Protecting the Middle Class News
- Posted byon November 28, 2011 at 5:33 PM EDT
The return of Cyber Monday brings great deals for consumers, but also serves as a reminder of the need for shoppers to be vigilant and for cybersecurity legislation to protect Americans from e-predators.
In 2005, the online retail industry declared the Monday after Thanksgiving to be Cyber Monday, a day that holiday shoppers could find bargains online akin to the promotions made available by walk-up stores on Black Friday. Consumers responded enthusiastically with almost half a billion dollars in purchases that year, a figure that jumped to over one billion dollars on Cyber Monday 2010—the first time ever that online spending in a single day exceeded the billion dollar figure, according to comScore. In an interesting twist, online retailers upped the ante this year by offering some holiday bargains on Black Friday exclusively via mobile devices, tempting shoppers with online bargains at the very moment they were navigating through the hordes of fellow shoppers last Friday.
The ever-increasing popularity of Cyber Monday mirrors the astonishing growth of online shopping year round. ComScore estimates that online retail shopping in the third quarter of 2011 amounted to over $36 billion in sales, a 13 percent increase from the previous year and the fourth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth rates. At this pace, retail e-commerce sales will exceed $160 billion for the year.
Yet the risk of cybercrime is real, including online identity theft that affects millions of Americans each year and causes billions of dollars of harm to the U.S. economy. In May the Administration proposed a legislative package that reflects the ideas of congressional leaders and that would enhance security for online shoppers as well as bolster the integrity of government networks and other critical infrastructure. It’s time to enact this legislative proposal and bolster cybersecurity and trust in the Internet, so that it remains an engine of innovation and economic growth.
Tom Power is Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Telecommunications
- Posted byon November 22, 2011 at 7:25 PM EDT
Right now, President Obama is going all out to extend the payroll tax cut for the middle class -- and expand it for 2012.
And that effort underscores an important fact: This President has proposed and enacted thousands of dollars of tax relief for American families and small businesses.
With that same piece of legislation, he created the American Opportunity Tax Credit -- which is currently helping more than 9 million families afford the cost of college.
The Recovery Act also lowered the threshold for refunds through the Child Tax Credit -- providing a tax cut to 11.8 million working families.
The President also expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit for families with three or more children -- giving them a tax cut of up to $640 this year.
President Obama has passed tax cuts for small businesses 17 times. These measures range from allowing corporation to expense 100 percent of their new investments until the end of 2011 to creating a new deduction for health care costs for the self-employed.
And just this week, the President also signed legislation to create tax credits for businesses that hire veterans.
If Congress passes the American Jobs Act, a typical family of four would see their taxes decrease an additional $2,325 -- bringing their total tax relief to about $5,425 for the President’s first term.
That number goes up if the family is helping their kids pay college tuition.
This lower tax rate hasn't come about through happenstance. It's a product of hard work from President Obama. Those of us in the middle class have more money in our pockets because the President made it a priority.
And it's going to take more hard work between now and the end of the year to keep things that way.
- Posted byon November 22, 2011 at 5:55 PM EDT
In 40 days, our taxes will go up -- unless Congress steps in to change that. And speaking from New Hampshire today, President Obama talked about that situation:
[Last] year, both parties came together to cut payroll taxes for the typical household by $1,000 this year. That’s been showing up in your paychecks each week. You may not know it, but it’s been showing up because of the action that we took. Which reminds me, by the way, the next time you hear one of these folks from the other side coming in talking about raising your taxes, you just remind them that ever since I’ve gotten into office, I’ve lowered your taxes, haven’t raised them. That’s worth reminding them. But this payroll tax is set to expire at the end of next month. End of next month, end of the year, this tax cut ends. And if we allow that to happen -– if Congress refuses to act -– then middle-class families are going to get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time. For the average family, your taxes will go up $1,000 if Congress does not act by the end of the month.
Now, we can’t let that happen. Not right now. It would be bad for the economy. It would be bad for employment.
The American Jobs Act, the President said, actually does one better. It expands expands the tax cut for individuals and cuts payroll taxes for small business owners:
Instead of a $1,000-a-year tax cut next year, the average working family would get a tax cut of more than $1,500. And that’s $1,500 that would have been taken out of your paycheck, would instead be going into your pocket. And that means you’d be spending in small businesses, and that would increase their business, which means they would potentially hire more people.
The American Jobs Act would also cut payroll taxes in half for small business owners. Say you have 50 employees making $50,000 apiece. You’d get a tax cut of nearly $80,000. That is real money that you can use to hire new workers or buy new equipment.
When Congress takes up this issue after the holiday, the President said, lawmakers have a choice:
Do you want to cut taxes for the middle class and those who are trying to get into the middle class? Or do you want to protect massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, many of whom want to actually help? Do you want to help working families get back on solid ground and grow this economy for all of us? Or do you really want to vote to raise taxes on nearly 160 million Americans during the holidays? When push comes to shove, are you willing to fight as hard for working families as you are for the wealthiest Americans? What’s it going to be? That’s the choice.
- Posted byon November 22, 2011 at 4:30 PM EDT
All across the country, thousands of Americans spend a great amount of time commuting to their jobs. This is precious time that could be spent with their families and not sitting in traffic. As our families grow and our lives get busier, living close to work becomes vital to our quality of life. We are constantly looking for a better solution, something to make things just a little bit easier.
Now, thanks to nearly $96 million in Sustainable Communities Awards announced this week, 27 communities and 29 regions across the country will be able to establish a more livable, equitable, and economically competitive future. These funds, awarded to two grant programs, are poised to help change the face of communities across the country.
The Community Challenge Grants aim to reform and reduce barriers to achieving affordable, economically vital and sustainable communities. Awarded to large and small communities, these funds will help address local challenges to integrating transportation and housing. Funds awarded to communities may also be used to retrofit main streets to provide safer routes for children and seniors and to preserve affordable housing and local businesses near new transit stations.
The Regional Planning Grants allows grantees to support efforts that integrate housing, land-use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure developments. This will empower regions to consider how all of these factors work together to create more jobs and economic opportunities.
As a direct result of this funding thousands of jobs will be created and will impact the lives of 45.8 million Americans. This means that 45.8 million Americans will be able to spend less time in their cars and more time at home with their families.
- Posted byon November 21, 2011 at 8:31 PM EDT
Watch President Obama's full remarks here.
President Obama addressed that situation from the White House Briefing Room just before 6:00 PM ET.
While some members of Congress are talking about undoing the automatic spending cuts that will take effect in 2013 if lawmakers can't reach a compromise, the President said that kind of backpeddling is unacceptable:
I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off ramps on this one.
There is still plenty of time for Congress to act, and there are a range of issues that demand their immediate attention.
That starts with the payroll tax cut. Without a vote from Congress, taxes for nearly every American will go up on January 1st.
"I'm not about to let that happen," President Obama said.
- Posted byon November 21, 2011 at 6:51 PM EDT
This morning, President Obama signed the "VOW to Hire Heroes Act" into law, telling those in attendance:
Back in September, I sent Congress a jobs bill. And in it, I proposed a tax credit for any business that hires a veteran who’s been unemployed for at least four weeks. I proposed an even bigger tax break if a business hires a veteran who’s been unemployed for at least six months. And if a business hires an unemployed veteran with a disability related to their service, I proposed doubling the tax break that we already have in place.
Today, because Democrats and Republicans came together, I’m proud to sign those proposals into law. And I urge every business owner out there who’s hiring to hire a veteran right away.
And it's just one part of the President's plan to put the American people back to work. At the bill signing, he told lawmakers that families all over the country are demanding the same kind of bold, bipartisan action.
"My message to every member of Congress is keep going," President Obama said, "Keep working."
- Tax credits for employers who hire unemployed veterans and veterans with service-connected disabilities are just one important part of the Obama Administration's plan to to help veterans translate their military skills for the civilian workforce. New online tools are available to aid their search for jobs, and the Administration has partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and the private sector to make it easier to connect our veterans with companies that want to hire them.
- Read the story of Jason Hansman, who managed hundreds of reconstruction projects that totaled millions of dollars while serving in Iraq, but receieved only one job offer, to fill a night mall cop position.
- Read the story of Navy veteran Eric Smith, who has more than five years experience as a military medic, but works today as a hospital janitor.
- Read the story of Maria Canales, an Army veteran who spent nearly four years looking for a job because she had trouble communicating how the skills she learned in the military prepared her to be an excellent employee in the civilian workforce.
- Posted byon November 11, 2011 at 1:30 PM EDT
Watch small business owners talk about the American Jobs Act here.
On Thursday, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate did the right thing and voted to pass tax credits that will encourage businesses to hire America’s veterans. A group of business owners who recently met with the White House Business Council say they hope that Congress will pass the other provisions in the American Jobs Act and support their efforts to grow their companies and create jobs in their communities.
- Posted byon November 9, 2011 at 2:35 PM EDT
Yesterday was Election Day across the country, and last night, once the results were known, Vice President Joe Biden issued a statement congratulating the people of Ohio for rejecting Issue 2 -- a law that would have stripped public employees of their collective bargaining rights.
The Vice President said:
Tonight the people of Ohio delivered a gigantic victory for the middle class with their overwhelming rejection of a Republican attempt to strip away collective bargaining rights. Fundamental fairness has prevailed. By standing with teachers and firefighters and cops, Ohio has sent a loud and clear message that will be heard all across the country: The middle class will no longer be trampled on. The people of Ohio are to be congratulated.
Press Secretary Jay Carney echoed those thoughts:
The President congratulates the people of Ohio for standing up for workers and defeating efforts to strip away collective bargaining rights, and commends the teachers, firefighters, nurses, police officers, and other workers who took a stand to defend those rights.
In his joint address to Congress to introduce the American Jobs Act, President Obama touched on the importance of collective bargaining -- and why doing away with those rights is not the way to get people back to work:
I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy. We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top. And I believe we can win that race.
The Ohio measure lost in a landslide, with 62 percent of voters choosing to reject the law.
- Posted byon November 7, 2011 at 4:24 PM EDT
On Monday morning, the Census Bureau released findings that provide a more accurate look at the impact public policy has on poverty. These data demonstrate that policies supported and extended by the President to give a helping hand to those hit hardest by the recession – tax cuts for working families, assistance for basic food costs and school lunches, and help with housing – kept millions of Americans out of poverty last year.
Additionally, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a new report based on the Census Bureau’s new data which found that provisions passed as part of the Recovery Act directly lifted nearly 7 million Americans out of poverty in 2010 and reduced poverty for 32 million more. This is on top of 6 million people lifted out of poverty by these policies in 2009. And these numbers are conservative estimates that do not reflect the indirect benefits from the jobs created through these policies.
In contrast to this approach, Republicans in Congress opposed all of these measures and passed a budget that would both cut back on many of these programs and also convert them into block grants, which would prevent them from automatically expanding in hard times. Had we followed that path, many more Americans would be in poverty today.
- Posted byon November 5, 2011 at 5:30 AM EDT
Speaking from the University of Pittsburgh, Vice President Biden argues that this month’s jobs numbers demonstrate that Congress should pass the American Jobs Act to strengthen our economy and create jobs right away.
Watch Vice President Biden's full remarks here.
- Posted byon November 4, 2011 at 6:29 PM EDT
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 5:12 PM EDT
This morning, Holly Petraeus -- the assistant director for the Office of Servicemember Affairs in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- testified before the Senate Banking Committee.
She was there to talk about the way that predatory lenders often target servicemembers and how military families cope with economic hardships -- especially during deployments.
She told Senators:
In my role as a military family member, I have seen the problems that can arise for our servicemembers who may experience “too much month and not enough money.” I have also seen first-hand the devastating impact financial scams and predatory lending can have on servicemembers and their families. Unfortunately there are still too many young troops learning about wise spending through hard experience and years of paying off expensive debt.
Her remarks make a powerful argument for the ways that the CFPB will help combat the lenders who try to take advantage of consumers -- and underscores why it's so important that the Senate confirm Rich Cordray.
Take a minute to check them out: http://go.usa.gov/XMf
- Posted byon November 2, 2011 at 12:04 PM EDT
The United States is falling behind on investing in the roads, bridges, airports, and transit systems that keep our economy humming. We spend just 2 percent of our GDP on infrastructure projects. Europe and China invest 5 percent and 9 percent of their respective GDPs on developing infrastructure.
Functioning infrastructure provides a critical backbone for a strong economy. Research shows that investments in creating, maintaining, or expanding transportation networks promote efficiency, productivity, and more rapid economic growth.
Today, President Obama is calling on Congress to pass a piece of the American Jobs Act that will invest $50 billion in our nation’s transportation infrastructure and $10 billion in a National Infrastructure Bank. Together, these initiatives will put hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads, rails, and runways. With 1.1 million constructions workers out of work, we can’t wait to invest in our infrastructure.
- Posted byon November 1, 2011 at 11:59 AM EDT
America's national parks make up an important part of our society. Besides preserving our history and protecting natural ecosystems, national parks are economic engines. Every $1 of federal investment in our national parks creates $4 of economic value to the public. These investments include projects to build, maintain, and repair facilities, replace outdated machinery and equipment with more energy efficient systems, and preserve natural and cultural resources. In fact, national parks generate $13.3 billion in local private-sector activity and support 267,000 private-sector jobs nationwide due to economic activity they generate.
Today, President Obama designated Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, as our 396th national park. Fort Monroe, a historic fort in Virginia’s Tidewater region, played a pivotal role in the history of slavery in the United States. During the Civil War, the fort remained in Union possession and became a place for escaped slaves to find refuge. Fort Monroe closed its doors as a military base in September, but today’s proclamation ensures its legacy continues as a national monument.
- Posted byon October 31, 2011 at 5:46 PM EDT
The number of prescription drug shortages tripled between 2005 and 2010. Besides having serious consequences for people's health and well-being, drug shortages drive vendors to charge outragous prices for drugs that are normally affordable when in stock. One report found that price-gouging vendors mark up prices on drugs in short supply by 650 percent, on average.
Another report about these “grey market vendors”—companies that inflate prices of drugs running in short supply—found that a leukemia drug whose typical contract price is about $12 per vial was being sold at $990 per vial. At the extreme, a drug used to treat high blood pressure that was normally priced at $25.90 was being sold at $1,200 due to a drug shortage.
Only a very small number of drugs are affected by such shortages, but for many patients, changing medications may be the difference between getting healthier and getting sicker. Drugs affected by shortages include cancer treatments, anesthesia drugs, and other medications that are critical to the treatment and prevention of serious diseases and life-threatening conditions.
Today, President Obama signed an Executive Order that will help prevent shortages that lead to this type of price gouging. The order directs the Food and Drug Administration to expand reporting about situations that might lead to drug shortages, and also to work with the Department of Justice to investigate illegal price gouging.
- Posted byon October 29, 2011 at 5:30 AM EDT
President Obama says that we can’t wait for Congress to take action to grow the economy and create jobs -- and highlights actions he took to help families refinance their mortgages, put veterans to work, and lower the cost of student loans.
Watch President Obama's full remarks here.
- Posted byon October 27, 2011 at 6:06 PM EDT
The American Jobs Act is a big proposal that can be hard to visualize, so we wanted to put together a new tool to help show the impact.
Our new map breaks down specific ways the President's plan helps to create jobs and put money back in families' pockets, state by state.
If you wanted to see what a typical tax cut looks like for a family in Texas, it's right here: $1,460.
Teacher jobs in North Carolina? 13,400.
Money for roads and bridges in Colorado? $494.8 million.
Take the time to dig in and learn how the American Jobs Act would help your state and community -- and share the map with those you know.
- Posted byon October 26, 2011 at 1:27 PM EDT
In this globally competitive, knowledge-based economy, higher education has never been more important. Simply put, America cannot lead in the 21st century without the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world. Nations that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow, which is why some form of higher education is an absolute must.
We also know that college costs have never been higher -- or more difficult to manage. The Administration has already provided aid to millions of students with historic investments in programs like Pell Grants and the American Opportunity Tax Credit. But we realize that many borrowers are struggling to both pay off their loans and make ends meet every month. And fear of being saddled with debt in the long run may deter many potential students from enrolling in college. They need help now.
That’s why today, President Obama announced new efforts to make college more affordable by helping millions of borrowers better manage their federal student loan debt. We’re taking executive action with two measures that will bring relief to borrowers by lowering their monthly loan payments -- at no cost to taxpayers.
- Posted byon October 25, 2011 at 5:24 PM EDT
Tyrone Booth and Jesse Carpenter are police officers in Flint, Michigan -- where Vice President Biden visited earlier this month. Because of budget cuts, they've seen their department shrink since the start of the recession. In fact, at various times in recent years, each has been laid off from the force. Both are keenly aware of the ways in which these reductions have put public safety at risk.
Officer Booth says the Flint police must now prioritize the calls to which they respond. A shooting or an assault must come before a break-in or a burglary, which can be hard for citizens affected. "When someone's home has been burglarized, it's a very sensitive and serious offense to them,” he said. “And we're just unable to get there in a timely manner."
Keeping Americans safe is a top priority for President Obama, which is why the American Jobs Act will provide $5 billion to help states and local communities keep first responders on the job. Earlier, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at a gathering of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and discussed the Administration's support for the nation's fire fighters and police officers.
Read more here.
- Posted byon October 25, 2011 at 5:17 PM EDT
Ed. note: This has been cross-posted from DHS.gov
Keeping our nation safe from evolving terrorist threats requires strong partnerships at all levels. Nowhere are those partnerships more important than with our federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers who work on the frontlines every day to keep our cities and communities safe.
These courageous men and women, who put their lives on the line to protect others, must have the tools, training, and resources they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.
This week at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) General Assembly in Chicago, we each had an opportunity to reiterate our support for police officers and first responders across our country, many of whom are struggling to hire or retain personnel in the face of tough economic challenges.
As part of ongoing work to better understand and overcome current fiscal challenges, this week, the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office released a new report on how the economic downturn has impacted police departments nationwide. According to the Department's research, we expect that, by the end of this year, nearly 12,000 police officers and sheriff's deputies will have been laid off. Already, law enforcement agencies nationwide currently have nearly 30,000 unfilled vacancies. And an estimated 28,000 more officers and deputies experienced week-long furloughs last year. In 25 years of collecting data, this is the first national decrease in law enforcement positions ever recorded.
There is great demand for existing federal fire fighter hiring funding. In FY10 alone there were $1.8 billion in applications for $420 million in SAFER funds.