REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 6:06 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening, everybody. I wanted to give you an update on the current situation around the debt ceiling. I just got a call about a half hour ago from Speaker Boehner who indicated that he was going to be walking away from the negotiations that we’ve been engaged in here at the White House for a big deficit reduction and debt reduction package. And I thought it would be useful for me to just give you some insight into where we were and why I think that we should have moved forward with a big deal. Essentially what we had offered Speaker Boehner was over a trillion dollars in cuts to discretionary spending, both domestic and defense.
We then offered an additional $650 billion in cuts to entitlement programs — Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. We believed that it was possible to shape those in a way that preserved the integrity of the system, made them available for the next generation, and did not affect current beneficiaries in an adverse way.
In addition, what we sought was revenues that were actually less than what the Gang of Six signed off on. So you had a bipartisan group of senators, including Republicans who are in leadership in the Senate, calling for what effectively was about $2 trillion above the Republican baseline that they’ve been working off of. What we said was give us $1.2 trillion in additional revenues, which could be accomplished without hiking taxes — tax rates, but could simply be accomplished by eliminating loopholes, eliminating some deductions and engaging in a tax reform process that could have lowered rates generally while broadening the base.
So let me reiterate what we were offering. We were offering a deal that called for as much discretionary savings as the Gang of Six. We were calling for taxes that were less than what the Gang of Six had proposed. And we were calling for modifications to entitlement programs, would have saved just as much over the 10-year window.
In other words, this was an extraordinarily fair deal. If it was unbalanced, it was unbalanced in the direction of not enough revenue. But in the interest of being serious about deficit reduction, I was willing to take a lot of heat from my party — and I spoke to Democratic leaders yesterday, and although they didn’t sign off on a plan, they were willing to engage in serious negotiations, despite a lot of heat from a lot of interest groups around the country, in order to make sure that we actually dealt with this problem.
It is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away from this kind of deal. And, frankly, if you look at commentary out there, there are a lot of Republicans that are puzzled as to why it couldn’t get done. In fact, there are a lot of Republican voters out there who are puzzled as to why it couldn’t get done. Because the fact of the matter is the vast majority of the American people believe we should have a balanced approach.
Now, if you do not have any revenues, as the most recent Republican plan that’s been put forward both in the House and the Senate proposed, if you have no revenues at all, what that means is more of a burden on seniors, more drastic cuts to education, more drastic cuts to research, a bigger burden on services that are going to middle-class families all across the country. And it essentially asks nothing of corporate jet owners, it asks nothing of oil and gas companies, it asks nothing from folks like me who’ve done extremely well and can afford to do a little bit more.
In other words, if you don’t have revenues, the entire thing ends up being tilted on the backs of the poor and middle-class families. And the majority of Americans don’t agree on that approach. So here’s what we’re going to do. We have now run out of time. I told Speaker Boehner, I’ve told Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, I’ve told Harry Reid, and I’ve told Mitch McConnell I want them here at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. We have run out of time. And they are going to have to explain to me how it is that we are going to avoid default. And they can come up with any plans that they want and bring them up here and we will work on them.
The only bottom line that I have is that we have to extend this debt ceiling through the next election, into 2013. And the reason for it is we’ve now seen how difficult it is to get any kind of deal done. The economy is already weakened. And the notion that five or six or eight months from now we’ll be in a better position to try to solve this problem makes no sense. In addition, if we can’t come up with a serious plan for actual deficit and debt reduction, and all we’re doing is extending the debt ceiling for another six, seven, eight months, then the probabilities of downgrading U.S. credit are increased, and that will be an additional cloud over the economy and make it more difficult for us and more difficult for businesses to create jobs that the American people so desperately need.
So they will come down here at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. I expect them to have an answer in terms of how they intend to get this thing done over the course of the next week. The American people expect action. I continue to believe that a package that is balanced and actually has serious debt and deficit reduction is the right way to go. And the American people I think are fed up with political posturing and an inability for politicians to take responsible action as opposed to dodge their responsibilities.
With that, I’m going to take some questions. Ben.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You said you want the leaders back here at 11:00 a.m. to give you an answer about the path forward. What is your answer about the path forward? What path do you prefer, given what’s just happened? And also, sir, quickly, what does this say about your relationship with Speaker Boehner?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, with respect to my relationship with Speaker Boehner, we’ve always had a cordial relationship. We had very intense negotiations — I’m going to have my team brief you exactly on how these negotiations proceeded. Up until sometime early today when I couldn’t get a phone call returned, my expectation was that Speaker Boehner was going to be willing to go to his caucus and ask them to do the tough thing but the right thing. I think it has proven difficult for Speaker Boehner to do that. I’ve been left at the altar now a couple of times. And I think that one of the questions that the Republican Party is going to have to ask itself is can they say yes to anything? Can they say yes to anything? I mean, keep in mind it’s the Republican Party that has said that the single most important thing facing our country is deficits and debts. We’ve now put forward a package that would significantly cut deficits and debt. It would be the biggest debt reduction package that we’ve seen in a very long time. And it’s accomplished without raising individual tax rates. It’s accomplished in a way that’s compatible with the “no tax” pledge that a whole bunch of these folks signed on to — because we were mindful that they had boxed themselves in and we tried to find a way for them to generate revenues in a way that did not put them in a bad spot. And so the question is, what can you say yes to? Now, if their only answer is what they’ve presented, which is a package that would effectively require massive cuts to Social Security, to Medicare, to domestic spending, with no revenues whatsoever, not asking anything from the wealthiest in this country or corporations that have been making record profits — if that’s their only answer, then it’s going to be pretty difficult for us to figure out where to go. Because the fact of the matter is that’s what the American people are looking for, is some compromise, some willingness to put partisanship aside, some willingness to ignore talk radio or ignore activists in our respective bases, and do the right thing. And to their credit, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, the Democratic leadership, they sure did not like the plan that we are proposing to Boehner, but they were at least willing to engage in a conversation because they understood how important it is for us to actually solve this problem. And so far I have not seen the capacity of the House Republicans in particular to make those tough decisions. And so then the question becomes, where’s the leadership? Or, alternatively, how serious are you actually about debt and deficit reduction? Or do you simply want it as a campaign ploy going into the next election? Now, in terms of where we go next, here’s the one thing that we’ve got to do. At minimum, we’ve got to increase the debt ceiling. At minimum. I think we need to do more than that. But as I’ve said before, Republican Leader McConnell in the Senate put forward a plan that said he’s going to go ahead and give me the responsibility to raise the debt ceiling. That way folks in Congress can vote against it, but at least it gets done. I’m willing to take the responsibility. That’s my job. So if they want to give me the responsibility to do it, I’m happy to do it. But what we’re not going to do is to continue to play games and string this along for another eight, nine months, and then have to go through this whole exercise all over again. That we’re not going to do. Jessica Yellin.
Q Standing here tonight, Mr. President, can you assure the American people that they will get their Social Security checks on August 3rd? And if not, who’s to blame?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, when it comes to all the checks, not just Social Security — veterans, people with disabilities — about 70 million checks are sent out each month — if we default then we’re going to have to make adjustments. And I’m already consulting with Secretary Geithner in terms of what the consequences would be. We should not even be in that kind of scenario. And if Congress — and in particular, the House Republicans — are not willing to make sure that we avoid default, then I think it’s fair to say that they would have to take responsibility for whatever problems arise in those payments. Because, let me repeat, I’m not interested in finger-pointing and I’m not interested in blame, but I just want the facts to speak for themselves. We have put forward a plan that is more generous to Republican concerns than a bipartisan plan that was supported by a number of Republican senators, including at least one that is in Republican leadership in the Senate. Now, I’ll leave it up to the American people to make a determination as to how fair that is. And if the leadership cannot come to an agreement in terms of how we move forward, then I think they will hold all of us accountable. But that shouldn’t even be an option. That should not be an option. I’m getting letters from people who write me and say, at the end of every month I have to skip meals. Senior citizens on Social Security who are just hanging on by a thread. Folks who have severe disabilities who are desperate every single month to try to figure out how they’re going to make ends meet. But it’s not just those folks. You’ve got business contractors who are providing services to the federal government, who have to wonder are they going to be able to get paid and what does that do in terms of their payrolls. You’ve got just a huge number of people who, in one way or another, interact with the federal government. And even if you don’t, even if you’re not a recipient of Social Security, even if you don’t get veterans’ benefits or disabilities, imagine what that does to the economy when suddenly 70 million checks are put at risk. I mean, if you’re a business out there, that is not going to be good for economic growth. And that’s the number one concern of the American people. So we’ve got to get it done. It is not an option not to do it.
Q And your degree of confidence?
THE PRESIDENT: I am confident simply because I cannot believe that Congress would end up being that irresponsible that they would not send a package that avoids a self-inflicted wound to the economy at a time when things are so difficult. Scott Horsley.
Q Mr. President, can you explain why you were offering a deal that was more generous than the Gang of Six, which you seemed to be embracing on Tuesday when you were here?
THE PRESIDENT: Because what had become apparent was that Speaker Boehner had some difficulty in his caucus. There are a group of his caucus that actually think default would be okay and have said that they would not vote for increasing the debt ceiling under any circumstances. And so I understand how they get themselves stirred up and the sharp ideological lines that they’ve drawn. And ultimately, my responsibility is to make sure that we avoid extraordinary difficulties to American people and American businesses. And so, unfortunately, when you’re in these negotiations you don’t get 100 percent of what you want. You may not even get 60 or 70 percent of what you want. But I was willing to try to persuade Democratic leadership as well as Democratic members of Congress that even a deal that is not as balanced as I think it should be is better than no deal at all. And I was willing to persuade Democrats that getting a handle on debt and deficit reduction is important to Democrats just as much as it’s important to Republicans — and, frankly, a lot of Democrats are persuaded by that. As I said in the last press conference, if you’re a progressive you should want to get our fiscal house in order, because once we do, it allows us to then have a serious conversation about the investments that we need to make — like infrastructure, like rebuilding our roads and our bridges and airports, like investing more in college education, like making sure that we’re focused on the kinds of research and technology that’s going to help us win the future. It’s a lot easier to do that when we’ve got our fiscal house in order. And that was an argument that I was willing to go out and make to a lot of skeptical Democrats, as you saw yesterday. But ultimately, that’s what we should expect from our leaders. If this was easy it would have already been done. And I think what a lot of the American people are so disappointed by is this sense that all the talk about responsibility, all the talk about the next generation, all the talk about making sacrifices, that when it comes to actually doing something difficult folks walk away. Last point I’ll make here. I mean, I’ve gone out of my way to say that both parties have to make compromises. I think this whole episode has indicated the degree to which at least a Democratic President has been willing to make some tough compromises. So when you guys go out there and write your stories, this is not a situation where somehow this was the usual food fight between Democrats and Republicans. A lot of Democrats stepped up in ways that were not advantageous politically. So we’ve shown ourselves willing to do the tough stuff on an issue that Republicans ran on. Norah.
Q Mr. President, there seems to be an extraordinary breakdown of trust involved here. And I wonder if you could address what we’re hearing from Republicans, which is that there was a framework and a deal that was agreed with your chief of staff, with the Treasury Secretary, about a certain number of revenues, that the Republicans had agreed to that. And then after you brought that to your party and the discussion of that, the goal line was moved. Is this an example of where the goal line has moved and that that’s what has led to this breakdown in trust?
THE PRESIDENT: Norah, what I’ll do is we’ll do a tick-tock, we’ll go through all the paper. We’ll walk you through this process. What this came down to was that there doesn’t seem to be a capacity for them to say yes. Now, what is absolutely true is we wanted more revenue than they had initially offered. But as you’ll see, the spending cuts that we were prepared to engage in were at least as significant as the spending cuts that you’ve seen in a whole range of bipartisan proposals, and we had basically agreed within $10 billion, $20 billion — we were within that range. So that wasn’t the reason this thing broke down. We were consistent in saying that it was going to be important for us to have at least enough revenue that we could protect current beneficiaries of Social Security, for example, or current beneficiaries of Medicare; that we weren’t slashing Medicaid so sharply that states suddenly were going to have to throw people off the health care rolls. And we were consistent in that. So I want to be clear. I’m not suggesting that we had an agreement that was signed, sealed and delivered. The parties were still apart as recently as yesterday. But when you look at the overall package, there’s no changing of the goalposts here. There has been a consistency on our part in saying we’re willing to make the tough cuts and we’re willing to take on the heat for those difficult cuts, but that there’s got to be some balance in the process. What I’ve said publicly is the same thing that I’ve said privately. And I’ve done that consistently throughout this process. Now, with respect to this breakdown in trust, I think that we have operated aboveboard consistently. There haven’t been any surprises. I think the challenge really has to do with the seeming inability, particularly in the House of Representatives, to arrive at any kind of position that compromises any of their ideological preferences. None. And you’ve heard it. I mean, I’m not making this up. I think a number of members of that caucus have been very clear about that.
Q But they were willing to move on some revenues, apparently.
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. But what you saw — and, again, you’ll see this from the description of the deal — essentially what they had agreed to give on is to get back to a baseline — this starts getting technical, but there were about $800 billion in revenue that were going to be available. And what we said was when you’ve got a ratio of $4 in cuts for every $1 of revenue, that’s pretty hard to stomach. And we think it’s important to make sure that whatever additional revenue is in there covers the amount of money that’s being taken out of entitlement programs. That’s only fair. If I’m saying to future recipients of Social Security or Medicare that you’re going to have to make some adjustments, it’s important that we’re also willing to make some adjustments when it comes to corporate jet owners, or oil and gas producers, or people who are making millions or billions of dollars. Wendell. Where’s Wendell? Wendell is not here. Lesley. Is Lesley here?
Q Yes, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: There you are.
Q Thank you. You’ve said that your bottom line has been the big deal; that’s not going to happen. Are you going to be willing to go back to just raising the debt ceiling still?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think I’ve been consistently saying here in this press room and everywhere that it is very important for us to raise the debt ceiling. We don’t have an option on that. So if that’s the best that Congress can do, then I will sign a extension of the debt ceiling that takes us through 2013. I don’t think that’s enough. I think we should do more. That’s the bare minimum; that’s the floor of what the American people expect us to do. So I’d like to see us do more. And when I meet with the leadership tomorrow I’m going to say let’s do more. But if they tell me that’s the best they can do, then I will sign an extension that goes to 2013, and I will make the case to the American people that we’ve got to continue going out there and solving this problem. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s time to do it. We can’t keep on putting it off.
Q You suggested that Speaker Boehner didn’t return phone calls this afternoon. Could you elaborate a little bit on that?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I’m less concerned about me having to wait for my phone call returned than I am the message that I received when I actually got the phone call. I’m going to make this the last question. Go ahead.
Q Yes, the markets are closed right now, obviously. What assurances can you give people on Wall Street? Are you going to be reaching out to some people on Wall Street so that when Monday comes we don’t see a reaction to the news that’s developing right now?
THE PRESIDENT: I think it’s very important that the leadership understands that Wall Street will be opening on Monday, and we better have some answers during the course of the next several days.
Q What can you say to people who are watching who work on Wall Street who might find this news a bit alarming, perhaps?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think what you should say — well, here’s what I’d say: I remain confident that we will get an extension of the debt limit and we will not default. I am confident of that. I am less confident at this point that people are willing to step up to the plate and actually deal with the underlying problem of debt and deficits. That requires tough choices. That’s what we were sent here to do. I mean, the debt ceiling, that’s a formality. Historically, this has not even been an issue. It’s an unpleasant vote but it’s been a routine vote that Congress does periodically. It was raised 18 times when Ronald Reagan was President. Ronald Reagan said default is not an option, that it would be hugely damaging to the prestige of the United States and we shouldn’t even consider it. So that’s the easy part. We should have done that six months ago. The hard part is actually dealing with the underlying debt and deficits, and doing it in a way that’s fair. That’s all the American people are looking for — some fairness. I can’t tell you how many letters and emails I get, including from Republican voters, who say, look, we know that neither party is blameless when it comes to how this deft and deficit developed — there’s been a lot of blame to spread around — but we sure hope you don’t just balance the budget on the backs of seniors. We sure hope that we’re not slashing our commitment to make sure kids can go to college. We sure hope that we’re not suddenly throwing a bunch of poor kids off the Medicaid rolls so they can’t get basic preventative services that keep them out of the emergency room. That’s all they’re looking for, is some fairness. Now, what you’re going to hear, I suspect, is, well, if you — if the Senate is prepared to pass the cap, cut and balance bill, the Republican plan, then somehow we can solve this problem — that’s serious debt reduction. It turns out, actually, that the plan that Speaker Boehner and I were talking about was comparable in terms of deficit reduction. The difference was that we didn’t put all the burden on the people who are least able to protect themselves, who don’t have lobbyists in this town, who don’t have lawyers working on the tax code for them — working stiffs out there, ordinary folks who are struggling every day. And they know they’re getting a raw deal, and they’re mad at everybody about it. They’re mad at Democrats and they’re mad at Republicans, because they know somehow, no matter how hard they work, they don’t seem to be able to keep up. And what they’re looking for is somebody who’s willing to look out for them. That’s all they’re looking for. And for us not to be keeping those folks in mind every single day when we’re up here, for us to be more worried about what some funder says, or some talk radio show host says, or what some columnist says, or what pledge we signed back when we were trying to run, or worrying about having a primary fight — for us to be thinking in those terms instead of thinking about those folks is inexcusable. I mean, the American people are just desperate for folks who are willing to put aside politics just for a minute and try to get some stuff done. So when Norah asked or somebody else asked why was I willing to go along with a deal that wasn’t optimal from my perspective, it was because even if I didn’t think the deal was perfect, at least it would show that this place is serious, that we’re willing to take on our responsibilities even when it’s tough, that we’re willing to step up even when the folks who helped get us elected may disagree.
And at some point, I think if you want to be a leader, then you got to lead.
Thank you very much.
WEEKLY ADDRESS: “Reducing Spending While Still Investing in the Future is Just Common Sense”
WASHINGTON – In his weekly address, President Obama praised the agreement reached to avert a government shutdown, which will invest in the country’s future while making the largest annual spending cut in history. Just as both parties were able to find common ground on the tax cuts the President signed into law a few months ago, they worked through their differences on this budget. Politicians in Washington have the responsibility to continue to come together as they face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead – from creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our long-term deficits.
The audio of the address is and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, Saturday, April 9, 2011.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Last night, after weeks of long and difficult negotiations over our national budget, leaders of both parties came together to avert a government shutdown, cut spending, and invest in our future.
This is good news for the American people. It means that small businesses can get the loans they need, our families can get the mortgages they applied for, folks can visit our national parks and museums, and hundreds of thousands of Americans will get their paychecks on time – including our brave men and women in uniform.
This is an agreement to invest in our country’s future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history. Like any compromise, this required everyone to give ground on issues that were important to them. I certainly did. Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful – programs people rely on will be cut back; needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances. But we also prevented this important debate from being overtaken by politics and unrelated disagreements on social issues. And beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect the investments that will help America compete for new jobs – investments in our kids’ education and student loans; in clean energy and life-saving medical research.
Reducing spending while still investing in the future is just common sense. That’s what families do in tough times. They sacrifice where they can, even if it’s hard, to afford what’s really important.
A few months ago, I was able to sign a tax cut for American families because both parties worked through their differences and found common ground. Now, the same cooperation has made it possible for us to move forward with the biggest annual spending cut in history. And it’s my sincere hope that we can continue to come together as we face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead – from creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our long-term deficits.
That’s our responsibility. That’s what the American people expect us to do. And it’s what the American people deserve.
WEEKLY ADDRESS: The President and First Lady Extend Christmas Greeting and Urge Americans to Support the Troops and Their Families
WEEKLY ADDRESS: The President and First Lady Extend Christmas Greeting and Urge Americans to Support the Troops and Their Families
WASHINGTON – In this week’s address, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wished families across the country a “Merry Christmas” and encouraged everyone to support the troops and their families this holiday season. Anyone can visit www.serve.gov to find ideas for what they can do to help our servicemen and women and their families.
Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
The White House
December 25, 2010
THE PRESIDENT: Merry Christmas, everybody. Michelle and I just wanted to take a moment today to send greetings from our family to yours.
THE FIRST LADY: This is one of our favorite times of year. And we’re so fortunate to be able to celebrate it together in this wonderful home.
This is the “People’s House.” So Barack and I try to open it to as many people as we can, especially during the holiday season.
This month, more than 100,000 Americans have passed through these halls. And the idea behind this year’s theme, “Simple Gifts,” is that the greatest blessings of all are the ones that don’t cost a thing – the comfort of spending time with loved ones…the freedoms we enjoy as Americans… and the joy we feel upon giving something of ourselves.
So in this time of family, friends, and good cheer; let’s also be sure to look out for those who are less fortunate, who’ve hit a run of bad luck, or who are hungry and alone this holiday season.
THE PRESIDENT: Because this is the season when we celebrate the simplest yet most profound gift of all: the birth of a child who devoted his life to a message of peace, love, and redemption. A message that says no matter who we are, we are called to love one another – we are our brother’s keeper, we are our sister’s keeper, our separate stories in this big and busy world are really one.
Today, we’re also thinking of those who can’t be home for the holidays – especially all our courageous countrymen serving overseas.
That’s the message I delivered when I visited our troops in Afghanistan a few weeks ago – that while you may be serving far from home, every American supports you and your families. We’re with you. And I have no greater honor than serving as your Commander in Chief.
Today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen make up the finest fighting force in the history of the world. Just like their predecessors, they do extraordinary things in service to their country. What makes that all the more remarkable is that today’s military is an all-volunteer force – a force of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives.
THE FIRST LADY: That’s right. As First Lady, I’ve had the honor to meet members of our military and their families on bases and in communities all across the country. I’ve gotten to know husbands and wives doing the parenting of two while their spouse is on another deployment…children trying their best in school but always wondering when mom or dad is coming home…patriots putting their lives on hold to help with a loved one’s recovery…or carry on the memory of a fallen hero.
When our men and women in uniform answer the call to serve, their families serve, too. And they’re proud and glad to do it. But as long as that service keeps the rest of us safe, their sacrifice should also be our own. Even heroes can use a hand, especially during the holidays.
THE PRESIDENT: So we’re encouraging Americans to ask what you can do to support our troops and their families in this holiday season. For some ideas on how to get started, just visit Serve.gov.
THE FIRST LADY: You’ll see that you don’t need to be an expert in military life to give back to those who give so much to us. There are countless ways to contribute by harnessing your unique talents.
If you live near a base, you can reach out through your local school or church. If you don’t, you can volunteer with organizations that support military families. And anybody can send a care package or pre-paid calling card to the front lines, or give what’s sometimes the most important gift of all: simply saying “thank you.”
THE PRESIDENT: America’s brave servicemen and women represent a small fraction of our population. But they and the families who await their safe return carry far more than their fair share of the burden. They’ve done everything they’ve been asked to do. They’ve been everything we’ve asked them to be. And even as we speak, many are fighting halfway around the globe – in hopes that someday, our children and grandchildren won’t have to.
So let’s all remind them this holiday season that we’re thinking of them – and that America will forever be here for them, just as they’ve been there for us.
And on behalf of Michelle, Malia, Sasha…
THE FIRST LADY: and Bo…
THE PRESIDENT: and Bo…have a very Merry Christmas.
THE FIRST LADY: and an even happier New Year.
Note to readers of The Washington Review:
Every year we post information regarding the history and origins of Christmas and other holidays that pertain to Christ Jesus and Christianity. It is our feverent hopes that our readers will intelligently process this information and use accordingly for their own personal benefit. The following research taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia can be readily found in any library, encyclopedia, and seminary. ~ Publisher
Origin of the word
The word for Christmas in late Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ, first found in 1038, and Cristes-messe, in 1131. In Dutch it is Kerstmis, in Latin Dies Natalis, whence comes the French Noël, and Italian Il natale; in German Weihnachtsfest, from the preceeding sacred vigil. The term Yule is of disputed origin. It is unconnected with any word meaning “wheel”. The name in Anglo-Saxon was geol, feast: geola, the name of a month (cf. Icelandic iol a feast in December).
Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts; Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday; Arnobius (VII, 32 in P.L., V, 1264) can still ridicule the “birthdays” of the gods.
The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. About A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria (Stromata I.21) says that certain Egyptian theologians “over curiously” assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ’s birth, placing it on 25 Pachon (20 May) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus. [Ideler (Chron., II, 397, n.) thought they did this believing that the ninth month, in which Christ was born, was the ninth of their own calendar.] Others reached the date of 24 or 25 Pharmuthi (19 or 20 April). With Clement’s evidence may be mentioned the “De paschæ computus”, written in 243 and falsely ascribed to Cyprian (P.L., IV, 963 sqq.), which places Christ’s birth on 28 March, because on that day the material sun was created. But Lupi has shown (Zaccaria, Dissertazioni ecc. del p. A.M. Lupi, Faenza, 1785, p. 219) that there is no month in the year to which respectable authorities have not assigned Christ’s birth. Clement, however, also tells us that the Basilidians celebrated the Epiphany, and with it, probably, the Nativity, on 15 or 11 Tybi (10 or 6 January). At any rate this double commemoration became popular, partly because the apparition to the shepherds was considered as one manifestation of Christ’s glory, and was added to the greater manifestations celebrated on 6 January; partly because at the baptism-manifestation many codices (e.g. Codex Bezæ) wrongly give the Divine words as sou ei ho houios mou ho agapetos, ego semeron gegenneka se (Thou art my beloved Son, this day have I begotten thee) in lieu of en soi eudokesa (in thee I am well pleased), read in Luke 3:22. Abraham Ecchelensis (Labbe, II, 402) quotes the Constitutions of the Alexandrian Church for a dies Nativitatis et Epiphaniæ in Nicæan times; Epiphanius (Hær., li, ed. Dindorf, 1860, II, 483) quotes an extraordinary semi-Gnostic ceremony at Alexandria in which, on the night of 5-6 January, a cross-stamped Korê was carried in procession round a crypt, to the chant, “Today at this hour Korê gave birth to the Eternal“; John Cassian records in his “Collations” (X, 2 in P.L., XLIX, 820), written 418-427, that the Egyptian monasteries still observe the “ancient custom“; but on 29 Choiak (25 December) and 1 January, 433, Paul of Emesa preached before Cyril of Alexandria, and his sermons (see Mansi, IV, 293; appendix to Act. Conc. Eph.) show that the December celebration was then firmly established there, and calendars prove its permanence. The December feast therefore reached Egypt between 427 and 433.
Cyprus, Mesopotamia, Armenia, Asia Minor
In Cyprus, at the end of the fourth century, Epiphanius asserts against the Alogi (Hær., li, 16, 24 in P.G., XLI, 919, 931) that Christ was born on 6 January and baptized on 8 November. Ephraem Syrus (whose hymns belong to Epiphany, not to Christmas) proves that Mesopotamia still put the birth feast thirteen days after the winter solstice; i.e. 6 January; Armenia likewise ignored, and still ignores, the December festival. (Cf. Euthymius, “Pan. Dogm.”, 23 in P.G., CXXX, 1175; Niceph., “Hist. Eccl,”, XVIII, 53 in P.G., CXLVII, 440; Isaac, Catholicos of Armenia in eleventh or twelfth century, “Adv. Armenos”, I, xii, 5 in P.G., CXXII, 1193; Neale, “Holy Eastern Church“, Introd., p. 796). In Cappadocia, Gregory of Nyssa’s sermons on St. Basil (who died before 1 January, 379) and the two following, preached on St. Stephen’s feast (P.G., XLVI, 788; cf, 701, 721), prove that in 380 the 25th December was already celebrated there, unless, following Usener’s too ingenious arguments (Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen, Bonn, 1889, 247-250), one were to place those sermons in 383. Also, Asterius of Amaseia (fifth century) and Amphilochius of Iconium (contemporary of Basil and Gregory) show that in their dioceses both the feasts of Epiphany and Nativity were separate (P.G., XL, 337 XXXIX, 36). <!–
In 385, Silvia of Bordeaux (or Etheria, as it seems clear she should be called) was profoundly impressed by the splendid Childhood feasts at Jerusalem. They had a definitely “Nativity” colouring; the bishop proceeded nightly to Bethlehem, returning to Jerusalem for the day celebrations. The Presentation was celebrated forty days after. But this calculation starts from 6 January, and the feast lasted during the octave of that date. (Peregr. Sylv., ed. Geyer, pp. 75 sq.) Again (p. 101) she mentions as high festivals Easter and Epiphany alone. In 385, therefore, 25 December was not observed at Jerusalem. This checks the so-called correspondence between Cyril of Jerusalem (348-386) and Pope Julius I (337-352), quoted by John of Nikiû (c. 900) to convert Armenia to 25 December (see P.L., VIII, 964 sqq.). Cyril declares that his clergy cannot, on the single feast of Birth and Baptism, make a double procession to Bethlehem and Jordan. (This later practice is here an anachronism.) He asks Julius to assign the true date of the nativity “from census documents brought by Titus to Rome“; Julius assigns 25 December. Another document (Cotelier, Patr. Apost., I, 316, ed. 1724) makes Julius write thus to Juvenal of Jerusalem (c. 425-458), adding that Gregory Nazianzen at Constantinople was being criticized for “halving” the festival. But Julius died in 352, and by 385 Cyril had made no change; indeed, Jerome, writing about 411 (in Ezech., P.L., XXV, 18), reproves Palestine for keeping Christ’s birthday (when He hid Himself) on the Manifestation feast. Cosmas Indicopleustes suggests (P.G., LXXXVIII, 197) that even in the middle of the sixth century Jerusalem was peculiar in combining the two commemorations, arguing from Luke 3:23 that Christ’s baptism day was the anniversary of His birthday. The commemoration, however, of David and James the Apostle on 25 December at Jerusalem accounts for the deferred feast. Usener, arguing from the “Laudatio S. Stephani” of Basil of Seleucia (c. 430. — P.G., LXXXV, 469), thinks that Juvenal tried at least to introduce this feast, but that Cyril’s greater name attracted that event to his own period.
In Antioch, on the feast of St. Philogonius, Chrysostom preached an important sermon. The year was almost certainly 386, though Clinton gives 387, and Usener, by a long rearrangement of the saint’s sermons, 388 (Religionsgeschichtl. Untersuch., pp. 227-240). But between February, 386, when Flavian ordained Chrysostom priest, and December is ample time for the preaching of all the sermons under discussion. (See Kellner, Heortologie, Freiburg, 1906, p. 97, n. 3). In view of a reaction to certain Jewish rites and feasts, Chrysostom tries to unite Antioch in celebrating Christ’s birth on 25 December, part of the community having already kept it on that day for at least ten years. In the West, he says, the feast was thus kept, anothen; its introduction into Antioch he had always sought, conservatives always resisted. This time he was successful; in a crowded church he defended the new custom. It was no novelty; from Thrace to Cadiz this feast was observed — rightly, since its miraculously rapid diffusion proved its genuineness. Besides, Zachary, who, as high-priest, entered the Temple on the Day of Atonement, received therefore announcement of John’s conception in September; six months later Christ was conceived, i.e. in March, and born accordingly in December.
Finally, though never at Rome, on authority he knows that the census papers of the Holy Family are still there. [This appeal to Roman archives is as old as Justin Martyr (First Apology 34-35) and Tertullian (Adv. Marc., IV, 7, 19). Julius, in the Cyriline forgeries, is said to have calculated the date from Josephus, on the same unwarranted assumptions about Zachary as did Chrysostom.] Rome, therefore, has observed 25 December long enough to allow of Chrysostom speaking at least in 388 as above (P.G., XLVIII, 752, XLIX, 351).
In 379 or 380 Gregory Nazianzen made himself exarchos of the new feast, i.e. its initiator, in Constantinople, where, since the death of Valens, orthodoxy was reviving. His three Homilies (see Hom. xxxviii in P.G., XXXVI) were preached on successive days (Usener, op. cit., p. 253) in the private chapel called Anastasia. On his exile in 381, the feast disappeared.
According, however, to John of Nikiû, Honorius, when he was present on a visit, arranged with Arcadius for the observation of the feast on the Roman date. Kellner puts this visit in 395; Baumstark (Oriens Chr., 1902, 441-446), between 398 and 402. The latter relies on a letter of Jacob of Edessa quoted by George of Beeltân, asserting that Christmas was brought to Constantinople by Arcadius and Chrysostom from Italy, where, “according to the histories“, it had been kept from Apostolic times. Chrysostom’s episcopate lasted from 398 to 402; the feast would therefore have been introduced between these dates by Chrysostom bishop, as at Antioch by Chrysostom priest. But Lübeck (Hist. Jahrbuch., XXVIII, I, 1907, pp. 109-118) proves Baumstark’s evidence invalid. More important, but scarcely better accredited, is Erbes’ contention (Zeitschrift f. Kirchengesch., XXVI, 1905, 20-31) that the feast was brought in by Constantine as early as 330-35.
At Rome the earliest evidence is in the Philocalian Calendar (P.L., XIII, 675; it can be seen as a whole in J. Strzygowski, Kalenderbilder des Chron. von Jahre 354, Berlin, 1888), compiled in 354, which contains three important entries. In the civil calendar 25 December is marked “Natalis Invicti”. In the “Depositio Martyrum” a list of Roman or early and universally venerated martyrs, under 25 December is found “VIII kal. ian. natus Christus in Betleem Iudeæ”. On “VIII kal. mart.” (22 February) is also mentioned St. Peter’s Chair. In the list of consuls are four anomalous ecclesiastical entries: the birth and death days of Christ, the entry into Rome, and martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul. The significant entry is “Chr. Cæsare et Paulo sat. XIII. hoc. cons. Dns. ihs. XPC natus est VIII Kal. ian. d. ven. luna XV,” i.e. during the consulship of (Augustus) Cæsar and Paulus Our Lord Jesus Christ was born on the eighth before the calends of January (25 December), a Friday, the fourteenth day of the moon. The details clash with tradition and possibility. The epact, here XIII, is normally XI; the year is A.U.C. 754, a date first suggested two centuries later; in no year between 751 and 754 could 25 December fall on a Friday; tradition is constant in placing Christ’s birth on Wednesday. Moreover the date given for Christ’s death (duobus Geminis coss., i.e. A.D. 29) leaves Him only twenty eight, and one-quarter years of life. Apart from this, these entries in a consul list are manifest interpolations. But are not the two entries in the “Depositio Martyrum” also such? Were the day of Christ’s birth in the flesh alone there found, it might stand as heading the year of martyrs’ spiritual natales; but 22 February is there wholly out of place. Here, as in the consular fasti, popular feasts were later inserted for convenience’ sake. The civil calendar alone was not added to, as it was useless after the abandonment of pagan festivals. So, even if the “Depositio Martyrum” dates, as is probable, from 336, it is not clear that the calendar contains evidence earlier than Philocalus himself, i.e. 354, unless indeed pre-existing popular celebration must be assumed to render possible this official recognition. Were the Chalki manuscript of Hippolytus genuine, evidence for the December feast would exist as early as c. 205. The relevant passage [which exists in the Chigi manuscript Without the bracketed words and is always so quoted before George Syncellus (c. 1000)] runs:
He gar prote parousia tou kyriou hemon he ensarkos [en he gegennetai] en Bethleem, egeneto [pro okto kalandon ianouarion hemera tetradi] Basileuontos Augoustou [tessarakoston kai deuteron etos, apo de Adam] pentakischiliosto kai pentakosiosto etei epathen de triakosto trito [pro okto kalandon aprilion, hemera paraskeun, oktokaidekato etei Tiberiou Kaisaros, hypateuontos Hrouphou kai Hroubellionos. — (Comm. In Dan., iv, 23; Brotke; 19)
"For the first coming of Our Lord in the flesh [in which He has been begotten], in Bethlehem, took place [25 December, the fourth day] in the reign of Augustus [the forty-second year, and] in the year 5500 [from Adam]. And He suffered in His thirty-third year [25 March, the parasceve, in the eighteenth year of Tiberius Cæsar, during the consulate of Rufus and Rubellio].”
Interpolation is certain, and admitted by Funk, Bonwetsch, etc. The names of the consuls [which should be Fufius and Rubellius] are wrong; Christ lives thirty-three years; in the genuine Hippolytus, thirty-one; minute data are irrelevant in this discussion with Severian millenniarists; it is incredible that Hippolytus should have known these details when his contemporaries (Clement, Tertullian, etc.) are, when dealing with the matter, ignorant or silent; or should, having published them, have remained unquoted (Kellner, op. cit., p. 104, has an excursus on this passage.)
St. Ambrose (de virg., iii, 1 in P.L., XVI, 219) preserves the sermon preached by Pope Liberius I at St. Peter’s, when, on Natalis Christi, Ambrose’ sister, Marcellina, took the veil. This pope reigned from May, 352 until 366, except during his years of exile, 355-357. If Marcellina became a nun only after the canonical age of twenty-five, and if Ambrose was born only in 340, it is perhaps likelier that the event occurred after 357. Though the sermon abounds in references appropriate to the Epiphany (the marriage at Cana, the multiplication of loaves, etc.), these seem due (Kellner, op. cit., p. 109) to sequence of thought, and do not fix the sermon to 6 January, a feast unknown in Rome till much later. Usener, indeed, argues (p. 272) that Liberius preached it on that day in 353, instituting the Nativity feast in the December of the same year; but Philocalus warrants our supposing that if preceded his pontificate by some time, though Duchesne’s relegation of it to 243 (Bull. crit., 1890, 3, pp. 41 sqq.) may not commend itself to many. In the West the Council of Saragossa (380) still ignores 25 December (see can. xxi, 2). Pope Siricius, writing in 385 (P.L., XII, 1134) to Himerius in Spain, distinguishes the feasts of the Nativity and Apparition; but whether he refers to Roman or to Spanish use is not clear. Ammianus Marcellinus (XXI, ii) and Zonaras (Ann., XIII, 11) date a visit of Julian the Apostate to a church at Vienne in Gaul on Epiphany and Nativity respectively. Unless there were two visits, Vienne in A.D. 361 combined the feasts, though on what day is still doubtful. By the time of Jerome and Augustine, the December feast is established, though the latter (Epp., II, liv, 12, in P.L., XXXIII, 200) omits it from a list of first-class festivals. From the fourth century every Western calendar assigns it to 25 December. At Rome, then, the Nativity was celebrated on 25 December before 354; in the East, at Constantinople, not before 379, unless with Erbes, and against Gregory, we recognize it there in 330. Hence, almost universally has it been concluded that the new date reached the East from Rome by way of the Bosphorus during the great anti-Arian revival, and by means of the orthodox champions. De Santi (L’Orig. delle Fest. Nat., in Civiltæ Cattolica, 1907), following Erbes, argues that Rome took over the Eastern Epiphany, now with a definite Nativity colouring, and, with as increasing number of Eastern Churches, placed it on 25 December; later, both East and West divided their feast, leaving Ephiphany on 6 January, and Nativity on 25 December, respectively, and placing Christmas on 25 December and Epiphany on 6 January. The earlier hypothesis still seems preferable.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Good morning. Over the past few months, as we have put in place a plan to speed our economic recovery, I have spoken repeatedly of the need to lay a new foundation for lasting prosperity; a foundation that will support good jobs and rising incomes; a foundation for economic growth where we no longer rely on excessive debt and reckless risk – but instead on skilled workers and sound investments to lead the world in the industries of the 21st century.
Two pillars of this new foundation are clean energy and health care. And while there remains a great deal of difficult work ahead, I am heartened by what we have seen these past few days: a willingness of those with different points of view and disparate interests to come together around common goals – to embrace a shared sense of responsibility and make historic progress.
Chairman Henry Waxman and members of the Energy and Commerce Committee brought together stakeholders from all corners of the country – and every sector of our economy – to reach an historic agreement on comprehensive energy legislation. It’s another promising sign of progress, as longtime opponents are sitting together, at the same table, to help solve one of America’s most serious challenges.
For the first time, utility companies and corporate leaders are joining, not opposing, environmental advocates and labor leaders to create a new system of clean energy initiatives that will help unleash a new era of growth and prosperity.
It’s a plan that will finally reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and cap the carbon pollution that threatens our health and our climate. Most important, it’s a plan that will trigger the creation of millions of new jobs for Americans, who will produce the wind turbines and solar panels and develop the alternative fuels to power the future. Because this we know: the nation that leads in 21st century clean energy is the nation that will lead the 21st century global economy. America can and must be that nation – and this agreement is a major step toward this goal.
But we know that our families, our economy, and our nation itself will not succeed in the 21st century if we continue to be held down by the weight of rapidly rising health care costs and a broken health care system. That’s why I met with representatives of insurance and drug companies, doctors and hospitals, and labor unions who are pledging to do their part to reduce health care costs. These are some of the groups who have been among the fiercest critics of past comprehensive health care reform plans. But today they too are recognizing that we must act. Our businesses will not be able to compete; our families will not be able to save or spend; our budgets will remain unsustainable unless we get health care costs under control.
These groups have pledged to do their part to reduce the annual health care spending growth rate by 1.5 percentage points. Coupled with comprehensive reform, their efforts could help to save our nation more than $2 trillion in the next ten years – and save hardworking families $2,500 each in the coming years.
This week, I also invited Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and other congressional leaders to the White House to discuss comprehensive health reform legislation. The House is working to pass a bill by the end of July – before they head out for their August recess. That’s the kind of urgency and determination we need to achieve comprehensive reform by the end of this year. And the reductions in spending the health care community has pledged will help make this reform possible.
I have always believed that it is better to talk than not to talk; that it is far more productive to reach over a divide than to shake your fist across it. This has been an alien notion in Washington for far too long, but we are seeing that the ways of Washington are beginning to change. For the calling of this moment is too loud and too urgent to ignore. Our success as a nation – the future of our children and grandchildren – depends upon our willingness to cast aside old arguments, overcome stubborn divisions, and march forward as one people and one nation.
This is how progress has always been made. This is how a new foundation will be built. We cannot assume that interests will always align, or that fragile partnerships will not fray. There will be setbacks. There will be difficult days. But we are off to a good start. And I am confident that we will – in the weeks, months, and years ahead – build on what we have already achieved and lay this foundation which will not only bring about prosperity for this generation, but for generations to come.
Thanks so much.
The Tampa Bay area has seen two horrific acts of inhumane violence perpetrated on young children. The following story is one that has been nationally reported.
21 year old Richard Anthony McTear obviously didn’t get the memo. Unfortunately, African American young men on a large scale have in fact ignored the memo. What memo? The one that announced that President Barack Obama is the first African American to hold the highest office in the land and that is something to be proud of. Not only that, it is something to aspire to. If becoming president is not in the cards, how about being a productive citizen?
Richard Anthony McTear is accused of violently beating Jasmine Bedwell, then throwing his ex-girlfriend’s four month old son out of a moving Impala while speeding down I-275. McTear broke into his former girlfriend’s apartment, beat her, took the baby, slammed him into the concrete flooring of the home, and then ran off with the child.
Jasmine Bedwell, 17, started dating McTear ten months ago. Bedwell was at the time pregnant but McTear was not the father. The relationship was a domestic violence nightmare. Neighbors reported that it was not unusual to see see the teen with bruises and black eyes. Bedwell had pressed charges against McTear and in fact was scheduled to appear in court on Monday, but failed to show up. Tuesday Richard Anthony McTear killed her child as he had threatened to do on numerous occasions.
You have to wonder when you hear cases like this why the mother, Miss Bedwell, didn’t appear in court to put her abuser behind bars? Why is it almost impossible for women, young women, to realize that their abuser/attacker will kill them or their loved ones somewhere down the road?
It is maddening to comprehend what that young mother is going through at this time. Yet, the real question lies in the fact that obviously Bedwell and other young women like her, are making tragic decisions in the areas of love and relationships. McTear is a career criminal and started his life of crime at the age of 14. What is appealing about that? McTear was unemployed. Doesn’t take a degree from MIT to guess why that is.
From the looks of it, this was a young man that should have been avoided on all counts. But what the true heart of this tragedy is crying out to all women, especially young women, is that lack of good judgement skills can do more harm than good. Young women need to learn why it is important to love themselves first and foremost. When this love is nurtured, a man like Richard Anthony McTear doesn’t even enter on the radar screen.
It is sad that Jasmine Bedwell had to learn a hard lesson. Be cautious as to whom is allowed around children. Women need to be discriminative and proactive in the people within ones orbit, tragedies such as this one can be avoided.
Showing up to court dates and hearings to cage animals that pose as human beings are more than necessary to protect the world at large from predators and insane criminals like McTear.
And…when asked why he killed his ex’s four month old baby, he said two things: “Its a cruel world” and “It’s a dirty game.”
President Obama to Request $50 Million to Identify and Expand Effective, Innovative Non-Profits
White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation to Coordinate Efforts
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama, in his FY2010 budget, will ask Congress to provide $50 million in seed capital for the Social Innovation Fund to identify the most promising, results-oriented non-profit programs and expand their reach throughout the country.
Many solutions to our nation’s most challenging social problems are being generated outside of Washington; the Social Innovation Fund will identify what is working in communities across the country, provide growth capital for these programs, and improve the use of data and evaluation to raise the bar on what programs the government funds.
“The idea is simple: to find the most effective programs out there and then provide the capital needed to replicate their success in communities around the country that are facing similar challenges,” First Lady Michelle Obama will say Tuesday at the Time 100 Most Influential People Awards in New York City, according to her prepared remarks. “By focusing on high-impact, result-oriented non-profits, we will ensure that government dollars are spent in a way that is effective, accountable and worthy of the public trust.”
Melody Barnes, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, also highlighted the Fund Tuesday in a keynote speech to the Council on Foundations. “The Social Innovation Fund reflects the President’s new governing philosophy: finding and investing in what works; and partnering with and supporting others who are leading change in their communities,” Barnes said. “We are also working with Federal agencies across the government to identify new solutions to problems that have resisted traditional approaches.”
The Social Innovation Fund was authorized in the recent Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. The Fund will focus on priority policy areas, including education, health care, and economic opportunity. It will partner with foundations, philanthropists, and corporations which will commit matching resources, funding, and technical assistance.
The White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation will coordinate efforts to enlist all Americans –individuals, non-profits, social entrepreneurs, corporations and foundations – as partners in solving our great challenges. Located within the Domestic Policy Council, it will:
- Catalyze partnerships between the government and nonprofits, businesses and philanthropists in order to make progress on the President’s policy agenda
- Identify and support the rigorous evaluation and scaling of innovative, promising ideas that are transforming communities like, for example, Harlem Children’s Zone, YouthVillages, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Citizen Schools.
- Support greater civic participation through new media tools
- Promote national service.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON INTERNATIONAL TAX POLICY REFORM
11:39 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: All right. Good morning, everybody. Hope you all had a good weekend.
Let’s begin with a simple premise: Nobody likes paying taxes, particularly in times of economic stress. But most Americans meet their responsibilities because they understand that it’s an obligation of citizenship, necessary to pay the costs of our common defense and our mutual well-being.
And yet, even as most American citizens and businesses meet these responsibilities, there are others who are shirking theirs. And many are aided and abetted by a broken tax system, written by well-connected lobbyists on behalf of well-heeled interests and individuals. It’s a tax code full of corporate loopholes that makes it perfectly legal for companies to avoid paying their fair share. It’s a tax code that makes it all too easy for a number — a small number of individuals and companies to abuse overseas tax havens to avoid paying any taxes at all. And it’s a tax code that says you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, New York.
Now, understand, one of the strengths of our economy is the global reach of our businesses. And I want to see our companies remain the most competitive in the world. But the way to make sure that happens is not to reward our companies for moving jobs off our shores or transferring profits to overseas tax havens. This is something that I talked about again and again during the course of the campaign. The way we make our businesses competitive is not to reward American companies operating overseas with a roughly 2 percent tax rate on foreign profits; a rate that costs — that costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars a year. The way to make American businesses competitive is not to let some citizens and businesses dodge their responsibilities while ordinary Americans pick up the slack.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we’re doing. These problems have been highlighted by Chairmen Charlie Rangel and Max Baucus, by leaders like Senator Carl Levin and Congressman Lloyd Doggett. And now is the time to finally do something about them. And that’s why today, I’m announcing a set of proposals to crack down on illegal overseas tax evasion, close loopholes, and make it more profitable for companies to create jobs here in the United States.
For years, we’ve talked about ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and giving tax breaks to companies that create jobs here in America. That’s what our budget will finally do. We will stop letting American companies that create jobs overseas take deductions on their expenses when they do not pay any American taxes on their profits. And we will use the savings to give tax cuts to companies that are investing in research and development here at home so that we can jumpstart job creation, foster innovation, and enhance America’s competitiveness.
For years, we’ve talked about shutting down overseas tax havens that let companies set up operations to avoid paying taxes in America. That’s what our budget will finally do. On the campaign, I used to talk about the outrage of a building in the Cayman Islands that had over 12,000 business — businesses claim this building as their headquarters. And I’ve said before, either this is the largest building in the world or the largest tax scam in the world.
And I think the American people know which it is. It’s the kind of tax scam that we need to end. That’s why we are closing one of our biggest tax loopholes. It’s a loophole that lets subsidiaries of some of our largest companies tell the IRS that they’re paying taxes abroad, tell foreign governments that they’re paying taxes elsewhere — and avoid paying taxes anywhere. And closing this single loophole will save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars — money that can be spent on reinvesting in America — and it will restore fairness to our tax code by helping ensure that all our citizens and all our companies are paying what they should.
Now, for years, we’ve talked about stopping Americans from illegally hiding their money overseas, and getting tough with the financial institutions that let them get away with it. The Treasury Department and the IRS, under Secretary Geithner’s leadership and Commissioner Shulman’s, are already taking far-reaching steps to catch overseas tax cheats — but they need more support.
And that’s why I’m asking Congress to pass some commonsense measures. One of these measures would let the IRS know how much income Americans are generating in overseas accounts by requiring overseas banks to provide 1099s for their American clients, just like Americans have to do for their bank accounts here in this country. If financial institutions won’t cooperate with us, we will assume that they are sheltering money in tax havens, and act accordingly. And to ensure that the IRS has the tools it needs to enforce our laws, we’re seeking to hire nearly 800 more IRS agents to detect and pursue American tax evaders abroad.
So all in all, these and other reforms will save American taxpayers $210 billion over the next 10 years — savings we can use to reduce the deficit, cut taxes for American businesses that are playing by the rules, and provide meaningful relief for hardworking families. That’s what we’re doing. We’re putting a middle class tax cut in the pockets of 95 percent of working families, and we’re providing a $2,500 annual tax credit to put the dream of a college degree or advanced training within the reach for more students. We’re providing a tax credit worth up to $8,000 for first-time home buyers to help more Americans own a piece of the American Dream and to strengthen the housing market.
So the steps I am announcing today will help us deal with some of the most egregious examples of what’s wrong with our tax code and will help us strengthen some of these other efforts. It’s a down payment on the larger tax reform we need to make our tax system simpler and fairer and more efficient for individuals and corporations.
Now, it will take time to undo the damage of distorted provisions that were slipped into our tax code by lobbyists and special interests, but with the steps I’m announcing today we are beginning to crack down on Americans who are bending or breaking the rules, and we’re helping to ensure that all Americans are contributing their fair share.
In other words, we’re beginning to restore fairness and balance to our tax code. That’s what I promised I would do during the campaign, that’s what I’m committed to doing as President, and that is what I will work with members of my administration and members of Congress to accomplish in the months and years to come.
Thanks very much, guys.
PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:55 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: Good afternoon. I hope everyone had a good weekend.
One thing I want to call to your attention before we start — and we’ll make copies of this available; I believe part of this was released from the Secretary of Health and Human Services Office last week to — (interruption) — that happens every time I have a good idea. (Laughter.) A letter released April 30th, last week, to Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Grassley, applauding their leadership as the Finance Committee continues to work in a bipartisan fashion toward the shared goal of enacting meaningful health care reform legislation this year.
They outlined a series of principles, including promoting primary care and prevention, realigning incentives to promote high quality care, increasing transparency to empower patients and providers, and reducing waste, fraud and abuse. So we will make that all available to you as a good start in progress on health care reform.
And with that, Mr. Feller.
Q Thank you, Robert. Two topics, please. Back to the Supreme Court. There’s been a lot of talk as the nomination process begins that the President’s nominee should either be a woman or someone who is Hispanic. To what degree — what’s the President’s message to those who want that to be the case?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President obviously is going to take the time to look at all of those that are qualified, to find the most qualified person in his estimation, whether it’s a he or a she; to find somebody, as the President described in this room on Friday — somebody that respects precedent, tradition and rule of law, but also understands that decisions have to be made using common-sense and understanding people’s everyday lives. I think that’s most of all what he’s looking for in a nominee. I know he’s made some calls today to — I don’t have readouts on these yet, but I will get them — in discussing the upcoming pick with Senator Hatch and Senator Specter.
Q So to the question of — in the context of diversity, gender and ethnicity, how important are those –
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think the President described that there should be a diversity of experience. I am sure he will look at candidates with a diversity in background. But again, I think the President is looking for somebody with a record of excellence, somebody with a record of integrity, somebody who understands the rule of law, and somebody who understands how being a judge affects Americans’ everyday lives.
Q I also wanted to ask quickly about a health issue. Mexican officials are saying that the swine flu, H1N1 epidemic is waning. Global health officials are saying that countries shouldn’t let their guard down. What’s the level of concern at the White House about the flu right now? Is it as high as it was last week?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the White House continues to be vigilant in preparing for whatever we see as a result of the H1N1 flu virus. The President continues to get updates several times a day from Homeland Security Council. The advice the President and others gave last week about being vigilant in your individual responsibilities and staying home if you’re sick continues to be important. Certainly you’re always hopeful that what you might plan for never comes to fruition, but I think the key is understanding and planning for any outcome and being ready to address it. And I think that’s the — those are the steps that this administration to date has taken and will continue to take in order to prepare.
Q I have a question about the Supreme Court, to follow up on Ben’s question, but then I also have a question about the offshore tax announcement the President made. On Supreme Court, can you give us an update on where things stand with the process? When is he going to be ready to start interviewing people? What is he doing now to prepare for the process and lay the groundwork?
MR. GIBBS: You know, it’s — basically the process is as I outlined it Friday. The process has begun and began some time ago to go through prospective and potential candidates, to begin to review the history and the background and their experience. But I don’t have a specific timeline, as I said on Friday, for when that might happen, except to say that this is something the President believes must be done before the Court starts its work again in October — which means we’re on a fairly tight timeline to probably get something done before Congress gets out of town in August.
Q Okay. And on the announcement he made today about international tax policy, several big corporations are lined up against it, the deferral provision — Pfizer, Oracle, Microsoft and trade associations like the Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable. And I’m just wondering how you think you’re going to overcome that opposition and if you think this faces a big fight in Congress.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I don’t think change is ever easy and I think whenever you’re taking on some bigger interest that mountain gets a little bit steeper.
But the President strongly believes that the policy that he outlined, the steps that we have to take to close tax loopholes and ensure some fairness in this process is the right policy for America and the right policy for American business. By closing these loopholes and replacing these tax advantages with fairness, using a portion of the money that’s recouped to make or to fund research and development and experimentation tax credit for the next 10 years is an important investment for American business.
Since 1981 the R&D tax credit has expired on 13 separate occasions. So providing business with some certainty for research and development we think is important. And as the President said throughout the campaign, we have — our tax code has an incentive that provides — an incentive that rewards companies that are investing overseas at the expense of investing here in America. We know we’re going to take on some tough interests in that, but the President believes this is a fight we should have and one that we can win.
Q Can you respond to their criticism that these policies would make them less competitive? They point out that in a lot of countries you don’t pay taxes on overseas earnings, you only pay taxes on what you earn domestically, and so that puts them at a disadvantage because they’re paying taxes twice.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think if you look at and compare the huge tax benefits that they get in this country for deferral, the huge benefits that they get for accelerated depreciation — I think it’s important that the American people and businesses understand that this is — fairness is not something that will put them at a competitive disadvantage.
Q Thanks, Robert. The situation in Pakistan seems to be getting worse and worse and the President obviously has some important meetings this week with Presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan. What does he hope to get at this critical stage from these meetings?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Ed, as you know, the President throughout the campaign, for much of the past two years, has discussed the fact that we have neglected this region of the world and particularly we have not focused our resources enough on the challenges that are presented by these countries and in these two countries.
The President ordered at the beginning of the administration a review of our policy and instituted the beginning of regular trilateral meetings to ensure that there were open lines of communication between the Afghan government, the Pakistani government, and the American government about where we can coordinate our efforts to make a better difference. This is the second such meeting. The President I think, as you said, is concerned about this situation. You’ve seen administration officials talk about their concern.
So this is an opportunity to discuss with them the process and open up those lines of communication — because we want a strong relationship with each of these two countries; we want an understanding that not just the United States faces security concerns, but each individual government has security concerns about extremists in the area; and this is the beginning of a long process to coordinate our strategy.
Q A quick question on the Boston Globe today, the news that they may have 30 to 60 days to live. What’s the White House’s thinking on the newspaper industry right now and whether or not it may need a bailout, since there are a lot of jobs at stake just as with the auto industry; a lot of people talking about the impact on communities like Boston, Seattle, and places that are losing newspapers? How do you evaluate all that?
MR. GIBBS: I have not asked specifically about assistance. I don’t think — I think that might be a bit of a tricky area to get into given the differing roles. Obviously the President believes there has to be a strong free press. I think there’s a certain concern and a certain sadness when you see cities losing their newspapers or regions of the country losing their newspapers. So it’s certainly of concern. I don’t know what, in all honesty, government can do about it. I would note that looking at some of the balance sheets, I wondered how you guys didn’t think $100 million meant a lot a few weeks ago, but looking at some of the balance sheets $100 million seems to me a lot.
Q A couple questions. One, on this tax announcement that you made today, what is the legislative calendar on this? Is this actually going to happen — is it going to be a separate, stand alone piece of legislation that’s going to get debated and voted on, or is this going to get lost in some sort of bigger thing with the tax code?
MR. GIBBS: I think the President believes that what he announced today is basically a down payment on longer-term tax reform. The President doesn’t anticipate that this will get in any way lost. Obviously, Senator Baucus, Congressman Rangel, Congressman Doggett, Senator Levin, have all pushed for elements of this over the years. Whether or not this is –
Q But when is this going to happen?
MR. GIBBS: We expect it to happen in the near term.
Q A couple months? Next legislative session?
MR. GIBBS: I would think probably that. Whether or not this is — it’s hard for me to peer into the crystal ball and figure out whether this gets added to something at the end of the process or whether two financial things get put together, I don’t know. But obviously — I think there’s a lot of support for extending this research and development tax credit and giving business certainty in their investments. So I think this is something –
Q Is it designed to happen this year?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q With budget reconciliation or outside of this –
MR. GIBBS: I don’t think it has to happen in reconciliation. It certainly could be a part of it. But I also think that the President and the team believe that this could easily work its way through Congress. I mean, I guess we could have a spirited debate about the efficacy of tax havens — if that’s something that people want to have, I’m sure the President is happy to have it.
Q To follow up on Ed’s question on Pakistan. So this first meeting is more of a — I want to say it’s more of an, okay, what are your concerns, what are your concerns, here are our concerns, and let’s start the dialogue? Or is there going to be some tangible –
MR. GIBBS: Look, this is the beginning of the President seeing each of these two leaders at the White House. Obviously there is funding in front of Capitol Hill in the supplemental to deal with both Afghanistan and Pakistan. I’m sure that will be part of it.
I think there is a growing recognition — there’s a growing recognition coming more to where the White House has been that the threat that are posed by these extremists — not just, again, to us, but inside each of these two countries. So I think this is an important first step.
Q Is India at all going to be consulted on this? Because it seems that part of the frustration that I know that you guys have had with the Pakistani government is that they have so many troops on the border of India that they’re not able to combat the Taliban in the way that they should, and they pulled some troops. Is there any way you can still play mediator on this?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think obviously some of those conversations are being had. I think the President spoke pretty clearly to this last week in underscoring where the threat lies in Pakistan and where it doesn’t.
Q And the President is going to make that clear to Pakistan, that there’s not threat from India?
MR. GIBBS: I think he will reiterate what he said to you guys last week.
Q What is the President’s chief objection to single payer for universal health care when it works so many places?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think among many is I think it is not likely to be workable. I think –
Q Why do you say that? We have Medicare, we have Social Security.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I say that because, Helen, we’ve been debating health care reform for 30 or 40 years. I think if that were the magic silver bullet, then you guys would be asking me why we were taking on something else to our agenda because health care –
Q Why are you afraid of universal health care by a single payer?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I don’t think anybody is afraid of universal health care. We’re trying to get — our objectives are to cut costs for families that are watching their premiums and their co-payments and their deductibles skyrocket.
Q Single payer is supposed to cut costs.
MR. GIBBS: We are looking to cover more of those that aren’t lucky enough to have health insurance. And equally as importantly, you cannot tackle the long-term costs that are being borne by this government without tackling health care reform. The President is adamant about that. And he looks forward to working with Congress to find a workable solution that can get through Congress.
Q But Social Security works, and Medicare works. Why do you think it couldn’t work for universal health care?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think there are — I would point you to — there’s, I’m sure, down the street about 535 opinions on this.
Q Robert, just to clarify, the President has not interviewed anyone for the Supreme Court?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I’m aware of.
Q And what about the counsel? Has he talked to anyone?
MR. GIBBS: I will check. Not that I’m aware of, no.
Q Given the fact that, through the years, these sit-downs that Presidents have had with potential Supreme Court nominees have been make-or-break, when do you think that’s going to happen, given the tight time –
MR. GIBBS: You guys didn’t get the pool notification?
Q Pardon me?
MR. GIBBS: You didn’t get the pool notification?
Q No. (Laughter.)
Q He’ll do a press conference right after.
Q We know there will be full coverage at the top and bottom.
MR. GIBBS: Right, we’ll do cameras and stills in separate — (laughter.)
I don’t know that there’s a direct timeline. Obviously there’s work to be done. I think the President will likely conduct this process in a way that — not unlike he did the vice presidential search. It won’t be one that is overly public.
Q Announce it by text message?
MR. GIBBS: What?
Q Announce it by text message?
MR. GIBBS: Maybe so. (Laughter.) Maybe I didn’t take the analogy all the way to the end.
Obviously the President understands, as he said here last week, just how important a decision and a nomination like this are. I think he understands the gravity of that. And I think — look, I think the President I think was defined this weekend as a pragmatist in a lot of these ideas, and I think that’s the case. I don’t doubt that there will be a debate in this town, as there has been for several decades, about one view or the other.
I think the vast majority of the American people are not on either end of this, but instead somewhere in the middle looking for the very same requirements that the President is looking for: somebody that understands the rule of law, somebody that has a record of excellence and integrity, somebody who also understands how these opinions affect everyday lives, and will exercise some common sense.
Q One of the criticisms from business about change in tax policy is that the unintended consequence could be to lose jobs. Has there been any study done of that before this proposal was –
MR. GIBBS: Well, I mean, obviously — I don’t think the President would offer up something that would set our economic recovery efforts backwards. I think that’s why the President dismisses the argument that’s made and believes in the fairness of closing tax loopholes, cracking down on tax havens, and rewarding instead companies that are creating jobs right here in America.
Q And he dismisses the argument because –
MR. GIBBS: He doesn’t believe it quite honestly holds a lot of merit.
Q Two questions. One is, on the tax issue, did the G20 meeting have any influence on the shape of his proposal? This is something that our European allies were pushing for at the time.
MR. GIBBS: No — I mean, obviously it was something that the President agreed with our European allies. Our support for these individual things are something that I’ve heard the President talk about, in all honesty, going back to his Senate race in 2004. So while I think it is in line with what the G20 did, the President’s belief about closing tax havens, his belief about instituting fairness and rewarding companies that are creating jobs here is something he’s talked about for five years.
Q I just meant, did the actual particulars of the proposal at all or –
MR. GIBBS: Oh, not that I’m aware of. I can certainly see if there’s any — if anything changed on that, but I don’t believe it did.
Q And on the Supreme Court, you mentioned a variety of criteria, diversity in all sorts of different ways. Is one of the things you would put on that list age; that you would be looking for somebody who’s younger, who would have a longer term on the Court?
MR. GIBBS: Look, I think –
Q Older? (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Ed, just remember, just e-mail me your opinions and we’ll have the President — (laughter.)
Look, instead of getting into certain age brackets or different requirements, I think the President obviously — I think you always assume, rightly so, that whomever you choose is going to have a significant impact on the Court for quite some time. I mean, this is one of nine. And I think you have to assume that whomever you pick is somebody that you believe will have great weight on the Court for a long time to come.
Q But it’s remarked on that previous Republican Presidents have seemed to specifically gone out of their way to choose people in their 40s and 50s who will have a mark for even longer.
MR. GIBBS: I think the President looks for somebody who is the best qualified and hopes they do make an impact on the Court.
Q Pakistan and then taxes. On Pakistan, there were several reports this weekend that the government doesn’t know what happened to $100 million allocated to Pakistan to better secure its nuclear facilities. Does the administration have any concrete plans to find out what happened to that $100 million, if it in fact has brought any more security to these facilities, and will this be part of the conversation this week?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know about the specific news that you mentioned. Obviously — and I wouldn’t add a ton to what the President said on this last week — but obviously the security of nuclear weapons in Pakistan and the security of nuclear materiel throughout the world is something that the President thinks is of the highest priority. I don’t doubt that that will be mentioned, yes.
Q I mean, this is U.S. tax dollars for a specific purpose and the government represented it would be used for this purpose and this purpose only. And right now, it doesn’t appear anyone knows where the money went or if it went to this purpose at all.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President has sufficiently weighed in — well, let me rephrase that. I think the President’s views on our policy relating to a Musharraf-only policy, our policy that provides resources but no accountability — I think on both of those accounts the President has been clear that that hasn’t worked and that part of the review was to determine how moving forward we can best appropriate our resources to ensure the safety and security of those weapons and of everyone involved.
Q When the President had a Q&A session with the Business Roundtable, this idea, the tax proposals he’s introduced today, came up. And one of the questioners said, Mr. President, would you consider, as you evaluate this policy, reducing corporate income tax rates — because there is an economic argument that one of the reasons these tax havens flourish is to avoid higher corporate income tax rates around the globe, particularly in the U.S. The President said he would take it under consideration. It’s not here today. Can we therefore assume we’re not going to see any proposals from this White House on lowering corporate income tax rates anytime soon?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think what the President has laid out here would lower corporate taxes because for 10 years we are instituting certainty in the research and development tax credit. Businesses will pay less taxes by taking advantage of that.
But as I said a minute ago, the President believes this is a down payment on tax reform and I think the President would be — I think the reason the President said he would take that under advisement is the President believes that closing loopholes and using that to bring down the corporate tax rate is exactly what he has in mind. But what that requires is a closing of the loopholes and the tax havens that you talk about that companies are taking advantage of to put money elsewhere to avoid paying taxes here.
Q Chairman Baucus said that this needs further study to assess the impact on the plan — of the plan on U.S. businesses. Mitch McConnell said, I can’t endorse a plan that gives preferential treatment to foreign companies at the expense of U.S.-based companies and the 52 million people they employ. At least at this level of bipartisanship, there appears to be some more that Congress would like to learn about this than it presently knows. How do you answer that?
MR. GIBBS: Well, we are fortunate that Congress has to the power to call hearings and investigate the topic, but we’re happy to have a long discussion about the fairness of tax havens and tax loopholes that let companies avoid paying the taxes — taxes like you and I pay each day — and instead reward companies that are investing right here and creating jobs in America.
Q Two things. First, on tax havens, at the Summit of the Americas, a lot of Caribbean leaders raised a lot of concerns about what these sorts of measures would do to their financial sectors, which account for large parts of their economy. Can you tell us about any steps, any diplomatic steps in advance of today’s announcement that might have been taken?
MR. GIBBS: I can check on that. I know there was a discussion about this, but at the same time while the administration understands the — may understand the viewpoint of why a country would take that position, it doesn’t change the administration’s viewpoint that, for fairness purposes, these tax havens have to be dealt with.
Q And on Israel, the meeting tomorrow with President Peres, he shares President Obama’s view that a two-state solution is the way to go to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian situation. He represents a government that has yet to embrace that. What does President Obama hope to tell him tomorrow to take back to Prime Minister Netanyahu?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think, much like the meeting that will happen on Wednesday, the President — this is of the utmost priority for the President. It is something that he believes will only be advanced and moved forward by a sustained effort by this administration, in conjunction with the Palestinians and the Israelis, to make progress. Obviously this President spent time the very first day he worked in the Oval Office on Middle East peace and I think this is the beginning of many steps. Obviously Mr. Netanyahu will visit the White House later in the month, as will — as others have and others will over the course of the next few weeks as we start this long process.
Q You mentioned just a second ago some of President Obama’s criticisms of the Bush administration’s Musharraf-only policy. Does that mean that the Obama administration does not have a Zardari-only policy, particularly given the concerns we’ve heard about the survivability of the Pakistani government?
MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously the Pakistanis are in charge of electing their own government. It’s a democratically elected government. This President wants to work with the government, but I think the criticism that this President had was that our Pakistani policy didn’t include the people of Pakistan; that we have to coordinate our actions and have the government, the people, and any political party understand what’s at stake. And what is at stake is the role of extremism and the impact and the effect that it’s having.
I’ve said this before — I don’t think you have to explain in great detail the role of extremism to this government, because it’s in power because extremists assassinated somebody else. But obviously this is of great concern to the President, and he’ll spend a lot of time on Wednesday trying to get the steps that we take moving forward right as it relates to Pakistan and Afghanistan, to finally have a regional approach and ensure that the time that is spent and the resources that are spent go toward making a difference in this region of the world.
Q Robert, can I ask about the bank stress tests? I know that we haven’t laid out the formal results of all the tests; I realize there are a couple of pending appeals on them. But clearly several banks already are in a position where they need more capital, according to the stress test. Has the administration decided whether or not it’s going to go back to Congress and ask for more money?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Mark, I’ve said this and so have others, that — well, let me — these stress tests were designed so that regulators, the administration, and all those involved could get a realistic assessment in a severe — even more severe economic downturn what capital cushion would be required.
There will be — there undoubtedly will be banks that need more capital. There have been banks in the last few weeks that have sought more capital, and I think we believe and banks believe that the first and best place to get that is through the private sector.
The administration doesn’t believe that we need to go to Congress right now looking for more money. But first and foremost, I think everyone involved will be looking for banks to raise this through either private means or the selling of some assets that they have or that they control.
Q Does that mean that after they make that attempt, if they don’t have any luck in the private sector, that they would come back to you folks and say, sorry, we couldn’t do it, we need more?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think it’s — as the plan is laid out — and I think one thing that we’ve maintained and I think you’ll see this on Thursday, I think you’ll be pleased with the amount of transparency with which these tests will be released by the regulators. But the steps that each of these individual banks take will be determined not by us but by them. They’ll have a certain amount of time to put together a plan that meets the test of regulators to ensure that stability.
Q But the point is, you’ve been saying for some weeks now that once we get these stress tests done, we will know whether we need to go back to Congress. And you’ve decided that at least as of now, we don’t need it?
MR. GIBBS: Let me start by saying, I haven’t seen all the results. But I think the administration believes we have in hand what is needed.
Q Just want to follow up on Mark, and then I have a question about Pakistan. In the past you’ve been very candid when you think there are things that the President is for but the Congress wouldn’t approve it, like the assault weapons ban. Do you feel that in this case, Congress basically wouldn’t have any appetite to give you more money for the banks, even if you wanted it?
MR. GIBBS: I think in many ways that might ultimately be — I think it’s hard to — it’s hard for me to look into the crystal ball to — I don’t know what the circumstance by which you might make a request.
Q You know how many votes it passed by the last time, which was a hair.
MR. GIBBS: I watched the President make a lot of these before a lot of this. So, yes. No, I don’t — look, I don’t doubt that this is unpopular. It’s unpopular here. The President didn’t come here to, as he said, run auto companies or bail out banks.
But I think what’s important about this process is getting a genuine understanding of what’s out there. We have no doubt that there will still be — there are still going to be toxic assets on the books that have to and will be dealt with as part of other plans that the administration has outlined.
Q On Pakistan, my question is, the reports today that the U.S. doesn’t know where all of Pakistan nukes are. And in the press conference President Obama didn’t express a high level of confidence about how secure they were, and he just said, “I’m confident we can make sure that their nuclear arsenal is secure.” I mean, how secure does he actually think it is at the moment?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I’m, not surprisingly, not going to get into a detailed conversation about this up here, except to point you to what he said in that press conference.
Q I mean, is the message from that press conference that he isn’t very confident about their security, because he didn’t say –
MR. GIBBS: That’s not what I suggested.
Q Well, could you just explain what the message should be?
MR. GIBBS: I would read his — what he said. I think it’s rather clear.
Q I had a question on the flu, but I did want to clarify what you said about getting the Supreme Court nominee done before August, basically. When you say done, does that mean confirmed?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me amend if only to say I think obviously in order to get somebody seated by the first Monday in October you’re at least going to have to be a decent ways through the process, or through the beginning of this process. Obviously September is going to be a busy time. I guess let me amend what I said only to say that we understand that looking at the calendar from here until that first Monday in October, you’ve got four weeks in August, or August and maybe even the first part of September, where Congress is not going to be here.
So instead of saying they should be done and through the Senate and what have you by the end of July, obviously this process has to be a decent ways down the field. I guess what I’m saying is this isn’t going to all happen in September; I think this process has to make some progress in order to get somebody seated for the first Monday.
Q All right. And then on the flu, are you guys starting to look towards the fall flu season — assuming that this current trend of the swine flu kind of ratchets down a bit, are you starting to look towards the fall and a flare-up again of maybe a more virulent strain of this? What are you doing to prepare for that also?
MR. GIBBS: I mean, I think there’s several different things here. One, obviously we continue to remain very vigilant with what’s going on right now, understanding that obviously it’s still very much out there, there are still cases that we’re dealing with and preparations that we’re making to ensure that states and localities both have the guidance and part of the — our national stockpile of antivirals.
As I said last week, they’re beginning to undertake the very initial steps in the development of vaccines by creating a seed stock. I think –
Q Would that seed stock be good if it mutated in the fall?
MR. GIBBS: Well, that I think is — I will check with the scientists on this. Obviously I think some consideration is being taken into account, and in all honesty they’re continuing to evaluate each and every day the scientific evidence that they get from what they’re seeing in the virus.
As I said last week, Jon, I do think there is a concern and the need for us to remain vigilant throughout the summer in preparing for what might happen in the fall. The timing in which this occurred happened in a period in which the normal end of the flu season was happening. So in that way we’re fortunate. We will continue to see scientifically what the virus does, the strength of the strain, whether or not there’s any mutation, in preparing for what we would assume would be a ramp-up in the beginning of flu season in the fall.
Q A ramp-up of regular flu or this flu?
MR. GIBBS: Well, that’s — we will prepare for both in looking at and understanding the science to see if additional steps have to be taken in the interim to prepare for that.
But in terms of getting our public health system ready, they’ve already made preparations to add to the stockpile for antivirals. We’ve discussed the beginnings of vaccine; the money that was requested by our administration as part of the supplemental to address having the resources that are needed both in the short term here to move equipment and things throughout the country, as well as to address that over the long term throughout the fall.
Q I wanted to ask a budget question, but just quickly on the Supreme Court, is one of your concerns about September that the whole Supreme Court process could interfere with — I don’t mean the President’s time now; I mean Congress’s — with health care, the budget, and everything else?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think instead of sort of hypothetically figuring out what might be — what might constitute a traffic jam in September, I think largely what I’m saying is we should begin to make progress starting here and then eventually down the street to ensure that we don’t — we’re not all caught having to do several things in September. You know, I think we’ll make progress and I think Congress will too. I don’t think there’s any — I don’t think anybody in this process wants to see the process delayed.
Q Quickly on the budget, I think Thursday is your date on the full budget now. Are the figures from the earlier budget locked in or are we likely to see changes, minor or major, in deficit numbers, economic forecasts, and all those numbers that came out in, what was it, February or March?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, I will double-check on that. I don’t have a good readout yet on that, but I will get something on that.
Q Robert, on two issues, on the Court and also on Pakistan. On the Court situation, you said before this administration came into office they understood that there could be a possibility of two justices that you could be picking, and as you said, that this is something that you’ve been working on for a while. Is there an A-list for the first Supreme Court justice and then a second list, possibly, for the next? What is the criteria for that first list, if there is a first and a second list?
MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously we have made preparations to fill judicial — to make appointments for judicial openings at all levels of the federal court, and the transition began identifying a long time ago candidates for what we assumed might be an eventual pick for the Supreme Court. I think I laid out the qualifications: somebody that respects the rule of law and understands the role of tradition and precedent, somebody with a record of excellence and integrity, and someone who understands how laws and decisions affect people’s daily lives.
Q So there are two lists, are you saying?
MR. GIBBS: No, no, I don’t — I honestly don’t know if there’s an A, B, or C list. I don’t — I think right now there’s a collection underway for a pool of very qualified candidates to replace Justice Souter.
Q And also on the issue of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, U.S. military officials are saying that extremists are leaving that border and going into East Africa; they’re also in Somalia. And there is a major concern; a former U.S. defense secretary said that this is a real problem. What concrete steps are being taken right now to address those issues as al Qaeda is leaving that border and going to Africa now?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think — I haven’t seen the specific comments, but obviously the President has long been concerned about areas throughout the world, whether they are in that region of the world, Pakistan and Afghanistan, whether they’re in Africa, of the rise and the prevalence of extremist groups in territories that lack strong governments; that lawless spaces tend to provide breeding grounds for extremists.
I think that’s why the President has talked about, in his budget, an increased role in resources for governments in places like Africa that are experiencing or have long experienced trouble in controlling their physical borders. The President obviously was involved as a senator in efforts throughout Africa and particularly in the Congo to address the threat that’s posed by ungoverned spaces. So I think that’s something that the President and his team are very mindful of.
Q Thank you, Robert.
MR. GIBBS: Thank you, guys.
Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Over the last week, my administration has taken several precautions to address the challenge posed by the 2009 H1N1 flu virus. Today, I’d like to take a few minutes to explain why.
This is a new strain of the flu virus, and because we haven’t developed an immunity to it, it has more potential to cause us harm. Unlike the various strains of animal flu that have emerged in the past, it’s a flu that is spreading from human to human. This creates the potential for a pandemic, which is why we are acting quickly and aggressively.
This H1N1 flu has had its biggest impact in Mexico, where it has claimed a number of lives and infected hundreds more. Thus far, the strain in this country that has infected people in at least nineteen states has not been as potent or as deadly. We cannot know for certain why that is, which is why we are taking all necessary precautions in the event that the virus does turn into something worse.
This is also why the Centers for Disease Control has recommended that schools and child care facilities with confirmed cases of the virus close for up to fourteen days. It is why we urge employers to allow infected employees to take as many sick days as necessary. If more schools are forced to close, we’ve also recommended that both parents and businesses think about contingency plans if children do have to stay home. We have asked every American to take the same steps you would take to prevent any other flu: keep your hands washed; cover your mouth when you cough; stay home from work if you’re sick; and keep your children home from school if they’re sick. And the White House has launched pages in Facebook, MySpace and Twitter to support the ongoing efforts by the CDC to update the public as quickly and effectively as possible.
We will also continue investing in every resource necessary to treat this virus and prevent a wider outbreak. The good news is that the current strain of H1N1 can be defeated by a course of antiviral treatment that we already have on hand. We began this week with 50 million courses of this treatment in the Strategic National Stockpile. Over the course of the last few days, we have delivered one-quarter of that stockpile to states so that they are prepared to treat anyone who is infected with this virus. We then purchased an additional thirteen million treatments to refill our strategic stockpile.
Out of an abundance of caution, I have also asked Congress for $1.5 billion if it is needed to purchase additional antivirals, emergency equipment, and the development of a vaccine that can prevent this virus as we prepare for the next flu season in the fall.
The Recovery Act that Congress enacted in February also included expansions of community health centers, a dramatic increase in the training of health care workers and nurses, and $300 million for the development and deployment of vaccines – all of which will help us meet this threat.
Finally, thanks to the work that the last administration and Congress did to prepare for a possible avian flu pandemic in 2005, states and the federal government have fully operable influenza readiness plans and are better prepared to deal with such a challenge than ever before.
It is my greatest hope and prayer that all of these precautions and preparations prove unnecessary. But because we have it within our power to limit the potential damage of this virus, we have a solemn and urgent responsibility to take the necessary steps. I would sooner take action now than hesitate and face graver consequences later. I have no higher priority as President of the United States than the safety and security of the American people, and I will do whatever is necessary to protect this country. So I want to thank every American for their patience and understanding during this developing challenge, and I promise that this government will continue speaking clearly and honestly about the steps we’re taking to meet it.
Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
April 25, 2009
Good morning. Over the last three months, my Administration has taken aggressive action to confront an historic economic crisis. As we do everything that we can to create jobs and get our economy moving, we’re also building a new foundation for lasting prosperity – a foundation that invests in quality education, lowers health care costs, and develops new sources of energy powered by new jobs and industries.
One of the pillars of that foundation must be fiscal discipline. We came into office facing a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion for this year alone, and the cost of confronting our economic crisis is high. But we cannot settle for a future of rising deficits and debts that our children cannot pay.
All across America, families are tightening their belts and making hard choices. Now, Washington must show that same sense of responsibility. That is why we have identified two trillion dollars in deficit-reductions over the next decade, while taking on the special interest spending that doesn’t advance the peoples’ interests.
But we must also recognize that we cannot meet the challenges of today with old habits and stale thinking. So much of our government was built to deal with different challenges from a different era. Too often, the result is wasteful spending, bloated programs, and inefficient results.
It’s time to fundamentally change the way that we do business in Washington. To help build a new foundation for the 21st century, we need to reform our government so that it is more efficient, more transparent, and more creative. That will demand new thinking and a new sense of responsibility for every dollar that is spent.
Earlier this week, I held my first Cabinet meeting and sent a clear message: cut what doesn’t work. Already, we’ve identified substantial savings. And in the days and weeks ahead, we will continue going through the budget line by line, and we’ll identify more than 100 programs that will be cut or eliminated.
But we can’t stop there. We need to go further, and we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to reforming government. That’s why I’m announcing several steps that my Administration will take in the weeks ahead to restore fiscal discipline while making our government work better.
First, we need to adhere to the basic principle that new tax or entitlement policies should be paid for. This principle – known as PAYGO – helped transform large deficits into surpluses in the 1990s. Now, we must restore that sense of fiscal discipline. That’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass PAYGO legislation like a bill that will be introduced by Congressman Baron Hill, so that government acts the same way any responsible family does in setting its budget.
Second, we’ll create new incentives to reduce wasteful spending and to invest in what works. We don’t want agencies to protect bloated budgets – we want them to promote effective programs. So the idea is simple: agencies that identify savings will get to keep a portion of those savings to invest in programs that work. The result will be a smaller budget, and a more effective government.
Third, we’ll look for ideas from the bottom up. After all, Americans across the country know that the best ideas often come from workers – not just management. That’s why we’ll establish a process through which every government worker can submit their ideas for how their agency can save money and perform better. We’ll put the suggestions that work into practice. And later this year, I will meet with those who come up with the best ideas to hear firsthand about how they would make your government more efficient and effective.
And finally, we will reach beyond the halls of government. Many businesses have innovative ways of using technology to save money, and many experts have new ideas to make government work more efficiently. Government can – and must – learn from them. So later this year, we will host a forum on reforming government for the 21st century, so that we’re also guided by voices that come from outside of Washington.
We cannot sustain deficits that mortgage our children’s future, nor tolerate wasteful inefficiency. Government has a responsibility to spend the peoples’ money wisely, and to serve the people effectively. I will work every single day that I am President to live up to that responsibility, and to transform our government so that is held to a higher standard of performance on behalf of the American people.
Overview of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act
The Administration has released the names of three Mexican organizations against which the President has decided to impose sanctions pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (the “Kingpin Act”) (21 U.S.C. 1901-1908, 8 U.S.C. 1182). Kingpin Act targets, on a worldwide basis, significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their organizations, and operatives.
The Kingpin Act became law on December 3, 1999. Its purpose is to deny significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their related businesses, and their operatives access to the U.S. financial system and to prohibit all trade and transactions between the traffickers and U.S. companies and individuals. The Kingpin Act authorizes the President to take these actions when he determines that a foreign person plays a significant role in international narcotics trafficking. Congress modeled the Kingpin Act on the effective sanctions program that the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) administers against the Colombian drug cartels pursuant to Executive Order 12978 issued in October 1995 (“Executive Order 12978”) under authority of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”).
The Kingpin Act requires that the Secretary of the Treasury, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency coordinate to identify drug kingpins and propose them to the President for sanctions. The Department of Homeland Security and the Directorate of National Intelligence are also included in the process. The Act calls for the President to report to specified congressional committees by June 1 of each year on those “foreign persons [he] determines are appropriate for sanctions” and stating his intent to impose sanctions upon those Significant Foreign Narcotics Traffickers pursuant to the Act. While previous Presidential determinations have been tied to the statutory June 1 timetable, the President may also identify Significant Foreign Narcotics Traffickers at any other time pursuant to the Act.
Under the Kingpin Act, the President may identify foreign entities as well as foreign individuals as Significant Foreign Narcotics Traffickers, or “kingpins”: a foreign person is defined in the Act as “any citizen or national of a foreign state or any entity not organized under the laws of the United States, but does not include a foreign state.” Likewise, the President is not required to designate Colombian persons exclusively under Executive Order 12978, and may impose sanctions on a Colombian individual or entity under the Kingpin Act, which is intended to be global in scope.
The long-term effectiveness of the Kingpin Act is enhanced by the Department of the Treasury’s authority (in consultation with appropriate government agencies and departments) under the Act to make derivative designations of foreign individuals and entities that provide specified types of support or assistance to designated traffickers, or that are owned or controlled by such traffickers, or that act on their behalf. This authority broadens the scope of application of the economic sanctions against kingpins to include their businesses and operatives. Including this year’s action, the President has named a total of 78 Significant Foreign Narcotics Traffickers since the first set of kingpins was announced on June 1, 2000. The Department of the Treasury’s OFAC has issued a total of 496 derivative designations pursuant to its authorities under the Kingpin Act; these entities and individuals are subject to the same sanctions that apply to kingpins.
Individuals who violate the Kingpin Act are subject to criminal penalties of up to 10 years in prison and/or fines pursuant to Title 18 of the U.S. Code. Entities that violate the Act face criminal penalties in the form of fines up to $10 million; officers, directors, or agents of an entity who knowingly participate in a violation of the Kingpin Act are subject to criminal penalties of up to 30 years in imprison and/or a $5 million fine. The Kingpin Act also provides for civil penalties of up to $1.075 million against individuals or entities that violate its provisions.
Foreign Narcotics Traffickers Identified for Sanctions
The foreign persons that the President has identified today as appropriate for sanctions pursuant to the Kingpin Act are:
La Familia Michoacana
These names are being added to the list of kingpins first announced in June 2000 and updated every year since then. A complete list of individuals and entities sanctioned under the Kingpin Act can be found at www.treasury.gov/ofac.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building
12:02 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I decided not to bring Bo today — because he stepped on my economic speech yesterday. (Laughter.)
Good morning. I know that April 15th isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite date on the calendar. But it is an important opportunity for those of us in Washington to consider our responsibilities to the people who sent us here and who pay the bills. And I’ve brought some friends of mine who sent me here and pay the bills.
Across America, families like the people who join me have had tough choices forced upon them because of this economic downturn. Many have lost a job; many are fighting to keep their business open. Many more are struggling to make payments, to stay in their home, or to pursue a college education. And these Americans are the backbone of our economy, the backbone of our middle class. They’re the workers, the innovators, the students who are going to be powering our recovery. So their dreams have to be our own. They need a government that is working to create jobs and opportunity for them, rather than simply giving more and more to those at the very top in the false hope that wealth automatically trickles down.
And that’s why my administration has taken far-reaching action to give tax cuts to the Americans who need them, while jump-starting growth and job creation in the process. We start from the simple premise that we should reduce the tax burden on working people, while helping Americans go to college, own a home, raise a family, start a business and save for retirement.
Those goals are the foundation of the American Dream, and they are the focus of my tax policy.
First, we’ve passed a broad and sweeping tax cut for 95 percent of American workers. This tax cut was a core focus of my campaign, it was a core component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and it is the most progressive tax cut in American history. And starting April 1st, Americans saw this tax cut in the extra money that they took home with each paycheck.
Make no mistake: This tax cut will reach 120 million families and put $120 billion directly into their pockets, and it includes the most American workers ever to get a tax cut. This is going to boost demand, and it will save or create over half a million jobs. And the Congressional Budget Office has found that tax cuts like these for American workers are more than three times more effective in stimulating recovery than tax breaks for the very wealthiest Americans.
This tax cut also keeps a fundamental promise: that Americans who work hard should be able to make a decent living. It lifts more than 2 million Americans out of poverty. And together with the child tax credit, it ensures that a working parent will be able to support their family.
Second, we are helping small businesses keep their doors open so they can weather this economic storm and create good jobs. Instead of the normal two years, small businesses are now allowed to offset their losses during this downturn against the income they’ve earned over the last five years. And this could provide a record number of refunds for small businesses, which will provide them with the lifeline they need to maintain inventory and pay their workers.
Third, we are helping Americans get the education they need to succeed in a global economy. For years we’ve seen the price of tuition skyrocket at the same time that it became more and more important to earn a college degree. And that’s why we are making college more affordable for every American that needs a hand. That is why we are committed to simplifying the student loan process so more families can get the help they need. And that’s also why our $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college will help us reach a goal that will help our country lead in the 21st century: By 2020, Americans once again will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
Fourth, we are helping more Americans purchase homes that they can afford. Just as we must put an end to the irresponsible lending and borrowing that created the housing bubble, we must restore the home as a source of stability and an anchor of the American Dream. That’s why we’re providing a tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time home buyers, which will put a home within reach for hardworking Americans who are playing by the rules and making responsible choices. And by the way, there are at least a couple of folks here who have already used that $8,000 credit, and I think it’s wonderful to see that this is already prompting some willingness for people to go ahead and make that first-time purchase where they thought maybe it was out of reach before.
Fifth, we know that tax relief must be joined with fiscal discipline. Americans are making hard choices in their budgets, and we’ve got to tighten our belts in Washington, as well. And that’s why we’ve already identified $2 trillion in deficit reductions over the next decade. And that’s why we’re cutting programs that don’t work, contracts that aren’t fair, and spending that we don’t need.
We’re also doing away with the unnecessary giveaways that have thrown our tax code out of balance. I said this during the campaign, I’m now saying it as President: We need to stop giving tax breaks to companies that stash profits or ship jobs overseas so we can invest in job creation here at home. And we need to end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, so that people like me, who are extraordinarily lucky, are paying the same rates that the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans paid when Bill Clinton was President.
Finally, we need to simplify a monstrous tax code that is far too complicated for most Americans to understand, but just complicated enough for the insiders who know how to game the system. So I’ve already started by asking Paul Volcker and my Economic Recovery Board to do a thorough review of how to simplify our tax code, and to report back to me by the end of this year. It’s going to take time to undo the damage of years of carve-outs and loopholes. But I want every American to know that we will rewrite the tax code so that it puts your interests over any special interests. And we’ll make it easier, quicker and less expensive for you to file a return, so that April 15th is not a date that is approached with dread every year.
Now, I just had a conversation with these wonderful Americans, and like people I talked to all across the country, they’re not looking for a free ride. Every single person here is working hard and deserves a chance to get ahead. And they’re a family like — families like the Kirkwoods, who just want to own their own business and put away some money away for their kids’ college tuition. And they’re workers like Clark Harrison, behind me, who has worked hard and wants to be able to purchase that first home. They’re business owners like Alan Givens, who wants his company to sustain itself through bad times as well as the good. And I was encouraged to hear that Alan’s business is going strong on a whole bunch of clean energy measures that he’s helping to promote in his area.
For too long, we’ve seen taxes used as a wedge to scare people into supporting policies that actually increased the burden on working people instead of helping them live their dreams. That has to change, and that’s the work that we’ve begun. We’ve passed tax cuts that will help our economy grow. We’ve made a clear promise that families that earn less than $250,000 a year will not see their taxes increase by a single dime. And we have kept to those promises that were made during the campaign. We’ve given tax relief to the Americans who need it and the workers who have earned it. And we’re helping more Americans move towards their American Dream by going to school, owning a home, keeping their business and raising their family.
So on this April 15th, we’re reminded of the enormous responsibility that comes with handling peoples’ tax dollars. And we’re renewing our commitment to a simpler tax code that rewards work and the pursuit of the American Dream. And I just again want to personally thank all of the families, folks who join me here today, because they inspire me to do what I do every single day.
All right, thank you, everybody.
We at The Kaleidoscope Factor balk at gossip and celebrity news unless there is some type of hypocrisy that we can pounce on. But recently, we have come across information that may not be news to those close to the story, but sort of relevant to others.
80′s heart-throb and music sensation Al B. Sure! has been accused by his son, Quincy Brown, of being a dead-beat father. It is remarkable how African American male celebrities can basically get away with murder and not be held accountable to their fan base for their actions. Al B. Sure! was every sistas dream man and potential father of their fantasy children.
Apparently, those unfortunate ladies who did end up with Al B. Sure and had subsequent children with him, got the short end of the stick.
But the one thing that I have to admire about this whole situation is the galant effort that Sean Puffy Combs has displayed in stepping into the role of Dad to Quincy Brown. I am not a Puffy fan, but I do admire him for steppingup to the plate that Al B. Sure! deserted. Check out the well-crafted letter of Quincy Brown to his father, Al B. Sure!:
A Letter To My Father
I’ve been inspired throughout my life by special circumstances and unique experiences. Foremost, I grew up with a family that injected me with unconditional love and enduring confidence. This is my foundation … the family holidays and celebrations with my maternal lineage … supportive smiles in audiences at school programs … guiding hands to complete homework and special projects in the wee hours of the morning.
However, I grew up without my father, an irreplaceable force and influence that was absent in my life. I watched other kids enjoy the embrace of theirs, and I searched for a way to reconcile the meaning of my circumstance.
Despite my pain, I’ve imagined a life as a good son with my father. Baseball … Playing in School Band … Church … All of the things that he would expect his son to do, I’ve done. I’ve stood in front of audiences to receive awards. I heard their applause and praise. But, the accolades have been absent the sound of his clapping hands and encouraging words … his voice that I could distinguish in my sleep. Where has he been?
Now, I reflect on the journey, the pain, the challenges, and the triumphs through this song. I’m reconciled as a man, no longer a boy, in verse. Now, I know that I’m not alone.
Albert Brown, also known as “Al B Sure!” is my biological father, but Sean Combs, also known as “Diddy” has been a father figure in my life for as long as I can remember. Sean Combs is the person whom I look up to and appreciate as a father. He is the one who help mold me into the person I am today and will always try to live up to his expectations. He has always been supportive of me and I will forever love and respect him. As far as my biological father goes, the “spitting image” is all I have taken from him. Throughout my life, I’ve always wondered about him; Where he was? What was he doing? and most importantly, Was he even thinking about me? The absence of my father has given me a better understanding of what type of man I am going to be. I am grateful for my mom’s love, support, guidance, and for her strength.
To those who share my plight, know that you have a great future … a DESTINY. Take the lemons that you are handed and make lemonade. Your journey is in “A Letter To My Father.”
- Quincy “iQ” Brown
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, April 11, 2009
I speak to you today during a time that is holy and filled with meaning for believers around the world. Earlier this week, Jewish people gathered with family and friends to recite the stories of their ancestors’ struggle and ultimate liberation. Tomorrow, Christians of all denominations will come together to rejoice and remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
These are two very different holidays with their own very different traditions. But it seems fitting that we mark them both during the same week. For in a larger sense, they are both moments of reflection and renewal. They are both occasions to think more deeply about the obligations we have to ourselves and the obligations we have to one another, no matter who we are, where we come from, or what faith we practice.
This idea – that we are all bound up, as Martin Luther King once said, in “a single garment of destiny”– is a lesson of all the world’s great religions. And never has it been more important for us to reaffirm that lesson than it is today – at a time when we face tests and trials unlike any we have seen in our time. An economic crisis that recognizes no borders. Violent extremism that’s claimed the lives of innocent men, women, and children from Manhattan to Mumbai. An unsustainable dependence on foreign oil and other sources of energy that pollute our air and water and threaten our planet. The proliferation of the world’s most dangerous weapons, the persistence of deadly disease, and the recurrence of age-old conflicts.
These are challenges that no single nation, no matter how powerful, can confront alone. The United States must lead the way. But our best chance to solve these unprecedented problems comes from acting in concert with other nations. That is why I met with leaders of the G-20 nations to ensure that the world’s largest economies take strong and unified action in the face of the global economic crisis. Together, we’ve taken steps to stimulate growth, restore the flow of credit, open markets, and dramatically reform our financial regulatory system to prevent such crises from occurring again – steps that will lead to job creation at home.
It is only by working together that we will finally defeat 21st century security threats like al Qaeda. So it was heartening that our NATO allies united in Strasbourg behind our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and contributed important resources to support our effort there.
It is only by coordinating with countries around the world that we will stop the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. That is why I laid out a strategy in Prague for us to work with Russia and other nations to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons; to secure nuclear materials from terrorists; and, ultimately, to free the world from the menace of a nuclear nightmare.
And it is only by building a new foundation of mutual trust that we will tackle some of our most entrenched problems. That is why, in Turkey, I spoke to members of Parliament and university students about rising above the barriers of race, region, and religion that too often divide us.
With all that is at stake today, we cannot afford to talk past one another. We can’t afford to allow old differences to prevent us from making progress in areas of common concern. We can’t afford to let walls of mistrust stand. Instead, we have to find – and build on – our mutual interests. For it is only when people come together, and seek common ground, that some of that mistrust can begin to fade. And that is where progress begins.
Make no mistake: we live in a dangerous world, and we must be strong and vigilant in the face of these threats. But let us not allow whatever differences we have with other nations to stop us from coming together around those solutions that are essential to our survival and success.
As we celebrate Passover, Easter, and this time of renewal, let’s find strength in our shared resolve and purpose in our common aspirations. And if we can do that, then not only will we fulfill the sacred meaning of these holy days, but we will fulfill the promise of our country as a leader around the world.
Gotta love her! First Lady Michelle Obama actually started her White House garden last week along with 25 school children to help. Before leaving on her European trip, the First Lady broke ground on what would become the White Houses’ first garden since the mid 1900′s. But really, who thought that Michelle Obama was really gonna get down in the dirt and start planting seedlings?
Kudos to the First Lady!
The White House garden will include annual and perennial herbs such as mint, garlic, chives, thyme, oregano, anise, basil, cilantro, dill and fennel.
Assorted vegetable also will grace the White House table. Different varieties of lettuce, spinach, onions, black kale, shard, snap peas, shell peas, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, tomatillos and cucumbers were planted. The White House garden functions as a duel purpose. To feed and inform. The White House garden will feed, not only the First Family, but neighboring soup kitchens. Most importantly, the White House garden will promote national awareness of eating good, natural healthy foods that families can grow for pennies. It is economical and heart-smart.
But where are the collard and mustard greens? Where’s the cabbage and corn? Something tells me that there is another more secret garden close by!
Somali pirates have restarted negotiations for the release of U.S. ship captain Richard Phillips Saturday. A Somali pirate has said that the captain will be released in exchange for an undisclosed amount of ransom money and safe passage.
Two U.S. warships are currently monitoring the Somali pirate situation off the coast of East Africa. Somali pirates say that one of their sources has revealed a plot by the U.S. to stage a raid. If this happens, Somali pirates claim that they will execute Phillips. Previously, Somali pirates stated that they would not harm the U.S. captain.
Somali pirate Da’ud said that “negotiations failed yesterday, but still there is another hope to begin again.”
Doctor That Treated Widow Of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Arrested For Practicing Medicine Without A License!
The doctor who treated the late Coretta Scott King for ovarian cancer was arrested in California this week in the middle of his radio broadcast.
Kurt Donsbach, 73, was formally charged on 11 felony counts that included practicing medicine with out a state license. Bail was set at $1.5 million dollars. Donsbach is known for his naturopathic approach for treating various diseases with unorthodox or holistic approaches.
Donsbach’s website, Letstalkhealth.com, disseminates naturopathic information and dispenses natural supplements that carry the claims that theses can cure arthritis and cancer.
The late widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King, was treated by Kurt Donsbach in 2006 at his clinic, Santa Monica Health Institute, located in Rosarito, Mexico. In 1997, Donsbach was sentenced to one year in prison for smuggling $250,000 in unapproved drugs into the U.S from Mexico.
California District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis stated the following after an extensive FBI investigation:
“The defendant preyed on vulnerable patients who were looking for medical help. Under the guise of providing natural and safe supplements, he sold victims potentially dangerous drugs.”
TMZ made a huge blunder last week by reporting that Snoop Dogg’s wife, Shante Broadus was killed in an accident. The story proved to be false and birthed questions on the mechanisms that churn gossip media outlets.
Snoop Dogg’s camp released the following statement to Internet site Bossip:
In regards to the story you ran earlier on the false death of Shante Broadus, can you please run this official statement from Snoop Dogg’s management and please attribute the quote as “an official statement released by Snoop Dogg’s management.” Thanks and please let me know if you have any questions.
“Of course, the CHP rumors are absolutely not true, totally ridiculous, and most of all hurtful to Snoop Dogg and his family. Snoop, Shante and their family are all alive and well – we appreciate the fans concerns for their safety. Anything said or reported on regarding the death of Shante Broadus is totally false.”