Read all posts from February 2010

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    As I stood watching the Virginia State University drum-line perform in the White House this week (likely the first time an HBCU drum-line has ever performed at the White House), I was reminded of how far we have come as a nation and hopeful about where we are heading. The nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities have served our nation since 1837.  They educated freed slaves, giving them the priceless gift of a mind filled with world’s possibilities.  Today, this noble goal of our HBCUs continues as they unveil for their students the world of possibilities for themselves, their communities and our nation. 

    Guests attending this White House event left with a glow not unlike that of January 20, 2009, but they also left with a resolve to do the work that will be necessary to ensure all students have access to a high quality education and armed with the tools they need to reach for the American Dream.

    Executive Order for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities: The Signing

    President Barack Obama signs an executive order for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the East Room of the White House February 26, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    When the President reflected on some of the legends that have matriculated through HBCU's - Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Martin Luther King, WEB Dubois -I thought about how important and critically necessary these institutions have been to the fabric of our nation. I was reminded of the tremendous legacy of HBCUs and that when we invest in our young people at these schools we are preparing the way for the next King, Marshall, and Dubois.

    President Obama has demonstrated his commitment to these institutions not just with this event, but also through his budget.  The 2011 budget calls for $98 million in new money for HBCUs, including a commitment of $850 million over ten years.  These are resources the schools can use however they see fit to build their capacity to deliver a quality education to their students.  For the students, this year’s budget calls for an increase in the Pell Grant program, raising it to $5,710 annually.  More than 50 percent of the students attending HBCUs qualify for Pell Grants and other forms of support.  This is important because, as President Obama said, one in two students at HBCUs are the first in their family to attend college, and HBCUs continue to educate many students who often times would not be able to go to college for financial reasons.

    Executive Order for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities: The Audience

    Members of the audience watch as President Barack Obama signs an executive order for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the East Room of the White House February 26, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    The HBCU presidents and other guests present nodded in agreement as the President talked about the need to increase access and completion at HBCUs and the critical role they play. President Obama believes we must continue investing and supporting HBCUs as part of meeting his mission to develop a world-class education system in America.  This is not just for the benefit of African Americans, but as we work to compete with our neighbors around this globe, it is to the benefit of all Americans.

    Often in Washington we get mired in partisan debate and lose track of what's really important. Education.  Access to opportunity.  A fair and living wage. These are things that matter and can make a difference in the lives of people no matter who they are, what they look like or where they are from. We were reminded of these truly American values this week, and for that I am eternally grateful. Now let's get to work!

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    William Jawando is a Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement

  • The President made the following statement on the earthquake in Chile and preparations for a possible tsunami that could reach American shores later today:

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (67MB) | mp3 (2MB)

    Tsunami warnings are in affect for Hawaii, N. Marianas, American Samoa, Marshall and Solomon Islands.  A tsunami advisory is in effect along the west coast of the United States and Alaska.  More information can be found at the National Weather Center's website.

    FEMA continues to monitor the situation, and through Region IX in California, is in contact with the State of Hawaii, and recommends that individuals follow the advice of local officials.  FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate is monitoring the situation from FEMA Headquarters in Washington, DC and released the following statement:

    FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security are closely monitoring the situation, and officials are in close contact with the State of Hawaii and the U.S. territories in the Pacific Ocean that could be impacted by a potential tsunami. FEMA stands ready to assist should a request for assistance be made, and does have pre-deployed assets in Hawaii, including food, water, generators and other resources. We urge all individuals to follow the direction provided by local officials.

    Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been briefed and is monitoring developments from Vancouver, where she is serving as the lead of the US Delegation at the Olympics.

    More information and resources (updated throughout the day):

    Robert Gibbs is White House Press Secretary

  • On Thursday, Democrats and Republicans came together in the House to pass an emergency bill that will temporarily extend benefits for American workers and small businesses. It showed that in times of great need, our elected officials can still set aside their differences to do right by the American people.

    But just when we thought we were seeing progress, we have been confronted with a disappointing return to tactics that could be harmful to the American people, with Senator Bunning (R-KY) blocking the extension of several critical priorities for middle-class families. If Senator Bunning gets his way, hundreds of thousands of people could be ineligible for COBRA tax credits for health coverage created by the Recovery Act; 400,000 individuals who cannot find work will lose their unemployment insurance; thousands of small businesses will lose access to credit; transportation projects and public safety programs across the country would be halted; critical transportation safety personnel will be furloughed at a time of increased concern about the safety of our roads and highways; and 600,000 doctors across the country who care for our seniors and veterans could be subject to a 20 % pay cut, including 8,105 in Senator Bunning’s home state of Kentucky.

    Make no mistake about it: this bill is too important to fall prey to the political games of one person. If Senator Bunning succeeds, it would have a devastating effect on millions of people as early as Monday.

    There’s nothing wrong with someone taking a principled stand for something they believe in, but Senator Bunning voted to extend these same benefits in 2008. Over the past decade, unemployment insurance extensions have been passed as emergency measures under Republican and Democratic Congresses alike. So what we’re seeing right now is politics at its worst. It’s a perfect example of why so many Americans are fed up with Washington.

    We need to think about how our actions will impact the American people, because they sent us here to work for them. We need to put an end to the gamesmanship, and do whatever is in our power to put Americans back to work. They expect and deserve nothing less of us.

    Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director

  • The President takes a moment to congratulate our Olympic athletes.  Discussing the unity and pride Americans feel in cheering them on, the President relates that sentiment to his own desire for bipartisanship in Washington.  He praises the recent bipartisan meeting and talks about moving forward on health reform.


    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (133MB) | mp3 (4MB)


  • Cross-posted from the blog.

    Approximately 200 people gathered on Wednesday to hear about progress on one of President Obama's major initiatives—the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). This meeting provided an opportunity to update the public on the process for developing the Strategy, as well as current status and next steps. It allowed the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) and HHS to share feedback from community discussions which began last summer, and offered participants the opportunity to meet with the Federal HIV Interagency Working Group – made up of representatives from agencies working on HIV/AIDS across the Federal government, including White House offices. The working group was brought together in an effort to establish a coordinated response to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

    President Obama is committed to addressing HIV/AIDS in the United States and tasked ONAP, under the direction of Jeffrey Crowley, to develop the NHAS. The Strategy will allow ONAP to identify a small number of high-payoff action steps that can shift and improve our nation's response to HIV/AIDS in order to achieve the President's goals.

    A large component of developing this strategy involves public feedback. As Crowley said at the meeting, "We want to acknowledge the important role that you are playing. You helped us spread the word and get people to our community discussions. We are here today, in part, because we have heard you. In recent weeks, we have heard several questions about where we are in the process and what is happening and we wanted to take this opportunity to update you."

    As part of the community discussions, members of the working group met directly with 4,200 people in cities all across the country, including members of the public health community, AIDS service organizations, and people living with HIV/AIDS. In Jackson, MS, discussions with people living with HIV/AIDS gave hope for better understanding what it's like to live with HIV in the South. In Minneapolis, the working group participated in site visits to help them understand what African immigrants are experiencing.

    The public has been a crucial and active partner in all our efforts. We will continue to update you on our progress as we work to develop a strong roadmap to send to the President.

    Please visit next week to watch a video of the meeting, view video feedback from community leaders, or get additional information on Wednesday's NHAS meeting.

    Julia Eisman is the New Media Communications Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

  • In September, the President announced that – for the first time in history – the White House would release visitor records.  Today’s posting brings the grand total of records that this White House has released well over a 150,000 record milestone.  You can view them all in our Disclosures section.  These releases have provided the public an unprecedented look into the activities of the White House.

    Today’s release is just one example of the many efforts that were recognized by a consortium of independent outside government reform groups that gave the Administration an A for its first-year actions making government open and transparent—and these actions have also been praised by other outside experts.  This Administration’s concrete commitments to openness include issuing the Open Government Directive, putting up more government information than ever before on and, reforming the government’s FOIA processes, providing on-line access to White House staff financial reports and salaries, issuing an executive order to fight unnecessary secrecy and speed declassification, reversing an executive order that previously limited access to presidential records, and webcasting White House meetings and conferences.

    Like previous months, today’s release includes visitor information for the Vice President and his staff at the White House Complex, the names and dates of visitors to the Vice President’s Residence for the official events between November 1 and November 30, and the visitors to the Residence who appear on the daily schedules of the Vice President and Dr. Biden.

    Also, as we have previously noted, sometimes rather than providing clear information, transparency can have confusing or amusing results.  Given the significant number of visitors to the White House, many visitors share the same name as a notable figure.  For example, John Adams is included in today’s release.  Obviously, the well-known individual with that name did not visit the White House, but we have included the records of the individuals that did.

    Norm Eisen is Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform

  • As President Obama made clear at the bipartisan meeting on health insurance reform, and has emphasized all year, small businesses stand to gain substantially from his proposal for comprehensive health insurance reform.

    Small businesses are essential to the nation’s economy and its recovery from the recession. They are responsible for a disproportionate share of economy-wide net employment growth, and account for a large majority of jobs in start-ups, a key source of innovation and economic growth.

    Nevertheless, both a CEA report released last year and new analysis by the Council of Economic Advisers shows that the status quo of rising costs and declining coverage is unsustainable for small businesses. Over the past decade, average annual family premiums for workers at small firms increased by 123 percent, from $5,700 in 1999 to $12,700 in 2009, while the percentage of small firms offering coverage fell from 65 percent to 59 percent. As shown in the following figure, this insurance offer rate is especially low at small firms with fewer than 10, 25, or 50 employees.

    CEA Chart of Small Business and Health Care Reform 2-25-10

    While opponents of reform have raised concerns that some of the provisions in the President’s proposal will harm small businesses and their employees, the facts, figures, and discussion below show that the proposal will mean tax cuts, no new requirements, and numerous other benefits for small firms and their employees:

    The President’s proposal makes more than 60 percent of small firms eligible for tax credits to help combat rising costs and declining coverage for their workers.

    • CEA estimates indicate that more than 60 percent of small employers would be eligible for the new $40 billion small business tax credit in the President’s proposal. This represents a total of nearly 4 million small firms eligible for the credit. Moreover, millions of workers at small firms and their families would be eligible for their own tax credits to purchase coverage through the Exchange if their firms did not offer coverage.

    The President’s proposal exempts virtually all small businesses from any employer responsibility requirements.

    • The proposal specifically exempts all firms that have fewer than 50 employees – 96 percent of all firms in the United States or 5.78 million out of 6.02 million total firms – from any employer responsibility requirements. These 5.78 million firms employ 33.8 million workers.
    • More than 96 percent of firms with 50 or more employees already offer health insurance to their workers. Thus under the President’s proposal, less than 0.2 percent of all firms in the U.S. (approximately 10,000 out of 6.02 million) would face new employer responsibility requirements. And many of the firms not currently offering coverage are likely to do so because of the lower premiums and greater set of plan choices in the Exchange.   

    Pooling together with other small firms and individuals through a competitive Exchange will reduce costs, increase plan choice, and provide pressure on insurers to reduce their markups.

    • Because individuals and small businesses are not currently pooled together into larger health insurance groups, the administrative costs of marketing and operating health plans are up to 26 percent higher as a percentage of claims compared with larger firms, leading to higher premiums.
    • A report by the Congressional Budget Office (pdf) confirms that the Exchange will reduce costs and increase competitive pressure on insurers, driving down premiums for a given amount of coverage for a given group of enrollees by 1 to 4 percent in the small group market.

    The President’s proposal will reduce “job lock,” and spur entrepreneurship, job growth, and productivity at small firms.

    • As described in a recent CEA report, health insurance reform will reduce “job lock” – the fear of switching jobs or starting a small business due to concerns over losing health coverage – by guaranteeing access to coverage for all Americans. This will encourage more people to launch their own small businesses.
    • Moreover, reform will make small firms more competitive by allowing them to offer coverage comparable to that of larger firms, letting them recruit and retain talented workers.
    • Finally, improvements in access to coverage will lead to better health status and reduced disability, increasing workplace productivity. 

    Health insurance reform will benefit workers, firms, and the government budget in many more ways.  For a discussion of these impacts, please read the CEA’s report on the Economic Case for Health Care Reform.  Chapter 7 of the Economic Report of the President (pdf) also provides a comprehensive discussion of the challenges in the current health care system and the way that reform components work together to address these problems.

    Christina Romer is Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers and Mark Duggan is a Senior Economist at the Council of Economic Advisers who focuses on Health

  • Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s op-ed in the Washington Post today discusses the importance of providing direct student loans to help more poor and middle-class students attend college. He explains that under the current law, “working Americans pay while bankers get rich.” The banking industry is pushing against President Obama’s education proposal in order to protect its taxpayer subsidy, which has generated billions in profits for banks and compensation for executives. Secretary Duncan writes: 

    The banks have had plenty of help with government bailouts and other subsidies while working families and students are increasingly squeezed. President Obama wants to eliminate the subsidy for banks and use that money to help poor and middle-class students and adults attend college.

    The president also wants to strengthen community colleges, give grants to states that improve college completion rates and boost early-learning programs. He wants to lower maximum monthly payments for student loans from the current 15 percent of income to 10 percent to make college debt more manageable.

    Not surprisingly, the banks are working hard to block our common-sense proposal. Sallie Mae, the largest player in the student lending business, has spent millions of dollars to lobby Congress and run ads in several states, claiming that our proposal will cost jobs and inhibit service. These claims must be challenged.

    President Obama’s proposal is currently awaiting Senate consideration, learn more about the proposal from our blog post back in April when he first announced the proposal.

  • Today, the Middle Class Task Force is proudly releasing our first annual report , which highlights the work we’ve done over the past year, and reaffirms the Administration’s commitment to fight for the middle class.  The Task Force has traveled across the country to hear about the challenges facing American families and to gather ideas about how to address those challenges.  We talked green jobs in Denver, manufacturing in Ohio, college affordability in St. Louis -- and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We also received thousands of comments from ordinary Americans through this website, and met with leading experts on the issues facing the middle class.

    The report begins with a thorough examination of some of the economic challenges facing the middle class, but most importantly, it outlines several policy proposals that will ease the burden on middle class families.

    In support of our work, we’re also posting several letters from organizations backing our proposals to cap student loan payments, help families with soaring child care costs, enhance retirement security, and support families caring for seniors and people with disabilities.

    Jared Bernstein is Chief Economic Advisor to the Vice President, and Executive Director of the Middle Class Task Force

    Terrell McSweeny is Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President

  • Ed. Note: Watch video of the meeting in our section on the President's proposal.

    Today’s bipartisan health care meeting offered something you rarely see in Washington: an open, honest, productive discussion between the political parties. Leaders from across the political spectrum gathered at Blair House to exchange thoughts about an issue that touches all of us: rising health costs and unfair insurance company practices.

    The President doesn’t view today’s meeting as a campaign debate or piece of theater – and he didn’t approach it as if it were scored like an Olympic event. The President went to Blair House focused on the substance – not the process – and he left the meeting focused on substance: how we put the American people in control of their own health care.

    The President remains committed to enacting meaningful health insurance reform that will lower costs for families and small businesses by providing the largest middle class tax cut for health care in American history. He wants to enhance insurance choices and promote competition with a new insurance marketplace where people and small businesses will be able to have the same choices that every member of Congress will have.  His proposal will provide common sense rules of the road and basic consumer protections that keep insurance companies honest and he’ll fight to make sure that no American is denied coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition.

    Throughout the day, both sides found areas of agreement on important issues like:

    • Preventing waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid
    • Addressing medical malpractice reform 
    • Reforming the insurance market 
    • Giving individuals more choices in coverage, and giving small businesses the opportunity to pool coverage for their employees

    But there were also important areas of disagreement.

    There was a fundamental disagreement about whether we should set some common sense rules of the road to protect American families and small businesses from insurance company abuses.  The President doesn’t believe we can afford to leave those decisions about your care to the insurers alone.

    The President believes that a problem this big cannot be addressed incrementally. And while insuring 30 million people is going to cost money, it’s important to remember that most of this money is going to tax credits that will reduce premiums and help people get better coverage.

    And while the President appreciated the participation and input of everyone today, he doesn’t think we can just scrap a year’s worth of work and start over. The millions of Americans that are suffering can’t afford another year-long debate. There’s too much at stake.

    Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director

  • Imagine a problem facing a community -- unemployment or homelessness, poverty or environmental degradation -- and there’s a good chance a group of college students is finding a way to tackle it.  At the Corporation for National and Community Service, we honor these students and their universities with the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The Honor Roll is the highest Federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement.

    Today, we are honored to announce the recipients of the 2009 Presidential Awards:

    General Community Service Awardees

    • Lee University, Cleveland, Tennessee
    • Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio
    • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

    Special Focus: Service to Youth from Disadvantaged Circumstances Awardees

    • Emory & Henry College, Emory, Virginia
    • Raritan Valley Community College, Branchburg, New Jersey
    • Willamette University, Salem, Oregon

    In addition to these outstanding winners, 736 colleges and universities were placed on the Honor Roll, with 115 of these receiving “With Distinction” honors.

    The competition was tough – the winners had to demonstrate their level of student participation in service activities; scope, level of effort, innovation and effectiveness of their service projects; and overall institutional support to service-learning and volunteerism.

    The importance of service to college students is underscored by one telling statistic: in the 2008-09 academic year, more than three million college students contributed over 300 million hours of service. College students take on community challenges by running after school programs, tutoring at-risk youth, building and weatherizing homes, offering computer classes, restoring natural parks, and much more.
    I cannot overstate the important role that colleges and universities play in the broader national service movement.  These institutions’ commitment to service can have an impact on students throughout their entire lives.

    The Honor Roll is one of many ways that we promote student service-learning and civic engagement. Our Learn and Serve America program works with schools across the country to promote academic achievement and civic responsibility for more than one million students each year, and AmeriCorps annually engages thousands of college students in making a difference in their communities while earning money for their education.

    I want to express my sincere congratulations to the recipients of the Presidential Award and the more than 700 additional schools that applied.  I encourage every college and university to apply for the 2010 Honor Roll, and to find new and creative ways to engage their students in service throughout the year.  Read more about all the colleges and universities that received the Honor Roll.

    Patrick Corvington is the Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service


  • Walking back to the White House to grab lunch after the morning session of the bipartisan meeting at the Blair House, the President stopped in front of the gate on Pennsylvania Avenue to answer a quick question about progress so far:

    Q. How is it going, Mr. President?

    THE PRESIDENT:  It’s interesting.  I mean, I don't know if it’s interesting watching it on TV, but it’s interesting being part of it.

    Q. Are you making progress?

    Q. How is the progress?

    THE PRESIDENT: I think we're establishing that there are actually some areas of real agreement and we're starting to focus on what the real disagreements are.  If you look at the issue of how much government should be involved -- the argument that Republicans are making really isn’t that this is a government takeover of health care, but rather that we’re insuring the -- or we're regulating the insurance market too much.  And that's a legitimate philosophical disagreement.  We'll hopefully be able to explore it a little more in the afternoon.

    The afternoon session has begun, watch it live with real-time updates.

  • Imagine you were trying to measure the size of an iceberg and you only considered the part above the water.   You’d be missing most of the picture, right?

    That’s much like what happened in this story on the cost of construction jobs created by the Act.  The article considers only the tip of the iceberg, misses what’s going on underneath, and thus gives a huge over-estimate of the cost of creating these jobs.

    Technically, what’s missing here is the multiplier analysis (Keynes would be aghast!).  Think about what it takes to build a road: when a state awards a contract to a road building firm, that firm has to purchase cement and other materials, and those purchases create jobs for producers of raw materials and manufacturers.  They may have to buy or lease heavy construction equipment, supporting upstream jobs at factories.  Hiring an actual crew to build the road is often the last step.

    Interestingly, the story notes that money for construction projects isn’t just spent on direct hires--it pays for equipment and supplies too.   What’s missing is that buying that equipment and supplies also creates jobs.  By leaving out all those indirect jobs, the analysis undercounts the number jobs created by the contract and comes up with a cost per job that is way too high. 

    That problem is compounded by looking at just three months worth of job creation.  About 75 percent of the recipients that reported said that their projects are less than half complete – pointing to future hiring off of those same dollars yet to come as projects ramp up.

    As President Obama has stressed, we need to do much more to help get America get back to work.  But when we’re looking at what we’ve done so far, let’s make sure we’re seeing the full picture.

    Jared Bernstein is Chief Economist to Vice President Biden, and Executive Director of the Middle Class Task Force

  • If you’re watching the bipartisan healthcare meeting today, you’ve seen some people leaning on a talking point that premiums will increase under health care reform. Let’s be clear: our approach will lower costs for American families and businesses, and slow the growth of costs for the country as a whole.

    The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal all found that our approach will substantially lower the cost of health care premiums for the vast majority of Americans for three reasons: because it lowers administrative costs, it increases competition, and spreads the cost of health care fairly across millions of Americans.

    Under our plan, Americans buying comparable health plans to what they have today in the individual market would see premiums fall by 14 to 20 percent. And most Americans buying coverage on their own would qualify for tax credits that would reduce their premiums by an average of nearly 60 percent – even as they get better coverage than what they have today. This is going to encourage people to purchase better coverage.

    And like families and individuals, the CBO found that small and large businesses, who are struggling to remain profitable and competitive under the status quo, will benefit from lower administrative costs, increased competition, and better risk pooling. More than 3.5 million small businesses could qualify for tax credits to help them pay their premiums, and small businesses that are eligible for these tax credits would see their premiums 8 to 11 percent lower than they currently are.

    Our plan will end insurance company abuses and provide more affordable options. We must act now, because if we don’t, American families and businesses will continue to feel the crushing burdens of skyrocketing premiums.

    The meeting is continuing this afternoon and can be watched here. The President’s health care proposal can be found here.

    Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director

  • We’re closer than ever to making reform a reality, and that’s why the President is hosting an open, bipartisan meeting to discuss Republican and Democratic ideas for making our health care system work better for the American people.

    The President has put forth a proposal that incorporates the work the House and the Senate have done and adds additional ideas from Republican members of Congress. The President has long said he is open to any good ideas for reforming our health care system and invites you to watch today’s meeting.

    Watch the entire meeting live with a real-time viewer’s guide via Twitter, join the discussion through Facebook and read the President's proposal.

  • In June 2009, we launched the IT Dashboard, which allows the American people to monitor IT investments across the Federal government.  The IT Dashboard, which has received over 86 million hits, shines light into the operations of the Federal government.  However, it is not enough to simply shine a light on IT programs and hope that results will follow.

    Building on the foundation of the dashboard, we launched TechStat Accountability Sessions in January 2010.  A TechStat accountability session is a face-to-face, evidence-based review of an IT program with OMB and agency leadership, powered by the IT Dashboard and input from the American people.  TechStat sessions enable the government to turnaround, halt or terminate IT investments that do not produce dividends for the American people.  Investments are carefully analyzed with a focus on problem solving that leads to concrete action to improve performance.

    CIO Vivek Kundra Holds a TechStat Accountability Session

    February 13, 2010. (by Michelle Farrell, General Services Administration)

    The inaugural TechStat reviewed a financial management program at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which was significantly behind schedule and over budget.  At the session we unearthed several issues around the performance of the program including high leadership turnover, poorly defined goals, and a lack of a shared vision across the program team.  The TechStat session resulted in corrective actions, such as a new alternatives analysis, a permanent project manager and greater collaboration with the CFO and CIO.

    Given the size and complexity of the multi-billion dollar Federal IT Portfolio, we must relentlessly focus on the health of IT investments across the government.  As the President said in his inaugural speech “those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.”  The IT Dashboard and TechStat Accountability Sessions are both critical tools in delivering better value and results for the American people.

    Vivek Kundra is U.S. Chief Information Officer

  • As the Recovery Act crossed the one year mark, newspaper editorial boards across the country took a good, hard look at the program and weighed in on its impact.  From the St. Petersburg Times’ evaluation that “One year later, stimulus shows results in Florida” to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s verdict that “the stimulus rescued America,” consensus is growing that the Recovery Act has pulled us back from the brink of economic disaster and is working to create jobs and drive economic growth.  These editorials join a growing chorus of independent experts who say the Recovery Act is already responsible for as many as 2.1 million jobs nationwide and provide a look at how the Recovery Act is at work in communities across the country.  

    Here is what they had to say:

    FL – St. Petersburg Times - One year later, stimulus shows results in Florida: The reality is the bleak economic picture in the Sunshine State would look a lot darker without the federal money.  The tale is in the numbers, even if there are disputes over the precise figures.  Without the federal help, the state would have been forced to lay off thousands of teachers and would be facing an even deeper budget crisis…  In the Tampa Bay area, the impact of the stimulus money will be felt for decades. Construction on more U.S. 19 overpasses already is under way in North Pinellas, and in Hillsborough a connector between Interstate 4 and the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway will help business at the Port of Tampa and create thousands of jobs.  The stimulus money earmarked for high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando will jump-start a project that could help transform the economy for an entire region. 

    KS- The Wichita Eagle - Hatred of stimulus bill misplaced:  Obama administration officials are fanning out across the country to raise awareness about the impact of the federal stimulus bill, which became law a year ago today. Based on a new CNN poll, they have their work cut out.  Only one-quarter of Americans think the federal stimulus plan has helped the middle class, and only one-third think it helped low-income Americans. Meanwhile, 74 percent think that at least half the stimulus spending has been wasted.  Such perceptions are understandable, given the struggles families are facing and the stimulus bill's failure to reduce the unemployment rate. But they don't match what was actually in the bill.  The largest item in the stimulus package was a workers' tax cut worth $116 billion. According to the CNN poll, 70 percent of the public support the tax cuts in the bill.  The second and fourth largest items in the package were aid to states for Medicaid ($87.1 billion) and education and other essential services ($53.6 billion). Imagine how much worse state budget problems would be without this federal help.  The third largest item ($69.8 billion) prevented middle-income Americans from having to pay alternative minimum taxes. Other large items include: $35.8 billion to extend unemployment benefits; $27.5 billion for road and bridge construction; $25.1 billion for extending COBRA health insurance to unemployed workers and their families; $20.9 billion for food assistance to low-income Americans; $14.8 billion for an expanded child tax credit; $14.4 billion for aid to seniors and disabled veterans.  All total, these items account for about 60 percent of stimulus spending.  Is this wasted money?  Most of the remaining stimulus spending was for business tax cuts, college Pell Grants, and projects such as upgrading the electricity grid and public transit systems. According to the CNN poll, 80 percent of Americans support the infrastructure investments. 

    MD - Baltimore Sun - The stimulus: More successful than you thinkUnlike the Bush administration's stimulus programs, in which the treasury sent checks to taxpayers that were largely saved or used to pay down debt, the Obama stimulus tax cuts came gradually in the form of reduced payroll tax deductions designed to make sure more of it was spent.  And the program isn't done.  The spending that will come next is weighted toward infrastructure, both physical and digital, that will not only put people to work now but will also pay lasting dividends.  According to The Washington Post, just $31 billion that was allocated for road construction, expansion of broadband service, energy efficiency, high speed rail, smart grid upgrades, electronic health records and other projects has been spent.  That leaves nearly $200 billion yet to come.  The stimulus has not single-handedly returned the economy to growth and prosperity. But it has helped stave off what many feared little more than a year ago might turn into a full-fledged depression, and it still has more punch left.  It may not have been perfect, but it was certainly not a mistake.

    MA – Boston Globe – A Fact: Stimulus created jobs - The numbers are in, and there can no longer be any doubt that President Obama’s stimulus bill, passed just over a year ago, helped pull America from the brink of economic catastrophe, in part by creating millions of jobs that would not otherwise have existed.  All of the major economic research firms that have studied the stimulus’ effect have come to this conclusion….  Joblessness is still sky-high, of course, and the United States is by no means out of the woods economically.  It’s understandable that Americans whose situations haven’t been visibly improved by the bill want to rail against it and outsized government spending, and the stimulus certainly wasn’t without its flaws.  Still, though, it’s ridiculous to deny, as many have, that adding 2.5 million jobs was a poor use of government funds, or that the bill’s other features, which ranged from expanded COBRA health benefits for laid-off workers to money to forestall layoffs of teachers, firefighters, and police officers, helped many Americans to stay on their feet.  Stimulus opponents, often motivated by strictly ideological or political concerns, have repeatedly claimed that the bill didn’t create a single job that the economy wouldn’t have created anyway. This isn’t true, and it should be beyond the bounds of political debate to claim it.

    NH – Concord Monitor – Stimulus program is easily justifiedMany people have come to believe that the money spent so far under the $787 billion federal stimulus program was wasted.  The truth is that things would have been much worse without the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The unemployment rate, currently down to 9.7 percent, would have been higher.  The president's Council of Economic Advisers says that it could have hit 11.2 percent if the spending hadn't created and, more notably, saved jobs. But direct job creation and preservation was only part of the stimulus package.  Some 40 percent of the money was used to cut taxes for workers. If that money was wasted, it wasn't wasted by Congress or Washington bureaucrats, but by people who got the extra money. But they didn't waste it, either. They spent it on things like food, gas and mortgage payments….  People are angry about the federal bailout of the financial industry, angry about the bailout of the auto industry, and angry about the money paid to or extorted by members of Congress in exchange for their support. But anger at the stimulus program is unjustified….  The stimulus program could have been better and should have been bigger. But it's doing a decent job of keeping the economy afloat until it can swim again and people employed who would otherwise need assistance.

  • Today, President Obama gave a major address to the Business Roundtable to encourage cooperation from business leaders to promote economic recovery. "I want to spend most of my time talking about the specific steps we need to take to build this more competitive America," he told them, "But before I do, I want to talk a little bit about the relationship between business and government in promoting economic growth."

    He began spelling out his vision on that score:

    I am an ardent believer in the free market.  I believe businesses like yours are the engines of economic growth in this country.  You create jobs.  You develop new products and cutting-edge technologies.  And you create the supply chains that make it possible for small businesses to open their doors.  So I want everyone in this room to succeed.  I want your shareholders to do well, I want your workers to do well, I want you to do well -- because I firmly believe that America’s success in large part depends on your success internationally.

    Now, I also believe this:  Government has a vital, if limited, role to play in fostering sustained economic growth and creating the foundations for you to succeed.

    President Obama at Business Roundtable 02.24

    President Barack Obama addresses the Business Roundtable's 2010 First Quarter Meeting in Washington. With the President are John Castellani, President of the Business Roundtable, center, and Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon Communications, February 24, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Saying that the government he leads doesn’t step in “to supplant private enterprise, but to catalyze it,” he reminded the business leaders that it is the government’s responsibility to establish the basic rules of the marketplace to ensure honest competition, make investments that serve general welfare, and to guarantee a level of security for all Americans.

    The President discussed a series of initiatives that the administration is taking to assist economic recovery, including the one that the Senate passed today, which provides tax cuts for small businesses that hire new workers. He noted the importance of making it easier for small businesses to get loans, and providing tax incentives for large businesses to invest in new plants and equipment.

    He called for support for new financial regulations that can get rid of the system’s current vulnerabilities in order to prevent a future economic crisis by not allowing recklessness to continue. He explained that financial reform means closing loopholes that allow firms to evade rules in order to ensure consumer and investor protections. "This is about putting in place rules that encourage drive and innovation instead of shortcuts and abuse.  And those are rules that will benefit everybody."
    President Obama highlighted the importance of the administration’s new initiatives to jumpstart clean energy technology, push for stronger education, strengthen trade relations for competition, and establish a stronger health care system. He emphasized the drag on the economy that is caused by the current state of health care, pointing out that health care reform would significantly reduce the deficit while providing more certainty for businesses.

    On all these issues -– from education to health care to taxes -– my first question can’t be, “Is this good for business?” or “Is this good for labor?”  It can’t be, “Is this good politics?”  “Are folks going to tag me as a liberal or a conservative?”  The only question I have to ask myself is, “Is this good for America?  Does it help us compete?  Does it grow our economy?  Does it create jobs for middle-class and those trying to join the middle class?  Is it fostering innovation and creating new business opportunities?”  That’s my job as President.

    Business Leaders at watch President Obama Address the Business Roundtable

    Members of the Business Roundtable listen as President Barack Obama addresses their 2010 First Quarter Meeting in Washington, February 24, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Food desert?  What’s a food desert? 

    As part of Lets Move!, the campaign to end childhood obesity, First Lady Michelle Obama is taking on food deserts.  These are nutritional wastelands that exist across America in both urban and rural communities where parents and children simply do not have access to a supermarket.  Some 23.5 million Americans – including 6.5 million children – currently live in food deserts.  Watch the video below and learn what the First Lady is doing to help families in these areas across the country.

    Download Video: mp4 (35MB)

  • [UPDATE: This event has now concluded.]

    On Monday the President released his proposal to move forward on health reform that will finally put American families and small businesses in charge of their own health care.  The President will bring the proposal to tomorrow's bipartisan meeting on reform as a starting point for discussion.

    While we tried to address many of the questions we knew Americans would have about any change to their health care system, we also asked for people to tell us what else they wanted to know.  To answer some of the questions we heard the most, along with whatever questions you want to ask live, we'll be holding a live video chat at 1:45PM EST with Nancy-Ann DeParle, Director of the White House Office of Health Reform.