Read all posts from July 2012

  • Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Seniors Issues July 16, 2012

    Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a White House Community Leaders briefing on Seniors Issues, in the South Court Auditorium at the White House, July 16, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Today, the Vice President spoke to more than 100 community leaders from across the country representing over 60 seniors groups that are part of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations. He told the audience that when it comes to Social Security and Medicare, “the question is what are we going to do to strengthen and sustain these programs now and for the future.” In contrast, Congressional Republicans are trying to weaken or dismantle these programs.   

    Last year, Congressman Paul Ryan proposed to end traditional Medicare. His plan, which was embraced by his Republican colleagues, would give seniors a voucher to buy private insurance and hold them responsible for any costs that exceed the value of the voucher. As a result, the typical 65-year-old’s out-of-pocket health care costs would double over time. While Congressman Ryan introduced a revised plan this year, it still relies on a voucher system that would increase the financial burden on seniors. 

    President Obama and Vice President Biden want to strengthen Medicare and secure the program for the future. Our health care law extends the life of Medicare by eight years by taking smart steps like cutting waste and fraud and creating incentives to cut down on hospital readmissions. These steps will save seniors in traditional Medicare an average of $160 on premiums and copays in 2012 alone. In addition, the law has already saved 5.3 million seniors an average of $600 on prescription drugs by closing the “donut hole,” and has ensured that over 30 million have access to free preventive services like cancer screenings and annual wellness visits. 

  • Last week, we organized a Google+ Hangout with Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan to talk about President Obama's plan to help responsible homeowners refinance their mortgages. Today, we sent the message below to the White House email list to keep the conversation going. If you didn't get the email, be sure to sign up.

    If we're going to get traction for President Obama's proposal to help responsible homeowners refinance their mortgages, we need to make sure as many people get the facts as possible.

    That's why we recently organized a discussion between Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan and a group of homeowners from across the country to talk about the President's plan.

    And now, we want to keep the conversation going.

    So take a moment to watch these homeowners describe their situations to Secretary Donovan, then share your own story.

    In the past month, we've received tens of thousands of messages from Americans who support President Obama's proposal. We have shared them with advisors to the President, published them on, and posted them to Twitter and Facebook.

    Again and again, the facts of their stories are the same. We're hearing from people who've done everything right, who have made their payments on time each month, and who are locked out of lower payments through no fault of their own.

    They want a refinancing process that's simpler. And if we can get a vote in Congress, that's exactly what President Obama's proposal will give them.

    But we are running out of time.

    So add your voice to the discussion now, and help us bring this issue to the top of the agenda. We'll feature stories on, and make sure they're part of the conversation here in Washington:


    P.S. -- Watch the full Google+ Hangout with Secretary Donovan here.

  • Dr. Biden Meets with Missouri National Guard Members

    Dr. Biden meets with Missouri National Guard members, families, and faith leaders about Partners in Care (by Jennifer Archdekin/Missouri National Guard)

    Last week in Missouri, I met with several Missouri National Guard members, their families, and faith leaders about the critical support they are providing our troops and families – both during deployments and after our service men and women return home.  

    As a military mom, I know firsthand what a difference the support of a church or community can have on a military family.  When my son Beau was deployed to Iraq, our church put a notice in the church bulletin – a simple act of kindness that meant so much to our family.

    That’s why what is happening in Missouri is so important. The Partners in Care initiative is a national partnership program linking caring faith communities to Guard members and their families who need certain resources. Through the partnership, faith-based organizations provide a wide range of free services to Guard families – from child care, to transportation, to counseling. 

  • First Lady Michelle Obama paid tribute to designers from the fields of fashion, architecture, technology, and landscapes on Friday during a luncheon in the East Room of the White House.

    The event was part of the Smithsonian's annual Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards, and the winners, which included a diverse range of creative visionaries from the founder of the TED Conference to fashion designer Thom Browne to a company that partners with social entrepreneurs to address needs in developing countries, also participated in an education program for local high school students.

    In her remarks, the First Lady praised the winners for "pushing boundaries, creating and revealing beauty where we least expect it, and helping us all lead healthier, more sustainable lives:"

    And that is the defining characteristic of today’s honorees. All of them have done something really good for our country and our world. From the clothes we wear to the technologies we use to the public spaces we enjoy, their work affects just about every aspect of our lives. And on days like today, when we gather to celebrate these extraordinary individuals, it’s easy to go on and on about everything they’ve achieved and the impact that they’ve had. It is a very easy thing to do with this group.

    But it’s also important to remember that today’s awards ceremony is only part of the story. We know that for these men and women, the journey to this day began long before they ever walked through the doors of the White House. It started in studios and classrooms and dorm rooms, where they spent long hours and late nights hunched over a sketchpad or squinting at a computer screen, drafting and redrafting and re-redrafting. (Laughter.)

    And this is a point I especially want to emphasize for all of the young people who have joined us today. What you guys have to understand is that these honorees weren’t born brilliant designers. They became brilliant designers because they worked hard. They’re here today because they had a dream, and they put in long, hard, exhausting work -- all of that that it takes to follow that dream.

  • One year ago today, President Obama got a visit from an icon of the civil rights movement. Ruby Bridges was at the White House to see how a painting that commemorates a personal and historic milestone looked hanging on the wall outside of the Oval Office. Norman Rockwell  was so inspired by the image of the six year old  being escorted to her first day in a formerly segregated kindergarten by four U.S. marshals amidst signs of protest and fearful ignorance that he painted it for the cover of Look magazine. 

    When Ruby Bridges visited the Oval Office on July 15, President Obama told her, "I think it's fair to say that if it wasn't for you guys, I wouldn't be here today." 

    Watch Ruby Bridges' visit with the President.

  • President Obama calls on Congress to act now to extend tax cuts for the 98 percent of Americans making less than $250,000 for another year. 

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

  • Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend one of Dr. Jill Biden’s Community College to Career stops at the South Seattle Community College Hangar.  Throughout the year, Dr. Biden has been traveling to community colleges and businesses around the country to see firsthand how community colleges are designing programs to give people the skills they need to compete in the global economy.

    Before Dr. Biden arrived, I spoke with several aviation students and one of their instructors who told me he had graduated from the same program more than 30 years ago.  The instructor said he was confident his students would also build long and rewarding careers in aviation. The students told me that they were looking forward to jobs at Boeing, Lockheed, and at commercial airlines throughout the country. 

    As a community college teacher herself, Dr. Biden knows that community colleges, in partnership with business and the public workforce system, are producing skilled workers, ready to fill jobs now and in the future. The U.S. Department of Labor has invested funding in colleges, through direct grants and funding from Workforce Investment Boards, that are clearly meeting the needs of businesses.  And based on what we heard from students, these grants, and the work of the colleges, are turning lives around.

    Dr. Biden Community College to Career Roundtable

    Dr. Biden participates in a Community College to Career roundtable discussion on successful industry partnerships at South Seattle Community College Hangar. Photo by Glenn Gauthier, South Seattle Community College.

  • Ed. Note: This has been crossposted from the blog for the Department of Commerce.

    Tourism is America’s number one service export, and today we have even more evidence that America is indeed open for business. New data released by the U.S. Commerce Department today shows that international visitors spent nearly $14 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the United States in May$1 billion more than was spent in May 2011marking 29 straight months of growth.
    This data also means that the U.S. is on pace for a record-setting year, with international visitors having spent over $68 billion so far – up 12 percent compared to last year.
    The facts are clear: tourism is a high-growth bright spot in our economy. We must continue to build on this momentum by making sure that America is travel-friendly to international visitors, thereby helping our businesses create even more jobs.
    Fortunately, there are many dedicated people working to increase travel and tourism. This morning, I had the chance to talk with a few of them at a meeting of the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board in Dearborn, Mich., where I joined federal agency partners, as well as U.S. Representative John Dingell (D-MI), to discuss the Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to increase travel and tourism to the United States. During the board meeting, we discussed implementation of the recently released National Travel and Tourism Strategy (PDF), a blueprint for the federal government to welcome 100 million international visitors each year by the end of 2021. These visitors would spend an estimated $250 billion per year, supporting even more jobs and spurring economic growth in communities across the country.

  • The President knows that America’s middle class was built on the strength of our small businesses and our manufacturing sector. But for too long, middle class security had been slipping away for too many families. Long before the worst recession since the Great Depression, folks saw the cost of living go up, while their wages remained stagnant, making it harder to make ends meet – especially for families in the manufacturing sector. And when President Obama took office, we faced the worst recession since the Great Depression, and the entire communities were devastated. 

    We’ve faced tough times, but the American people are tougher. And the President stood with the workers across the nation as they rebuilt their communities. Now, the manufacturing sector has added 504,000 jobs since January 2010 – the first period of sustained job growth since the 1990s. While there’s more work to be done, we continue to make progress. 

    In fact, just this week we saw some good news at an Alcoa Davenport Works Factory in Iowa. They just announced a new agreement with Airbus to manufacture the aluminum sheets for the new Airbus A-305’s. We’re pleased that they came to this agreement.  It’s good for business, good for the economy. More importantly, it’ll create jobs, strengthen communities, and continue to restore the economic security for thousands of middle class families.

  • Champions of Change in the Fight Against Youth Homelessness Panel Discussion

    Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan (middle) moderates a panel of Champions of Change who have made a difference in the way their communities combat youth homelessness, July 12, 2012. (Photo by the White House Office of Public Engagement)

    Yesterday, I participated in a Champions of Change event here at the White House highlighting the inspiring work of 13 leaders in the effort to end child and youth homelessness. This program, hosted by the White House in partnership with the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), featured Champions from across the country who were nominated through a public nomination process by colleagues, friends, and community members. Barbara Poppe, the Executive Director of USICH, introduced the Champions and noted that they “exemplify the spirit of collaboration [and] commitment to diversity, and have demonstrated that innovative strategies, coupled with unwavering commitment, can produce measurable results when serving children and youth experiencing homelessness in their communities.”

    Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan spoke about his experience volunteering at a homeless shelter in college and described the tremendous progress that has been made since then in the fight against youth homelessness. He also spoke about Opening Doors, the nation’s first ever comprehensive Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. 19 federal agencies are cooperating to achieve the goal of ending homelessness, but Secretary Donovan emphasized that the progress we are seeing would not have happened without the work being done in communities across the country by these Champions of Change and others like them.

  • In every state, people are connecting directly with their food each time they bite into a local apple, grill a local steak or create a salad with local ingredients. Local food is about the products that farmers and ranchers grow and raise. It’s about the businesses that bring food from farms to our tables, and efforts to connect consumers with producers like farm to school and agritourism. And it’s about the sense of pride behind campaigns like “Buy Fresh, Buy Local,” “Appalachian Grown,” or “Idaho Preferred” that let consumers know their food dollar is flowing back into their local economy. Women play a prominent role in developing local and regional food systems that are creating jobs, pulling new people into agriculture, connecting communities, and improving health.

    On Tuesday, July 17th at 3:00pm EDT, Jon Carson, White House Director of Public Engagement, and I will join inspiring women leaders in the field of local foods through a Google+ Hangout to hear their stories and answer your questions. It’s also a chance to see more stories like theirs when we unveil the 2.0 version of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass. An innovative digital guide and map, the KYF Compass highlights USDA-supported local food projects around the country. The 2.0 version features thousands of local food projects in all 50 states and includes keyword and zip code search features.

    Will you join us? Here are the details:

  • This week the President signed the MAP-21 Act to extend funding for transportation infrastructure projects and stopped student loan interest rates from doubling. He also urged Congress to cut taxes for the middle class while the White House announced the 2012 Save Award initiative and played host to a Google+ Hangout.

    Watch the West Wing Week here.

    Ed. Note: There were over 70,000 views of the Hangout live stream yesterday.  For more on the President's plan to help responsible homeowners refinance visit:
    Earlier today, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan joined four homeowners from around the country for a Google+ Hangout moderated by real estate marketplace, Zillow, Inc. to discuss home mortgage refinancing. With home interest rates at historic lows, the average homeowners could save $3,000 a year by refinancing, but far too many borrowers are locked out of a chance to do so. 
    Secretary Donovan,  Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff and participating homeowners engaged in a conversation about various refinancing options, including the Home Affordable Refinancing Program (HARP) and the President’s plan that would simplify and streamline refinancing for responsible homeowners who are currently locked out of doing so. 
    Secretary Donovan took questions from homeowners Leighanne from New Jersey, Pete from Washington, Michele from New Jersey and Valarie from Georgia and also from homeowners throughout the country who submitted feedback questions on the Zillow website, Facebook page and on Twitter using the hashtag #WHHangout

  • Secretary Solis suits up to help local Job Corps students make smoothies

    Secretary Solis suits up to help local Job Corps students make smoothies during the Jamba Juice opening in Dupont Circle. (Photo from Department of Labor)

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from Work in Progress, the official blog of the Department of Labor.

    Earlier this week I had the chance to attend the opening of a new smoothie shop in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC and meet a number of young people hired by Jamba Juice as part of our Summer Jobs+ initiative.

    Seeing the shift manager Korie and the rest of her crew working hard and smiling each step of the way it’s hard not to think about my first job and what it meant to me and my family.

    In my teens, I worked as a recreational aide in my community supervising and mentoring youth in various educational programs.  I also spent a summer working in a library—stacking and cataloging books and helping my classmates choose books to read.

    I met role models during those jobs that helped me become the first member of my family to go to college and put me on a lifelong career path. I began working with children.  Then I helped high school graduates apply to college and get financial aid. From there, I was elected to the Rio Hondo Community College Board in Whittier, then the California Assembly and eventually the U.S. Congress.

    I wouldn’t be the nation’s first Latina Secretary of Labor—if it wasn’t for the summer work experiences I had growing up. That’s what summer jobs can do for young people—especially in underserved communities.

    Exposing young people to the workplace through Summer Jobs+ is so important. There’s no substitute for the real world experience of showing up for work and there’s no replacement for the dignity that comes with earning your first paycheck. The President and I believe that employing our youth is critical to a sustained and continued economic recovery, and that’s why we’re both so excited that since we announced the Summer Jobs+ initiative in January, more than 150 businesses, non-profit organizations and local leaders have stepped up.

  • The Obama Administration recently launched the Education Data Initiative to help students and their families benefit from innovation enabled by open data from the US government and other sources.  By working to make education data more available and useful to entrepreneurs and innovators, we’re confident that new products and services will continue to emerge to help American families make informed educational decisions and improve student outcomes.

    The Education Data Initiative is part of a series of Open Data Initiatives—other ones include energy, health, and public safety—in which the Administration is working to help catalyze the development of innovative apps and services fueled by open data, while rigorously protecting privacy and confidentiality.

  • On Tuesday, the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden visited the Las Vegas branch of the non-profit United States Veterans Initiative (U.S. Vets). With a mission to help homeless and at-risk veterans find jobs, U.S. Vets provides comprehensive support that includes housing, counseling, and career development programs. The Las Vegas group alone works with more than 160 veterans every day.   

    At the organization’s career center, the Vice President and Dr. Biden joined a life skills workshop, where they met with veterans who are either currently working or searching for work.

  • America is a nation of immigrants. Our American journey and our success would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from every corner of the globe. It is helpful to take a moment to reflect on the important contributions by the generations of immigrants who have helped us build our economy, and made America the economic engine of the world. 

    How do immigrants strengthen the U.S. economy? Below is our top 10 list for ways immigrants help to grow the American economy.

    1. Immigrants start businesses. According to the Small Business Administration, immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a business in the United States than non-immigrants, and 18 percent of all small business owners in the United States are immigrants.
    2. Immigrant-owned businesses create jobs for American workers. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, small businesses owned by immigrants employed an estimated 4.7 million people in 2007, and according to the latest estimates, these small businesses generated more than $776 billion annually.
    3. Immigrants are also more likely to create their own jobs. According the U.S. Department of Labor, 7.5 percent of the foreign born are self-employed compared to 6.6 percent among the native-born.
    4. Immigrants develop cutting-edge technologies and companies.  According to the National Venture Capital Association, immigrants have started 25 percent of public U.S. companies that were backed by venture capital investors. This list includes Google, eBay, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, and Intel.
    5. Immigrants are our engineers, scientists, and innovators. According to the Census Bureau, despite making up only 16 percent of the resident population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, immigrants represent 33 percent of engineers, 27 percent of mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientist, and 24 percent of physical scientists. Additionally, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy, in 2011, foreign-born inventors were credited with contributing to more than 75 percent of patents issued to the top 10 patent-producing universities.
    6. Immigration boosts earnings for American workers. Increased immigration to the United States has increased the earnings of Americans with more than a high school degree. Between 1990 and 2004, increased immigration was correlated with increasing earnings of Americans by 0.7 percent and is expected to contribute to an increase of 1.8 percent over the long-term, according to a study by the University of California at Davis.
    7. Immigrants boost demand for local consumer goods. The Immigration Policy Center estimates that the purchasing power of Latinos and Asians, many of whom are immigrants, alone will reach $1.5 trillion and $775 billion, respectively, by 2015.
    8. Immigration reform legislation like the DREAM Act reduces the deficit.  According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, under the 2010 House-passed version of the DREAM Act, the federal deficit would be reduced by $2.2 billion over ten years because of increased tax revenues.
    9. Comprehensive immigration reform would create jobs. Comprehensive immigration reform could support and create up to 900,000 new jobs within three years of reform from the increase in consumer spending, according to the Center for American Progress.
    10. Comprehensive immigration reform would increase America’s GDP.The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that even under low investment assumptions, comprehensive immigration reform would increase GDP by between 0.8 percent and 1.3 percent from 2012 to 2016.

  • The health care law President Obama signed in 2010 is already making a positive difference in the lives of millions of Americans. 6.6 million young adults have health insurance on their parent’s plan. 5.3 million people with Medicare saved $3.7 billion on their prescription drugs. And 54 million Americans have had their private insurance plan expand to cover preventive services without co-payments or deductibles.

    But rather than move on and act on the President’s plans to cut taxes and strengthen the economy, today House Republicans voted to repeal the health care law. And this is far from the first time Congressional Republicans have chosen to re-fight old political battles:

    • Today’s vote in the House marks the 33rd time House Republicans have voted to roll back the health care law.
    • Since being sworn in, the House has voted in 15 of 19 months to “repeal, defund, or dismantle” the Affordable Care Act.
    • The House has voted to “repeal, defund, or dismantle” the Affordable Care Act nearly 2 times a month on average.

    The last thing Congress should do is start over on health care by raising taxes on the middle class and repealing the entire law. Instead, Congress should enact the President’s proposal which extends the current tax rates for every single American family on their first $250,000 of income, ensuring that middle class families don’t see a tax hike at the end of the year.

  • Tomorrow, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan will sit down for a discussion with homeowners from across the country about President Obama's refinancing plan.

    We're helping to kick off the conversation with a series of videos in which the Housing Secretary answers some of the most popular questions we've received about the plan.

    Today, he tells us how the President's plan will help people whose mortgages are backed by someone other than Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or the FHA.

    Check it out and be sure to tune in Thursday at 3:15 PM ET

    Watch Shaun Donovan, U.S. Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, answer questions here.

    Learn more

    • Secretary Donovan discusses how the government is helping homeowners who owe more than the value of their mortgages.
    • Secretary Donovan discusses how President Obama's refinancing plan will help the economy at large.


  • President Obama is calling on Congress to extend the middle class tax cuts for the 98 percent of Americans making less than $250,000 for another year—a proposal that will also extend tax cuts for 97 percent of all small business owners in America.  If Congress fails to act, a typical middle-class family of four will see its taxes go up by $2,200, and America’s small business owners would take a big hit.

    President Obama believes that entrepreneurs and small businesses are engines of economic growth and are at the forefront of the nation's economic recovery, which is why he’s already cut taxes for small businesses 18 times.  And most people—including the President—agree that now is not the time to raise taxes on middle class families or small businesses.

    Middle class families should have the certainty and security of knowing their taxes won’t go up in six months, and President Obama's message to Congress is clear: Pass a bill extending the tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses and he’ll sign it tomorrow.