Our Top Stories
March 08, 2013
11:53 AM EDT
Editor's Note: this post originally appeared as part of a series for National Consumer Protection Week on ConsumerFinance.gov.
Filing taxes doesn’t have to be the worst. For some, tax time can offer an opportunity to set some money aside for goals or a rainy day.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit for low to moderate income working individuals and families. EITC can even reduce taxes and result in a refund. Last year, over 27 million consumers received nearly $62 billion in EITC.
Many people who are eligible for free tax services, for example, at IRS-approved Volunteer Income Tax Assistant (VITA) sites, pay to have their taxes prepared. Money saved by using free tax prep, added to part of a refund, could go right into a savings account or be used to pay down debt.
In addition to taking advantage of free tax services, there are many other ways to save. You can save automatically by having a portion of your refund or your paycheck deposited directly to a savings account.
Alan KruegerMarch 08, 2013
09:31 AM EDT
While more work remains to be done, today’s employment report provides evidence that the recovery that began in mid-2009 is gaining traction. Today’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that private sector businesses added 246,000 jobs in February. Total non-farm payroll employment rose by 236,000 jobs last month. The economy has now added private sector jobs every month for three straight years, and a total of 6.35 million jobs have been added over that period.
The household survey showed that the unemployment rate fell from 7.9 percent in January to 7.7 percent in February, the lowest since December 2008. The labor force participation rate edged down 0.1 percentage point to 63.5 percent in February.
It is important to bear in mind that the reference period for today’s surveys was the week of February 10-16 for the household survey and the pay period containing February 12th for the establishment survey, both of which were before sequestration began. The Administration continues to urge Congress to move toward a sustainable Federal budget in a responsible way that balances tax loophole closing, entitlement reform, and sensible spending cuts, while making critical investments in the economy that promote growth and job creation and protecting our most vulnerable citizens.
Adam GarberMarch 08, 2013
12:34 AM EDT
This week, the President urged Congress to resolve harmful budget cuts and reduce the deficit in a way that helps grow the economy and strengthen the middle class, held his first Cabinet meeting of the second term, announced three key Cabinet nominations, and signed the Violence Against Women Act.
March 07, 2013
07:01 PM EDT
Last week, I had the privilege of speaking with thousands of cybersecurity practitioners and stakeholders at the 2013 RSA Conference USA in San Francisco, CA.
The conference was an ideal venue for discussing the President’s new Executive Order on Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity (E.O. 13636) that was announced in this year’s State of the Union address. The E.O. will be the catalyst for a variety of new initiatives to develop cybersecurity standards, improve public-private information sharing, and ensure privacy and civil liberties protections. With so many cybersecurity professionals in one place, I and several senior leaders from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Commerce were able to provide in-depth explanations of the E.O., answer questions on its implementation, and engage with industry partners on how they can help.
Kori SchulmanMarch 07, 2013
04:55 PM EDT
Note: This live session of Office Hours has concluded. View the full question and answer session below or at Storify.com
Today, President Obama signed a bill that both strengthened and reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Thanks to the bipartisan agreement, thousands of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking will be able to access resources they need in their communities to help heal from their trauma.
Do you have questions about the Violence Against Women Act? On Friday, March 8th at 3:45 p.m. ET, we're holding a session of White House Office Hours on Twitter with Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, and Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, to answer your questions.
Here's how it works:
- Ask your questions now and during the live event on Twitter with the hashtag #WHChat
- Follow the Q&A live through the @WHLive and @VJ44 Twitter accounts
- If you miss the live session, the full session will be posted on WhiteHouse.gov and Storify.com/Whitehouse
Valerie JarrettMarch 07, 2013
03:59 PM EDT
Ed. note: This article by Valerie Jarrett was first published on the Huffington Post. You can read it here. On Friday, March 8th at 3:45 p.m. ET, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, will participate in a session of White House Office Hours to answers your questions about the Violence Against Women Act on Twitter. Ask questions now with #WHChat, and then follow the Q&A live.
Today, President Obama signed a bill that both strengthened and reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Thanks to this bipartisan agreement, thousands of women and men across the country who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking will be able to access resources they need in their communities to help heal from their trauma. In addition, thousands of law enforcement officers will be better equipped to stop violence before it starts, and respond to calls of help when they are needed.
President Obama and Vice President Biden have steadfastly supported reauthorization—it’s what’s right for our country. We thank Senators Patrick Leahy, Mike Crapo, and Patty Murray and Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Gwen Moore for guiding this legislation to passage.
For the past 18 years, since Vice President Biden initially wrote the Act in 1994, VAWA has helped to decrease the rates of domestic violence across the country. Three years ago, our federal interagency group on violence against women began meeting to consider gaps in our country’s response to this violence and make recommendations to Congress to fill those gaps. We are proud that many of these recommendations were included in the final bill. Now, we will be better equipped to recognize violence in its early stages, and help to reduce the number of domestic violence homicides.
Acting Secretary Rebecca BlankMarch 07, 2013
11:45 AM EDT
Ed. note: This is cross-posted from The Commerce Blog
Yesterday, I was in California to talk with business executives who are part of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. We discussed key issues facing them as they continue to grow, create jobs, and drive both innovation and competitiveness here in the U.S.
They just completed an annual survey of their own membership. The biggest business challenge that they identified was their ability to attract and retain a skilled workforce.
I let them know that President Obama understands that we are in a global competition for talent and we want the best people right here in the U.S.
I gave two examples that are part of his commonsense plan for immigration reform:
First, many foreign graduate students come to the U.S. and study areas like science, technology, engineering and mathematics—STEM fields—at our universities. Upon graduation, we can't afford to lose those high-skilled workers to a competitor nation simply because they can't get a green card. That's why we need to "staple" a green card to their degrees, especially if there is a U.S. company that needs their particular knowledge or expertise to keep growing and creating more American jobs.
March 07, 2013
11:13 AM EDT
Editor’s Note: On March 7, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns led the U.S. delegation to the Friends of Yemen ministerial meeting in London, United Kingdom. This meeting reaffirmed the international community’s continued support for the people of Yemen during their historic transition process, including the upcoming National Dialogue and, ultimately, national elections in early 2014. The United States is committed to the Friends of Yemen process and its goal of supporting Yemen as it endeavors to achieve meaningful political, economic, and security sector reform. As part of this commitment, Rashad Hussain, Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, recently traveled to Yemen.
As a part of our on-going efforts to deepen and expand partnerships with Muslim communities around the world, I recently visited Sana'a, Yemen. I heard first-hand from Yemeni government officials, civil society, and religious leaders about a variety of issues, including the country’s political transition and National Dialogue, U.S.-Yemen cooperation, and U.S. engagement with Muslim communities around the world. I was impressed by the passion and optimism of Yemen’s vibrant civil society, and by the determination and sincerity of its people. There is so much more happening in Yemen than what is conveyed in news headlines that I wanted to share some of my observations.
Just before my arrival, the government announced that the National Dialogue would officially begin on March 18. I spoke with a broad array of civil society activists about their goals and concerns about the National Dialogue. I encouraged the full and active participation of all parts of Yemeni society in the National Dialogue, and highlighted the important role that civil society plays in ensuring the Dialogue’s success.
March 06, 2013
03:25 PM EDT
Americans owe more than a trillion dollars in student loan debt. That’s more than we owe on credit cards, more than we owe on car loans – and it’s still growing.
So, if you’re going to invest in a college degree, we want you to be able to choose the best deal for your situation. Students are overwhelmed with options and aren’t sure how to compare them. In the absence of apples-to-apples comparisons, they’re left to their own devices when making a choice that will have significant consequences for their financial future.
Here is the suite of tools we’ve developed to help you along the way:
From start to finish, we can help you make informed financial decisions about paying for college.
While we can’t give you advice for your exact situation, we can point you in the right direction.
March 06, 2013
10:22 AM EDT
Post World War II, military veterans returned home to a community of veterans and a grateful nation that had shared in the sacrifice of war. These veterans used the brick and mortar posts of the American Legion and the VFW to maintain that esprit-de-corps. They mentored youth, advocated on veterans issues, shared war stories, and confided in each other over beers.
For generations, when veterans took off their uniform, their desire to serve did not end. That’s just as true today. Some very creative post 9/ll veterans’ charities have adapted to this desire and have created models for continued service and engagement. The Mission Continues provides fellowships for returning veterans to continue their service in the public sector. Ride 2 Recovery and Team RWB use the therapeutic effect of physical training to repair the physical and mental wounds of war. Our organization, Team Rubicon, uses continued service through disaster response as a means to maintain purpose, community, and a sense-of-self. Our work is inspired by our late friend Clay Hunt, who took his own life after leaving the service.
March 05, 2013
03:19 PM EDT
Tomorrow, the Senate will again consider the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a court which is in critical need of additional judges. President Obama first nominated Ms. Halligan to that important court in September 2010, but two and a half years later, Republicans in the Senate have yet to allow an up-or-down vote on her nomination.
Caitlin Halligan is exactly the kind of person who should be a judge: she is smart, fair, thoughtful and deeply committed to the Constitution and the rule of law. Consideration of her nomination should not be about politics. It should be about ensuring that highly qualified individuals who are willing to commit themselves to a lifetime of public service are treated fairly by the Senate, judged on their merits, and allowed a vote.
Ms. Halligan’s credentials are impeccable. She was an honor student at both Princeton University and the Georgetown University Law Center, where she served as managing editor of the Georgetown Law Journal. She clerked for former D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Patricia Wald and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, and she has served as counsel of record in more than 50 Supreme Court cases. She has personally argued five cases before the Supreme Court. She received the highest possible rating – unanimous well-qualified – from the non-partisan American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.
Inspired by her parents, who were both teachers, Ms. Halligan has devoted her professional career primarily to public service. Prior to law school, Ms. Halligan worked as a legislative aide for Representative William Alexander, Jr., focusing on health care and education for families in the Arkansas Delta region. She also worked at Georgians for Children, an organization dedicated to helping impoverished children and families. As a lawyer, her pro bono work has included serving as counsel to the Board of Directors of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which was tasked with overseeing the revitalization of lower Manhattan after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She also represented victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Colleen CurtisMarch 05, 2013
11:45 AM EDT
Ed note: The information on this graphic was updated on March 4, 2013
In his briefing today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney talked about Caitlin Halligan, who was nominated by President Obama to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Ms. Halligan, who has bipartisan support from lawyers and law enforcement, was put forward for this position in 2011.
Mr. Carney said there will be a cloture vote on the nomination of Caitlin Halligan tomorrow, 726 days after her nomination, and strongly urged the Senate to support an up-or-down vote for this well-qualified nominee. "When Republicans filibustered her nomination in 2011, several of them hung their objections – not on her qualifications or her judicial philosophy – but on the DC Circuit workload. In essence, they didn’t object to her as a judge, just that the seat did not need to be filled. But since then, there has been an additional vacancy, leaving the court with four vacancies (36 percent vacant) – in fact, the court has never been this understaffed in history, with 188 cases pending."
Ms. Halligan is not President Obama's only judicial nominee suffering endless delays for a vote. As the infographic below highlights:
- 78 percent of President Obama’s circuit court judges have waited more than 100 days for a vote, compared to 15 of President Bush’s nominees.
- This obstruction also applies to President Obama’s district court nominees. 42 percent of our district court judges have waited more than 100 days for a vote, compared to 8 of President Bush’s nominees.
- Further, the average wait time for our judicial nominees to get a vote on the floor of the Senate – both for the circuit court and the district court – is 3-4 times as long as those of our predecessor.
Kori SchulmanMarch 04, 2013
06:52 PM EDT
Ed. note: This post was originally published on the official Let's Move! website.
Earlier today, First Lady Michelle Obama joined her first ever Google+ Hangout live from the Blue Room of the White House. Continuing our series of “Fireside Hangouts” on Google+, Mrs. Obama participated in a virtual conversation about Let’s Move!, her initiative to ensure our nation’s kids grow up healthy and reach their full potential.
During the Hangout, the First Lady discussed the new Let’s Move! Active Schools program designed to bring physical activity back to schools, the importance of family dinner, steps to get healthier lunches into schools – and favorite dance moves (of course, it’s the dougie. And yes, everyone in the hangout dougied together.) Watch the full video:
March 04, 2013
03:52 PM EDT
We announced last week that we are doing a self-assessment of the U.S. National Action Plan on Open Government and were looking for your feedback about our implementation. We are meeting with civil society groups to solicit their feedback in person, and we set up ways for you to share your own feedback online through a dedicated Q&A site Quora, or through a web form on WhiteHouse.gov. And we take your feedback seriously.
Here’s proof: We heard from you that it would be helpful if we published the text of the President's directive extending whistleblower protections to the intelligence and national security communities for the first time. We decided you were right. Click here to find the directive.
March 04, 2013
03:01 PM EDT
Today, the U.S. Department of Labor is celebrating its centennial anniversary. For the past 100 years, the Department of Labor has worked to promote and advance the interests of families, workers, job seekers and retirees of the United States. While protecting the dignity of American workers, the Department has ensured workers have received safety protections and fair wages for their work. The Department of Labor is proud of its many important achievements, from providing the framework for the 40-hour work week to allowing parents to take leave for family emergencies. American workers have always been the backbone of our country and as another century stretches ahead, the Department remains committed to ensuring workers have more opportunities to build a better future.
- Watch this centennial video that tells the story of the Labor Department.
- Explore this interactive historical timeline that brings more detailed accounts of the Department’s challenges and achievements covering world wars to economic downturns.
- Read President Obama’s special proclamation to mark this important occasion
- View the DOL's special centennial web page.
Colleen CurtisMarch 04, 2013
02:31 PM EDT
President Obama today welcomed two new members to his Cabinet, as he held the 17th Cabinet meeting of his Presidency, and the first in 2013. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, the former White House Chief of Staff and OMB Director, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a former Senator from Nebraska, joined the President and other Cabinet members in the West Wing to discuss the potential impact of the sequester on all the agencies and missions, and ways to minimize the impacts on American families.
But the President made clear that while budget issues are a deep concern, he has confidence in the Cabinet leadership to steer all government agencies in making the best possible decisions to help American families. In his remarks before the meeting, President Obama laid out the other topics that were on his agenda -- growing the economy and helping families thrive:
We’re going to have the opportunity to talk about initiatives like early childhood education that can have an enormous impact on our kids and, ultimately, our growth and productivity. We’ll have a chance to hear from Joe and other members of the Cabinet about progress in reducing gun violence in this country.
So one of the things that I’ve instructed not just my White House but every agency is to make sure that, regardless of some of the challenges that they may face because of sequestration, we’re not going to stop working on behalf of the American people to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to continue to grow this economy and improve people’s prospects.
March 04, 2013
02:13 PM EDT
Have you ever bought something online and clicked the box that says “accept” without having any idea of what you’re actually accepting? Or maybe you looked at the fine print but it didn’t make any sense.
Or, you sit in an office with a salesperson who has a stack of paperwork for a product you’re financing. They give you a two-minute explanation of what it all means and ask if you have any questions. You say “no” because it’s embarrassing to say that you didn’t understand what they just said. And when they say “sign here” you do it. Congratulations! You’ve just bought an iPad for… $3,600?!!
So, what can servicemembers do when they’re confused at signing time?
If you can’t make heads or tails of a contract, take it to someone who can: your installation Personal Financial Manager or JAG. If the seller doesn’t want to give you a copy of the contract before you sign, that’s a red flag; so is pressure to sign it “right now, while the offer is still available!&rdquo Don’t be afraid to step away and say you want to take time to think the purchase over.
Megan SlackMarch 04, 2013
01:26 PM EDT
Today, President Obama announced his nominees for director of the Office of Management and Budget, Secretary of Energy and administrator of the EPA.
Sylvia Matthews Burwell, the President's pick for Office of Management and Budget Director, is an expert on budgetary and domestic policy. She served as Deputy Director of the OMB from 1998 to 2001, as well as Deputy Chief of Staff to the President and Chief of Staff to the Secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration.
President Obama said that Burwell "understands that our goal when we put together a budget is not just to make the numbers add up. Our goal is also to reignite the true engine of economic growth in this country, and that is a strong and growing middle class -- to offer ladders of opportunity for anybody willing to climb them."
Kori SchulmanMarch 03, 2013
01:19 PM EDT
Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama traveled around the country to celebrate the third anniversary of Let’s Move!, her initiative to ensure that all our children grow up healthy and reach their full potential.
Mrs. Obama highlighted great progress being made in schools, towns and businesses across America. She also announced several new programs that will help families make healthier choices and will enable our kids to be more physically active, including a new MyPlate partnership that identifies recipes that meet USDA nutrition standards on the largest food sites on the web, and the launch of Let's Move Active Schools, which empowers schools to find free or low-cost ways to incorporate movement before, during, and after the school day.
On Monday, March 4th at 11:10 a.m. ET, the celebration continues as the First Lady joins her first ever Google+ Hangout.
Mrs. Obama will participate in a completely virtual conversation from the Blue Room of the White House, speaking with families from around the country. The hangout will be moderated by Kelly Ripa, co-host of LIVE with Kelly and Michael, and we hope you’ll join, too!
Peter WelschMarch 02, 2013
10:18 AM EDT
On February 22nd, we welcomed twenty one programmers and tech experts to the White House and invited them to spend the day working alongside seven members of our own development team. Their goal was simple: to build tools using the new API for We the People, the White House petitions system, and contribute example code to a software development kit (SDK). For nine hours, these two groups clustered around each other's laptops, solving problems, sharing ideas, sharing code, and asking questions.
This was the first White House Open Data Day Hackathon.