the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney en route Orlando, FL, 3/20/2014

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Orlando, Florida

12:54 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  I have with me, as you can see, Betsey Stevenson, a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.  You may recall she briefed with me recently, and by popular demand she’s back today to discuss the events, the roundtable the President is doing today, and the fact that it is the beginning of a series of events.

So I’m going to ask Betsey to speak to you first.  If you could direct questions on those subjects to her at the top, and then we’ll get to other subjects right after that.

MS. STEVENSON:  Great, thank you.  So, as you know, last week the President announced the date of the Working Families Summit, June 23rd.  And as Jay mentioned, today kicks off the first of a series of events and gatherings leading into that.  He’ll be at Valencia College talking with a number of women with various experiences about their experiences in the labor force and their experiences in getting the skills they need to succeed in the labor force.

Following this, there will be a series of regional events around the country in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Denver, and another one that I’m forgetting.  But the -- New York?  That’s the one I forgot?  (Laughter.) 

The goal of these events is to make sure that we’re hearing from real people along with hearing from businesses, from state and local governments, from members of Congress, for us to try to figure out what are the policies and changes that we need to make to better address the needs of working families in the labor force. 

The labor force, as I said in last week’s briefing, has been changing and changing quite rapidly.  We are moving to a world in which soon women will be the majority of the highly skilled workers.  They’re now graduating at rates much higher than men, and they’ve been doing so now for two decades.

And as women continue to gain skills, continue to participate in the labor force, and continue to earn a large and increasing share of household earnings, making sure that the labor force is making the best use of their talents is important not just for women and for families, but to make sure that the U.S. stays as competitive as possible in the 21st century.

So why don’t I turn to questions.

Q    Just a couple questions.  Is the President planning to do any of these other regional events, or just this first one?

MS. STEVENSON:  The President will be doing this first one, and then other members of the administration will be doing the other events.  I believe Valerie Jarrett is going to be in New York.  I’m going to be in Boston.  I know Secretary Perez is going to be in San Francisco, and I think a few of the other ones.  And we’re also going to be involving members of Congress in these events.  So, for instance, I know that the event in Boston will have members of Congress there.

Q    If women are increasingly getting higher education degrees and occupying the workplace -- better jobs in the workplace, what is the government’s role in speeding that process or improving that process?

MS. STEVENSON:  Improving which -- the process --

Q    Why should the government become involved in effecting that?

MS. STEVENSON:  Well, I don’t think the government should become involved in, say, changing the degree to which women -- the government should be involved in making sure that we’re able to make the best use of America’s talent, whoever is holding that talent, and making sure that there aren’t artificial or unnecessary constraints that prevent that talent from reaching its potential.

The point of this summit is to figure out what’s the role  -- what government can and should do; what businesses can and should do; what individuals can and should do; and what state and local governments can and should do in order to make sure that we’re making the best use of our talent, and not having people make decisions that perhaps reflect artificial barriers.

And to give you an example -- academics -- notably, Claudia Goldin, has pointed out that a lot of women today choose professions not based on necessarily where their talents are best suited, but where they might have more flexibility in balancing work and family.  Obviously, to the extent that we can, it would be better to remove some of those barriers so that women could go where their talents were going to be most successful, rather than making choices based on the constraints they face of balancing work and family.

Q    Why Florida for the first event?  How much did politics play into the location of the first one?

MS. STEVENSON:  I don’t pick locations, so I can't answer that.  I think what we know about Valencia College -- so I can certainly tell you what is so great about Valencia College.  So, first of all, the President announced in 2010 the Aspen Prize for community college that demonstrates excellence, and Valencia College was the first community college to win that price.  They won it in 2011.

This is a community college that’s been extremely successful in educating both men and women, helping them transition successfully into jobs or, actually, into higher education.  They do a really good job of educating older students and students with children.  So this is a location that certainly demonstrates I think many of the multiple challenges that women face.  So it demonstrates -- one thing people don’t appreciate is more than a fifth of female college students have children.  So when we’re talking about balancing family and work, a lot of times they’re balancing the need to get skills in order to support their family at the same time they actually have that family. 

And I think a lot of the students at Valencia College are dealing with exactly that challenge.  Many of the workers within the community deal with some of the challenges that everyday women face, and I think we’re able to get a good snapshot at some of the challenges that women face through the people invited to participate in this roundtable.

The only other thing is just the BLS released the annual report on veterans data today; it came out at 10 a.m.  And it showed that we’ve continued to make progress in bringing down the unemployment rate of veterans.  As you know, we can look at the unemployment rate of veterans every month, but this annual report allows us to dig deeper into looking at veterans who’ve recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and understand who is doing a good job of transitioning back to the civilian workforce.  And the top line of this was that where it shows that for Gulf War II veterans or more recent veterans, we have now brought the unemployment rate down from its peak of 12.1 in 2011 to 9 percent in 2013.  So we’ve continued to make progress.

MR. CARNEY:  I know you all heard -- or I hope you heard, because you were on the plane -- did you hear the President’s statement?  Were you able to hear it?

Q    We got notes from that.

MR. CARNEY:  You got notes from it.  Okay, well, as you know, the President this morning, prior to leaving the White House, announced new sanctions under the existing executive orders designating additional individuals in the Russian government as well as individuals not in government office but who have substantial assets and substantial influence over and with government officials. 

He also announced that he has signed a new executive order that creates the authorities for sanctions in sectors of the Russian economy.  For details about that, I would refer you to the Treasury Department, which I know has put out paper on it.  But that was essentially the announcement he made.  And he also reiterated that taking these actions has been necessitated by choices the Russian government has made. 

Pursuing sanctions, especially those that would come potentially with the authorities created in the executive order, is not our preferred choice, because in addition to the damage those sanctions might inflict on the Russian economy, there could be an impact on the global economy. 

But what Russia has done has flagrantly violated international law as well as the agreements that Russia has with the sovereign state of Ukraine.  And Russia still has the opportunity to de-escalate and take steps to engage in a dialogue with the Ukrainian government in order to address the concerns the Russian government says it has in a manner consistent with international law and in a manner that does not violate the sovereignty of Ukraine. 

Any questions?

Q    Yes, we didn’t see if there was a list put out of names.  Are these more members of Putin’s inner circle that have been added?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, there are additional government officials, as well as influential individuals who are not in government.  I don’t have the list, unfortunately.

Q    Was the list put out?

MR. CARNEY:  Yes.

Q    And was the bank named as well?

MR. CARNEY:  Yes.

Q    Are these sanctions that the President told Putin in his phone call would be imposed were he not to take certain actions?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have a more detailed readout of that phone call.  Obviously, President Putin and other Russian government officials should not be surprised that these actions are being taken both by us and by our allies.  We’ve made clear all along that the intervention in Crimea, the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the escalation intentions have all been at odds with international law and with the interest of stability in the region.  So those are the consequences if Russia chose not to de-escalate and if Russia chose to continue down the path that it's on. 

So I don't have a specific exchange in a conversation to relate to you except that you can be sure that Russian government officials understand that these are the kinds of actions that their choices have made it necessary to take.

Q    So the President didn’t make any other calls today on the plane at all since making this announcement?

MR. CARNEY:  Any other calls?  I have no calls to read out. 

Q    Senator Reid sent a letter supporting Senator Feinstein’s concerns with regard to CIA spying on the committee; called it a breach and unacceptable.  In light of adding his voice to those concerns, does the President feel the need to take any action to rein in the CIA or to address this difference between -- obviously the Senator has been a strong supporter of the CIA.

MR. CARNEY:  The disputes around the protocols established in 2009 for the provision of documents to the committee are being reviewed by an independent inspector general as well as the Department of Justice.  So I think that's appropriate, and I'm not going to comment on what are ongoing reviews.  So I have nothing new to add to that discussion.

Q    Does the President think that General Sinclair received an appropriate sentence?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not going to comment on an individual case like that.  You understand from what the President has said in the past how seriously he views the issue of sexual assault in general, and in particular in the military.  And you’ve seen the actions that we've taken and the actions the Department of Defense has undertaken.  But I'm not going to comment on an individual case.

Q    Why are we on this plane today?

MR. CARNEY:  I have the specific guidance here somewhere, but the larger plane required maintenance and so we're on this plane.

Q    And speaking of planes, the FBI obviously is involved in the search and investigation in Malaysia.  Is there anything to read into their involvement that there is indication of criminal action?

MR. CARNEY:  We are assisting in a variety of ways.  We, the United States are providing assistance through the FAA and the NTSB, and through the FBI.  We are receiving excellent cooperation from the Malaysian government, which has the lead obviously in both the search and in the investigation. 

We have no new information or conclusions to provide about what happened to the plane.  We're obviously assisting in the search in the Indian Ocean in the areas that the Prime Minister outlined over the weekend.  And in case you were going to ask me about the reports of the debris, I just have no updates on that except that we're participating in the search as a general matter.

Q    Is there a reason that the President is not appearing with Governor Crist today?  Clearly, Governor Crist has been a big, outspoken supporter of the President and his health care plan, and I know you all said you want to help out with the gubernatorial, the races in the midterm.

MR. CARNEY:  You’d have to ask Governor Crist.  I don't have the answer to that question.

Q    Thank you.

END
1:09 P.M. EDT