Our Top Stories
Megan SlackAugust 09, 2012
11:55 AM EDT
Unless the House of Representatives takes action before January 1, 2013, taxes will go up on 114 million middle-class families. Nearly everyone in Washington agrees that’s a bad idea. That’s why President Obama is calling for -- and the Senate has already passed -- legislation that will keep the middle class from paying thousands of extra dollars next year.
Republicans in the House of Representatives, however, are refusing to extend middle-class tax cuts without also giving massive tax cuts to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. In fact, House Republicans have proposed their own tax plan that would actually raise taxes on 25 million families making less than $250,000, while giving families making more than $1 million an average tax cut of $160,000 next year.
We’ve put together an infographic to help you understand some of the details behind the tax cut extension President Obama is asking Congress to pass, and how it differs with the House Republican proposal. Check it out, and if you agree with President Obama that extending middle-class tax cuts is the right thing to do, share it on your social networks and pass it on to your friends and family.
Cass SunsteinAugust 09, 2012
11:45 AM EDT
To fulfill its functions, the federal government asks people to fill out a lot of forms. To get permits and licenses, to pay taxes, and to qualify for benefits and grants, forms are often required. Too often, however, those forms are too confusing and complicated, especially for individuals and small businesses. Today we are doing something about that problem.
From now on, agencies will be asked to test complex or lengthy forms in advance, by seeing if people can actually understand them. Advance testing can take many forms. Agencies might use focus groups. They might use web-based experiments. They might try in-person observations of how users understand the forms. From those tests, agencies will be better able to identify the likely burdens on members of the public and to find ways to increase simplification and ease of comprehension.
Here’s an example from a closely related area: labeling. In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation unveiled new and improved fuel economy labels. The new labels promote informed choices by telling consumers, clearly and simply, about annual fuel costs and about the likely five-year savings or costs of particular cars (compared to the average vehicle). The new labels followed an extensive process of testing, to see what really would be most useful for consumers. In the future, we will be engaging in similar testing for forms, increasing simplicity, reducing confusion, and saving time.
In recent years, we have made a lot of progress in reducing red tape, increasing plain language, and eliminating complexity. Today’s action is a significant further step in this direction.
Matt ComptonAugust 09, 2012
11:21 AM EDT
President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India aboard Air Force One during a flight to Colorado, Aug. 8, 2012. The President called Prime Minister Singh to express condolences for victims of the attack at the gurdwara in Wisconsin, which took the lives of Indian nationals as well as Americans, and to convey the solidarity of the American people. Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, is seated at right. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)The two leaders discussed the shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and the President expressed his condolences for the senseless attack.According to a readout of that conversation, "Prime Minister Singh expressed his gratitude for the many messages and gestures of support from the United States, and for the prompt reaction and heroism of the local police department."To learn more about the call, check out the full readout here.In the United States, the American flag remain at half-staff until sunset tomorrow to honor the victims of the shooting.
Cecilia MuñozAugust 08, 2012
03:18 PM EDT
Yesterday I had the pleasure of participating in a policy conversation held at the Center for American Progress on ensuring that the ladder of opportunity remains strong for the Latino community. In conjunction with that event we released a report, “An America Built to Last: President Obama’s Agenda and the Hispanic Community,” that takes a close look at the President’s agenda and how the Administration’s policies have made a difference for Hispanics and all Americans as we work to move our country forward out of the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression.
The need for this report is simple. Latinos will account for 60 percent of the nation’s population growth in the coming decades, and in turn will be an increasingly larger share of our nation’s workforce. If our nation is going to be successful, we need a strong and well prepared workforce, so the success of our nation is tied directly to the success of the Hispanic community. That’s something President Obama understands, and why he has made it a priority that his Administration is not only reflective of America’s great diversity, but that we’re being open and responsive to the needs of all Americans.
Jon CarsonAugust 08, 2012
02:29 PM EDT
As you may have already heard, this Friday we will welcome over 150 PTA leaders from 41 states, DC and US military bases overseas to the White House for a day-long briefing. Made up of millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders, the PTA promotes parent involvement in schools and works every day towards the success of every student. Local PTAs across the country are also some of the most effective advocates for making education a priority.
We'll honor 12 PTA leaders as Champions of Change, a program created to honor ordinary Americans doing great work in their communities. The PTA Champions have collaborated with school administrators and community leaders, launched innovative advocacy campaigns, and worked tirelessly to grow their local PTA organizations to involve more parents in their children’s education. You can learn more about our PTA Champions here.
But this Friday isn't just for PTA leaders joining us at the White House, it's also to engage with millions of moms and dads who can’t make it to Washington. So, we're hoping you'll tune-in live and join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #WHPTA. Join us live at WhiteHouse.gov/Champions for PTA Day, including:
- 9:30 a.m. EDT: PTA leaders briefing with Administration officials
- 12:00 p.m. EDT: “Open for Questions” online Q&A with Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz moderated by National PTA President Betsy Landers. PTA members around the country are invited to watch live and submit questions at PTA.org or on Twitter using the hashtag #WHPTA
- 2:00 p.m. EDT: “Champions of Change" event honoring 12 PTA members
The President knows how important parent involvement is to successfully educating our kids, and that is why we’re excited to welcome PTA leaders who are setting such great examples in their communities to the White House.
Valerie JarrettAugust 08, 2012
09:57 AM EDT
Yesterday, Cynthia Germanotta and I had the opportunity to discuss how to empower young people and end bullying at the Third Annual Bullying Prevention Summit in Washington, D.C. Cynthia and her daughter, Lady Gaga, recently founded the Born This Way Foundation to empower young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a kinder, braver world.
As moms, both Cynthia and I realize the impact that bullying—and kindness—can have on young people. We both agreed that we must all stay focused on ending bullying because no young person, or their loved ones, should have to endure the pain, agony, and loss to our families, schools, and communities that can come with bullying.
We also agreed that we need to reinforce positive behavior and motivate everyone, particularly young people, to get engaged.
President Obama believes that together, we can end bullying. The President and his Administration are committed to developing a comprehensive policy, and all of us have a vital role to play: students, parents, and school administrators, as well as political, business, community, and faith leaders.
Cass SunsteinAugust 07, 2012
05:27 PM EDT
Since taking office, President Obama has been committed to eliminating red tape and ensuring that when rules are issued to protect safety and health, they are sensitive to the economic situation and attuned to the importance of job creation and economic growth.
As this White House White Board shows, the net benefits, or the benefits minus the costs, of regulations issued through the third fiscal year of the Obama Administration have exceeded $91 billion. This amount, including not only monetary savings but also thousands of lives saved and tens of thousands of illnesses and injuries prevented,is over 25 times the net benefits through the third fiscal year of the previous Administration. What are the ingredients of these benefits?
Matt ComptonAugust 07, 2012
05:19 PM EDT
Throughout much of the country, communities are struggling with one of the worst droughts to strike the U.S. in decades. The lack of rain and high temperatures have done considerable damage to crops -- particularly those in the Midwest.
Today, President Obama met with the White House Rural Council to discuss the steps being taken to help farmers, ranchers, and small businesses wrestling with this crisis.
As part of that response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced that it will provide millions of dollars in assistance to restore livestock lands affected by the drought. The USDA will spend $16 million on technical and financial assistance for those whose crops or herds have suffered.
The USDA has also reduced interest rates on its emergency loan program and worked with the major crop insurers to allow farmers to forego interest payments on unpaid premiums until November. The National Credit Union Administration also announced that more than 1,000 credit unions are increasing their lending to small businesses -- including farmers.
Jon CarsonAugust 07, 2012
11:29 AM EDT
Earlier this year, President Obama celebrated the one year anniversary of the Champions of Change program by bringing together a group of Champions to hear about the work they are doing to advance their communities.
The White House created the Champions of Change program to identify and engage everyday Americans who are leading extraordinary initiatives to strengthen their communities. Their work spans across areas such as renewable energy, innovative technology, youth and domestic violence, immigration integration, infrastructure, education, equal rights and healthcare. This program recognizes their successes and efforts toward the development of – and diplomacy with – their communities. In sharing the incredible stories of these Champions, I hope others find in them a source of inspiration and innovation as I have. Check out this video for a quick snapshot of the program:
August 07, 2012
10:19 AM EDT
Saturday, Vice President Biden spoke with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) at their 91st National Convention in Las Vegas.
The 1.2 million-member DAV is made up exclusively of men and women that have been wounded while defending the nation. This group is dedicated to one, single purpose – building better lives for all our nation’s disabled veterans and their families.
The Vice President thanked the men and women for their service and sacrifices and for continuing to serve by supporting their fellow disabled veterans. He also encouraged them to continue fighting for the benefits that they have earned, need and deserve.
During his address to a crowd of almost 4,000 disabled veterans, Vice President Biden stressed, “Let me be crystal, absolutely crystal clear: we’re going to keep our commitment to American veterans, no matter what happens.”
Matt ComptonAugust 06, 2012
05:37 PM EDT
Before signing a bill that will better protect veterans and their families, President Obama took a question from reporters about Sunday's shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.Though he urged caution against assumptions while the investigations unfold, the President also spoke about the need for Americans to come together as one people in this time of tragedy."If it turns out, as some early reports indicate, that it may have been motivated in some way by the ethnicity of those who were attending the temple," he said, "I think the American people immediately recoil against those kinds of attitudes, and I think it will be very important for us to reaffirm once again that, in this country, regardless of what we look like, where we come from, who we worship, we are all one people, and we look after one another and we respect one another."This afternoon, he also issued a proclamation mandating that the flag of the United States be flown at half-staff at the White House and at all public buildings and grounds until sunset on August 10.
Matt ComptonAugust 06, 2012
05:36 PM EDT
President Barack Obama signs the “Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012,” in the Oval Office, Aug. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
First, the new law offers extended care to a group of servicemembers who were based at Camp Lejeune with their families during a period when contaminated water caused major medical issues for a number of individuals.
Among those standing with the President at today's bill signing were Jerry Ensminger, a Marine Corps veteran who has been an advocate for affected families, and Mike Partain, who was born at Camp Lejuene and later developed male breast cancer. The bill the President signed was named after Janey Ensminger, the Master Sargeant's daughter who passed away from leukemia at age nine.
Second, the law prohibits protests at military funerals in the two hours immediately prior to and following a military funeral -- a measure, the President said, that will ensure that our servicemembers get laid to rest with "the utmost honor and respect."
President Obama upheld this bill as an example of the type of issue on which Republicans and Democrats can find common ground, and he pushed lawmakers to take action on other measures to aid veterans -- including his proposal for a Veterans Jobs Corps.
Read his full remarks here.
August 06, 2012
10:30 AM EDT
Ed. Note: This article is crossposted from NASA's blog
The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team in the MSL Mission Support Area react after learning the the Curiosity rove has landed safely on Mars and images start coming in at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Mars, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012 in Pasadena, Calif. The MSL Rover named Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. August 5, 2012. (by NASA/Bill Ingalls)
NASA is back on Mars – and getting ready for the next mission to the Red Planet! After an astounding 154 million mile journey and a harrowing landing that demonstrated cutting-edge technology, Curiosity, the largest rover ever sent to another planet, is in place and ready to work. This robotic laboratory will seek answers to one of humanity’s oldest questions as it investigates whether conditions have favored development of microbial life on the Red Planet. The mission is a critical planetary science mission -- and a precursor to sending humans to the Red Planet in the 2030’s, a goal set forth by President Obama.
It’s another great leadership moment for our nation and a sign of the continued strength of NASA’s many programs in science, aeronautics and human spaceflight. It’s also important to remember that the $2.5 billion investment made in this project was not spent on Mars, but right here on Earth, supporting more than 7,000 jobs in at least 31 states.
With the retirement of the Shuttle program after its final flight in July 2011, some have suggested that NASA’s leadership in the exploration of space, including our extraordinary successes on Mars, was coming to an end. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Curiosity mission is only the latest in a long list of extraordinary NASA missions that established the United States as the undisputed world leader, and it will help guarantee that remains the case for many years to come.
When our Orion deep space crew vehicle takes its first test flight in 2014, it will travel farther into space than any spacecraft designed for humans has flown in the 40 years since our astronauts returned from the moon.
This photograph of the NASA Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, was taken during mobility testing on June 3, 2011. The location is inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. (Photo courtesy of NASA)
In 2017, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), a heavy-lift rocket that will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit, will launch Orion.
We also reached a critically important milestone in May when SpaceX became the first private company to send a spacecraft -- the Dragon cargo capsule -- to the International Space Station and return it with cargo intact. This successful mission ushered in a new era in spaceflight -- and signaled a new way of doing business for NASA. And just a few days ago, we announced the next step in the Obama Administration’s aggressive plan to once again launch our astronauts from U.S. soil on spacecraft built by American companies.
As part of our commitment to maintain American leadership in the exploration of Mars beyond the Curiosity mission, NASA will launch the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter next year. Earlier this year, I directed NASA’s science mission director, along with the head of human exploration, Chief Technologist, and Chief Scientist to develop a more integrated strategy to ensure that the next steps for Mars exploration will support the nation’s planetary science objectives as well as our human exploration goals. They are looking at many options, including another robotic mission to land on Mars in this decade.
I am so proud of the NASA team that has made tonight’s challenging milestone possible. However, tomorrow we begin to plan for the next great challenge -- and start compiling incredible scientific data from Curiosity. For the past 50 years, NASA has specialized in doing the hard things. Thanks to the ingenuity of our teams across America and the world, we are poised for even greater success.
For more information about Curiosity and NASA's missions to Mars, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mars
Kori SchulmanAugust 05, 2012
05:04 PM EDT
President Obama today released the following statement on the tragic shooting in Wisconsin:
Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.
August 04, 2012
11:06 AM EDT
Ed. Note: This article was originally published on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs blog
The Olympics are filled with inspirational stories that bring the country together in celebration of exceptional accomplishment and national pride. And we at VA are very proud to share an inspiring story from one of our own, Natalie Dell—a Bronze Medal winner at the Summer Olympics.
Natalie conducts mental health research at the VA Medical Center in Bedford, Massachusetts. Every day, she studies how to help Veterans with depression and mental health issues. “I came in contact with Veterans every day,” she said in a VA interview this week. “Part of my job would be…to get a little more in-depth information on how exactly VA can help them.”
Beyond caring for Veterans, her other passion is rowing, a passion so developed that it led Natalie to compete in the 30th Olympiad in London, winning bronze for Team USA this week with her team in women’s quadruple sculls, which ended a 28 year medal drought in the sport.
And this is where Natalie’s success story gets truly inspiring. Growing up in a working class family, Natalie did not start rowing until her undergraduate years at Penn State University in an unfunded rowing club. Unlike her Ivy-league counterparts, she said, “I was not fast enough. I wasn’t even close to being fast enough to make the national team,” after graduation. Natalie realized that to make the team she would have to put in long hours of training, while also balancing a professional career. A professor suggested she try applying at VA as a research scientist, where she eventually landed a job caring for Veterans.
Colleen CurtisAugust 04, 2012
05:45 AM EDT
President Obama congratulates all of the American athletes competing in the Olympics and Paralympics this summer. These men and women have inspired us all with their hard work, determination, and their indomitable spirit as they present the best of America to the rest of the world. The President tells our Olympic and Paralympic competitors that the American people could not be prouder of them, and thanks them for reminding us that we are one people, and by working together we can achieve great things.
Kori SchulmanAugust 04, 2012
05:34 AM EDT
Today, the White House Twitter account reached 3,000,000 followers! The White House uses Twitter to connect with citizens around the country and keep our followers up-to-date on the latest news from the President and the Obama Administration.
To celebrate 3,000,000 followers, we want to hear from you: Tell us why you follow @WhiteHouse. Let us know on Twitter with the hashtag #FollowWH. We'll highlight some of our favorite responses on WhiteHouse.gov.
From the first Twitter Town Hall at the White House to launching the Twitter Q&A series "Office Hours," we're continually looking for new ways to engage with Americans. Do you have feedback on how the White House uses twitter or ideas on what we can do better? Share them with us through this webform or on Twitter using the hashtag #WHWeb. We look forward to getting your feedback.
Acting Secretary Rebecca BlankAugust 03, 2012
05:27 PM EDT
Earlier this week I joined Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for a dialogue with leaders within the travel and tourism industry at the White House Business Council American Economic Competitiveness Forum. We held a very useful discussion about how the Administration can continue to help support travel and tourism and the millions of jobs associated with the industry.
Travel and tourism has been a particularly bright spot in our economic growth over the past two years. I recently announced that 2012 will likely be another record year for international travel to the U.S. In fact, in May 2012 international travel to the U.S. reached nearly $14 billion – up 8% from May 2011. That caps 29 straight months of growth. Many people do not realize that international travel to the U.S. counts as an export, since foreign citizens purchase U.S. goods and services when they travel here. Hence, the travel and tourism industry has been a critical factor in the increase of export-supported jobs, which have grown by 1.2 million from 2009-2011.
We can build on this momentum by strengthening public-private partnerships with the industry, which is the core of the new National Travel and Tourism Strategy. Already, we’ve reinvigorated the Tourism Policy Council – a Commerce-led team involving a dozen agencies that touch on travel and tourism. Also, the Trade and Tourism Advisory Board – involving many of the people at this Forum – has never been more active. In fact, they contributed many great ideas as we wrote the Strategy.
Colleen CurtisAugust 03, 2012
04:28 PM EDT