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  • New estimates out today from the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that national health expenditures rose at historically slow rates in 2013, continuing the exceptionally slow growth in health costs seen in recent years. This slow growth, which is thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act, is already generating major benefits for both the Federal budget and our economy.

    The near-term outlook in today’s report is also encouraging. Consistent with recent surveys reporting that millions of Americans gained health insurance coverage over the Affordable Care Act’s initial open enrollment period, the Actuaries project a sharp reduction in the number of uninsured Americans over the next few years due to the new coverage options made available under the Affordable Care Act. Unsurprisingly, the Actuaries predict that this dramatic expansion in coverage and access to care will temporarily increase growth in aggregate health care spending. But, consistent with a variety of incoming data, their projections imply that underlying growth in health care prices and per-enrollee spending – the factors that determine the premiums and cost-sharing that families face – will remain subdued over the next few years.

    Over the long term, health expenditure projections are always more uncertain. While the Actuaries project that the recent slowdown will largely dissipate as economic recovery continues, the balance of the evidence implies that much of the recent health care spending slowdown has been driven by structural changes, which suggests that a significant portion may persist. Because of the large size of the nation’s health care sector, if even a modest portion of the recent slowdown continues in the long run, it would have a transformative effect on the Federal budget, families’ budgets, and the economy as a whole. For example, even if as little as one-third continues, then, by 2023, national health expenditures would be $1,200 per person lower than if costs returned to their prior trend. In the years ahead, the Administration will continue its efforts to create a health care delivery system that consistently provides efficient, high-quality care, with the goal of making that transformation a reality.

  • President Obama Speaks to the People of Estonia

    President Barack Obama waves to the crowd after delivering remarks at Nordea Concert Hall in Tallinn, Estonia, Sept. 3, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    At the Nordea Concert Hall in Tallinn, Estonia today, President Obama spoke to students, young professionals, and civic leaders about the enduring strength and promise of democracy. "I am honored to be the first President of the United States to deliver an address like this to the people of Estonia," he said. 

    The President first reflected on the history of the Baltic people's fight to secure democracy across the region: 

    Exactly 25 years ago, people across the Baltics came together in one of the greatest displays of freedom and non-violent resistance that the world has ever seen.

    On that August evening, perhaps two million people stepped out of their homes and joined hands -- a human chain of freedom, the Baltic Way.  And they stretched down highways and across farmlands, from Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius. They lit candles and they sang anthems.  Old men and women brought out their flags of independence.  And young parents brought their children to teach them that when ordinary people stand together, great change is possible.  

    Here in Estonia, when people joined the line, the password was “freedom.”  As one man said that day, “The Berlin Wall is made of brick and concrete.  Our wall is stronger.”  And it was. Within months, that wall in Berlin was pushed open.  The next year, the Baltic peoples finally voted in elections. And when the forces of the past made their last grab for power, you stood up.

  • This morning, in a joint press conference with President Ilves of Estonia, President Obama gave the following statement about the murder of journalist Steven Sotloff.

    Finally, I want to say that today the prayers of the American people are with the family of a devoted and courageous journalist, Steven Sotloff. Overnight, our government determined that, tragically, Steven was taken from us in a horrific act of violence. We cannot even begin to imagine the agony that everyone who loved Steven is feeling right now, especially his mother, his father and his younger sister. So today, our country grieves with them.

    Like Jim Foley before him, Steve’s life stood in sharp contrast to those who have murdered him so brutally. They make the absurd claim that they kill in the name of religion, but it was Steven, his friends say, who deeply loved the Islamic world. His killers try to claim that they defend the oppressed, but it was Steven who traveled across the Middle East, risking his life to tell the story of Muslim men and women demanding justice and dignity.

    Whatever these murderers think they’ll achieve by killing innocent Americans like Steven, they have already failed. They have failed because, like people around the world, Americans are repulsed by their barbarism. We will not be intimidated. Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists. And those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget, and that our reach is long and that justice will be served.

    You can read the full text of the joint press conference here.

  • Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson signed two landmark bills, ushering in a new era of conservation.

    The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act codifies the simple premise that when we take something from the earth, we have a responsibility to give something back. Using revenues from offshore oil and gas development, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has made critical investments in nearly every county in the United States. The LWCF has been used to increase access to the outdoors for hunting, fishing, and other recreation, to protect iconic places like National Parks and Civil War battlefields, and to advance over 40,000 local projects.

    Thanks to the Wilderness Act, more than 109 million acres of wild land have received our country’s strongest protections, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy these places as they are today, and as they were hundreds of years ago. Designated wildernesses promote clean air and water, provide habitat for iconic wildlife, and protect places of incomparable natural beauty for all Americans to experience and enjoy.

    But more than that, these laws protect what the novelist Wallace Stegner called “the geography of hope,” a vision of the American continent in all its vastness, its wildness, its natural power. “Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed,” Stegner wrote in 1960. “We need wilderness preserved — as much of it as is still left, and as many kinds — because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed.”

  • Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest released the following statement about U.S. Military personnel in Iraq.

    Today, the President authorized the Department of Defense to fulfill a Department of State request for approximately 350 additional U.S. military personnel to protect our diplomatic facilities and personnel in Baghdad, Iraq. This action was taken at the recommendation of the Department of Defense after an extensive interagency review, and is part of the President's commitment to protect our personnel and facilities in Iraq as we continue to support the Government of Iraq in its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). These additional forces will not serve in a combat role.

  • The innovation and industry of the American worker are the foundations of the world’s largest economy and strongest middle class. A key part of what makes our economy so dominant is what we build here in America. Our electronics, medical equipment, cutting-edge machines, and top-of-the line vehicles are just some of the growing number of exports that are strengthening our economy and creating good-paying jobs here at home.

    In fact, a new report from the Department of Commerce shows that America’s goods and services exports directly supported more than 11.3 million American jobs in 2013, with goods exports alone supporting about 7.1 million of those jobs in communities across the country. Texas exports, for example, supported nearly 1.1 million jobs, more than any other state. The city of Houston topped all other metropolitan areas, creating $115 billion in goods exports.

    Check out this map to see how many people are making a living thanks to products that are made in America:

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

    The Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce today released two new reports that further prove exports are strengthening our economy and creating good jobs. I am very pleased that for the very first time, our department has released data detailing the number of jobs supported by goods exports in 2013 in each of the 50 states. A second report released today highlights the level of goods exports achieved by each of the nation's 387 Metropolitan Statistical Areas.

    Back in 2010, President Obama launched the first-ever national strategy to increase exports, the National Export Initiative (NEI), with the idea that American businesses could lead our economic recovery by selling more of their goods and services to markets all over the world. The NEI has been a remarkable success. The United States has broken export records for four straight years, hitting an all-time high of $2.3 trillion last year, up $700 billion from 2009. And just four years after NEI was launched, we know that 1.6 million more Americans have export-supported jobs, bringing the total to 11.3 million Americans who wake up every day and go to work in jobs supported by exports.

    Today’s new data show more evidence of the NEI’s success. The first report released today, Jobs Supported by Goods Exports from States in 2013, breaks down the national total of jobs supported by good exports in 2013, 7.1 million, into estimates of the number of jobs in each state that are supported by goods exports. Texas exports supported more jobs – an estimated 1.1. million – than were supported by the exports from any other single state. Data show that goods exports from Texas, California, Washington, Illinois and New York supported an estimated 3 million jobs, or 43 percent of all U.S. jobs supported by exports in 2013.

  • Watch on YouTube

    Yesterday, the President celebrated Labor Day by visiting the city of Milwaukee for Laborfest, an annual festival hosted by the local AFL-CIO. While there, he spoke on a number of issues -- most notably the need to raise the minimum wage for America's workers.

    Kicking off his remarks, the President said that Labor Day belongs to the "working folks who are here today, and the unions who've always had your back," and emphasized the importance of building our economy from the middle class out:

    I didn't run for President to double down on top-down economics. I ran for President because I believed in bottom-up economics. I believed in middle-out economics. I placed a bet on you. I placed a bet on America’s workers. I put my money on American workers and the belief that our economy grows best when everybody has got a shot -- when folks who are willing to work hard can get into the middle class and stay in the middle class. And I’ve come back to Laborfest to say that because of your hard work, because of what we’ve been through together, that bet is starting to pay off.

  • Watch on YouTube

    In a video released this morning, President Obama addresses the people of West Africa about the Ebola outbreak that is currently affecting the countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Nigeria.

    The President reiterates in the video that, along with our partners around the world, the United States is working with these countries' governments to help stop the disease. The first step in this fight, however, is knowing the facts -- which is why the President also outlines the details about the transmission and treatment of Ebola.

    "Stopping this disease won't be easy," he says, "but we know how to do it." The President also notes that our countries can work together to improve public health to prevent similar outbreaks from happening in the future.

  • This afternoon, Labor Secretary Tom Perez sent the message below to the White House email list, asking people to add their name in support of raising the federal minimum wage.

    Didn't get the email? Sign up for updates here.


    Hi, everyone --

    This Labor Day, I'm thinking about Austraberta.

    I had breakfast at Austraberta Rodriguez's home in Houston two weeks ago. She's worked as a janitor for more than 30 years, and for most of that time, her wages put her below the poverty level. Every cent she's earned has gone toward providing the basics for her children and grandchildren. Today, she's still earning the minimum wage -- which, in Texas, is just $7.25 an hour.

    Austraberta Rodriguez with her grandchildren

    Austraberta told me over breakfast that a national minimum wage increase would mean more bread for her family. She said a few more dollars an hour would be "incredible." That raise wouldn't just go toward making Austraberta's life a little better. It would improve the odds for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren too.

    Austraberta's struggle is our struggle. On Labor Day, we celebrate all workers nationwide who contribute to our strength and prosperity. Because whether you made the burger or someone served it to you, whether you're driving the bus or riding on it, whether you're sweeping the floor or working in the clean office, you have a part to pla​y.

    So today, if you're ready for a country that does right by Austraberta and the nearly 28 million Americans who stand to benefit from a $10.10 minimum wage, then honor them by adding your name here.

  • The recent labor market data have been encouraging. Businesses have now added nearly 10 million jobs over 53 straight months of job growth, the longest streak on record. Total job gains have exceeded 200,000 in each of the last six months, the first time that has happened since 1997. And the unemployment rate has fallen rapidly since mid-2013 to reach 6.2 percent in July, 1.1 percentage point less than a year ago.

    Of particular note, much of the decline in the unemployment rate has come as a result of declines in long-term unemployment. In fact, falling long-term unemployment accounts for more than 60 percent of the drop in the overall unemployment rate in the last 12 months. This is a disproportionately large share given that one-third of the jobless are long-term unemployed.

    The long-term unemployment rate has been cut by more than half from a peak of 4.4 percent in April 2010 — the highest ever recorded — to 2.0 percent in July 2014. Of that 2.4 percentage point decline, 0.7 percentage point has happened since last July, an even larger decline than seen with the short-term unemployment rate. Nevertheless, because the long-term unemployment rate more than quadrupled as a result of the recession, the declines seen recently are still not yet sufficient to return long-term unemployment to pre-recession levels.  

  • President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Aug. 29, 2014.

    President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Aug. 29, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    In this week’s address, the President wished Americans a happy Labor Day weekend, highlighted the important economic progress we’ve made, and reaffirmed his commitment to accelerate our progress and ensure that our growing economy fuels a strong middle class.

    To do this, the President reiterated that Congress should do right by hardworking Americans across the country and raise the minimum wage, and he praised the 13 states and Washington, D.C. as well as employers large and small who have heeded his call and taken action to provide their citizens and employees a fair wage.

    The President underscored that America built the world’s greatest middle class by making sure that everyone who’s willing to work hard and play by the rules can get ahead – an economic patriotism worth remembering this Labor Day, and every day.

    Transcript | mp4 | mp3

  • This week, the White House celebrated Women's Equality Day, the National Park Service celebrated its 98th birthday, and President Obama addressed the American Legion, the nation's largest veteran service organization.

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


    Women's Equality Day

    This past Tuesday, the White House celebrated Women's Equality Day -- commemorating the certification of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1920, securing women's right to vote. Although we've made a lot of progress in the decades since, there is still much work to be done.

    Throughout the day, White House economist Betsey Stevenson also took over the popular "I Love Charts" Tumblr blog to tell the story of the progress we’ve made in closing the earnings gap between women and men, and the challenges women still face in the workforce. See her charts 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 May 2014. This release brings the total number of records made public by this White House to more than 3.89 million -- all of which can be viewed in our Disclosures section.

  • As part of President Obama’s effort to achieve smarter and more effective approaches to international regulation, today I am pleased to announce the release of the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Joint Forward Plan. The Forward Plan represents a significant pivot point for our regulatory cooperation relationships with Canada, and outlines new federal agency-level partnership arrangements to help institutionalize the way our regulators work together. 

    The Forward Plan will remove duplicative requirements, develop common standards, and identify potential areas where future regulation may unnecessarily differ. This kind of international cooperation on regulations between the United States and Canada will help eliminate barriers to doing business in the United States or with U.S. companies, grow the economy, and create jobs.

    Regulatory cooperation has to mean more than just “aligning” specific rules across the border; such a rule-by-rule approach is neither practical nor scalable enough to meet our ever-changing regulatory environments. We need to think more broadly and creatively on how to build cooperative frameworks to achieve our economic and regulatory policy goals in a more dynamic manner.

    That is why the Forward Plan identifies 24 areas of cooperation that the United States and Canada will work together to implement over the next three to five years in order to modernize our thinking around international regulatory cooperation and develop a toolbox of strategies to address international regulatory issues as they arise. 

  • This week, the White House honored two important anniversaries for women's rights and civil rights, and the President announced new actions to improve access to quality health care for veterans.

  • President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Economy, Iraq, and Ukraine

    President Barack Obama delivers a statement in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, August 28, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    At the White House this afternoon, President Obama provided an update on important issues ahead of his attendance at the NATO Summit in the United Kingdom next week.  

    The President first addressed the "number one thing that most Americans care about" -- our economy. He noted that the economy is growing "at a stronger clip" than predicted and that we have more work to do to continue this momentum: 

    This morning, we found out that our economy actually grew at a stronger clip in the 2nd quarter than we originally thought.  Companies are investing.  Consumers are spending.  Over the past four and a half years, our businesses have created now nearly 10 million new jobs. So there are reasons to feel good about the direction we’re headed.  But as everybody knows, there’s a lot more we should be doing to make sure more Americans benefit from the progress that we've made and I am going to be pushing Congress hard on this when they return next week.

    As the U.S. military continues to carry out targeted airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and to address the humanitarian situation on the ground, the President reiterated his commitment as Commander-in-Chief to "always do what is necessary to protect the American people and defend against evolving threats to our homeland."


    "Our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader, comprehensive strategy to protect our people and to support our partners who are taking the fight to ISIL. And that starts with Iraq’s leaders building on the progress they’ve made so far and forming the inclusive government that will unite their country and strengthen their security forces to confront ISIL."


    The President reported that our strikes have cost ISIL terrorists arms and equipment, and Iraqi and Kurdish forces are continuing to push them back. The U.S. will consider a range of options but he made clear that a successful strategy will require working with an inclusive Iraqi government and strong regional partners to meet this threat:

    Now ISIL poses an immediate threat to the people of Iraq and the people throughout the region. And that’s why our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader, comprehensive strategy to protect our people and to support our partners who are taking the fight to ISIL. And that starts with Iraq’s leaders building on the progress they’ve made so far and forming the inclusive government that will unite their country and strengthen their security forces to confront ISIL.

    Any successful strategy, though, also needs strong regional partners. I’m encouraged so far that countries in the region -- countries that don’t always agree on many things -- increasingly recognize the primacy of the threat ISIL poses to all of them.  And I’ve asked Secretary Kerry to travel to the region to continue to build the coalition that’s needed to meet this threat.  As I’ve said, rooting out a cancer like ISIL will not be quick or easy but I’m confident that we can -- and we will -- working closely with our allies and partners. 

    For our part, I’ve directed Secretary Hagel and our Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare a range of options. I’ll be meeting with my National Security Council again this evening as we continue to develop that strategy. And I’ve been consulting with Congress and I’ll continue to do so in the days ahead.

  • President Obama today announced that he has asked U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to the President Todd Park to take on a new role for the Administration as a technology advisor based in Silicon Valley. Park will begin the new role in September after he and his family have returned home to California.

    Park’s focus will be recruiting more top tech talent like Mikey Dickerson into government and identifying innovative ways to improve the quality of government digital services, two central goals of the President’s Smarter IT Delivery agenda. He will also help ensure that the Administration has an on-the-ground sense of how technology is evolving and can craft policy and initiatives accordingly.

  • Ninety-four years ago this week, American women officially won the right to vote when the United States certified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The fight to secure that intrinsic right took generations, and nearly 100 years later, women continue to face persistent inequality and discrimination.

    In 2014, women are still fighting to make the principle of equal pay for equal work a reality. Though more and more women are becoming the primary breadwinners in their families, they continue to make less than their male counterparts at all income levels -- a gender pay gap that only widens as people get older.

    In fact, women who enter the workforce after graduating college are paid less in almost every field of study:

  • Today’s revision affirms that economic growth in the second quarter was strong, consistent with the recent string of solid job growth and improvements in other economic indicators. But there's more work that needs to be done to build on this momentum. That is why the President continues to act on his own to facilitate investment in American manufacturing, energy, and infrastructure, as well as take steps to improve the financial security of working families.

    FIVE KEY POINTS IN TODAY'S REPORT FROM THE BUREAU OF ECONOMIC ANALYSIS

    1. Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 4.2 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter of 2014, according to the second estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The strong second-quarter growth represents a rebound from a first-quarter decline in GDP that largely reflected transitory factors like unusually severe winter weather and a sharp slowdown in inventory investment. Growth in consumer spending and business investment picked up in the second quarter, and residential investment increased following two straight quarters of decline. Additionally, state and local government spending grew at the fastest quarterly rate in five years. However, net exports subtracted from overall GDP growth, as imports grew faster than exports. Real gross domestic income (GDI), an alternative measure of the overall size of the economy, was up 4.7 percent in Q2.

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