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.
I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Sargent Shriver, one of the brightest lights of the greatest generation. Over the course of his long and distinguished career, Sarge came to embody the idea of public service. Of his many enduring contributions, he will perhaps best be remembered as the founding director of the Peace Corps, helping make it possible for generations of Americans to serve as ambassadors of goodwill abroad. His loss will be felt in all of the communities around the world that have been touched by Peace Corps volunteers over the past half century and all of the lives that have been made better by his efforts to address inequality and injustice here at home. My thoughts and prayers are with Robert, Maria, Tim, Mark, and Anthony, and the entire Shriver family during this sad time.
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.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS
Capitol Visitor Center Auditorium
3:53 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Everybody, please have a set.
To Leader Reid, to Steny Hoyer, John Larson, Xavier Becerra, Jim Clyburn, Chris Van Hollen, to an extraordinary leader and extraordinary Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and to all the members here today, thank you very much for having me. (Applause.) Thanks for having me and thanks for your tireless efforts waged on behalf of health insurance reform in this country.
I have the great pleasure of having a really nice library at the White House. And I was tooling through some of the writings of some previous Presidents and I came upon this quote by Abraham Lincoln: “I am not bound to win, but I’m bound to be true. I’m not bound to succeed, but I’m bound to live up to what light I have.”
This debate has been a difficult debate. This process has been a difficult process. And this year has been a difficult year for the American people. When I was sworn in, we were in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Eight hundred thousand people per month were losing their jobs. Millions of people were losing their health insurance. And the financial system was on the verge of collapse.
And this body has taken on some of the toughest votes and some of the toughest decisions in the history of Congress. Not because you were bound to win, but because you were bound to be true. Because each and every one of you made a decision that at a moment of such urgency, it was less important to measure what the polls said than to measure what was right.
A year later, we’re in different circumstances. Because of the actions that you’ve taken, the financial system has stabilized. The stock market has stabilized. Businesses are starting to invest again. The economy, instead of contracting, is now growing again. There are signs that people are going to start hiring again. There’s still tremendous hardship all across the country, but there is a sense that we are making progress — because of you.
But even before this crisis, each and every one of us knew that there were millions of people across America who were living their own quiet crises. Maybe because they had a child who had a preexisting condition and no matter how desperate they were, no matter what insurance company they called, they couldn’t get coverage for that child. Maybe it was somebody who had been forced into early retirement, in their 50s not yet eligible for Medicare, and they couldn’t find a job and they couldn’t find health insurance, despite the fact that they had some sort of chronic condition that had to be tended to.
Every single one of you at some point before you arrived in Congress and after you arrived in Congress have met constituents with heart-breaking stories. And you’ve looked them in the eye and you’ve said, we’re going to do something about it — that’s why I want to go to Congress.
And now, we’re on the threshold of doing something about it. We’re a day away. After a year of debate, after every argument has been made, by just about everybody, we’re 24 hours away.
As some of you know, I’m not somebody who spends a lot of time surfing the cable channels, but I’m not completely in the bubble. I have a sense of what the coverage has been, and mostly it’s an obsession with “What will this mean for the Democratic Party? What will this mean for the President’s polls? How will this play out in November? Is this good or is this bad for the Democratic majority? What does it mean for those swing districts?”
And I noticed that there’s been a lot of friendly advice offered all across town. (Laughter.) Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Karl Rove — they’re all warning you of the horrendous impact if you support this legislation. Now, it could be that they are suddenly having a change of heart and they are deeply concerned about their Democratic friends. (Laughter.) They are giving you the best possible advice in order to assure that Nancy Pelosi remains Speaker and Harry Reid remains Leader and that all of you keep your seats. That’s a possibility. (Laughter.)
But it may also be possible that they realize after health reform passes and I sign that legislation into law, that it’s going to be a little harder to mischaracterize what this effort has been all about.
Because this year, small businesses will start getting tax credits so that they can offer health insurance to employees who currently don’t have it. (Applause.) Because this year, those same parents who are worried about getting coverage for their children with preexisting conditions now are assured that insurance companies have to give them coverage — this year. (Applause.)
Because this year, insurance companies won’t suddenly be able to drop your coverage when you get sick — (applause) — or impose lifetime limits or restrictive limits on the coverage that you have. Maybe they know that this year, for the first time, young people will be able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26 years old and they’re thinking that just might be popular all across the country. (Applause.)
And what they also know is what won’t happen. They know that after this legislation passes and after I sign this bill, lo and behold nobody is pulling the plug on Granny. (Laughter.) It turns out that in fact people who like their health insurance are going to be able to keep their health insurance; that there’s no government takeover. People will discover that if they like their doctor, they’ll be keeping their doctor. In fact, they’re more likely to keep their doctor because of a stronger system.
It’ll turn out that this piece of historic legislation is built on the private insurance system that we have now and runs straight down the center of American political thought. It turns out this is a bill that tracks the recommendations not just of Democrat Tom Daschle, but also Republicans Bob Dole and Howard Baker; that this is a middle-of-the-road bill that is designed to help the American people in an area of their lives where they urgently need help.
Now, there are some who wanted a single-payer government-run system. That’s not this bill. The Republicans wanted what I called the “foxes guard the henhouse approach” in which we further deregulate the insurance companies and let them run wild, the notion being somehow that that was going to lower costs for the American people. I don’t know a serious health care economist who buys that idea, but that was their concept. And we rejected that, because what we said was we want to create a system in which health care is working not for insurance companies but it’s working for the American people, it’s working for middle class families.
So what did we do? What is the essence of this legislation? Number one, this is the toughest insurance reforms in history. (Applause.) We are making sure that the system of private insurance works for ordinary families. A prescription — this is a patient’s bill of rights on steroids. So many of you individually have worked on these insurance reforms — they are in this package — to make sure that families are getting a fair deal; that if they’re paying a premium, that they’re getting a good service in return; making sure that employers, if they are paying premiums for their employees, that their employees are getting the coverage that they expect; that insurance companies are not going to game the system with fine print and rescissions and dropping people when they need it most, but instead are going to have to abide by some basic rules of the road that exemplify a sense of fairness and good value. That’s number one.
The second thing this does is it creates a pool, a marketplace, where individuals and small businesses, who right now are having a terrible time out there getting health insurance, are going to be able to purchase health insurance as part of a big group — just like federal employees, just like members of Congress. They are now going to be part of a pool that can negotiate for better rates, better quality, more competition.
And that’s why the Congressional Budget Office says this will lower people’s rates for comparable plans by 14 to 20 percent. That’s not my numbers — that’s the Congressional Budget Office’s numbers. So that people will have choice and competition just like members of Congress have choice and competition.
Number three, if people still can’t afford it we’re going to provide them some tax credits — the biggest tax cut for small businesses and working families when it comes to health care in history. (Applause.)
And number four, this is the biggest reduction in our deficit since the Budget Balance Act — one of the biggest deficit reduction measures in history — over $1.3 trillion that will help put us on the path of fiscal responsibility. (Applause.)
And that’s before we count all the game-changing measures that are going to assure, for example, that instead of having five tests when you go to the doctor you just get one; that the delivery system is working for patients, not just working for billings. And everybody who’s looked at it says that every single good idea to bend the cost curve and start actually reducing health care costs are in this bill.
So that’s what this effort is all about. Toughest insurance reforms in history. A marketplace so people have choice and competition who right now don’t have it and are seeing their premiums go up 20, 30, 40, 50 percent. Reductions in the cost of health care for millions of American families, including those who have health insurance. The Business Roundtable did their own study and said that this would potentially save employers $3,000 per employee on their health care because of the measures in this legislation.
And by the way, not only does it reduce the deficit — we pay for it responsibly in ways that the other side of the aisle that talks a lot about fiscal responsibility but doesn’t seem to be able to walk the walk can’t claim when it comes to their prescription drug bill. We are actually doing it. (Applause.) This is paid for and will not add a dime to the deficit — it will reduce the deficit. (Applause.)
Now, is this bill perfect? Of course not. Will this solve every single problem in our health care system right away? No. There are all kinds of ideas that many of you have that aren’t included in this legislation. I know that there has been discussion, for example, of how we’re going to deal with regional disparities and I know that there was a meeting with Secretary Sebelius to assure that we can continue to try to make sure that we’ve got a system that gives people the best bang for their buck. (Applause.)
So this is not — there are all kinds of things that many of you would like to see that isn’t in this legislation. There are some things I’d like to see that’s not in this legislation. But is this the single most important step that we have taken on health care since Medicare? Absolutely. Is this the most important piece of domestic legislation in terms of giving a break to hardworking middle class families out there since Medicare? Absolutely. Is this a vast improvement over the status quo? Absolutely.
Now, I still know this is a tough vote, though. I know this is a tough vote. I’ve talked to many of you individually. And I have to say that if you honestly believe in your heart of hearts, in your conscience, that this is not an improvement over the status quo; if despite all the information that’s out there that says that without serious reform efforts like this one people’s premiums are going to double over the next five or 10 years, that folks are going to keep on getting letters from their insurance companies saying that their premium just went up 40 or 50 percent; if you think that somehow it’s okay that we have millions of hardworking Americans who can’t get health care and that it’s all right, it’s acceptable, in the wealthiest nation on Earth that there are children with chronic illnesses that can’t get the care that they need — if you think that the system is working for ordinary Americans rather than the insurance companies, then you should vote no on this bill. If you can honestly say that, then you shouldn’t support it. You’re here to represent your constituencies and if you think your constituencies honestly wouldn’t be helped, you shouldn’t vote for this.
But if you agree that the system is not working for ordinary families, if you’ve heard the same stories that I’ve heard everywhere, all across the country, then help us fix this system. Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid. Do it for all those people out there who are struggling.
Some of you know I get 10 letters a day that I read out of the 40,000 that we receive. Started reading some of the ones that I got this morning. “Dear President Obama, my daughter, a wonderful person, lost her job. She has no health insurance. She had a blood clot in her brain. She’s now disabled, can’t get care.” “Dear President Obama, I don’t yet qualify for Medicare. COBRA is about to run out. I am desperate, don’t know what to do.”
Do it for them. Do it for people who are really scared right now through no fault of their own, who’ve played by the rules, who’ve done all the right things, and have suddenly found out that because of an accident, because of an ailment, they’re about to lose their house; or they can’t provide the help to their kids that they need; or they’re a small business who up until now has always taken pride in providing care for their workers and it turns out that they just can’t afford to do it anymore and they’ve having to make a decision about do I keep providing health insurance for my workers or do I just drop their coverage or do I not hire some people because I simply can’t afford it — it’s all being gobbled up by the insurance companies.
Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for the Democratic Party. Do it for the American people. They’re the ones who are looking for action right now. (Applause.)
I know this is a tough vote. And I am actually confident — I’ve talked to some of you individually — that it will end up being the smart thing to do politically because I believe that good policy is good politics. (Applause.) I am convinced that when you go out there and you are standing tall and you are saying I believe that this is the right thing to do for my constituents and the right thing to do for America, that ultimately the truth will out.
I had a wonderful conversation with Betsy Markey. I don’t know if Betsy is around here. There she is right there. (Applause.) Betsy is in a tough district. The biggest newspaper is somewhat conservative, as Betsy described. They weren’t real happy with health care reform. They were opposed to it. Betsy, despite the pressure, announced that she was in favor of this bill. And lo and behold, the next day that same newspaper runs an editorial saying, you know what, we’ve considered this, we’ve looked at the legislation, and we actually are pleased that Congresswoman Markey is supporting the legislation. (Applause.)
When I see John Boccieri stand up proud with a whole bunch of his constituencies — (applause) — in as tough a district as there is and stand up with a bunch of folks from his district with preexisting conditions and saying, you know, I don’t know what is going on Washington but I know what’s going on with these families — I look at him with pride.
Now, I can’t guarantee that this is good politics. Every one of you know your districts better than I do. You talk to folks. You’re under enormous pressure. You’re getting robocalls. You’re getting e-mails that are tying up the communications system. I know the pressure you’re under. I get a few comments made about me. I don’t know if you’ve noticed. (Laughter.) I’ve been in your shoes. I know what it’s like to take a tough vote.
But what did Lincoln say? “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true.” Two generations ago, folks who were sitting in your position, they made a decision — we are going to make sure that seniors and the poor have health care coverage that they can count on. And they did the right thing.
And I’m sure at the time they were making that vote, they weren’t sure how the politics were either, any more than the people who made the decision to make sure that Social Security was in place knew how the politics would play out, or folks who passed the civil rights acts knew how the politics were going to play out. They were not bound to win, but they were bound to be true.
And now we’ve got middle class Americans, don’t have Medicare, don’t have Medicaid, watching the employer-based system fray along the edges or being caught in terrible situations. And the question is, are we going to be true to them?
Sometimes I think about how I got involved in politics. I didn’t think of myself as a potential politician when I get out of college. I went to work in neighborhoods, working with Catholic churches in poor neighborhoods in Chicago, trying to figure out how people could get a little bit of help. And I was skeptical about politics and politicians, just like a lot of Americans are skeptical about politics and politicians are right now. Because my working assumption was when push comes to shove, all too often folks in elected office, they’re looking for themselves and not looking out for the folks who put them there; that there are too many compromises; that the special interests have too much power; they just got too much clout; there’s too much big money washing around.
And I decided finally to get involved because I realized if I wasn’t willing to step up and be true to the things I believe in, then the system wouldn’t change. Every single one of you had that same kind of moment at the beginning of your careers. Maybe it was just listening to stories in your neighborhood about what was happening to people who’d been laid off of work. Maybe it was your own family experience, somebody got sick and didn’t have health care and you said something should change.
Something inspired you to get involved, and something inspired you to be a Democrat instead of running as a Republican. Because somewhere deep in your heart you said to yourself, I believe in an America in which we don’t just look out for ourselves, that we don’t just tell people you’re on your own, that we are proud of our individualism, we are proud of our liberty, but we also have a sense of neighborliness and a sense of community — (applause) — and we are willing to look out for one another and help people who are vulnerable and help people who are down on their luck and give them a pathway to success and give them a ladder into the middle class. That’s why you decided to run. (Applause.)
And now a lot of us have been here a while and everybody here has taken their lumps and their bruises. And it turns out people have had to make compromises, and you’ve been away from families for a long time and you’ve missed special events for your kids sometimes. And maybe there have been times where you asked yourself, why did I ever get involved in politics in the first place? And maybe things can’t change after all. And when you do something courageous, it turns out sometimes you may be attacked. And sometimes the very people you thought you were trying to help may be angry at you and shout at you. And you say to yourself, maybe that thing that I started with has been lost.
But you know what? Every once in a while, every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made in all those town meetings and all those constituency breakfasts and all that traveling through the district, all those people who you looked in the eye and you said, you know what, you’re right, the system is not working for you and I’m going to make it a little bit better.
And this is one of those moments. This is one of those times where you can honestly say to yourself, doggone it, this is exactly why I came here. This is why I got into politics. This is why I got into public service. This is why I’ve made those sacrifices. Because I believe so deeply in this country and I believe so deeply in this democracy and I’m willing to stand up even when it’s hard, even when it’s tough.
Every single one of you have made that promise not just to your constituents but to yourself. And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine. We have been debating health care for decades. It has now been debated for a year. It is in your hands. It is time to pass health care reform for America, and I am confident that you are going to do it tomorrow.
Thank you very much, House of Representatives. Let’s get this done. (Applause.)
WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama to Send Updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act Blueprint To Congress on Monday
WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama to Send Updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act Blueprint To Congress on Monday
WASHINGTON – In his weekly address, President Barack Obama announced that on Monday, his administration will send to Congress the blueprint for an updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act that will overhaul No Child Left Behind. The plan will set the ambitious goal of ensuring that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and a career, and it will provide states, districts and schools with the flexibility and resources to reach that goal.
The audio and video will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 am ET, Saturday, March 13, 2010.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
March 13, 2010
Lost in the news of the week was a headline that ought to be a source of concern for every American. It said, “Many Nations Passing U.S. in Education.” Now, debates in Washington tend to be consumed with the politics of the moment: who’s up in the daily polls; whose party stands to gain in November. But what matters to you – what matters to our country – is not what happens in the next election, but what we do to lift up the next generation. And the fact is, there are few issues that speak more directly to our long term success as a nation than issues concerning the education we provide to our children.
Our prosperity in the 20th century was fueled by an education system that helped grow the middle class and unleash the talents of our people more fully and widely than at any time in our history. We built schools and focused on the teaching of math and science. We helped a generation of veterans go to college through the GI Bill. We led the globe in producing college graduates, and in turn we led in producing ground-breaking technologies and scientific discoveries that lifted living standards and set us apart as the world’s engine of innovation.
Of course, other nations recognize this, and are looking to gain an edge in the global marketplace by investing in better schools, supporting teachers, and committing to clear standards that will produce graduates with more skills. Our competitors understand that the nation that out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow. Yet, too often we have failed to make inroads in reforming and strengthening our public education system – the debate mired in worn arguments hurled across entrenched divides.
As a result, over the last few decades, we’ve lost ground. One assessment shows American fifteen year olds no longer even near the top in math and science when compared to their peers around the world. As referenced in the news report I mentioned, we’ve now fallen behind most wealthy countries in our high school graduation rates. And while we once led the world in the proportion of college graduates we produced, today we no longer do.
Not only does that risk our leadership as a nation, it consigns millions of Americans to a lesser future. For we know that the level of education a person attains is increasingly a prerequisite for success and a predictor of the income that person will earn throughout his or her life. Beyond the economic statistics is a less tangible but no less painful reality: unless we take action – unless we step up – there are countless children who will never realize their full talent and potential.
I don’t accept that future for them. And I don’t accept that future for the United States of America. That’s why we’re engaged in a historic effort to redeem and improve our public schools: to raise the expectations for our students and for ourselves, to recognize and reward excellence, to improve performance in troubled schools, and to give our kids and our country the best chance to succeed in a changing world.
Under the leadership of an outstanding Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, we launched a Race to the Top, through which states compete for funding by committing to reform and raising standards, by rewarding good teaching, by supporting the development of better assessments to measure results, and by emphasizing math and science to help prepare children for college and careers.
And on Monday, my administration will send to Congress our blueprint for an updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act to overhaul No Child Left Behind. What this plan recognizes is that while the federal government can play a leading role in encouraging the reforms and high standards we need, the impetus for that change will come from states, and from local schools and school districts. So, yes, we set a high bar – but we also provide educators the flexibility to reach it.
Under these guidelines, schools that achieve excellence or show real progress will be rewarded, and local districts will be encouraged to commit to change in schools that are clearly letting their students down. For the majority of schools that fall in between – schools that do well but could do better – we will encourage continuous improvement to help keep our young people on track for a bright future: prepared for the jobs of the 21st century. And because the most important factor in a child’s success is the person standing at the front of the classroom, we will better prepare teachers, support teachers, and encourage teachers to stay in the field. In short, we’ll treat the people who educate our sons and daughters like the professionals they are.
Through this plan we are setting an ambitious goal: all students should graduate from high school prepared for college and a career – no matter who you are or where you come from. Achieving this goal will be difficult. It will take time. And it will require the skills, talents, and dedication of many: principals, teachers, parents, students. But this effort is essential for our children and for our country. And while there will always be those cynics who claim it can’t be done, at our best, we know that America has always risen to the challenges that we’ve faced. This challenge is no different.
As a nation, we are engaged in many important endeavors: improving the economy, reforming the health care system, encouraging innovation in energy and other growth industries of the 21st century. But our success in these efforts – and our success in the future as a people – will ultimately depend on what happens long before an entrepreneur opens his doors, or a nurse walks the rounds, or a scientist steps into her laboratory. Our future is determined each and every day, when our children enter the classroom, ready to learn and brimming with promise.
It’s that promise we must help them fulfill. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT’S PROPOSAL
The President’s Proposal puts American families and small business owners in control of their own health care. It makes insurance more affordable by providing the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history, reducing premium costs for tens of millions of families and small business owners who are priced out of coverage today. This helps over 31 million Americans afford health care who do not get it today – and makes coverage more affordable for many more. The President’s Proposal bridges the gap between the House and Senate bills and includes new provisions to crack down on waste, fraud and abuse.
• Eliminating the Nebraska FMAP provision and providing significant additional Federal financing to all States for the expansion of Medicaid;
• Closing the Medicare prescription drug “donut hole” coverage gap;
• Strengthening the Senate bill’s provisions that make insurance affordable for individuals and families;
• Strengthening the provisions to fight fraud, waste, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid;
• Increasing the threshold for the excise tax on the most expensive health plans from $23,000 for a family plan to $27,500 and starting it in 2018 for all plans;
• Improving insurance protections for consumers and creating a new Health Insurance Rate Authority to provide Federal assistance and oversight to States in conducting reviews of unreasonable rate increases and other unfair practices of insurance plans.
A detailed summary of the provisions included in the President’s Plan is set forth below:
It includes a targeted set of changes to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Senate-passed health insurance reform bill. The President’s Proposal reflects policies from the House-passed bill and the President’s priorities. Key changes include: Policies to Improve the Affordability and Accountability Increase Tax Credits for Health Insurance Premiums. Health insurance today often costs too much and covers too little. Lack of affordability leads people to delay care, skip care, rack up large medical bills, or become uninsured. The House and Senate health insurance bills lower premiums through increased competition, oversight, and new accountability standards set by insurance exchanges. The bills also provide tax credits and reduced cost sharing for families with modest income. The President’s Proposal improves the affordability of health care by increasing the tax credits for families. Relative to the Senate bill, the President’s Proposal lowers premiums for families with income below $44,000 and above $66,000. Relative to the House bill, the proposal makes premiums less expensive for families with income between roughly $55,000 and $88,000. The President’s Proposal also improves the cost sharing assistance for individuals and families relative to the Senate bill. Families with income below $55,000 will get extra assistance; the additional funding to insurers will cover between 73 and 94% of their health care costs. It provides the same cost-sharing assistance as the Senate bill for higher-income families and the same assistance as the House bill for families with income from $77,000 to $88,000.
Close the Medicare Prescription Drug “Donut Hole”.
cost of expensive medicines, causing many to skip doses or not fill prescriptions at all – harming their health and raising other types of health costs. The Senate bill provides a 50% discount for certain drugs in the donut hole. The House bill fully phases out the donut hole over 10 years. Both bills raise the dollar amount before the donut hole begins by $500 in 2010. Relative to the Senate bill, the President’s Proposal fills the “donut hole” entirely. It begins by replacing the $500 increase in the initial coverage limit with a $250 rebate to Medicare beneficiaries who hit the donut hole in 2010. It also closes the donut hole completely by phasing down the coinsurance so it is the standard 25% by 2020 throughout the coverage gap.
The Medicare drug benefit provides vital help to seniors who take prescription drugs, but under current law, it leaves many beneficiaries without assistance when they need it most. Medicare stops paying for prescriptions after the plan and beneficiary have spent $2,830 on prescription drugs, and only starts paying again after out-of-pocket spending hits $4,550. This “donut hole” leaves seniors paying the full 3 Invest in Community Health Centers. Community health centers play a critical role in providing quality care in underserved areas. About 1,250 centers provide care to 20 million people, with an emphasis on preventive and primary care. The Senate bill increases funding to these centers for services by $7 billion and for construction by $1.5 billion over 5 years. The House bill provides $12 billion over the same 5 years. Bridging the difference, the President’s Proposal invests $11 billion in these centers. Strengthen Oversight of Insurance Premium Increases. Both the House and Senate bills include significant reforms to make insurance fair, accessible, and affordable to all people, regardless of pre-existing conditions. One essential policy is “rate review” meaning that health insurers must submit their proposed premium increases to the State authority or Secretary for review. The President’s Proposal strengthens this policy by ensuring that, if a rate increase is unreasonable and unjustified, health insurers must lower premiums, provide rebates, or take other actions to make premiums affordable. A new Health Insurance Rate Authority will be created to provide needed oversight at the Federal level and help States determine how rate review will be enforced and monitor insurance market behavior. Extend Consumer Protections against Health Insurer Practices. The Senate bill includes a “grandfather” policy that allows people who like their current coverage, to keep it. The President’s Proposal adds certain important consumer protections to these “grandfathered” plans. Within months of legislation being enacted, it requires plans to cover adult dependents up to age 26, prohibits rescissions, mandates that plans have a stronger appeals process, and requires State insurance authorities to conduct annual rate review, backed up by the oversight of the HHS Secretary. When the exchanges begin in 2014, the President’s Proposal adds new protections that prohibit all annual and lifetime limits, ban pre-existing condition exclusions, and prohibit discrimination in favor of highly compensated individuals. Beginning in 2018, the President’s Proposal requires “grandfathered” plans to cover proven preventive services with no cost sharing. Improve Individual Responsibility.
a percentage of income. The Senate sets the payment as a flat dollar amount or percentage of income, whichever is higher (although not higher than the lowest premium in the area). Both the House and Senate bill provide a low-income exemption, for those individuals with incomes below the tax filing threshold (House) or below the poverty threshold (Senate).The Senate also includes a “hardship” exemption for people who cannot afford insurance, included in the President’s Proposal. It protects those who would face premiums of more than 8 percent of their income from having to pay any assessment and they can purchase a low-cost catastrophic plan in the exchange if they choose. The President’s Proposal adopts the Senate approach but lowers the flat dollar assessments, and raises the percent of income assessment that individuals pay if they choose not to become insured. Specifically, it lowers the flat dollar amounts from $495 to $325 in 2015 and $750 to $695 in 2016. Subsequent years are indexed to $695 rather than $750, so the flat dollar amounts in later years are lower than the Senate bill as well. The President’s Proposal raises the percent of income that is an alternative payment amount from 0.5 to 1.0% in 2014, 1.0 to 2.0% in 2015, and 2.0 to 2.5% for 2016 and subsequent years – the same percent of income as in the House bill, which makes the assessment more progressive. For ease of administration, the President’s Proposal changes the payment exemption from the Senate policy (individuals with income below the poverty threshold) to individuals with income below the tax filing threshold (the House policy). In other words, a married couple with income below $18,700 will not have to pay the assessment. The President’s Proposal also adopts the Senate’s “hardship” exemption.
All Americans should have affordable health insurance coverage. This helps everyone, both insured and uninsured, by reducing cost shifting, where people with insurance end up covering the inevitable health care costs of the uninsured, and making possible robust health insurance reforms that will curb insurance company abuses and increase the security and stability of health insurance for all Americans. The House and Senate bills require individuals who have affordable options but who choose to remain uninsured to make a payment to offset the cost of care they will inevitably need. The House bill’s payment is 4 •
• It sets up a new competitive health insurance market giving tens of millions of Americans the exact same insurance choices that members of Congress will have.
• It brings greater accountability to health care by laying out commonsense rules of the road to keep premiums down and prevent insurance industry abuses and denial of care.
• It will end discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions.
• It puts our budget and economy on a more stable path by reducing the deficit by $100 billion over the next ten years – and about $1 trillion over the second decade – by cutting government overspending and reining in waste, fraud and abuse.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT THE SENATE DEMOCRATIC POLICY COMMITTEE
10:09 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, guys. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Everybody please have a seat. Thank you.
Listen, you guys had to listen to me at the State of the Union — or at least pretend to listen to me. (Laughter.) So I’ll try to keep it relatively brief, some opening remarks and then open it up for questions.
First of all, I just want to thank Harry Reid. (Applause.) I recently said he’s got one of the toughest jobs in Washington — managing an institution that by its very nature is, let’s face it, you guys are a little difficult to manage. I’ve been a part of this caucus. I really don’t think anybody could have done a better job under more trying circumstances than Harry Reid. And I think he deserves a huge round of applause. (Applause.)
Now, let me start by saying we always knew this was going to be a difficult year to govern — an extraordinarily difficult year to govern. We began 2009 with a financial system on the brink of collapse, an economy bleeding nearly 700,000 jobs per month, a $1.3 trillion deficit, and two wars that were costly in every sense of the word. We knew that solutions wouldn’t come easily or come quickly. We knew that the right decisions would be tough and sometimes they would be unpopular. And we knew that we might have to make them sometimes without any help from our friends on the other side of the aisle.
But we made those decisions. We led. Those actions prevented another Great Depression; they broke the back of a severe recession. The economy that was shrinking by 6 percent a year ago is now growing at nearly 6 percent one year later. (Applause.) That’s because of the work that you did.
Harry listed some of the work that you did on behalf of the American people, even under these difficult circumstances: extending health insurance to 4 million children, protecting consumers from getting ripped off by their credit card companies, and kids being targeted by big tobacco. Some things that weren’t noted or didn’t get a lot of attention: You reformed defense spending by eliminating waste, and saved taxpayers billions while keeping us safe at the same time. You gave billions of dollars of tax relief to small businesses and 95 percent of working families here in America.
You did all this despite facing enormous procedural obstacles that are unprecedented. You may have looked at these statistics. You had to cast more votes to break filibusters last year than in the entire 1950s and ’60s combined. That’s 20 years of obstruction packed into just one. But you didn’t let it stop you.
As Harry mentioned, though, our mission is far from accomplished, because while the worst of the storm has passed, far too many Americans are still hurting in its wake. I know you’ve seen it back home in the shuttered businesses, the foreclosed homes; you’ve heard it from constituents who are desperate for work; and we’ve seen it in the burdens that families have been grappling with long since this recession hit — issues that we’ve been talking about now for years: the burden of working harder and longer for less, of being unable to save enough to retire or to help kids with college expenses, the extraordinarily constant rising costs of health care.
Those problems haven’t gone away. It’s still our responsibility to address them. All that’s changed in the last two weeks is that our party has gone from having the largest Senate majority in a generation to the second largest Senate majority in a generation. And we’ve got to remember that. There was apparently a headline after the Massachusetts election; the Village Voice announced that Republicans win a 41-59 majority. (Laughter.) It’s worth thinking about. We still have to lead.
Saving and creating jobs have to continue to be our focus in 2010. Last year, we gave small business — the engines of job creation — tax relief, and expanded lending through the SBA. I don’t know if you are aware that SBA loans have gone up 70, 80 percent, which, by the way, indicates the degree to which there is still huge demand among small businesses. Some of the banks are saying, well, we’re not lending because there’s not as much demand out there. There are a lot of small businesses that are hungry for loans out there right now. And we’ve made progress but they’re still struggling. So I’ve proposed additional ideas to help small businesses start up and hire, to raise wages and expand, and to get the credit they need to stay afloat. You’ve made some of these same proposals, as well. We should put them into action without delay. (Applause.)
We’ve invested in America’s infrastructure, rebuilding roads and bridges, and ports and railways, and putting people to work strengthening our communities and our country. And as you know, the Recovery Act was designed so that a lot of that work is going to be taking place this year, not just last year. Many of the projects you funded come online in the next six months. But we can do more, and we should do so without delay.
Through the investments you made in clean energy startups, we’ve not only helped put Americans to work, we’re on track to double our nation’s capacity to generate renewable energy over the next few years. I’ve proposed additional tax credits that will promote private sector hiring and energy conservation. We should do that without delay.
I think ideas like this should be pretty palatable to the other party. They seem pretty common sense, pretty centrist. We should be able to hear their ideas as well. That’s why I spoke to the Republican caucus last Friday. I think it was to the country’s benefit that we had an open and frank discussion about the challenges facing the American people and our ideas to solve them. (Applause.) I got to admit, I had a little fun at that caucus. (Laughter.)
Now, obviously, on some issues, we didn’t agree. But on some, we did. And I’m reminded that when it came to health insurance reform in particular, I sought out and supported Republican ideas from the start — so did you. Max Baucus — where’s Max? I think he can testify to spending a little time listening to Republican ideas. So can Chris Dodd and Tom Harkin. You considered hundreds of Republican amendments, and incorporated many of their ideas into the legislation that passed the Senate. So when I start hearing that we should accept Republican ideas, let’s be clear — we have. What hasn’t happened is the other side accepting our ideas.
And I told them, I want to work together when we can, and I meant it. I believe that’s the best way to get things done for the American people. But I also made it clear that we’ll call them out when they say they want to work with us and we extend a hand and get a fist in return.
Last week, for example, you put up for a vote a bill I supported — Conrad-Gregg fiscal commission. We were sure this was going to be bipartisan, only to see seven Republicans who co-sponsored the idea in the first place suddenly decide to vote against it.
Now, I’m open to honest differences of opinion. But what I’m not open to is changing positions solely because it’s good short-term politics. And what I’m not open to is a decision to stay on the sidelines and then assign blame. I’ve little patience for the kinds of political calculation that says the cost of blocking everything is less than the cost of passing nothing; that basically says “If they lose, I win.” That’s been the politics in Washington for too long, and the problem is it leaves the American people out of the equation.
So I would just suggest to this caucus, if anybody is searching for a lesson from Massachusetts, I promise you the answer is not to do nothing. The American people are out of patience with business as usual. They’re fed up with a Washington that has become so absorbed with who’s up and who’s down that we’ve lost sight of how they’re doing. They want us to start worrying less about keeping our jobs and more about helping them keep their jobs.
And they want to see their business done in an open and transparent way. When we took back the Senate in 2007, we did so in part because we made a case that we’d be better on ethics and transparency. And we backed that up by passing the most sweeping ethics reforms since Watergate and by beginning to address earmark abuse. We should be proud of those accomplishments. But if we’re going to erase that deficit of trust that I mentioned at the State of the Union, we’re still going to have to do more.
That’s why I’ve proposed that we work together to make all earmark requests public, on one central Web site, before they come up for a vote; and to require lobbyists to discuss details of their contacts on behalf of their clients with the administration or with Congress. That’s why, working with people like Dick Durbin, who’s been vocal on this for a long time, we’ve got to confront the gaping loophole that the Supreme Court recently opened in our campaign finance laws that allowed special interests to spend without limit to influence American elections.
We’ve also got to get back to fiscal responsibility. And I spoke about this at the State of the Union. Just 10 years ago, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. Remember, people were worried about what might happen with all these surpluses, and whether it would create problems in the financial markets. That was just a decade ago.
After two wars, two tax cuts, prescription drug program — none of which were paid for — we faced a deficit of over $1 trillion, a debt over the next decade of $8 trillion, before my administration spent a single dollar.
Now, we can’t change the past, but we can change the future. That’s why I’m asking you to adopt a freeze in non-security discretionary spending for the next three years, starting next year. We’re still having a tough time right now, given the economy is just starting to pick up steam — but starting next year.
That’s why I’m grateful that all of you restored the PAYGO rules that worked so well in the 1990s. I already mentioned the fiscal commission. We may not have been able to get the votes for a statutory commission, but we’re going to — I am going to appoint a commission by executive order, because it’s important for us to take these issues seriously — not just for us but for our children and our grandchildren.
Let me just wrap up by saying this. I know these are tough times to hold public office. I’m there in the arena with you. The need is great. The anger and the anguish are intense. The economy is massive and so, as a consequence, no matter what levers and buttons we press, sometimes it doesn’t move as quickly as is needed to provide relief to so many of our constituents. In that kind of circumstance, I think the natural political instinct is to tread lightly, keep your head down, and to play it safe.
I’ve said this before to this caucus; I just want to say it again. For me, it is constantly important to remind myself why I got into this business in the first place; why I’m willing to be away from my family for big stretches at a time; the financial sacrifices that so many of you have made; being subject to criticism constantly. You don’t get in this for the fame. You don’t get in it for the title. You get in it because somewhere in your background, at some point in time, you decided there was an issue that was so important that you were willing to stand up and be counted. You were going to fight for something. And you decided you were going to run as a Democrat because there was a core set of values within the Democratic Party about making sure that everybody had a fair shot, making sure that middle-class folks were treated fairly in our economy, making sure that those who were on the outside had a way in that led you to get involved in public service.
And that’s what we have to remind ourselves, especially when it’s hard — especially when it’s hard. You look at an issue right now like health care. So many of us campaigned on the idea that we were going to change this health care system. So many of us looked people in the eye who had been denied because of a preexisting condition, or just didn’t have health insurance at all, or small business owners in our communities who told us that their premiums had gone up 25 percent or 30 percent. And we said we were going to change it.
Well, here we are with a chance to change it. And all of you put extraordinary work last year into making serious changes that would not only reform the insurance industry, not only cover 30 million Americans, but would also bend the cost curve, and save a trillion dollars on our deficits, according to the Congressional Budget Office. There’s a direct link between the work that you guys did on that and the reason that you got into public office in the first place.
And so as we think about moving forward, I hope we don’t lose sight of why we’re here. We’ve got to finish the job on health care. (Applause.) We’ve got to finish the job on financial regulatory reform. (Applause.) We’ve got to finish the job even though it’s hard.
And I’m absolutely confident that if we do so in an open way, in a transparent way, in a spirit that says to our political opponents that we welcome their ideas, we are open to compromise, but what we’re not willing to do is to give up on the basic notion that this government can be responsive to ordinary people and help give them a hand up so they can achieve their American Dream — we will not give up that ideal. (Applause.) If that’s where we go, I’m confident that politics in 2010 will take care of themselves.
Harry, thank you very much. I’m going to turn it over to questions. Thank you. (Applause.)
SENATOR REID: First question, Arlen Specter. Let me tell everyone people have come to me and indicated they wanted to ask questions. We’re taking a list of those. Arlen Specter is first.
SENATOR SPECTER: Mr. President, I begin by applauding your decision to place the economy at the top of the agenda, to put America back to work and provide jobs, jobs, jobs.
I have a two-part question, and just a brief statement of the issue. We have lost 2.3 million jobs as a result of the trade imbalance with China between 2001 and 2007. The remedies to save those jobs are very ineffective — long delays, proceedings before the International Trade Commission, subject to being overruled by the President. We have China violating international law with subsidies and dumping — really, a form of international banditry. They take our money and then they lend it back to us and own now a big part of the United States.
The first part of my question is, would you support more effective remedies to allow injured parties — unions which lose jobs, companies which lose profits — by endorsing a judicial remedy, if not in U.S. courts perhaps in an international court, and eliminate the aspect of having the ITC decisions overruled by the President — done four times in 2003 to 2005, at a cost of a tremendous number of jobs on the basis of the national interest. And if we have an issue on the national interest, let the nation pay for it, as opposed to the steel industry or the United Steel Workers.
And the second part of the question, related, is when China got into the World Trade Organization, a matter that 15 of us in this body opposed, there were bilateral treaties. And China has not lived up to its obligations to have its markets open to us, but take our markets and take our jobs. Would you support an effort to revise, perhaps even revoke, those — that bilateral treaty, which gives China such an unfair trade advantage? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Arlen, I would not be in favor of revoking the trade relationships that we’ve established with China. I have shown myself during the course of this year more than willing to enforce our trade agreements in a much more serious way. And at times I’ve been criticized for it. There was a case involving foreign tires that were being sent in here, and I said this was an example of where we’ve got to put our foot down and show that we’re serious about enforcement. And it caused the usual fuss at the international level, but it was the right thing to do.
Having said that, I also believe that our future is going to be tied up with our ability to sell products all around the world, and China is going to be one of our biggest markets, and Asia is going to be one of our biggest markets. And for us to close ourselves off from that market would be a mistake.
The point you’re making, Arlen, which is the right one, is it’s got to be reciprocal. So if we have established agreements in which both sides are supposed to open up their markets, we do so and then the other side is imposing a whole set of non-tariff barriers in place, that’s a problem. And it has to be squarely confronted.
So the approach that we’re taking is to try to get much tougher about enforcement of existing rules, putting constant pressure on China and other countries to open up their markets in reciprocal ways.
One of the challenges that we’ve got to address internationally is currency rates and how they match up to make sure that our goods are not artificially inflated in price and their goods are artificially deflated in price. That puts us at a huge competitive disadvantage.
But what I don’t want to do is for us as a country, or as a party, to shy away from the prospects of international competition, because I think we’ve got the best workers on Earth, we’ve got the most innovative products on Earth, and if we are able to compete on an even playing field, nobody can beat us. And by the way, that will create jobs here in the United States.
If we just increased our exports to Asia by a percentage point, by a fraction, it would mean hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of jobs here in the United States. And it’s easily doable.
And that’s why we are going to be putting a much bigger emphasis on export promotion over the next several years. And that includes, by the way, export promotion not just for large companies but also for medium-size and small companies, because one of the challenges — I was up in New Hampshire yesterday, and you saw this terrific new company that had just been started up — it’s only got 13, 14 employees at this point. But it has a new manufacturing technique for the component parts in LED light bulbs, potentially could lower the price of LED light bulbs, cut them in half.
And these folks, they potentially could market not just here in the United States, but this is a technology that could end up being sent all around the world. But they don’t have the money to set up their own foreign office in Beijing to navigate through the bureaucracy. They’ve got to have some help being over there. And so that’s one of the things that we really want to focus on in this coming year, is making sure that our export-import banks, our trade offices, that we are assisting not just the big guys, although we do want to help them, but also the medium-sized and small businesses that have innovative products that could be marketed if they just got a little bit of help and a little bit of push from the United States government.
SENATOR REID: Sir, Michael Bennet, Colorado.
SENATOR BENNET: Thanks for coming, Mr. President. It’s good to see you. You talked in the State of the Union very well about a number of the challenges that we face as a country, which are serious. I mean, even before we were driven into the worst recession since the Great Depression, the last period of economic growth in this country’s history, was the first time middle-class family income actually fell during a period of economic growth; no net jobs created since 1998; household wealth the same at the end of the decade as it was at the beginning; and an education system that’s not working well enough for our kids. And on top of everything else, got a $1.4 trillion deficit and $12 trillion of debt.
I was saying that the other day, by the way, in Colorado, and I was talking about how our kids were going to have to pay this back if we didn’t make this decision that we’ve got to face up to. And my daughter, Caroline, who’s 10, was there, and she walked out with me at the end and she said, “Just so you know, I’m not paying that back.” (Laughter.) So she has the right attitude, I think.
THE PRESIDENT: But just in case you’re counting on it. (Laughter.)
SENATOR BENNET: At the same time, this place looks broken to the American people. Our ability to make these decisions is open to enormous question in the wake of the health care discussion, in particular. I had a woman the other day in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, ask me where she could get her lobbyist in Washington, D.C.
What are we going to do differently? What are you going to do differently? What do we need to do differently as Democrats and Republicans to fix this institution so that our democracy can actually withstand the test that we’re facing right now?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me just make a couple observations, having served in the Senate and now seeing it from the perspective of the White House.
First of all, whenever people ask me, why isn’t Washington working — I am a fierce defender of the integrity and hard work of individual members, which is, by the way, matched up by –when you look at polls, people hate Congress, but individual members a lot of them feel are really working hard on their behalf.
So the problem here you’ve got is an institution that increasingly is not adapted to the demands of a hugely competitive 21st century economy. I think the Senate in particular, the challenge that I gave to Republicans and I will continue to issue to Republicans is if you want to govern then you can’t just say no. It can’t just be about scoring points. There are multiple examples during the course of this year in which that’s been the case.
Look, I mentioned the filibuster record. We’ve had scores of pieces of legislation in which there was a filibuster, cloture had to be invoked, and then ended up passing 90 to 10, or 80 to 15. And what that indicates is a degree to which we’re just trying to gum up the works instead of getting business done.
That is an institutional problem. In the Senate, the filibuster only works if there is a genuine spirit of compromise and trying to solve problems, as opposed to just shutting the place down. If it’s just shutting the place down, then it’s not going to work. That’s point number one.
Point number two. In terms of what — how we operate, we as Democrats, I do think that the more open we are, the more transparent we are, the more people know exactly how things are working even if sometimes it takes longer to maintain that transparency, the better off we are.
And I think the health care bill is a perfect example. And the truth of the matter is, is that the process looked painful and messy, but the innumerable hearings that were held did give an opportunity for the product to get refined so that I think that the ultimate package, after potential negotiations between the House and the Senate, is better than where we started. And there was a possibility and continues to be a possibility to be in discussions with the American people about what exactly that bill accomplishes.
On the other hand — and I take some fault for this — at the end of the process when we were fighting through all these filibusters and trying to get it done quickly so that we could pivot and start talking about other issues that were so important to the American people, some of that transparency got lost. And I think we paid a price for it.
And so it’s important, I think, to constantly have our cards out on the table and welcome challenges and welcome questions. If the Republicans say that they can insure every American for free, which it what was claimed the other day, at no cost, I want to know. Because I told them, I said, why would I want to get a bunch of lumps on my head doing the hard thing if you’ve got the easy thing? But you’ve got to show me, you’ve got to prove to me that it actually works — because I’ve talked to every health care expert out there and it turns out if you want to reform the insurance system, if you want to make sure that people without preexisting conditions are able to get insurance, if you want to provide coverage for people, if you want to bend the cost curve, then you need a comprehensive bill, because this is a complicated area involving one-sixth of our economy.
But we should be open to that dialogue, and not underestimate the power of the American people, over time — despite millions of dollars of advertising to the contrary from the insurance industry and others — we should not underestimate the American people’s willingness to say, okay, I got it. And there are still going to be disagreements, and some will disagree with us. But we’ve got to constantly make our case, I think, and not play an insider’s game. Play an outsider’s game.
Last point I would make about this. You know what I think would actually make a difference, Michael — I think if everybody here — excuse all the members of the press who are here — if everybody here turned off your CNN, your Fox, your — just turn off the TV — MSNBC, blogs — and just go talk to folks out there, instead of being in this echo chamber where the topic is constantly politics — the topic is politics. It is much more difficult to get a conversation focused on how are we going to help people than a conversation about how is this going to help or hurt somebody politically.
And that’s part of what the American people are just sick of — because they don’t care, frankly, about majority and minorities and process and this and that. They just want to know, are you delivering for me? And we’ve got to, I think, get out of the echo chamber. That was a mistake that I think I made last year, was just not getting out of here enough. And it’s helpful when you do. (Applause.)
SENATOR REID: Mr. President, you’ve told me — suggested don’t pay any attention to the blogs, don’t listen to talk radio, don’t watch cable TV. And I follow that advice pretty good. (Laughter.)
Next question will be from the chair of our Agriculture Committee, the Senator from Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln.
SENATOR LINCOLN: Me, neither, Mr. President. I stay away from the TVs and everything else. But thank you so much for being here with us today. And I want to thank you also — I had an opportunity with several of my colleagues from the House and Senate to have a bipartisan meeting yesterday with the First Lady on childhood obesity. It was a great meeting and we look forward to working with her and you and your administration to really tackle that problem on behalf of our children and the future of our country.
Mr. President, I come from a seventh-generation Arkansas family. My dad was a good Democrat, and he was a great Arkansan, and he was very typical of Arkansans in that he was very independent-minded, as am I, and as most of my constituents. And he used to tell me early on when I ran for Congress, he said it’s really results that count. And as I look at what’s going on in my state and among my constituents — I visited with a constituent yesterday, good Democrat, small business owner, who was extremely frustrated — extremely frustrated because there was a lack of certainty and predictability from his government for him to be able to run his businesses. He’s — he and his father have worked hard, they’ve built three or four different small businesses, and he fears that there’s no one in your administration that understands what it means to go to work on Monday and have to make a payroll on Friday. He wants results. He wants predictability.
And I think that you’re exactly right. People out there watching us, they see us nothing more than Democrats and Republicans up here fighting, fighting only to win a few political points, not to get the problem solved. And so I just — I want to echo I guess some of what my colleague, Michael Bennet from Colorado, mentioned, but also to ask you, in terms of where we are going, what can we tell the people in terms of predictability and certainty in getting this economy back on track? How are we going to do that?
And are we willing as Democrats not only to reach out to Republicans but to push back in our own party for people who want extremes, and look for the common ground that’s going to get us the success that we need not only for our constituents but for our country in this global community, in this global economy? Are we willing as Democrats to also push back on our own party and look for that common ground that we need to work with Republicans and to get the answers? And it’s really the results that are going to count to our constituents. And we appreciate the hard work that you put into it.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the — look, there’s no doubt that this past year has been an uncertain time for the American people, for businesses and for people employed by businesses. Some of that certainty just had to do with the objective reality of this economy entering into a freefall. So let’s just be — let’s remind ourselves that if you’ve got an economy suddenly contracting by 6 percent, or a loss of trillions of dollars of wealth basically in the blink of an eye, or home values descending by 20 percent, that that’s going to create a whole lot of uncertainty out there in the business environment and among families.
And part of what we’ve done over the course of this year is to put a floor under people’s feet. That’s what the Recovery Act did. That’s what the interventions and the financial markets did. It broke the back of the recession, stabilized the markets. Nobody is talking about a market meltdown at this point. And people haven’t recovered all that they had lost in their 401(k)s, but they’re feeling a little better when they open that envelope now than they did six months ago. State budgets were in freefall; that was stabilized. States are still going through incredible pain, but they did not have to lay off teachers and firefighters and cops at the levels that they would have to otherwise lay them off. That provided some stability and some certainty.
So the steps you’ve taken as a Congress, the steps we’ve taken as an administration, have helped to stabilize things.
Now, moving forward, Blanche, what you’re going to hear from some folks is that the way to achieve even greater economic growth — and keep in mind the economy is now growing at a 6 percent clip, so the question is when do businesses actually start hiring, because they’re now making a profit — what you’re going to start hearing is the only way to provide stability is to go back and do what we’d been doing before the crisis.
So I noticed yesterday when we were — there was some hearing about our proposal to provide additional financing to small businesses and tax credits to small businesses. Some of our friends on the other side of the aisle said, “This won’t help at all. What you have to do is to make sure that we continue the tax breaks for wealthiest Americans. That’s really what’s going to make a difference.”
Well, if the agenda — if the price of certainty is essentially for us to adopt the exact same proposals that were in place for eight years leading up to the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression — we don’t tinker with health care, let the insurance companies do what they want, we don’t put in place any insurance reforms, we don’t mess with the banks, let them keep on doing what they’re doing now because we don’t want to stir up Wall Street — the result is going to be the same.
I don’t know why we would expect a different outcome pursuing the exact same policies that got us into this fix in the first place. Michael Bennet articulated it very well. Part of the reason people are feeling anxious right now, it’s not just because of this current crisis — they’ve been going through this for 10 years. They’ve been working and not seeing a raise. Their costs have been going up, their spouses going to the workforce — they work as hard as they can. They’re barely keeping their heads above water. They’re trying to figure out how to retire. They’re seeing more and more of their costs on health care dumped in their lap. College tuition skyrockets.
They are more and more vulnerable, and they have been for the last decade, treading water. And if our response ends up being, because we don’t want to — we don’t want to stir things up here, we’re just going to do the same thing that was being done before, then I don’t know what differentiates us from the other guys. And I don’t know why people would say, boy, we really want to make sure that those Democrats are in Washington fighting for us.
So the point I’m making — and Blanche is exactly right — we’ve got to be non-ideological about our approach to these things. We’ve got to make sure that our party understands that, like it or not, we have to have a financial system that is healthy and functioning, so we can’t be demonizing every bank out there. We’ve got to be the party of business, small business and large business, because they produce jobs. We’ve got to be in favor of competition and exports and trade. We don’t want to be looking backwards. We can’t just go back to the New Deal and try to grab all the same policies of the 1930s and think somehow they’d work in the 21st century.
So Blanche is exactly right that sometimes we get ideologically bogged down. I just want to find out what works, and I know you do, too, and I know the people in Arkansas do, too. But when you’re talking to the folks in Arkansas you also have to remind them what works is not just going back and doing the same things that we were doing before. And, yes, there’s going to be some transition time. If we have a serious financial regulatory reform package, will the banks squawk? Yes. Will they say this is the reason we’re not lending? Yes. The problem is we know right now they’re not lending, and paying out big bonuses. And we know that the existing regulatory system doesn’t work.
So we shouldn’t be spooked by this notion that, well, is now the time to take seriously in an intelligent way, not in a knee-jerk way, the challenge of financial regulatory reform so that you don’t have banks that are too big to fail and you’re not putting taxpayers at risk and you’re not putting the economy at risk — now is the time to do it.
The same is true with health care. The same is true with health care. There are, I promise you, at least as many small businesses out there, if you talk to them, who will say, I just got my bill from my health insurance and it went up 40 percent. And we’ve got to do something for them. All right? (Applause.)
SENATOR REID: Next question, the junior Senator from the state of New York, Kirsten Gillibrand.
SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Mr. President, I have an issue I’d like to –
THE PRESIDENT: Kirsten, we’ve got a mic for you.
SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Thank you, Mr. President. I have an issue I’d like to raise that is very important to every New Yorker and to many, many Americans, and that’s health care for our 9/11 responders and for all the communities that live near Ground Zero.
Now, these Americans hail from every one of the 50 states and every single congressional district in the entire United States. And now, because of exposure to toxins from the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers, there’s about 20,000 people who are sick — some of them gravely ill, suffering from serious health effects, some are disabled, some have died.
I’ve introduced legislation to provide permanent care and proper compensation for these Americans. And my question is: Would you today commit to working with Congress to pass comprehensive 9/11 — a comprehensive 9/11 health bill that’s fully paid for?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I fully commit to working with you guys. Keep in mind that our budget already significantly increased funding precisely for this purpose. So I’m not just talking the talk; we’ve been budgeting this as a top priority for the administration.
I confess, Kirsten, I have not looked at all the details of your legislation. But I know that not only you and Chuck, but everybody here, wants to make sure that those who showed such extraordinary courage and heroism during 9/11, that they are fittingly cared for, and that’s going to be something that we are going to be very interested in working with you on. All right?
SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. (Applause.)
SENATOR REID: The next question is the Chairperson of the Environmental Public Works Committee, Senator Barbara Boxer.
THE PRESIDENT: Hey, Barbara Boxer.
SENATOR BOXER: Great to see you here, Mr. President. And thanks for doing this and thanks for meeting with the Republican caucus at the House. I thought it was very instructive for the American people.
As Senator Feinstein and I tell our colleagues every day, California is hurting. I think — I know — that you’re aware of that. And they really want to see a fighting spirit in us — that we are committed, even though we’ve had some political setbacks, to get the job done. And I just want to tell you, as I watched you during the State of the Union, listened to you, what you are doing now is really important to the folks that I represent, because you’re showing that fighting spirit no matter what the adversity is, and you’re coming up with specific proposals.
So I want to ask you about small business. We all know they’re the job creators; 64 percent of new jobs over the last 15 years came from small business. Your new proposal, which does mirror a couple of people — I look at Senator Merkley, I know Senator Warner and others, we’ve worked hard on this.
For community banks to lend, can you do that by executive order? Because my understanding is you can use some of the TARP funds that were paid back and use that — or those funds that have not been used — can you use that and get this going by executive order, or do you need us to put that program into a jobs bill?
And second, are you using your influence as much as you can to get the big banks to lend? They’ve dropped lending by $12 billion over the last year, so I wonder if you can give us an update on that.
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I’ve now taken trips to Allentown, Pennsylvania; Elyria, Ohio; most recently –
SENATOR REID: Baltimore.
THE PRESIDENT: I was in Baltimore. (Laughter.) Had a great time in Baltimore. Just recently in –
SENATOR REID: Searchlight.
THE PRESIDENT: — Nashua, New Hampshire. Haven’t been to Searchlight yet, but we’re going to get there. (Laughter.) And everywhere I go, you talk to small business and they will tell you they are still experiencing a severe credit crunch. The larger businesses right now are able to get financing. Even the medium-size businesses, the credit markets have improved. Smaller businesses, even if they are making a profit and have not missed a payment, are finding that banks are averse to providing them capital.
Now, two reasons that they cite: One is they say their bankers are telling them that the regulators are just looking over their shoulder too much and so the community banks feel that their hands are tied. These are independent regulators. They are diligent in doing their jobs. Obviously they feel caught off guard because of the lax regulation, in some cases, of the banking industry before the financial crisis. You get a sense that the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.
The challenge that we’ve got is we’ve got to be careful because these are independent regulators and we don’t want to politicize them. But what Treasury Secretary Geithner and others have done is to discuss with the regulators what we are hearing in the field and to make sure that there is a consistency of approach that doesn’t prevent banks from making what are good loans and taking reasonable risks.
So that’s one thing we’re hearing. The other thing, though, that is still out there is that the larger banks generally haven’t been in this market; a lot of the smaller companies never had access to them in the first place, and we want to actually see if we can get more of those large banks to get into this marketplace. And when I met with the big bank CEOs, this was something that I pushed them on. They tell me, and we have seen some confirmation of this, that they are actually ramping up some of their small business lending and setting up more aggressive divisions actively seeking out loans.
So that’s the effort that we’re making to jawbone the private sector to do what it needs to do. In the meantime — you mentioned the specific proposals that we’ve put forward — I do think it’s better to do them through legislation than through executive order. TARP was a congressionally created structure with some fairly stringent guidelines in terms of how we were supposed to approach it. It shouldn’t be hard to do, though. It’s a pretty simple concept. Banks have repaid money; there’s $30 billion that we could take that has already been repaid — immediately apply that to a fund so that small banks are — community banks are able to provide their small business customers with greater lending.
And I do think that getting that as part of a jobs package is priority number one. And I know I’ve already talked to Harry about this — my assumption is, is that if you combine that with the tax credits that we’ve put in place for hiring, the provisions that we talked about to incentivize weatherization programs that can immediately start hiring people to retrofit homes and businesses and help reduce our energy costs — taking some of those immediate steps now I think will pay some big dividends down the road.
And the timing of it is perfect, because our job last year was to make sure the economy was growing. The economy is now growing. But what’s happening is businesses, either because they can’t find financing or because they’re still just dipping their toe in the water, have been hesitant to hire full-time workers. And for us to start giving them some serious incentives, giving them additional access to financing, could accelerate a process that otherwise could take a much longer time and, frankly, all those folks out there who are out of work right now, they just can’t afford to wait any longer — they need it now. All right?
SENATOR REID: We have time for one or two more questions, if the question is short –
THE PRESIDENT: And the answer is short. (Laughter.)
SENATOR REID: Otherwise we’ll only have one question. The Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Pat Leahy.
SENATOR LEAHY: Mr. President, I want to thank you for coming here. I think this is — thank you for coming here. I was just whispering to Marcel these answers are so good and need to be heard.
You have a great sense of what the federal judiciary should be. I think back to President Clinton’s time, when the other side blocked 61 of his judges. You’ve had some superb judges. You’ve talked to both Republicans and Democrats, sent up some superb names. And Senator Reid still has to file a cloture. We have to spend a week of doing that, and then they pass by 100 to nothing or 90-10.
My thing is this — because of what they did last time, we end up with the greatest shortage and the most judicial crises I think in our history. Will you continue to work very hard to get up names as quickly as possible, so that we can do this, and help us get these judges through? I don’t want the same judicial crises to occur. You’ve had good nominees. Can you commit to work with us, both parties, and keep trying to get them through?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, this is going to be a priority. Look, it’s not just judges, unfortunately, Pat, it’s also all our federal appointees. We’ve got a huge backlog of folks who are unanimously viewed as well qualified, nobody has a specific objection to them, but end up having a hold on them because of some completely unrelated piece of business. That’s an example, Michael, of the kind of stuff that Americans just don’t understand.
On the judges front, we had a judge for the — coming out of Indiana, Judge Hamilton, who everybody said was outstanding — Evan Bayh, Democrat; Dick Lugar, Republican; all recommended. How long did it take us? Six months, six, seven months for somebody who was supported by the Democratic and Republican senator from that state. And you can multiply that across the board. So we have to start highlighting the fact that this is not how we should be doing business.
Now, in fairness — in fairness, when we were in the minority, there were some times where we blocked judges, we blocked appointees. I think it’s fair to say we were a little more selective in how we did it — “a lot more,” somebody said. (Laughter.)
So this is an example of where I’m going to reach out to Mitch McConnell; I know Harry has as well. And I’m just going to say, look, if the government is going to work for the American people, I can’t have the administrator for GSA, which runs every federal facility, all federal buildings all across the country — here we are, we’re trying to save billions of dollars, cut waste — Claire McCaskill has been all on top of how can we audit our spending — and we could save billions of dollars in ending old leases that don’t work or renegotiating them or consolidating buildings and efficiencies. But I don’t have a GSA administrator, even though I nominated somebody who was well qualified several months ago, and nobody can tell me that there’s anything particularly wrong with her. They’re blocking her because of some unrelated matter. I don’t know, you guys may know better than I do. And that is — that has to end. It has to end. (Applause.) And the American people want it to end.
Let’s have a fight about real stuff. Don’t hold this woman hostage. If you have an objection about my health care policies, then let’s debate the health care policies. But don’t suddenly end up having a GSA administrator who is stuck in limbo somewhere because you don’t like something else that we’re doing, because that doesn’t serve the American people. Then they don’t know what the argument is about. Then it’s just sort of a plague on both your houses because it looks like you guys are just fighting all the time. And we’ve got to put an end to that.
SENATOR REID: I missed somebody on my list. If you would just be patient with us, we’ll have two very short questions.
THE PRESIDENT: I will indulge, Harry.
SENATOR REID: The first question is going to come from the only person that’s a member of the United States Senate who has a spouse that’s won a Pulitzer Prize — Sherrod Brown from Ohio. (Laughter.)
SENATOR BROWN: Thank you for joining us. Thank you for your visit to Lorain County, Ohio, a week and a half ago; first presidential visit to that county of 300,000 since Harry Truman in 1948.
THE PRESIDENT: It was a great visit. We had a great time.
SENATOR BROWN: It was terrific. Ten miles from there, Oberlin College, one of the great private institutions of higher learning in this country — at Oberlin College, there was a building built there seven or eight years ago, fully powered by solar panels. It’s the only — it’s the largest building on any college campus in America like that. Those solar panels were bought in Germany and Japan, not surprisingly — Germany, a country that has both an energy policy and a manufacturing policy. Seventy-five miles west of there is Toledo, Ohio, where you’ve been several times, and Toledo has more solar energy manufacturing — solar manufacturing jobs than any city in America.
It begs the question of two things in terms of manufacturing policy and energy policy. We have all kinds of things in so many of our states — manufacturing wind turbine components and solar panel components — but we’re the only major industrial country in the world without a manufacturing policy. And every rich country in the world has one. We don’t.
I know what you’re doing with Ron Bloom in the White House and other things, but how do we get there? How do we — when we read these articles in the paper that China is just exploding in terms of wind turbine manufacturing and solar panel manufacturing — how do we rebuild our manufacturing sector with a manufacturing policy, combined with an energy policy that gets us there?
THE PRESIDENT: I hope people had a chance to read that article that was in The New York Times I guess last Sunday, talking about how China is not waiting, it is moving. And already the anticipation is, is that they will lap us when it comes to clean energy.
Now, they’re not a democracy and so they don’t debate. (Laughter.) And there are no filibuster rules. And so obviously over the long term a system that allows for robust debate and exchange of ideas is going to produce a better result. I believe that. But we have to understand that when it comes to some key issues like energy, we are at risk of falling behind.
We’ve already fallen behind, but it’s not irrevocable because we still have the best research, we still have potentially the best technology, we’ve got the best universities, the best scientists, and as I said, we’ve got the most productive workers in the world. But we’ve got to bring all those things together into a coherent whole.
Now, I think there are a couple of elements to this. One, in terms of manufacturing generally — you just mentioned Ron Bloom, who we put in charge of a manufacturing task force, is just issuing now a report to me about the direction we need to go to have some coordination when it comes to manufacturing.
Now, this is not some big bureaucratic top-down industrial policy; it is figuring out how do we coordinate businesses, universities, government, to start looking at where are our strategic opportunities, and then making those investments, filling holes that exist so that we can be competitive with what China is doing or what Germany is doing or what Spain is doing.
And my hope is, is that during the course of this year we’re going to be able to work with all 50 senators, because all of you have a stake in this, to just see where are our manufacturing opportunities and where can we fill — plug some holes in order to make sure that we’re competitive internationally.
Specifically on clean energy, we know that’s an opportunity. I continue to believe, and I’m not alone in this, that the country that figures out most rapidly new forms of energy and can commercialize new ideas is going to lead the 21st century economy. I think that is our growth model. (Applause.)
SENATOR REID: Final question –
THE PRESIDENT: But — hold on, just one last thing I want to say about this: In order for us to maximize it, part of it is the good work that Jeff has been doing in terms of just finding the right incentives. We’ve got to be open-minded about a whole range of technologies. We’ve got to look at clean coal technology. We’ve got to look at nuclear technology.
We’re going to be making some significant announcements this year. This is an example, Blanche, of where we can’t be stuck in the past in terms of how we see these things. We’re not going to be able to ramp up solar and wind to suddenly replace every other energy source anytime soon, and the economy still needs to grow. So we’ve got to look at how to make existing technologies and options better.
But — and this is just the point that I wanted to make because it came up in New Hampshire yesterday — we still — one of the best ways to be on the forefront in energy is to incentivize clean energy, and discourage the old sources or methods that aren’t going to work in the future.
And so the fact that Joe Lieberman is working with Lindsey Graham, John Kerry has been all over this — the three of them are coming together to try to find a workable, bipartisan structure so that we are incentivizing and rewarding the future — and understanding that there’s a transition, so that we’ve got to make sure that the disruptions are minimized as we move into this new energy future — that’s going to be vital.
So don’t give up on that. I don’t want us to just say the easy way out is for us to just give a bunch of tax credits to clean energy companies. The market works best when it responds to price. And if they start seeing that, you know what, dirty energy is a little pricier, clean energy is a little cheaper, they will innovate, and they will think things through in all kinds of innovative ways.
So I want to congratulate specifically John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham, who it probably doesn’t help him for me to compliment him — (laughter) — but has been very thoughtful in terms of how they’re approaching this issue.
SENATOR REID: Final question, Evan Bayh, Indiana.
SENATOR BAYH: Thank you for being with us, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: We can get you a mic. Nice sneakers, by the way, Evan. (Laughter.)
SENATOR BAYH: Oh, thank you. You’ve got to stay light on your feet around here, right? (Laughter.) Mr. President, you’ve already addressed this in part, and several of the other questioners have raised this, but I’d like to present it in a little bit different way that I think is on the minds of people in my state, and perhaps in the minds of independents and moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats around the country — and that’s this issue of the deficit and rising debt, and restoring the fiscal health of this country to a position where it ought to be.
Frankly, I think the public and average citizen have been way ahead of the political class on this. They understand in the long run this is unsustainable, it’s bad economics. They understand that generally — generationally, as Michael was mentioning, it’s unfair to our children to ask them to pay these bills. And most of all, there’s a sense of unfairness. They’re having to make sacrifices in their daily lives, but too many in Washington expect to have continuing increases in the programs they care about; ordinary citizens are making sacrifices, and yet we want our earmarks or pet projects. And they ask, why can’t Washington make the same sacrifices that we’re willing to make?
Now, I think they realize that the other party doesn’t have much credibility on this subject. They handed you a — what, a $1.3 trillion deficit. Vice President Cheney famously said that in his opinion deficits didn’t matter. He just flat out said it. That’s wrong. It’s bad economics. It’s wrong. And so we’ve got a job to do. But I think many people across the country candidly look at us and say, I don’t know if the Democrats are willing to take this on. They think we want to tax too much and spend too much, and do we have the backbone to really stand up and make some of these hard decisions?
Now, to your credit, you’ve called for some things that aren’t always popular in our party. The first thing I noticed when you put into effect that non-security discretionary spending freeze is you got kicked in the shins by some of the left-wing blogs. And you called for more restraint on earmarks. That’s not always popular among our group, but to your credit, you’ve called for those things.
So my question to you, Mr. President, is speaking to independents, conservative Democrats, moderate Republicans — people who know we have to do this — why should the Democratic Party be trusted? And are we willing to make some of the tough decisions to actually head this country in a better direction?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’ll tell you why the Democratic Party should be trusted — because the last time this budget was balanced, it was under a Democratic President who made some very tough decisions. (Applause.)
I think this is pretty straightforward. Bill Clinton made some very hard political decisions. Some of you were there in Congress. You know how tough those votes were. You got no help from the other side. But as a consequence, the economy took off and you had a $200 billion surplus at the end of his presidency. So I think he deserves enormous credit for that. Those of you who took those votes deserve enormous credit for that. That’s why we’ve had — we should have credibility.
But we’re still haunted by the debates that took place from the ’70s, the ’60s, right? And that hasn’t completely worked through the political mindset. So we’re still saddled with this notion of the tax-and-spend model when, if you actually look at it, we’ve been very fiscally responsible.
Now, having said that, we have been complicit in some ways over the last decade. The prescription drug bill — not paid for. Two wars — not paid for. Two tax cuts — not paid for. The emergence of a structural deficit that is only going to grow because we all know that the biggest drivers are Medicare and Medicaid, and as people get older, as the population gets older, and as new technologies come online, people are demanding new services for health care, those are going to become more and more expensive, and that’s what’s going to blow up the budget in the long term.
So to answer your question, how do we — having said that, there’s no doubt that we’ve lost trust. And part of it was just bad timing. It’s like the cartoon, right, you’re sort of standing there and somebody hands you a ticking time bomb and it explodes, and you’ve got all this gunpowder on your hands, and you didn’t construct the bomb, but you’re holding it.
And so what happened last year was, we come in. You got a $1.3 trillion deficit that we’re inheriting; you’ve got $3 trillion revenue that are lost because of the recession; you’ve got an $8 trillion projected debt over the next 10 years; and you’ve got trillions more in projected deficits when you start looking — counting entitlements. Everybody has been looking at Kent Conrad’s charts here for the last several years about it. And so at that very moment, suddenly the headlines that people are seeing is, “bank bailout, recovery package,” and it all kind of merges together into just this blob of spending, and people aren’t seeing, how is this benefiting me. It just looks like Washington business as usual. And all that suspicion gets amplified. So it’s completely understandable.
I think the way that we regain trust is to pursue good policies but not be afraid also to explain these policies, and to be honest with the American people that we’re not going to dig ourselves out of this hole overnight.
So a couple of things I’ve done. I have encouraged that we go back to PAYGO, pay-as-you-go. People understand that concept: You pay as you go. I congratulate the Senate on voting for it. I expect the House to get it done. I want to sign that.
SENATOR REID: Not a single Republican.
THE PRESIDENT: The second thing you already mentioned is this non-defense discretionary freeze. One thing I want to mention, though. It’s not as if we’re not going after defense, as well. It’s just it would be irresponsible when we have two wars for me to impose that same kind of limitation, tie my hands not knowing what contingencies may be needed. But if you look at what Bob Gates has been doing in the Defense Department in really going after some sacred cows over at the Pentagon, he’s been serious about it. We’ve already saved billions of dollars. We intend to keep saving billions of dollars more on that front, as well.
We’ve already proposed $20 billion worth of savings for this year by eliminating and consolidating programs. Last year we proposed $17 billion and we were pooh-poohed. Some of the editorials were all, “Uh-huh, 17, this is a pittance.” You know, only in Washington is $17 billion a pittance. But it also indicates one of the dangers that we have, is that you’ve got to chip away at this problem. So every dollar counts. The work that Claire has done on auditing — if we can squeeze out $5 million here, $10 million here, make this program work a little bit better, over time it creates good habits, and it starts exercising the fiscal restraint muscles in ways that won’t affect programming for people but will affect our bottom line. So we’re moving aggressively. We hope this year we get that stuff done.
But what we also have to understand is that if I take all the steps that I’ve put forward and Congress follows my lead on the non-defense discretionary spending, we’re prudent in terms of defense spending, and we do all the things that we’ve talked about, we’ve still got this structural deficit that we’ve inherited.
Essentially what my proposal does is to pay for the Recovery Act and the other extraordinary steps we had to take for last year, so that I will have covered what happened on my watch. That’s important to understand. Whatever spending that I had to take that was extraordinary that you took with me, including the Recovery Act, if we follow my budget outline, we will have taken care of, paid for what happened on our watch.
But what we will not have solved is that huge structural deficit that existed the day I walked in. And we’ve got to be able to tell the truth to the American people that that is hard to solve. And the reason it’s hard to solve is most of it is coming from entitlements that people like. And it has to do with the fact that there’s this huge gap between the amount of money being paid out and the amount of money coming in.
And everybody understands this here, but I think that there’s a misperception in the public. If you ask your average constituent where does federal dollars go, they’ll tell you foreign aid. And you say, well, foreign aid accounts for 1 percent of our budget. And then they’ll say, well, earmarks.
Look, I think we have to discipline ourselves on earmarks just because symbolically I think people — it makes people feel like we’re not showing the same kind of discipline that they are. Even for worthy projects you’ve still got to make choices. So they’re absolutely right about that. But earmarks account for about 1 percent of the budget.
All right, so even if we eliminated all foreign aid and all earmarks, it doesn’t solve our problem. And as far as the arguments that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are making, I think it’s important to explain to people that in order for us to balance the budget while exempting entitlements, no new revenues, you’d have to cut non-discretionary defense spending by 60 percent — cut it by 60 percent. That’s everything — student loans, NASA, veterans programs — you name it, we’d have to cut by 60 percent — six, zero.
That’s just not going to happen. That’s why we called for the commission, because we’ve got to look at some tough, long-term policy objectives. And that’s why we’ve got to — and I will personally do this, I will say to my Republican friends, I want to solve it. I don’t want to play politics on it, but you’ve got to step up, you’ve got to fill these slots with this commission that we’re going to set up, put these people in a room, and actually solve some of these problems. And I hope they do.
And maybe I’m naïve. I’m still counting, Evan, on the notion that good policy over the long term is good politics. If you do the right thing, and you explain it clearly and you do it openly, I’m confident that the American people — you can have an adult conversation and say, this is not going to be easy, this is not going to be painless, we’re going to be struggling for a while, but our future is bright. And if we show the same grit and determination that previous generations have shown, I have every confidence that we are going to have a 21st century, the American century, just like the 20th.
All right? Thank you, everybody. God bless you. (Applause.)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AND THE VICE PRESIDENT
TO THE U.S. CONFERENCE OF MAYORS
1:32 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for being here. And, I spend so much time touring the country with the President — at his request and with his permission — I’ve been in almost all your cities and in your states, and it’s nice to be able to welcome you here, as you’ve welcomed me into your cities. So thank you for the way you have treated us and our staff as we’ve wandered through your cities.
And I look out and see some old and good and very close friends, and some new friends I’ve made in the last year. Mr. President, these men and women have been incredibly cooperative with us in the Recovery Act. And one of the aspects of the job that I like the best is, I spend, as you all know, once a week on the phone with somewhere between 7 and 12 of you, and we’ve now had — you’ve had the misfortune of having to listen to me answer your questions, at least a hundred and, I think, 15 of you. And it’s been really rewarding to me.
And I always get off the phone with America’s Mayor, David Agnew, who is the guy that follows up on everything that I ask him to do in those phone calls — I’m not sure how well David likes the phone calls. But all kidding aside, you’ve been — it’s been incredible to work with you in implementing the Recovery Act.
As I said, I’ve spoken to well over a hundred of you on the telephone and I’ve visited a number of you in your cities. And I’ve been constantly impressed by the dedication and the common cause of rebuilding not only your cities but this country. And I must tell you, I’ve been impressed by the competence, the management skills that so many of you have demonstrated in incredibly difficult financial times and difficult circumstances. The leadership of each and every one of you in this room is the basis upon which I think we’re going — this recovery is going to grow.
We have plenty of work ahead of us, but look at what we’ve already managed to accomplish for American cities. The estimates range from 2 to 2.4 million jobs saved or created. Nearly $100 billion in tax relief has been provided to working families and businesses through the Recovery Act. And all that money has poured back into the economy of your cities, creating more jobs. More than 18 million Americans have received unemployment compensation benefits and increased benefits. Imagine what the impact on your cities would be if, in fact, we did not have that money flowing in and those people found themselves in a destitute situation.
More than 3,000 public housing authorities — 3,000 authorities have been awarded Recovery Act funding, totally $1 billion — helping create jobs retrofitting housing, supporting construction projects to improve public housing all across the country.
The thing that amazed me about these guys, Mr. President — and women — is they take advantage of this difficult situation to make improvement. It’s not just you’re spending the money; you’re actually changing the way in which the money is spent more efficiently.
More than 4,600 law enforcement officers — more than 1,000 communities nationwide have benefited from the additional influx of those 4,600 officers. We’ve sparked innovation in transportation and energy and health care and education, all of which you’ve absorbed. I know you’d rather have all come directly to you, but the truth of the matter is — (applause.) I know. I know. Constant source of our conversation, Mr. President. (Laughter.)
Well, look, a great many of the Recovery Act projects can be described in any mayor’s favorite six words — I think it’s six, I’ve got to make sure — I’ve got to count my words these days, Mr. President — six words — “ahead of schedule and under budget.” That has been the real news of the Recovery Act. And thank you all — thank you all for the management you have exercised in seeing to it that happens.
And all in all, we’re helping working men and women get through some very, very tough times today while building an economy of tomorrow. And the man making this all possible, literally, the single engine, the piston that’s driving this whole operation of making sure that we don’t walk away from our cities, we don’t walk away from this recovery, we don’t — we take the chances we’re taking to generate growth here, is a man who came from a big city himself. I see his mayor, Mayor Daley, sitting right here in front. And the President understands. He understands your distinct needs. And he knows that nothing we do around here means anything if men and women don’t have jobs — not just any job, but jobs that you can raise a family on; jobs that serve as a foundation for the 21st century economy we’re determined to build.
He also knows that, as Walt Whitman put it, a great city is that which has the greatest men and women. He knows your cities are full of great men and women. And his leadership is going to help give them the ability to overcome this difficulty, summon their greatness, and put them in a position that they’re stronger at the end as we come out of this recession than they were before they went in.
So, ladies and gentlemen, it’s my great honor to present to you the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Please sit down. Thank you very much. Please have a seat. Have a seat. Well, welcome to the White House, everybody. And let me, first of all, say what a outstanding job that the Vice President has done not just on a whole range of issues in this administration, but in working with the mayors to make sure this Recovery Act works the way it should. So please give Joe Biden a big round of applause. (Applause.)
A couple of other acknowledgements I have to make. First of all, I want to say congratulations to Elizabeth Kautz, the new president. Congratulations. Give Elizabeth a big round of applause. (Applause.) I have to acknowledge my own mayor, Mayor Richard Daley, for the outstanding work he’s done in Chicago. (Applause.)
I want to say thank you to Joe Riley of Charleston not only for creating one of the greatest — helping to make one of greatest cities in the country bloom, but also for giving us David Agnew. So give him a big round of applause. (Applause.)
Mayor John Hickenlooper of Denver, who also is running for the governor of Colorado. I hope you all talk to him still even when he becomes governor. (Applause.) And I’ve got to acknowledge Mufi Hannemann because he was such a great host for me and my family when we were there in Honolulu. (Applause.)
I have to say, Rich, the weather was a lot better — (laughter) — in Honolulu. I just want to let you know. (Laughter.)
Now, I know all of you met the First Lady yesterday to begin an important — (applause) — begin an important national discussion on our national childhood obesity epidemic. I hate following my wife. (Laughter.) She’s more charming, smarter, tougher, better looking. But I am looking forward to a productive discussion with all of you on the urgent need to create jobs and move our metropolitan areas forward.
I always enjoy meeting with mayors because it reminds me of where I got my start — working with folks at the local level, doing our best to make a real impact on the lives of ordinary Americans — and that’s what each of you does every single day. You’re the first interaction citizens have with their government when they step outside every morning. The things that make our cities work and our people go — transit and public safety, safe housing, sanitation, parks, recreation — all these tasks fall to you. It was President Johnson who once said, “When the burdens of the presidency seem unusually heavy, I always remind myself it could be worse. I could be a mayor.” (Laughter and applause.)
So it’s why we organized this meeting today. I look at all of you and I say I’m doing fine. (Laughter.) It’s just not easy being a mayor. But rarely, if ever, has it been more difficult than it is today. Your constituents are feeling the pain of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression — not to mention an economy that wasn’t working for a lot of them long before this particular crisis hit.
Many have lost jobs; many have lost their health care; some maybe even have lost their homes. And they’re looking to you and all of us to regain some sense of economic security. And just when they need more from you, you’re stuck with falling revenues, leaving you with impossible choices that keep mounting up — putting projects on hold or having to furlough key employees. I know some of you have had the heartbreak of laying folks off. I also know that each and every one of you is 100 percent resolved to pick your city up and move it forward.
And that’s why, even as we worked to rescue our broader economy last year, we took some steps to help. We cut taxes, as Joe mentioned, for workers and small businesses. We extended unemployment insurance and health benefits for those who lost their jobs. We provided aid to local governments so you could keep essential services running and keep cops and firefighters and teachers who make your cities safe places to grow and to learn on your payroll.
We invested in proven strategies like the COPS program and the Byrne Grants that you rely on to bring down crime and boost public safety. We funded and awarded more than 1,800 of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants that you conceived — flexible products that reduce energy use, put people back to work and save taxpayers’ money.
We increased funding for the Summer Youth Employment Program, helping more than 300,000 young people hit especially hard by the recession. That did more than just give them a chance to earn money — it gave them the critical chance to gain experience in good jobs that build good skills, so that they can come out of this crisis in a better position to build a life for themselves.
And we’re working every day to get our economy back on track and put America back to work. Because while Wall Street may be recovering, you and I know your Main Streets have a long way to go. Unemployment in your cities is still far too high. And because our metropolitan areas account for 90 percent of our economic output, they are the engines that we need to get started again.
Last month, I announced some additional targeted steps to spur private sector hiring and boost small businesses by building on the tax cuts in the Recovery Act and increasing access to the loans they desperately need to grow. I said we’d rebuild and modernize even more of our transportation and communication networks across the country, in addition to the infrastructure projects that are already scheduled to come online this year. I called for the extension of emergency relief to help hurting Americans who’ve lost their jobs. And you can expect a continued, sustained and relentless effort to create good jobs for the American people. I will not rest until we’ve gotten there. (Applause.)
But I also know that each of you worries about the longer-term effects this economy might have on your children, on your families, and on workers. You worry about what shape everything will be in once we emerge from this crisis. So you’re focused on addressing the pressing problems we face today, but you’ve got a vision for your city. And no matter what party you belong to or where you’ve traveled here from, that vision is one I share — of vibrant communities that provide our children with every chance to learn and to grow; that allow our businesses and workers the best opportunity to innovate and succeed; that let our older Americans live out their best years in the midst of all that metropolitan life has to offer. All of us have an obligation to make sure that even as we work to rescue and rebuild our economy, we don’t lose sight of that. Because job creation and investing in our communities aren’t competing priorities — they’re complementary.
Two years ago, I addressed your gathering and I outlined a new strategy for urban America that changed the way Washington does business with our cities and our metropolitan areas. And since taking office, my administration has taken a hard look at that relationship — from matters of infrastructure to transportation, education to energy, housing to sustainable development. My staff has traveled around the country to see the fresh ideas and successful solutions that you’ve devised. And we’ve learned a great deal about what we can do — and shouldn’t do — to help rebuild and revitalize our cities and metropolitan areas for the future.
So the budget that I’ll present next month will begin to back up this urban vision by putting an end to throwing money after what doesn’t work — and by investing responsibly in what does.
Our strategy to build economically competitive, environmentally sustainable, opportunity-rich communities that serve as the backbone for our long-term growth and prosperity — three items: First, we’ll build strong regional backbones for our economy by coordinating federal investments in economic and workforce development — because today’s metropolitan areas don’t stop at downtown. What’s good for Denver, for example, is usually good for places like Aurora and Boulder, too. Strong cities are the building blocks of strong regions, and strong regions are essential for a strong America.
Second, we’ll focus on creating more livable and environmentally sustainable communities. Because when it comes to development, it’s time to throw out old policies that encouraged sprawl and congestion, pollution, and ended up isolating our communities in the process. We need strategies that encourage smart development linked to quality public transportation, that bring our communities together. (Applause.)
That’s why we’ll improve our Partnership for Sustainable Communities by working with HUD, EPA, and the Department of Transportation in making sure that when it comes to development, housing, energy, and transportation policy go hand in hand. And we will build on the successful TIGER discretionary grants program to put people to work and help our cities rebuild their roads and their bridges, train stations and water systems. (Applause.)
Third, we’ll focus on creating neighborhoods of opportunity. Many of our neighborhoods have been economically distressed long before this crisis hit — for as long as many of us can remember. And while the underlying causes may be deeply-rooted and complicated, there are some needs that are simple: access to good jobs; affordable housing; convenient transportation that connects both; quality schools and health services; safe streets and parks and access to a fresh, healthy food supply.
So we’ll invest in innovative and proven strategies that change the odds for our communities — strategies like Promise Neighborhoods, neighborhood-level interventions that saturate our kids with the services that offer them a better start in life. Strategies like Choice Neighborhoods, which focuses on new ideas for housing by recognizing that different communities need different solutions. And, by the way, we’re also expanding the successful Race to the Top competition to improve our schools and raise the bar for all our students to local school districts that are committed to change. (Applause.)
That’s what we’re doing to bring jobs and opportunity to every corner of our cities and our economy — focusing on what works. And that’s what all of you do each and every day. You’re not worried about ideology. Obviously all of you are elected so you think about politics, but it’s not in terms of scoring cheap political points; you’re going to be judged on whether you deliver the goods, or not. You focus on solving problems for people who trusted us with solving them. And that’s a commitment that all of us who serve should keep in mind.
As long as I’m President, I’m committed to being your partner in that work. We’re going to keep on reaching out to you and listening to you and working with you towards our common goals. And I want to start that right now by taking some of your questions. But first I think all these cameras are going to move out, so you can tell me the truth. (Laughter.) All right? Thank you. (Applause.)
If you have any information, please contact the info provided. Thank you!
Sophia Brice age 16 D.O.B 05/31/93 Female American Citizen and Alex Brice age 14 D.O.B 12/06/96 Male American Citizen they are normally located at #6 Rue Maigate that is located right by the airport they are also commonly located in and around the area of Delmas 33 or Delmas 18 Ruille Decastine #6 and can usually be found at #10 Rue endrelouis Brochette 99 Carrfour thank you. We may be contacted by these numbers
(631)9461956 (Dad’s Cell Ernst Brice),
(631)3756664 (Mom’s Cell Michelle Brice),
(631)2556829 (Older brothers Cell Clifford Brice),
Our Address is 22 Versa Pl Thank you and God Bless
This is my dad and little siter who are missing Jack and Naomi Duvert, they was living in Kafufai, if i spelled it correctly. if anyone has seen them or know them please me at (215) 288-3492 (215) 288-3492.
Please help find these two individuals. Their names are Ritza Pompilus and Ritch Jerry Pompilus… We haven heard form them at all. Ritza is in her early 30′s and Ritch Jerry is 2yrs old and he was born a US Citizen.. If you see or hear anything please call 914-613-7520 914-613-7520 or 914-830 6222 914-830-6222.. I need to know if they are ok.
His name is Yves Richard Baptist. Nickname “Pouchon”.
His address is Delmas 105
Impasse Augustin #5, HAITI
Age: 32 Years
DOB: January 2nd 1978
He is nowhere to be found. His mother is worried sick in Philadelphia, PA. PLEASE CALLE HER @215-473-2166 215-473-2166. THANK YOU FRIENDS
Please, my name is Natalie Dufrene and I live in America. My mother (mona), sister (minouche), cousin (dafne), father (fan fan), and brother (tipa) are all missing I have not been able to contact them since the earthquake. If you have seen them please contact me at :firstname.lastname@example.org or call 5617295553.
Rosemond Jean. Live Delmas, 105 Rue Soeur, Etienne, had worked at Erickson. Not been able to reach you and not sure how everybody is. We have not heard anything, please call us we are worried. Sabine, Ronald, Audrey and others waiting to hear. If anybody has information please update, thanks.
Audrey: 240-483-1636 240-483-1636
This post is from family members looking for their loved ones missing in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake. If you have any information, please contact immediately:
A la Rue Jardine, Haiti
Contact: email@example.com, 617-388-2829
Port au Prince, Haiti
Contact: Edith Francois, 813-325-8933
Jean Marie Laguerre
Delma31 RU Magvana No 7
La Maison Restaurant
Roule – Claircine #27
Contact: Darline, Boynton Beach, FL
I am looking for my mother,a mother of 8, she travelled from canada to haiti about a month ago,she is supposed to have been in the place cazeau, delmas area in port-au-prince. If anyone has any information to call me at ,and her number in haiti is 3697 3348 or 3679 3314, i am also looking for my father, i believe he was in carrefour,port-au-prince at the time of the earthquake his number is 3472 9305,some of his close family are alfred francois,alphone francois, natasha francois, marlene francois, all lives in carrefour.My mother s sister Genese lafleur,does own a school in place cazeau,delmas , very close to where my mother lived, if any one has any information.My mother s brothers who also live very close to her are kilsaint lafleur, Narum lafleur, Berlamy lafleur.If anyone has any information.
Missing: Joeri Arion, 28 years. Lives in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.Stayed as a guest with mr.Pierre Noel Bien Aime at the in the district Carrefour in the city of Port-auPrince in the area Arcachoun.Have not heard anything form him since the earthquake. So have no idea where is is and if he”s safe. if anyone has seen or heard anything form him, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi everyone, i am asking if anyone has seen my two brothers Harold and Daniel. Harold is the one on the left in the first picture and Daniel is the one on the right in the second picture. The guys had gone to a funeral in Lazile and we haven’t been able to hear from them since the earthquake occurred. So, if someone has either seen them or know about the situation in Lazile, please let me know. You can either e-mail me at email@example.com or call me at . My brothers’ numbers are 3461-51-80 and 3402-61-36.
We are looking for our mother/grandmother and other family members. Solange Michel is on the left, Gisele Alexis is in the middle, and Antonine Louis is on the right. We have not been able to make contact with any of the three. They are in the Butte Boyer, Croix Des Bouquets region. Any news would be appreciated. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
My family is looking for Marie Elvire Sylvain, She works at Bank Central (B&H). We have not been in touch with her at all. Does anyone know if the Bank Central Building is still standing? Has international help arrived in that area of Port-au-Prince? If you have any information about Elvire, please send an email to email@example.com or post a comment on her facebook page.
Wildjine Dossous, 11 years old, Delmas 72 (colonie) Mme Milo 40 years old Demas 97 Wikil Dossous (black Funky) 40 years old Delmas 72 (colonie)Please Help us, We are in Montreal (Quebec) and can not get in touch with them sence the day the earthquake happened. If any body have news about the situatiion between delmas 95 and route de frere and ecole des soeurs de Margueritte d Youville at Petion Ville Please response.
Iam yves Horace, I am looking my parent in Haiti, port au prince, in delmas 24 citee cadet rue tessier # 35. The names of family are venante Charles my mom, my pierre-richard, Piquant Joseph, Luckne Demond, my sister Danielle Demond Clemont and Kesnel Clemont, Papouche, Daphnee. 011509-3691-2265, 011509-3460-5351,011509-3463-3145,011509-750-0129,011509-3407-0531.011509-3505-8860,011509-362-1700,011509-3632-1703. My address is 1153 17th ave north apt 3 lake worth 33460 561-503-5602 please contact me.
those are my my family live in haiti location carrfour cotes plage,rue titus any one have information about those pictures please let me know my #561 3520577my is suzie alexandre. Their mothers live in france.
My sister, her husband and their two young kids. They live in Delmas 60 Musseau impass tatas petit #8 a l’int. Please oh please help us find them so my mom and i can actually sleep at night. We have not heard from them since the day of the disaster in haiti. Any info at all please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan is in the hot seat. As he should be. How could two complete strangers infiltrate a state event without the batting of an eyelash? Tareq and Michaele Salahi breezed into the state dinner given in the honor of the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, sat in the company of world leaders and dignitaries, cheesed it up with Vice President Biden and greeted President Barack Obama with a hand-shake.
As part of a publicity stunt to impress the top brass at the BRAVO media network, Michaele Tareq pulled out all the stops to land a role on the yet to be cast reality series “THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF D.C.” To get the nod, Michaele decided that she would take matters into her own hands: crash the ultimate high society party to appear as if she, and husband Tareq, are influential movers and shakers with big connects.
Turns out that the only thing Michaele and Tareq Salahi have succeeded in doing is creating a world-wind of controversy and immense concern as to the safety of President Obama. A lawyer for the Salahis stated that the pair were invited to the affair, contrary to what the guest list showed, and will grant interviews to the media next week.
Amid the backlash regarding the apparent breach in security surrounding the President and the First Lady, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan issued the following statement:
November 27, 2009MEDIA ADVISORY
STATEMENT BY DIRECTOR MARK SULLIVAN
(Washington, D.C.) – On Friday, November 27, 2009, United States Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan issued the following statement:
“The Secret Service is deeply concerned and embarrassed by the circumstances surrounding the State Dinner on Tuesday, November 24.
The preliminary findings of our internal investigation have determined established protocols were not followed at an initial checkpoint, verifying that two individuals were on the guest list.
Although these individuals went through magnetometers and other levels of screening, they should have been prohibited from entering the event entirely. That failing is ours.
The Secret Service safely processed more than 1.2 million visitors last year to the White House complex. In the last several years, the agency has successfully protected more than 10,000 sites for the President, Vice President and other Secret Service protectees, screening more than 7 million people through magnetometers at campaign related events, with more than 1 million during the Inauguration alone.
Even with these successes, we need to be right 100% of the time. While we have protocols in place to address these situations, we must ensure that they are followed each and every time.
As our investigation continues, appropriate measures have been taken to ensure this is not repeated.
The men and women of the U.S. Secret Service are committed to providing the highest level of security for those we are charged to protect, and we will do whatever is necessary to accomplish this mission.”
According to varied reports, the Salahis manuevered and manipulated their way through several layers of Secret Service constructed security. Obviously, somewhere down the line, the Secret Service dropped the ball. The real question, the burning question is: Where did the breach in security actually occur? According to the Salahis’ attorney, Michaele and Tareq were invited and on the list. Somewhere between two check points, a Secret Service agent (s) either perused the guest list, saw their name and granted them passage, or did not see the Salahis listed and granted them access solely based on their appearances.
However, the unnerving aspect of the entire episode is simply that President Obama’s top security was breached. This is entirely unacceptable. The President is not safe. If two aspiring cuckoos looking to make it big on a ‘reality show’ can crash a state dinner held at the White House, where one would definitely expect the Secret Service to be lurking in every crevice and crack, and actually shake the Commander in Chief’s hand, what does this really mean? What kind of message is being sent?
This is the second security breach under the watch of Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan. The first? That shoe throwing incident in Iraq involving an irate Iraqi journalist and President George W. Bush. But who knew someone would take off their shoes and throw them at the President of the United States?
But, also lets not forget the health care reform town hall meetings. Remember all of those ridiculous gun-toting fanatics that the Secret Service allowed to just hang around outside the places where President Obama was speaking? There was one particular man that carried what appeared to be an assault weapon. Why weren’t these folks picked up and hauled off to jail by the Secret Service? Obviously, they posed a real threat to the President.
Michaele and Tariq Salahi have earned their fifteen minutes of fame. In the quest for television notoriety, their greed, phoniness, selfishness, and sheer vanity laid bare a serious security sink hole that needs to be addressed when it comes to the protection of the President and the First Family. Rep. Edolphus Town, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee commented Friday that “the incident compromised the safety and security of the President and undermined our confidence in the protection we expect of the Secret Service.”
Rep. Town wants the House of Representatives to investigate the state dinner security breach. Yet, before the investigation even begins, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan should fire the Secret Service agents responsible for the so-called clearance of the Salahis, and then tenure his resignation.
Sources report that federal charges are coming down the pipe, too! I respectfully ask Michaele and Tariq Salahi: Was it worth it?
Hope it was.
Statement by the President on Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha
Michelle and I would like to send our best wishes to all those performing Hajj this year, and to Muslims in America and around the world who are celebrating Eid-ul-Adha. The rituals of Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha both serve as reminders of the shared Abrahamic roots of three of the world’s major religions.
During Hajj, the world’s largest and most diverse gathering, three million Muslims from all walks of life – including thousands of American Muslims – will stand in prayer on Mount Arafat. The following day, Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid-ul-Adha and distribute food to the less fortunate to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son out of obedience to God.
This year, I am pleased that the Department of Health and Human Services has partnered with the Saudi Health Ministry to prevent and limit the spread of H1N1 during Hajj. Cooperating on combating H1N1 is one of the ways we are implementing my administration’s commitment to partnership in areas of mutual interest.
On behalf of the American people, we would like to extend our greetings during this Hajj season – Eid Mubarak.
United States-Japan Joint Statement toward a World without Nuclear Weapons
The Government of the United States of America and the Government of Japan welcome the renewed international attention and commitment to achieve the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons and confirm their determination to realize such a world. They welcome, in this context, the recent United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Summit on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament and UNSC Resolutions 1540 and 1887, as well as the resolution of the Government of Japan, co-sponsored by the Government of the United States, to the United Nations General Assembly entitled “Renewed determination towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons.”
Recognizing the challenge to achieve total elimination of nuclear weapons, the Government of the United States and the Government of Japan plan to work actively to create conditions for achieving this objective. They express their determination to take the following practical steps on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, in a way that promotes international stability and security while ensuring that those steps do not in any way diminish the national security of Japan or the United States of America and its allies.
l Nuclear Disarmament
The Government of the United States continues to seek early conclusion of a START follow-on treaty through negotiations with the Russian Federation. The Government of Japan welcomes the progress made in the negotiations and expresses its expectation for early agreement. The Government of the United States and the Government of Japan call upon states that hold nuclear weapons to respect the principles of transparency, verifiability and irreversibility in the process of nuclear disarmament. The Government of the United States is committed to reducing the role of nuclear weapons in its national security strategy, and the Government of the United States and the Government of Japan urge other states that hold nuclear weapons to do the same.
l Nuclear Non-Proliferation / Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy
The Government of the United States and the Government of Japan reaffirm the importance of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and plan to cooperate so that the 2010 NPT Review Conference succeeds in strengthening the Treaty, reaffirming its central role in the international non-proliferation regime and recommending realistic and achievable goals to strengthen each of the NPT’s three pillars: nuclear non-proliferation, the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and nuclear disarmament. This includes, inter alia, measures to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, to prevent abuse of the NPT’s withdrawal provision, and to establish multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle that can be widely accepted. The Government of Japan welcomes the intention of the Government of the United States to pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and the Government of the United States and the Government of Japan plan to cooperate to achieve the early entry into force of the CTBT. The Government of the United States and the Government of Japan are confident that their security alliance will be enhanced by the entry into force of the CTBT and the reinvigoration of the international nonproliferation regime. They are also determined to pursue the immediate commencement of negotiations on, and early conclusion of, a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. The Government of the United States and the Government of Japan intend to work together and with other countries to explore ways to enhance a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, including assurances of fuel supply, so that countries can access peaceful nuclear power without increasing the risks of proliferation, and agree that cradle-to-grave nuclear fuel management could be one important element of the framework.
The Government of the United States and the Government of Japan declare that it remains vital for North Korea and Iran to uphold and adhere to their respective international obligations. As demonstrated by its recent missile launches and nuclear test, North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons remains a major threat to peace and stability in Northeast Asia and the entire international community. The Government of the United States and the Government of Japan reaffirm their commitment to the irreversible and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and to the goals of the September 2005 Joint Statement. They stress that the Six Party Talks remain the most effective framework to achieve these goals and they urge North Korea to return immediately to the Six Party Talks without precondition. Both governments agree to fully implement UNSC Resolutions 1718 and 1874 and urge all UN member states to do the same.
Iran’s nuclear activities, in particular the recent disclosure of Iran’s construction of a new facility near Qom intended for enrichment, have reinforced the international community’s concern regarding the nature of its nuclear program. The Government of the United States and the Government of Japan stress that Iran has the responsibility to restore international confidence in this regard. They will not allow the global non-proliferation regime to be endangered. They reaffirm their commitment to seek a comprehensive, long-term solution through dialogue and negotiations based on UNSC resolutions, and express their firm commitment to pursue a dual-track approach to achieve this objective.
The Government of the United States and the Government of Japan plan to cooperate to ensure that the IAEA continues to have the resources, authorities, and verification capabilities necessary to carry out its essential mandate. They plan to promote efforts to gain universal adherence to the Additional Protocol, which in their shared view should be the international standard for verification, and to encourage peaceful uses of nuclear energy that adhere to the highest standards for nuclear safeguards, security, and safety. They welcome, in this context, Ambassador Amano’s election to become the Director General of the IAEA in December.
The Government of the United States and the Government of Japan intend to expand nuclear nonproliferation, safeguards, and security cooperation that may include areas such as nuclear measurement and detection technologies, nuclear forensics, human resource development, training and infrastructure assistance for countries interested in nuclear energy, and coordination of our respective Member State support programs to IAEA safeguards.
l Nuclear Security
The Government of the United States and the Government of Japan pledge to cooperate for the success of the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit hosted by the Government of the United States, and to promote regional efforts to strengthen nuclear security. In this regard, the Government of Japan will host a nuclear security conference for Asian countries in Tokyo in January 2010. The Government of the United States welcomes this effort, as well as the GOJ’s hosting of the next preparatory meeting for the Summit in December.
The Government of the United States and the Government of Japan intend to cooperate for the full implementation of UNSC Resolution 1540, promotion of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, expansion and extension of the G8 Global Partnership, and strengthening of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and further cooperation under the Megaports Initiative. Recognizing the continuing threat of nuclear terrorism, the two governments reaffirm their commitment to ensuring that civil nuclear materials and facilities receive the highest levels of physical protection. They also pledge their support for efforts to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON VETERANS DAY
Arlington National Cemetery
11:33 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Thank you. Please, be seated.
Thank you, Secretary Shinseki, for the generous introduction — more importantly, the extraordinary bravery in service to our country, both on and off the battlefield. I want to thank our outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden, and his wonderful wife, Dr. Jill Biden, for being here today. We want to thank the Bidens for their son, Beau’s, service as well; we’re glad he just got back from Iraq.
We want to say a special word of thanks to Brigadier General Karl Horst, who’s the Commander of the Military District of Washington, for being here, and for your lifetime of distinguished service to our nation. To Gene Crayton, president of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, thank you for being here. And to all the veterans’ service organizations for the extraordinary work, day in, day out on behalf of our nation’s heroes.
To the members of our armed forces and the veterans who are here today: I am deeply honored and humbled to spend Veterans Day with you in this sacred place where generations of heroes have come to rest — and generations of Americans have come to show their gratitude.
There are many honors and responsibilities that come with this job. But none is more profound than serving as Commander-in-Chief. Yesterday, I visited the troops at Fort Hood. We gathered in remembrance of those we recently lost. We paid tribute to the lives they led. And there was something that I saw in them; something that I see in the eyes of every soldier and sailor, airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman that I have had the privilege to meet in this country and around the world — and that thing is determination.
In this time of war, we gather here mindful that the generation serving today already deserves a place alongside previous generations for the courage they have shown and the sacrifices that they have made. In an era where so many acted only in pursuit of narrow self-interest, they’ve chosen the opposite. They chose to serve the cause that is greater than self; many even after they knew they’d be sent into harm’s way. And for the better part of a decade, they have endured tour after tour in distant and difficult places; they have protected us from danger; and they have given others the opportunity for a better life.
So to all of them — to our veterans, to the fallen, and to their families — there is no tribute, no commemoration, no praise that can truly match the magnitude of your service and your sacrifice.
This is a place where it is impossible not to be moved by that sacrifice. But even as we gather here this morning, people are gathering all across America, not only to express thanks of a grateful nation, but to tell stories that demand to be told. They’re stories of wars whose names have come to define eras; battles that echo throughout history. They’re stories of patriots who sacrificed in pursuit of a more perfect union: of a grandfather who marched across Europe; of a friend who fought in Vietnam; of a sister who served in Iraq. They’re the stories of generations of Americans who left home barely more than boys and girls, became men and women, and returned home heroes.
And when these Americans who had dedicated their lives to defending this country came home, many settled on a life of service, choosing to make their entire lives a tour of duty. Many chose to live a quiet life, trading one uniform and set of responsibilities for another — doctor, engineer, teacher, mom, dad. They bought homes, raised families, built businesses. They built the greatest middle class that the world has ever known. Some put away their medals, stayed humble about their service, and moved on. Some, carrying shrapnel and scars, found that they couldn’t.
We call this a holiday. But for many veterans, it’s another day of memories that drive them to live their lives each day as best as they possibly can. For our troops, it is another day in harm’s way. For their families, it is another day to feel the absence of a loved one, and the concern for their safety. For our wounded warriors, it is another day of slow and arduous recovery. And in this national cemetery, it is another day when grief remains fresh. So while it is important and proper that we mark this day, it is far more important we spend all our days determined to keep the promises that we’ve made to all who answer this country’s call.
Carved into the marble behind me are the words of our first Commander-in-Chief: “When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen.” Just as the contributions that our servicemen and women make to this nation don’t end when they take off their uniform, neither do our obligations to them. And when we fulfill those obligations, we aren’t just keeping faith with our veterans; we are keeping faith with the ideals of service and sacrifice upon which this republic was founded.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that there have been times where we as a nation have betrayed that sacred trust. Our Vietnam veterans served with great honor. They often came home greeted not with gratitude or support, but with condemnation and neglect. That’s something that will never happen again. To them and to all who have served, in every battle, in every war, we say that it’s never too late to say thank you. We honor your service. We are forever grateful. And just as you have not forgotten your missing comrades, neither, ever, will we. Our servicemen and women have been doing right by America for generations. And as long as I am Commander-in-Chief, America’s going to do right by them.
That is my message to all veterans today. That is my message to all who serve in harm’s way. To the husbands and wives back home doing the parenting of two. To the parents who watch their sons and daughters go off to war, and the children who wonder when mom and dad is coming home. To all our wounded warriors, and to the families who laid a loved one to rest. America will not let you down. We will take care of our own.
And to those who are serving in far-flung places today, when your tour ends, when you see our flag, when you touch our soil, you will be home in an America that is forever here for you just as you’ve been there for us. That is my promise — our nation’s promise — to you.
Ninety-one years ago today, the battlefields of Europe fell quiet as World War I came to a close. But we don’t mark this day each year as a celebration of victory, as proud of that victory as we are. We mark this day as a celebration of those who made victory possible. It’s a day we keep in our minds the brave men and women of this young nation — generations of them — who above all else believed in and fought for a set of ideals. Because they did, our country still stands; our founding principles still shine; nations around the world that once knew nothing but fear now know the blessings of freedom.
That is why we fight — in hopes of a day when we no longer need to. And that is why we gather at these solemn remembrances and reminders of war — to recommit ourselves to the hard work of peace.
There will be a day before long when this generation of servicemen and women step out of uniform. They will build families and lives of their own. God willing, they will grow old. And someday, their children, and their children’s children, will gather here to honor them.
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
ON HOUSE PASSAGE OF HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM LEGISLATION
1:05 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. I just want to say a few words about two milestones that have passed in the last few hours that represent encouraging progress for our country.
The first was the historic vote the House took last night on health insurance reform. For years we’ve been told that this couldn’t be done. After all, neither chamber of Congress has been able to pass a comprehensive health insurance reform bill for generations. But last night the House proved differently.
The Affordable Health Care for America Act is a piece of legislation that will provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality, affordable options for those who don’t; and bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government, while strengthening the financial health of Medicare. It is legislation that is fully paid for and it will reduce our long-term federal deficit.
Given the heated and often misleading rhetoric surrounding this legislation I know that this was a courageous vote for many members of Congress, and I’m grateful to them and for the rest of their colleagues for taking us this far. But more importantly, so are the millions of Americans whose lives will change when we achieve insurance reform — families with preexisting conditions who will finally have insurance coverage; parents who will be protected from annual and lifetime limits that can force them to pay exorbitant out-of-pocket costs for a child’s illness; small businesses that will finally be able to cover their employees; and working folks who will finally be able to afford health insurance for the very first time.
Americans like Katie Gibson, a cancer survivor from Bozeman, Montana, who shared her story with me this summer. Because of a medical condition Katie’s insurance policy was suddenly revoked when she needed it most, even though she was paying her premiums. I called Katie this morning and I told her that when the bill that passed last night becomes law we’ll be able to protect Americans just like her from the kinds of insurance company abuses she had to endure. And I told her that it was because of her willingness to share her story and the extraordinary activism that she and people like her all across the country displayed — not just this year, but over the last several years — that we are finally this close to getting reform done.
Their lives are what’s at stake in this debate, and moments like this are why they sent us here — to finally meet the challenges that Washington has put off for decades; to make their lives better and this nation stronger; to move America forward. That’s what the House did last night when it brought us closer than we have ever been to comprehensive health insurance reform in America.
Now it falls on the United States Senate to take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people. And I’m absolutely confident that they will. I’m equally convinced that on the day that we gather here at the White House and I sign comprehensive health insurance reform legislation into law, they’ll be able to join their House colleagues and say that this was their finest moment in public service — the moment we delivered change we promised to the American people and did something to leave this country stronger than we found it.
The second development I want to mention is a significant breakthrough in Iraq, where Iraq’s parliament has approved a new election law that paves the way for national elections early next year. This is an important milestone as the Iraqi people continue to take responsibility for their future.
I want to congratulate Iraq’s leaders for reaching this agreement. Their flexibility and commitment to their country sends an important signal to the world about Iraq’s democracy and national unity. And I look forward to prompt approval of this law by Iraq’s Presidency Council.
Iraq has known many challenges, and in the past several weeks we’ve seen that there are still those who would kill innocent men, women and children to deny the Iraqi people the future they deserve. Today’s step forward is another reminder that these enemies of the Iraqi people will fail.
The United States will continue to stand with Iraq as a strong partner and as a friend. Tough challenges remain and I’m sure that there will be difficult days to come. But this agreement advances the political progress that can bring lasting peace and unity to Iraq, and allow for the orderly and responsible transition of American combat troops out of Iraq by next September.
So I want to congratulate our troops and civilians who are serving so capably in Iraq, and I want to congratulate the Iraqi people who have taken an important step forward in pursuit of a better future.
There’s much more work to be done, but with today’s news we’re continuing to move in the right direction as we continue to look forward to Iraqi elections early next year.
Thank you very much.
Statement of President Barack Obama On Historic House Passage Of The Affordable Health Care For America Act
Statement of President Barack Obama on House Passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act
Tonight, in an historic vote, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would finally make real the promise of quality, affordable health care for the American people.
The Affordable Health Care for America Act is a piece of legislation that will provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality affordable options for those who don’t; and bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and the government while strengthening the financial health of Medicare. And it is legislation that is fully paid for and will reduce our long-term federal deficit.
Thanks to the hard work of the House, we are just two steps away from achieving health insurance reform in America. Now the United States Senate must follow suit and pass its version of the legislation. I am absolutely confident it will, and I look forward to signing comprehensive health insurance reform into law by the end of the year.
The U.S. House of Representatives has just passed the historical health care reform bill. The official vote is noted on record as 220 – 215.
Rep. Joseph Cao, (R-LA) was the lone Republican voting for the bill’s passage. Thirty-nine Democrats voted against the legislation.