BACKGROUND ON THE PRESIDENT’S EVENT IN ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI TODAY
St. Charles High School, St. Louis, MO
Today, the President will deliver remarks on health insurance reform at St. Charles High School in St. Louis, Missouri.
The President will be accompanied on Air Force One by Senator Claire McCaskill.
The President will be greeted on arrival by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.
ELECTED OFFICALS EXPECTED TO ATTEND
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill
State Senate Minority Leader Victor Callahan
State House Minority Leader Paul LeVota
State Senator Thomas Dempsey
Mayor Patti York (St. Charles)
Mayor Patrick Green (Normandy)
St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley
St. Louis City Comptroller Darlene Green
St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlman
St. Charles City Councilmember Michael Klinghammer
St. Charles City Councilmember Bob Kneemiller
St. Charles City Councilmember Larry Muench
St. Charles City Councilmember Jerry Reese
St. Charles City Councilmember Ron Stivison
St. Charles City Councilmember Richard Viet
St. Charles City Councilmember Michael Weller
Director of the Missouri Department of Social Services Ron Levy
Emily White will deliver the Invocation.
Emily is a sophomore at St. Charles High School. She plays on the varsity soccer team and is a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Jacob Klinghammer will lead the Pledge of Allegiance.
Jacob is a senior and student body president at St. Charles High School. He plans on attending the University of Missouri in the fall.
The St. Charles Madrigal Choir will sing the National Anthem.
Daily Guidance And Schedule For President Barack Obama – Thursday, November 12 & Friday, November, 13, 2009
GUIDANCE AND PRESS SCHEDULE FOR
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 12 AND FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2009
On Thursday morning, the President will make a brief statement to the press on the economy in the Diplomatic Reception Room. The President will then depart Washington, DC and travel to Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage, Alaska, where he will meet with service members and deliver remarks at an event with service members.
The President will then depart Elmendorf Air Force Base and travel to Tokyo, Japan. He will arrive at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Friday afternoon.
In the evening, the President and Prime Minister Hatoyama of Japan will hold a bilateral meeting and an expanded bilateral meeting at the Kantei, the principal workplace of the Prime Minister of Japan. The President and the Prime Minister will then hold a joint press conference.
The President and the Prime Minister will then have dinner.
The President will spend the night in Tokyo.
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT MISSION SERVE EVENT
George Washington University
2:36 P.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much. I am thrilled to be here — thrilled and honored. We’ve had a wonderful day today, as Jill said, and this just tops it off.
First let me begin by thanking Jill for her kind introduction. As a Blue Star Mom, as she said, whose son recently returned from Iraq, Jill has brought her personal experience to our work in the White House and it has been invaluable. She’s working tirelessly to highlight the extraordinary service of our National Guard and Reserve members and their families.
She is a wonderful partner and a dear friend to me and my husband and I lover her dearly. Please, let’s give Jill another round of applause. (Applause.)
It is such a privilege to be here with all of you today, on this Veterans Day, to help launch Service Nation’s new civilian-military initiative, Mission Serve.
I want to thank Senator Merkley, who’s here, and Major General Steven Roman Abt for joining us today. And I’d also like to recognize Colonel Rob Gordon, Mission Serve’s Chair; as well as Ross Cohen, the Director for Civilian-Military Partnerships for Service Nation; and all of the people and partners who have worked so hard to create this effort. You all have done just a fabulous job.
And I also want to thank GW. (Applause.) Go GW! (Applause.) And your president, Steve Knapp, for hosting us today. (Applause.)
As some of you know, a couple of months ago I issued a little challenge to this university: that if students, faculty and staff here did 100,000 hours of community service — that I’d do what?
AUDIENCE: Speak at commencement!
MRS. OBAMA: Speak at commencement. Well, in just seven weeks — just seen weeks — you all have done more than 19,000 hours of service. That is pretty amazing. That’s wonderful. (Applause.) So if you all keep it up, maybe I’ll see you here in May, right? (Laughter.)
Finally, I feel particularly privileged to share the stage today with Mrs. Alma Powell, who knows — she knows a thing or two about service and sacrifice. (Applause.) She’s devoted her life to giving our young people every opportunity to fulfill their dreams. And she is a wonderful role model to me, just a tremendous asset to this country — another round of applause for Mrs. Alma Powell. (Applause.)
One of the greatest privileges that I have as First Lady is the chance to meet with veterans, and to meet with service members, and their families all across America. And I have to tell you, I always come away from every single visit with this sense of pride, and gratitude — but also with a sense of awe. True awe.
I’m in awe of sacrifices they make — if you think about it, a tiny fraction of our population bearing the burden of eight years of war, serving tour after tour of duty, missing out on birthdays and anniversaries and those precious moments with the people that they love most.
I’m in awe of the men and women that I meet who have been wounded — and some very seriously — who will tell you that all they think about is not their injuries but about the folks that they left behind; and all they want to do is to be back in their unit, serving this country again. I’m in awe.
And I’m in awe of the military families that I meet: spouses who play the role of both parents, trying to juggle getting to baseball games and ballet recitals, doing it all; grandparents who step in to care for the children when a single mom or dad in uniform is away; people who find the strength to carry on after those they love most have made the ultimate sacrifice.
And we witnessed their courage and grace this past week in the aftermath of the unthinkable tragedy at Fort Hood. And we hold those who lost their lives and those who love them in our thoughts and prayers today. All of these men and women, they joined our armed forces because they love this country so much that they’re willing to give everything they have to protect it.
And that commitment, it doesn’t just disappear when they return to civilian life.
See, that’s the beauty of it — it doesn’t go away. For many of these folks, service is the air they breathe. It’s the reason they were put here on this Earth. And they don’t just want to serve for a certain number of years of deployment — they want to make their entire life a tour of duty.
And whether it’s technical skills in engineering, logistics, public safety; whether it’s leadership skills like team building and performing under intense pressure — what they’ve learned standing watch over the homeland and fighting wars abroad is precisely what we need to meet our biggest challenges here at home.
And that’s whether it’s turning around a failing school or managing a big-city homeless shelter — we need that energy; whether it’s running a rural health clinic or rescuing a community struck by a natural disaster — our veterans have what it takes for success.
So they have the skills to serve, and they have the will to serve — and it’s up to us to give them the opportunity to serve. And that’s why the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act that my husband signed into law establishes a Veterans Corps. That’s why our United We Serve summer of service program engaged veterans groups all across America, deploying them to serve their communities right here at home.
And that’s why we’re so thrilled about the endeavor you all are launching here today. Through the partnerships in this new coalition, wounded warriors are mentoring young people and combating gang violence. Through this initiative veterans are building homes in New Orleans, and working to reduce the dropout rate in Boston and Philadelphia, and helping their fellow veterans reintegrate into communities all across America.
And ordinary citizens are mobilizing to give something back to our men and women in uniform who’ve given us so much — like offering free summer camps for military kids; or working to expand economic opportunity for military families; providing job training, educational support and mental health services for veterans.
It’s this kind of work this administration has been doing since my husband took office. His budget called for the largest percentage increase in the Veterans Administration budget in 30 years, and that includes pay raises to our troops; it includes improvements in health care, education and housing; and career development for military spouses. (Applause.)
This administration is providing more on-base childcare and expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act to help military families and wounded veterans keep their jobs and fulfill their responsibilities as parents, spouses and caregivers.
And just this week, my husband signed an executive order that will dramatically step up our efforts to hire veterans throughout our federal government.
But we all know that in the end, supporting our military and military families requires more than just good government — I say this all the time — it also requires an active citizenship. Because when our troops go off to war, they are protecting every single one of us. The freedoms they fight for are ones that every single one of us enjoys.
So it’s up to every single one of us to honor their service with service of our own. It’s up to us to recognize our veterans not just for all they’ve done for this country — but for all they will continue to do for this country. That’s what Mission Serve is all about.
It’s about honoring the dedication that led a young man named Kent Park to West Point and then ultimately to Iraq. And it motivated him to continue his service as a mentor to young people when he returned back home. And as Kent put it, he said,
“You have to be an active participant by giving back to your community and doing your part,” he said, “…that’s what being a citizen means. It’s a lifetime of steady dedication to service.”
It’s about honoring the courage that led Amber Bahr, a soldier whom I met at Fort Hood yesterday — see, Amber rushed to the aid of others during the attack last week — as she helped out a number of her fellow soldiers, not even realizing she had been shot in the back herself. She later explained, this is her quote, “…my own personal safety wasn’t really what mattered to me…making sure that my battle buddies were safe,” she said, “that was my number one priority.”
And it’s about honoring the service and sacrifice of our military families, too. It’s about honoring people like Daniel DeCrow, who I met at Fort Hood. He lost his son Justin. He said the last time he spoke to Justin, he told him how proud he was. And he later said, “That’s what I said to him every time I saw him — that I loved him and I was proud of what he was doing.” He said, “I can carry that around in my heart.”
So may each and every one of us carry that same pride, that same gratitude, that same love in our hearts — not just on this day, but every single day.
Thank you so much and God bless you all. (Applause.)
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.)
Fact Sheet: The Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009
Creating Jobs, Strengthening the Recovery, and Helping Workers Who Cannot Find Jobs
Today, President Obama signed legislation to help create jobs by providing tax cuts for homebuyers and businesses, while providing much-needed support for workers who are still struggling to find jobs. These three steps are part the President’s strategy to help the economy grow.
Last year, our economy was in a freefall. Some economists were predicting that we were headed into a second Great Depression. The Obama Administration took aggressive steps to stem the spread of foreclosure, get credit flowing for families and businesses, and enact the most sweeping recovery package in history. Those steps have succeeded in pulling our economy back from the brink and putting us on a path to recovery. Our economy has returned to growth, which is a critical first step to getting job growth going again.
Today’s legislation builds on the successes of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help spur job creation and help struggling workers. It is fiscally responsible, paid for by postponing tax provisions benefiting U.S. multinational corporations and other measures. The Administration will continue working to create jobs, boost the economy, and lay a new foundation for growth.
TODAY’S STEPS TO CREATE JOBS AND HELP WORKERS
While we have pulled the economy back from the brink and there are signs of a recovery underway, there is an enormous amount of work that remains to be done. There are still too many Americans without jobs and too many families in pain. This bill:
- Strengthens the Safety Net for Workers Who Cannot Find Jobs – Immediately Helping 700,000 People and Eventually Helping Over a Million. There are millions of workers who want and need a job but cannot find one. There are 5.6 million workers who have been unemployed for at least 27 weeks. These long-term unemployed workers make up 36 percent of unemployed workers, the highest share in history. Today’s legislation will allow up to 20 additional weeks of unemployment insurance, with the most weeks going to workers in states with the highest unemployed rates. It will give immediate help to 700,000 people who have already exhausted their benefits but still cannot find work. In total, over a million workers will benefit and receive an average of $300 per week. In addition to helping struggling families, economists say unemployment benefits are one of the best ways to strengthen the economy and create jobs because they are often spent quickly on needs like rent and groceries.
- Creates Jobs by Cutting Taxes for Struggling Businesses. The bill provides an expanded tax cut to tens of thousands of struggling businesses, providing them with the immediate cash they need to pursue an expansion or avoid contracting or furloughing their workers. The Economic Recovery Act included a provision that allowed small businesses to count their losses this year against the taxes they paid in previous years. Today, the President extended that benefit for an additional year and expanded it to medium and large businesses as well. Business losses incurred in 2008 or 2009 can now be used to recoup taxes paid in the prior five years. This provision is a fiscally responsible economic kick-start, putting $33 billion of tax cuts in the hands of businesses this year when they need it most, while enabling Treasury to recoup the majority of that funding in the coming years as these businesses regain their strength and resume paying taxes.
- Extends and Expands the Homebuyer Credit with Strong Anti-Fraud Measures. The Homebuyers Tax Credit is a temporary but important measure to continue economic recovery. Today, the President is signing a one-time extension of the credit for homes purchased or under contract by April 30, 2010. A credit of up to $8,000 will apply to qualifying first-time buyers, and a smaller credit of up $6,500 will now apply to families that have lived in their homes for at least five years and wish to step up to a new home. The new law extends a similar credit until May, 2011 for members of the uniformed services whose duty takes them overseas. The new law also contains important measures to combat tax fraud and protect responsible homebuyers, including setting a minimum age for home purchase and requiring documentary proof of the purchase in order to receive the credit.
- Other Steps to Close the Deficit and Strengthen the Economy. The legislation pays for these new steps, principally by postponing tax provisions benefiting U.S. multinational corporations. It also helps military families by clarifying that military base realignment and closure payments – added as part of the recovery act – are tax exempt.
BUILDING ON THE SUCCESSES OF THE RECOVERY ACT
Today’s steps build on the successes of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed by President Obama last February. The ARRA:
- Modernized and Expanded Unemployment Insurance: The recovery act included an unprecedented investment in unemployment benefits, including up to 79 weeks of benefits in the hardest-hit areas, a $25-a-week supplement to benefits, and incentives for states to expand coverage to part-time workers and take other steps to modernize their unemployment systems. The law also cut taxes on up to $2,400 in unemployment benefits and created a tax credit that pays 65 percent of health insurance premiums for unemployed workers. These provisions helped keep 800,000 people out of poverty, according to estimates developed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
- Created Jobs by Cutting Taxes on Businesses: The ARRA allowed small businesses to use the 2008 operating losses to get a refund of taxes paid in prior years. Like today’s provision, much of the revenue would be recouped in future years. The ARRA provision was projected to provide $5 billion in tax relief for small businesses in 2009 at a ten-year cost of only $1 billion.
- Expanded the First-Time Homebuyer Credit: The $8,000 first-time homebuyers tax credit enacted in ARRA has brought many new families into the housing market. Those buyers, in turn, have reduced the inventory of unsold homes and contributed to three months in a row of increases in home prices nationwide. Residential housing investment grew 23 percent in the third quarter, one of the contributors to positive economic growth.
Statement by President Barack Obama on Iran
November 4, 2009
Thirty years ago today, the American Embassy in Tehran was seized. The 444 days that began on November 4, 1979 deeply affected the lives of courageous Americans who were unjustly held hostage, and we owe these Americans and their families our gratitude for their extraordinary service and sacrifice.
This event helped set the United States and Iran on a path of sustained suspicion, mistrust, and confrontation. I have made it clear that the United States of America wants to move beyond this past, and seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. We do not interfere in Iran’s internal affairs. We have condemned terrorist attacks against Iran. We have recognized Iran’s international right to peaceful nuclear power. We have demonstrated our willingness to take confidence-building steps along with others in the international community. We have accepted a proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency to meet Iran’s request for assistance in meeting the medical needs of its people. We have made clear that if Iran lives up to the obligations that every nation has, it will have a path to a more prosperous and productive relationship with the international community.
Iran must choose. We have heard for thirty years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for. The American people have great respect for the people of Iran and their rich history. The world continues to bear witness to their powerful calls for justice, and their courageous pursuit of universal rights. It is time for the Iranian government to decide whether it wants to focus on the past, or whether it will make the choices that will open the door to greater opportunity, prosperity, and justice for its people.
(Note – a Persian translation will be available at whitehouse.gov shortly)
The Obama Administration Responds To Associated Press’ Accusations Of White House’s Fuzzy Numbers And Padded Data
Response to AP Story on Recovery Act
- AP looked only at the earliest data posted, representing just 2% of Recovery Act spending.
- The data errors cited by AP – on about 5,000 jobs — are not significant to the total job count (of hundreds of thousands of jobs) that will be posted on Friday.
- It is not surprising that there were errors in these very first postings ever on Recovery.gov – made just three business days after data was submitted. The data upload coming on Friday has benefited from three weeks of review, and will not have similar problems.
- Of the five specific problems cited by AP, four had already been found and fixed.
Statement from Ed DeSeve, Senior Advisor to the President for Recovery Act Implementation:
“This story draws misleading conclusions from a handful of examples. It looks at only a small portion of the data – an initial upload of data representing just two percent of Recovery Act spending – that was made publicly available before a full review of its accuracy could be done. Virtually all of the errors found by the AP had already been found by our review, and were already corrected in an update to be loaded onto Recovery.gov this week.
Tomorrow, more than 100,000 recipient reports will be posted on Recovery.gov. Unlike the small number of reports reviewed by AP, these reports have been reviewed for weeks, errors have been spotted and corrected, and additional layers of review by state and local governments have further improved the data quality. As a result, whatever problems the early and partial data had, the full data to be posted on Friday will provide the American people with an accurate, detailed look at the early success of the Recovery Act.”
Here are the real facts on the misleading AP story on the Recovery Act recipient reporting process:
“The errors could be magnified Friday when a much larger round of reports is released.”
- FACT: The federal contract data AP reviewed was a test run posting of a small sub-set of the data that was made available to the public after less than three business days of review time. The full data that will be posted on Friday will have undergone an extensive review process for twenty days involving the Recovery Board, federal agencies and direct communication with the recipients themselves. So the data posted this Friday will be more accurate – not less – than what was posted on October 15th.
- FACT: The federal contract data AP surveyed represents just 2 percent of overall Recovery Act spending and just a fraction of what will be posted on Recovery.gov on Friday. It does not provide a statistically significant indication of the quality of the full reporting that will come on Friday.
“A Colorado company said it created 4,231 jobs with the help of President Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan. The real number: fewer than 1,000.”
- FACT: The very first example AP cites was already corrected more than a week ago as part of the twenty-day review process and the change is in the final data posting being prepared for Friday. This item represents over 3,000 – or 60 percent – of the “nearly 5,000 jobs” AP uses to try to make its argument.
- FACT: All recipients were given through October 30th to clarify and confirm their data – including those linked to federal contracts. Any conclusions drawn about the quality of that small portion of data as it was posted two weeks ago are simply premature.
Officials at East Central Technical College in Douglas, Ga., said they now know they shouldn’t have claimed 280 stimulus jobs linked to more than $200,000 to buy three semi-trucks and trailers for commercial driving instruction, and a modular classroom and bathroom for a health education program.
- FACT: This item – which represents less than .06 percent of the total jobs reported was also already corrected more than a week ago as part of the twenty-day review process and the change is in the final data posting being prepared for Friday.
- FACT: All recipients were given through October 30th to clarify and confirm their data – including those linked to federal contracts. Any conclusions drawn about the quality of that small portion of data as it was posted two weeks ago are simply premature.
The San Joaquin, Calif., Regional Rail Commission reported creating or saving 125 jobs as part of a stimulus project to lay railroad track. Because the project drew from two pools of money, the commission reported that figure twice, bringing the total to 250.
- FACT: This item – which represents less than .04 percent of the total jobs reported – was also already corrected as part of the twenty-day review process and the change is in the final data posting being prepared for Friday.
- FACT: All recipients were given through October 30th to clarify and confirm their data – including those linked to federal contracts. Any conclusions drawn about the quality of that small portion of data as it was posted two weeks ago are simply premature.
The Toledo, Ohio-based Koring Group also received two FCC contracts to help people make the switch to digital television. The company reported hiring 26 people for each of the two contracts, bringing its total jobs to 54 on the government’s official count. But the company cited the same 26 workers for both contracts, meaning the same jobs were counted twice. The job count was further inflated because each job lasted only about two months, so each worker should have counted as one-sixth of a full-time job.
- FACT: This item – which represents less than .01 percent of the total jobs reported – was also already corrected as part of the twenty-day review process and the change is in the final data posting being prepared for Friday.
While the thousands of overstated jobs represent a tiny sliver of the overall economy, they represent a significant percentage of the initial employment count credited to the stimulus program.
- FACT: The overestimate of “thousands” of jobs AP cites is out of hundreds of thousands of jobs that will be reported overall on Friday – the vast majority of which underwent the more extensive twenty-day vetting process.
- · FACT: Even if you remove the “nearly 5,000 jobs” from the total federal contracts job number, it is still in-line with government and private forecaster’s estimates of about one million Recovery Act jobs overall to-date.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN TOWN HALL ON HEALTH CARE
Gallatin Field Airport
12:05 P.M. MDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Montana! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It’s great to be here. Please, everybody have a seat, have a seat. Thank you so much. Thank you. I am excited to be back in Montana. (Applause.) I want to –
Q Where’s Michelle?
THE PRESIDENT: where’s Michelle? Come on, what is this, chopped liver here? (Laughter.) Michelle and the girls were supposed to go white water rafting. Now, I just heard some rain out there, so I don’t know what’s going on there, but they’re on their way.
I want to first of all acknowledge some outstanding public officials and great friends. First of all, the man who is working tirelessly to make sure that the American people get a fair deal when it comes to health care in America, please give Max Baucus a big round of applause. (Applause.) One of my favorite people in Washington, probably because he hasn’t “gone Washington” — still gets the same haircut, give it up for John Tester. (Applause.) Your own star here in Montana, the great governor of this state, please give Brian Schweitzer and his lovely wife Nancy a big round of applause. (Applause.) The lieutenant governor, John Bohlinger, is here. Give John a big round of applause. (Applause.) The mayor of Belgrade, Russ Nelson, is here. (Applause.) The mayor of Bozeman, Kaaren Jacobson is here. And somebody who I believe is destined to be one of the greatest Secretaries of the Interior in our history, former senator from Colorado, Ken Salazar, is here. Please give Ken a big round of applause. (Applause.)
Well, it is nice to be back. It’s nice to take a break from the going ons in Washington. I’m thrilled to have a chance to spend some time with the folks in this beautiful state. After all, here in Montana you’ve got bears and moose and elk. In Washington you just have mostly bull. (Laughter.) So this is a — (applause) — this is a nice change of pace, being in Montana.
I especially want to thank Katie for her introduction. (Applause.) Where’d Katie go? There she is, right there. Katie’s willingness to talk about such a painful experience is important, because we have to understand what’s at stake in this health care debate. Katie’s story is the kind of story that I’ve read in letters all throughout the campaign and everyday when I’m President. I hear about them in town halls all across America: The stories of hardworking people who are doing the right thing, they’re acting responsibly, only to find out that they’re penalized because others aren’t doing the right thing, because others aren’t acting responsibly.
On Tuesday, I was in New Hampshire talking about people denied insurance coverage because of preexisting conditions. Now today, we’re talking about folks like Katie who’ve had their insurance policies suddenly revoked, even though they were paying premiums, because of a medical condition. They got sick, and suddenly that’s when they get dropped. Tomorrow, in Colorado, we’ll be talking about the people who have insurance but are still stuck with huge bills because they’ve hit a cap on their benefits or they’re charged exorbitant out-of-pocket fees.
And when you hear about these experiences, when you think of the millions of people denied coverage because of preexisting conditions, when you think about the thousands who have their policies cancelled each year, like Katie, I want you to remember one thing: There but for the grace of God go I. (Applause.) Most of us have insurance. And most of us think, you know, knock on wood, that we’re going to stay healthy. But we’re no different than Katie and other ordinary Americans, no different than anybody else. We are held hostage at any given moment by health insurance companies that deny coverage, or drop coverage, or charge fees that people can’t afford at a time when they desperately need care.
It’s wrong. It’s bankrupting families, it’s bankrupting businesses. And we are going to fix it when we pass health insurance reform this year. We are going to fix it. (Applause.) Again, I want to specially thank Max for his hard work on a bill as chair of the Finance Committee. He has been committed to getting this done.
This is obviously a tough time in America. It’s a tough time here in Montana. Just six months ago, we were in the middle of the worst recession in our lifetimes. We were losing about 700 [sic] jobs each month. Economists of all stripes feared a second coming of a Great Depression. And that’s why we acted as fast as we could to pass a recovery plan to stop the freefall.
I want to just speak briefly about the recovery plan because that has colored how people view the health care debate. The recovery plan was divided into three parts. One-third of the money in the Recovery Act went to tax cuts that have already started showing up in the paychecks of about 400,000 working families in Montana. Four hundred thousand working families have seen their taxes reduced because of the Recovery Act. (Applause.)
We also cut taxes for small businesses on the investments that they make, and more than 200 Montana small businesses have now qualified for new loans backed by the Recovery Act, including 10 businesses right in the Bozeman area. (Applause.)
Another third of the money in the Recovery Act is for emergency relief for folks who’ve borne the brunt of this recession. What am I talking about? Unemployment insurance — we’ve extended benefits for 40,000 Montana residents. We’ve made health insurance 65 percent cheaper for families who rely on COBRA when they lose their job and they’re out there looking for work. (Applause.) And I think as your governor will testify, for states facing historic budget shortfalls, we provided assistance that has saved the jobs of tens of thousands of workers who provide essential services, like teachers and police officers. We’ve prevented painful jobs cuts, but we’ve also prevented a lot of painful state and local tax increases.
So that’s two-thirds of the Recovery Act.
The last third of the Recovery Act is for investments that are already putting people back to work: rebuilding infrastructure. There are nearly 70 transportation projects already approved here in Montana. These are jobs fixing up the roads that run through the national forests, good jobs doing the work that America needs done. And most of the work is being done by local businesses, because that’s how we’re going to get this economy growing again.
So there is no doubt that the recovery plan is doing what we said it would: putting us on the road to recovery. We saw last Friday the jobs picture is beginning to turn. We’re starting to see signs that business investment is coming back. So people, I think, sometimes when I listen to them on TV or on these cable shows, they seem to have a selective memory. We started with this mess. We’re now pulling out of it. But that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods. (Applause.) That doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods. You know that. In Bozeman, for example, the local job center recently reported seeing more than 8,000 job seekers for just 160 jobs.
So we can’t just sit back and do nothing while families are struggling. Because even before this recession hit, we had an economy that was working pretty well for the wealthiest Americans — working pretty well for Wall Street bankers and big corporations — but it wasn’t working so well for everybody else. It was an economy of bubbles and busts. It was an economy in which recklessness, and not responsibility, was rewarded. We can’t go back to that kind of economy.
If we want a country that succeeds in the 21st century then we have to lay a new foundation for lasting prosperity. And health insurance reform is one of the key pillars of this new foundation. (Applause.) This economy won’t work for everyone until folks like Katie and her husband can start that small business without fear of losing their health coverage; until companies aren’t slashing payroll and losing profits to pay for health insurance; until every single American has the security and the peace of mind of knowing they’ve got quality, affordable care.
And the fact is, health care touches all of our lives in a profound way. Now, that also makes this debate an emotional one. I know there’s been a lot of attention paid to some of the town hall meetings that are going on around the country, especially when tempers flare – TV loves a ruckus.
What you haven’t seen on TV — and what makes me proud — are the many constructive meetings going on all over the country. Everywhere — everywhere across the country, you’re seeing people who are coming together and having a civil, honest — often difficult — conversation about how we can improve the system. That’s how democracy is supposed to work.
Earlier this week, I held a town hall in New Hampshire. A few thousand people showed up. Some were big supporters of health insurance reform, some had concerns and questions, some were downright skeptical — didn’t believe it could be done. But I was glad to see that people were there not to shout, they were there to listen and ask questions. That reflects America a lot more than what we’ve seen covered on television for the last few days — and I want to thank you for coming here today in that spirit. (Applause.)
Now, before I take questions, I just want to talk briefly about what health insurance reform will mean for you. We still have work to do in Congress. The bills aren’t finalized. But I just want you to understand about 80 percent of this has already been agreed to. And here are the basic principles that folks are talking about.
First, health insurance reform will mean a set of common-sense consumer protections for folks with health insurance. So those of you who have health insurance, this is what it will mean. Insurance companies will no longer be able to cancel your coverage because you get sick. (Applause.) That’s what happened to Katie. It can’t happen anymore.
If you do the responsible thing, if you pay your premiums each month so that you are covered in case of a crisis, when that crisis comes — if you have a heart attack or your husband finds out he has cancer or your son or daughter is rushed to the hospital — at the time when you’re most vulnerable and most frightened, you can’t be getting a phone call from your insurance company saying that your insurance is revoked. It turns out, once you got sick, they scoured your records looking for reasons to cancel your policy. They’d find a minor mistake on your insurance form that you submitted years ago. That can’t be allowed to happen. (Applause.)
One report — one report found that three insurance companies alone had canceled 20,000 policies in this way over the past few years. One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer discovered he hadn’t reported gall stones he didn’t know about. True story. Because his treatment was delayed, he died. A woman from Texas was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, was scheduled for a double mastectomy. Three days before surgery, the insurance company canceled the policy, in part because she forgot to declare a case of acne. True story. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, the cancer had more than doubled in size.
And this is personal for me. I’ll never forget my own mother, as she fought cancer in her final months, having to worry about whether the insurance company would refuse to pay for her treatment. The insurance company was arguing that she should have known that she had cancer when she took her new job — even though it hadn’t been diagnosed yet. If it could happen to her, it could happen to any one of us. It’s wrong. And when we pass health insurance reform, we’re going to put a stop to it once and for all. That is what Max Baucus is working on. (Applause.)
Number two: Insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage because of your medical history. A recent report found that in the past three years, more than 12 million Americans were discriminated against by insurance companies because of a preexisting condition. No one holds these companies accountable for these practices. But we will.
And insurance companies will no longer be able to place an arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. (Applause.) And that will help — that will help 3,700 households in Montana. We’ll place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, as well, because no one in America should be broke when they get sick. (Applause.) And finally — finally, we’ll require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies, because that saves money and that saves lives. (Applause.)
So that’s what health care reform is all about. Right now we’ve got a health care system that all too often works better for the insurance companies than it does for the American people. We want to change that.
Now, if you are one of nearly 46 million people who don’t have health insurance, you’ll finally have quality affordable options. And if you do have health insurance, we’ll help make sure that your insurance is more affordable and more secure. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. This is not some government takeover. If you like your doctor, you can keep seeing your doctor. This is important. I don’t want government bureaucrats meddling in your health care, but I also don’t want insurance company bureaucrats meddling in your health care either. (Applause.) That’s what reform is about. (Applause.)
Now, let me say this: Under the proposals that Max is working on, more than 100,000 middle-class Montanans will get a health care tax credit. More than 200,000 Montanans will have access to a new marketplace where you can easily compare health insurance options. Nearly 30,000 small businesses in Montana will be helped by new tax benefits, as well. (Applause.) And we will do all this without adding to our deficit over the next decade, largely by cutting waste and ending sweetheart deals for insurance companies that don’t make anybody any healthier. (Applause.)
So the fact is, we are closer to achieving health insurance reform than we’ve ever been in history. We have the American Nurses Association and the American Medical Association on board because America’s doctors and nurses know how badly we need reform. We have broad agreement in Congress on about 80 percent of what we’re trying to achieve. And we continue to work on the other 20 percent. We have an agreement from the drug companies, who violently opposed reform in the past, to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors. The AARP supports this policy, and agrees with us that reform must happen this year.
But because we’re getting close, the fight is getting fierce. And the history is clear: Every time we are in sight of health insurance reform, the special interests fight back with everything they’ve got. They use their influence, they run their ads, and their political allies try to scare the heck out of everybody. It happened in ’93. It’s happening now. It happened, by the way, when Lyndon Johnson tried to propose Medicare. It happened when John F. Kennedy tried to propose Medicare.
We can’t let them do it again. Not this time. (Applause.) Because for all the scare tactics out there — for all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary — what’s truly risky — is if we do nothing. If we keep the system the way it is right now, we will continue to see 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day. And that could be you. Premiums will continue to skyrocket, rising three times faster than wages. That will be you. The deficit will continue to grow. Medicare will go into the red in less than a decade.
So for all the seniors out there who understandably are worried about Medicare, understand if we don’t reform the system, in about eight years Medicare goes in the red. And given the deficits that we have right now, we’ve got to start thinking how are we going to pay for that. Insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against people for being sick.
So if you want a different future — a brighter future — I need your help. Change is never easy — and by the way, it never starts in Washington. It starts with you. So I need you to keep knocking on doors, talking to your neighbors, spread the facts. (Applause.) Fight against the fear. This is not about politics; this is about helping the American people, and if we can get it done this year, the American people are going to be better off.
Thank you, Montana. Thank you. (Applause.)
All right, everybody have a seat. So we are going to try to take as many questions as we can in the time that we’ve got. And we haven’t pre-selected anybody, or pre-screened the questions. All we want to do is just ask you to raise your hand if you’ve got a question. And I’m going to go girl-boy-girl-boy so I don’t get into trouble. (Laughter.)
There are — there are people in the audience with microphones, as you can see. And so if you can — once I call on you, if you can just wait until they bring the microphone, stand up so we can all see your lovely face, and introduce yourself, and then I will ask — I will answer the question. And if you can keep your questions relatively brief, I’ll try to keep my answers relatively brief.
All right, this young lady right here in the blue blouse. Right there.
Q Hi, Mr. President. Thank you so much for coming to Southwest Montana. We really appreciate you being here. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Q I was laid off in January. I am currently uninsured. My two children have Medicaid right now. And my question is, without going into too much detail, can you tell us what you — if you have kind of looked at Canada, England’s system, and sort of — can you pick and choose from those systems that work, that we see there’s some success rate and apply that to what you’re trying to push through right now?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me tell you what happens in other industrialized countries. First of all, I think it’s important for everybody to understand that Americans spend $5,000 to $6,000 per person more than any other advanced nation on earth — $5,000 or $6,000 more than any other person — any other country on earth.
Now, if you think that — how can that be? Well, you probably don’t notice it, because what’s happening is if you’ve got health insurance through your job, more and more of what would be your salary and wages is going to health insurance. But you don’t notice it; you just notice that you’re not getting a raise. But a bigger and bigger portion of compensation is going to health care here in the United States. Now that’s point number one.
So clearly we’ve got a system that isn’t as efficient as it should be because we’re not healthier than these people in these other countries.
Having said that, most other countries have some form of single-payer system. There are differences — Canada and England have more of what’s called — what people I guess would call a socialized system, in the sense that government owns the hospitals, directly hires doctors — but there are a whole bunch of countries like the Netherlands where what they do is, it’s a single-payer system only in the sense that government pays the bill, but it’s all private folks out there — private doctors, private facilities. So there are a bunch of different ways of doing it.
Now, what we need to do is come up with a uniquely American way of providing care. (Applause.) So I’m not in favor of a Canadian system, I’m not in favor of a British system, I’m not in a favor of a French system. That’s not what Max is working on. Every one of us, what we’ve said is, let’s find a uniquely American solution because historically here in the United States the majority of people get their health insurance on the job. So let’s build on that system that already exists — because for us to completely change that, it would be too disruptive. That’s where suddenly people would lose what they have and they’d have to adjust to an entirely new system. And Max and I agree that’s not the right way to go.
So all we’ve said is, in building a better system, what are the elements? Well, number one, for people like you, you should be able to get some help going into the private insurance marketplace and buying health insurance. So we would give you a tax credit, a subsidy of some sort, to help you obtain insurance.
Now, the problem is, if you’re going out there on your own, then it’s much more expensive than if you go in a big group. So we would allow you to buy into a health care exchange that would give you some power to negotiate for a better rate, because you’re now part of a big pool. We would also make sure that if you do have health insurance that you are protected from some of the policies that we’ve already talked about that have not been very good for consumers. So you wouldn’t be able to be banned for preexisting conditions. There would be caps on the amount of out-of-pocket expenses you would have to spend. So we would reform the insurance market for people who already have health insurance.
And if we do those things — making it better for folks who already have insurance, making it easier for you to buy insurance, and helping small businesses who want to do the right thing by their employees but just can’t afford it because they’re charged very high rates, they can’t get a good deal from the insurance companies — if we do those things, then we can preserve the best of what our system offers — the innovation, the dynamism — but also make sure that people aren’t as vulnerable. Now, that’s essentially what we’re talking about with health care reform.
And so when you start hearing people saying, you know, we’re trying to get socialized medicine and we’re trying to have government bureaucrats meddle in your decision-making between you and your doctor, that’s just not true.
All right? Okay. It’s a guy’s turn. Gentleman right there in the back, with the green.
Q I think most of us know that Medicare is one of the best social programs this nation has ever put together. (Applause.) It works extremely well and helps the people who need it the most. But money doesn’t grow on trees. How can we be assured that increasing coverage to others is not going to make Medicare more expensive or less effective?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think this is a good point, and I appreciate the question, because a lot of seniors are concerned about this. First of all, it is important to know that Medicare is a government program. So when you hear people saying, “I hate government programs, but keep your hands off my Medicare” — (laughter) — then there’s a little bit of a contradiction there. And I have been hearing that quite a bit, all right, so I just want to — (applause) — I want to be clear about that.
Medicare is a terrific program and it gives our seniors security. And I want Medicare to be there for the next generation, not just for this generation. But if we don’t make some changes in how the delivery system works, if we don’t eliminate some of the waste and inefficiencies in the system, then seniors are really going to be vulnerable. So what we’ve proposed is not to reduce benefits — benefits on Medicare would stay the same — it’s not to ration. What we are asking is that we eliminate some of the practices that aren’t making people healthier.
Example number one: Subsidies to insurance companies under Medicare amount to about $177 billion over 10 years. That’s how much we think we could save by eliminating subsidies to insurance companies that are offering what’s called Medicare Advantage. It doesn’t help seniors any more than regular Medicare does. (Applause.)
And so if we took that $177 billion, we’re not making seniors worse off, but we’ve got that money now not only to strengthen the health care system overall, but potentially to cover more people. Now, the insurance companies don’t like it, but it’s the right thing to do.
Let me give you another example of changes that we should make. Right now when you go into the hospital, you get a procedure under Medicare, if you end up having to come back to that hospital a week later because something went wrong, they didn’t do it right, the hospital doesn’t pay any penalty for that; they just get reimbursed for a second time or a third time — same fee, same service.
Now, think about that if car — auto repair shops operated the same way. You take your car in and you get it fixed, and a week later the thing is broken again. You go in. The guy says, well, let me charge you all over again, and I’ll do just the same thing. That doesn’t make sense. So what we’ve said is, let’s give hospitals an incentive. Let’s say to the hospitals, we’re going to charge you for overall treatment of whatever the problem is. And if you get it right the first time, you get to keep a little extra money. But if you keep on having the person coming back again and again, then there’s a disincentive.
Those are the examples of the kinds of changes that can be made that aren’t reductions in benefits, but they save the system money overall, and by the way, will actually increase the life expectancy of the Medicare Trust Fund, which is in deep trouble if we don’t do something, because as you said, money doesn’t grow on trees. So we’re actually trying to help preserve Medicare and make people healthier in the process.
All right. (Applause.) Young lady in the back there, right there. No, well, actually, I was pointing — I didn’t see you. Right there. No, the young lady in the blue who stood up there.
Q Good afternoon, Mr. President. I’m a Bozeman resident. Sorry, I’m a little nervous.
THE PRESIDENT: You’re doing great. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you. I’m a single mother of two children. I’m an MSU student. I have a son that suffers from many disabilities. He’s disabled for the rest of his life. He’s 11 years old. He suffers from autism. He’s non-verbal. He suffers from extremely hard to control epilepsy, and he’s Type I diabetic. He has been sick with these ailments ever since he was nine months old. My question to you is, I rely heavily on his Medicaid to support good health care for him. What, with this reform, would happen with his Medicaid — Medicare coverage — or Medicaid coverage, sorry.
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, thank you for sharing your story. You are a heroic mom, so we are grateful to you and your son is lucky. (Applause.
If you currently qualify for Medicaid — your son currently qualifies for Medicaid, he would continue to qualify for Medicaid. So it would not have an impact on his benefit levels and his ability to get the care that he needs.
Some of the reforms that we’re talking about, though — what I just referred to as delivery system reforms, where we help, for example, encourage doctors when they are seeing a patient, instead of having five tests, do one test and then e-mail all the tests to five specialists. Those kinds of changes can save money in the Medicaid and the Medicare systems overall, and that will actually help Governor Schweitzer, who has to come up with half of Medicaid in his state budget every year, it will actually help him then be able to pay for it.
So we’re not changing the benefit levels or who qualifies for Medicaid — we might see some expansion of Medicaid, in fact, under the reforms that have been proposed in some of the legislation — but we do have to make the whole system overall just a little bit smarter, make sure we’re getting a better bang for the buck, so that the money is there for the services that your son needs. Okay.
This also includes, by the way, preventive care, wellness care, because our system really is not a health care system, it’s more like a disease care system, right? We wait until people get sick and then we provide them care. Now, think about it — are we better off waiting until somebody gets diabetes and then paying a surgeon for a foot amputation, or are we better off having somebody explain to a person who’s obese and at risk of diabetes to change their diet, and if they contract diabetes to stay on their medications? Obviously the second is more cost-efficient, but right now the health care system is perverse. It does not incentivize those things that actually make people better or keeps them out of hospitals in the first place, and that’s what we have to change overall to make sure that the resources are there for your son. Okay? (Applause.)
It’s a gentleman’s turn, and I’m going to call on that gentleman right there — right there.
Q My name is Randy –
THE PRESIDENT: Hold on, Randy. There you go.
Q Okay. My name is Randy, I’m from Ekalaka, Montana. And as you can see, I’m a proud NRA member. (Applause.) I believe in our Constitution, and it’s a very important thing. I also get my news from the cable networks because I don’t like the spin that comes from them other places.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, you got to be — you got to be careful about them cable networks, though. (Laughter.) But that’s okay, go ahead, go on with your question.
Q Max Baucus, our senator, has been locked up in a dark room there for months now trying to come up with some money to pay for these programs. And we keep getting the bull. That’s all we get, is bull. You can’t tell us how you’re going to pay for this. You’re saving here, you’re saving over there, you’re going to take a little money here, you’re going to take a little money there. But you have no money. The only way you’re going to get that money is to raise our taxes. You said you wouldn’t. (Applause.) Max Baucus says he doesn’t want to put a bill out that will. But that’s the only way you can do that.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let — I’m happy to answer the question.
Q Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Look, you are absolutely right that I can’t cover another 46 million people for free. You’re right. I can’t do that. So we’re going to have to find some resources. If people who don’t have health insurance are going to get some help, then we’re going to have to find money from somewhere.
Now, what I’ve identified, and most of the committees have identified and agreed to, including Max Baucus’s committee, is that there — overall this bill will cost — let’s say it costs $800 billion to $900 billion. That’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of money. That’s over 10 years, though, all right? So that’s about $90 billion — $80 billion to $90 billion a year.
About two-thirds of it — two-thirds — can be obtained by doing some of the things I already mentioned, like eliminating subsidies to insurance companies. So you’re right, that’s real money. I just think I would rather be giving that money to the young lady here who doesn’t have health insurance and giving her some help, than giving it to insurance companies that are making record profits. (Applause.) Now, you may disagree. I just think that’s a good way to spend our money.
But your point is well taken, because even after we spend — even after we eliminate some of the waste and we’ve gotten those savings from within the health care system, that’s only two-thirds. That still means we’ve got to come up with one-third. And that’s about $30 billion a year that we’ve got to come up with. Now, keep in mind the numbers change, partly because there are five different bills right now. This is all going to get merged in September. But let’s assume it costs about $30 billion a year over 10 years. We do have to come up with that money.
When I was campaigning, I made a promise that I would not raise your taxes if you made $250,000 a year or less. That’s what I said. But I said that for people like myself, who make more than that, there’s nothing wrong with me paying a little bit more in order to help people who’ve got a little bit less. That was my commitment. (Applause.)
So what I’ve said is — so what I’ve said is let’s, for example, just — this is the solution that I originally proposed; some members in Congress disagree, but we’re still working it through — what I’ve said is we could lower the itemized deductions that I can take on my income tax returns every year so that instead of me getting 36 percent, 35 percent deductions, I’ll just get 28 percent, like people who make less money than me.
If I’m writing a check to my local church, I don’t know why Uncle Sam should be giving me a bigger tax break than the person who makes less money than me, because that donation means just as much. (Applause.) If we just did that alone — just that change alone, for people making more than $250,000, that alone would pay for the health care we’re talking about. (Applause.)
So my point is — my point is, number one, two-thirds of the money we can obtain just from eliminating waste and inefficiencies. And the Congressional Budget Office has agreed with that; this is not something I’m just making up; Republicans don’t dispute it. And then the other third we would have to find additional revenue, but it wouldn’t come on the backs of the middle class.
Now, let me just make one final point. I know that there are some people who say, I don’t care how much money somebody makes; they shouldn’t have to pay higher taxes. And I respect that opinion. I respect that view. But the truth of the matter is, is that we’ve got to get over this notion that somehow we can have something for nothing, because that’s part of how we got into the deficits and the debt that we’re in, in the first place. (Applause.)
When the previous administration passed the prescription drug bill, that was something that a lot of seniors needed, right? They needed prescription drug help. The price tag on that was hundreds of billions of dollars. You know how we paid for it? We didn’t. It just got added on to the deficit and the debt.
So it amuses me sometimes when I hear some of the opponents of health care reform on the other side of the aisle or on these cable shows yelling about how we can’t afford this, when Max and I are actually proposing to pay for it, and they passed something that they didn’t pay for at all and left for future generations to have to pay in terms of debt. That doesn’t make sense to me. (Applause.)
All right, can I say this, though? Randy, I appreciate your question, the respectful way you asked it, and by the way, I believe in the Constitution, too. So thank you very much. Appreciate it. (Applause.)
All right, right there in the green in the back there. Yes, that’s you.
Q Okay, so when funding dried up last fall due to the economic downturn, I lost my job at a non-profit helping struggling teens. And I’d like to thank you because — because of your stimulus funding to community health clinics, I now have a new job helping people who are — (applause) –
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great.
Q — mostly uninsured people with mental health. I’m a therapist.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great.
Q So I wanted to thank you for that. But there was a gap in there where I lost my insurance in between losing my job at the non-profit and my current job. And I’d like to ask you how you will help people with that gap when they’re unemployed.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, the recovery package, the stimulus helped people precisely with that gap when we said we’ll cover 65 percent of the cost of COBRA. How many people here have been on COBRA or tried to get on COBRA? All right, so just for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, if you lose your job, under federal law you’re able to access something called COBRA which allows you to pay the premiums for the health care insurance that you had until you find your next job. Sounds like a good deal.
Here’s the only problem, as I said before, most of us don’t realize how much our insurance costs our employers because we’re not seeing the actual bill that’s being paid mostly by our employers. So when we lose a job, suddenly we get this bill for a thousand dollars or $1,200 or $1,500 a month, and that’s absolutely the worst time for you to have to come up with that money, is when you’ve lost your job.
So what we did was, let’s — we said because this is such a extraordinary crisis, let’s pick up 65 percent of that temporarily so that the huge numbers of people who’ve lost their jobs because of this financial downturn, they get a little bit more of a cushion.
Now, that was the initial help that we wanted to do to provide that bridge. When we pass health reform, you are going to be in a position where, first of all, you will be able to have selected a plan that you can carry with you whether you’ve lost your job or not, and depending on your income levels, you will also be qualified for a tax credit that will help you pay and continue your coverage even if you’ve lost your job.
And for a lot of people — this is especially important for a lot of people who are self-employed because increasingly, you know, if you’re a consultant, you’re somebody who’s opened up your own shop, a little mom and pop store somewhere, you are the people who have the toughest time getting insurance because you just don’t have enough employees for the insurance companies to take you seriously.
That’s why what we want to do is create an exchange — it’s like a marketplace — where you can go and choose from a menu of different options, different kinds of plans that you think might be right for you. And one of the options that’s being debated is, should there be a public option, all right? (Applause.) And I want to — I want to just explain this briefly, because this is where the whole myth of a government takeover of health care comes from. And not everybody — not even every Democrat — agrees on the public option, but I just want at least people to be informed about what the debate is about.
The idea is, if you go to that marketplace and you’re choosing from a bunch of different options, should one of the options be a government-run plan that still charges you premiums? You still have to pay for it just like private insurance, but government would not — this government option would not have the same profit motive. It would be obviously like a non-for-profit. It would have potentially lower overhead, so it might be able to give you a better deal, should you be able to choose from that option among many others. That’s what the debate is about. (Applause.)
Now, what the opponents of a public option will argue is, you can’t have a level playing field; if government gets into the business of providing health insurance, they will drive private insurers out of the health insurance market. That’s the argument that’s made. (Applause.) And I — that is a legitimate, it’s a fair concern, especially if the public option was being subsidized by taxpayers, right? I mean, if they didn’t — if they could just keep on losing money and still stay in business, after a while they would run everybody else out. And that’s why any discussion of a public option has said that it’s got to pay for itself, it’s not subsidized by private insurers.
The only point I want to make about this is whether you’re for or against a public option, just understand that the public option is not a government takeover of health insurance. Everybody here who still has — who has currently private insurance, you would more than likely still be on your private insurance plan. Employers wouldn’t stop suddenly providing health insurance. So that is where this idea of government-run health care came from. It is not an accurate portrayal of the debate that’s going on in Washington right now. All right?
It’s a gentleman’s turn. This gentleman right there, sitting — right there, yes. Yes, sir.
Q Thank you. Given your comments regarding the public option, I would like, if you could, to comment on the following — and also welcome, and thank you. And I believe in reform as well. I’ve learned that Medicare pays about 94 percent of hospital cost. And I’ve learned that Medicaid pays about 84 percent of hospital cost. And I’ve learned this from a reputable source, my brother who is a chief administrative officer at a large hospital group. He also explains to me, when I communicate with him, that private insurers — his hospital collects about 135 percent of cost from private insurers, and that makes up the difference. So if public option is out there, will it pay for its way, or will be under-funded like Medicare and Medicaid? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s a great question, and I’ll try to be succinct on this. This is a complicated area. Anybody who has ever gotten a bill from a hospital knows it’s a complicated area. But here’s the short answer. I believe that Medicare should — Medicare and Medicaid should not be obtaining savings just by squeezing providers.
Now, in some cases, we should change the delivery system, so that providers have a better incentive to provide smarter care. Right? So that they’re treating the illness instead of just how many tests are done, or how many MRIs are done, or what have you — let’s pay for are you curing the patient. But that’s different from simply saying, you know what, we need to save some money, so let’s cut payments to doctors by 10 percent and see how that works out. Because that’s where you do end up having the effect that you’re talking about. If they’re only collecting 80 cents on the dollar, they’ve got to make that up somewhere, and they end up getting it from people who have private insurance.
This is true, also, by the way, of emergency room care. Each of us spend — even though we don’t know it; our employer pays for it so we don’t notice it on our tab — each of us spend about a thousand dollars per family, maybe $900 per family, paying for uncompensated care — people without health insurance going in, getting fixed up. That money comes from somewhere — well, it comes from you. You just don’t see it on your bill.
And so if we can help provide coverage to people so that they’re getting regular primary care and they’re not going to the emergency room, we will obtain some savings and that’s partly — going to Randy’s earlier question — that’s partly how we’ll end up paying for giving people health insurance — because we’re already paying for it right now, we just don’t notice it. (Applause.) We are paying for it in uncompensated care that is subsidized by the rest of us who have health insurance.
All right. I think this is the signal that I only have a few more questions. I’m going to take two more questions. If I’m in Montana, I got to call on somebody with a cowboy hat. (Laughter.) Absolutely. You’ve got a little plaque on there — is it the –
Q Montana Ambassadors. We’re a business advisory group appointed by the governor. We’ve served three Republican and two Democratic governors, and I’d like to welcome you on behalf of the Montana Ambassadors to Montana.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Well, you make a great ambassador. (Applause.)
Q Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely.
Q My question — and I’m glad you called on me — it has to do with the COBRA question — because I’m in the building materials business; I own a lumberyard in a beautiful little town of a thousand people about 40 miles southwest of here, Ennis. And I was — when the economy took a nosedive, I was forced to take my workforce from 11 people to six. And I want to — like most employers in America, I want to, you know, provide — I think it’s my responsibility to provide health insurance; you know, we like to take care of our peeps, so to speak. (Laughter.) And so I went on –
THE PRESIDENT: Is that a Montana phrase, “peeps”? (Laughter.)
Q And so I went searching for replacement coverage for the employees that have been laid off, only to find out that COBRA doesn’t apply to me because I have less than 20 employees. And that conservatively affects 80 percent of all workers in Montana.
So they were pretty much out on their own, and I was wondering if — what we can do to eliminate discrimination against small employers. As an example, we’re a lumberyard. We’re out there lifting boards and packing stuff all day long. Every one of my remaining seven employees are fit. So why are we, and I as an employer, able to provide a lesser level of benefits to my employees, and yet an employer with 30 employees who sit in cubicles on their butts instead of working them off — (laughter) — gets a better rate? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s a pretty good question. So for all of you who are all sitting on your — what did you call them? (Laughter.) No, as I said, small business is probably as vulnerable as anybody. And one of the things that Max has been working very hard on — and this just doesn’t get advertised, so I just want to make sure everybody is paying attention here — one of the things that we’re trying to do is give a substantial subsidy to help small businesses allow their employees to get health insurance, because there are a lot of employers just like you who want to do the right thing, but they’re a small shop, they’re operating on small margins, they’ve got no leverage with the insurance companies.
So there are two ways we want to help. Number one, we want the small business to be able to buy into the exchange. That allows you then to use the purchasing power of everybody who is in the exchange to get the best rates from the insurance companies. That right away would drive down the premiums that you’d have to pay.
And the second thing we want to do is for employers who are doing the right thing and providing health insurance that is real, then we want to give you a tax break so that it’s easier for you to make your bottom line.
Now, this is something that a lot of small businesses would benefit from. Nobody is talking about it. And since small businesses are the place where you’re seeing the fastest job growth, it makes sense for us to provide this kind of protection. This, I guarantee you, will end up being an important component of whatever we pass out of Washington. All right? (Applause.)
I’ve only got time for one more question, and it’s a guy’s turn, and I want somebody who’s got a concern or is skeptical about health care reform. Here we go, there we go. I knew we could find a couple here. So I’ll call on this gentleman right here in the pale blue shirt — and hopefully that list is not too long. All right, go ahead. Introduce yourself, though.
Q My name is Mark Montgomery. I’m from Helena, Montana.
THE PRESIDENT: Great to see you, Mark.
Q I appreciate you coming here. It’s great to be able to do this.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q Mr. President, I make a living selling individual health insurance. (Laughter.) Obviously I’ve paid very close attention to this insurance debate. As you know, the health insurance companies are in favor of health care reform and have a number of very good proposals before Congress to work with government to provide insurance for the uninsured and cover individuals with preexisting conditions. Why is it that you’ve changed your strategy from talking about health care reform to health insurance reform and decided to vilify the insurance companies? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, that’s a fair question, that’s a fair question. First of all, you are absolutely right that the insurance companies, in some cases, have been constructive. So I’ll give you a particular example. Aetna has been trying to work with us in dealing with some of this preexisting conditions stuff. And that’s absolutely true. And there are other companies who have done the same.
Now, I want to just be honest with you, and I think Max will testify, that in some cases what we’ve seen is also funding in opposition by some other insurance companies to any kind of reform proposals. So my intent is not to vilify insurance companies. If I was vilifying them, what we would be doing would be to say that private insurance has no place in the health care market, and some people believe that. I don’t believe that. (Applause.) What I’ve said is let’s work with the existing system. We’ve got private insurers out there. But what we do have to make sure of is that certain practices that are very tough on people, that those practices change.
Now, one point I want to make about insurance: Some of the reforms that we want for the insurance market are very hard to achieve, unless we’ve got everybody covered. This is the reason the insurance companies are willing to support reform, because their attitude is if we can’t exclude people for preexisting conditions, for example, if we can’t cherry pick the healthy folks from the not-so-healthy folks, well, that means that we’re taking on more people with more expensive care. What’s in it for us? The answer is if they’ve got more customers, then they’re willing to make sure that they are eliminating some of these practices. If they’ve got fewer customers, they’re less willing to do it.
So it’s important for people — when people ask me sometimes, why don’t you just do the insurance reform stuff and not expand coverage for more people, my answer is I can’t do the insurance reform stuff by itself. The only way that we can change some of the insurance practices that are hurting people now is to make sure that everybody is covered and everybody has got a stake in it, and then the insurance companies are able and willing to make some of these changes that will help people who have insurance right now. But thank you for the question. I appreciate it. (Applause.)
All right. I’m going to — even though I shouldn’t do this, I’m going to take one more question. My team always — and I’m going to call on this person right here to get the last word.
Q Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you for coming to Bozeman and bringing your beautiful family to the last best place in the world. (Applause.)
Because you’re a constitutional scholar, I think it would be terrible to let you escape from Montana without sharing with you the most perfect preamble to a constitution of any state constitution.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, okay. Well, I’d like to — I want to hear this. This is a good way to end our town hall.
Q It is. “We the people of Montana, grateful to God for the quiet beauty of our state, the grandeur of our mountains, the vastness of our rolling plains, and desiring to improve the quality of life, the quality of opportunity and to secure the blessings of liberty for this and future generations do ordain and establish this constitution.” I hope you take a look at the whole constitution. You’ll like it. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s very nice. Well, thank you. Listen, Montana, you’ve been terrific. I hope this has been informative. Thank you for the questions. Let’s get to work. Thank you. (Applause.)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Jackson, the sensationally gifted “King of Pop” who emerged from childhood superstardom to become the entertainment world’s most influential singer and dancer before his life and career deteriorated in a freakish series of scandals, died Thursday, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. He was 50.
The person said Jackson died in a Los Angeles hospital. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
The circumstances of his death were not immediately clear. Jackson was not breathing when Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics responded to a call at his Los Angeles home about 12:30 p.m., Capt. Steve Ruda told the Los Angeles Times. The paramedics performed CPR and took him to UCLA Medical Center, Ruda told the newspaper.
Jackson’s death brought a tragic end to a long, bizarre, sometimes farcical decline from his peak in the 1980s, when he was popular music’s premier all-around performer, a uniter of black and white music who shattered the race barrier on MTV, dominated the charts and dazzled even more on stage.
His 1982 album “Thriller” – which included the blockbuster hits “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” – remains the biggest-selling album of all time, with more than 26 million copies.
He was perhaps the most exciting performer of his generation, known for his feverish, crotch-grabbing dance moves, his high-pitched voice punctuated with squeals and titters. His single sequined glove and tight, military-style jacket were trademarks second only to his ever-changing, surgically altered appearance.
As years went by, he became an increasingly freakish figure. His skin became lighter and his nose narrower. He surrounded himself with children at his Neverland ranch, often wore a germ mask while traveling and kept a pet chimpanzee named Bubbles as one of his closest companions.
In 2005, he was cleared of charges he molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor at Neverland in 2003. He had been accused of plying the boy with alcohol and groping him. The case took a fearsome toll on his career and image, and he fell into serious financial trouble.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital as word of his death spread. The emergency entrance at the UCLA Medical Center, which is near Jackson’s rented home, was roped off with police tape.
In New York’s Times Square, a low groan went up in the crowd when a screen flashed that Jackson had died, and people began relaying the news to friends by cell phone.
“No joke. King of Pop is no more. Wow,” Michael Harris, 36, of New York City, read from a text message a friend sent to his telephone. “It’s like when Kennedy was assassinated. I will always remember being in Times Square when Michael Jackson died.”
Remarks By President Obama, Chancellor Merkel, World-Renowned Author & Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel – Transcript
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA,
GERMAN CHANCELLOR MERKEL, AND ELIE WIESEL
AT BUCHENWALD CONCENTRATION CAMP
3:58 P.M. (Local)
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As translated.) Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen. Here in this place a concentration camp was established in 1937. Not far from here lies Lima, a place where Germans created wonderful works of art, thereby contributing to European culture and civilization. Not far from that place where once artists, poets, and great minds met, terror, violence, and tyranny reigned over this camp.
At the beginning of our joint visit to the Buchenwald memorial the American President and I stood in front of a plaque commemorating all the victims. When you put your hand on the memorial you can feel that it has warmed up — it is kept at a temperature of 37 degrees, the body temperature of a living human being. This, however, was not a place for living, but a place for dying.
Unimaginable horror, shock — there are no words to adequately describe what we feel when we look at the suffering inflicted so cruelly upon so many people here and in other concentration and extermination camps under National Socialist terror. I bow my head before the victims.
We, the Germans, are faced with the agonizing question how and why — how could this happen? How could Germany wreak such havoc in Europe and the world? It is therefore incumbent upon us Germans to show an unshakeable resolve to do everything we can so that something like this never happens again.
On the 25th of January, the presidents of the associations of former inmates at the concentration camps presented their request to the public, and this request closes with the following words: “The last eyewitness appeal to Germany, to all European states, and to the international community to continue preserving and honoring the human gift of remembrance and commemoration into the future. We ask young people to carry on our struggle against Nazi ideology, and for a just, peaceful and tolerant world; a world that has no place for anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and right-wing extremism.”
This appeal of the survivors clearly defines the very special responsibility we Germans have to shoulder with regard to our history. And for me, therefore, there are three messages that are important today. First, let me emphasize, we Germans see it as past of our country’s raison d’être to keep the everlasting memory alive of the break with civilization that was the Shoah. Only in this way will we be able to shape our future.
I am therefore very grateful that the Buchenwald memorial has always placed great emphasis on the dialogue with younger people, to conversations with eyewitnesses, to documentation, and a broad-based educational program.
Second, it is most important to keep the memory of the great sacrifices alive that had to be made to put an end to the terror of National Socialism and to liberate its victims and to rid all people of its yoke.
This is why I want to say a particular word of gratitude to the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, for visiting this particular memorial. It gives me an opportunity to align yet again that we Germans shall never forget, and we owe the fact that we were given the opportunity after the war to start anew, to enjoy peace and freedom to the resolve, the strenuous efforts, and indeed to a sacrifice made in blood of the United States of America and of all those who stood by your side as allies or fighters in the resistance.
We were able to find our place again as members of the international community through a forward-looking partnership. And this partnership was finally key to enabling us to overcome the painful division of our country in 1989, and the division also of our continent. Today we remember the victims of this place. This includes remembering the victims of the so-called Special Camp 2, a detention camp run by the Soviet military administration from 1945 to 1950. Thousands of people perished due to the inhumane conditions of their detention.
Third, here in Buchenwald I would like to highlight an obligation placed on us Germans as a consequence of our past: to stand up for human rights, to stand up for rule of law, and for democracy. We shall fight against terror, extremism, and anti-Semitism. And in the awareness of our responsibility we shall strive for peace and freedom, together with our friends and partners in the United States and all over the world.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Chancellor Merkel and I have just finished our tour here at Buchenwald. I want to thank Dr. Volkhard Knigge, who gave an outstanding account of what we were witnessing. I am particularly grateful to be accompanied by my friend Elie Wiesel, as well as Mr. Bertrand Herz, both of whom are survivors of this place.
We saw the area known as Little Camp where Elie and Bertrand were sent as boys. In fact, at the place that commemorates this camp, there is a photograph in which we can see a 16-year-old Elie in one of the bunks along with the others. We saw the ovens of the crematorium, the guard towers, the barbed wire fences, the foundations of barracks that once held people in the most unimaginable conditions.
We saw the memorial to all the survivors — a steel plate, as Chancellor Merkel said, that is heated to 37 degrees Celsius, the temperature of the human body; a reminder — where people were deemed inhuman because of their differences — of the mark that we all share.
Now these sights have not lost their horror with the passage of time. As we were walking up, Elie said, “if these trees could talk.” And there’s a certain irony about the beauty of the landscape and the horror that took place here.
More than half a century later, our grief and our outrage over what happened have not diminished. I will not forget what I’ve seen here today.
I’ve known about this place since I was a boy, hearing stories about my great uncle, who was a very young man serving in World War II. He was part of the 89th Infantry Division, the first Americans to reach a concentration camp. They liberated Ohrdruf, one of Buchenwald’s sub-camps.
And I told this story, he returned from his service in a state of shock saying little and isolating himself for months on end from family and friends, alone with the painful memories that would not leave his head. And as we see — as we saw some of the images here, it’s understandable that someone who witnessed what had taken place here would be in a state of shock.
My great uncle’s commander, General Eisenhower, understood this impulse to silence. He had seen the piles of bodies and starving survivors and deplorable conditions that the American soldiers found when they arrived, and he knew that those who witnessed these things might be too stunned to speak about them or be able — be unable to find the words to describe them; that they might be rendered mute in the way my great uncle had. And he knew that what had happened here was so unthinkable that after the bodies had been taken away, that perhaps no one would believe it.
And that’s why he ordered American troops and Germans from the nearby town to tour the camp. He invited congressmen and journalists to bear witness and ordered photographs and films to be made. And he insisted on viewing every corner of these camps so that — and I quote — he could “be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever in the future there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to propaganda.”
We are here today because we know this work is not yet finished. To this day, there are those who insist that the Holocaust never happened — a denial of fact and truth that is baseless and ignorant and hateful. This place is the ultimate rebuke to such thoughts; a reminder of our duty to confront those who would tell lies about our history.
Also to this day, there are those who perpetuate every form of intolerance — racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, and more — hatred that degrades its victims and diminishes us all. In this century, we’ve seen genocide. We’ve seen mass graves and the ashes of villages burned to the ground; children used as soldiers and rape used as a weapon of war. This places teaches us that we must be ever vigilant about the spread of evil in our own time, that we must reject the false comfort that others’ suffering is not our problem and commit ourselves to resisting those who would subjugate others to serve their own interests.
But as we reflect today on the human capacity for evil and our shared obligation to defy it, we’re also reminded of the human capacity for good. For amidst the countless acts of cruelty that took place here, we know that there were many acts of courage and kindness, as well. The Jews who insisted on fasting on Yom Kippur. The camp cook who hid potatoes in the lining of his prison uniform and distributed them to his fellow inmates, risking his own life to help save theirs. The prisoners who organized a special effort to protect the children here, sheltering them from work and giving them extra food. They set up secret classrooms, some of the inmates, and taught history and math and urged the children to think about their future professions. And we were just hearing about the resistance that formed and the irony that the base for the resistance was in the latrine areas because the guards found it so offensive that they wouldn’t go there. And so out of the filth, that became a space in which small freedoms could thrive.
When the American GIs arrived they were astonished to find more than 900 children still alive, and the youngest was just three years old. And I’m told that a couple of the prisoners even wrote a Buchenwald song that many here sang. Among the lyrics were these: “…whatever our fate, we will say yes to life, for the day will come when we are free…in our blood we carry the will to live and in our hearts, in our hearts — faith.”
These individuals never could have known the world would one day speak of this place. They could not have known that some of them would live to have children and grandchildren who would grow up hearing their stories and would return here so many years later to find a museum and memorials and the clock tower set permanently to 3:15, the moment of liberation.
They could not have known how the nation of Israel would rise out of the destruction of the Holocaust and the strong, enduring bonds between that great nation and my own. And they could not have known that one day an American President would visit this place and speak of them and that he would do so standing side by side with the German Chancellor in a Germany that is now a vibrant democracy and a valued American ally.
They could not have known these things. But still surrounded by death they willed themselves to hold fast to life. In their hearts they still had faith that evil would not triumph in the end, that while history is unknowable it arches towards progress, and that the world would one day remember them. And it is now up to us, the living, in our work, wherever we are, to resist injustice and intolerance and indifference in whatever forms they may take, and ensure that those who were lost here did not go in vain. It is up to us to redeem that faith. It is up to us to bear witness; to ensure that the world continues to note what happened here; to remember all those who survived and all those who perished, and to remember them not just as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed just like us.
And just as we identify with the victims, it’s also important for us I think to remember that the perpetrators of such evil were human, as well, and that we have to guard against cruelty in ourselves. And I want to express particular thanks to Chancellor Merkel and the German people, because it’s not easy to look into the past in this way and acknowledge it and make something of it, make a determination that they will stand guard against acts like this happening again.
Rather than have me end with my remarks I thought it was appropriate to have Elie Wiesel provide some reflection and some thought as he returns here so many years later to the place where his father died.
MR. WIESEL: Mr. President, Chancellor Merkel, Bertrand, ladies and gentlemen. As I came here today it was actually a way of coming and visit my father’s grave — but he had no grave. His grave is somewhere in the sky. This has become in those years the largest cemetery of the Jewish people.
The day he died was one of the darkest in my life. He became sick, weak, and I was there. I was there when he suffered. I was there when he asked for help, for water. I was there to receive his last words. But I was not there when he called for me, although we were in the same block; he on the upper bed and I on the lower bed. He called my name, and I was too afraid to move. All of us were. And then he died. I was there, but I was not there.
And I thought one day I will come back and speak to him, and tell him of the world that has become mine. I speak to him of times in which memory has become a sacred duty of all people of good will — in America, where I live, or in Europe or in Germany, where you, Chancellor Merkel, are a leader with great courage and moral aspirations.
What can I tell him that the world has learned? I am not so sure. Mr. President, we have such high hopes for you because you, with your moral vision of history, will be able and compelled to change this world into a better place, where people will stop waging war — every war is absurd and meaningless; where people will stop hating one another; where people will hate the otherness of the other rather than respect it.
But the world hasn’t learned. When I was liberated in 1945, April 11, by the American army, somehow many of us were convinced that at least one lesson will have been learned — that never again will there be war; that hatred is not an option, that racism is stupid; and the will to conquer other people’s minds or territories or aspirations, that will is meaningless.
I was so hopeful. Paradoxically, I was so hopeful then. Many of us were, although we had the right to give up on humanity, to give up on culture, to give up on education, to give up on the possibility of living one’s life with dignity in a world that has no place for dignity.
We rejected that possibility and we said, no, we must continue believing in a future, because the world has learned. But again, the world hasn’t. Had the world learned, there would have been no Cambodia and no Rwanda and no Darfur and no Bosnia.
Will the world ever learn? I think that is why Buchenwald is so important — as important, of course, but differently as Auschwitz. It’s important because here the large — the big camp was a kind of international community. People came there from all horizons — political, economic, culture. The first globalization essay, experiment, were made in Buchenwald. And all that was meant to diminish the humanity of human beings.
You spoke of humanity, Mr. President. Though unto us, in those times, it was human to be inhuman. And now the world has learned, I hope. And of course this hope includes so many of what now would be your vision for the future, Mr. President. A sense of security for Israel, a sense of security for its neighbors, to bring peace in that place. The time must come. It’s enough — enough to go to cemeteries, enough to weep for oceans. It’s enough. There must come a moment — a moment of bringing people together.
And therefore we say anyone who comes here should go back with that resolution. Memory must bring people together rather than set them apart. Memories here not to sow anger in our hearts, but on the contrary, a sense of solidarity that all those who need us. What else can we do except invoke that memory so that people everywhere who say the 21st century is a century of new beginnings, filled with promise and infinite hope, and at times profound gratitude to all those who believe in our task, which is to improve the human condition.
A great man, Camus, wrote at the end of his marvelous novel, The Plague: “After all,” he said, “after the tragedy, never the rest…there is more in the human being to celebrate than to denigrate.” Even that can be found as truth — painful as it is — in Buchenwald.
Thank you, Mr. President, for allowing me to come back to my father’s grave, which is still in my heart.
President Obama to Request $50 Million to Identify and Expand Effective, Innovative Non-Profits
White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation to Coordinate Efforts
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama, in his FY2010 budget, will ask Congress to provide $50 million in seed capital for the Social Innovation Fund to identify the most promising, results-oriented non-profit programs and expand their reach throughout the country.
Many solutions to our nation’s most challenging social problems are being generated outside of Washington; the Social Innovation Fund will identify what is working in communities across the country, provide growth capital for these programs, and improve the use of data and evaluation to raise the bar on what programs the government funds.
“The idea is simple: to find the most effective programs out there and then provide the capital needed to replicate their success in communities around the country that are facing similar challenges,” First Lady Michelle Obama will say Tuesday at the Time 100 Most Influential People Awards in New York City, according to her prepared remarks. “By focusing on high-impact, result-oriented non-profits, we will ensure that government dollars are spent in a way that is effective, accountable and worthy of the public trust.”
Melody Barnes, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, also highlighted the Fund Tuesday in a keynote speech to the Council on Foundations. “The Social Innovation Fund reflects the President’s new governing philosophy: finding and investing in what works; and partnering with and supporting others who are leading change in their communities,” Barnes said. “We are also working with Federal agencies across the government to identify new solutions to problems that have resisted traditional approaches.”
The Social Innovation Fund was authorized in the recent Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. The Fund will focus on priority policy areas, including education, health care, and economic opportunity. It will partner with foundations, philanthropists, and corporations which will commit matching resources, funding, and technical assistance.
The White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation will coordinate efforts to enlist all Americans –individuals, non-profits, social entrepreneurs, corporations and foundations – as partners in solving our great challenges. Located within the Domestic Policy Council, it will:
- Catalyze partnerships between the government and nonprofits, businesses and philanthropists in order to make progress on the President’s policy agenda
- Identify and support the rigorous evaluation and scaling of innovative, promising ideas that are transforming communities like, for example, Harlem Children’s Zone, YouthVillages, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Citizen Schools.
- Support greater civic participation through new media tools
- Promote national service.
PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:55 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: Good afternoon. I hope everyone had a good weekend.
One thing I want to call to your attention before we start — and we’ll make copies of this available; I believe part of this was released from the Secretary of Health and Human Services Office last week to — (interruption) — that happens every time I have a good idea. (Laughter.) A letter released April 30th, last week, to Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Grassley, applauding their leadership as the Finance Committee continues to work in a bipartisan fashion toward the shared goal of enacting meaningful health care reform legislation this year.
They outlined a series of principles, including promoting primary care and prevention, realigning incentives to promote high quality care, increasing transparency to empower patients and providers, and reducing waste, fraud and abuse. So we will make that all available to you as a good start in progress on health care reform.
And with that, Mr. Feller.
Q Thank you, Robert. Two topics, please. Back to the Supreme Court. There’s been a lot of talk as the nomination process begins that the President’s nominee should either be a woman or someone who is Hispanic. To what degree — what’s the President’s message to those who want that to be the case?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President obviously is going to take the time to look at all of those that are qualified, to find the most qualified person in his estimation, whether it’s a he or a she; to find somebody, as the President described in this room on Friday — somebody that respects precedent, tradition and rule of law, but also understands that decisions have to be made using common-sense and understanding people’s everyday lives. I think that’s most of all what he’s looking for in a nominee. I know he’s made some calls today to — I don’t have readouts on these yet, but I will get them — in discussing the upcoming pick with Senator Hatch and Senator Specter.
Q So to the question of — in the context of diversity, gender and ethnicity, how important are those –
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think the President described that there should be a diversity of experience. I am sure he will look at candidates with a diversity in background. But again, I think the President is looking for somebody with a record of excellence, somebody with a record of integrity, somebody who understands the rule of law, and somebody who understands how being a judge affects Americans’ everyday lives.
Q I also wanted to ask quickly about a health issue. Mexican officials are saying that the swine flu, H1N1 epidemic is waning. Global health officials are saying that countries shouldn’t let their guard down. What’s the level of concern at the White House about the flu right now? Is it as high as it was last week?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the White House continues to be vigilant in preparing for whatever we see as a result of the H1N1 flu virus. The President continues to get updates several times a day from Homeland Security Council. The advice the President and others gave last week about being vigilant in your individual responsibilities and staying home if you’re sick continues to be important. Certainly you’re always hopeful that what you might plan for never comes to fruition, but I think the key is understanding and planning for any outcome and being ready to address it. And I think that’s the — those are the steps that this administration to date has taken and will continue to take in order to prepare.
Q I have a question about the Supreme Court, to follow up on Ben’s question, but then I also have a question about the offshore tax announcement the President made. On Supreme Court, can you give us an update on where things stand with the process? When is he going to be ready to start interviewing people? What is he doing now to prepare for the process and lay the groundwork?
MR. GIBBS: You know, it’s — basically the process is as I outlined it Friday. The process has begun and began some time ago to go through prospective and potential candidates, to begin to review the history and the background and their experience. But I don’t have a specific timeline, as I said on Friday, for when that might happen, except to say that this is something the President believes must be done before the Court starts its work again in October — which means we’re on a fairly tight timeline to probably get something done before Congress gets out of town in August.
Q Okay. And on the announcement he made today about international tax policy, several big corporations are lined up against it, the deferral provision — Pfizer, Oracle, Microsoft and trade associations like the Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable. And I’m just wondering how you think you’re going to overcome that opposition and if you think this faces a big fight in Congress.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I don’t think change is ever easy and I think whenever you’re taking on some bigger interest that mountain gets a little bit steeper.
But the President strongly believes that the policy that he outlined, the steps that we have to take to close tax loopholes and ensure some fairness in this process is the right policy for America and the right policy for American business. By closing these loopholes and replacing these tax advantages with fairness, using a portion of the money that’s recouped to make or to fund research and development and experimentation tax credit for the next 10 years is an important investment for American business.
Since 1981 the R&D tax credit has expired on 13 separate occasions. So providing business with some certainty for research and development we think is important. And as the President said throughout the campaign, we have — our tax code has an incentive that provides — an incentive that rewards companies that are investing overseas at the expense of investing here in America. We know we’re going to take on some tough interests in that, but the President believes this is a fight we should have and one that we can win.
Q Can you respond to their criticism that these policies would make them less competitive? They point out that in a lot of countries you don’t pay taxes on overseas earnings, you only pay taxes on what you earn domestically, and so that puts them at a disadvantage because they’re paying taxes twice.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think if you look at and compare the huge tax benefits that they get in this country for deferral, the huge benefits that they get for accelerated depreciation — I think it’s important that the American people and businesses understand that this is — fairness is not something that will put them at a competitive disadvantage.
Q Thanks, Robert. The situation in Pakistan seems to be getting worse and worse and the President obviously has some important meetings this week with Presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan. What does he hope to get at this critical stage from these meetings?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Ed, as you know, the President throughout the campaign, for much of the past two years, has discussed the fact that we have neglected this region of the world and particularly we have not focused our resources enough on the challenges that are presented by these countries and in these two countries.
The President ordered at the beginning of the administration a review of our policy and instituted the beginning of regular trilateral meetings to ensure that there were open lines of communication between the Afghan government, the Pakistani government, and the American government about where we can coordinate our efforts to make a better difference. This is the second such meeting. The President I think, as you said, is concerned about this situation. You’ve seen administration officials talk about their concern.
So this is an opportunity to discuss with them the process and open up those lines of communication — because we want a strong relationship with each of these two countries; we want an understanding that not just the United States faces security concerns, but each individual government has security concerns about extremists in the area; and this is the beginning of a long process to coordinate our strategy.
Q A quick question on the Boston Globe today, the news that they may have 30 to 60 days to live. What’s the White House’s thinking on the newspaper industry right now and whether or not it may need a bailout, since there are a lot of jobs at stake just as with the auto industry; a lot of people talking about the impact on communities like Boston, Seattle, and places that are losing newspapers? How do you evaluate all that?
MR. GIBBS: I have not asked specifically about assistance. I don’t think — I think that might be a bit of a tricky area to get into given the differing roles. Obviously the President believes there has to be a strong free press. I think there’s a certain concern and a certain sadness when you see cities losing their newspapers or regions of the country losing their newspapers. So it’s certainly of concern. I don’t know what, in all honesty, government can do about it. I would note that looking at some of the balance sheets, I wondered how you guys didn’t think $100 million meant a lot a few weeks ago, but looking at some of the balance sheets $100 million seems to me a lot.
Q A couple questions. One, on this tax announcement that you made today, what is the legislative calendar on this? Is this actually going to happen — is it going to be a separate, stand alone piece of legislation that’s going to get debated and voted on, or is this going to get lost in some sort of bigger thing with the tax code?
MR. GIBBS: I think the President believes that what he announced today is basically a down payment on longer-term tax reform. The President doesn’t anticipate that this will get in any way lost. Obviously, Senator Baucus, Congressman Rangel, Congressman Doggett, Senator Levin, have all pushed for elements of this over the years. Whether or not this is –
Q But when is this going to happen?
MR. GIBBS: We expect it to happen in the near term.
Q A couple months? Next legislative session?
MR. GIBBS: I would think probably that. Whether or not this is — it’s hard for me to peer into the crystal ball and figure out whether this gets added to something at the end of the process or whether two financial things get put together, I don’t know. But obviously — I think there’s a lot of support for extending this research and development tax credit and giving business certainty in their investments. So I think this is something –
Q Is it designed to happen this year?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q With budget reconciliation or outside of this –
MR. GIBBS: I don’t think it has to happen in reconciliation. It certainly could be a part of it. But I also think that the President and the team believe that this could easily work its way through Congress. I mean, I guess we could have a spirited debate about the efficacy of tax havens — if that’s something that people want to have, I’m sure the President is happy to have it.
Q To follow up on Ed’s question on Pakistan. So this first meeting is more of a — I want to say it’s more of an, okay, what are your concerns, what are your concerns, here are our concerns, and let’s start the dialogue? Or is there going to be some tangible –
MR. GIBBS: Look, this is the beginning of the President seeing each of these two leaders at the White House. Obviously there is funding in front of Capitol Hill in the supplemental to deal with both Afghanistan and Pakistan. I’m sure that will be part of it.
I think there is a growing recognition — there’s a growing recognition coming more to where the White House has been that the threat that are posed by these extremists — not just, again, to us, but inside each of these two countries. So I think this is an important first step.
Q Is India at all going to be consulted on this? Because it seems that part of the frustration that I know that you guys have had with the Pakistani government is that they have so many troops on the border of India that they’re not able to combat the Taliban in the way that they should, and they pulled some troops. Is there any way you can still play mediator on this?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think obviously some of those conversations are being had. I think the President spoke pretty clearly to this last week in underscoring where the threat lies in Pakistan and where it doesn’t.
Q And the President is going to make that clear to Pakistan, that there’s not threat from India?
MR. GIBBS: I think he will reiterate what he said to you guys last week.
Q What is the President’s chief objection to single payer for universal health care when it works so many places?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think among many is I think it is not likely to be workable. I think –
Q Why do you say that? We have Medicare, we have Social Security.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I say that because, Helen, we’ve been debating health care reform for 30 or 40 years. I think if that were the magic silver bullet, then you guys would be asking me why we were taking on something else to our agenda because health care –
Q Why are you afraid of universal health care by a single payer?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I don’t think anybody is afraid of universal health care. We’re trying to get — our objectives are to cut costs for families that are watching their premiums and their co-payments and their deductibles skyrocket.
Q Single payer is supposed to cut costs.
MR. GIBBS: We are looking to cover more of those that aren’t lucky enough to have health insurance. And equally as importantly, you cannot tackle the long-term costs that are being borne by this government without tackling health care reform. The President is adamant about that. And he looks forward to working with Congress to find a workable solution that can get through Congress.
Q But Social Security works, and Medicare works. Why do you think it couldn’t work for universal health care?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think there are — I would point you to — there’s, I’m sure, down the street about 535 opinions on this.
Q Robert, just to clarify, the President has not interviewed anyone for the Supreme Court?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I’m aware of.
Q And what about the counsel? Has he talked to anyone?
MR. GIBBS: I will check. Not that I’m aware of, no.
Q Given the fact that, through the years, these sit-downs that Presidents have had with potential Supreme Court nominees have been make-or-break, when do you think that’s going to happen, given the tight time –
MR. GIBBS: You guys didn’t get the pool notification?
Q Pardon me?
MR. GIBBS: You didn’t get the pool notification?
Q No. (Laughter.)
Q He’ll do a press conference right after.
Q We know there will be full coverage at the top and bottom.
MR. GIBBS: Right, we’ll do cameras and stills in separate — (laughter.)
I don’t know that there’s a direct timeline. Obviously there’s work to be done. I think the President will likely conduct this process in a way that — not unlike he did the vice presidential search. It won’t be one that is overly public.
Q Announce it by text message?
MR. GIBBS: What?
Q Announce it by text message?
MR. GIBBS: Maybe so. (Laughter.) Maybe I didn’t take the analogy all the way to the end.
Obviously the President understands, as he said here last week, just how important a decision and a nomination like this are. I think he understands the gravity of that. And I think — look, I think the President I think was defined this weekend as a pragmatist in a lot of these ideas, and I think that’s the case. I don’t doubt that there will be a debate in this town, as there has been for several decades, about one view or the other.
I think the vast majority of the American people are not on either end of this, but instead somewhere in the middle looking for the very same requirements that the President is looking for: somebody that understands the rule of law, somebody that has a record of excellence and integrity, somebody who also understands how these opinions affect everyday lives, and will exercise some common sense.
Q One of the criticisms from business about change in tax policy is that the unintended consequence could be to lose jobs. Has there been any study done of that before this proposal was –
MR. GIBBS: Well, I mean, obviously — I don’t think the President would offer up something that would set our economic recovery efforts backwards. I think that’s why the President dismisses the argument that’s made and believes in the fairness of closing tax loopholes, cracking down on tax havens, and rewarding instead companies that are creating jobs right here in America.
Q And he dismisses the argument because –
MR. GIBBS: He doesn’t believe it quite honestly holds a lot of merit.
Q Two questions. One is, on the tax issue, did the G20 meeting have any influence on the shape of his proposal? This is something that our European allies were pushing for at the time.
MR. GIBBS: No — I mean, obviously it was something that the President agreed with our European allies. Our support for these individual things are something that I’ve heard the President talk about, in all honesty, going back to his Senate race in 2004. So while I think it is in line with what the G20 did, the President’s belief about closing tax havens, his belief about instituting fairness and rewarding companies that are creating jobs here is something he’s talked about for five years.
Q I just meant, did the actual particulars of the proposal at all or –
MR. GIBBS: Oh, not that I’m aware of. I can certainly see if there’s any — if anything changed on that, but I don’t believe it did.
Q And on the Supreme Court, you mentioned a variety of criteria, diversity in all sorts of different ways. Is one of the things you would put on that list age; that you would be looking for somebody who’s younger, who would have a longer term on the Court?
MR. GIBBS: Look, I think –
Q Older? (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Ed, just remember, just e-mail me your opinions and we’ll have the President — (laughter.)
Look, instead of getting into certain age brackets or different requirements, I think the President obviously — I think you always assume, rightly so, that whomever you choose is going to have a significant impact on the Court for quite some time. I mean, this is one of nine. And I think you have to assume that whomever you pick is somebody that you believe will have great weight on the Court for a long time to come.
Q But it’s remarked on that previous Republican Presidents have seemed to specifically gone out of their way to choose people in their 40s and 50s who will have a mark for even longer.
MR. GIBBS: I think the President looks for somebody who is the best qualified and hopes they do make an impact on the Court.
Q Pakistan and then taxes. On Pakistan, there were several reports this weekend that the government doesn’t know what happened to $100 million allocated to Pakistan to better secure its nuclear facilities. Does the administration have any concrete plans to find out what happened to that $100 million, if it in fact has brought any more security to these facilities, and will this be part of the conversation this week?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know about the specific news that you mentioned. Obviously — and I wouldn’t add a ton to what the President said on this last week — but obviously the security of nuclear weapons in Pakistan and the security of nuclear materiel throughout the world is something that the President thinks is of the highest priority. I don’t doubt that that will be mentioned, yes.
Q I mean, this is U.S. tax dollars for a specific purpose and the government represented it would be used for this purpose and this purpose only. And right now, it doesn’t appear anyone knows where the money went or if it went to this purpose at all.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President has sufficiently weighed in — well, let me rephrase that. I think the President’s views on our policy relating to a Musharraf-only policy, our policy that provides resources but no accountability — I think on both of those accounts the President has been clear that that hasn’t worked and that part of the review was to determine how moving forward we can best appropriate our resources to ensure the safety and security of those weapons and of everyone involved.
Q When the President had a Q&A session with the Business Roundtable, this idea, the tax proposals he’s introduced today, came up. And one of the questioners said, Mr. President, would you consider, as you evaluate this policy, reducing corporate income tax rates — because there is an economic argument that one of the reasons these tax havens flourish is to avoid higher corporate income tax rates around the globe, particularly in the U.S. The President said he would take it under consideration. It’s not here today. Can we therefore assume we’re not going to see any proposals from this White House on lowering corporate income tax rates anytime soon?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think what the President has laid out here would lower corporate taxes because for 10 years we are instituting certainty in the research and development tax credit. Businesses will pay less taxes by taking advantage of that.
But as I said a minute ago, the President believes this is a down payment on tax reform and I think the President would be — I think the reason the President said he would take that under advisement is the President believes that closing loopholes and using that to bring down the corporate tax rate is exactly what he has in mind. But what that requires is a closing of the loopholes and the tax havens that you talk about that companies are taking advantage of to put money elsewhere to avoid paying taxes here.
Q Chairman Baucus said that this needs further study to assess the impact on the plan — of the plan on U.S. businesses. Mitch McConnell said, I can’t endorse a plan that gives preferential treatment to foreign companies at the expense of U.S.-based companies and the 52 million people they employ. At least at this level of bipartisanship, there appears to be some more that Congress would like to learn about this than it presently knows. How do you answer that?
MR. GIBBS: Well, we are fortunate that Congress has to the power to call hearings and investigate the topic, but we’re happy to have a long discussion about the fairness of tax havens and tax loopholes that let companies avoid paying the taxes — taxes like you and I pay each day — and instead reward companies that are investing right here and creating jobs in America.
Q Two things. First, on tax havens, at the Summit of the Americas, a lot of Caribbean leaders raised a lot of concerns about what these sorts of measures would do to their financial sectors, which account for large parts of their economy. Can you tell us about any steps, any diplomatic steps in advance of today’s announcement that might have been taken?
MR. GIBBS: I can check on that. I know there was a discussion about this, but at the same time while the administration understands the — may understand the viewpoint of why a country would take that position, it doesn’t change the administration’s viewpoint that, for fairness purposes, these tax havens have to be dealt with.
Q And on Israel, the meeting tomorrow with President Peres, he shares President Obama’s view that a two-state solution is the way to go to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian situation. He represents a government that has yet to embrace that. What does President Obama hope to tell him tomorrow to take back to Prime Minister Netanyahu?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think, much like the meeting that will happen on Wednesday, the President — this is of the utmost priority for the President. It is something that he believes will only be advanced and moved forward by a sustained effort by this administration, in conjunction with the Palestinians and the Israelis, to make progress. Obviously this President spent time the very first day he worked in the Oval Office on Middle East peace and I think this is the beginning of many steps. Obviously Mr. Netanyahu will visit the White House later in the month, as will — as others have and others will over the course of the next few weeks as we start this long process.
Q You mentioned just a second ago some of President Obama’s criticisms of the Bush administration’s Musharraf-only policy. Does that mean that the Obama administration does not have a Zardari-only policy, particularly given the concerns we’ve heard about the survivability of the Pakistani government?
MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously the Pakistanis are in charge of electing their own government. It’s a democratically elected government. This President wants to work with the government, but I think the criticism that this President had was that our Pakistani policy didn’t include the people of Pakistan; that we have to coordinate our actions and have the government, the people, and any political party understand what’s at stake. And what is at stake is the role of extremism and the impact and the effect that it’s having.
I’ve said this before — I don’t think you have to explain in great detail the role of extremism to this government, because it’s in power because extremists assassinated somebody else. But obviously this is of great concern to the President, and he’ll spend a lot of time on Wednesday trying to get the steps that we take moving forward right as it relates to Pakistan and Afghanistan, to finally have a regional approach and ensure that the time that is spent and the resources that are spent go toward making a difference in this region of the world.
Q Robert, can I ask about the bank stress tests? I know that we haven’t laid out the formal results of all the tests; I realize there are a couple of pending appeals on them. But clearly several banks already are in a position where they need more capital, according to the stress test. Has the administration decided whether or not it’s going to go back to Congress and ask for more money?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Mark, I’ve said this and so have others, that — well, let me — these stress tests were designed so that regulators, the administration, and all those involved could get a realistic assessment in a severe — even more severe economic downturn what capital cushion would be required.
There will be — there undoubtedly will be banks that need more capital. There have been banks in the last few weeks that have sought more capital, and I think we believe and banks believe that the first and best place to get that is through the private sector.
The administration doesn’t believe that we need to go to Congress right now looking for more money. But first and foremost, I think everyone involved will be looking for banks to raise this through either private means or the selling of some assets that they have or that they control.
Q Does that mean that after they make that attempt, if they don’t have any luck in the private sector, that they would come back to you folks and say, sorry, we couldn’t do it, we need more?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think it’s — as the plan is laid out — and I think one thing that we’ve maintained and I think you’ll see this on Thursday, I think you’ll be pleased with the amount of transparency with which these tests will be released by the regulators. But the steps that each of these individual banks take will be determined not by us but by them. They’ll have a certain amount of time to put together a plan that meets the test of regulators to ensure that stability.
Q But the point is, you’ve been saying for some weeks now that once we get these stress tests done, we will know whether we need to go back to Congress. And you’ve decided that at least as of now, we don’t need it?
MR. GIBBS: Let me start by saying, I haven’t seen all the results. But I think the administration believes we have in hand what is needed.
Q Just want to follow up on Mark, and then I have a question about Pakistan. In the past you’ve been very candid when you think there are things that the President is for but the Congress wouldn’t approve it, like the assault weapons ban. Do you feel that in this case, Congress basically wouldn’t have any appetite to give you more money for the banks, even if you wanted it?
MR. GIBBS: I think in many ways that might ultimately be — I think it’s hard to — it’s hard for me to look into the crystal ball to — I don’t know what the circumstance by which you might make a request.
Q You know how many votes it passed by the last time, which was a hair.
MR. GIBBS: I watched the President make a lot of these before a lot of this. So, yes. No, I don’t — look, I don’t doubt that this is unpopular. It’s unpopular here. The President didn’t come here to, as he said, run auto companies or bail out banks.
But I think what’s important about this process is getting a genuine understanding of what’s out there. We have no doubt that there will still be — there are still going to be toxic assets on the books that have to and will be dealt with as part of other plans that the administration has outlined.
Q On Pakistan, my question is, the reports today that the U.S. doesn’t know where all of Pakistan nukes are. And in the press conference President Obama didn’t express a high level of confidence about how secure they were, and he just said, “I’m confident we can make sure that their nuclear arsenal is secure.” I mean, how secure does he actually think it is at the moment?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I’m, not surprisingly, not going to get into a detailed conversation about this up here, except to point you to what he said in that press conference.
Q I mean, is the message from that press conference that he isn’t very confident about their security, because he didn’t say –
MR. GIBBS: That’s not what I suggested.
Q Well, could you just explain what the message should be?
MR. GIBBS: I would read his — what he said. I think it’s rather clear.
Q I had a question on the flu, but I did want to clarify what you said about getting the Supreme Court nominee done before August, basically. When you say done, does that mean confirmed?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me amend if only to say I think obviously in order to get somebody seated by the first Monday in October you’re at least going to have to be a decent ways through the process, or through the beginning of this process. Obviously September is going to be a busy time. I guess let me amend what I said only to say that we understand that looking at the calendar from here until that first Monday in October, you’ve got four weeks in August, or August and maybe even the first part of September, where Congress is not going to be here.
So instead of saying they should be done and through the Senate and what have you by the end of July, obviously this process has to be a decent ways down the field. I guess what I’m saying is this isn’t going to all happen in September; I think this process has to make some progress in order to get somebody seated for the first Monday.
Q All right. And then on the flu, are you guys starting to look towards the fall flu season — assuming that this current trend of the swine flu kind of ratchets down a bit, are you starting to look towards the fall and a flare-up again of maybe a more virulent strain of this? What are you doing to prepare for that also?
MR. GIBBS: I mean, I think there’s several different things here. One, obviously we continue to remain very vigilant with what’s going on right now, understanding that obviously it’s still very much out there, there are still cases that we’re dealing with and preparations that we’re making to ensure that states and localities both have the guidance and part of the — our national stockpile of antivirals.
As I said last week, they’re beginning to undertake the very initial steps in the development of vaccines by creating a seed stock. I think –
Q Would that seed stock be good if it mutated in the fall?
MR. GIBBS: Well, that I think is — I will check with the scientists on this. Obviously I think some consideration is being taken into account, and in all honesty they’re continuing to evaluate each and every day the scientific evidence that they get from what they’re seeing in the virus.
As I said last week, Jon, I do think there is a concern and the need for us to remain vigilant throughout the summer in preparing for what might happen in the fall. The timing in which this occurred happened in a period in which the normal end of the flu season was happening. So in that way we’re fortunate. We will continue to see scientifically what the virus does, the strength of the strain, whether or not there’s any mutation, in preparing for what we would assume would be a ramp-up in the beginning of flu season in the fall.
Q A ramp-up of regular flu or this flu?
MR. GIBBS: Well, that’s — we will prepare for both in looking at and understanding the science to see if additional steps have to be taken in the interim to prepare for that.
But in terms of getting our public health system ready, they’ve already made preparations to add to the stockpile for antivirals. We’ve discussed the beginnings of vaccine; the money that was requested by our administration as part of the supplemental to address having the resources that are needed both in the short term here to move equipment and things throughout the country, as well as to address that over the long term throughout the fall.
Q I wanted to ask a budget question, but just quickly on the Supreme Court, is one of your concerns about September that the whole Supreme Court process could interfere with — I don’t mean the President’s time now; I mean Congress’s — with health care, the budget, and everything else?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think instead of sort of hypothetically figuring out what might be — what might constitute a traffic jam in September, I think largely what I’m saying is we should begin to make progress starting here and then eventually down the street to ensure that we don’t — we’re not all caught having to do several things in September. You know, I think we’ll make progress and I think Congress will too. I don’t think there’s any — I don’t think anybody in this process wants to see the process delayed.
Q Quickly on the budget, I think Thursday is your date on the full budget now. Are the figures from the earlier budget locked in or are we likely to see changes, minor or major, in deficit numbers, economic forecasts, and all those numbers that came out in, what was it, February or March?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, I will double-check on that. I don’t have a good readout yet on that, but I will get something on that.
Q Robert, on two issues, on the Court and also on Pakistan. On the Court situation, you said before this administration came into office they understood that there could be a possibility of two justices that you could be picking, and as you said, that this is something that you’ve been working on for a while. Is there an A-list for the first Supreme Court justice and then a second list, possibly, for the next? What is the criteria for that first list, if there is a first and a second list?
MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously we have made preparations to fill judicial — to make appointments for judicial openings at all levels of the federal court, and the transition began identifying a long time ago candidates for what we assumed might be an eventual pick for the Supreme Court. I think I laid out the qualifications: somebody that respects the rule of law and understands the role of tradition and precedent, somebody with a record of excellence and integrity, and someone who understands how laws and decisions affect people’s daily lives.
Q So there are two lists, are you saying?
MR. GIBBS: No, no, I don’t — I honestly don’t know if there’s an A, B, or C list. I don’t — I think right now there’s a collection underway for a pool of very qualified candidates to replace Justice Souter.
Q And also on the issue of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, U.S. military officials are saying that extremists are leaving that border and going into East Africa; they’re also in Somalia. And there is a major concern; a former U.S. defense secretary said that this is a real problem. What concrete steps are being taken right now to address those issues as al Qaeda is leaving that border and going to Africa now?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think — I haven’t seen the specific comments, but obviously the President has long been concerned about areas throughout the world, whether they are in that region of the world, Pakistan and Afghanistan, whether they’re in Africa, of the rise and the prevalence of extremist groups in territories that lack strong governments; that lawless spaces tend to provide breeding grounds for extremists.
I think that’s why the President has talked about, in his budget, an increased role in resources for governments in places like Africa that are experiencing or have long experienced trouble in controlling their physical borders. The President obviously was involved as a senator in efforts throughout Africa and particularly in the Congo to address the threat that’s posed by ungoverned spaces. So I think that’s something that the President and his team are very mindful of.
Q Thank you, Robert.
MR. GIBBS: Thank you, guys.
Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Over the last week, my administration has taken several precautions to address the challenge posed by the 2009 H1N1 flu virus. Today, I’d like to take a few minutes to explain why.
This is a new strain of the flu virus, and because we haven’t developed an immunity to it, it has more potential to cause us harm. Unlike the various strains of animal flu that have emerged in the past, it’s a flu that is spreading from human to human. This creates the potential for a pandemic, which is why we are acting quickly and aggressively.
This H1N1 flu has had its biggest impact in Mexico, where it has claimed a number of lives and infected hundreds more. Thus far, the strain in this country that has infected people in at least nineteen states has not been as potent or as deadly. We cannot know for certain why that is, which is why we are taking all necessary precautions in the event that the virus does turn into something worse.
This is also why the Centers for Disease Control has recommended that schools and child care facilities with confirmed cases of the virus close for up to fourteen days. It is why we urge employers to allow infected employees to take as many sick days as necessary. If more schools are forced to close, we’ve also recommended that both parents and businesses think about contingency plans if children do have to stay home. We have asked every American to take the same steps you would take to prevent any other flu: keep your hands washed; cover your mouth when you cough; stay home from work if you’re sick; and keep your children home from school if they’re sick. And the White House has launched pages in Facebook, MySpace and Twitter to support the ongoing efforts by the CDC to update the public as quickly and effectively as possible.
We will also continue investing in every resource necessary to treat this virus and prevent a wider outbreak. The good news is that the current strain of H1N1 can be defeated by a course of antiviral treatment that we already have on hand. We began this week with 50 million courses of this treatment in the Strategic National Stockpile. Over the course of the last few days, we have delivered one-quarter of that stockpile to states so that they are prepared to treat anyone who is infected with this virus. We then purchased an additional thirteen million treatments to refill our strategic stockpile.
Out of an abundance of caution, I have also asked Congress for $1.5 billion if it is needed to purchase additional antivirals, emergency equipment, and the development of a vaccine that can prevent this virus as we prepare for the next flu season in the fall.
The Recovery Act that Congress enacted in February also included expansions of community health centers, a dramatic increase in the training of health care workers and nurses, and $300 million for the development and deployment of vaccines – all of which will help us meet this threat.
Finally, thanks to the work that the last administration and Congress did to prepare for a possible avian flu pandemic in 2005, states and the federal government have fully operable influenza readiness plans and are better prepared to deal with such a challenge than ever before.
It is my greatest hope and prayer that all of these precautions and preparations prove unnecessary. But because we have it within our power to limit the potential damage of this virus, we have a solemn and urgent responsibility to take the necessary steps. I would sooner take action now than hesitate and face graver consequences later. I have no higher priority as President of the United States than the safety and security of the American people, and I will do whatever is necessary to protect this country. So I want to thank every American for their patience and understanding during this developing challenge, and I promise that this government will continue speaking clearly and honestly about the steps we’re taking to meet it.
The orthomyxovirus, H1N1, globally known as the swine flu, has caused immediate concerns here in the U.S. and abroad. The swine flu has claimed the lives of 150 persons and infected more than 2,000 in Mexico. Five states have reported swine flu cases, with New York leading with 28 incidents. The CDC stated late Monday that there are 48 total cases of swine flu in the U.S. Worldwide, 70 incidents of swine flu have been reported with 6 in Canada, 1 in Spain, and 2 in Scotland.
The CDC raised the alert level to six for full blown pandemic. Yet the World Health Organization, WHO, issued a phase 4 which signifies that the swine flu is ”increasingly adept at spreading among humans.” The swine flu, which originates among pigs, is a virus that can be sustained in humans and animals, with various mutations. Transmission is thought to occur from humans who work with infected pigs.
Symptoms of swine flu can be similar to the common flu. But the CDC warns that the following symptoms could be linked to a case of the deadly virus and should be taken seriously: a temperature of 100.2 and above, lethargy, lack of appetite, runny nose, coughing (non productive), sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Those who fall ill to the swine flu are most contagious during the first five days. Children remain contagious up to 10 days.
WHO and the CDC both agree that avoidance of sick persons, a strict hygienic regimen with use of antibacterial soaps and sanitizers, coughing into tissue or the crook of the elbow, along with canceling any travel plans to Mexico, is the surest way to keep from being infected with the virus.
Surgical or medical face masks are useless health officials say. The virus enters the body through the mouth. Frequent hand washing is suggested before hands touch the face, mouth or eyes.
President Barack Obama said Monday that the CDC is keeping him regularly updated as the crisis continues to unfold.
Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
April 25, 2009
Good morning. Over the last three months, my Administration has taken aggressive action to confront an historic economic crisis. As we do everything that we can to create jobs and get our economy moving, we’re also building a new foundation for lasting prosperity – a foundation that invests in quality education, lowers health care costs, and develops new sources of energy powered by new jobs and industries.
One of the pillars of that foundation must be fiscal discipline. We came into office facing a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion for this year alone, and the cost of confronting our economic crisis is high. But we cannot settle for a future of rising deficits and debts that our children cannot pay.
All across America, families are tightening their belts and making hard choices. Now, Washington must show that same sense of responsibility. That is why we have identified two trillion dollars in deficit-reductions over the next decade, while taking on the special interest spending that doesn’t advance the peoples’ interests.
But we must also recognize that we cannot meet the challenges of today with old habits and stale thinking. So much of our government was built to deal with different challenges from a different era. Too often, the result is wasteful spending, bloated programs, and inefficient results.
It’s time to fundamentally change the way that we do business in Washington. To help build a new foundation for the 21st century, we need to reform our government so that it is more efficient, more transparent, and more creative. That will demand new thinking and a new sense of responsibility for every dollar that is spent.
Earlier this week, I held my first Cabinet meeting and sent a clear message: cut what doesn’t work. Already, we’ve identified substantial savings. And in the days and weeks ahead, we will continue going through the budget line by line, and we’ll identify more than 100 programs that will be cut or eliminated.
But we can’t stop there. We need to go further, and we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to reforming government. That’s why I’m announcing several steps that my Administration will take in the weeks ahead to restore fiscal discipline while making our government work better.
First, we need to adhere to the basic principle that new tax or entitlement policies should be paid for. This principle – known as PAYGO – helped transform large deficits into surpluses in the 1990s. Now, we must restore that sense of fiscal discipline. That’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass PAYGO legislation like a bill that will be introduced by Congressman Baron Hill, so that government acts the same way any responsible family does in setting its budget.
Second, we’ll create new incentives to reduce wasteful spending and to invest in what works. We don’t want agencies to protect bloated budgets – we want them to promote effective programs. So the idea is simple: agencies that identify savings will get to keep a portion of those savings to invest in programs that work. The result will be a smaller budget, and a more effective government.
Third, we’ll look for ideas from the bottom up. After all, Americans across the country know that the best ideas often come from workers – not just management. That’s why we’ll establish a process through which every government worker can submit their ideas for how their agency can save money and perform better. We’ll put the suggestions that work into practice. And later this year, I will meet with those who come up with the best ideas to hear firsthand about how they would make your government more efficient and effective.
And finally, we will reach beyond the halls of government. Many businesses have innovative ways of using technology to save money, and many experts have new ideas to make government work more efficiently. Government can – and must – learn from them. So later this year, we will host a forum on reforming government for the 21st century, so that we’re also guided by voices that come from outside of Washington.
We cannot sustain deficits that mortgage our children’s future, nor tolerate wasteful inefficiency. Government has a responsibility to spend the peoples’ money wisely, and to serve the people effectively. I will work every single day that I am President to live up to that responsibility, and to transform our government so that is held to a higher standard of performance on behalf of the American people.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON HIGHER EDUCATION
Diplomatic Reception Room
1:46 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. That was excellent — we might have to run her for something some day. (Laughter.) That was terrific. Thank you, Stephanie. I want to also introduce Yvonne Thomas, who is Stephanie’s proud mother. And we appreciate everything that you’ve done. And Stephanie’s father, Albert, is around here as well.
There are few things as fundamental to the American Dream or as essential for America’s success as a good education. This has never been more true than it is today. At a time when our children are competing with kids in China and India, the best job qualification you can have is a college degree or advanced training. If you do have that kind of education, then you’re well prepared for the future — because half of the fastest growing jobs in America require a Bachelor’s degree or more. And if you don’t have a college degree, you’re more than twice as likely to be unemployed as somebody who does. So the stakes could not be higher for young people like Stephanie.
And yet, in a paradox of American life, at the very moment it’s never been more important to have a quality higher education, the cost of that kind of that kind of education has never been higher. Over the past few decades, the cost of tuition at private colleges has more than doubled, while costs at public institutions have nearly tripled. Compounding the problem, tuition has grown ten times faster than a typical family’s income, putting new pressure on families that are already strained and pricing far too many students out of college altogether. Yet, we have a student loan system where we’re giving lenders billions of dollars in wasteful subsidies that could be used to make college more affordable for all Americans.
This trend — a trend where a quality higher education slips out of reach for ordinary Americans — threatens the dream of opportunity that is America’s promise to all its citizens. It threatens to widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots. And it threatens to undercut America’s competitiveness — because America cannot lead in the 21st century unless we have the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world. And that’s the kind of workforce — and the kind of citizenry — to which we should be committed.
And that’s why we have taken and proposed a number of sweeping steps over our first few months in office — steps that amount to the most significant efforts to open the doors of college to middle-class Americans since the GI Bill. Millions of working families are now eligible for a $2,500 annual tax credit that will help them pay the cost of tuition; a tax credit that will cover the full cost of tuition at most of the two-year community colleges that are some of the great and undervalued assets of our education system.
We’re also bringing much needed reform to the Pell Grants that roughly 30 percent of students rely on to put themselves through college. Today’s Pell Grants cover less than half as much tuition at a four-year public institution as they did a few decades ago. And that’s why we are adding $500 to the grants for this academic year, and raising the maximum Pell Grant to $5,550 next year, easing the financial burden on students and families.
And we are also changing the way the value of a Pell Grant is determined. Today, that value is set by Congress on an annual basis, making it vulnerable to Washington politics. What we are doing is pegging Pell Grants to a fixed rate above inflation so that these grants don’t cover less and less as families’ costs go up and up. And this will help prevent a projected shortfall in Pell Grant funding in a few years that could rob many of our poorest students of their dream of attending college. It will help ensure that Pell Grants are a source of funding that students can count on each and every year.
Now, while our nation has a responsibility to make college more affordable, colleges and universities have a responsibility to control spiraling costs. And that will require hard choices about where to save and where to spend. So I challenge state, college and university leaders to put affordability front and center as they chart a path forward. I challenge them to follow the example of the University of Maryland, where they’re streamlining administrative costs, cutting energy costs, using faculty more effectively, making it possible for them to freeze tuition for students and for families.
At the same time, we’re also working to modernize and expand the Perkins Loan Program by changing a system where colleges are rewarded for raising tuition, and instead, rewarding them for making college more affordable.
Now just as we’ve opened the doors of college to every American, we also have to ensure that more students can walk through them. And that’s why I’ve challenged every American to commit to at least one year of higher education or advanced training — because by the end of the next decade, I want to see America have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. We used to have that; we no longer do. We are going to get that lead back.
And to help us achieve that goal, we are investing $2.5 billion to identify and support innovative initiatives that have a record of success in boosting enrollment and graduation rates — initiatives like the IBEST program in Washington state that combines basic and career skills classes to ensure that students not only complete college, but are competitive in the workforce from the moment they graduate.
And to help cover the cost of all this, we’re going to eliminate waste, reduce inefficiency, and cut what we don’t need to pay for what we do. And that includes reforming our student loan system so that it better serves the people it’s supposed to serve — our students.
Right now, there are two main kinds of federal loans. First, there are Direct Loans. These are loans where tax dollars go directly to help students pay for tuition, not to pad the profits of private lenders. The other kinds of loans are Federal Family Education Loans. These loans, known as FFEL loans, make up the majority of all college loans. Under the FFEL program, lenders get a big government subsidy with every loan they make. And these loans are then guaranteed with taxpayer money, which means that if a student defaults, a lender can get back almost all of its money from our government.
And there’s only one real difference between Direct Loans and private FFEL loans. It’s that under the FFEL program, taxpayers are paying banks a premium to act as middlemen — a premium that costs the American people billions of dollars each year. Well, that’s a premium we cannot afford — not when we could be reinvesting that same money in our students, in our economy, and in our country.
And that’s why I’ve called for ending the FFEL program and shifting entirely over to Direct Loans. It’s a step that even a conservative estimate predicts will save tens of billions of tax dollars over the next ten years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the money we could save by cutting out the middleman would pay for 95 percent of our plan to guarantee growing Pell Grants. This would help ensure that every American, everywhere in this country, can out-compete any worker, anywhere in the world.
In the end, this is not about growing the size of government or relying on the free market — because it’s not a free market when we have a student loan system that’s rigged to reward private lenders without any risk. It’s about whether we want to give tens of billions of tax dollars to special interests or whether we want to make college more affordable for eight and a half million more students. I think most of us would agree on what the right answer is.
Now, some of you have probably seen how this proposal was greeted by the special interests. The banks and the lenders who have reaped a windfall from these subsidies have mobilized an army of lobbyists to try to keep things the way they are. They are gearing up for battle. So am I. They will fight for their special interests. I will fight for Stephanie, and other American students and their families. And for those who care about America’s future, this is a battle we can’t afford to lose.
So I am looking forward to having this debate in the days and weeks ahead. And I am confident that if all of us here in Washington do what’s in the best interests of the people we represent, and reinvest not only in opening the doors of college but making sure students can walk through them, then we will help deliver the change that the American people sent us here to make. We will help Americans fulfill their promise as individuals. And we will help America fulfill its promise as a nation.
So thank you very much. And thank you, Stephanie. And thank you, Stephanie’s mom.
All right. Thanks, guys.
Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice might soon discover the steep price she’ll have to pay for playing with the wrong politcal team. If certain politcal forces have their way, Rice and other members of the Bush administartion who signed off on questionable interrogation techniques more than likely will face prosecution.
With the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee documents on the Bush administrations supposedly legally sanctioned interrogation procedures, questions have surfaced as to how “legal” these interogation techniques really were. President Obama put an end to the U.S. policy last week. Some of the prescribed tools of the U.S. torture machine were water boarding, which simulated drowning, sleep deprivation and enclosure in a container with insects.
The Bush administration, or more accurately, former vice president Dick Cheney, has vehemently defended the interrogation techiniques as a means of keeping America safe. However, the U.S. has always held a zero tolerance position on the use of torture since WWII. Yet, as with many things during the Bush administration, the law was circumvented to accomplish a misrepresented goal.
That is where Condoleeza Rice and Dick Cheney come into the picture. When the Bush administration’s interpretation of interrogation techniques were legally questioned by the Justice department during a meeting with the Director of Central Intelligence, in the spring of 2003, Cheney and then National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice signed off on the controversial methods.
As usual, then Secretary of State General Colin Powell was left out of the loop.
The Obama administration, while being open about its’ views on the newly reinstated U.S. policy against torture, officials remain noncommittal as to if and when charges will be brought against key members in the Bush camp. That would also include Rice. Attorney General Eric Holder says that he will “follow the evidence wherever it takes us.”
Overview of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act
The Administration has released the names of three Mexican organizations against which the President has decided to impose sanctions pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (the “Kingpin Act”) (21 U.S.C. 1901-1908, 8 U.S.C. 1182). Kingpin Act targets, on a worldwide basis, significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their organizations, and operatives.
The Kingpin Act became law on December 3, 1999. Its purpose is to deny significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their related businesses, and their operatives access to the U.S. financial system and to prohibit all trade and transactions between the traffickers and U.S. companies and individuals. The Kingpin Act authorizes the President to take these actions when he determines that a foreign person plays a significant role in international narcotics trafficking. Congress modeled the Kingpin Act on the effective sanctions program that the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) administers against the Colombian drug cartels pursuant to Executive Order 12978 issued in October 1995 (“Executive Order 12978”) under authority of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”).
The Kingpin Act requires that the Secretary of the Treasury, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency coordinate to identify drug kingpins and propose them to the President for sanctions. The Department of Homeland Security and the Directorate of National Intelligence are also included in the process. The Act calls for the President to report to specified congressional committees by June 1 of each year on those “foreign persons [he] determines are appropriate for sanctions” and stating his intent to impose sanctions upon those Significant Foreign Narcotics Traffickers pursuant to the Act. While previous Presidential determinations have been tied to the statutory June 1 timetable, the President may also identify Significant Foreign Narcotics Traffickers at any other time pursuant to the Act.
Under the Kingpin Act, the President may identify foreign entities as well as foreign individuals as Significant Foreign Narcotics Traffickers, or “kingpins”: a foreign person is defined in the Act as “any citizen or national of a foreign state or any entity not organized under the laws of the United States, but does not include a foreign state.” Likewise, the President is not required to designate Colombian persons exclusively under Executive Order 12978, and may impose sanctions on a Colombian individual or entity under the Kingpin Act, which is intended to be global in scope.
The long-term effectiveness of the Kingpin Act is enhanced by the Department of the Treasury’s authority (in consultation with appropriate government agencies and departments) under the Act to make derivative designations of foreign individuals and entities that provide specified types of support or assistance to designated traffickers, or that are owned or controlled by such traffickers, or that act on their behalf. This authority broadens the scope of application of the economic sanctions against kingpins to include their businesses and operatives. Including this year’s action, the President has named a total of 78 Significant Foreign Narcotics Traffickers since the first set of kingpins was announced on June 1, 2000. The Department of the Treasury’s OFAC has issued a total of 496 derivative designations pursuant to its authorities under the Kingpin Act; these entities and individuals are subject to the same sanctions that apply to kingpins.
Individuals who violate the Kingpin Act are subject to criminal penalties of up to 10 years in prison and/or fines pursuant to Title 18 of the U.S. Code. Entities that violate the Act face criminal penalties in the form of fines up to $10 million; officers, directors, or agents of an entity who knowingly participate in a violation of the Kingpin Act are subject to criminal penalties of up to 30 years in imprison and/or a $5 million fine. The Kingpin Act also provides for civil penalties of up to $1.075 million against individuals or entities that violate its provisions.
Foreign Narcotics Traffickers Identified for Sanctions
The foreign persons that the President has identified today as appropriate for sanctions pursuant to the Kingpin Act are:
La Familia Michoacana
These names are being added to the list of kingpins first announced in June 2000 and updated every year since then. A complete list of individuals and entities sanctioned under the Kingpin Act can be found at www.treasury.gov/ofac.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building
12:02 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I decided not to bring Bo today — because he stepped on my economic speech yesterday. (Laughter.)
Good morning. I know that April 15th isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite date on the calendar. But it is an important opportunity for those of us in Washington to consider our responsibilities to the people who sent us here and who pay the bills. And I’ve brought some friends of mine who sent me here and pay the bills.
Across America, families like the people who join me have had tough choices forced upon them because of this economic downturn. Many have lost a job; many are fighting to keep their business open. Many more are struggling to make payments, to stay in their home, or to pursue a college education. And these Americans are the backbone of our economy, the backbone of our middle class. They’re the workers, the innovators, the students who are going to be powering our recovery. So their dreams have to be our own. They need a government that is working to create jobs and opportunity for them, rather than simply giving more and more to those at the very top in the false hope that wealth automatically trickles down.
And that’s why my administration has taken far-reaching action to give tax cuts to the Americans who need them, while jump-starting growth and job creation in the process. We start from the simple premise that we should reduce the tax burden on working people, while helping Americans go to college, own a home, raise a family, start a business and save for retirement.
Those goals are the foundation of the American Dream, and they are the focus of my tax policy.
First, we’ve passed a broad and sweeping tax cut for 95 percent of American workers. This tax cut was a core focus of my campaign, it was a core component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and it is the most progressive tax cut in American history. And starting April 1st, Americans saw this tax cut in the extra money that they took home with each paycheck.
Make no mistake: This tax cut will reach 120 million families and put $120 billion directly into their pockets, and it includes the most American workers ever to get a tax cut. This is going to boost demand, and it will save or create over half a million jobs. And the Congressional Budget Office has found that tax cuts like these for American workers are more than three times more effective in stimulating recovery than tax breaks for the very wealthiest Americans.
This tax cut also keeps a fundamental promise: that Americans who work hard should be able to make a decent living. It lifts more than 2 million Americans out of poverty. And together with the child tax credit, it ensures that a working parent will be able to support their family.
Second, we are helping small businesses keep their doors open so they can weather this economic storm and create good jobs. Instead of the normal two years, small businesses are now allowed to offset their losses during this downturn against the income they’ve earned over the last five years. And this could provide a record number of refunds for small businesses, which will provide them with the lifeline they need to maintain inventory and pay their workers.
Third, we are helping Americans get the education they need to succeed in a global economy. For years we’ve seen the price of tuition skyrocket at the same time that it became more and more important to earn a college degree. And that’s why we are making college more affordable for every American that needs a hand. That is why we are committed to simplifying the student loan process so more families can get the help they need. And that’s also why our $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college will help us reach a goal that will help our country lead in the 21st century: By 2020, Americans once again will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
Fourth, we are helping more Americans purchase homes that they can afford. Just as we must put an end to the irresponsible lending and borrowing that created the housing bubble, we must restore the home as a source of stability and an anchor of the American Dream. That’s why we’re providing a tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time home buyers, which will put a home within reach for hardworking Americans who are playing by the rules and making responsible choices. And by the way, there are at least a couple of folks here who have already used that $8,000 credit, and I think it’s wonderful to see that this is already prompting some willingness for people to go ahead and make that first-time purchase where they thought maybe it was out of reach before.
Fifth, we know that tax relief must be joined with fiscal discipline. Americans are making hard choices in their budgets, and we’ve got to tighten our belts in Washington, as well. And that’s why we’ve already identified $2 trillion in deficit reductions over the next decade. And that’s why we’re cutting programs that don’t work, contracts that aren’t fair, and spending that we don’t need.
We’re also doing away with the unnecessary giveaways that have thrown our tax code out of balance. I said this during the campaign, I’m now saying it as President: We need to stop giving tax breaks to companies that stash profits or ship jobs overseas so we can invest in job creation here at home. And we need to end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, so that people like me, who are extraordinarily lucky, are paying the same rates that the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans paid when Bill Clinton was President.
Finally, we need to simplify a monstrous tax code that is far too complicated for most Americans to understand, but just complicated enough for the insiders who know how to game the system. So I’ve already started by asking Paul Volcker and my Economic Recovery Board to do a thorough review of how to simplify our tax code, and to report back to me by the end of this year. It’s going to take time to undo the damage of years of carve-outs and loopholes. But I want every American to know that we will rewrite the tax code so that it puts your interests over any special interests. And we’ll make it easier, quicker and less expensive for you to file a return, so that April 15th is not a date that is approached with dread every year.
Now, I just had a conversation with these wonderful Americans, and like people I talked to all across the country, they’re not looking for a free ride. Every single person here is working hard and deserves a chance to get ahead. And they’re a family like — families like the Kirkwoods, who just want to own their own business and put away some money away for their kids’ college tuition. And they’re workers like Clark Harrison, behind me, who has worked hard and wants to be able to purchase that first home. They’re business owners like Alan Givens, who wants his company to sustain itself through bad times as well as the good. And I was encouraged to hear that Alan’s business is going strong on a whole bunch of clean energy measures that he’s helping to promote in his area.
For too long, we’ve seen taxes used as a wedge to scare people into supporting policies that actually increased the burden on working people instead of helping them live their dreams. That has to change, and that’s the work that we’ve begun. We’ve passed tax cuts that will help our economy grow. We’ve made a clear promise that families that earn less than $250,000 a year will not see their taxes increase by a single dime. And we have kept to those promises that were made during the campaign. We’ve given tax relief to the Americans who need it and the workers who have earned it. And we’re helping more Americans move towards their American Dream by going to school, owning a home, keeping their business and raising their family.
So on this April 15th, we’re reminded of the enormous responsibility that comes with handling peoples’ tax dollars. And we’re renewing our commitment to a simpler tax code that rewards work and the pursuit of the American Dream. And I just again want to personally thank all of the families, folks who join me here today, because they inspire me to do what I do every single day.
All right, thank you, everybody.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, April 11, 2009
I speak to you today during a time that is holy and filled with meaning for believers around the world. Earlier this week, Jewish people gathered with family and friends to recite the stories of their ancestors’ struggle and ultimate liberation. Tomorrow, Christians of all denominations will come together to rejoice and remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
These are two very different holidays with their own very different traditions. But it seems fitting that we mark them both during the same week. For in a larger sense, they are both moments of reflection and renewal. They are both occasions to think more deeply about the obligations we have to ourselves and the obligations we have to one another, no matter who we are, where we come from, or what faith we practice.
This idea – that we are all bound up, as Martin Luther King once said, in “a single garment of destiny”– is a lesson of all the world’s great religions. And never has it been more important for us to reaffirm that lesson than it is today – at a time when we face tests and trials unlike any we have seen in our time. An economic crisis that recognizes no borders. Violent extremism that’s claimed the lives of innocent men, women, and children from Manhattan to Mumbai. An unsustainable dependence on foreign oil and other sources of energy that pollute our air and water and threaten our planet. The proliferation of the world’s most dangerous weapons, the persistence of deadly disease, and the recurrence of age-old conflicts.
These are challenges that no single nation, no matter how powerful, can confront alone. The United States must lead the way. But our best chance to solve these unprecedented problems comes from acting in concert with other nations. That is why I met with leaders of the G-20 nations to ensure that the world’s largest economies take strong and unified action in the face of the global economic crisis. Together, we’ve taken steps to stimulate growth, restore the flow of credit, open markets, and dramatically reform our financial regulatory system to prevent such crises from occurring again – steps that will lead to job creation at home.
It is only by working together that we will finally defeat 21st century security threats like al Qaeda. So it was heartening that our NATO allies united in Strasbourg behind our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and contributed important resources to support our effort there.
It is only by coordinating with countries around the world that we will stop the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. That is why I laid out a strategy in Prague for us to work with Russia and other nations to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons; to secure nuclear materials from terrorists; and, ultimately, to free the world from the menace of a nuclear nightmare.
And it is only by building a new foundation of mutual trust that we will tackle some of our most entrenched problems. That is why, in Turkey, I spoke to members of Parliament and university students about rising above the barriers of race, region, and religion that too often divide us.
With all that is at stake today, we cannot afford to talk past one another. We can’t afford to allow old differences to prevent us from making progress in areas of common concern. We can’t afford to let walls of mistrust stand. Instead, we have to find – and build on – our mutual interests. For it is only when people come together, and seek common ground, that some of that mistrust can begin to fade. And that is where progress begins.
Make no mistake: we live in a dangerous world, and we must be strong and vigilant in the face of these threats. But let us not allow whatever differences we have with other nations to stop us from coming together around those solutions that are essential to our survival and success.
As we celebrate Passover, Easter, and this time of renewal, let’s find strength in our shared resolve and purpose in our common aspirations. And if we can do that, then not only will we fulfill the sacred meaning of these holy days, but we will fulfill the promise of our country as a leader around the world.