Read all posts from March 2011

  • On Monday, President Obama traveled to Arlington, Virginia with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The two visited an AP History class at Wakefield High School, where students had the chance to ask questions about schools in Australia, the recent flooding, Australian rules football, and even Vegemite.

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: (128MB) | mp3 (12MB)

  • Ed. Note: The deadline for submissions for this edition of Advise the Advisor has been extended to Sunday, March 13 at 5 p.m. EST.


    In the third edition of the Advise the Advisor program, Melody Barnes, Director of the Domestic Policy Council and one of President Obama’s senior advisors on education policy, is asking for feedback from parents, teachers and students on what’s working in communities and what needs to change.

    Providing our nation’s students with a world-class education is a shared responsibility.  It’s going to take all of us – educators, parents, students, philanthropists, state and local leaders, and the federal government – working together to prepare today’s students for the jobs of the 21st century.

    You can add your voice to the conversation by answering one or all of the following questions at

  • Ed. Note: This was originally posted on the CFPB Blog.

    Should the price of credit be clear up front? Here at the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we think the answer is yes – and we think that’s a critical part of consumer protection. We are pleased to have the chance to talk about these and other issues as we join 26 Federal agencies and partner organizations observing the annual National Consumer Protection Week.

    Too many families that work hard and play by the rules are stretched to the breaking point. They have taken on debt to pay for college, a home, and other needs. The latest economic crisis is just one more blow in an increasingly dangerous economic world.

    There was a time when the basic terms governing consumer financial products were pretty easy to see. But that has changed. Today, too many lenders hide complex terms among pages and pages of fine print in credit agreements, making it hard for borrowers to compare one product to two or three others.

    The CFPB is working to change that. When prices and risks are clear up front, consumers can make the choices that are best for themselves and their families. In other words, we want a credit market that works for consumers.

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (92MB) | mp3 (9MB)

    Once again today, the President welcomed a great ally to the White House, and once again the violence in Libya demanded a forceful response.  So while Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia and the President had a full day of discussions scheduled, including a visit to a school in the area, the President spent a signficant portion of his remarks in their joint press appearance addressing those involved in the violence and discussing the international response:

    And we had a discussion about the situation in the Middle East.  And I think Prime Minister Gillard and I both share a very firm conviction that the violence that's been taking place and perpetrated by the government in Libya is unacceptable.  Australia joined with us in imposing swift and firm sanctions, comprehensive sanctions, against the Libyan government.  We continue to monitor the violence there.

    I want to send a very clear message to those who are around Colonel Qaddafi:  It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward, and they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place there. 

    In the meantime, we've got NATO, as we speak, consulting in Brussels around a wide range of potential options, including potential military options, in response to the violence that continues to take place inside of Libya.  In addition, we have taken the lead on a host of humanitarian efforts, and I just authorized an additional $15 million that will be provided to aid organizations that are already on the ground.  And we've been coordinating with the United Nations, which now has a number of personnel on the ground as well, to make sure that people are getting the help they need and we are in a position to respond to any additional emergencies that may arise out of the situation there.

    But the bottom line is I think Australia and the United States stand shoulder to shoulder in sending a clear message that we stand for democracy, we stand for an observance of human rights, and that we send a very clear message to the Libyan people that we will stand with them in the face of unwarranted violence and the continuing suppression of democratic ideals that we've seen there.

  • In this White House White Board, Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, explains the President's plan to reform the patent system so great American ideas can be turned into the jobs of the future quickly and effectively.

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    On Thursday President Obama called the crews of the Space Shuttle Discovery and International Space Station (ISS) to congratulate them on their achievements and courage as they work and live in orbit around the Earth.  This Space Shuttle mission, which is the last for the venerable Discovery orbiter before it is retired, includes tasks such as delivering the first human-like robot to space and transporting the last major structural element for the U.S. segment of the ISS.  Picking up on these themes, the President asked about the work planned for the robot, known as Robonaut-2, or “R2.” After learning that R2 had not yet been unpacked after the long journey to space, he urged the crews to “let him stretch his legs pretty soon.” The product of a joint development effort between NASA and General Motors, R2 will stay aboard the ISS to demonstrate how dexterous robots of this nature can potentially work side by side with human crews in making repairs or conducting scientific tasks in space.

    President Obama also commented on the unusual level of traffic at the ISS right now.  For the first time, a spacecraft from every international partner that flies to the ISS is docked simultaneously at this orbiting facility, including vehicles from the United States, Russia, Europe, and Japan.  The composition of the ISS crew reflects this level of partnership, as astronauts and cosmonauts from the United States, Russia, and Europe are currently living and working in the laboratory.  

    The President noted that this unprecedented partnership in space is something that each of our nations can be proud of, and he pointed to the Station as a metaphor for how the peoples of the world can learn to live and work together productively, not just in space but on the Earth too.  The crew members enthusiastically agreed,  remarking that the ISS may be one of the most complex and challenging construction efforts ever undertaken by humankind, with pieces constructed in different nations around the world and then launched above the Earth – and yet “everything fit,” they said, when it was assembled in orbit.  

  • The President calls for Democrats and Republicans to come together on a budget that cuts wasteful spending without sacrificing job-creating investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure.

  • A quick look back at the week on

    On Education: This month, the President will be focused on his plan to improve American education through investments that focus on responsibility, reform, and results:

    • President Obama travels to Miami to visit a high school that has been an example of how federal support has turned around struggling schools.
    • John Legend encourages students to apply for the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge. One high school will be selected to have President Obama speak at its commencement this spring. The deadline to apply is March 11.
    • Oh, and Nick Jonas did too.
    • The First Lady and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan read to children at the Library of Congress as part of "Read Across America Day," and in celebration of Dr. Seuss' 107th birthday.
    The Motown Sound: Continuing a favorite White House tradition, the President and First Lady welcome renowned musical artists to the White House to celebrate music that’s at the heart of the American story. 
    Download Video: mp4 (43.4MB)

    Giving States the Power to Innovate: In his address to the meeting of the National Governors' Association, President Obama called for giving states the flexibility to find the best ways to meet standards of care outlined in the Affordable Care Act. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius explained what that flexibility means for states across the country.

  • Yesterday, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, hosted a live chat to answer your questions about the America's Great Outdoors initiative.  The initiative seeks to reinvigorate our approach to conservation and reconnect Americans, especially young people, with the lands and waters that are used for farming and ranching, hunting and fishing, and for families to spend quality time together.  They took questions from YouTube videos and Facebook participants from across the country on ways to develop a conservation and recreation agenda that makes sense for the 21st century.

    Check out the full video below or skip to the questions you're interested in by using the links below:

    Download Video: mp4 (240MB) | mp3 (23MB)

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (316MB) | mp3 (30MB)

    The President was in South Florida today at Miami Central Senior High School, kicking off a month focusing on education. Miami Central has received more than $750,000 in federal School Improvement Grants, implemented profound reforms, and has seen dramatic results: a 40-point increase in writing achievement, a 60-point increase in math, and almost doubling its graduation rate.

    The President was joined by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. In his remarks at the school, President Obama talked about this crucial moment in America's economic recovery:

    We are at a pivotal turning point.  We just came through a tough recession that’s taken a big toll on families here in Florida and all across the country.  And to accelerate our recovery in the short term we took some essential steps to spur hiring and economic growth, including tax cuts that are making Americans’ paychecks bigger and letting businesses write off their investments –- and I am proud -- I'm proud that Republicans and Democrats came together to get that done.

    And you're already seeing those steps make a difference.  This morning we learned that the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in nearly two years.  (Applause.)  Our economy added another 222,000 jobs in the private sector.  (Applause.)  That's the 12th straight month of private sector job growth.  So our economy has now added 1.5 million private sector jobs over the last year.  And that's progress.  (Applause.)  

    But we need to keep building on that momentum.  And in a world that’s more competitive, more connected than ever before, that means answering some difficult questions

  • On this first Friday of every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the nation with a close look at what’s been going on in the job market.   While you don’t want to put too much weight on any one month of data, the report is bursting with valuable info on stuff that matters a lot to real people, like job growth, unemployment, and earnings.

    One useful thing to do with these data is to average over a few months, to smooth out some of the jumpiness in the monthly numbers.  And when you apply this smoothing to private sector job growth, a promising pattern emerges.

    The figure below takes an average of monthly job growth in the private sector over the past three months (Dec, Jan, Feb), and compares that to the same average last year and two years ago.

    Private Sector Jobs, 3 Month Period

    Two years ago, when President Obama took office, we were hemorrhaging jobs at a rate of over 700,000 per month.  Our Administration attacked the problem, first with the Recovery Act, and later with a broad set of initiatives to put more money in family budgets, free up credit for small businesses, and most recently, boost paychecks with a temporary payroll tax cut.

  • The deadline for the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge is just one week away! One lucky high school will have President Obama as a commencement speaker this spring. Could it be your school? The competition is open to public high schools across the country and applying is easy.

    To apply, head over to and tell us how your school is preparing students for college and a career. The application requires three short essays and some information about student achievement that should be easily accessible. An optional short video about your school can also be submitted. The deadline to submit the application is March 11, 2011, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

    The Commencement Challenge is a great opportunity for students and schools to showcase their talents and achievements. The competition has been featured on Good Morning America and musicians John Legend and Nick Jonas have encouraged students and schools apply for the opportunity of a lifetime. To hear what each of them had to say, check out their videos:

  • Today’s employment report shows that private sector payrolls increased by 222,000 in February, marking 12 consecutive months of growth that has added 1.5 million jobs at private firms. The unemployment rate fell for the third straight month to 8.9 percent. The 0.9 percentage point drop in the unemployment rate over the past three months is the largest such decline since 1983, and it has been driven primarily by increased employment, rather than falling labor force participation.

    Though unemployment remains elevated, we are seeing signs that the initiatives put in place by this Administration – such as the payroll tax cut and business tax incentives for investment – are creating the conditions for sustained growth and job creation. The steep decline in the unemployment rate and the overall trend of economic data in recent months has been encouraging, but there is still considerable work to do to replace the jobs lost in the downturn. We will continue to work with Congress to find ways to reduce spending, but not at the expense of derailing progress in the job market, making the investments we need to educate our workers, investing in science, and building the infrastructure our companies need to succeed. 

    In addition to the increases last month, the estimates of private sector job growth for December (now +167,000) and January (now +68,000) were revised up. Overall payroll employment rose by 192,000 last month. The sectors with the largest payroll employment growth were professional and business services (+47,000), education and health services (+40,000), manufacturing (+33,000), and construction (+33,000). State and local government experienced a large decline (-30,000), and has shed jobs in 14 of the past 16 months.

    The overall trajectory of the economy has improved dramatically over the past two years, but there will surely be bumps in the road ahead.  The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and employment estimates are subject to substantial revision.  Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report. 

    Private Payroll Employment Chart for February, 2011

    Austan Goolsbee is Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers

  • This afternoon, President Obama will visit Miami Central Senior High School in Miami, Florida, along with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The President will lay out his vision for improving American education through investments that are focused on responsibility, reform, and results.

    Secretary Duncan previewed today's visit with an op-ed for the Miami Herald:

    Turning around a struggling school is some of the toughest work in education. Experience shows that effective turnarounds require strong leadership and the flexibility to recruit staff with special skills and commitment. Not every teacher or principal wants or should be in this demanding environment. But extraordinary principals and teachers who choose to work in turnaround schools deserve our full support and commitment.

    The administration is supporting an array of bold options to help the children trapped in America’s lowest-performing schools. “More of the same” is not one of them.

    Be sure to catch the live video stream of the President's visit at 4:00 PM EST on

  • Following the Winning the Future Forum on Small Business in Cleveland last week, the President charged members of the Cabinet with traveling across the country to hold similar events with local officials and small business owners.  These sessions focus on what we need to do to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build our competitors around the world.  Cabinet members want to hear directly from small business owners and local leaders about their ideas of what can help to continue to create jobs and put Americans back to work to win the future. 

    Later today, Transportation Secretary LaHood will be in Charlotte, North Carolina, to meet with a group of CEOs and small business owners to talk about ways to promote growth and job creation in North Carolina and across the country.  They’ll focus on the transportation industry, which is central to the effort to create an economy that out-innovates the rest of the world. 

    In St. Paul, Minnesota, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Donovan will meet with small business owners and area residents at the new Frogtown Square development.  These locally owned small businesses will serve as a neighborhood anchor and contribute to St. Paul’s future prosperity.

    Labor Secretary Solis at Winning the Future Forum on Small Business

    More than 50 minority and women small-business owners gathered at the Philadelphia Navy Yard to talk with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis at the Winning the Future Small Business Roundtable.

  • Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It was a busy week on the 18 acres, with President Obama welcoming the nation's governors, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and Mexican President Felipe Calderón to the White House. The First Lady and Education Secretary Arne Duncan also helped kick off Education Month at the Library of Congress.

    Download Video: mp4 (148.9MB)

  • My summer as a White House intern redefined many parts of my life, but in a very literal sense, it gave me a new meaning of the word “humble.” When I applied, I was nineteen and wondering how I could possibly contribute to the work of our government. When I was chosen for an interview, I was shocked. When I was accepted, I was floored. The White House staffers who gave me the amazing news that day would teach me so much about committing to a team and never taking this opportunity for granted.
    May 22, 2009, a date I will never forget, was my first day in the internship during one of the most exciting times to be in Washington. From my position in the Office of Legislative Affairs, I had a front row seat for so many different issues. President Obama and his legislative team were balancing health care, climate change, and then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation, among other priorities.
    And while they were doing all this, they still found time to mentor me and bring me into their important work. My supervisors were professionals at the top of their field, respected Capitol Hill veterans and hardworking junior staffers. I assumed that kind of success made people arrogant and inwardly focused, too busy to help each other. But not at the White House: the Legislative Affairs crew was the most collegial, supportive group I had ever worked with.

  • President Barack Obama addresses the Situation in Libya During a Joint Press Conference with President Felipe Calderon of Mexico

    President Barack Obama addresses the situation in Libya at the start of a joint press conference with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, left, in the East Room of the White House, March 3, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    There was no shortage of issues pertaining to the two countries' close relationship and mutual interests for President Obama and President Calderón of Mexico to discuss during their meetings today.  Nonetheless, during the joint press conference afterward, the President took a moment to address the situation in Libya that has rightly garnered so much attention around the world.  Firstly, he noted that the Mexican government has been integral in the actions of the United Nations regarding Libya:

    Most recently, our governments have spoken out forcefully for the human rights of the Libyan people, and Mexico played a leading role at the United Nations in suspending Libya from the Human Rights Council.  President Calderon, this not only reflects our commitment to the shared values of freedom and justice and rule of law.  It’s also another example of Mexico’s global leadership—as you said in your address to our Congress last year—that “Mexico is standing tall” and ready to take its “rightful place in the world.”

    President Obama went on to forcefully condemn the violence once again:

    The United States, and the entire world, continues to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people. The United States is helping to lead an international effort to deter further violence, put in place unprecedented sanctions to hold the Qaddafi government accountable, and support the aspirations of the Libyan people. We are also responding quickly to the urgent humanitarian needs that are developing.

    Tens of thousands of people—from many different countries—are fleeing Libya, and we commend the governments of Tunisia and Egypt for their response, even as they go through their own political transitions.  I have therefore approved the use of U.S. military aircraft to help move Egyptians who have fled to the Tunisian border to get back home to Egypt. I’ve authorized USAID to charter additional civilian aircraft to help people from other countries find their way home.  And we’re supporting the efforts of international organizations to evacuate people as well.

    I have also directed USAID to send humanitarian assistance teams to the Libyan border, so that they can work with the United Nations, NGOs and other international partners inside Libya to address the urgent needs of the Libyan people.

    Going forward, we will continue to send a clear message: the violence must stop; Muammar Gaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead and he must leave; those who perpetrate violence against the Libyan people will be held accountable; and the aspirations of the Libyan people for freedom, democracy and dignity must be met.

  • As part of Read Across America Day and in celebration of Dr. Seuss’ 107th Birthday, First Lady Michelle Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan spent yesterday morning reading the Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham to elementary school students at the Library of Congress. 

    Mrs. Obama and Secretary Duncan stressed the importance of reading to an audience of more than 300 children wearing red-and-white striped stovetop hats, best known from Seuss' Cat in the Hat. Secretary Duncan said, "If you become lifelong readers you can do anything you want to do."

    Watch Mrs. Obama and Secretary Duncan prepare backstage for their joint reading of Green Eggs and Ham:

    Download Video: mp4 (12.3MB)

  • Cars have always been a part of my life. I was raised with two brothers who loved cars and when we were kids, my sisters and I would hear the buzz about the coolest “this” and the fastest “that.” With all the car talk, one would think I would have become an engineer. Two of my sisters did and we joke it's how we got our “drive.”

    By far though, my father played the most important role in my familiarity with cars. He taught me how to drive. He insisted that I learn with a stick shift. He told me that it would make me more independent – that it would take me further. 

    I thought about him when I visited Michigan’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant (where they are building the new Chevy Volt) and the Jeep Supplier Park plant in Toledo, Ohio recently. Both facilities have and continue to be a big beat to the hearts of their communities. And both are a testament to the success of the Obama Administration’s investments in auto communities across the country.


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    But while we’ve come a long way in the last two years – we too can go further.