The White House Blog: The Vice President
- Posted byon November 14, 2011 at 6:57 PM EST
At the end of October, the Senate confirmed John Bryson to head the U.S. Department of Commerce, and today, Vice President Biden was on hand to swear in the new Secretary at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Secretary Bryson comes to the job with decades of experience and deep knowledge of American business. Learn more about Bryson here.
- Posted byon November 4, 2011 at 5:29 PM EST
On Friday, Vice President Biden spoke to a group of students at the University of Pittsburgh. Making it easier to pay for college has been a top priority of the Middle Class Task Force and our entire Administration since the President and Vice President came into office. We stopped paying private lenders to act as middlemen for federal student loans, and invested the savings in student aid. We increased the maximum Pell Grant award by more than $800. And we created the American Opportunity Tax Credit to give students up to $10,000 over four years to help with tuition and other expenses.
Today, the Vice President focused on our latest initiative – capping student loan payments. Current law allows borrowers to limit their federal loan payments to 15 percent of their discretionary income and forgives all remaining debt after 25 years, or 10 years for graduates working in public service jobs. Last year, following a recommendation from the Middle Class Task Force, the President proposed, and Congress enacted, a plan to lower payments even further starting in 2014. But many students can’t wait until 2014 for relief. So last Wednesday, the President announced an executive action that will cap federal loan payments at 10% of discretionary income and shorten the forgiveness timeline to 20 years starting next year.
We estimate that this new cap lower payments for 1.6 million borrowers, including 60,000 Pennsylvanians. Many of these borrowers will save hundreds of dollars every month. For example, a teacher with $25,000 in debt and a $30,000 salary would see her monthly payments drop from $287 under the standard repayment plan to $114 under the new cap. You can learn more about our plan to help students here.
- Posted byon November 3, 2011 at 6:42 PM EST
This evening, Vice President Biden sent the email below to the White House email list. If you didn't get it, be sure to sign up for our list.
I want to make sure you heard a piece of news from Capitol Hill today.
This morning, Holly Petraeus, who has been leading an office at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect military families, went to Capitol Hill to highlight some of the most abusive practices our service members face in today's financial marketplace.
She explained that military families are the targets of predatory lenders. She talked about how many service members and their families struggle to make ends meet -- especially during deployments. And she said that the CFPB will help combat the lenders who try to take advantage of people with deceptive, unfair, and abusive lending practices.
But here's the thing: The Senate still hasn't confirmed President Obama's nominee to lead the CFPB, a former Attorney General from Ohio named Rich Cordray. The bureau needs a director to fully ensure that the debt collectors, private student loan providers, and payday loan providers are properly supervised and that consumers are not put at risk of falling prey to the same kinds of abusive practices that helped cause the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Rich has spent his career advocating for middle class families, and enjoys broad, bipartisan support from the elected officials, business leaders, and consumer groups who have worked with him.
- Posted byon November 1, 2011 at 1:22 PM EST
Last July, I wrote about a new and innovative effort to help address sexual assault and dating violence. While women of any age can be targets of this kind of abuse, young women aged 16-24, experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, and 1 in 5 will be a victim of sexual assault during college. Many of these assaults occur when the offender, often an acquaintance, has targeted and isolated a young woman in vulnerable circumstances. Moreover, sixty percent of college students who have been in an abusive relationship say no one helped them.
Working with the Office of the Vice President and the White House Office of Science and Technology, we launched the Apps Against Abuse technology challenge – calling on software innovators to harness the power of mobile technology to help prevent dating violence and abuse by keeping young adults connected to trusted friends and providing easy access to important resources for help including local police and abuse hotlines.
Today, we are pleased to announce the winners of the challenge: “Circle of 6” and “On Watch.” Prototypes of the two winning applications were selected from a pool of over 30 entries submitted to Challenge.gov.
Vice President Biden applauded the winning applications earlier today during a conference call with hundreds of college and university officials to discuss ongoing efforts to help better prevent and respond to sexual assault and violence on campuses across the country. He encouraged the college and university leaders to make students on their campuses aware of the applications when they become available for download in 2012.
- Posted byon October 21, 2011 at 4:10 PM EST
On Thursday night, Senate Republicans once again blocked a plan to put laid off cops and firefighters back to work protecting communities across the country. This partisan obstruction carries serious consequences – for the economy, and for the safety and wellbeing of all Americans.
State and local budget cuts have proven devastating to cities like Flint, Michigan, where Vice President Biden visited last week. More than half of the police force has been laid off in the past three years. In 2008, Flint employed 259 police officers. Now they have just 125. At the same time, violent crime increased.
Citing statistics from the City of Flint Police Department, Vice President Biden pointed to spikes in murder and rape to describe the heavy toll crime is taking in Flint.
Some have questioned the validity of the Flint statistics, because they differ from FBI figures, but city crime data can vary from FBI crime data due to different definitions of crime. This is particularly true when it comes to rape. Just this week the FBI took steps to begin to update the definition it uses – a definition that hasn’t been updated since 1927. The City of Flint defines rape differently and, therefore, collects that information differently.
City of Flint Public Safety Director Chief Alvern Lock said of the information provided to the Vice President, “This information is the most accurate data and demonstrates the rise in crime associated with the economic crisis and the reduced staffing levels.”
According to Chief Lock,"The discrepancies with the FBI and other sources reveal the differences in how crimes can be counted and categorized, based on different criteria." Experts agree that a police department’s statistics about local crime can be more up to date than the FBI’s.
But make no mistake, the debate over crime statistics distracts from the real issue. What’s happening in Flint is troubling. And communities across the country are facing similar tough situations.
The American Jobs Act contains $5 billion to help communities such as Flint rehire laid off cops and firefighters. It’s a shame that every single Republican in the Senate voted Thursday night to block putting those first responders back to work.
Let’s not lose sight of the real issue here. The fewer police officers on the street, the harder it is to fight crime, whether stolen cars or assaults.
“Anyone who would question the value or impact of having a marked police unit actively patrolling an urban neighborhood with high crime rates, has obviously never lived or tried to raise a family in such an environment,” said Camden, New Jersey Chief of Police J. Scott Thomson. “Often the presence of a uniformed officer is the determining factor of whether or not a disturbance escalates into an act of violence or order is maintained.”
Thomson continued, “Police leaders do need to have the capacity which also affords the flexibility to effectively deploy officers to combat the thugs and criminals that are negatively defining the lives of the residents in a community. This is why Camden (post layoff) has forsaken other functions and restructured its organization to have 92% of all available sworn personnel in a forward leaning position to address street crime and shape outcomes. “
As the Vice President said in Flint, “There are a few things everybody knows for a fact -- we can argue a lot about law enforcement. But we know one thing: The more law enforcement officers we have, the better opportunity to make our streets safe, our neighborhoods safe and our businesses and places of worship safe.”
Having enough officers means a department can deploy innovative strategies like community policing in high crime neighborhoods. These tactics reduce crime. So when a city like Flint has to cut community policing and can’t send patrol cars to park on the corner in a crime hot spot, they lose an important crime fighting tool.
“There is no question that the number of cops makes a difference when it comes to controlling crime rates,” says Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. “Whether it is a large department, midsize or small there is a staffing level that if you fall below, your ability to be effective on the street is impacted and as a result, crimes rates will rise.”
The American Jobs Act will provide help desperately needed by communities across the country, putting fire fighters and police officers back to work to keep neighborhoods safe.
- Posted byon October 19, 2011 at 2:40 PM EST
Yesterday, the Vice President traveled to Philadelphia to participate in a roundtable about the American Jobs Act with Chiefs of Police from the region.
Alongside Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske, and more than 10 local police chiefs, the Vice President underscored how the piece of the American Jobs Act the Senate is considering this week would put thousands of cops back on the job.
“I call on the members of Congress to step up this week. Step up and make a choice. Make a choice. Make a choice for the people in your district. Should they have more teachers back in school? Should they have more police on the beat? Should they have firefighters in the firehouse? Or should you save a millionaire from a $500 tax? Ladies and gentlemen, it's that basic and that simple.”
The Chiefs told the Vice President about the devastating impact budget cuts have had on their communities. Chief Scott Thomson of Camden, NJ, had to lay off 168 officers – nearly half of his force – in January of this year. In the wake of those layoffs, Camden has seen a 14 increase in violent crime, and homicide has risen 30 percent.
The story echoed what the Vice President heard last week in Flint, Michigan – a city that has also seen an uptick in crime and a significant increase in police response times after cutting their police force in half since 2008. Today, we released a video that shows what Flint’s first responders say the impact of the American Jobs Act would be:
- Posted byon October 19, 2011 at 9:53 AM EST
Vice President Biden was in Flint, Michigan to talk with fire fighters and police officers about the American Jobs Act.
Right now, local communities across the country are laying off first responders as policymakers struggle with budget cuts in the tough economy. It’s putting public safety at risk.
In Michigan, the Vice President said, "The President and I believe that the single-most basic obligation a government has -- it exceeds -- the single-most basic obligation is to keep its citizens safe. It’s literally -- everything flows from that. All our civil rights flow from being able to be safe in our streets, in our homes, our schools, our businesses. Everything flows from it.”
That's why the American Jobs Act calls for $5 billion for local governments to keep police and fire fighters on the job.
Watch the Vice President and listen to these first responders tell their stories about why these funds are so necessary.
- Posted byon October 16, 2011 at 7:48 PM EST
Today, nearly half a century after Martin Luther King, Jr. led the historic March on Washington for equality, tens of thousands came to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Dedication. The memorial to Dr. King has been open since August, but the dedication was delayed due to Hurricane Irene. As President Obama said, though delayed, "this is a day that would not be denied."
President Obama, joined by the First Family, toured the memorial and then spoke at the dedication ceremony in honor of Dr. King's work to make his dream a reality for all. During his speech, President Obama reminded us that the progress towards Dr. King's vision has not come easily and there is still more to do to expand opportunity and make our nation more just:
Our work is not done. And so on this day, in which we celebrate a man and a movement that did so much for this country, let us draw strength from those earlier struggles. First and foremost, let us remember that change has never been quick. Change has never been simple, or without controversy. Change depends on persistence. Change requires determination. It took a full decade before the moral guidance of Brown v. Board of Education was translated into the enforcement measures of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, but those 10 long years did not lead Dr. King to give up. He kept on pushing, he kept on speaking, he kept on marching until change finally came.
And then when, even after the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act passed, African Americans still found themselves trapped in pockets of poverty across the country, Dr. King didn’t say those laws were a failure; he didn’t say this is too hard; he didn’t say, let’s settle for what we got and go home. Instead he said, let’s take those victories and broaden our mission to achieve not just civil and political equality but also economic justice; let’s fight for a living wage and better schools and jobs for all who are willing to work. In other words, when met with hardship, when confronting disappointment, Dr. King refused to accept what he called the “isness” of today. He kept pushing towards the “oughtness” of tomorrow.
And so, as we think about all the work that we must do –- rebuilding an economy that can compete on a global stage, and fixing our schools so that every child -- not just some, but every child -- gets a world-class education, and making sure that our health care system is affordable and accessible to all, and that our economic system is one in which everybody gets a fair shake and everybody does their fair share, let us not be trapped by what is. We can’t be discouraged by what is. We’ve got to keep pushing for what ought to be, the America we ought to leave to our children, mindful that the hardships we face are nothing compared to those Dr. King and his fellow marchers faced 50 years ago, and that if we maintain our faith, in ourselves and in the possibilities of this nation, there is no challenge we cannot surmount.
- Posted byon October 14, 2011 at 3:10 PM EST
Vice President Biden traveled to two Michigan cities this week to highlight how the American Jobs Act would help put cops and firefighters back on the beat and help modernize schools.
In Flint, Michigan, the Vice President made clear how the Jobs Act would both create jobs and protect the nation's "most basic obligation" to keep our citizens safe by putting cops and firefighters back to work. Over the past 18 months, Flint has been has been forced to cut its police force in half due to budget cuts at the same time violent crime has increased in the city.
Nationally, in the past 18 months, 10,000 cops have been laid off around the country, while 30,000 police vacancies have gone unfilled. Thousands of firefighters were laid off between 2009 and 2010, and another 7,000 could face possible layoffs this year.
"It's hard enough to do your job in good economic times. It's a tough job in good times," the Vice President told a group of Flint cops and firefighters assembled inside the city's fire department on Wednesday. "But it's almost impossible to serve the total needs of the community in bad economic times when you get cut in half."
The American Jobs Act includes $5 billion to support public safety jobs across the country. It will also dramatically improve the way cops, firefighters and other first responders are able to communicate with each other during emergency situations by deploying a nationwide public safety broadband network.
"I don't buy people who say there is nothing we can do," said the Vice President. "This is a fight for the soul of this country. It's a fight for the middle class. ... It's about making sure America's fire departments, police departments continue to be a large part of the American fabric and be able to do their job. It's about reversing the cycle of crime and fire and unemployment, and starting a new cycle of jobs and prosperity. It's about keeping you safe so you can keep all of us safe. And it's about a President and I who are prepared to fight like crazy to do whatever we can to make sure that you have the resources to be able to protect us."
- Posted byon October 13, 2011 at 1:55 PM EST
This morning amidst a light rain, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed President Lee Myung-bak and First Lady Kim Yoon-ok of the Republic of Korea to the White House. During the Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn, President Obama spoke about the strength of the relationship between our two nations:
Today we celebrate an alliance rooted in the shared values of our people -- our service members who have fought and bled and died together for our freedom, our students and workers and entrepreneurs who work together to create opportunity and prosperity, and our families, bound by the generations, including many who are here today -- proud and patriotic Korean Americans.
President Lee, our two nations have stood together for more than 60 years. Over the past two years we’ve deepened our cooperation. Today, I'm proud to say that the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea is stronger than it has ever been.
President Lee Myung-bak also spoke of the historic friendship between the Korean people and Americans. Reflecting on visiting the Korean War Memorial yesterday to pay respects to the 37,000 American soldiers who lost their lives, he said:
It is written on a wall at that memorial that these American soldiers, “answer the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.” The simple yet poignant words describe how brace and good they were.
Mr. President, Madam First Lady, ladies and gentlemen, the Korean people have never forgotten what these fallen soldiers and their families gave up. We will always remain grateful to all of them.
Our alliance is the bedrock of stability, peace and progress, and our relationship is evolving. Our two countries are working together to fight disease and poverty, climate change and natural disasters. We are addressing the issues of energy security and eradicating terrorism and extremism, and stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.