to plans that address four key areas of education reform:
- Rigorous standards and assessments that help prepare students for college and career
- Smarter data systems that help track student progress and improve instruction
- Ambitious support to recruit, prepare, and advance effective teachers and principals
- Focused attention and resources to dramatically improve out lowest performing schools.
Forty-six states and the District of Columbia submitted comprehensive reform plans to compete in the initial rounds of the Race to the Top competition. While 19 states have received funding through the K-12 competition, 34 states modified state education laws or policies to facilitate needed change, and 48 states worked together to create a voluntary set of rigorous college- and career-ready standards. The 19 states that have received funding serve 22 million students, representing 45% of all K-12 students and 42% of all low-income students nationwide.
Cecilia MuñozJuly 24, 2012
01:55 PM EDT
Almost every day, President Obama gets letters from students who are swimming in student loan debt, and every week it seems we see another newspaper article about how the cost of college is becoming prohibitively expensive for too many American families.
We know that college remains an excellent investment. Increasingly however, it is a financed investment, with the monthly loan payments to prove it. And, while we don’t want would-be students to be scared away from going to college because of the price, we aren’t doing students any favors by obscuring the reality of this commitment until after they’ve graduated.
While this Administration continues to do everything we can to make sure that college remains affordable and available to families in the middle class and those aspiring to the middle class, we also are focused on making it easier for families to understand the costs and benefits of higher education up-front, so that they can more easily choose a college that is both high-quality and affordable.
Megan SlackJuly 23, 2012
06:05 PM EDT
Today, President Obama spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and discussed the promises his Administration has kept to secure our nation, fight terrorism, renew American leadership in the world, better serve our troops and military families and honor our veterans. He also thanked veterans for their service to our nation:
Even after you took off the uniform, you never stopped serving. You took care of each other -- fighting for the benefits and care you had earned. And you’ve taken care of the generations that followed, including our newest veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. On behalf of all our men and women in uniform, and on behalf of the American people, I want to thank you, VFW. Thank you for your outstanding work.
Our troops have helped secure a better future for our country, the President said:
Thanks to the extraordinary service of our men and women in uniform, we’re winding down a decade of war; we’re destroying the terrorist network that attacked us; we’re strengthening the alliances that extend our values. And today, every American can be proud that the United States is safer and stronger and more respected in the world.
Colleen CurtisJuly 23, 2012
06:01 PM EDT
Following the sad news today that Sally Ride, the first American women to fly in space, had died of cancer at the age of 61, President Obama released this statement:
Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Sally Ride. As the first American woman to travel into space, Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model. She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools. Sally’s life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure for years to come. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sally’s family and friends.
Americans were first introduced to Dr. Ride when she traveled on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983, and she continued to teach generations of American girls that there are no limits to what they can accomplish after leaving NASA. The former director of the California Space Institute joined President Obama in his Educate to Innovate campaign to improve the participation and performance of America’s students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Take a minute to watch these videos of Sally Ride's visits at the White House, where she participated in a Night of Astronomy with the President in 2009, and again when she took questions from Americans on the importance of STEM education:
Megan SlackJuly 23, 2012
12:38 PM EDT
Last week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced its first public enforcement action: an order requiring Capital One Bank to refund approximately $140 million to 2 million customers who were pressured or misled into paying for “add-on” products such as payment protection and credit monitoring when activating their Capital One credit cards.
CFPB is the bureau of the federal government that’s tasked with protecting consumers by carrying out consumer financial laws, so that people are able to make financial decisions in their own best interests while knowing they are protected from unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices -- whether they are applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using a bank account. CFPB was established as part of the Wall Street reforms President Obama signed into law two years ago.
The recent enforcement action is the result of a CFPB examination that discovered Capital One’s call-center vendors engaged in deceptive tactics to sell the company’s credit card add-on products. In some cases, consumers were led to believe that the product would improve their credit scores and help them increase the credit limit on their Capital One credit card. In other instances, consumers were not told that buying the products was optional, or were sold products they were ineligible to take advantage of.
Matt ComptonJuly 23, 2012
10:48 AM EDT
On Sunday, President Obama traveled to Aurora, Colorado to meet with the survivors of the movie theater shooting and offer solace to families of the victims.
"I had a chance to visit with each family, and most of the conversation was filled with memory," the President said. "I confessed to them that words are always inadequate in these kinds of situations, but that my main task was to serve as a representative of the entire country and let them know that we are thinking about them at this moment and will continue to think about them each and every day."
During his visit to University of Colorado Hospital, the President had a chance to meet Allie Young and Stephanie Davies, and speaking to reporters, he described their story.
During the film, Allie and Stephanie were seated near an aisle and when the gunman began his attack by tossing a canister of gas into the crowd, Allie, just 19 years old, stood up to warn those around her. She was hit in the neck by a bullet, which punctured a vein.
Stephanie, the President said, dropped to the ground beside her friend, applied pressure to Allie's wound to slow the bleeding, then dialed 911 with her cell phone. Even after Allie told Stephanie to run, the 21 year old stayed by her friend -- and when first responders arrived, Stephanie helped to carry Allie to a waiting ambulance.
Doctors expect Allie to make a full recovery.
"I don't know how many people at any age would have the presence of mind that Stephanie did, or the courage that Allie showed," President Obama said. "And so, as tragic as the circumstances of what we've seen today are, as heartbreaking as it is for the families, it's worth us spending most of our time reflecting on young Americans like Allie and Stephanie, because they represent what's best in us, and they assure us that out of this darkness a brighter day is going to come."
Read his full remarks here. Watch the President speak in after visiting Aurora here.
July 22, 2012
01:52 PM EDT
This week, the 19th International AIDS Conference comes to the U.S. for the first time since 1990- thanks to bipartisan action by Presidents Obama and George W. Bush and the Congress to lift the ban on people living with HIV entering the United States. Thirty thousand participants are expected to attend the world's largest HIV/AIDS conference.
The Obama Administration is taking action to turn the tide on HIV/AIDS by strengthening the scientific investments that have revolutionized prevention and care for people living with HIV. Under President Obama’s leadership, the Administration has increased overall funding to combat HIV/AIDS to record levels. We have launched the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States to prevent and treat HIV in America. Globally, the Obama Administration has committed to treating 6 million people by the end of 2013 and is increasing the impact and sustainability of our investments. Take a minute to watch President Obama's welcome video for conference attendees.
Brian DeeseJuly 21, 2012
03:06 PM EDT
It’s now been almost four years since irresponsibility in certain corners of Wall Street nearly caused our entire economy to collapse. Today, it’s pretty clear to most of us that the rules we once had in place to protect our financial system were old and poorly enforced. They allowed dangerous risk-taking to go unchecked. And when the largest financial institutions did fail, they left hardworking taxpayers holding the bag. And as we dug our way out of the worst recession of our lives, President Obama promised to reform the system so this never happened again.
That’s why, two years ago today, President Obama signed into law Wall Street reform that put in place smarter, tougher, commonsense rules of the road and the strongest consumer protections in history. For example, if you’re a big bank or financial institution, you now have to hold more cash on hand so that if you make a bad decision, you pay for it, not the taxpayers. You’re no longer going to be able to make risky bets with your customers’ deposits. And the new law creates new authorities to claw back outsized compensation from failed CEOs, while finally giving shareholders a say on executive salaries.
We continue to make steady progress on these fronts. Just this month, nine of the largest banks submitted “living wills” that details how they’ll pay for things if they end up failing. These wills will complement the new authorities we’ve put in place that allow regulators to break up and wind down large firms so taxpayers are never again left on the hook for banks’ failures. In June, regulators approved final rules that will force banks to hold more cash on hand for their trading activities and any potential losses.
But Wall Street reform isn’t just about reigning in Wall Street excess. It’s also about protecting Main Street families. For the first time in our history, we now have an independent consumer watchdog with one job: to look out for you. That means making sure you’ve got all the information you need to make important financial decisions. And it means going after anyone – from mortgage brokers to payday lenders to debt collectors – who deals with you dishonestly.
Just this week, that consumer watchdog put in place rules to supervise credit bureaus. This marks the first time in history that these companies will be subject to federal supervision. And working together with other regulators, they ordered Capital One Bank to refund $150 million dollars directly to 2 million customers who were deceived or misled into buying things they didn’t understand or didn’t even want.
The consumer watchdog has also set up a toll free number you can call to make sure you’re getting a fair deal on your mortgage – and to hold banks accountable if you’re not. You can reach them at (855) 411-2372.
They recently put together a new mortgage disclosure form that spells out – in simple terms – how much you’re going to owe on your home. No more hiding things in fine print.
And they’ve set up a new website that makes it easier than ever for you to report on a whole range of financial abuse. If you’re applying for a credit card, opening a bank account, or trying to get a student loan and something doesn’t seem right, go to www.consumerfinance.gov/complaints and let them know. Not only will they bring your complaint directly to the company in question, they’ll give you a tracking number so that you can check back and see exactly what’s being done on your behalf.
That’s what Wall Street reform is all about – looking out for hardworking Americans by making sure everyone plays by the same rules. We’ve come too far to go back to an era of top-down, on-your-own economics. Now is the time to move forward; to strengthen the middle class; and to rebuild an economy where everyone can have the confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead.
Learn more about the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.