Read all posts from April 2012

  • Ed. note: This op-ed by was written by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for the Huffington Post.

    As Women's History Month comes to a close, I am reminded that two very influential women in American history -- Clara Barton and Rachel Carson -- began their careers as employees of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

    Barton started as a recording clerk at the U.S. Patent Office - which was then part of the Department of the Interior - with a salary of $1,400 a year, equal to that of the men with whom she worked. But Robert McLelland, a predecessor of mine as Secretary of the Interior, did not believe women should be employed in government offices, much less paid as much as men, so he demoted her to a copyist and reduced her pay to 10 cents for every 100 words copied.

    Clara Barton went on to found the American Red Cross. Its headquarters - now a National Historic Landmark - are across the street from her former employer, and a visible reminder to each Interior Secretary of her story and legacy.

    Rachel Carson had a much better experience with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a biologist and editor in the 1930s and 1940s, where she worked until her best-seller, The Sea Around Us, allowed her to become a full-time writer. She eventually published her treatise on the effects of pesticides on wildlife, Silent Spring, which helped awaken a powerful conservation movement. Congress named Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine in her honor, and her house in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a National Historic Landmark.

    As Secretary of the Interior, where I have responsibility for the stewardship of our nation's history and culture, I am keenly aware of how much of women's history remains untold. In fact, just 12 of our 397 national parks focus solely on the lives and accomplishments of women, and just 4 percent of our National Historic Sites and National Historic Landmarks.

  • By the Numbers: $0

    In 2009, 1,470 people who made more than $1 million paid $0 in federal income tax. That means that while millions of middle class families paid their fair share in taxes that year—money that went to funding things like education, our military, and health care for seniors—a  small group of high-income Americans paid nothing at all.

    And, in addition to the small group of very wealthy who paid no taxes, thousands of other households with incomes of $1 million or more paid a lower percentage of their incomes in taxes than middle class families paid that year. Warren Buffett, for example, pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary, and that’s not fair.

    President Obama believes in building an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. That’s why he proposed the Buffett Rule.

    The Buffett Rule is simple: if you make more than $1 million a year, you should pay at least the same percentage of your income in taxes as middle class families do. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year – like 98 percent of American families do – your taxes shouldn’t go up. 

  • President Barack Obama delivers remarks before the Easter Prayer Breakfast (April 4, 2012)

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks before the Easter Prayer Breakfast, in the East Room of the White House, April 4, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    To mark Easter, President Obama this morning hosted a prayer breakfast at the White House.

    In his remarks, he talked about how the holiday is an opportunity for Christians to remember that Jesus was a human being -- with doubts and fears:

    In the garden of Gethsemane, with attackers closing in around him, Jesus told His disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He fell to his knees, pleading with His Father, saying, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” And yet, in the end, He confronted His fear with words of humble surrender, saying, “If it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

    So it is only because Jesus conquered His own anguish, conquered His fear, that we’re able to celebrate the resurrection. It’s only because He endured unimaginable pain that wracked His body and bore the sins of the world that He burdened -- that burdened His soul that we are able to proclaim, “He is Risen!”

    This is President Obama's third annual Easter Prayer Breakfast. Read the full remarks from today's event here.

  • Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Speak on College Affordability

    Vice President Joe Biden holds an event on College affordability with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia, April 3, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Ed note: This post is updated with a correction to the number of children who would lose access to Head Start.

    Yesterday, the Vice President had a powerful message for the graduating seniors, parents, and teachers at Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia – one that students across the country should hear and one that drives this Administration’s commitment to higher education. He told the Maury students:

    You are the most qualified generation in history. And we have an obligation. We have an obligation to equip you or at least give you the opportunity to go out and plumb that potential.

    For months now, Vice President Biden has been traveling around the country talking about the importance of college and the need to make it more affordable. But the graduating seniors and parents the Vice President spoke to and heard from yesterday know all too well that college isn’t as accessible as it used to be. And when college isn’t accessible, the potential of the next generation is at risk. As a result of rising tuitions and the tough economy, more and more families are facing difficult choices about how or even if they can finance a college education for their children.

    As the Vice President said yesterday, that’s why this Administration has consistently focused on making college more affordable and accessible for low-income and middle-class families. Since President Obama and Vice President Biden took office, this Administration has supported college affordability and access through multiple measures:

    • We increased the maximum Pell award from $4,731 in 2008 to $5,550 today. Nearly 10 million students go to college with the help of a Pell grant each year.
    • We made our education spending go further by ending subsidies for banks that act as middlemen for federal student loans.
    • We created a tax credit that provides up to $2,500 per year – that’s $10,000 over four years – to help students and their families pay for tuition, fees and books. An estimated 9.4 million families are expected to claim this tax credit for 2011.
    • We reformed the way students pay back their federal loans, so students will be able to cap their monthly payments at 10 percent of their discretionary income. This will help make sure that graduates aren’t forced to choose between paying for food or rent or their college loans. 

  • Today the White House launched the official Federal Taxpayer Receipt for 2011, an online tool that gives Americans the ability to calculate where their tax dollars are being spent.  Americans can enter their tax information and calculate what portion of their tax dollars go to different priorities, such as veterans’ benefits or education. The President believes the American people deserve to know exactly how and where their tax dollars are being spent, that’s why he launched the first such receipt last year.  

    There’s a new addition to this year’s Federal Taxpayer Receipt.  For the first time, Americans can not only see how their tax dollars are being spent, they can see just how many people making over a million dollars a year effectively paid $0 in taxes. That’s right. There are millionaires who didn’t pay a dime in taxes. That doesn’t that makes any sense. Not when so many middle class families are struggling to pay the bills or simply put food on the table.  

    The President believes we should build an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. That’s why he proposed the Buffett Rule. It’s simple: if you make more than $1 million a year, you should pay at least the same percentage of your income in taxes as middle class families do. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year – like 98 percent of American families do – your taxes shouldn’t go up.  

    In a couple of weeks Congress will have an opportunity to vote on the Buffett Rule. We’ll see where each member of Congress stands. They can either protect the tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, or they can fight for middle class families. We all know where the President stands -- he’ll continue to fight to restore the economic security for middle class families across the nation.

  • In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama promised that, for the first time ever, American taxpayers would be able to go online and see exactly how their federal tax dollars are spent. The receipt launched that year and, now, we’ve updated the tool to reflect current spending. Check it out and learn how your tax dollars are spent on priorities like education, veterans benefits, or health care.

     

  • The 2012 Easter Egg Roll, which takes place on April 9th on the South Lawn of the White House, is focused on promoting health and wellness with the theme, “Let’s Go, Let’s Play, Let’s Move!”  This will be the 134th annual White House Easter Egg Roll with more than 30,000 people visiting the South Lawn for games, stories, and, of course, the traditional egg roll.

    Each day this week we are releasing the names of the special guests and performers who will be joining us at the Easter Egg Roll – from celebrity readers to athletes to main stage entertainers – through Let's Move! social networks.  For the latest talent updates, follow Let's Move! on Twitter and Facebook or check out the Easter Egg Roll Storify below or here.

    All of the activities, including sports courts, dancing and cooking, encourage children to lead healthy and active lives, which is a central part of the First Lady’s Let's Move! initiative, a national campaign to combat childhood obesity.

    To learn more about the Easter Egg Roll visit www.whitehouse.gov/eastereggroll and http://letsmove.gov.  Tune in for live streams from the South Lawn all day on April 9th, 2012 on WhiteHouse.gov/live and join the conversation online using the hashtag #EasterEggRoll.

  • If you’ve followed the public discussion of the Affordable Care Act, you probably have become accustomed to seeing the use of estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). 

    At the time that the Affordable Care Act passed, and a year later, CBO estimated that the health care law in its entirety would reduce the Federal budget deficit over the next decade. And this week, a new report from the Government Accountability Office found that the Affordable Care Act “would have a major effect” on reducing the deficit if implemented as intended. 

    This year, CBO also updated estimates for parts of the health care law. They project that:

    • The cost of the coverage provisions will be $50 billion lower from 2012 through 2021 when compared to last year’s estimates, and
    • Private health insurance premiums will be 8 percent lower in 2021 than CBO projected last year.

    But some opponents of the law are using this new analysis to claim that the cost of the law has doubled to $1.7 trillion.  This claim is false.  Here’s why: 

    The “new math” from opponents of the health care law does not compare the old and new estimates for the same time period.  It does not adjust for population growth.  It does not take into account inflation.  And, most importantly, it is incomplete: it does not count provisions in the Affordable Care Act that save money over time – and which led CBO to conclude that the law would be fully paid for. 

    Instead, critics are comparing a 10-year cost estimate to an 8-year cost estimate and characterizing the fact that it is larger as a shocking new finding.  

    This is simply bad math. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Instead, check out what CBO has to say when they responded to the claim that the cost of the Affordable Care Act had increased: 

    “Some of the commentary on those reports has suggested that CBO and JCT have changed their estimates of the effects of the ACA to a significant degree. That’s not our perspective… 

    “For the provisions of the Affordable Care Act related to health insurance coverage, CBO and JCT’s latest estimates are quite similar to the estimates we released when the legislation was being considered in March 2010. . . .  Although the latest projections extend the original ones by three years (corresponding to the shift in the regular 10-year projection period since the ACA was first being developed), the projections for each given year have changed little, on net, since March 2010.” 

  • President Obama delivers remarks at the Associated Press Luncheon (April 3, 2012)

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Associated Press (AP) Luncheon at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., April 3, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    The President believes this is a make or break moment for the middle class and those working to reach it.  That’s why he has put forward a blueprint for an economy built to last - one where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.  

    Today at the Associated Press Luncheon, the President discussed how his vision differs with the radical vision laid out in the House Republican Budget: 

    “This Congressional Republican budget, however, is something different altogether.  It’s a Trojan Horse.  Disguised as deficit reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country.  It’s nothing but thinly-veiled Social Darwinism.  It’s antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who’s willing to work for it – a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class.  And by gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last – education and training; research and development – it’s a prescription for decline.”

    The President’s approach to reducing our deficit is a balanced approach that asks the wealthiest to pay their fair share, achieves significant health savings and enacts sensible spending cuts while making the investments we need to have a strong middle class.  

    Take a look at how the President’s approach and the Congressional Republican policies stack up side by side: 

    Side by Side - The President’s Budget vs. Republican Budget

  • Note: This live session of Office Hours has concluded. View the full question and answer session below or at Storify.com

    There are approximately 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, including more than 290,000 women.  Black and Hispanic  women account for nearly three-quarters of new HIV infections among women.  In July 2010, President Obama launched the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy to provide a coordinated national response to fight the epidemic.

    Last week, as part of these ongoing efforts, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum establishing an inter-agency working group on the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender-related health disparities.   

    On Wednesday, the co-chairs of the working group, Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women and Dr. Grant Colfax, the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, will join us for a special session of office hours on Twitter to take your questions on the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women, and gender-related health disparities and the importance of supporting continued research, mobilizing both the public- and private-sector, and engaging families and communities.

    To learn more about the working group read the presidential memorandum and don’t forget to ask your questions during office hours on Wednesday. 

    Here are the details:

    • Join us for Office Hours on Twitter at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4th
    • Ask your question on Twitter with the hashtag #WHChat
    • Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women and Dr. Grant Colfax, the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, will respond to your questions in real-time via Twitter from @WHLive
    • Follow the Q&A through the @WHLive Twitter account
    • If you miss the live event, the full session will be posted on WhiteHouse.gov and Storify.com/WhiteHouse

    We hope you can join us! Follow us on Twitter @WhiteHouseand @WHLive  for the latest updates and more chances to engage.

  • In 2009, a wave of youth violence swept through Chicago. Many young people lost their lives, including Darrion Albert, a 16 year-old honors student who was caught in a brawl between two groups of teenagers, and beaten to death on his way home from school. When President Obama heard about Darrion’s murder, he took action, sending Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to meet with then-Mayor Daley to address the epidemic of violence in our cities.

    These initial conversations led to the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, a partnership that works to keep children safe in cities around the country.

    Yesterday morning, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, addressed the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention here in Washington, D.C.  She was joined by mayors from across the nation, as well as Attorney General Holder and Secretary Duncan. She spoke about President Obama’s ongoing commitment to making our communities safe places to grow up, and to raise children. Her full remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.

    Good morning.

    Thank you, Melodee, for that very kind introduction, and for everything you do to protect our nation’s young people. 

    On behalf of President Obama, I’d like to thank all of you for being true leaders in the fight to prevent youth violence. You all work so hard to keep our children safe. We have mayors from around the country here today.  My hometown Mayor, Rahm Emanuel. Mayor Villaraigosa, who just spoke.  Mayor Reed, Mayor Donohue, and two Mayor Kennedys – Judy and Judith, and Mayor Nutter will be joining you this afternoon. Mayor Menino and Mayor Bing couldn’t be here this morning, but I’d like to recognize them for their leadership. And I also want to acknowledge my dear friend Congressman Bobby Scott.

  • As part of President and Mrs. Obama's commitment to opening the doors of the White House to all Americans, we invited a team of engineers from Google to bring their Street View equipment inside. They were here to "capture" a 360 degree picture of the public rooms of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the Art Project, an online program that offers virtual tours of some of the most acclaimed museums around the world.

    In addition to the robot-like cameras that were deployed to photograph the rooms that are included on the public tour of the White House, the Art Project also features a "gigapixel" look at one of the most famous paintings in the White House, which enables you to view the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington in super closeup (and makes it easy to spot the spelling errors included in the masterpiece.) Take a look at the video, and then  check out the White House's collection at the Art Project

  • Since President Obama's first day in office, when he and the First Lady surprised and welcomed visitors enjoying the public tour of the White House, the Obamas have been focused on truly opening the doors of the "People's House" and making 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue more accessible to all Americans. Today, we are excited to roll out a new phase in this ongoing effort, an online 360 degree tour of the public rooms of the White House.

    “Thousands of people have walked these halls and gazed at the artwork. They’ve examined the portraits of Washington, Lincoln, and Kennedy. They’ve imagined the history that’s unfolded here. And now you can do all of that without leaving your home. So go ahead, look around, enjoy the history and the beauty of these rooms. Because after all, this is your house, too,” said the First Lady in a video announcing the White House's participation in the Art Project, which uses Google's Street View technology to enable visitors to navigate through the rooms on the ground and State floors, and view the art and furnishings in high resolution.

    You can start exploring today.

  • President Barack Obama with President Felipe Calderon and Prime Minister Stephen Harper

    President Barack Obama holds a joint press conference with President Felipe Calderon of Mexico, left, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 2, 2012. The press conference was held in conjunction with the North American Leaders Summit. (Official White House Photo by Sonya Hebert)

    President Obama today hosted the leaders of Mexico and Canada at the White House for a summit aimed at promoting economic growth and and creating jobs in all three countries.

    Last year, U.S. trade with Mexico and Canada exceed $1 trillion for the first time. And finding ways to continue boosting exports was one goal of today's talks.

    At a press conference in the Rose Garden, President Obama was able to point to an initative that will help to accomplish that objective:

    I’m pleased to announce that our three nations are launching a new effort to get rid of outdated regulations that stifle job creation. Here in the United States, our efforts to cut red tape and ensure smart regulations will help achieve savings and benefits to businesses, consumers, and our country of more than $100 billion. And we’re already working to streamline and coordinate regulations with Canada and Mexico on a bilateral basis. So now our three nations are going to sit down together, go through the books and simplify and eliminate more regulations that will make our joint economies stronger.

    This builds on conversations between the U.S. and Canada that were announced when Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited the White House back in December.

    In today's talks, the leaders also discussed security, energy, and efforts to combat drug cartels.

  • UPDATE: The deadline for the Summer Jobs+ Code Sprint has been extended until Monday, April 16 at 8:00 a.m. EDT.

    Today we’re announcing the first ever White House Code Sprint. This is a call to developers around the country to use the Summer Jobs+ API to build job search apps for your favorite browsers, social networking platforms, smart phones and feature phones. Submit your apps using this form by Monday April 16th at 8 a.m. EST, and we’ll pick the most innovative ones to feature on WhiteHouse.gov.

    Summer Jobs+ is an initiative of the White House and the Department of Labor to provide low-income and disconnected youth, ages 16-24, access to summer jobs, internships, mentorships and training opportunities. Over the last three months companies throughout the nation have been making commitments to provide opportunities to support the country’s next generation workforce. These commitments have been tagged using the Job Posting standard established by schema.org creating an open database of summer opportunities.

    We’re excited to tap the collective knowledge and innovation of the app developer community. Bill Joy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems said it best when he said, “No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else.” Some ideas we’d love to see include an easy way to receive job opportunities through SMS, localized job search apps for the city you live in, map based interfaces or easy ways to create summer training playlists that help youth plan a summer of job skills development. These are just a few of our ideas but we’re confident that you have even better ones so get coding, and we’ll feature the most innovative apps on WhiteHouse.gov.

    Brian Forde is Advisor to the CTO on Mobile and Data Innovation

  • Ed. note: Once each decade, the Census Bureau releases the individual records of an official Census taken 72 years earlier. Today, it released the 1940 Census, giving historians and genealogists an additional ten years of detailed information about our nation, as well as our ancestors and relatives.

    To mark the occasion, U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves posted the following on The Commerce Blog:

    On April 2, 2012 the Census Bureau did something unique, a once-in-a-decade action. Throughout all other times, we focus on keeping confidential the social and economic data that households and businesses provide us. Once every decade we release the individual records of a 72-year old census. This year it was the 1940 Census.

    Approaching that day, the buzz in the genealogy world was deafening; they have been waiting 10 years to fill in their family trees, to learn new things about their ancestors, and to expand their insight into their lives. 

    As the genealogist of my family I can’t wait to look up my grandparents, aunts, and uncles, as well as my parents’ forms. The forms won’t be indexed by name immediately, so we’ll have to link addresses of our ancestors to enumeration districts and then browse the enumeration district looking for our relatives. Right now, my tracking of the Groves’ family goes back to 1670 on the Isle of Wight, off the coast of England, but it ends in 1930. The 1940 Census allows me to see records of people I remember meeting in my youth.

  • Myrna Rodriguez Previte, a breast cancer survivor from Cleveland, shares her story about her struggle to get health insurance. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36 in 2003; she needed surgery and six months of radiation. As she tells it, she was facing a future of bills totaling almost $500,000 for treatment, and seven insurance companies turned her down because of her pre-existing condition. As a self-employed commercial real estate broker, she was responsible for her own health insurance but she couldn’t get coverage.

    Fortunately for her, Myrna was finally able to get coverage through her new husband’s plan at work. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Myrna, and myriad women like her, soon won’t ever have to worry about an insurance company denying coverage for a pre-existing condition. Because starting in 2014, it will be illegal for insurers to deny coverage to anyone due to a pre-existing condition.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama arrives at the ceremony to commission the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (April 1, 2012)

    First Lady Michelle Obama is escorted to the stage by Sr. Chief David Stephens at the start of a ceremony to commission the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton at Alameda Coast Guard Station in Alameda, Calif., March 31, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

    On Saturday, the U.S. Coast Guard commissioned its newest cutter -- the USCGC Stratton. First Lady Michelle Obama is the ship's sponsor. Nearly two years ago, she christened the Stratton by breaking a bottle of champagne against its hull, and this weekend, she was on hand for the ceremony to mark the start of the ship's service.

    The cutter is named after Captain Dorothy Stratton -- the first woman to serve in women's reserve of the Coast Guard in World War II. A former professor at Purdue University, she organized the reserve and gave the group its nickname -- SPARs, a combination of the Coast Guard motto, "Semper Paratus" and its English translation, "Always Ready."

    More than 40 veterans of the SPARs were on hand for this weekend's ceremony, and in recognizing their service, the First Lady said, "These women are heroes.  They served this country so bravely, and broke so many barriers. They paved the way for generations of women who came after them, and they helped build a world where young women all across America -- young women like my daughters -- to know that they can become anything they can imagine, even an admiral."

    First Lady Michelle Obama at the ceremony to commission the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (April 1, 2012)

    First Lady Michelle Obama listens as U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Robert Papp delivers remarks during a ceremony to commission the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton at Alameda Coast Guard Station in Alameda, Calif., March 31, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

    The USCGC Stratton will begin patrols in the Pacific later this month. For more information, check out this blog post from the U.S. Coast Guard.

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