Read all posts from November 2011

  • President Obama was in Scranton, Pennsylvania today to talk about the importance of extending the payroll tax cut for all working Americans and their families, and for the strength of the overall economy. These tax cuts will also have a tremendous impact on America's small businesses, 91.5 percent of which have fewer than 5 employees. The White House Business Council spoke to the owner of one such business in Knoxville, Tennessee who says the President's plan will help her business grow by freeing up her own capital, and that of her potential and existing clients as well.

    The tax code and creativity are not commonly linked in the minds of most people. Not so for Jenny Hines, President of Hines and Company Accountants, located in Knoxville, Tennessee.  “I was always interested in taxation not simply because of the planning and number crunching,” says Jenny, “but because that planning required a certain level of creativity.”

    After graduating from the University of Tennessee with a Masters Degree in Taxation, Hines went to work for one of the largest CPA firms in the country.  But after watching many of the firm’s small business clients unable to afford its services, she decided to strike out on her own.  “There was an attitude at the large firm – and it certainly wasn’t everybody, but still – that was ‘How little work can we do, and still charge the client?’ People and their businesses were too often treated like commodities." 

  • Today, President Obama is traveling to my hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania to meet with residents to discuss the importance of extending and expanding the payroll tax cut that has given crucial tax breaks to millions of families across the country over the past year.  If Congress passes the proposal laid out by the President, families in Scranton – including my friends and neighbors– would see that tax cut continued, and could receive more than $500 in addition to what they are currently receiving next year.  However, if they fail to act, all those families in the Lackawanna River valley – and millions of others across the country – will see their taxes increase – potentially by $1,000 a year!  That is just plain unacceptable. 

    As he has shown time and time again over the last three years, President Obama will continue to fight to strengthen the economy and rebuild the middle class by restoring the basic values that made our country great.  America prospers when hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded – and when everyone, from workers in the Electric Cityto Wall Street, does their fair share and plays by the same rules.

    The fact is, our economic problems weren’t caused overnight, and they won’t be solved overnight.  It will take time to rebuild our economy.  It will take time to rebuild an economy that restores security for the middle class and renews opportunity for folks trying to reach the middle class.  We need to rebuild an economy that’s based not on outsourcing, tax loopholes, and risky financial deals, but one that’s built to last – one where we invest in things like education and small businesses and manufacturing things the rest of the world buys. 

    The President and this Administration have spent the past three years cutting taxes for ordinary, middle class Americans, and he’ll continue to fight for the middle class.  As Vice President Joe Biden – another Scranton native – has said over and over again, “a strong middle class equals a strong America… we can’t have one without the other.”  An extension of the payroll tax cut is an important step to rebuilding and strengthening America’s middle class in places like Scranton, and all across America.

    Rebuilding our nation will take time.  But we are going to get it done.  We are going to keep fighting.  It’s time for Congress to get to work and extend and expand the payroll tax cut for millions of Americans across the nation.

  • $1500 tax cut

    President Obama’s proposed payroll tax cut would put an extra $1,500 in the pockets of the typical American family that makes $50,000 a year.

    But if Congress doesn’t act soon, the same family could see their taxes go up by $1,000.

    The President was in Scranton, Pennsylvania today urging Congress to take action and extend the payroll tax cut. More than 6 million people in the state would see their taxes go up if they don’t.

    Want to find out how you would be affected by President Obama’s payroll tax cut—or how much more you’ll pay if Congress doesn’t act? Check out our Payroll Tax Cut Calculator.

  • 20111130 POTUS in Scranton

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the American Jobs Act at Scranton High School in Scranton, Pa., Nov. 30, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    If Congress doesn't extend the payroll tax cut, 6.7 million people in Pennsylvania will see their taxes go up.

    That's the message that President Obama took to Scranton this afternoon. He told a crowd assembled in the town's high school auditorium that if Congress fails to extend the tax cut through 2012, it would deliver a "massive blow" to the nation's economy:

    [If] Congress doesn’t act to extend this tax cut -- then most of you, the typical middle-class family, is going to see your taxes go up by $1,000 at the worst possible time. A young lady just said she can’t afford that. It would be tough for you.

    The Senate is set to vote on extending these tax cuts as early as this week, and the President told people in Scranton to send their lawmakers a message:

    [To] everybody who is here, everybody who is watching, send your Senate a message -- send your senators a message. Tell them, "Don't be a Grinch." ... Don’t vote to raise taxes on working Americans during the holidays.  Make sure to renew unemployment insurance during the holidays.  Stop saying "no" to steps that would make our economy stronger. Put our country before party. Put money back into the pockets of working Americans. Do your job. Pass this bill.

    Read the full remarks here.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed military families to the White House today for the first peek at this year’s holiday decorations. After speaking to parents, spouses, and children of service members in the East Room, she invited kids down to the State Dining Room to decorate cookies and make Christmas tree ornaments.

    Watch First Lady Michelle Obama's full remarks here.

    The theme for this year’s holiday is “Shine, Share, Give,” celebrating the countless ways we can lift up those around us, spend time with friends and family, and celebrate the joy of giving to others and sharing our blessings with all.  The decorations in every room of the house, hung with care by volunteers from 37 states, reflect the theme using shiny stars, metallic garland, and twinkling lights, and invite visitors to give thanks to the military for their service.

  • Today, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit about the importance of helping our children lead healthier lives by encouraging them to become more active.

    The First Lady said that while idea behind the Let’s Move campaign to end childhood obesity has taken off, particularly in terms of making sure kids have access to healthy food, there is still much progress to be made:

    Since we launched “Let’s Move,” folks from every sector of society have been stepping up to help our kids lead healthier lives.

     Major food manufacturers are cutting sugar, salt and fat from their products.  Restaurants are revamping kids’ menus and loading them with healthier, fresher options.  Companies like Walgreens, SuperValu, Walmart, Calhoun’s Grocery are committing to build new stores and to sell fresh food in underserved communities all across this country.

    Congress passed historic legislation to provide more nutritious school meals to millions of American children.  Our schools are growing gardens all over the place.  Cities and towns are opening farmers markets.  Congregations are holding summer nutrition programs for their kids.  Parents are reading those food labels, and they’re rethinking the meals and the snacks that they serve their kids.

     So while we still have a long way to go, we have seen so much good progress.  We’ve begun to have an impact on how, and what, our kids are eating every single day.  And that is so important.  It’s so important.

     But it’s not enough.  There is still more to do.  Because we all know that the problem isn’t just what’s happening at meal time or at snack time.  It’s also about how our kids are spending the rest of their time each and every day. It’s about how active our kids are.

  • Tomorrow is World AIDS Day, and President Obama will be marking the occasion by speaking at ONE Campaign and (RED)’s Beginning of the End of AIDS event at George Washington University. You can watch the whole event live on

    Later in the day, Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Development and Democracy at the White House, and Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, will be taking your questions on the global AIDS epidemic and what the Obama Administration is doing to bring it to an end.

    • What: Open for Questions: The Beginning of the End of AIDS
    • Who:  Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Development and Democracy at the White House, and Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator
    • When: Thursday, December 1 at 2:30 p.m. EST
    • Where: Watch live at and submit your questions via Facebook, Twitter using the hashtag #WHChat or our webform.
    Download Video: mp4 (518MB) | mp3 (50MB)

  • When doctors and hospitals use health information technology (IT), patients get better care and we can all save money. This results in less paperwork for billing, medical records, and prescribing; easier coordination of care among doctors, nurses, and pharmacists in hospitals and outpatient settings; and better reporting on quality of care. Thanks to President Obama’s leadership, the number of physicians using this important technology to help patients get better care and save money has more than doubled, from 17 percent to 34 percent, since 2008. And we can’t wait to do more. 

    Today, Secretary Sebelius announced that we are making it easier for doctors and other health professionals to adopt health IT and receive incentive payments that were made available under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. At the same time, we remain vigilant in ensuring your health data remains private, confidential and secure. 

    Here’s how it works:

    • The HITECH Act offers doctors and hospitals the opportunity to earn financial incentives from Medicare and Medicaid if they show that they have adopted health IT and are using it to make a meaningful difference in patient care.
    • Under the current rules, providers who adopt health IT this year, and register through the end of February, must meet new standards for using health IT in 2013.  If they do not adopt health IT until 2012, they don’t have to meet the new standards until 2014, and are still eligible for the same amount of incentive payment.
    • To spur greater innovation and improvement, Secretary Sebelius announced that she intends to adjust the deadline for meeting the new standards for providers that start this year to 2014, removing the disincentive for providers to adopt and use health IT right away.

    20111129 Dutch Bilat

    President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, in the Oval Office, Nov. 29, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    President Obama continues to meet with European leaders in an effort to help find a solution to the Eurozone crisis.

    Today, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was at the White House to discuss his government's commitment to keeping the euro intact -- as well as a range of additional issues.

    The President told reporters that the United States has "no stronger ally" than the Netherlands -- and discussed why the nation is such an important economic partner:

    [Despite] the fact that the Netherlands doesn't have a huge population, they are one of our most important trading partners. The economic relationship between our two countries is deep; it is broad. We are one of the largest investors in the Netherlands. The Netherlands, in turn, is one of the largest investors in the United States. And so, given both of our interests in promoting commerce, growth and jobs, it is very important that we coordinate with the Netherlands.

    Read the full remarks from the President and Prime Minister here.

  • 141,000

    Illegal sales of counterfeit DVDs cost the U.S. economy 141,000 jobs and $20.5 billion each year. Money from the sales of pirated music and movies often helps fuel drug trafficking and gang crime. Together, these facts make theft of intellectual property far from a victimless crime.

    Today, the Department of Justice and the National Crime Prevention Council launched a public awareness campaign to make sure people know the facts. Eighty percent of Americans believe it’s illegal to knowingly purchase counterfeit or pirated goods, but do it any way. And nearly 60 percent believe they won’t get caught. The truth is that buying a pirated album or movie doesn’t just hurt stores or movie studios or musicians or actors. It affects everyone involved in the production of that CD or DVD, from the ideas to the production to the processing, including artists, writers, technicians, janitors, caterers, and others.

    The campaign launched today targets all types of intellectual property theft, including goods like purses and sunglasses, medications, movies, and music, and aims to raise awareness that buying these items is a serious crime.

  • As Americans kick off the holiday shopping season, it's a good time to remember the importance of making responsible purchases and rejecting counterfeits that pose a threat to American jobs, safety and health. Today I joined Attorney General Eric Holder and other Administration officials at the White House to announce progress we’ve made cracking down on intellectual property theft crimes, and to launch a public awareness campaign to combat the purchase and sale of counterfeit and pirated products.

    As President Obama has said, in order to win the future in the global economy America must out innovate our competitors. Intellectual property theft undermines our nation's innovators and entrepreneurs. The new campaign will educate the public about the full range of intellectual property crimes we confront, from counterfeit consumer goods and fake pharmaceuticals laced with potentially dangerous substances to illegal downloads, while highlighting the potential threat these crimes pose to economic prosperity and public safety. The campaign will include a television PSA, materials delivered through social media, and radio, web, and print ads. 

    The Administration has been proactive on multiple fronts in order to increase intellectual property enforcement. We have increased law enforcement efficiency, advocated for legislative reform, informed the public about the negative impacts of intellectual property theft, and engaged the private sector to foster cooperation and create voluntary solutions through productive conversations. Today’s announcement marks an important milestone in the Administration’s ongoing efforts to curb intellectual property theft that harms the economy, undermines job creation, undermines innovation, and jeopardizes the health and safety of American consumers.  

    At the event, Attorney General Holder and I were joined by Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, who discussed the ways in which counterfeit goods impact the everyday lives of American families. Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement John Morton was also in attendance to discuss ongoing Administration law enforcement efforts concerning counterfeit goods and intellectual property crimes. And Ann Harkins, National Crime Prevention Council President and CEO, was on hand to unveil the products of the campaign that will help build awareness about the harm caused by counterfeit goods and engage the public in stopping intellectual property theft. 

    For more information about the campaign, visit:

  • 20111129 VPOTUS in Iraq

    Vice President Joe Biden arrives at Baghdad International Airport and is greeted by Ambassador James Jeffrey, General Lloyd Austin, and Maj. General Anthony Rockin, Baghdad, Iraq, November 29, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    This morning, the Vice President arrived in Baghdad.

    He's there to co-chair a meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee and speak at a ceremony honoring the sacrifices of both U.S. and Iraqi troops -- and the victories they've won.

    That ceremony takes on particular significance because, between now and the end of the year, the last of the American servicemembers stationed in Iraq will come home, as President Obama has repeatedly promised.

    While in the country, Vice President Biden will also hold talks with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, and other political leaders.

    They'll discuss ways in which our two countries can deepen our cooperation on a range of policies -- from trade to energy to technology.

  • The holidays are a special time at the White House. The President and First Lady have made it their mission to open the “People’s House” to as many Americans as possible, and this is never more true than around the holidays. Tomorrow, we’ll begin looking at the latest tidings and trimmings that make holidays at the White House so special, but to get in the mood now, check out these videos from last year’s festivities.

    The First Lady kicks off the 2010 season by welcoming local military families to the White House to get a first look at the special holiday decorations hung in honor of the year’s theme, Simple Gifts, meant to highlight the simple things that bring joy during the holiday season.

    Watch First Lady Michelle Obama's full remarks here.

    Go behind the scenes with the volunteers who helped create last year’s décor. Watch the video here.

    Check out a time-lapse video of setting up the 2010 White House Christmas tree. Watch the video here.

    Read more:

  • Over the weekend, I joined President Obama and millions of Americans, who participated in the second annual Small Business Saturday. I visited several stores in the neighborhood where I grew up in Chicago, including Chant, Freehling Pot and Pan, and 57th St. Books.  

    I got a head start on my holiday shopping, and I was able to support the small businesses that are the backbone of my neighborhood and the economic engine of our country. In neighborhoods all across America, small businesses are creating two out of three of our new jobs. Their owners and employees are our neighbors, our family members, and our friends. They give back to our communities each and every day.

    I am proud to be part of an Administration that supports small businesses every single day of the year. Since taking office, President Obama has signed into law 18 tax cuts for small businesses. He has helped create partnerships such as Startup America to help our nation’s entrepreneurs succeed. He has also taken executive action to speed payments to small businesses as part of the We Can’t Wait initiative.

    As we face the effects of an unprecedented economic crisis, and the deep recession that followed, President Obama understands the size and scope of the challenges that small business owners still face. That is why the American Jobs Act included new rounds of tax cuts for small businesses. It is also one of the reasons President Obama is urging Congress to pass a payroll tax cut that would give the average American family $1,500 more to spend next year.

    There’s no question that our country continues to face enormous challenges. But Small Business Saturday was a reminder that if we each do our part, we will overcome our challenges. As the President put it, “Through events such as Small Business Saturday, we keep our local economies strong and help maintain an American economy that can compete and win in the 21st century.”

  • 475 million

    The National Archives and Record Administration has collected, on average, 475 million pages of records a year for each of the last 10 years. Thanks to new technology, both the volume and diversity of material being archived has increased, but Federal agencies aren't keeping up with this heavier load. 

    Making these records available and accessible to the public is an important step toward giving people clear and accurate information about the decisions and actions of the Federal Government. That, however, is largely dependent on taking advantage of these technology advances and making information available electronically, instead of relying on paper-based archives.

    Today, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum that will do exactly that. His memorandum instructs Federal agencies move into a digital-based record keeping system, and which will save money, promote accountability, and increase government transparency.

  • 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

  • 20111128 EU Summit

    President Barack Obama, Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, left, and José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, right, deliver statements to the media following the EU Summit in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Nov. 28, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today at the White House, President Obama met with a group of senior officials from the European Union.

    The focus of their talks was the global economy -- though they also touched on the political transformation in the Middle East, Iran's nuclear program, and steps necessary to ensure success in Afghanistan.

    After the meetings, the President, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso spoke briefly to reporters. President Obama said:

    As the world’s two largest economies and as each other’s most important trading partners, we spent a lot of time focusing on how we can continue to grow our economies and create good jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. A large part of that conversation obviously revolved around the eurozone crisis, and Presidents Van Rompuy and Barroso have been very actively engaged with the heads of government and heads of state in Europe to try to resolve this crisis. I communicated to them that the United States stands ready to do our part to help them resolve this issue. 

    The leaders also issued a joint statement, describing their shared commitment to create jobs and ensure financial stability.

    Even as the EU Summit unfolded today in Washington, European leaders continue to meet to discuss a solution to the eurozone debt crisis. In his remarks to the press, the President spoke about the "huge importance" of reaching that resolution.

  • Over the weekend, a report by the Associated Press detailed how the Affordable Care Act is dramatically reducing drug costs for seniors who hit the prescription drug coverage gap known as the donut hole. This year, seniors are benefiting from a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs in the donut hole. And the discount and other provisions in the law are saving money for seniors. As the AP reported:

    The average beneficiary who falls into the coverage gap would have spent $1,504 this year on prescriptions. But thanks to discounts and other provisions in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, that cost fell to $901, according to Medicare's Office of the Actuary, which handles economic estimates.

    So far this year, more than 2.2 million people with Medicare have saved more than $1.2 billion on their prescriptions. The Associated Press spoke with two of them:

    For retired elementary school teacher Carolyn Friedman, it meant she didn't need a loan to pay for drugs that keep her epilepsy under control.

    "What a change for the better," said Friedman, 71, of Sunrise, Fla. "This year it was easier to pay my bills, whereas last year I had to borrow money to pay for my medications when I was in the doughnut hole."

    Joan Gibbs thought her pharmacy had made a mistake. Her total cost for a brand-name painkiller in the doughnut hole came out lower than her co-payment earlier in the year, at a time her plan was picking up most of the tab.

    "I reluctantly called the insurance company," said Gibbs, 54, who lives near Cleveland. "If they had made a mistake, I knew they would catch it sooner or later. I was very surprised that it turned out to be such a good discount."

    Gibbs is on Medicare because of an auto-immune disorder and other medical problems that left her unable to work.

    Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, seniors will receive bigger discounts in the years ahead. By 2020, the donut hole will be closed completely. 

    And even if you don’t hit the donut hole, there’s still good news for beneficiaries with Medicare Part D.  Prescription drug premiums will not rise next year, and thanks to health reform, seniors can get preventive services like mammograms and other cancer screenings for free.

    Nancy-Ann DeParle is the Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff

  • Federal records are crucial to documenting the history of our national experience –the problems, the triumphs, and the challenges. They provide a prism through which future generations will view, understand, and learn from the actions of the current generation. A sensible system of records management is the backbone of open government.

    For many decades, the framework for records management has been based on an approach developed in the middle of the twentieth century, involving paper and filing cabinets. Things are of course very different today. In the digital age, when many records are made and maintained in electronic form, we have extraordinary opportunities to improve records management. New steps can save money, improve efficiency, promote openness, and increase both accuracy and transparency. They can provide great benefits to posterity.

    Today President Obama is taking a historic step -- and the most important step in many decades -- to improve the management of federal records. Delivering on a commitment in the recent Open Government Partnership: National Action Plan for the United States, he is calling for a large-scale transformation in how agencies maintain their records. In the process, he is inaugurating a government-wide effort to reform records management policies and practices. 

    Today’s Presidential Memorandum requires a number of concrete actions. The new effort calls for reports, by each agency head, describing their current plans for improving records management programs; outlining current obstacles to sound, cost-effective records management policies;and cataloging potential reforms and improvements. The agency reports will inform, and be followed, by a Records Management Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB and the National Archivist. The Directive will focus on maintaining accountability to the American public through documenting agency actions; increasing efficiency (and thus reducing costs); and switching, where feasible, from paper-based records to electronic records. In addition, all statutes, regulations, and policies must be reviewed to improve government-wide practices in records management. In a key provision, the President has required the Director of OMB and the National Archivist to consult with those inside and outside the government – including public stakeholders interested in improving records management and open government. 

    Today’s action begins a large-scale transformation in how we maintain the backbone of open government. It promises, at once, to save money, to increase accuracy, and to contribute knowledge and perspective to future generations.

  • In September 2009, the President announced that – for the first time in history – White House visitor records would be made available to the public on an ongoing basis. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were generated in August 2011. This release brings the total number of records made public by this White House to almost 1.9 million records—all of which can be viewed in our Disclosures section.

    Ed. Note: For more information, check out