Read all posts from November 2013

  • Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the U.S. Small Business Administration. See the original post here.

    Most Americans know Black Friday and Cyber Monday are big days for holiday shopping. But between the two is another important part of the holiday shopping season –Small Business Saturday, a day that is dedicated to supporting the small businesses that anchor our local communities and strengthen our economy.

    From the Main Street shops to the high-tech startups, small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the cornerstones of a diverse and thriving marketplace. These businesses create two out of every three net new private sector jobs, and half of working Americans either own or work for a small business. By shopping small and supporting local business, we all have a role to play in giving millions of families the opportunity to achieve the American dream.

    Small Business Saturday is a nation-wide initiative that bring Americans together  to support these businesses, with the money you spend going right back into your local economy, and that’s important because we know that half of working Americans either own or work for a small business.

    Started in 2010, Small Business Saturday has boosted holiday sales in Main Street businesses around the country. Last year, nearly 70 million people shopped small in their communities for an estimated $5.5 billion in sales to independently-owned small businesses. This year, we can do even more!

  • President Barack Obama makes statement in the State Dining Room of the White House on the agreement reached today with Iran on their nuclear program, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013

    President Barack Obama makes statement in the State Dining Room of the White House on the agreement reached today with Iran on their nuclear program, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Addressing the nation from the State Dining Room tonight, President Obama said that the United States -- together with close allies and partners -- has taken an important first step toward a comprehensive solution that addresses concerns with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program.

    You can read the President's full statement here.

    Read more:

    Fact Sheet: First-Step Understandings Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran's Nuclear Program

  • In his weekly address, President Obama says our economy is moving in the right direction. We have cut our deficits by more than half, businesses have created millions of new jobs, and we have taken significant steps to reverse our addiction to foreign oil and fix our broken health care system.

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

  • Honoring the Medal of Freedom Recipients: On Wednesday, President Obama honored 16 Medal of Freedom recipients during a ceremony in the East Room.

    The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established 50 years ago by President John F. Kennedy and is our nation’s highest civilian honor. This year’s recipients include sports champions, scientists, activists, musicians, journalists and public servants. “These are the men and women who in their extraordinary lives remind us all of the beauty of the human spirit, the values that define us as Americans, the potential that lives inside of all of us,” President Obama said.

    Tribute to President John F. Kennedy: President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the eternal flame, in honor of President Kennedy’s life and legacy.

    150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address: One hundred and fifty years ago on Tuesday, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address from Gettysburg, PA. To mark the occasion, President Obama handwrote an essay in tribute to Lincoln’s historic speech for an exhibit at the Lincoln Presidential Library. Make sure to read President Obama’s essay here.

  • This week, the Vice President traveled to Houston and Panama, the President honored the legacy of John F. Kennedy, this year's Medal of Freedom Winners and Nobel Laureates, and attended the Wall Street Journal's CEO Summit. That's November 15th to 21st or "A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama!"

  • Over the many years that I have worked in the Latino community and the civil rights movement, I have seen the photo many times, perhaps more than any other photo. Often it is dog-eared from having been on a wall for many years, or pulled out of a wallet many times. It’s a photo of Cesar Chavez, weak from fasting over many weeks. Next to him is Robert Kennedy, who visited him and offered his support and solidarity during the fast. Chavez is leaning heavily on Kennedy, who has his hand on Chavez’ arm; one is smiling weakly, the other brightly.   The photo is dear to people who remember the years of Chavez organizing farmworkers, bringing his tremendous moral authority to their struggle.

    The photo has been on my mind a great deal this week, as another fighter for justice, my friend Eliseo Medina, begins the second week of the Fast for Families, which is taking place in a tent near the U.S. Capitol. He, along with Rev. Sam Rodriguez, Dae Joong Yoon, Lisa Sharon Harper, Cristian Avila, and Marco Grimaldo are fasting to draw attention to the urgent need for immigration reform.

    I had the honor of visiting with the fasters and hearing their stories on day 9 of their water-only fast, and I was deeply moved by their moral commitment. They described why immigration reform matters in their lives, as it does for Christian, a DREAMer who told me he is fasting for his own chance at citizenship, to honor his parents, and to call attention to the need for immigration reform to keep his family from the threat of separation. They shared with me their hopes for achieving an immigration reform that feels within reach, because the House of Representatives has the support it needs to pass legislation, and the coalition supporting it has unprecedented depth and strength. They described empty stomachs but full hearts as they receive an outpouring of support; to date, more than 3000 people around the country have committed to fasting in solidarity.

  • Watch on YouTube.

    Something big happened in the Senate today: A majority of senators voted to change the way the filibuster works. (You can read more about what a filibuster does here.)

    Under today's rule change, all executive branch and judicial nominees -- except to the Supreme Court -- can be confirmed with a simple up-or-down vote rather than the previously required 60-vote supermajority.

    Speaking from the White House Press Briefing Room today, the President supported the change and provided context for why it's especially pertinent right now:

    All too often, we've seen a single senator or a handful of senators choose to abuse arcane procedural tactics to unilaterally block bipartisan compromises, or to prevent well-qualified, patriotic Americans from filling critical positions of public service in our system of government.

    Now, at a time when millions of American have desperately searched for work, repeated abuse of these tactics have blocked legislation that might create jobs. They've defeated actions that would help women fighting for equal pay. They've prevented more progress than we would have liked for striving young immigrants trying to earn their citizenship. Or it's blocked efforts to end tax breaks for companies that are shipping jobs overseas. They've even been used to block common-sense and widely supported steps to protect more Americans from gun violence, even as families of victims sat in the Senate chamber and watched.  And they've prevented far too many talented Americans from serving their country at a time when their country needs their talents the most.

    As the President went on to note, in the six decades before he took office, only 20 presidential nominees to executive positions had to overcome filibusters. "But in just under five years since I took office, nearly 30 nominees have been treated this way," the President said.

  • Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) took a major step to give consumers across the country new, standardized information about their options and rights when it comes to health insurance. This effort is a direct response to the President’s concerns that the small percentage of Americans receiving confusing letters from their insurance companies need clearer information about how to keep an existing plan, or how to choose a new plan with new protections available in the health insurance marketplace.

    Because of the Affordable Care Act, people with health insurance have stronger protections than ever before.  This means that consumers in new health insurance plans will no longer be charged more because of gender or a pre-existing condition, there will be caps on out-of-pocket costs, and plans will have to offer a basic package of 10 categories of essential health benefits.

    These new market rules do not apply if you are in the same health plan you were in when the law passed, a so-called grandfathered plan.  Your plan does not need to meet these new requirements – and your plan is required to let you know that.  Additionally, these protections may not apply if your insurer takes the new option announced by the President last week.  This transitional policy allows issuers in states that permit it to renew health plans that were in effect on October 1, 2013, without adopting all of the 2014 market rule changes.  This helps give consumers in the individual and small group markets the choice of staying in their plan or joining a new Marketplace plan next year. 

  • President Barack Obama delivers remarks and awards the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom to honorees during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks and awards the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom to honorees during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 20, 2013. Honorees are: Ernie Banks, Ben Bradlee, former President Bill Clinton, Daniel Inouye (posthumous), Daniel Kahneman, Richard Lugar, Loretta Lynn, Mario Molina, Sally Ride (posthumous), Bayard Rustin (posthumous), Arturo Sandoval, Dean Smith, Gloria Steinem, Cordy Tindell "C.T." Vivian, Patricia Wald, and Oprah Winfrey. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    The Presidential Medal of Freedom, established 50 years ago by President John F. Kennedy, is our nation’s highest civilian honor. The medal has been presented to more than 500 individuals who have made especially “meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

    Today, in a ceremony at the White House, President Obama added 16 names to that distinguished list. Watch the interviews with the recipients here:

    Recipients of the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom included sports champions and scientists, musicians and civil rights leaders, activists and journalists, media moguls and public servants.

    President Barack Obama awards the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Oprah Winfrey

    President Barack Obama awards the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Oprah Winfrey during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    “These are the men and women who in their extraordinary lives remind us all of the beauty of the human spirit, the values that define us as Americans, the potential that lives inside of all of us,” President Obama said.

    President Barack Obama delivers awards the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian

    President Barack Obama delivers awards the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    Watch video of the ceremony here or read more about each of the 2013 recipients below.

  • Ed. note: This event has concluded. Watch the full hangout below.

    “Let us come together and help aspiring entrepreneurs take a chance on themselves and their visions for a brighter future.” President Obama on National Entrepreneurship Month, November 2013

    For generations, Americans have turned innovative ideas into small businesses, large companies, and entire industries that have revolutionized the economy, created millions of jobs, and transformed life as we know it—here at home and around the globe. That entrepreneurial spirit is the foundation of America’s story and is critical to ensuring future successes for generations to come. We know from experience that potentially game-changing innovative ideas are born in all corners of the Nation—in every state and region, at laboratory benches and on factory floors, in boardrooms and city halls, at community meetings, in classrooms, and on college campuses.

    That’s why, on November 22, which the President has designated National Entrepreneurs’ Day, we’re celebrating the extraordinary stories of young entrepreneurs—students who, along with all the usual demands of pursuing a high school, college, or a graduate degree, are building companies today that are spreading homegrown ideas all over the world. Two proven entrepreneurs featured on the popular TV show Shark Tank will join these student innovators to share lessons from their own entrepreneurial journeys.

    Join us this Friday November 22, at 2:00 pm EST for a “We the Geeks” Google+ Hangout, called “Student Startups” – where leading student entrepreneurs and business moguls will talk about how anyone can cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship in his or her own community. 

  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed against a backdrop of decades of rapid growth in health care spending, and one of the ACA’s key goals was to root out serious inefficiencies in the United States health care system that increase costs and compromise patients’ quality of care. Recent data show that health care spending and prices are growing at their slowest rates in decades; it appears that something has changed for the better. While this marked slowdown likely has many causes, and these causes are not yet fully understood, the available evidence suggests that the ACA is contributing to these trends, and, moreover, is helping to improve quality of care for patients. Today the White House Council of Economic Advisers released a new report analyzing recent trends in health costs, the forces driving those trends, and their likely economic benefits. Read the full report here.

    Key points in today's report from the Council of Economic Advisers:

    1. Health care spending is growing at the slowest rate on record: According to the most recent projections, real per capita health care spending has grown at an estimated average annual rate of just 1.3 percent over the three years since 2010. This is the lowest rate on record for any three-year period and less than one-third the long-term historical average stretching back to 1965. This slower growth in spending is reflected in Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. 

    2. Health care price inflation is at its lowest rate in 50 years: Measured using personal consumption expenditure price indices, inflation for health care goods and services is currently running at just 1 percent on a year-over-year basis, the lowest level since January 1962.  (Health care inflation measured using the medical CPI is lower than at any time since September 1972.)

  • In recent weeks, the Administration has taken several steps to advance Pay for Success, an innovative approach for the government to partner with philanthropic and private investors to fund proven and promising practices, significantly enhancing the return on taxpayer investments. Under this model, these organizations provide the up-front capital for social services with a strong evidence base that, when successful, achieve measurable outcomes that improve the lives of families and individuals and reduce their need for future services. Government pays when these measurable results are achieved.

    This week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced  it will provide $5 billion in grant dollars to assist in the rebuilding and strengthening effort following Hurricane Sandy and encouraged the five states impacted by the storm to make use of evidence-based, Pay for Success strategies where appropriate. 

    This funding will create new opportunities to rebuild damaged infrastructure, stronger than it was before the storm. Possible projects include management of increased storm water, reducing future flood damage, and protecting water treatment facilities.

  • One hundred and fifty years ago today, President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most memorable speeches in U.S. history from Gettysburg, PA. In dedicating the military cemetery where thousands of soldiers were buried following the Battle of Gettysburg, fought just four months earlier, Lincoln described "a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

    Paying tribute to the historic speech, President Obama hand wrote an essay for an exhibit at the Lincoln Presidential Library. President Obama joins former Presidents Clinton, Carter and H.W. Bush who have submitted their contributions, along with other notable essayists including Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, General Colin Powell, and Martin Luther King III, among hundreds of others.

    You can read President Obama's essay here, and below:

  • Earlier today, Deputy Senior Advisor David Simas sent the following message to the White House email list. Want to get messages like this one? You can sign up here.

    A group of extreme Republicans in Congress have opposed the President's legislative agenda at every turn. That's no secret.

    But the 113th Congress' obstruction is reaching new levels.
    Right now, our lawmakers are in a position to take action on multiple national measures that would help our economy and millions of Americans. That's not an exaggeration: They could vote tomorrow. And they should.

  • Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Americans all over the country are enrolling in affordable health coverage. Many were unable to get insurance before and many others are signing up for new plans that offer better coverage than what they had before, often at lower costs.

    Here are some of the stories being reported around the country.

    Butch Matthews, a 61-year-old former small business owner from Little Rock, Arkansas, learned he will be able to buy a better plan that saves him nearly $13,000 ayear. [ThinkProgress, 10/2/13]

    Rakesh Rikhi of San Jose, California, pays $950 a month to insure himself, his wife and two children with Kaiser. Through CoveredCalifornia, his state’s marketplace, he’ll be able to get a similar Kaiser plan that saves his family $400 a month. [NBC Bay Area, 10/12/13].

  • Today, Dr. Jill Biden and Labor Secretary Tom Perez will visit Cleveland Community College in North Carolina and Broward College in Florida as part of their “Community College to Career” tour designed to highlight innovative workforce training partnerships.

    Dr. Biden and Secretary Perez will meet with students, tour innovative labs and classrooms, and learn more about the Labor Department’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grants. These unprecedented investments are helping leverage strong partnerships with local employers to transform community colleges into engines of economic growth across the country.

    Follow along with @LaborSec and @DrBiden on Twitter, and use the hashtag #CCTour to share how community colleges are helping your own community strengthen the workforce of today and train the workforce of tomorrow.

    Check out this video featuring 2012’s “Community College to Career” bus tour.

  • In his weekly address, President Obama discusses progress in American energy and highlights that we are now producing more oil at home than we buy from other countries for the first time in nearly two decades. We reached this milestone in part not only because we’re producing more energy, but because we’re wasting less energy, and as a result, we are also reducing our carbon emissions while growing the economy.

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

  • Honoring our Military: On Veterans Day, the President honored those who have served, or are currently serving, our country. The President hosted a breakfast that morning for veterans and their families before heading off to Arlington Cemetery with the Vice President, the First Lady, and Dr. Biden. The President participated in a wreath-laying ceremony and spoke to the crowd about the devotion and commitment of those who don our nation’s uniform.

    In the life of our nation, across every generation, there are those who stand apart. They step up, they raise their hands, they take that oath. They put on the uniform and they put their lives on the line. They do this so that the rest of us might live in a country and a world that is safer, freer, and more just.

    The President also reminded Americans that we need to support troops after they have come home. “This is how we’ll be judged.  Not just by how well we care for our troops in battle, but how we treat them when they come home,” the President said. Check out the President’s remarks here.

    In honor of Veteran’s Day, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden wrote an op-ed about Joining Forces that appeared in military news websites, highlighting their commitment to employment, wellness, and education for veterans, service members, and their families.

    Continuing his work with members of the military later that week, the President welcomed senior civilian defense and military leaders to an annual meeting and dinner, where those present discussed a wide range of issues.

  • Today we talked 3-D printed flowers, books that fold into LED lamps, and the power of the maker movement on the latest We The Geeks, called “Don’t Be Bored, Make Something.”

    Pioneers here in America are democratizing the tools of the industrial revolution and spreading them to students around the country. Today’s discussion focused on the coalition of citizens coming together to give U.S. students, entrepreneurs, and workers the ability to make almost anything.

    Kumar Garg, Assistant Director for Learning and Innovation at the Office of Science and Technology Policy and J.J. Raynor, a Policy Analyst at the National Economic Council moderated today’s discussion, and the participants included:

    Watch the full video below:

  • Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas stand for the National Anthem

    Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas stand for the National Anthem at a naturalization ceremony at the Martin Luther King Junior Center, in Atlanta, Georgia, November 14, 2013. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden spoke at a naturalization ceremony at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center in Atlanta, Georgia. He welcomed 104 newly naturalized citizens, representing 50 countries. This ceremony is one of 120 naturalization ceremonies held throughout the nation and overseas in the last two weeks to welcome approximately 8,000 new U.S. citizens.

    At the ceremony, the Vice President thanked the new citizens for pursuing American citizenship. “Thank you for choosing us - thank you for concluding America was worthy of your aspirations,” he said. “The truth of the matter is you’ve been Americans for a long time, long before you raised your right hand today, because you’ve all adhered to the idea of America.”

    The event highlighted the Obama Administration’s celebration of citizenship and across the board commitment to passing commonsense immigration reform that includes a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the U.S. today.

    The Vice President recognized that immigration makes us stronger, and that if we want to keep attracting the best and brightest talent the world has to offer, then we need to do a better job of welcoming them. He called for reforms to our immigration system that will help harness the talent and ingenuity of all those like them who want to work hard and find a place here in America.