Read all posts from July 2014

  • This afternoon, the President and the First Lady honored the 2013 National Medals of the Arts and Humanities recipients at the White House. The President told the recipients that their "accomplishments enrich our lives and reveal something about ourselves and our country."

    This year's recipients consisted of a diverse array of indidivuals and groups who have done groundbreaking work in the arts and humanities, including architecture, choreography, East Asian Studies, and documentary filmmaking – all of whom have made significant contributions to the human experience.

    When we read a great book or experience a powerful documentary, we are often transformed – and these experiences can help us understand the world around us just a little bit better. The President illustrated what these experiences mean to those who witness the great work of this year's honorees.

    "The moments you help create – moments of understanding or awe or joy or sorrow – they add texture to our lives," the President said. "They are not incidental to the American experience; they are central to it – they are essential to it. So we not only congratulate you this afternoon – we thank you for an extraordinary lifetime of achievement."

  • Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Transportation's blog. See the original post here.

    Like many Americans, when Jesus "Jay" Valentin – a UPS driver – goes to sleep at night in his New Jersey home, he's got a lot on his mind.

    He thinks about tomorrow's deliveries and worries about what the traffic will be like and what the weather will mean for road conditions. He calculates how much next month's mortgage payment will leave his family – his wife Jenny and four kids – for savings. He wonders how he will pay for his daughter Tiffany’s college education – she’s 16 now and thinking toward the future.

    Last Friday, I had the chance to meet Jay and some of his coworkers at the UPS hub in Secaucus, New Jersey. It was an eye-opener in many ways.

    Secretary Anthony Foxx meets with UPS staff (1)

    (Photo via the U.S. Department of Transportation)

  • President Obama’s town hall today with 500 of Africa’s most promising young leaders provided an inspiring window into what the future holds for Africa, and the world.

    The 500 participants in the Washington Fellowship program were selected from nearly 50,000 applicants from across Africa, as part of the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). YALI was launched by President Obama in 2010, as part of a long-term investment in the next generation of African leaders. It aims to sharpen their skills, to improve their networks, and to strengthen partnerships between the United States and Africa for years to come.

    The President announced during the town hall that the Washington Fellowship was being renamed as the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, in honor of the former South African President, Nelson Mandela. Mandela Washington Fellows represent the best and brightest from communities across Africa, and fields ranging from education, medicine, law, business, and beyond. These are the young leaders whose skills, passion, and visions for the future, will help shape the fate of their countries and the world. It is in everyone’s best interest to help them prepare with the tools they need to build a healthier, more secure, more prosperous, and more peaceful Africa, which is why President Obama launched YALI in the first place. 

    President Obama also took today’s opportunity to preview another historic event planned for next week. The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit will be hosted in Washington, by President Obama, and will represent the largest gathering any American president has ever hosted with African heads of state and government. 

  • When it comes to investing in our infrastructure, the President’s message has been loud and clear: We must upgrade our roads and rails and bridges to grow our economy and create good American jobs. Over the last five decades, U.S. investments in transportation have fallen by nearly 50 percent as a percentage of GDP. So it is not surprising that in the most recent World Economic Forum rankings, the U.S. has fallen from 7th to 18th overall in the quality of our roads in less than a decade.

    Earlier this month, we released a report that shows our transportation infrastructure system is in dire need of investment. The data tells an important story: 65 percent of America’s major roads are rated in less than good condition; one in four bridges require significant repair or cannot handle today’s traffic; and 45 percent of Americans lack access to transit.

    We know what we need to do – and there are two compelling reasons for doing it right now. First, our global competiveness is directly linked to the strength of our infrastructure – investing in it can serve as a clear source of competitive advantage. Second, these investments will create jobs, help American businesses, and grow our economy. The President has put forth a long-term proposal that would make these investments and pay for them by closing unfair tax loopholes and making commonsense reforms to our business tax system. The President’s GROW AMERICA Act would support millions of jobs and position our economy for lasting growth. 

  • Today’s annual report from the Medicare program’s Boards of Trustees brings good news about the program’s financial future: Its Trust Fund will last four more years, to 2030, and projected Part B premiums for 2015 will not increase for the second year in a row.

    As we celebrate Medicare’s 49th birthday this week, we will recommit to ensuring that the program continues providing health and economic security for the nation’s elderly and people with disabilities through the 21st century and beyond. Today’s news shows that we are on the right track, and we are optimistic that the promising results we’ve seen in recent years can continue into the future.

    In 2009, the Trustees projected the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund would not be able to pay its bills in 2017 – just three years from now. Today’s new date is 2030, 13 years later than that projection – an improvement that is thanks in part to reforms in the Affordable Care Act (Chart 1). The law implemented changes to promote value-based payments, reduce waste and fraud, and strengthen the program’s benefits. These changes, for example, have reduced hospital spending on preventable readmissions, helping to lower hospital costs, which constitute a significant portion of trust fund spending.  

  • It’s no secret that the American economy is changing, and some of the most in-demand skills today barely existed a generation ago. The average worker graduated high school around twenty years ago, when the personal computer was in its infancy, and only the most technical professions demanded a fluency in information technology (IT).

    But times have changed, and some of the best ladders to well-paying, middle-class jobs are in IT fields across our economy. That’s because the average salary in a job that requires IT skills -- whether in manufacturing, advertising, hospitality, or banking -- is more than one and a half times higher than the average private-sector American job.

    This week, the President and Vice President are announcing important reforms in the way Federal programs train and retrain workers. To meet the demand for IT and cybersecurity skills, we will also be kicking off a significant new effort focused on bridging the gap between workers, technology skills, and employers.

  • Today, President Obama kicks off a three-day Summit of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the flagship program of the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). The Washington Fellowship gives 500 of sub-Saharan Africa’s most prominent young leaders the opportunity to engage with U.S. government officials, entrepreneurs and civil society representatives, as well as leaders in international development.

    Watch President Obama's town hall below -- and tune in for events throughout the week with First Lady Michelle Obama, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, and more.

  • This week, the President visited Los Angeles Trade Technical College to deliver a clear message: we need to train more hard-working Americans to fill the jobs our businesses are creating. The President explained:

    I’m here for every American who works their tail off; who does everything right; who believes in the American Dream and just wants a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their families. You are why I ran for President in the first place. 

    In his 2014 State of the Union address, the President tasked Vice President Biden with leading a review of job training programs, with the aim of making them more job-driven. That review is complete and earlier this week, the President and Vice President announced significant reforms in the way Federal programs train and retrain workers.

    As a result of this review, the Administration is kicking off a significant new public-private effort to help hard-working Americans get ahead through an initiative we are calling “upskilling”: working with employers, educators, tech innovators, unions, training providers, cities, states, and non-profits to help turn low-wage and entry-level jobs across the country into stepping stones to the middle class.

  • President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Map Room of the White House, July 25, 2014.

    President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Map Room of the White House, July 25, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    In this week’s address, the President continued his call for our nation to rally around an economic patriotism that says rather than protecting wasteful tax loopholes for a few at the top, we should be investing in things like education and job training that grow the economy for everybody.

    The President highlighted the need to close one of the most unfair tax loopholes that allows companies to avoid paying taxes here at home by shifting their residence for tax purposes out of the country. The President has put forth a budget that does just that, and he has called for business tax reform that makes investment in the United States attractive, and creates incentives for companies to invest and create jobs here at home. And while he will continue to make the case for tax reform, the President is calling on Congress to take action and close this loophole now.

    Transcript | mp4 | mp3

  • This week, some astronauts stopped by the White House (hint: think 1969), we talked about "inversions" (more on that later), the President awarded the Medal of Honor, and the Vice President got a marker and white board and gave us a little bit of history on our nation's infrastructure.

    Check out what else you may have missed in this week's wrap up.


    "You Are Why I Ran for President in the First Place"

    Yesterday, President Obama spoke under sunny skies at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. He talked about the progress that we've made since he took office and training our workers for a 21st-century economy.

    Watch on YouTube

    The President called for a new sense of optimism and collective patriotism in this country: "Cynicism is a choice, and hope is a better choice. And if we can work together, I promise you there's no holding America back."

    He also talked about something known as "inversions." What's an "inversion," you ask? Learn more here.

  • This week, the President introduced a historic Executive Action for LGBT rights, continued to address the ongoing conflicts in the Ukraine and Gaza, hosted a town hall in support of his My Brother's Keeper Initiative, and traveled to California to deliver his response to some very striking letters he'd received ... in person. 

    Watch on YouTube

  • This afternoon, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, took to Tumblr to answer some of your questions on the President's newest Executive Order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. She also answered your questions on marriage equality, bullying prevention, Star Wars, and more.

    If you missed the live event, you can check out a full recap right here:

  • Last year, over 114,000 of you made your voice heard and petitioned the Administration to restore a basic consumer freedom: to take your mobile service — and a phone or tablet you already own — to the carrier that best suits your needs. 

    It's common sense, good for competition and innovation, and essential to consumers.  That's why the Administration declared last March that "It's time to legalize cell phone unlocking," and today the President commended Congress for doing just that:

    I applaud Members of Congress for passing the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. Last year, in response to a "We the People" petition from consumers across our country, my Administration called for allowing Americans to use their phones or mobile devices on any network they choose. We laid out steps the FCC, industry, and Congress should take to ensure copyright law does not undermine wireless competition, and worked with wireless carriers to reach a voluntary agreement that helps restore this basic consumer freedom. The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget. I commend Chairmen Leahy and Goodlatte, and Ranking Members Grassley and Conyers for their leadership on this important consumer issue and look forward to signing this bill into law.

    Everyone has done their part to get here -- from the FCC convening carriers, to the industry agreeing to voluntary steps to make their unlocking process transparent and reliable.  And as he said today, the President looks forward to signing this bill into law. It's just one more way he is taking the lead in making life a little easier for the middle class, and ensuring our technology remains the envy of the world.

    You called, the President answered, and together we made cell phone unlocking happen.

  • Tomorrow marks the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) -- a landmark law that transformed American society for people with disabilities. It provided for full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for those of us living with disabilities, and also provided Americans with disabilities with legal remedies to safeguard all of those rights.

    Watch the President’s ADA anniversary message below:

    Watch on YouTube

    Read the President’s proclamation in support of the anniversary here.

  • In September 2009, the President announced that—for the first time in history—White House visitor records would be made available to the public on an ongoing basis. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were generated in April 2014. This release brings the total number of records made public by this White House to more than 3.81 million—all of which can be viewed in our Disclosures section.

  • Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the USDA Blog, see the original post here.

    These days, it seems like it’s easier than ever to turn a good idea into reality. This is the era of Kickstarter, where entrepreneurs can connect with potential investors at the click of a button.

    Of course, it takes more than money to grow an idea. It takes an atmosphere that fosters creativity and rewards innovation. And at a deeper, less obvious level, it requires strong, secure infrastructure—roads and bridges, but also internet access and community facilities like hospitals and schoolsthat improves connectivity and access to information, moves products to market, and makes communities competitive and attractive to new businesses and investments.

    Part of the challenge we face in rural America is that in too many places, infrastructure is outdated and cannot support the same kinds of opportunities that are easily found in cities and larger towns.

  • Meet Deric.

    Deric Richardson had been out of work for over a year. He had a GED and a Microsoft Office certificate, but needed an opportunity to improve his skills. That opportunity came in the form of tuition-free training in laboratory skills provided by the nonprofit BioTechnical Institute of Maryland. Shortly after successfully completing the training, Deric was hired by Baltimore-based Paragon Bioservices in July 2010.

    Today, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez is traveling to Baltimore to meet with him.

    Deric’s story is just one great example of how job-driven training is working for Americans across the country. When we talk about "job-driven" training, we're talking about making sure we're providing people with the skills that employers are looking for right now to fill available jobs. Earlier this week, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which will elevate more job-driven programs like BTI.

    This is the second in a series of “day in the life” trips Secretary Perez -- in addition to other secretaries across the President's cabinet -- will be taking over the next few months. It's a chance to talk directly with the people the Labor Department works for every day.

    We want to make sure you see what he sees, too. Follow along today to see live updates and highlights from Secretary Perez’s day.

  • The upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which is the largest single engagement by any U.S. President with our African partners, will help the United States play a driving role in the continent’s future development.

    Many Americans are aware that sub-Saharan Africa is a fast-growing region with tremendous potential, but they may not know about significant plans to develop infrastructure across the continent. We believe that these plans represent enormous business opportunities for U.S. companies of all sizes, and that is why we have invited key African decision-makers to meet with private-sector leaders in Chicago and Houston prior to the Summit.

    These African Leaders’ Visits, which the U.S. Trade and Development Agency is partnering with the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Energy to host from July 30 to August 1, will highlight the United States’ experience fostering economic growth through key infrastructure investments. These Visits are the only commercially focused events to take African leaders to major U.S. cities outside of Washington, D.C. on the occasion of the Summit.

  • Watch on YouTube

    This afternoon, President Obama addressed an excited and energized crowd under sunny skies at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. 

    In his remarks, the President said that he was excited to be back in L.A., where he spent a few "good years" in college -- and quickly explained what he was there to talk about.

    "I’m here because I am listening to Kati’s story," the President said. Kati Koster wrote a letter to the President a couple years ago about the effect of student loans. Kati introduced the President -- and the President sat down with Kati and three other Americans earlier in the day at Canter's Deli, to chat about the issues that matter to them.

    I’m listening to Americans all across the country, everybody who works their tail off, is doing the right thing, who believes in the American Dream, just wants a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their family. You are why I ran for President in the first place.

  • Chances are you’ve heard of the Affordable Care Act – President Obama’s landmark health reform law that’s holding insurance companies accountable, lowering health care costs, giving Americans more freedom and control in their health care choices, and improving the quality of care.

    One part of the act that you may not be as familiar with, however, is the “80/20 rule” – also known as the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rule – which went into effect in 2011.

    The rule generally requires health insurance companies in the individual and small group markets to spend at least 80% of the premium dollars they collect on medical care or activities to improve health care quality. And that increases to 85% for insurance companies in the large group market.

    Today, the Department of Health and Human Services released some new numbers showing just how much this rule has saved consumers over the last few years.

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