On Anniversary of Olmstead, Obama Administration Reaffirms Commitment to Assist Americans with Disabilities
On Anniversary of Olmstead, Obama Administration Reaffirms Commitment to Assist Americans with Disabilities
On June 22, 1999, the Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead v. L.C. that the unjustified institutional isolation of people with disabilities is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Obama Administration has made significant progress continuing to enforce Olmsteadas well as more broadly helping to level the playing field for people with disabilities.
“Olmstead affirmed the rights of Americans with disabilities to live in their communities,” said President Obama. “As we mark the anniversary of this historic civil rights decision, we reaffirm our commitment to fighting discrimination, and to addressing the needs and concerns of those living with disabilities.”
In April of this year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the creation of the Administration for Community Living (ACL), which brings together key HHS organizations and offices dedicated to improving the lives of those with functional needs into one coordinated, focused and stronger entity. ACL combined the Administration on Aging, the Office on Disability and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities into a single agency that supports both cross-cutting initiatives and efforts focused on the unique needs of individual groups, such as children with developmental disabilities or seniors with dementia. This agency will work on increasing access to community supports and achieving full community participation for people with disabilities and seniors.
HHS also has worked closely with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to develop and subsidize rental housing for very low-income adults with disabilities and implement the new Section 811 Project Rental Assistance Program, which will assist extremely low-income adults with disabilities in accessing integrated affordable housing. Last month, HUD announced a new $85 million funding opportunity under the Section 811 program for state housing agencies that meet certain eligibility criteria, including having a partnership with a state health and human services agency and Medicaid agency, to provide essential support and services that help people live in integrated settings in the community. This funding opportunity works to align critical health and housing services and aims to assure integration by promoting Medicaid efforts to serve people in the most appropriate integrated setting.
The Department of Justice also continues to enforce the ADA and Olmstead. Over the last three years, the Civil Rights Division at the Department has been involved in more than 40 Olmstead matters in 25 states. Recently, in Virginia, the Department entered into a landmark settlement agreement with the Commonwealth, which will shift Virginia’s developmental disabilities system from one heavily reliant on large, state-run institutions to one focused on safe, individualized, and community-based services that promote integration, independence and full participation by people with disabilities in community life. The agreement expands and strengthens every aspect of the Commonwealth’s system of serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in integrated settings, and it does so through a number of services and supports. The Department has a website dedicated to Olmsteadenforcement, which includes links to settlements, briefs, findings letters, and other materials.
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY S. 3240 – Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 (Sen. Stabenow, D-MI)
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
S. 3240 – Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012
(Sen. Stabenow, D-MI)
The Administration supports Senate passage of S. 3240, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012, and looks forward to working with the Congress to address the important concerns described below prior to final passage.
The Administration greatly appreciates the Senate’s bipartisan efforts to enact a farm bill. With authorization for farm- and food-related programs set to expire this year, it is critical that the Congress pass legislation that provides certainty for rural America and includes needed reforms and savings. The new farm bill should promote rural development, preserve a farm safety net, maintain strong nutrition programs, enhance conservation, honor our World Trade Organization commitments, and advance agricultural research. In light of the Nation’s long-term fiscal challenge, the legislation should also contribute significantly to deficit reduction.
The Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012, S. 3240, makes meaningful progress toward the Administration’s goals. Notable reforms include eliminating the direct payment system; tightening payment and eligibility requirements; strengthening access to healthy, affordable food; protecting emergency food aid programs and authorities; and increasing flexibility in the delivery of international food aid. The Administration supports the Senate’s efforts to consolidate and streamline conservation assistance, which will reduce administrative burdens on farmers and ranchers and improve environmental outcomes. The bill’s funding for bioenergy programs will enhance our energy security while supporting innovation and growth in rural economies.
Consistent with the President’s Budget, the Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to achieve crop insurance and commodity program savings that are not contained in S. 3240, while at the same time strengthening the farm safety net in times of need and supporting the next generation of farmers. The Administration also strongly supports the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a cornerstone of our Nation’s food assistance safety net, which is why it was not subject to cuts in the President’s Budget. SNAP helps families put food on the table, while also benefitting farm and rural economies. The Administration also looks forward to working with the Congress to structure reporting requirements and the proposed Research Foundation in ways that will maximize and facilitate agricultural research.
11:13 A.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, everyone. Good morning. Oh my goodness. I am so thrilled to be with all of you today, and I want to start by thanking Bob for that very kind introduction and for his tremendous leadership at Disney.
I’d also like to thank Leslie for all of her hard work in this effort. Also, everyone from the Newseum for hosting us today, and also to all of the parents and advocates who are here today who have been working so hard for so many years on these issues. And finally, I want to thank everyone at Disney for making this day possible.
This new initiative is truly a game changer for the health of our children. See, for years people told us that no matter what we did to get our kids to eat well and exercise, we would never solve our childhood obesity crisis until companies changed the way they sell food to our children. And we all know the conventional wisdom about that. We’ve heard all the cynics who say that we simply can’t change the market, or that concerned parents are no match for corporate bottom lines, or that companies will never change their business model for the good of our kids.
But truly, today, Disney has turned that conventional wisdom on its head. This is a major American company, a global brand that is literally changing the way it does business so that our kids can lead healthier lives. With this new initiative, Disney is doing what no major media company has ever done before in the United States. And what I hope every company will do going forward when it comes to the ads they show and the food they sell they’re asking themselves one simple question: Is this good for our kids?
And make no mistake about it — this is huge. That’s why I’m here. It’s huge. Just think about it. Just a few years ago if you had told me or any other mom or dad in America that our kids wouldn’t see a single ad for junk food while they watched their favorite cartoons on a major TV network, we wouldn’t have believed you because parents know better than anyone else just how effective and pervasive those advertisements have become — Bob mentioned it.
Our kids see an estimated $1.6 billion a year worth of food and beverage marketing, and many of those ads are for foods that are high in calories and sugar but low in nutrition. So our kids are constantly bombarded with sophisticated messages designed to sell them foods that simply aren’t good for them. And let me tell you, we know it works, right?
As parents, we know that whatever is on TV is what our kids are going to want. I remember, as Bob has discussed, going to the grocery store with the kids, and the minute you walk down the aisle the kids are singing some jingle, or they’re pulling on your leg begging you, pleading you for whatever they saw on TV. And as a mom, I know how that makes it even harder for us to keep our kids healthy.
So many parents are working so hard to serve their kids a balanced diet. We’re preparing those nutritious meals and snacks, and we’re doing our best to teach our kids healthy habits. But when the kids turn on the TV to watch their favorite shows and — all that hard work is undermined whenever there is a commercial break. I mean, it’s a constant battle, and it’s a tough one. And so many parents are left feeling like the deck is stacked against them.
And, truly, that’s really what today is all about. In fact, that’s what our entire Let’s Move initiative is about. It’s about empowering parents, because we know that government doesn’t have all the answers and there’s no one-size solution to this problem. This is about what all of us can do as moms and dads, as CEOs and school superintendents, as mayors and doctors, and, yes, even Mickey Mouse. It’s about all of us doing what we can with the tools we have to help parents make healthier choices for their kids.
And that’s why I am so thrilled about today’s announcements. I am thrilled that Disney is stepping forward in such a big way to stand alongside America’s parents. I am thrilled that they’re raising their nutrition standards and introducing the Mickey Check and making it easier for moms and dads to make those decisions.
And I’m thrilled that over the next couple of years, when our kids tune into their favorite shows on Disney channels or they log onto the Disney web site, they will no longer be bombarded with unhealthy messages during those commercial breaks. Instead, they will see ads for foods that we might actually want them to eat — ads that can reinforce healthy habits and teach kids very important lessons.
And as you heard from Bob and Leslie, Disney has been taking steps to help our kids lead healthier lives for many years. Their Magic of Healthy Living campaign is helping kids eat healthy, get active, and have fun while doing it. They’ve helped build playgrounds and community gardens in neighborhoods all across this country. And even earlier this year, they got me to do the platypus walk. (Laughter.) Yes, dancing with about 1,500 kids down in Disney World.
So we’re all willing to do our part. And leaders at Disney are doing all of this not just as parents and as grandparents who care about the health and well-being of their kids and the future of this nation, but, as Bob said, they’re also doing it as corporate leaders who care about the bottom line. And that’s a very important point to make.
They have listened to parents who are more and more concerned about what their kids are eating. They’ve seen the market shifting as folks are increasingly interested in buying healthier food, and they’ve seen the momentum building all across this country on behalf of our children’s health. And they’ve realized that what is good for our children can also be good business.
So I hope that businesses all across this country will understand this as well, and, even more importantly, I hope that parents will take notice when companies like Disney do the right thing for our kids. Because as parents, it isn’t enough to just ask for change. It’s not enough just to make the right choices for our kids. We also need to support those companies who are listening to us, because if we do that as parents and consumers, if we make a statement not just with our voices but also with our feet and with our wallets, then we will keep seeing the changes that we hope for. We will keep seeing more choices available for our kids.
We’re going to keep seeing more days like today, which is what we’re working for. And that is what is going to take us to the finish line and get us where we want to go on this issue. That’s what it’s going to take to ensure that our children can grow up healthy and reach their full potential.
And I say this all time — we know it won’t be easy, but everything that I have seen since we started Let’s Move gives me hope. Every day I am hearing from someone who wants to get involved — school districts revamping their menus; communities planting gardens; food companies reducing the sugar, salt and fat in their foods; nationwide chains building grocery stores in underserved communities; leaders from both parties in Congress coming together to fund healthy school lunches.
And more importantly, every day I am getting wonderful letters from kids who tell me about how they’re eating healthier — the same things that Bob is seeing in his research, I’m seeing it anecdotally. Kids telling me about how they’re getting more exercise and how they’re loving every minute of it. They want to be healthy. They’re excited about improving their lives. That is the change that all of us are making together. That’s why every day I am more hopeful. Every day I’m more confident than ever that we can get this done and we can give all of our kids the healthy futures they deserve.
So today, again, I want to once again thank Disney for taking this monumental step forward and setting the bar very high. And I look forward to standing with even more businesses and partners who support the health of America’s families in the months and years ahead. And I can’t wait to see the difference that it makes for our children and for our country.
So thank you all. Thank you, Bob. Congratulations and God bless. (Applause.)
We Can’t Wait: The White House Announces Federal and Private Sector Commitments to Provide Employment Opportunities for Nearly 180,000 Youth
We Can’t Wait: The White House Announces Federal and Private Sector Commitments to Provide Employment Opportunities for Nearly 180,000 Youth
Today, the White House announced Summer Jobs+, a new call to action for businesses, non-profits, and government to work together to provide pathways to employment for low-income and disconnected youth in the summer of 2012. The President proposed $1.5 billion for high-impact summer jobs and year-round employment for low-income youth ages 16-24 in the American Jobs Act as part of the Pathways Back to Work fund. When Congress failed to act, the Federal government and private sector came together to commit to creating nearly 180,000 employment opportunities for low-income youth in the summer of 2012, with a goal of reaching 250,000 employment opportunities by the start of summer, at least 100,000 of which will be placements in paid jobs and internships. Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of executive actions the Obama Administration is taking to strengthen the economy and move the country forward because we can’t wait for Congress to act.
“America’s young people face record unemployment, and we need to do everything we can to make sure they’ve got the opportunity to earn the skills and a work ethic that come with a job. It’s important for their future, and for America’s. That’s why I proposed a summer jobs program for youth in the American Jobs Act – a plan that Congress failed to pass. America’s youth can’t wait for Congress to act. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment. That’s why today, we’re launching Summer Jobs+, a joint initiative that challenges business leaders and communities to join my Administration in providing hundreds of thousands of summer jobs for America’s youth,” said President Obama.
“While young people who are currently disconnected from school or work are not contributing to our economy, we see these young people as ‘Opportunity Youth’ – because of the untapped potential they bring to the Nation. Today, the White House challenged all sectors to go all-in and work together in creating pathways to youth employment. Summer jobs are an important step – and to stay on the path to success, Opportunity Youth need social supports and access to relevant education, mentoring and training. This spring, the White House Council for Community Solutions will participate in community discussions nationwide to learn from best efforts by youth, families, government, business, educators, and nonprofits to connect young people to meaningful career opportunities,” said Patty Stonesifer, Chair of the White House Council for Community Solutions (WHCCS).
The Administration also announced its intention to launch, within 60 days, the Summer Jobs+ Bank, a one-stop search tool for youth to access postings for any participating employers seeking to reach them where they are online. The search tool builds upon an open standard, theJobPosting schema endorsed by schema.org in November, 2011 in support of the Veterans Jobs Bank, and will include technical and promotional support by Google, Internships.com, AfterCollege, LinkedIn and Facebook. Today the Corporation for National and Community Service released a new toolkit created in collaboration with the WHCCS and employers to support businesses and communities in their efforts to help young people become productive citizens and connect to greater opportunities, both of which are critical for the long-term strength and competiveness of the Nation.
Today’s announcements build on previous commitments from the Obama Administration to support summer youth employment. In 2009 and 2010, communities across the country used Recovery Act funds to directly support summer work opportunities for over 367,000 young people. In the summer of 2011, the Department of Labor brought together private sector commitments to employ over 80,000 youth.
A new analysis released today by the WHCCS showed that in 2011 alone, taxpayers shouldered more than $93 billion in direct costs and lost tax revenue to support young adults disconnected from school and work. Over the lifetime of these young people, taxpayers will assume a $1.6 trillion burden to meet the increased needs and lost revenue from this group. Read the full analysis here.
Businesses, non-profits and government can accept the President’s call-to-action by directly hiring youth as well as providing corporate mentorship experiences, internship, and other opportunities that connect young people to jobs. The three key ways organizations can engage are:
- · Learn and Earn: Provide youth jobs for the summer of 2012 in the form of paid internships and/or permanent positions that provide on-the-job training. Of the roughly 180,000 job commitments announced today more than 70,000 are Learn and Earn commitments.
- · Life Skills: Provide youth work-related soft skills, such as communication, time management and teamwork, through coursework and/or experience. This includes resume writing or interview workshops and mentorship programs.
- · Work Skills: Provide youth insight into the world of work to prepare for employment. This includes job shadow days and internships. More information about this initiative can be found at dol.gov/summerjobs
As the nation continues to recover from the deepest recession since the Great Depression, American youth are struggling to get the work experience they need for jobs of the future. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (Current Population Survey):
- · 48.8 percent of youth between the ages of 16-24 were employed in July, the month when youth employment usually peaks. This is significantly lower than the 59.2 percent of youth who were employed five years ago and 63.3 percent of youth who were employed 10 years ago.
- · Minority youth had an especially difficult time finding employment this past summer. Only 34.6 percent of African American youth and 42.9 percent of Hispanic youth had a job this past July.
In addition to the organizations making commitments for the summer of 2012, the Department of Labor will honor UPS, We Are Golf, Wells Fargo, and Jamba Juice for their strong participation in their 2011 summer jobs effort and the Corporation for National and Community Service will honor Bank of America, State Street, Viacom, Deloitte, and JP Morgan for their leadership in corporate mentoring over the past year.
Commitments Announced Include:
The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is committed to improving employment outcomes for the many people with disabilities who are ready, willing, and able to work. The AAPD Summer Internship Program will provide 30 young people with disabilities the opportunity to engage in ten weeks of public service through paid internships on Capitol Hill, in federal agencies, nonprofits, and for-profit businesses.
AT&T is committed to providing nearly 350 summer jobs in 2012 through a variety of summer job initiatives. These opportunities help students, from high school to recent college graduates, develop skills and gain insight while preparing them to more successfully enter the job market. Examples of AT&T summer opportunities for college students include leadership development internships on the fields on finance, retail, IT and engineering, as well as participation in college internship initiatives with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the Dr. Emmett J. Conrad Leadership Program. In addition to these unique opportunities, AT&T will also provide high school students the opportunity to experience the world of work through the Mayor’s Interns Fellows Program in Newark, NJ. Also in 2012, AT&T will reach their initial goal of providing 100,000 high school students the opportunity to learn more about career options and what it takes to be successful in today’s workforce through the AT&T/JA Worldwide Job Shadow Initiative.
Bank of America, as part of its broader three-year $50 million goal to support education and workforce development opportunities for underserved populations, will continue to invest significantly in youth and young adults in 2012, including 1,500 paid internships at the company and local nonprofits as well as job placement programs, in conjunction with more than 80,000 hours from employee volunteers. Recognizing the value of mentoring to help make opportunities possible for young people, Bank of America served as the primary sponsor of the National Mentoring Partnership’s 2011 National Mentoring Summit, at which the Corporate Mentoring Challenge was launched. In 2011, Bank of America invested more than $15 million, and its employees volunteered more than 75,000 hours to help youth and young adults attain life and work skills to propel them towards long-term success.
Baxter International Inc. pledges to support Summer Jobs+ by expanding their education initiative, Science@Work. As an extension of Science@Work – a multiyear commitment to support teacher training and student development in healthcare and biotechnology through a partnership with Chicago Public Schools – Baxter will reach 300-500 students. These students will participate in a variety of programs: the Career Training Program, in which Baxter professionals will assist students with career planning, soft skill development and interviewing skills; the 2012 Summer Job Shadowing program, in which students will participate in a unique shadowing experience with young Baxter professionals; and through Science @Work Community of Support, in which students will participate in an on-going relationship management program that provides counsel and professional support during college careers.
Bender Consulting Services, Inc. is committed to investing in youth who are living with disabilities, to support the development of life and work skills required by private and public sector employers. Partnering with local high-schools in Pittsburgh, PA and Newark, DE, Bender Consulting, through the year-long Bender Leadership Academy Program will train 60 high-school students with disabilities, many who are low-income, about how to be successful in the world of work. Four students who complete this program will work on a short-term paid summer internship in Bender Consulting’s offices in Pittsburgh, PA. Bender Consulting will also provide two to four, 12 week summer HR internships to low income youth, including youth with disabilities.
The Camber Corporation provides young people with real-life work experience, opportunities to enhance their professional skillsets, and mentorship from their qualified employees during paid internships. In 2011, 25% of their graduated interns were hired as full-time Camber employees to serve in the areas of accounting, engineering, and human resources. In 2012, Camber plans to offer 8 internship opportunities.
CenturyLink has had summer internship programs for more than 25 years and looks forward to participating in Summer Jobs+ in 2012. CenturyLink believe that one of its strengths is the diversity of its people, and they are committed to fostering diversity among the 50 summer jobs they will hire this year.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has made a commitment to provide approximately 4,000 disadvantaged youth with national service opportunities through AmeriCorps programs operating in the summer of 2012. The AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate Program, funded in part through private sector commitments, will place youth in communities across the country to address poverty and hunger. In addition, AmeriCorps State and National programs will engage youth in education and conservation projects, and the AmeriCorps NCCC Summer of Service program is designed to introduce teenagers, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to national service and to foster in them such values as teamwork, responsibility, and the ethic of serving one’s community. These stipended service opportunities train youth in the life and work skills, such as teamwork, problem solving, and leadership, that are critical for success in the labor market, while engaging in activities that tackle tough societal challenges.
CVS Caremark is committing to hire over 20,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24 in 2012. Many of the new employees will occupy part-time and full-time positions such as pharmacy service associates, technicians, cashiers and interns in a variety of corporate functions.
Deloitte helps American high school students prepare for college and careers through its Their Future Is Our Future program. As part of this program, 500,000 students have experienced the Life Inc. career exploration curriculum and Deloitte is committed to serve tens of thousands of students in 2012. Through a series of lessons, self-discovery techniques, and virtual role models tailored for youth in middle and high school, Life, Inc. introduces students to various career possibilities and helps them determine what kind of educational experiences they will need in order to pursue them. The program includes a website, career guide, teacher’s guide and student journal, which features seven lessons that are delivered by teachers in schools and after school youth programs. Additionally, through deep relationships with national nonprofits that lead on education including MENTOR, United Way, College Summit and City Year, Deloitte contributes cash, pro bono service and the time of one-on-one mentors to help young people pursue the education and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.
The Department of Agriculture has made a commitment to provide approximately 7,100 youth with the opportunity to gain valuable work experience during the summer of 2012 by working with various USDA Mission Areas and Agencies throughout the country. The USDA provides leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, and related issues based on sounds public policy, the best available science, and efficient management. USDA is committed to forming a pipeline of talented youth who will be our future leaders by giving them the opportunity for hands-on work experience in a variety of science, technology, engineering, math, administrative, management, agribusiness and industry positions.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will commit to supporting 324 summer jobs for low-income youth in 2012. HHS offices will be supporting paid summer jobs as well as other employment enhancement opportunities. The Office of Human Resources’ Strategic Programs Division (SPD) will host at least two classes in the “Life Skills” pathway to support 120 youth. These classes will have up to 50 participants each and will focus on work-related soft skills, such as communication, time management, and teamwork. Additionally, SPD will allow for 20 students to participate in the “Work Skills” pathway. These 20 students will shadow SPD employees for the day to offer insight into the federal workplace and to prepare them for employment.
The Department of the Interior has committed to providing approximately 12,000 young Americans with work opportunities in the summer of 2012 on public lands, tribal lands, national parks, wildlife refuges, and environmental restoration projects nationwide. Interior has increased the number of summer job opportunities it offers for young people under the Obama administration by 30 percent – helping more people from all walks of life to enjoy the great outdoors, and to pursue work opportunities and careers in the stewardship of America’s natural, cultural, and historic resources as part of the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative.
The DirectEmployers Association is a nonprofit HR consortium of leading global employers formed to improve labor market efficiency through the sharing of best practices, research and the development of technology. They are committed to hiring 5 youths this summer in the Indianapolis area to provide opportunities to learn the skills needed to be successful in the workforce as well as to encourage and motivate them to continue with their education.
Discovery Communications provides multiple avenues for young people to discover a summer job and a lasting career. Through the Discover Your Skills campaign youth can learn about exciting career opportunities in skilled trades and critical growth areas like manufacturing, health care, energy, technology, construction and other industries. A partnership with Montgomery College provides community college students with the skills they need to take advantage of available job opportunities. In addition, Discovery’s robust internship program will provide nearly 300 college students career opportunities in a variety of fields in 2012.
Easter Seals will be working to create summer opportunities for three young people with disabilities and will be disseminating information about the Summer Jobs+ initiative throughout their nationwide network of affiliates. These positions will be in the “learn and earn” category of the initiative. While working for Easter Seals, young people will have the opportunity to learn various aspects of nonprofit management including marketing and corporate relations, public policy, program management, development and more.
Expeditors, through its Opportunity Knocks program, recruits and supports disconnected youth so they can get training in a professional environment that can be leveraged for future success. Since starting the program in 2008, Expeditors has helped 25 disconnected youth in six offices throughout the United States and is committed to adding 75 positions in another twenty offices in 2012 to bring the total participation to 100 youth.
Gap Inc. is supporting 80,000 youth in 2012 through a variety of programs, which include connecting youth to employment through the development of relevant life skills and work ready skills, as well as providing on-the-job training through learn and earn experiences.
General Dynamics C4 Systems is committed to hiring 40 young people during the summer of 2012 and is partnering with Sentinels of Freedom, Wounded Warriors, Diversity Careers, SWE, SHPE, NSBE and WOC to support hiring needs nationwide.
Goodwill Industries International is proud to be one of the first organizations to support the Summer Jobs+ program. Through Goodwill’s unique social enterprise business model, it creates employment and job training. This year, the organization will expand services for youth at the beginning their careers. Goodwill is committed to hiring 1,200 youth ages 16 to 24, provide more than 3,200 youth with life skills services and over 2,300 with work skills services. Almost 2,000 youth will be engaged in learn and earn services. Thousands more youth will be provided virtual career mentoring and exploration services.
H-E-B has committed to expand their summer jobs program by 19 percent. In the summer of 2012, 5,171 16-24 year olds will be hired to work at H-E-B.
J.B. Hunt Transport is focused on providing opportunities for young people to experience a professional working environment, particularly those in the Hispanic community in Arkansas. Through a partnership with ALPFA, the company reaches out to local high school students and helps raise awareness of opportunities in business, and provides mentors for college students. For 2012, J.B. Hunt is increasing the number of summer positions at headquarters to 20, and expanding college internships at our field locations throughout the United States.
Jamba Juice has made a significant commitment to training and hiring young people and will pledge to hire at least 2,500 youth in the summer of 2012. Jamba Juice has a successful summer in 2011 when the company hired nearly 2,700 youth for summer work — 200 more than their pledge made as part of the “Summer Jobs USA: Make a Commitment” initiative. Additionally, Jamba Juice also recently launched a new internship program for Job Corps students.
JPMorgan Chase has been a leader in supporting “Learn and Earn” and “career and skill development” programs in cities all across the country for decades. During the 2011 Corporate Mentoring Challenge, JPMorgan Chase was inspired to step up in a leadership role – by funding and launching the Illinois Mentoring Partnership, introducing other potential funders and connecting non-profit organizations, who deliver the programs. In Chicago, JPMorgan Chase also has supported, since its creation 20 years ago, After School Matters, a program that helps teens discover and nurture their talents and aspirations for future successes. The bank’s support in 2012 will provide 1,300 teens with hands-on, project-based programs to learn about rewarding careers and to help develop marketable job skills.
LinkedIn has committed to offer 200 internships in the summer of 2012. Additionally, LinkedIn is committed to adopting the JobPosting schema and letting any company post their summer internship jobs (or entry level jobs) on the LinkedIn website at no cost.
ManpowerGroup is proud to support summer jobs through a direct commitment of 20 jobs at our global headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and at Manpower branch offices across the nation. Through its work with local Workforce Investment Boards and One-Stop Career Centers, Manpower supports employment opportunities for thousands of people touched by the public workforce system.
Operation HOPE, as part of the Gallup-HOPE Index Cities Initiative, commits to secure 20 businesses and place 500 youth through youth business internships, mentorships, shadow days or actual small business or entrepreneurship start-ups. Through the Gallup-HOPE Index Cities initiative, Operation HOPE, in partnership with Gallup intend to create a new youth entrepreneurial and business class in America, along with a new culture of progressive business mentoring by Corporate America.
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) maintains a strong focus on providing learning and work opportunities for youth in the United States. Through its host of early-identification programs and a robust internship program designed for undergraduate students, PwC seeks to provide students the learning, coaching, and training opportunities and professional relationships they need to develop professionally and personally, while also learning about unique opportunities in a career in professional services. For the summer of 2012, PwC is committed to hiring 1,500 youth across the country.
The SI Organization will hire more than 100 young people in 2012 for full-time entry-level and internship/co-op positions focused on engineering and integration services in the U.S. Intelligence Community, Department of Defense and other agencies.
Starbucks Coffee Company is supporting more than 25,000 youth this summer through a variety of programs. The company will work with local nonprofits and others to engage 20,000 young people in life skills and job readiness development. This commitment is in alignment with our Youth Action Grants programs, supporting young people to address critical issues in their communities. Starbucks supports nonprofit organizations to give young people the skills and resources to be catalysts for change through community service. One example of an organization Starbucks supports is Generation On in multiple cities across the US; this is a program of Hands On Network. Starbucks plans to work closely with its grant recipients to maximize the life skills training and service opportunities and to increase their outreach to underserved youth. The company will also provide hands-on and learn and earn experiences for 5,000 young people working at Starbucks.
State Street Corporation is committed to providing workforce development and education opportunities to approximately 1,000 youth each summer in cities including Boston, New York, Kansas City, and Sacramento among others. The company supports a continuum of meaningful job opportunities starting with funding subsidized wage placements in community-based organizations for first-time job experiences, as well as placements in professional positions at State Street for those who have developed basic employability skills and are ready for more responsibility.
Syracuse University will provide 200 jobs to college-aged students working in the Say Yes to Education Syracuse’s Summer Camp for academic enrichment and youth leadership. Syracuse University will also provide 50 positions to 16-21 year olds in a SU partnership with CNY Works on a Summer Youth Initiative.
The McGraw-Hill Companies is committed to growing its 12-week paid summer internship program which employs youth across all of their businesses to 260 summer internships for 2012. In 2011, McGraw-Hill employed over 250 Summer Interns and roughly 10% of last year’s interns were offered full-time positions after graduation.
UPS, the global leader in logistics, is continuing its commitment to summer jobs and will offer 1,500 employment opportunities to youth across the country in 2012. Most opportunities qualify for employment benefits and UPS’ educational assistance program which can pay up to $3,000 a year for educational benefits.
Viacom has committed to provide internship and mentorship programs to connect youth to employment opportunities. Through their Summer Associates Program, VIACOM will provide 10 recent college graduates young people a 10 week paid training program in the summer 2012 fostering professional and personal development and unlocking the doors to valuable real-world experience. Through their partnership with POSSE’s Career Program, Viacom will provide 30 college students high school students with a paid internship. In addition, mentoring initiatives such as Viacom’s national mentoring program Get Connected, created with the Get Schooled Foundation, will assist students through meaningful connections with adults with the ultimate goal of helping to keep them in school and realize their true potential.
WE ARE GOLF is a national not-for-profit organization formed to tell the story of the nearly 2 million hardworking men and women who make golf a great sport and whose livelihoods depend on it. Golf courses across the country are building on their 2011 commitment of 2,700 summer jobs and WE ARE GOLF is bringing far more golf courses to this initiative in 2012 to offer tens of thousands more jobs to young people.
Wells Fargo has made an ongoing and significant commitment to its communities, including opportunities for summertime work, networking and training for young people. In the summer of 2012, Wells Fargo will support 1,000 employment opportunities for youth.
Along with significant commitments from across the business sector, national organizations are answering the President’s challenge. United Way Worldwide will work with local chapters in approximately 30 cities and regions to host a series of Community Conversations, where local leaders will join with ordinary citizens to map out what they can do to pull together the support needed to create opportunity and pathways for young adults.
First Lady to Invite Military Families to View White House Holiday Decorations
Wednesday, November 30 * White House – Mrs. Obama will welcome military families, including Gold Star and Blue Star parents, spouses and children, to the White House for the first viewing of the 2011 holiday decorations. Mrs. Obama will deliver remarks in the East Room, and then ask military children to join her in the State Dining Room as White House Chefs Cris Comerford and Bill Yosses, and White House Florist Laura Dowling demonstrate holiday crafts and treats. This year, a special Gold Star Christmas tree decorated by Gold Star families will be displayed at the visitor’s entrance on the East Wing Landing. The theme of this year’s Blue Room Christmas Tree will be honoring Blue Star families.
We Can’t Wait: Health Care Innovation Challenge Will Improve Care, Save Money, Focus On Health Care Jobs
We Can’t Wait: Health Care Innovation Challenge will improve care, save money, focus on health care jobs
New funding available for next generation of health care innovations
WASHINGTON, DC– Up to $1 billion dollars will be awarded to innovative projects across the country that test creative ways to deliver high quality medical care and save money. Launched today by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Health Care Innovation Challenge will also give preference to projects that rapidly hire, train and deploy health care workers.
“We’ve taken incredible steps to reduce health care costs and improve care, but we can’t wait to do more,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Both public and private community organizations around the country are finding innovative solutions to improve our health care system and the Health Care Innovation Challenge will help jump start these efforts.”
Funded by the Affordable Care Act, the Health Care Innovation Challenge will award grants in March to applicants who will implement the most compelling new ideas to deliver better health, improved care and lower costs to people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, particularly those with the highest health care needs. The Challenge will support projects that can begin within six months. Additionally, projects that focus on rapid workforce development will be given priority when grants are awarded.
“When I visit communities across the country, I continually see innovative solutions at the very ground level – a large health system working with community partners to decrease the risk of diabetes with nutrition programs or a church group that sends volunteers to help home-bound seniors so they can live at home,” said Donald M. Berwick, M.D., administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “By putting more programs like this in place and more “boots on the ground,” these types of programs can truly transform our health care system.”
Awards will be expected to range from approximately $1 million to $30 million over three years. Applications are open to providers, payers, local government, community-based organizations and particularly to public-private partnerships and multi-payer approaches. Each grantee project will be evaluated and monitored for measurable improvements in quality of care and savings generated.
For more information, including a fact sheet and the Funding Opportunity Announcement, please see the Health Care Innovation Challenge initiative web site at: www.innovation.cms.gov
Statement from White House Drug Policy Director on Synthetic Stimulants, a.k.a “Bath Salts”
Washington, D.C. – Today, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy, released the following statement following recent reports indicating the emerging threat of synthetic stimulants, including MDPV (3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone) and mephedrone. These stimulants are often sold and marketed in stores as “bath salts” under names such as “Ivory Wave” or “Purple Wave.”
“I am deeply concerned about the distribution, sale, and use of synthetic stimulants – especially those that are marketed as legal substances. Although we lack sufficient data to understand exactly how prevalent the use of these stimulants are, we know they pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of young people and anyone who may use them. At a time when drug use in America is increasing, the marketing and sale of these poisons as “bath salts” is both unacceptable and dangerous. As public health officials work to address this emerging threat, I ask that parents and other adult influencers act immediately to discuss with young people the severe harm that can be caused by the use of both legal and illegal drugs and to prevent drug use before it starts.”
Recent information from poison control centers indicates that abuse of these unlicensed and unregulated drugs is growing across the country. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there were 251 calls related to “bath salts” to poison control centers so far this year. This number already exceeds the 236 calls received by poison control centers for all of 2010. Doctors and clinicians at U.S. poison centers have indicated that ingesting “bath salts,” containing synthetic stimulants, can cause chest pains, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia, and delusions. Already, several states have introduced legislation to ban these products, including Hawaii, Michigan, Louisiana, Kentucky, and North Dakota. Several counties, cities, and local municipalities have also taken action to ban these products.
Director Kerlikowske also cited three steps parents can take today to protect young people:
1. Talk to your kids about drugs. Research shows parents are the best messengers to deliver critical information on drug use. Make sure they know of the harms that can result from drug use and that you don’t approve of them. For tips and parenting advice visit www.TheAntiDrug.com.
2. Learn to spot risk factors that can lead to drug use. Association with drug-abusing peers is often the most immediate risk factor that can lead young people to drug use and delinquent behavior. Other risk factors include poor classroom behavior or social skills and academic failure. Parents can protect their kids from these influences by building strong bonds with their children, staying involved in their lives, and setting clear limits and consistent enforcement of discipline.
For more information on National efforts to reduce drug use and its consequences visit: www.WhiteHouseDrugPolicy.gov
The Office of National Drug Control Policy seeks to foster healthy individuals and safe communities by effectively leading the Nation’s effort to reduce drug use and its consequences.
Readout of the President’s Meeting on Egypt
At 1:00 pm today, the President convened a meeting of his national security team at the White House. Participants included Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, National Security Advisor to the Vice President Tony Blinken, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, Senior Director for the Central Region Dennis Ross, Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa Dan Shapiro, Chief of Staff Bill Daley, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, and Senior Advisor David Plouffe. The meeting lasted just over an hour. The President was updated on the situation in Egypt. He reiterated our focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint; supporting universal rights; and supporting concrete steps that advance political reform within Egypt.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS
Written By Tracey Ricks Foster, Editorial Director of Washington Review & Commentary
In his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama will endeavor to build upon the favorable momentum that his administration created late last year. With the repeal of ”Don’t ask, don’t tell,” the Obama administration gained a positive resurgence in the polls. For President Obama, the State of the Union speech is the blueprint from which the second half of his first term will be constructed and judged.
With the economy on the rebound according to the CBO, and an upward outlook on the unemployment situation in America, President Obama’s State of the Union Address will primarily focus on job creation and help for small businesses with tax incentives and health care insurance. November 2010 saw the unemployment rate drop to 9.4. The CBO forecasts the jobless rate will fall under nine percent by the end of 2011 and that by 2014, the rate will have fallen an additional four points and steady itself at five percent.
It is imperitive for President Obama to express within the State of the Union a willingness to work across political party lines to accomplish his main objectives, which are stabilizing the economy and reducing America’s debt ceiling. In his State of the Union, President Obama will stress the importance of cutting back in order to reduce the deficit, that by some estimates, is in the area of $70 trillion. Education and becoming globally competitve will be another focus of the President’s speech to America on Tuesday. With a national public school system surviving on a failing infrastructure, America’s educational system, which at one point decades ago was a benchmark for excellence around the world, is sinking and in dire need of an overhaul. President Obama will stress the need to bring education back to the forefront of America so that generations of children can fairly compete in a global world market.
President Obama’s speech will touch emphatically on the violent rhetoric that Washington politicians have engaged in for the past two years. Not pointing fingers at which political party is to blame for the violence in Tucson, Arizona earlier this month, the President will strongly make it clear that America was built on passionate discussion, freedom of speech, and healthy debate. However, President Obama will discourage inciteful and provocative language that could perpetuate violence. A bipartisanship commitment unilaterally between the White House and the legislative bodies, primarily the Republican majority of the House of Representatives, is the direction that President Obama will allude to in order for Washington to work for the American people.
The State of the Union Address will predictably feature many high notes. But if President Barack Obama seeks to remain in the White House beyond 2012, the tone of this speech will be the GPS to get him reelected.
White House Blog Posted By First Lady Michelle Obama: “An Open Letter to Parents Following the Tragedy in Tucson”
An Open Letter to Parents Following the Tragedy in Tucson
Posted by First Lady Michelle Obama on January 13, 2011 at 06:07 PM EST
Like so many Americans all across the country, Barack and I were shocked and heartbroken by the horrific act of violence committed in Arizona this past weekend. Yesterday, we had the chance to attend a memorial service and meet with some of the families of those who lost their lives, and both of us were deeply moved by their strength and resilience in the face of such unspeakable tragedy.
As parents, an event like this hits home especially hard. It makes our hearts ache for those who lost loved ones. It makes us want to hug our own families a little tighter. And it makes us think about what an event like this says about the world we live in – and the world in which our children will grow up.
In the days and weeks ahead, as we struggle with these issues ourselves, many of us will find that our children are struggling with them as well. The questions my daughters have asked are the same ones that many of your children will have – and they don’t lend themselves to easy answers. But they will provide an opportunity for us as parents to teach some valuable lessons – about the character of our country, about the values we hold dear, and about finding hope at a time when it seems far away.
We can teach our children that here in America, we embrace each other, and support each other, in times of crisis. And we can help them do that in their own small way – whether it’s by sending a letter, or saying a prayer, or just keeping the victims and their families in their thoughts.
We can teach them the value of tolerance – the practice of assuming the best, rather than the worst, about those around us. We can teach them to give others the benefit of the doubt, particularly those with whom they disagree.
We can also teach our children about the tremendous sacrifices made by the men and women who serve our country and by their families. We can explain to them that although we might not always agree with those who represent us, anyone who enters public life does so because they love their country and want to serve it.
Christina Green felt that call. She was just nine years old when she lost her life. But she was at that store that day because she was passionate about serving others. She had just been elected to her school’s student council, and she wanted to meet her Congresswoman and learn more about politics and public life.
And that’s something else we can do for our children – we can tell them about Christina and about how much she wanted to give back. We can tell them about John Roll, a judge with a reputation for fairness; about Dorothy Morris, a devoted wife to her husband, her high school sweetheart, to whom she’d been married for 55 years; about Phyllis Schneck, a great-grandmother who sewed aprons for church fundraisers; about Dorwan Stoddard, a retired construction worker who helped neighbors down on their luck; and about Gabe Zimmerman, who did community outreach for Congresswoman Giffords, working tirelessly to help folks who were struggling, and was engaged to be married next year. We can tell them about the brave men and women who risked their lives that day to save others. And we can work together to honor their legacy by following their example – by embracing our fellow citizens; by standing up for what we believe is right; and by doing our part, however we can, to serve our communities and our country.
Michelle Obama is the First Lady of the United States
BREAKING NEWS: Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery At a Memorial Service for the Victims of the Shooting in Tucson, Arizona University of Arizona, McKale Memorial Center Tucson, Arizona
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
At a Memorial Service for the Victims of the Shooting in Tucson, Arizona
University of Arizona, McKale Memorial Center
January 12, 2011
As Prepared for Delivery—
To the families of those we’ve lost; to all who called them friends; to the students of this university, the public servants gathered tonight, and the people of Tucson and Arizona: I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow.
There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts. But know this: the hopes of a nation are here tonight. We mourn with you for the fallen. We join you in your grief. And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy pull through.
As Scripture tells us:
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
On Saturday morning, Gabby, her staff, and many of her constituents gathered outside a supermarket to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and free speech. They were fulfilling a central tenet of the democracy envisioned by our founders – representatives of the people answering to their constituents, so as to carry their concerns to our nation’s capital. Gabby called it “Congress on Your Corner” – just an updated version of government of and by and for the people.
That is the quintessentially American scene that was shattered by a gunman’s bullets. And the six people who lost their lives on Saturday – they too represented what is best in America.
Judge John Roll served our legal system for nearly 40 years. A graduate of this university and its law school, Judge Roll was recommended for the federal bench by John McCain twenty years ago, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, and rose to become Arizona’s chief federal judge. His colleagues described him as the hardest-working judge within the Ninth Circuit. He was on his way back from attending Mass, as he did every day, when he decided to stop by and say hi to his Representative. John is survived by his loving wife, Maureen, his three sons, and his five grandchildren.
George and Dorothy Morris – “Dot” to her friends – were high school sweethearts who got married and had two daughters. They did everything together, traveling the open road in their RV, enjoying what their friends called a 50-year honeymoon. Saturday morning, they went by the Safeway to hear what their Congresswoman had to say. When gunfire rang out, George, a former Marine, instinctively tried to shield his wife. Both were shot. Dot passed away.
A New Jersey native, Phyllis Schneck retired to Tucson to beat the snow. But in the summer, she would return East, where her world revolved around her 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and 2 year-old great-granddaughter. A gifted quilter, she’d often work under her favorite tree, or sometimes sew aprons with the logos of the Jets and the Giants to give out at the church where she volunteered. A Republican, she took a liking to Gabby, and wanted to get to know her better.
Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard grew up in Tucson together – about seventy years ago. They moved apart and started their own respective families, but after both were widowed they found their way back here, to, as one of Mavy’s daughters put it, “be boyfriend and girlfriend again.” When they weren’t out on the road in their motor home, you could find them just up the road, helping folks in need at the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ. A retired construction worker, Dorwan spent his spare time fixing up the church along with their dog, Tux. His final act of selflessness was to dive on top of his wife, sacrificing his life for hers.
Everything Gabe Zimmerman did, he did with passion – but his true passion was people. As Gabby’s outreach director, he made the cares of thousands of her constituents his own, seeing to it that seniors got the Medicare benefits they had earned, that veterans got the medals and care they deserved, that government was working for ordinary folks. He died doing what he loved – talking with people and seeing how he could help. Gabe is survived by his parents, Ross and Emily, his brother, Ben, and his fiancée, Kelly, who he planned to marry next year.
And then there is nine year-old Christina Taylor Green. Christina was an A student, a dancer, a gymnast, and a swimmer. She often proclaimed that she wanted to be the first woman to play in the major leagues, and as the only girl on her Little League team, no one put it past her. She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age, and would remind her mother, “We are so blessed. We have the best life.” And she’d pay those blessings back by participating in a charity that helped children who were less fortunate.
Our hearts are broken by their sudden passing. Our hearts are broken – and yet, our hearts also have reason for fullness.
Our hearts are full of hope and thanks for the 13 Americans who survived the shooting, including the congresswoman many of them went to see on Saturday. I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here, where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak. And I can tell you this – she knows we’re here and she knows we love her and she knows that we will be rooting for her throughout what will be a difficult journey.
And our hearts are full of gratitude for those who saved others. We are grateful for Daniel Hernandez, a volunteer in Gabby’s office who ran through the chaos to minister to his boss, tending to her wounds to keep her alive. We are grateful for the men who tackled the gunman as he stopped to reload. We are grateful for a petite 61 year-old, Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away the killer’s ammunition, undoubtedly saving some lives. And we are grateful for the doctors and nurses and emergency medics who worked wonders to heal those who’d been hurt.
These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle. They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength. Heroism is here, all around us, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned – as it was on Saturday morning.
Their actions, their selflessness, also pose a challenge to each of us. It raises the question of what, beyond the prayers and expressions of concern, is required of us going forward. How can we honor the fallen? How can we be true to their memory?
You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems. Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.
But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.
Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.
For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.
So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.
But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.
After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family – especially if the loss is unexpected. We’re shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward. We reflect on the past. Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder. Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us? Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?
So sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order. We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.
That process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions – that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires. For those who were harmed, those who were killed – they are part of our family, an American family 300 million strong. We may not have known them personally, but we surely see ourselves in them. In George and Dot, in Dorwan and Mavy, we sense the abiding love we have for our own husbands, our own wives, our own life partners. Phyllis – she’s our mom or grandma; Gabe our brother or son. In Judge Roll, we recognize not only a man who prized his family and doing his job well, but also a man who embodied America’s fidelity to the law. In Gabby, we see a reflection of our public spiritedness, that desire to participate in that sometimes frustrating, sometimes contentious, but always necessary and never-ending process to form a more perfect union.
And in Christina…in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic.
So deserving of our love.
And so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.
The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives – to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud. It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.
I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here – they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.
That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.
I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.
Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called “Faces of Hope.” On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child’s life. “I hope you help those in need,” read one. “I hope you know all of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope you jump in rain puddles.”
If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.
May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America.
WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Touts Benefits of Tax Cut Package to Take Place in the New Year
WASHINGTON – In his weekly address, President Obama looked forward to how the tax cut package he signed into law in December will benefit millions of Americans in the new year. For one year, any business, large or small, can write off the full cost of most of their capital investments. The payroll tax cut will mean $1,000 more this year for a typical family – 155 million workers will see larger paychecks because of that tax cut. Twelve million families will benefit from a $1,000 child tax credit and an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit. And eight million students and families will continue to benefit from a $2,500 tuition tax credit. Independent experts have concluded that the tax cut package should significantly accelerate the pace of the recovery.
The audio and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, Saturday, January 08, 2011.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
The White House
January 08, 2011
Last month, our economy added more than 100,000 private sector jobs and the unemployment rate fell sharply. This follows encouraging economic news from increased auto sales to continued expansion of our manufacturing sector.
Now, we know that these numbers can bounce around from month to month. But the trend is clear. We saw 12 straight months of private sector job growth – the first time that’s been true since 2006. The economy added 1.3 million jobs last year. And each quarter was stronger than the last, which means the pace of hiring is picking up.
Now we’re seeing more optimistic economic forecasts for the year ahead, in part due to the package of tax cuts I signed last month. I fought for that package because, while we are recovering, we plainly still have a lot of work to do. The recession rocked the foundations of our economy, and left a lot of destruction and doubt in its wake.
So, our fundamental mission must be to accelerate hiring and growth, while we do the things we know are necessary to insure America’s leadership in an increasingly competitive world and build an economy that will provide opportunity to any American willing to work for it.
I’m absolutely confident we will get there. I am confident, first and foremost, because of you; because of the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs and business owners; the tenacity of our workers; and the determination of the American people. This is what has made our economy the envy of the world. But we have to do everything we can to help our businesses and workers win in this new economy.
Yesterday, I visited the Thompson Creek Window Company, a small business in Maryland. Over the past year, sales there have grown by 55% thanks, in part, to an energy tax credit we created. And this year, they’re also planning to take advantage of a new tax incentive for businesses. For one year, any business, large or small, can write off the full cost of most of their capital investments. This will make it more affordable for businesses like Thompson Creek to expand and hire.
So, if you’re a business owner, I’d encourage you to take advantage of this temporary provision. It will save you money today and help you grow your business tomorrow.
This incentive is part of the economic package I signed into law last month – a package that also includes a payroll tax cut that will mean $1,000 more this year for a typical family. In fact, 155 million workers will see larger paychecks this month as a result of this tax cut.
Twelve million families will benefit from a $1,000 child tax credit and an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit. Eight million students and families will continue to benefit from a $2,500 tuition tax credit to make college more affordable.
And millions of entrepreneurs in big cities and small towns across the country will benefit not only from the business expensing plan I mentioned, but from additional tax cuts that will spur research and development.
Independent experts have concluded that, taken together, this package of tax cuts will significantly accelerate the pace of our economic recovery, spurring additional jobs and growth.
And that is our mission. That should be the focus, day in and day out, of our work in Washington in the coming months, as we wrestle with a challenging budget and long-term deficits. And I’m determined to work with everyone, Republicans and Democrats, to achieve that goal. What we can’t do is refight the battles of the past two years that distract us from the hard work of moving our economy forward. What we can’t do is engage in the kinds of symbolic battles that so often consume Washington while the rest of America waits for us to solve problems.
The tax cuts and other progress we made in December were a much-needed departure from that pattern. Let’s build on that admirable example and do our part, here in Washington, so the doers, builders, and innovators in America can do their best in 2011 and beyond. Thanks everyone, and have a nice weekend.
Repealing the Affordable Care Act will Hurt the Economy
By Stephanie Cutter
The House Republican Health Care Plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and take away all the new freedom and control it gives the American people over their health care and gives it back to insurance companies will not only raise costs for individuals and businesses, but it will hurt our economy.
Since the President signed the Affordable Care Act into law last March, the economy has created over 1 million private sector jobs, including the 113,000 private sector jobs created in December announced today. So, at a time when our economy is getting stronger, repealing the law would hamper that important economic progress by increasing costs on individuals and businesses, weakening the benefits and protections that Americans with private insurance are already enjoying, and adding more than a trillion dollars to our deficits.
Opponents’ claim that the law is “job-killing” is in direct contradiction to what has actually been happening in the economy since enactment. In fact, repealing the law would likely slow down the growth of our economy. Here are the facts:
- Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, the economy has created over 1 million private sector jobs. The unemployment rate is 9.4%, lower than it was in March 2010—9.7%.
- In the period during and right after the enactment of the law, the economy grew by 2.7%.
- Consumer confidence in a range of areas have improved, including retail and food sales by 4%, and auto sales by 7% since the enactment of the law.
- Slowing the growth of health care costs—as the Affordable Care Act does—will have the likely impact of creating more jobs since businesses will have to spend less on health care for their employees. This reduction could create more than 300,000 additional jobs.
- The law widely expands coverage to Americans, thereby reducing the hidden tax of about $1,000 that families with insurance pay each year in additional premium costs to cover the uncompensated costs of the uninsured.
- The law reduces small businesses’ health care expenses by giving them $40 billion worth of tax credits and through the creation of new, competitive state-based insurance Exchanges. Exchanges will enable individuals and small businesses to pool together and use their market strength to buy coverage at a lower cost, the same way large employers do today, giving them the freedom to launch their own companies without worrying whether health care will be available when they need it.
- The law will lower the deficit by over $100 billion this decade and by over $1 trillion in the following decade.
Repealing the Affordable Care Act would have a devastating impact on our economy. In addition to hurting some of the economic progress that has been made over the past ten months the Congressional Budget Office found that repealing the law would add over a quarter of a trillion dollars–$230 billion—to the deficit in the first decade, and more than a trillion dollars in the second decade; increase the number of uninsured by 32 million Americans; increase premiums for large employers; and will force consumers who buy coverage on the individual market to pay more out of pocket for fewer benefits.
In addition, Harvard Economist David Cutler found in a report released today by the Center for American Progress that repealing the law would significantly increase costs and reduce job growth. It will “…revert us back to the old system for financing and delivering health care and lead to substantial increases in total medical spending” by:
- Adding up to $2,000 annually to family premiums and increasing overall medical spending $125 billion by the end of this decade.
- Preventing 250,000 to 400,000 jobs from being created annually over the next decade.
- Suppressing entrepreneurship among workers who may have started new businesses, or sought new opportunities in the economy since they will no longer be free from worrying whether affordable coverage would be available to them in the new Exchanges, when they need it the most.
Again, these facts speak for themselves. Repealing the Affordable Care Act would hurt families, businesses, and our economy.
Read more about how many jobs our economy has created here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/01/07/employment-situation-december
Read the full Center for American Progress report on the economic consequences of repealing the law here: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/01/jobs_health_repeal.html
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Op-Ed In Chicago Tribune: “Don’t Turn Back The Clock On Health Care!”
he following op-ed from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is running in today’s Chicago Tribune.
Don’t turn back the clock on health care
January 5, 2011
As a new Congress takes office today in Washington, Republican leaders have made it clear that their first priority is to repeal the new health care law. I can’t think of a worse idea for American families.
The law is giving Americans more freedom in their health care choices. It’s freeing families from the worry that they’ll lose their benefits when insurers unfairly cancel or cap their coverage. It’s freeing children with disabilities and pregnant women from being discriminated against by insurers because of their health status. It’s freeing seniors to get the care they need, whether it’s a prescription medication or a preventive screening like a mammogram. It frees all of us to look for a new job or start our own business without worrying about losing health coverage.
Repeal would slam the brakes on this progress, taking control away from families and their doctors and putting it back in the hands of insurance companies. Before any member of Congress considers taking such a reckless step backward, he or she should think through exactly what repeal would mean.
The new law is finally allowing many Americans with health conditions like cancer and diabetes to get the care they need. Parents of sick children can no longer be refused coverage because of their child’s pre-existing condition. Thousands of Americans who had been turned away by insurers because of their health history are now getting critical treatments and medicines thanks to new, temporary plans in every state. In 2014, the days of insurers discriminating based on pre-existing conditions will be gone for good.
If repeal succeeds, insurers would be free to shut out these families once again. And thousands of parents would lose the option of keeping their children on their health plans up to age 26, one of the key early benefits in the new law.
Repeal would also rip up the new Patient’s Bill of Rights, which outlaws the worst abuses of health insurers. Thanks to the new law, insurance companies can no longer cancel your coverage without cause when you get sick. They may no longer put lifetime dollar limits on your benefits — limits that often meant your coverage was gone when you needed it most. And by 2014, most annual dollar limits on benefits will be a thing of the past.
If the new Congress repeals the law, these kinds of harmful practices will be made legal once again.
Repeal would also mean higher health insurance costs for millions of families and small businesses. After years of dropping coverage, the number of small businesses offering health coverage to their workers is actually going up thanks to a tax credit provided by the law. In addition, there are new limits on how much of your premium insurers can spend on profits, marketing and CEO bonuses, and new resources to help states review and reject unreasonable premium increases. And in 2014, small business owners and individuals will have a new health insurance marketplace where they can shop for affordable coverage.
These common-sense reforms to lower health care costs and ensure that families and small businesses get more value for their premium dollars would be erased by repeal.
Repeal would force seniors to continue to pay money out of their own pockets for cancer screenings and other recommended preventive care, which will be offered at no additional cost under the new law. And seniors who take the most medicine would continue to pay thousands of dollars when they hit the “doughnut hole,” the coverage gap in Medicare coverage for prescription drugs. The new law begins to eliminate that gap with a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs in 2011, and fully phases it out over the next several years — but only if the repealers fail.
For years, Americans have demanded that we do something about skyrocketing health costs, crumbling coverage and out-of-control insurance companies. And now that we are finally addressing these problems, insurance companies and their allies want us to go back to the days when insurers were free to cancel your coverage or hike your premiums or deny your claims just to protect their corporate profits.
Over the past nine months, I’ve traveled around the country and seen the benefits of this law firsthand. Unless we want to take coverage away from cancer patients, reduce oversight for insurance companies, raise prescription drug costs for seniors, weaken Medicare, add $1 trillion to the deficit and undo dozens of other reforms that are improving health around the country, we can’t afford repeal.
Let’s not turn back the clock.
Kathleen Sebelius is the secretary of Health and Human Services.
Copyright © 2011, Chicago Tribune
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, September 4, 2010
On Monday, we celebrate Labor Day. It’s a chance to get together with family and friends, to throw some food on the grill, and have a good time. But it’s also a day to honor the American worker – to reaffirm our commitment to the great American middle class that has, for generations, made our economy the envy of the world.
That is especially important now. I don’t have to tell you that this is a very tough time for our country. Millions of our neighbors have been swept up in the worst recession in our lifetimes. And long before this recession hit, the middle class had been taking some hard shots. Long before this recession, the values of hard work and responsibility that built this country had been given short shrift.
For a decade, middle class families felt the sting of stagnant incomes and declining economic security. Companies were rewarded with tax breaks for creating jobs overseas. Wall Street firms turned huge profits by taking, in some cases, reckless risks and cutting corners. All of this came at the expense of working Americans, who were fighting harder and harder just to stay afloat – often borrowing against inflated home values to pay their bills. Ultimately, the house of cards collapsed.
So this Labor Day, we should recommit ourselves to our time-honored values and to this fundamental truth: to heal our economy, we need more than a healthy stock market; we need bustling main streets and a growing, thriving middle class. That’s why I will keep working day-by-day to restore opportunity, economic security, and that basic American Dream for our families and future generations.
First, that means doing everything we can to accelerate job creation. The steps we have taken to date have stopped the bleeding: investments in roads and bridges and high-speed railroads that will lead to hundreds of thousands of jobs in the private sector; emergency steps to prevent the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers and firefighters and police officers; and tax cuts and loans for small business owners who create most of the jobs in America. We also ended a tax loophole that encouraged companies to create jobs overseas. Instead, I’m fighting to pass a law to provide tax breaks to the folks who create jobs right here in America.
But strengthening our economy means more than that. We’re fighting to build an economy in which middle class families can afford to send their kids to college, buy a home, save for retirement, and achieve some measure of economic security when their working days are done. And over the last two years, that has meant taking on some powerful interests who had been dominating the agenda in Washington for far too long.
That’s why we’ve put an end to the wasteful subsidies to big banks that provide student loans. We’re going to use that money to make college more affordable for students instead.
That’s why we’re making it easier for workers to save for retirement, with new ways of saving their tax refunds and a simpler system for enrolling in retirement plans like 401(k)s. And we’re going to keep up the fight to protect Social Security for generations to come.
That’s why we stopped insurance companies from refusing to cover people with pre-existing conditions and dropping folks who become seriously ill.
And that’s why we cut taxes for 95 percent of working families, and passed a law to help make sure women earn equal pay for equal work in the United States of America.
This Labor Day, we are reminded that we didn’t become the most prosperous country in the world by rewarding greed and recklessness. We did it by rewarding hard work and responsibility. We did it by recognizing that we rise or we fall together as one nation – one people – all of us vested in one another. That is how we have succeeded in the past. And that is how we will not only rebuild this economy, but rebuild it stronger than ever before.
Thank you. And I hope you have a great Labor Day weekend.
NATIONAL PROSTATE CANCER AWARENESS MONTH, 2010- – - – - – -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICAA PROCLAMATION
Although its mortality rate has steadily fallen in the last decade, prostate cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men in the United States. This year alone, nearly 218,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and more than 32,000 men will die from this disease. National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month gives us the opportunity to renew our commitment to fight this disease by finding better ways to prevent, detect, and treat it.
The exact causes of prostate cancer are not known, but awareness can help men make more informed choices about their health. Researchers have identified several factors that may increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer, including age, race, and family history. According to the National Cancer Institute, avoiding smoking, losing weight, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising may all help prevent certain cancers. We must ensure that more men are informed about all aspects of this disease, including early detection and possible treatment. I encourage men to talk with their doctors about risk factors, prevention, and preventative screenings. And I invite all Americans to visit Cancer.gov for more information and resources about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of prostate and other cancers.
Until we find a cure for this disease, my Administration will continue promoting awareness of this illness and supportingprostate cancer research and treatment, including research to help determine why prostate cancer affects some racial and ethnic groups more than others. The National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defense all play vital roles in reducing the burden of prostate cancer through critical investments in research.
The health care reforms included in the landmark Affordable Care Act also address specific needs of individuals fighting cancer, including removing annual and lifetime caps on insurance coverage, prohibiting insurance companies from dropping coverage after an individual gets sick, and guaranteeing insurance coverage for individuals participating in clinical trials, the cornerstone of cancer research.
As we observe National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, we stand by the fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons battling prostate cancer, as well as their families and the health care providers, researchers, and advocates who are working to combatthis disease and save lives. By joining together to raise awareness of prostate cancer and supporting research, we can continue to make progress against this devastating disease.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2010 as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. I encourage all citizens, Government agencies, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, and other groups to join in activities that will increase awareness and prevention of prostate cancer.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.
Remarks By The President At A Discussion With Ohio Families On The Economy: “We’re Focusing… On Trying To Figure Out Can We Build More Infrastructure Here In Ohio And All Across The Country That Puts People Back To Work”
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT A DISCUSSION WITH OHIO FAMILIES ON THE ECONOMY
10:47 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I am — I’m just thrilled to be here. And I want to thank Joe and Rhonda and the entire family for being such great hosts. And I want to thank all of you for taking the time to be here.
I see the mayor of Columbus is here, a great friend. Somebody who’s going to be running and I hope winning for the U.S. Senate, Lee Fisher is here. And Mary Jo Kilroy is here. We’ve got one of the best senators I believe in the United States Senate in Sherrod Brown — is here. And one of the finest governors in the country, Ted Strickland, is here. So give those folks a big round of applause. (Applause.)
Should we tell them to take off their jackets, too? (Laughter.) Take off your jackets, guys. Lighten up a little bit. Sheesh! (Laughter.)
This is just a great opportunity for me to have a conversation with you. And I don’t want this to be too formal. What I want to do is have a chance to listen to you and also answer your questions. What we’ve tried to do whenever we are in a setting like this is to talk about the things that folks are going through day to day — because, look, I’ll be honest with you, sometimes when you’re in Washington you get caught up with the particular legislative battles or the media spin on certain issues, and sometimes you lose touch in terms of what folks are talking about around the kitchen table.
One of the ways that I stay in touch is through events like this, as well as reading letters from constituents and voters all across the country every night. And obviously what’s on a lot of people’s minds right now is the economy.
We went through the worst recession that we’ve had since the Great Depression. And when I was sworn in about 18 months ago, we had already lost several million jobs and we were about to lose several million more. We lost 800,000 jobs the month I was sworn in. And so we had to act fast and take some emergency steps to prevent the economy from going back into what could have been a Great Depression.
And we were successful in doing so. We stabilized the economy; we stabilized the financial system. We didn’t have a complete meltdown. And whereas we were losing jobs in the private sector when I was first sworn in, we’re now gaining jobs, and we’ve gained jobs seven consecutive months in the private sector. The economy was shrinking about 6 percent; the economy is now growing. So we’ve made progress. But let’s face it, the progress hasn’t been fast enough.
And Joe, Rhonda and I were just talking about the challenges that they’ve had to go through when Rhonda got laid off — and, by the way, also lost her health insurance in the process, at a time when her son was going through some significant medical needs. So, in addition to trying to stop the crisis, what we also wanted to do was make sure that we were helping people get back on their feet. So something that I’m very pleased with is that Rhonda was able to use the provisions that we passed to help her get COBRA so that she had health insurance, could keep her health insurance, at a time when the family was very much in need. And millions of people across the country have been able to keep their health insurance.
We’ve also been trying to help our state and local governments so that they’re not having to lay off as many teachers and firefighters and police officers, and I know that — I think the mayor and the governor would acknowledge that the help that we provided them has really helped to plug some big budget holes.
And, in addition, what we’ve been trying to do is to build infrastructure that puts people back to work but also improves the quality of life in communities like Columbus. So Joe is an architect and he’s now working on a new police station that was funded in part with Recovery Act funds.
So all these things have made a difference. But we still have got a long way to go. And so a couple of things that we’re focused on right now is, number one, making sure that small businesses are getting help, because small businesses like Joe’s architectural firm are really the key to our economy. They create two out of every three jobs. And so we want to make sure that they’re getting financing. We want to make sure that we are cutting their taxes in certain key areas. One of the things that we’ve done, for example, is propose that we eliminate capital gains taxes on small businesses so that when they’re starting up and they don’t have a lot of cash flow, that’s exactly the time when they should get a break and they should get some help.
We’re focusing, as well, on trying to figure out can we build more infrastructure here in Ohio and all across the country that puts people back to work, not just building roads and bridges, but also building things like high-speed rail, or building broadband lines that could connect communities and give people access to the Internet at a time when that’s going to be critical in terms of long-term economic development.
We’re also going to have to look at how do we, over the long term, get control of our deficit. And that’s obviously something that a lot of people have on their minds. The key is to make sure that we do so in a way that doesn’t impede recovery, but rather gives people confidence over the medium and the long term. And I’m going to be happy to talk about what we’re doing in terms of spending.
But overall, the main message that I want to deliver before I start taking questions — and I said this to Joe and Rhonda — is slowly, but surely, we are moving in the right direction. We’re on the right track. The economy is getting stronger, but it really suffered a big trauma. And we’re not going to get all 8 million jobs that were lost back overnight. It’s going to take some time. And businesses are still trying to get more confident out there before they start hiring. And people — consumers — are not going to start spending until they feel a little more confident that the economy is getting stronger.
And so what we’re trying to do is create sort of a virtuous cycle where people start feeling better and better about the economy. And a lot of it is sort of like recovering from an illness; you get a little bit stronger each day and you take a few more steps each day. And that’s where our economy is at right now.
What we can’t afford to do is to start going backwards and doing some of the same things that got us into trouble in the first place. This is why it’s been so important for us, for example, to pass something like Wall Street reform to make sure that we’re not creating the same kinds of financial bubbles and the massive leverage and the reckless risks that helped to create this problem in the first place.
And I am very proud that we’ve got somebody like a Sherrod Brown or a Mary Jo, who worked really tirelessly with us in Congress to make sure that we don’t have a situation where we’ve got to bail out banks that have taken reckless risks; that we are monitoring what’s happening in the financial system a lot more carefully, making sure people aren’t cheated when it comes to their mortgages, or that there are a bunch of hidden fees in their credit cards that helped to create some of the problems that we’ve seen in the financial systems.
We can’t go back to doing things the way we were doing them before. We’ve got to go forward. That’s what we’re trying to do. And hopefully as we continue over the next several months and the next several years, we’re going to see a Columbus and an Ohio and a United States of America that is going to be stronger than it was before this crisis struck. I am absolutely confident of that. But we’ve got more work to do.
All right. So, with that, what I want to do is I just want to open it up and you guys can ask me questions about anything — and just ignore all these cameras who are here. (Laughter.) Pretend they’re not there. The only thing I would ask is introduce yourselves so that I get a chance to know you. Or if you haven’t met one of your neighbors, this is a good chance for you to do so.
Why don’t we start with this gentleman right here. And we’ve got some mics — the only reason — the main reason we’re using mics is so that these folks behind us can hear you. This gentleman right here.
Q Hi, President Obama. I hope I don’t pass out while I’m asking this question, so — my question is actually about health care. My brother is disabled. And he’s definitely what I would consider one of the working poor. He will not mature any more as far as mindset of a 12-year-old. Right now he works washing dishes at a local restaurant and, unfortunately, because the employer does not offer health care insurance, one whole check, which is two weeks’ worth of work, has to actually go towards him just paying for COBRA, which is obviously well out of his budget. But he has to, simply because of various illnesses that he suffers from.
My question is, unfortunately, I’m not able to sit down and read a 2,000-page bill or law that — with all the reform that happened with health care. With the present reforms that went into place, how will that help him? And if it doesn’t, then how will — I know that you’re not done with health care — how will your — the latest changes that you want to happen with health care, how will that help him?
And thank you for doing such a wonderful job.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you. Here’s how specifically health reform should help your brother. Number one, it gives an incentive to his employer to provide health insurance — because one of the key components of health care reform was providing employers a 35 percent tax break on the premiums they pay for their employees, all right? So basically it’s cutting his potential costs — the employer’s potential costs for providing your brother with health insurance, it’s cutting it by a third. That’s step number one.
And there are going to be companies out there that say, you know what, we want to provide health insurance, but we just couldn’t afford to do it, but now that it’s costing us up to a third less, saving us thousands of dollars, maybe we should go ahead and provide coverage for that. Okay, so that is step number one.
Step number two is if the employer still doesn’t provide coverage, over the next couple of years your brother is going to be able to join a pool — what we’re calling an exchange — where he can basically buy the same kind of insurance that these members of Congress are buying. And the advantage that he’s going to have is that now he’s part of a pool of millions of people who are buying it all at the same time, which means they’ve got leverage. The same way big companies are able to lower their costs per employee because the insurance company really wants their business, well, now your brother could be part of the same pool that these guys are and that’s going to give leverage, which will lower his rates.
And the final part of it is, if even with these lower rates, this better deal, he still can’t afford it, then we’re going to provide some subsidies to help him. So all those things combined should help make sure that your brother is getting health insurance.
Now, one of the things that I think people may not be aware of is that although this exchange isn’t going to be set up until 2014 — because it takes a while, we’ve got to set it up right — there’s some immediate things that are helping right now. If your child has a preexisting condition, insurance companies, starting this year, will not be able to deny those children coverage. And that’s a big deal for a lot of folks whose children may have diabetes or some other illness and right now can’t get insurance. Insurance companies are going to have to provide them insurance. That’s number one.
Number two, how many people here have kids who are college-age, about to go to college? All right. Well, one of the things you’re going to be able to do is when those kids get out of college, if they don’t get insurance right away, they’re going to be able to stay on your insurance until they’re 26 years old. That’s a big deal because a lot of times that first job or those first couple of jobs out of college are the ones that don’t provide health insurance.
So there are a number of changes that are being made right now that will make those of you who have health insurance more secure with the insurance they have. We’re eliminating lifetime limits. There’s a bunch of fine print on the insurance forms that sometimes have ended up creating real problems for people. Your insurance company decides to drop you right when you get sick, just when you need it most. Those kinds of practices are over now.
And the final aspect of health reform that’s important is, is that by changing the incentives for how doctors get paid under Medicare and under Medicaid, we’re actually encouraging doctors to become more efficient so that over time health care costs actually start leveling out a little bit instead of skyrocketing each and every year. Because everybody here who’s got health insurance, what’s been happening? Your premiums have been going up; co-payments, deductibles, all that stuff has been going up. So we’ve got to actually try to control the costs of it, and part of it is just a matter of making sure that we get a better bang for our health care dollar.
So, for example, when you go to a doctor, we’re still filling out forms in triplicate on paper. It’s the only business there is where you still have a whole bunch of paperwork. And what we’re trying to do is to encourage information technologies so that when you go into a doctor, they can already pull down your medical records electronically. If you take a test, then it’s sent to all the specialists who are involved so you don’t end up having to take four or five tests, and pay for four or five tests, when all you needed was just one.
Those are the kinds of things that will take a little bit longer to actually take into effect, but hopefully over time they’re actually going to lower cost.
All right. I’m going to go boy, girl here to make sure it’s fair. (Laughter.) Right here. Absolutely.
Q Mr. President, I’m concerned about the furor lately that’s been — it’s similar to what’s happened in the past but it’s reemerging, mostly from the Republican Party, but some Democrats — that Social Security needs to be privatized because it’s losing money, and we’re all going to — and it’s going to go broke, and that sort of thing. How would you comment on that?
THE PRESIDENT: I have been adamant in saying that Social Security should not be privatized and it will not be privatized as long as I’m President. (Applause.) And here’s the reason. I was opposed to it before the financial crisis. And what I said was the purpose of Social Security is to have that floor, that solid — rock-solid security, so that no matter what else happens you’ve always got some income to support you in your retirement. And I’ve got no problem with people investing in their 401(k)s, and we want to encourage people to invest in private savings accounts. But Social Security has to be separate from that.
Now, imagine if Social Security, if a portion of that had been in the stock market back in 2006 and 2007. I mean, you saw what happened with your 401(k)s — you lost 20, 30, 40 percent of it. Now, we’ve recovered — in part because of the policies that we put into place to stabilize the situation, the stock market has recovered 60-70 percent of its value from its peak. But if you were really in need last year or the year before, and suddenly you see your assets drop by 40 percent, and that’s all you’re relying on, it would have been a disaster.
So here’s the thing. Social Security is not in crisis. What is happening is, is that the population is getting older, which means we’ve got more retirees per worker than we used to. We’re going to have to make some modest adjustments in order to strengthen it. There are some fairly modest changes that could be made without resorting to any newfangled schemes that would continue Social Security for another 75 years, where everybody would get the benefits that they deserve. And what we’ve done is we’ve created a fiscal commission of Democrats and Republicans to come up with what would be the best combination to help stabilize Social Security for not just this generation, but the next generation.
I’m absolutely convinced it can be done. And as I said, I want to encourage people to save more on their own, but I don’t want them taking money out of Social Security so that people are putting that into the stock market. There are other ways of doing this.
For example, it turns out that if you set up a system with your employer where the employer automatically deducts some of your paycheck and puts it into your 401(k) account, unless you say you don’t want it done, it turns out people save more just naturally. I mean, it’s just kind of a psychological thing. If they take it out of your paycheck, and they automatically take it out, unless you affirmatively say, don’t take it out, you’ll save more than if they ask you, do you want to save, and then you say, nah, I’m going to keep the money. And then you save less.
So that’s just a small change. It’s voluntary, but that in and of itself could end up boosting savings rates significantly. So there are a bunch of ways that we can do — make sure that retirement is more secure. But we’ve got to make sure that Social Security is there not just for this generation but for the next one. Okay?
All right, gentleman’s turn. And by the way, I know that some folks may be hot, and if they are, you guys can always move into the shade.
Q Mr. President, sir, I was born and raised in a good blue-collar town in Toledo, Ohio. I grew up in a union family and I work now for a significant number of pension assets in the labor union market with an investment firm. I think the question I have that most bothers me is what’s important to my people out there that I talk to, and those two things are, the first, what’s going to happen with their pensions, especially those, as you know, in the red and the yellow. The PPA has not exactly been that favorable to them. And the PBGC is not a very good option. My father had to take early retirement. He’s not receiving the maximum amount after decades of hard work and service that he had anticipated.
The second part is I’m not naïve enough to think that just the pensions alone can help save workers. We’ve got 9.5 percent unemployment in this country, at least at last release, and I’m sure as you know, that’s even more — it’s larger than that for the manufacturing industry and us in the Rust Belt — Toledo, Detroit, Cleveland. Obviously we need to put those guys back to work; they need to have man-hours out there. How can we create a sustainable, competitive product at an advantage to make us another leader in the manufacturing and labor force industry going forward, not just to get them back to work for a year or two, sir, but to get to work for the long term so they can grow the market on their own with their own product and their own work?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, this is a great question and it goes to the heart of what our economic strategy has to be. And Senator Brown and Congresswoman Kilroy and others, I know this is their number one concern each and every day. And certainly this is your governor’s number one concern each and every day, is how do we make sure that we’re creating a competitive America in which we aren’t just buying things from other countries, we’re selling things to other countries, and we’re making things here in the United States of America.
Let me give you a couple of examples of areas that I think have enormous promise. Number one is the whole clean energy industry — and Toledo actually is becoming a leader in this, creating good jobs, in areas like solar — building solar panels, wind turbines, advanced battery manufacturing. There is a whole series of huge potential manufacturing industries in which we end up being world leaders and, as a bonus, end up creating a more energy-efficient economy that is also good for the environment.
Now, we made, at the beginning of my term, the largest investment in clean energy in our history. And so there are plants that are opening up all across the country, creating products made in America that are now being shipped overseas. I’ll give you one example, and that’s the advanced battery manufacturing industry. These are the batteries that go into electric cars, or the batteries that are ending up helping to make sure that if you get solar power or wind power, that it can be transmitted in an efficient way.
We have 2 percent of the entire market — 2 percent. By 2015, in five years, we’re going to have 40 percent of that market because of the investments that we made. So one of the advanced battery manufacturing plants that we helped get going with some key loans and support and tax breaks, they’re now putting those batteries into the Chevy Volt. And you combine it then with an entire new U.S. auto industry that is cleaner and smarter and has better designs and is making better products — those are potentially thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of manufacturing jobs. And the Midwest is really poised to get a lot of those jobs. In a town like Toledo where you’ve still got a lot of skilled workers, they are poised to be able to take off on that. But we’ve got to continue to support it.
The other area that I’ve already mentioned is infrastructure. We’ve got about $2 trillion worth of infrastructure improvements that need to be made all across the country — roads, bridges, sewer lines, water mains. It’s crumbling. The previous generation made all these investments that not only put people to work right away but also laid the foundation then for economic growth in the future.
And we used to always have the best infrastructure worldwide. Now, if it comes to rail, we certainly don’t have the best rail system in the world. Our roads in a lot of places aren’t the best. Our airports aren’t the best. Somebody is laughing — they just got — obviously, went through an airport. So we’ve got a lot of work to do on infrastructure. And this is an area where I hope we can get some bipartisan agreement.
It’s hard to get bipartisan agreement these days. But I think the notion that we can put people to work rebuilding America, investing in making stuff here in the United States that — by the way, every time you build a road, that’s not just putting people to work on the actual construction; all those supplies that go into road building, all those supplies that go into a bridge, all those supplies that go into rail, that’s creating a ripple effect all throughout the economy. So I think that’s a second area of great potential.
Last point you made was — had to do with pensions. Look, the truth be told, the way we were handling pensions both in private companies and among public employees, a lot of it wasn’t that different from some of the stuff that was going on in Wall Street, because what happened was — is that these pensions weren’t adequately funded. Some of these companies would underfund it, and then say, well, we’re going to get an 8 percent return or 10 percent return on our pension funds, to make it look like they were adequately funded when they weren’t. That contributed to pension funds chasing a lot of risky investments that promised these high returns that, in fact, were built on a house of cards. So you’re going to see a number of pensions in a number of companies that are under-funded.
Now, we’ve got a mechanism at the federal level that provides a certain percentage backup or guarantee for these pension funds if they fail. But we’re going to have to, I think, work with these private sector companies so that — right now, they’ve become very profitable. Companies are making money right now. We were talking earlier about the economy and how it’s moving slow. Well, corporate profits are doing just fine. They’re holding onto a whole bunch of cash — they’re kind of sitting on it, waiting to see if they can make more money and more opportunity, but they haven’t started hiring yet. One of the things they need to be doing with some of this cash is shoring up their pension funds that are currently under-funded.
It’s a girl’s turn. Yes, right there.
Q Mr. President, tied in with the jobs situation I think is the education system. And it seems to be in a crisis now, and people are not being educated to take these jobs that are going to be created. And I wondered what sort of plans you might have for that.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a great question. Are you in education?
THE PRESIDENT: No?
Q I’m a nurse.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s important, too.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for the care you give to people all day long. I’m a big fan of nurses.
The thing that will probably most determine our success in the 21st century is going to be our education system. I’ll just give you a quick statistic. A generation ago, we ranked number one in the number of college graduates. We’ve now slipped to number 12 in the number of college graduates. That’s just in one generation. That is putting us at a huge competitive disadvantage. Because, look, companies these days, they can locate anywhere. You’ve got an Internet line, you can set your company up in India, you can set up your company in the Czech Republic — it doesn’t really matter where you are.
And so what that means is a lot of companies are going to look for where can they find the best workforce. And we have to make sure that that is in Columbus, Ohio. We’ve got to make sure that that’s in Toledo. We’ve got to make sure that that’s in the United States of America.
Now, we still have the best universities and the best colleges on Earth. But there are a couple of problems that have come up. First of all, our education starts at K-12. And we’re not doing a good enough job at the K-12 level making sure that all our kids are proficient in math, in science, in reading and writing.
And what we’ve done is we’ve set up something called the Race to the Top, where, although a lot of federal money still flows to schools just based on a formula and based on need, we’ve taken a certain amount of money and we’ve said, you know what, you’ve got to compete for this money. And you’ve got to show us that you’ve got a plan to improve the education system, to fix low-performing schools, to improve how you train teachers — because teachers are the single most important ingredient in the education system — to collect data to show that you’re improving how these kids are learning.
And what’s happened is, is that states all across the country have actually responded really well, and we’ve seen the majority of states change their laws to start doing this bottom-up, grassroots reform of the K-12 system. That’s critical. That’s number one.
The second thing that we’ve got to solve is that college became unaffordable for a lot of people. And Joe and Rhonda, we were just talking — we’re about the same age and we got married I think the same year. Our kids are about the same age. So we’ve kind of gone through the same stuff. And Michelle and I — I don’t know about you guys — we didn’t talk about this — but Michelle and I, we had a lot of debt when we finished school. It was really expensive. And neither of us came from wealthy families, so we just had to take out a bunch of student loans. It took us about 10 years to pay off our student loans. It was actually higher than our mortgage for most of the time.
And I don’t want that burden to be placed on kids right now. Because a lot of them, as a consequence, maybe they decide not to go to college, or, if they do, they end up getting off to a really tough start because their pay just is not going to support the amount of debt that they’ve got.
So here’s what we did. Working with Sherrod, working with Mary Jo, Democrats in Congress — this didn’t get a lot of attention, but we actually completely transformed how the government student loan program works. Originally what was happening was all those loans were going through banks and financial intermediaries. And even though the loans were guaranteed by the government so the banks weren’t taking any risks, they were skimming off billions of dollars in profits.
And we said, well, that doesn’t make any sense. If we’re guaranteeing it, why don’t we just give the loans directly to the students, and we’ll take all that extra billions of dollars that were going to the banks as profits, and we’ll give more loans. And as a consequence, what we’ve been able to do is to provide millions more students additional loans and make college more affordable over time. That’s the second thing.
Third thing we’ve got to do is we’ve got to focus on community colleges, which are a wonderful asset. Not everybody is going to go to a four-year college. And even if you go to a four-year college, you may need to go back and retrain two years — for a year or two, even while you’re working, to keep up, keep pace with new technologies and new developments in your industry. So what we’ve really tried to do is to partner with community colleges, figure out how we can strengthen them, put more resources into them, and link them up to businesses who are actually hiring so that they’re training people for the jobs that exist, as opposed to the jobs that don’t.
One of the problems we’ve had for a lot of young people is they go to college, training for a job, thinking that their job — or thinking there’s a job out there, and actually the economy has moved on. And what we need to do is tailor people’s education so that they are linked up with businesses who say, we need this many engineers, or we need this kind of technical training, and we’ll help design what that training is — so that when that person goes to college and they’re taking out some of those loans to go to college, they know at the end of the road there’s actually going to be a job available to them.
Last thing — math, science, we’ve really got to emphasize those. That’s an area where we’ve really fallen far behind, and our technological competitiveness is going to depend on how well we do in math and science.
Okay. Yes, sir.
Q Mr. President, I am a proud firefighter for the great city of Columbus here in Ohio. (Applause.) Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Joe, did you use to play for Ohio State, man?
Q I must correct you. I was actually part of the National Championship team for Eastern Kentucky University.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, okay, all right.
Q For the national champion, no less. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there you go, okay. But you look like you could — we could put you on the line right now.
Q Oh, that’s what they all say. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Anyway.
Q But, Mr. President, I wanted to talk to you about a couple of things as it pertains to the safety and security of our firefighters. I want to share with you some good news as it pertains to the stimulus and the SAFER Act for which you championed and signed off on.
Locally and from the state standpoint, we had some firefighter jobs that were in jeopardy, up in the hundreds. The stimulus package — I know the state was strapped with its commitment and what it had to with those monies. Some of those areas we weren’t able to be supported in. But because of your administration signing off on the SAFER Act, which is staffing adequate fire and emergency response, you provided over $300 million last year and upped that to over $400 million this year — that had allowed for the jobs in Ohio to come back — the firefighters rather who had jobs to come back and get their jobs back.
In addition to that, the fire act has provided safer equipment for us. We — don’t want to sound cliché, but I’m just your average Joe. But what we do as firefighters, we want to make a significant difference to our citizens here in our community, as well as our lives. That SAFER Act and that fire act has provided us significant equipment — money, funding rather for significant equipment — face pieces, self-contained breathing apparatus, things of those nature. So we come to say how proud we are to be able to afford that opportunity to secure our firefighters.
The international president has sent a appreciative thank you and we would hope that you would find — I know your busy schedule — somewhere around this country — Cincinnati, Akron, Elyria, Niles — have brought back firefighters because of the SAFER Act. And if anywhere along your schedule you have the opportunity, as a symbolic gesture of support, to stop in to those stations, thank those firefighters, we would greatly appreciate that.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you. And as I said, you guys put your lives on the line each and every day. We wanted to make sure that public safety was not being threatened as a consequence of the recession. We’ve done that. We’ve helped to support not just firefighters but also police officers, teachers, other vital services. We’re going to continue to support you. And again, we’re very grateful for everything you do.
And if this is your lovely wife here, we’re grateful to her too because she’s got to — she’s got to put up with you — (laughter) — running off into fires and putting yourself in danger. And I’m sure that makes her a little bit stressed once in a while, but I’m sure she’s very proud of you.
Q Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
Anybody else? Yes, go ahead. Here, we’ve got a microphone.
Q Hi, Mr. President. I was actually recently laid off of a position working at our local community college, helping dislocated workers get back and get retrained. But the position was funded on workforce investment dollars and the funding ended. As I look for a new position in social services, one of my concerns is I’m having trouble finding a position that pays enough so that I can pay my bills and also send my daughter to quality childcare. So I was wondering if there’s anything that’s been done to reduce childcare costs.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have a childcare credit in place. We’d like to make it stronger. This is one of those back-and-forths we’ve been having with the Republicans, because we actually think it is a good idea and they don’t. But I think that giving families support who have to work each and every day is absolutely critical.
Now, there’s some companies that are starting to get smart about providing childcare on site for their employees, which makes a huge difference. It’s a huge relief. But those are usually bigger companies. And some of the smaller companies or small businesses don’t have that capacity.
Bottom line is we just got to make sure that we’re providing you more support, primarily through a tax credit mechanism. This is something that we have incorporated in the past in our budget; we haven’t got everything that we’d like done on it. It will be something that we continue to try to work on a bipartisan basis to get the cost of childcare down. There’s another component of this, though, and that’s also boosting the quality of childcare.
Kids learn more from the age of zero to three than they do probably for the rest of their lives — and this goes to the earlier question about education. We want to get them off to a good start knowing their colors and their numbers and their letters and just knowing how to sit still. And a high quality childcare environment can help on that front. But that means that childcare workers, for example, have to be paid a decent wage and get decent training.
And we’ve been working — we set up actually a task force that is trying to lift up the best practices, who is really doing a great job in creating high quality health care — or childcare at an affordable rate, and then trying to teach other states and other cities and other communities how to replicate some of that great progress that’s been made. There are some terrific programs out there, but they’re still too far and few between.
All right, I’ve got time for two more questions. Yes, sir, right here.
Q I work for a company who is benefiting from some stimulus money here in Columbus. And it’s keeping me and my crews afloat for a while. But what we really need is a stronger housing market here in Columbus. We need to be building new roads and making houses affordable for people. They need to get out there buying. They need to be able to get the loans. And what’s up with that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, remember I told you that it’s going to take some time for this economy to come back. One of the reasons it’s going to take time for this economy to come back is the housing market is still a big drag on the economy as a whole. And the reason the housing market is still a big drag on the economy as a whole is we built a lot of homes over the previous five, seven, 10 years. Every year, about 1.4 million families are formed that are ready to buy a new house, or need some place to live.
And what happened over the previous four, five, seven years during this housing bubble was we were building 2 million homes a year when only 1.4 [million] were being absorbed. And then the bubble burst, and now we’re only building 400,000.
And all that inventory that happened during the housing bubble, it’s still out there. So some states are worse than others. You go to places like Nevada or Arizona or Florida, California, their inventory of unsold homes was so high that it is just going to take a whole bunch of years to absorb all that housing stock.
Now, what we can do is to help people who are currently in their homes stay in their homes. We can strengthen the economy overall so that that new family that just formed, they feel confident enough to say, you know what, it’s time, honey, for us to go out and take the plunge and start looking. And right now they’re kind of holding back, the way a lot of people are still holding back, because there’s uncertainty in the market. And we’ve initiated, through the Treasury Department, a number of programs like that to help support the housing market generally.
But I want to be honest with you. It is going to take some time for us to absorb this inventory that was just too high. And there’s no really quick way to do it, because we’re talking about a $5 trillion market. And we can’t plug that big hole in terms of all the housing that needs to be absorbed. We’re not going to be able subsidize all that over-capacity right now.
What we can do is just stabilize it and then improve the economy overall. What we’re going to do is get back to the point where we’re building 1.4 million homes a year, instead of 400,000 — and that’s a huge difference. So the industry is going to come back. The question is can we just nudge it a little bit more. And the most important thing we can do now is to improve the economy overall so that people start feeling a little more confidence.
All right? I’ve got time for one more? You’ve got a question? Here you can use mine.
Q Thank you. I’m the practice manager at an ophthalmology practice at the Eye Center of Columbus, downtown. It is a great facility that the city of Columbus helped us get in place. There are over 30 ophthalmologists providing specialty care in separate practices, a state-of-the-art ambulatory surgery center. We see tens of thousands of patients a year. And I think we do a very efficient job of providing quality care, over 300 people employed. So I’m kind of on both sides of health care.
And when I started working for this practice 25 years ago, we are now getting reimbursed one-third of what we got paid for — I’m just going to pick cataract surgery — yet our operating costs continue to go up. My boss is kind enough to provide health care costs entirely for all of his employees. How does he continue to do that when Medicare continues to reduce what they’re paying, and there’s the threat of more cuts coming and the private insurance companies follow suit?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s a great question. And let me talk about Medicare generally. Medicare I think is one of the cornerstones of our social safety net. The basic idea is, you’ve been working all your life, you retire; just like you’ve got Social Security that you can count on, you’ve also got health care that you can count on and you’re not going to go bankrupt just because you get sick.
But in the same way that Social Security has to be tweaked because the population is getting older, we’ve got to refresh and renew Medicare to make sure that it’s going to be there for the next generation, as well. And the key problems are not just that more people as they retire are going to be part of Medicare. The big problem is just health care inflation generally. The costs of health care keep on skyrocketing.
Now, the way we’ve been dealing with it, which I think is the wrong way to deal with, is basically under-reimbursing our providers. The right way to deal with it is to work with the providers to figure out how can we make the system less wasteful, more efficient overall. And that way we’re paying — your boss, if he’s spending a dollar on care, he’s getting reimbursed a dollar. But we’re also making sure that the care he’s providing is exactly what the person needs, and high quality for a better price.
And that’s part of what health care reform was all about. I’ll just give you a couple examples. One of the things that we were doing in Medicare was we were giving tens of billions of dollars of subsidies to insurance companies under the Medicare Advantage plan, even though that plan wasn’t shown to make seniors any healthier than regular old Medicare.
So we said, all right, we’re not going to end Medicare Advantage, but we are going to have some competitive bidding and we’re going to force the insurance companies to show us, well, what exactly — what value are you adding? How are you helping to make these seniors healthier? And if you’re not helping, then you shouldn’t be getting paid. We should be giving that money to the doctor and the nurse and the other people who are actually providing care, not the insurance companies.
Well, there was a lot of hue and cry about this, but it was absolutely the right thing to do — because now we just found out — the actuaries for Medicare said the changes we’ve already made have extended the life of the Medicare trust fund for another 12 years — which is, by the way, the longest it’s ever been extended as a consequence of a reform effort.
So we’ve made Medicare stronger just with some of the changes that we’ve already made. But you’re absolutely right that we’re going to have to keep on making these changes to continue to make it stronger. And that will affect not just Medicare; it will affect the entire health care system.
Because there’s no doctor out there who doesn’t see Medicare as the $800 gorilla. If Medicare is saying you’ve got to improve your quality and efficiency, then they will because they’ve got a lot of Medicare patients. But they also have a lot of regular patients. So hospitals, doctors, everybody starts getting more efficient as Medicare gets more efficient. The key is making sure that we’re not just cutting benefits.
And, frankly, this is an argument that I have with my friends in the Republican Party sometimes. One big change that some of them have advocated is to voucherize the Medicare system. You basically — instead of once you have Medicare, you knowing that you can take that and go get care anywhere you want, we would just give you — all right, here is whatever it is, $6,000 or $7,000 or whatever. You go shop and figure out what kind of best deal you can get.
The problem is, is that if Medicare costs — if health care costs keep on going up but your voucher doesn’t keep on going up, you’re going to be in trouble. And suddenly, you’ve got seniors who find themselves way short of what they need in terms of providing care.
We’ve got to change how the health care system actually operates. And that means more prevention — more preventive care. It means better — that we reimburse people for checkups. It means we reimburse doctors when they’re consulting with people on things like smoking cessation and weight control and exercise.
There are a whole bunch of things that can make us healthier, reduce our costs overall. But unfortunately, the system doesn’t incentivize them right now. We need to change that.
Anybody have any last burning question? That was technically the last question. But this has to be like one that you’re just, man, I really need an answer for.
Q I’ve got a very general question.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, go ahead.
Q It’s a very general question, here. I work on Wall Street. I was wondering what kind of changes we can expect to see in the reform in the next couple years.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, here’s the essential components of Wall Street reform that we set up. Number one is that we got a — we had a system in which there was huge amounts of leverage that banks could take. And what leverage means is, if they got a dollar in deposits, they were making a $40 bet using that one dollar — which when times are good means you’re making a lot of money, right? You’re putting one dollar down of your own money, and you got $40, and when the market is going up, you’re making out like a bandit. But when the market goes down, when it starts de-leveraging, you’re in trouble. And that’s basically what happened with Lehman’s and a lot of these other companies.
So one thing that we’ve said is that we’ve got to have — for big firms that are what we call “systemic,” that if they go down, the whole system could go down with them — we’ve got to have a better check and say, you know what, you’ve got to control a little bit how you work in terms of leverage. You’ve got to have enough capital, actual money, to cover the bets that you’re placing so that you’re not putting the whole system at risk. That’s number one.
Number two, there’s a whole derivatives market out there, which, frankly, even the bankers don’t completely understand. But you’ve got trillions of dollars — and if you work on Wall Street you’re familiar obviously with the derivatives market. I mean, you’ve got trillions of dollars that are basically outside of the regulated banking system, and people didn’t know who’s making bets on what. And what we said was that derivatives market, it needs — it can continue, but it’s got to be in an open, transparent marketplace so that everybody knows who is betting on what.
And we’re very clear about who the various parties are in these complex derivatives transactions. That means the regulators can follow it a little more closely. That’s number two.
The third thing that we did is we made sure that we don’t have taxpayer bailouts again. So we’ve set up a system whereby if a big firm gets in trouble, we’re able to essentially quarantine it, separate it out from the rest of the pack, liquidate it without it spilling over into the system as a whole. That’s the third thing.
And the fourth thing is having a consumer financial protection agency that is really going to do a good job making sure that consumers know what they’re getting when it comes to financial products. I mean, when you buy a toaster, there has been some assurance provided that that toaster will not explode in your face — right? There are a whole bunch of laws in there, people have to do tests on the toasters to make sure that nothing happens. But if you buy a mortgage that explodes in your face because you didn’t know what was going on, everybody acts like, well, that’s your problem.
Well, no, it’s actually all of our problem, because part of the reason we had this financial crisis was because people did not always understand the financial instruments that they were purchasing. A lot of these subprime loans that were being given out, a lot of these no-interest — you can buy your house, you don’t put any money down, you don’t pay any interest, you got this beautiful house — and naturally people were thinking, well, this sounds great. But what they weren’t looking at was, okay, there’s a balloon payment five years down. This is only going to work if your housing — the value of your house keeps on appreciating. And if it stops appreciating, suddenly it’s not going to work anymore. People hadn’t thought through all those ramifications. And that had an effect on the whole system.
So what we’ve said is we’re going to have a strong consumer finance protection agency whose only job is to look after you when it comes to financial products. And Joe and Rhonda and I were just talking about how it was only seven, eight years ago when Michelle and I were trying to figure out our student loans, how were we going to invest for the kids’ college education. We had — at the end of the month, I’d be getting my credit card bills, and I’m a pretty smart guy, but you open up some of those credit card bills — you don’t know what’s going on. You don’t read all that fine print. You just look at the statement.
Well, as an example of the kinds of things that this new agency are going to be enforcing, we’ve already passed a law — thanks again to Mary Jo and Sherrod — we’ve already passed a law that says a credit card company can’t raise the interest rates on existing balances. So it can’t attract you with a zero percent interest, you run up a $3,000 balance, and then suddenly they send you your next statement and it says, oh, your interest went up to 29 percent. You can’t do that. I mean, they’ll still be able to say, we’re going to raise your interest rate to 29 percent, but that can only be the balances going forward. It can’t be on the money that you borrowed where you thought it was a zero percent.
Well, that’s an example of straightforward, honest dealing that we’re going to be expecting. We think the financial markets will still make money, the banks can still make money, but they got to make money the old-fashioned way, which is loan money to small businesses who are providing services to the community. Loan money to Joe for his architectural firm, and he’s going to make sure you pay him back. Loan people for mortgages, but make sure that you’ve done the due diligence so that you’re not tricking them into something they can’t afford. Make sure that it’s something that you can afford — right?
They’re just a bunch of basic, common-sense reforms that we’re putting in place that will allow the market to function. Because the free market is the best system ever devised for creating wealth, but there have got to be some rules in the road so that you’re making money not by gaming the system, but by providing a better product or a better service. All right?
Well, listen, I want to thank all of you for spending the time. I know it got a little warm, and you guys just hung in there like troopers. I want to make sure that I thank, once again, Ted Strickland, Sherrod Brown, Mayor Michael Coleman, your lieutenant governor, and I believe the next United States senator, Lee Fisher, and Mary Jo Kilroy for being here. And obviously, I want to thank Joe and Rhonda Weithman and the whole Weithman family for sharing their backyard.
And we’re going to have to make sure that we’re helping their lawn here. It got trampled on a little bit. I hope you guys are not stepping in the corn. (Laughter.) Michelle, by the way, would be very proud to see that you’ve got the vegetable garden working. All right? Give them a big round of applause, everybody. (Applause.)
Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
Oh, and by the way, I just want you to know that the Weithmans made me the “O” in O-h-i-o. It’s on tape. It’s on tape somewhere. (Applause.)
Statement by President Barack Obama on the Release of Nuclear Posture Review
One year ago yesterday in Prague, I outlined a comprehensive agenda to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to pursue the peace and security of a world without them. I look forward to advancing this agenda in Prague this week when I sign the new START Treaty with President Medvedev, committing the United States and Russia to substantial reductions in our nuclear arsenals.
Today, my Administration is taking a significant step forward by fulfilling another pledge that I made in Prague—to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and focus on reducing the nuclear dangers of the 21st century, while sustaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent for the United States and our allies and partners as long as nuclear weapons exist.
The Nuclear Posture Review, led by the Department of Defense, recognizes that the greatest threat to U.S. and global security is no longer a nuclear exchange between nations, but nuclear terrorism by violent extremists and nuclear proliferation to an increasing number of states. Moreover, it recognizes that our national security and that of our allies and partners can be increasingly defended by America’s unsurpassed conventional military capabilities and strong missile defenses.
As a result, we are taking specific and concrete steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons while preserving our military superiority, deterring aggression and safeguarding the security of the American people.
First, and for the first time, preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism is now at the top of America’s nuclear agenda, which affirms the central importance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We have aligned our policies and proposed major funding increases for programs to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons around the world. Our nuclear security summit next week will be an opportunity for 47 nations to commit to specific steps to pursue the goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world within four years. And next month in New York, we will work with the wider world to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime to ensure that all nations uphold their responsibilities.
Second, we are further emphasizing the importance of nations meeting their NPT and nuclear non-proliferation obligations through our declaratory policy. The United States is declaring that we will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations. This enables us to sustain our nuclear deterrent for the narrower range of contingencies in which these weapons may still play a role, while providing an additional incentive for nations to meet their NPT obligations. Those nations that fail to meet their obligations will therefore find themselves more isolated, and will recognize that the pursuit of nuclear weapons will not make them more secure.
Finally, we are fulfilling our responsibilities as a nuclear power committed to the NPT. The United States will not conduct nuclear testing and will seek ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The United States will not develop new nuclear warheads or pursue new military missions or new capabilities for nuclear weapons.
As I stated last year in Prague, so long as nuclear weapons exist, we will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal that guarantees the defense of the United States, reassures allies and partners, and deters potential adversaries. To that end, we are seeking substantial investments to improve infrastructure, strengthen science and technology, and retain the human capital we need to sustain our stockpile, while also strengthening the conventional capabilities that are an important part of our deterrent. The nuclear strategy we’re announcing today therefore reaffirms America’s unwavering commitment to the security of our allies and partners, and advances American national security.
To stop the spread of nuclear weapons, prevent nuclear terrorism, and pursue the day when these weapons do not exist, we will work aggressively to advance every element of our comprehensive agenda—to reduce arsenals, to secure vulnerable nuclear materials, and to strengthen the NPT. These are the steps toward the more secure future that America seeks, and this is the work that we are advancing today.
White House to Host Childhood Obesity Meeting
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, April 9, the White House will host a meeting on childhood obesity to discuss ways to combat the growing health epidemic. Experts and practitioners from across the country will join First Lady Michelle Obama, Administration officials and Childhood Obesity Task Force members to discuss challenges, trends, empowering parents, access to healthy, affordable food, and more.
In February, Mrs. Obama launched the Let’s Move! campaign to solve the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. As part of this effort, and President Barack Obama established the Task Force on Childhood Obesity to develop and submit an interagency plan that details a coordinated strategy, identifies key benchmarks, and outlines an action plan to fight childhood obesity. This meeting is part of a broader effort by the Task Force to gather input for this action plan.
Participants and coverage details will be announced next week.