When President Barack Obama announced to the world late Sunday that Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was killed in a raid of his compound in Abbottadad, Pakistan, an air of suspicion was born. The doubters and conspiracy theorists have concocted full narratives as to the ‘true’ story of the demise of Bin Laden. Some say Osama Bin Laden died in 2007 from complications of kidney failure. Others say he was killed around 2006. Still, several days after DNA confirmation, a small but growing segment of Americans and world watchers alike are doubtful of the U.S. government’s proclamation that Bin Laden is dead and was buried at sea. They want evidence. Photographic proof.
It appears that the Obama White House is caving in to the pressure to release death photos of Osama Bin Laden. CIA Director Leon Panetta said that the administration knows that it has to “reveal to the rest of the world” photographic documentation of Osama Bin Laden in death. However, sources note that Osama Bin Laden was shot in the head, near the left eye with a powerful, technologically advanced firearm. What does that mean? That perhaps the whole side of Bin Laden’s head was obliterated?
Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday that the administration is “taking into consideration” the release of the Bin Laden death photos even though these could be “inflammatory.” Carney also admitted that the photos are “gruesome” and that “there are sensitivities here in the terms of the appropriateness of releasing photos of Osama Bin Laden after the fire fight and the sensitivities involved.”
However, the press is hot on the trail of those death pictures. If these are as “gruesome” as the White House would have the public believe, why is there an outcry to see them? Maybe it is the craving for senastionalism that the media has nurtured in the minds of the public. The desire to feed off of violence is thoroughly ingrained in the psyche of Americans due to insidious, horrifically violent movies thick with grotesque killings and murders. Prime time tv is filled to the brim with CSI dramas and programming about rogue medical examiners. And this is not the “Quincy” or “Kojak” type of fare either. Crime on television shows have gone high tech and very graphic. There are scenes of dead bodies, decomposing in the alley or the park. Television crime is more visual than ever before. Local news stations are notorious for the adoption of the mantra “if it bleeds, it leads” five and six o’clock daily news broadcasts. YouTube, cable news websites, and blogs all feature uncanny fascination stories about the dead. Such as the story about a Puerto Rican man standing at his own funeral. Or video surveillance of a man being shot to death outside a neighborhood store while talking on his cell phone. Crime sites awash with fresh spilled blood on the sidewalk or floor of a home, splattered blood on a terrorist bombed bus, the video cam operator can not resist. Or is it really the appetite of the public?
With this in mind, is it really a stretch of the imagination that the world and the press want to see a dead Osama Bin Laden in all his blown out head glory? If the White House concedes that the death photos are “gruesome,” will the pictures be subjected to photo-shopping? If the decision of photo-shopping or cropping is done, won’t that affect the authenticity of the death shot that the public and Al Qaeda want to view? Will those who scream ‘conspiracy!’ or ‘Osama is alive!’ be satisfied with the release of the death photo of Bin Laden? Will Al Qaeda throw its’ hands up and scatter like rats into a hole, giving up on their murderous philosophy because their leader was killed? Probably not. So why should the White House even consider releasing these pictures? Why did the White House consider and release President Obama’s long form birth certificate only to have the President admit that the whole matter was “silly” to begin with?
The Washington Review and Commentary will not be among those blogs and news outlets who will run the death pictures of Osama Bin Laden. That is, if the Obama administration decides to release these photos. There is too much hatred, anger, and all around hostility in the world today against America for the justification of publishing such “gruesome” pictures. Also, what earthly good will publishing pictures of a dead Osama Bin Laden with a huge, gapping hole in his head, possibly no face or eyes, do for the media and the public? For the press and the media in general, high ratings and millions of hits for blogs and websites. For the public? A freak show, free for all frenzy to gaze upon death without emotion or understanding causing an even more intense case of desensitizing. No matter how it is viewed through the prism of ethics, politics, religion, and morality, the decision to release the death pictures of Osama Bin Laden, or not, should be a no brainer.
If the Obama administration concedes to this demand, like it conceded to Donald Trump with the release of President Obama’s long form birth certificate, what does that really say? That the Obama White House can be bullied into more “silliness” and has become a part of the “side show” that it claims to detest.
BREAKING NEWS: REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON BUDGET TALKS: “WE HAVE MADE SOME PROGRESS TODAY; GOING TO BE WORKING AROUND THE CLOCK TO CLOSE A DEAL”
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON BUDGET TALKS
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
9:33 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I just completed another meeting with Speaker Boehner and Leader Reid, and I wanted to report again to the American people that we made some additional progress this evening. I think the staffs of both the House and the Senate, as well as the White House staff, have been working very hard to try to narrow the differences. We made some progress today. Those differences have been narrowed. And so once again the staff is going to be working tonight around the clock in order to see if we can finally close a deal.
But there is still a few issues that are outstanding. They’re difficult issues. They’re important to both sides. And so I’m not yet prepared to express wild optimism. But I think we are further along today than we were yesterday.
I want to reiterate to people why this is so important. We’re now less than 30 hours away from the government shutting down. That means, first of all, 800,000 families — our neighbors, our friends, who are working hard all across the country in a whole variety of functions — they suddenly are not allowed to come to work. It also means that they’re not getting a paycheck. That obviously has a tremendous impact.
You then have millions more people who end up being impacted because they’re not getting the services from the federal government that are important to them. So small businesses aren’t seeing their loans processed. Folks who want to get a mortgage through the FHA may not be able to get it, and obviously that’s not good as weak as this housing market is. You’ve got people who are trying to get a passport for a trip that they’ve been planning for a long time — they may not be able to do that. So millions more people will be significantly inconvenienced; in some ways, they may end up actually seeing money lost or opportunities lost because of a government shutdown.
And then finally, there’s going to be an effect on the economy overall. Earlier today one of our nation’s top economists said — and I’m quoting here — “The economic damage from a government shutdown would mount very quickly. And the longer it dragged on, the greater the odds of a renewed recession.”
We’ve been working very hard over the last two years to get this economy back on its feet. We’ve now seen 13 months of job growth; a hundred — 1.8 million new jobs. We had the best report, jobs report, that we’d seen in a very long time just this past Friday. For us to go backwards because Washington couldn’t get its act together is unacceptable.
So, again: 800,000 federal workers and their families impacted; millions of people who are reliant on government services not getting those services — businesses, farmers, veterans; and finally, overall impact on the economy that could end up severely hampering our recovery and our ability to put people back to work.
That’s what’s at stake. That’s why it’s important to the American people. That’s why I’m expecting that as a consequence of the good work that’s done by our staffs tonight, that we can reach an agreement tomorrow.
But let me just point out one last thing. What I’ve said to the Speaker and what I’ve said to Harry Reid is because the machinery of the shutdown is necessarily starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning. And my hope is, is that I’ll be able to announce to the American people sometime relatively early in the day that a shutdown has been averted, that a deal has been completed that has very meaningful cuts in a wide variety of categories, that helps us move in the direction of living within our means, but preserves our investments in things like education and innovation, research, that are going to be important for our long-term competitiveness.
That’s what I hope to be able to announce tomorrow. There’s no certainty yet, but I expect an answer sometime early in the day.
All right. Thank you very much, everybody.
NATIONAL PROSTATE CANCER AWARENESS MONTH, 2010- – - – - – -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICAA PROCLAMATION
Although its mortality rate has steadily fallen in the last decade, prostate cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men in the United States. This year alone, nearly 218,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and more than 32,000 men will die from this disease. National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month gives us the opportunity to renew our commitment to fight this disease by finding better ways to prevent, detect, and treat it.
The exact causes of prostate cancer are not known, but awareness can help men make more informed choices about their health. Researchers have identified several factors that may increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer, including age, race, and family history. According to the National Cancer Institute, avoiding smoking, losing weight, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising may all help prevent certain cancers. We must ensure that more men are informed about all aspects of this disease, including early detection and possible treatment. I encourage men to talk with their doctors about risk factors, prevention, and preventative screenings. And I invite all Americans to visit Cancer.gov for more information and resources about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of prostate and other cancers.
Until we find a cure for this disease, my Administration will continue promoting awareness of this illness and supportingprostate cancer research and treatment, including research to help determine why prostate cancer affects some racial and ethnic groups more than others. The National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defense all play vital roles in reducing the burden of prostate cancer through critical investments in research.
The health care reforms included in the landmark Affordable Care Act also address specific needs of individuals fighting cancer, including removing annual and lifetime caps on insurance coverage, prohibiting insurance companies from dropping coverage after an individual gets sick, and guaranteeing insurance coverage for individuals participating in clinical trials, the cornerstone of cancer research.
As we observe National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, we stand by the fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons battling prostate cancer, as well as their families and the health care providers, researchers, and advocates who are working to combatthis disease and save lives. By joining together to raise awareness of prostate cancer and supporting research, we can continue to make progress against this devastating disease.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2010 as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. I encourage all citizens, Government agencies, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, and other groups to join in activities that will increase awareness and prevention of prostate cancer.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.
Statement by the Press Secretary on the Unrest in Kyrgyzstan
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC—Below is a statement from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs regarding the unrest in Kyrgyzstan.
“The President has been closely following the events in Kyrgyzstan, and continues to monitor the situation with his National Security Team. We urge that calm be restored to Bishkek and other affected areas in a manner consistent with democratic principles and with respect for human rights. We deplore the use of deadly force by some of the security services against the demonstrators and by some demonstrators and continue to be concerned by ongoing looting and disorder. The United States looks forward to continuing our productive relationship with the people of Kyrgyzstan and the renewal of Kyrgyzstan’s democratic path.”
Statement by President Barack Obama on the Release of Nuclear Posture Review
One year ago yesterday in Prague, I outlined a comprehensive agenda to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to pursue the peace and security of a world without them. I look forward to advancing this agenda in Prague this week when I sign the new START Treaty with President Medvedev, committing the United States and Russia to substantial reductions in our nuclear arsenals.
Today, my Administration is taking a significant step forward by fulfilling another pledge that I made in Prague—to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and focus on reducing the nuclear dangers of the 21st century, while sustaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent for the United States and our allies and partners as long as nuclear weapons exist.
The Nuclear Posture Review, led by the Department of Defense, recognizes that the greatest threat to U.S. and global security is no longer a nuclear exchange between nations, but nuclear terrorism by violent extremists and nuclear proliferation to an increasing number of states. Moreover, it recognizes that our national security and that of our allies and partners can be increasingly defended by America’s unsurpassed conventional military capabilities and strong missile defenses.
As a result, we are taking specific and concrete steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons while preserving our military superiority, deterring aggression and safeguarding the security of the American people.
First, and for the first time, preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism is now at the top of America’s nuclear agenda, which affirms the central importance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We have aligned our policies and proposed major funding increases for programs to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons around the world. Our nuclear security summit next week will be an opportunity for 47 nations to commit to specific steps to pursue the goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world within four years. And next month in New York, we will work with the wider world to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime to ensure that all nations uphold their responsibilities.
Second, we are further emphasizing the importance of nations meeting their NPT and nuclear non-proliferation obligations through our declaratory policy. The United States is declaring that we will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations. This enables us to sustain our nuclear deterrent for the narrower range of contingencies in which these weapons may still play a role, while providing an additional incentive for nations to meet their NPT obligations. Those nations that fail to meet their obligations will therefore find themselves more isolated, and will recognize that the pursuit of nuclear weapons will not make them more secure.
Finally, we are fulfilling our responsibilities as a nuclear power committed to the NPT. The United States will not conduct nuclear testing and will seek ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The United States will not develop new nuclear warheads or pursue new military missions or new capabilities for nuclear weapons.
As I stated last year in Prague, so long as nuclear weapons exist, we will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal that guarantees the defense of the United States, reassures allies and partners, and deters potential adversaries. To that end, we are seeking substantial investments to improve infrastructure, strengthen science and technology, and retain the human capital we need to sustain our stockpile, while also strengthening the conventional capabilities that are an important part of our deterrent. The nuclear strategy we’re announcing today therefore reaffirms America’s unwavering commitment to the security of our allies and partners, and advances American national security.
To stop the spread of nuclear weapons, prevent nuclear terrorism, and pursue the day when these weapons do not exist, we will work aggressively to advance every element of our comprehensive agenda—to reduce arsenals, to secure vulnerable nuclear materials, and to strengthen the NPT. These are the steps toward the more secure future that America seeks, and this is the work that we are advancing today.
NATIONAL FINANCIAL LITERACY MONTH, 2010
- – - – - – -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
In recent years, our Nation’s financial system has grown increasingly complex. This has left too many Americans behind, unable to build a secure financial future for themselves and their families. For many, financial literacy can mean economic prosperity and protection against fraud and predatory banking practices. During National Financial Literacy Month, we recommit to teaching ourselves and our children about the basics of financial education.
Our recent economic crisis was the result of both irresponsible actions on Wall Street, and everyday choices on Main Street. Large banks speculated recklessly without regard for the consequences, and other firms invented and sold complex financial products to conceal risks and escape scrutiny. At the same time, many Americans took out loans they could not afford or signed contracts without fully understanding the terms. Ensuring this crisis never happens again will require new rules to protect consumers and better information to empower them.
The new Consumer Financial Protection Agency I have proposed will ensure ordinary Americans get clear and concise financial information. We must put an end to confusing loan contracts, hidden fees attached to mortgages, and unfair penalties that appear without warning on bank statements. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 began reining in some of these deceptive tactics when it recently took effect. The President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability is also looking for new ways to help
individuals make informed decisions and to educate our children on core financial competencies.
While our Government has a critical role to play in protecting consumers and promoting financial literacy, we are each responsible for understanding basic concepts: how to balance a checkbook, save for a child’s education, steer clear of deceptive financial products and practices, plan for retirement, and avoid accumulating excessive debts. To learn more, visit: MyMoney.gov or call toll-free 1-888-MyMoney for helpful guidance and resources.
Our Nation’s future prosperity depends on the financial security of all Americans. This month, let us each take time to improve our own financial knowledge and share that knowledge with our children. Together, we can prevent another crisis and rebuild our economy on a stronger, more balanced foundation.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2010 as National Financial Literacy Month. I call upon all Americans to observe this month with programs and activities to improve their understanding of financial principles and practices.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
second day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.
White House to Host Childhood Obesity Meeting
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, April 9, the White House will host a meeting on childhood obesity to discuss ways to combat the growing health epidemic. Experts and practitioners from across the country will join First Lady Michelle Obama, Administration officials and Childhood Obesity Task Force members to discuss challenges, trends, empowering parents, access to healthy, affordable food, and more.
In February, Mrs. Obama launched the Let’s Move! campaign to solve the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. As part of this effort, and President Barack Obama established the Task Force on Childhood Obesity to develop and submit an interagency plan that details a coordinated strategy, identifies key benchmarks, and outlines an action plan to fight childhood obesity. This meeting is part of a broader effort by the Task Force to gather input for this action plan.
Participants and coverage details will be announced next week.
NATIONAL CANCER CONTROL MONTH, 2010
- – - – - – -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Cancer is among the leading causes of death in our country,
taking over half a million American lives in the past year
alone. This illness has stricken countless individuals and
families in communities across our Nation, but the future holds
untold promise. We continue to make monumental strides in
managing and understanding cancer, and rates of new cases and
deaths have declined for men and women overall in recent years.
During National Cancer Control Month, let us renew our
commitment to combat this disease by raising awareness and
supporting the development of life-saving treatments.
With simple, everyday activities, we all can take steps
to protect ourselves and our loved ones from cancer. Americans
should discuss preventive care with a health professional.
Getting regular check-ups and screenings can help reduce the
risk of developing certain cancers and help detect cancer early,
when it is most treatable. Changing unhealthy habits can often
help prevent cancer before it forms. By limiting sun exposure
and alcohol consumption, avoiding tobacco, exercising regularly,
and maintaining a nutritious diet, we can each reduce our risk
of developing cancer. I encourage all who are struggling
to quit smoking to visit SmokeFree.gov for resources and
My Administration is committed to supporting every American
who is fighting cancer, and we have invested in innovative
research through the National Institutes of Health to develop
more effective treatments. While cancer affects people of every
background and economic status, disparities exist between races,
ethnicities, and incomes regarding the likelihood of survival.
Community cancer centers will play an important role in closing
these gaps and bringing hope to underserved citizens.
Like too many Americans, I know the pain of losing a loved
one to cancer, and I carry the memory of my mother’s courage
with me each day. Inspired by the stories and tenacity of
patients and survivors, and guided by our love for those we have
lost, we will one day triumph over this devastating illness.
The Congress of the United States, by joint resolution
approved March 28, 1938 (52 Stat. 148; 36 U.S.C. 103), as
amended, has requested the President to issue an annual
proclamation declaring April as “Cancer Control Month.”
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the
United States of America, do hereby proclaim April 2010 as
National Cancer Control Month. I call upon citizens, government
agencies, organizations, health care providers, and research
institutions to raise cancer awareness and continue helping
Americans live longer, healthier lives.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
first day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten,
and of the Independence of the United States of America the
two hundred and thirty-fourth.
CENSUS DAY, 2010
- – - – - – -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Since our Nation’s earliest days, the census has played an
important role in identifying where resources are most needed.
This procedure, enshrined in our Constitution, informs our
Government’s responses to the evolving needs of American
communities. By completing this year’s survey, we can ensure
they receive adequate funding for schools, hospitals, senior
centers, and other public works projects. The 2010 Census will
also aid employers in selecting locations for new factories and
businesses as our economy recovers. On Census Day, I urge all
Americans to fulfill their civic duty by participating in the
While the first United States census surveyed a young
country with fewer than 4 million people, this year’s census
will assess a Nation of over 300 million. America’s diversity
defines our national character, yet, in the past, the census has
too often undercounted minorities, young people, and low-income
residents. As our Nation grows, getting the count right will
help ensure that our families and neighbors receive the services
they need, and accurate and proportional representation in the
United States House of Representatives.
The 2010 Census is safe and easy to complete, and the
Census Bureau aggressively protects all census participants’
private information, which is never used against them or shared
with other government or private entities. By mailing the
Census form back, we help save taxpayer dollars and ensure that
all Americans get the support they deserve and a voice in our
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the
United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested
in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do
hereby proclaim April 1, 2010, as Census Day. I call upon all
Americans to observe this day by completing their census form
and mailing it back.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
thirty-first day of March, in the year of our Lord
two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States
of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.
U.S. Treasury Department
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 26, 2010
Contacts: Treasury Public Affairs, (202) 622-2960
HUD Public Affairs, (202) 708-0980
HOUSING PROGRAM ENHANCEMENTS OFFER ADDITIONAL
OPTIONS FOR STRUGGLING HOMEOWNERS
Refinements to Existing Administration Programs Designed to Help Unemployed,
Underwater Borrowers While Helping Administration Meet its Goals
WASHINGTON – Today, as part of its ongoing commitment to continuously improve housing relief efforts, the Administration announced adjustments to the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) programs. These program adjustments will better assist responsible homeowners who have been affected by the economic crisis through no fault of their own. The program modifications will expand flexibility for mortgage servicers and originators to assist more unemployed homeowners and to help more people who owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth because their local markets saw large declines in home values. These changes will help the Administration meet its goal of stabilizing housing markets by offering a second chance to up to 3 to 4 million struggling homeowners through the end of 2012. Costs will be shared between the private sector and the Federal Government; the Federal cost of these changes will be funded through the $50 billion allocation for housing programs under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
Housing Policy Overview
The Administration’s goal is to promote stability for both the housing market and homeowners. To meet these objectives, the Administration has developed a comprehensive approach using state and local housing agency initiatives, tax credits for homebuyers, neighborhood stabilization and community development programs, mortgage modifications and refinancing, and support for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Administration’s efforts for homeowners have focused on giving responsible households an opportunity to remain in their homes when possible while they get back up on their feet, or to relocate to a more sustainable living situation. Today, mortgage rates are at record lows and, thanks in large part to these programs, more than four million homeowners have refinanced their mortgages to more affordable levels helping to save more than $7 billion annually, more than one million are saving an average of over $500 per month through the Administration’s modification program, home equity increased by more than $12,000 for the average homeowner in the last three quarters last year and the economy is growing.
Even with this success, we continue to see challenges. Servicers were slow to implement HAMP, resulting in a slow start for the program. Recent improvements in the program have accelerated the pace of modifications, and the adjustments announced today will improve performance. But our strategy to address the crisis must evolve because our challenges have also evolved.
Our housing initiatives must balance the need to help responsible homeowners struggling to stay in their homes, with the recognition that we cannot and should not help everyone. The President has said: “We can’t stop every foreclosure.” And in fact, we can’t maintain the balance described above if we assist every borrower. For example, investors and speculators should not be protected under our efforts, nor should Americans living in million dollar homes or defaulters on vacation homes. Some people simply will not be able to afford to stay in their homes because they bought more than they could afford. Instead, the Administration must focus on providing responsible homeowners opportunities to obtain a modification or to refinance and prevent avoidable foreclosures and, when necessary, must facilitate the transition to a more sustainable housing situation. The adjustments announced today are tailored to accomplish these goals by helping a targeted group of borrowers.
Eligible homeowners for modifications under HAMP must, for example: live in an owner occupied principal residence, have a mortgage balance less than $729,750, owe monthly mortgage payments that are not affordable (greater than 31 percent of their income) and demonstrate a financial hardship. The new flexibilities for the modification initiative announced today continue to target this group of homeowners.
The FHA refinance options being announced today will provide more opportunities for lenders to restructure loans for some families who owe more than their home is worth. This is a voluntary program for lenders and homeowners. The population eligible for a FHA refinance must be current on their mortgage. This rewards responsible homeowners and creates stabilizing incentives in the housing market.
Taken together, the Administration’s broad housing initiatives and the new flexibilities announced today will offer a second chance to millions of responsible, middle-class American families struggling to stay in their homes and will help to stabilize our households, neighborhoods and communities.
Background on Housing Program Initiatives to Date
The Administration has taken a broad set of actions to stabilize the housing market and help American homeowners. These efforts are having an impact on our housing markets – we are seeing signs of stabilization. Looking back to over a year ago – stress in the financial system had severely reduced the supply of mortgage credit, limiting the ability of Americans to buy homes or refinance mortgages. Millions of responsible families who had made their monthly payments had fulfilled their obligations saw their property values fall, and found themselves unable to refinance at lower mortgage rates.
In February 2009, less than one month after taking office, President Obama announced the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan. As part of this plan and through other housing initiatives, the Administration has taken the following actions to strengthen the housing market:
Actions Supporting Market Stability and Access to Affordable Mortgage Credit · Provided strong support to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure continued access to affordable mortgage credit across the market; · Together, Treasury and the Federal Reserve have purchased more than $1.4 trillion in agency mortgage backed securities, which have helped keep mortgage rates at historic lows, allowing homeowners to access credit to purchase new homes and refinance into more affordable monthly payments; and
· The FHA has played an important counter-cyclical role, providing liquidity for housing purchases at a time when private lending has declined.
Actions Helping Homeowners Purchase Homes, Refinance and Modify Mortgages to More Affordable Payments, Prevent Foreclosures and Stabilize Communities · Launched a modification initiative to help homeowners reduce mortgage payments to affordable levels and to prevent avoidable foreclosures; · Supported expanding the limits for loans guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA from previous limits up to $625,500 per loan to $729,750;
· Expanded refinancing flexibilities for the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans, particularly for borrowers with negative equity, to allow more Americans to refinance;
· Launched a $23.5 billion Housing Finance Agencies Initiative which is helping more than 90 state and local housing finance agencies across 49 states provide sustainable homeownership and rental resources for American families;
· Supported the First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit, which has helped hundreds of thousands of responsible Americans purchase homes. · Through the Recovery Act is providing over $5 billion in support for affordable rental housing through low income housing tax credit programs and $2 billion in support for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program to restore neighborhoods hardest hit by concentrated foreclosures; and · On February 19, 2010, the Administration announced the $1.5 billion HFA Hardest Hit Fund for housing finance agencies in the nation’s hardest hit housing markets to design innovative, locally targeted foreclosure prevention programs.
Historically low mortgage rates along with expanded refinancing flexibilities for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans have helped more than four million American homeowners with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans to refinance, saving an estimated $150 per month on average and more than $7 billion in total. HAMP has provided more than 1 million struggling homeowners a second chance to stay in their homes – with each homeowner in a modification saving more than $500 per month on average.
Together, these initiatives are having an impact – strengthening the housing market, helping responsible homeowners prevent avoidable foreclosures and rebuilding communities and neighborhoods. Today mortgage rates remain at historic lows – the primary interest rate is now about 5 percent, lower than at any time in the three decades before the crisis. We are also seeing encouraging signs in housing indicators – home prices and the pace of home sales have stabilized in recent months.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS
Capitol Visitor Center Auditorium
3:53 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Everybody, please have a set.
To Leader Reid, to Steny Hoyer, John Larson, Xavier Becerra, Jim Clyburn, Chris Van Hollen, to an extraordinary leader and extraordinary Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and to all the members here today, thank you very much for having me. (Applause.) Thanks for having me and thanks for your tireless efforts waged on behalf of health insurance reform in this country.
I have the great pleasure of having a really nice library at the White House. And I was tooling through some of the writings of some previous Presidents and I came upon this quote by Abraham Lincoln: “I am not bound to win, but I’m bound to be true. I’m not bound to succeed, but I’m bound to live up to what light I have.”
This debate has been a difficult debate. This process has been a difficult process. And this year has been a difficult year for the American people. When I was sworn in, we were in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Eight hundred thousand people per month were losing their jobs. Millions of people were losing their health insurance. And the financial system was on the verge of collapse.
And this body has taken on some of the toughest votes and some of the toughest decisions in the history of Congress. Not because you were bound to win, but because you were bound to be true. Because each and every one of you made a decision that at a moment of such urgency, it was less important to measure what the polls said than to measure what was right.
A year later, we’re in different circumstances. Because of the actions that you’ve taken, the financial system has stabilized. The stock market has stabilized. Businesses are starting to invest again. The economy, instead of contracting, is now growing again. There are signs that people are going to start hiring again. There’s still tremendous hardship all across the country, but there is a sense that we are making progress — because of you.
But even before this crisis, each and every one of us knew that there were millions of people across America who were living their own quiet crises. Maybe because they had a child who had a preexisting condition and no matter how desperate they were, no matter what insurance company they called, they couldn’t get coverage for that child. Maybe it was somebody who had been forced into early retirement, in their 50s not yet eligible for Medicare, and they couldn’t find a job and they couldn’t find health insurance, despite the fact that they had some sort of chronic condition that had to be tended to.
Every single one of you at some point before you arrived in Congress and after you arrived in Congress have met constituents with heart-breaking stories. And you’ve looked them in the eye and you’ve said, we’re going to do something about it — that’s why I want to go to Congress.
And now, we’re on the threshold of doing something about it. We’re a day away. After a year of debate, after every argument has been made, by just about everybody, we’re 24 hours away.
As some of you know, I’m not somebody who spends a lot of time surfing the cable channels, but I’m not completely in the bubble. I have a sense of what the coverage has been, and mostly it’s an obsession with “What will this mean for the Democratic Party? What will this mean for the President’s polls? How will this play out in November? Is this good or is this bad for the Democratic majority? What does it mean for those swing districts?”
And I noticed that there’s been a lot of friendly advice offered all across town. (Laughter.) Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Karl Rove — they’re all warning you of the horrendous impact if you support this legislation. Now, it could be that they are suddenly having a change of heart and they are deeply concerned about their Democratic friends. (Laughter.) They are giving you the best possible advice in order to assure that Nancy Pelosi remains Speaker and Harry Reid remains Leader and that all of you keep your seats. That’s a possibility. (Laughter.)
But it may also be possible that they realize after health reform passes and I sign that legislation into law, that it’s going to be a little harder to mischaracterize what this effort has been all about.
Because this year, small businesses will start getting tax credits so that they can offer health insurance to employees who currently don’t have it. (Applause.) Because this year, those same parents who are worried about getting coverage for their children with preexisting conditions now are assured that insurance companies have to give them coverage — this year. (Applause.)
Because this year, insurance companies won’t suddenly be able to drop your coverage when you get sick — (applause) — or impose lifetime limits or restrictive limits on the coverage that you have. Maybe they know that this year, for the first time, young people will be able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26 years old and they’re thinking that just might be popular all across the country. (Applause.)
And what they also know is what won’t happen. They know that after this legislation passes and after I sign this bill, lo and behold nobody is pulling the plug on Granny. (Laughter.) It turns out that in fact people who like their health insurance are going to be able to keep their health insurance; that there’s no government takeover. People will discover that if they like their doctor, they’ll be keeping their doctor. In fact, they’re more likely to keep their doctor because of a stronger system.
It’ll turn out that this piece of historic legislation is built on the private insurance system that we have now and runs straight down the center of American political thought. It turns out this is a bill that tracks the recommendations not just of Democrat Tom Daschle, but also Republicans Bob Dole and Howard Baker; that this is a middle-of-the-road bill that is designed to help the American people in an area of their lives where they urgently need help.
Now, there are some who wanted a single-payer government-run system. That’s not this bill. The Republicans wanted what I called the “foxes guard the henhouse approach” in which we further deregulate the insurance companies and let them run wild, the notion being somehow that that was going to lower costs for the American people. I don’t know a serious health care economist who buys that idea, but that was their concept. And we rejected that, because what we said was we want to create a system in which health care is working not for insurance companies but it’s working for the American people, it’s working for middle class families.
So what did we do? What is the essence of this legislation? Number one, this is the toughest insurance reforms in history. (Applause.) We are making sure that the system of private insurance works for ordinary families. A prescription — this is a patient’s bill of rights on steroids. So many of you individually have worked on these insurance reforms — they are in this package — to make sure that families are getting a fair deal; that if they’re paying a premium, that they’re getting a good service in return; making sure that employers, if they are paying premiums for their employees, that their employees are getting the coverage that they expect; that insurance companies are not going to game the system with fine print and rescissions and dropping people when they need it most, but instead are going to have to abide by some basic rules of the road that exemplify a sense of fairness and good value. That’s number one.
The second thing this does is it creates a pool, a marketplace, where individuals and small businesses, who right now are having a terrible time out there getting health insurance, are going to be able to purchase health insurance as part of a big group — just like federal employees, just like members of Congress. They are now going to be part of a pool that can negotiate for better rates, better quality, more competition.
And that’s why the Congressional Budget Office says this will lower people’s rates for comparable plans by 14 to 20 percent. That’s not my numbers — that’s the Congressional Budget Office’s numbers. So that people will have choice and competition just like members of Congress have choice and competition.
Number three, if people still can’t afford it we’re going to provide them some tax credits — the biggest tax cut for small businesses and working families when it comes to health care in history. (Applause.)
And number four, this is the biggest reduction in our deficit since the Budget Balance Act — one of the biggest deficit reduction measures in history — over $1.3 trillion that will help put us on the path of fiscal responsibility. (Applause.)
And that’s before we count all the game-changing measures that are going to assure, for example, that instead of having five tests when you go to the doctor you just get one; that the delivery system is working for patients, not just working for billings. And everybody who’s looked at it says that every single good idea to bend the cost curve and start actually reducing health care costs are in this bill.
So that’s what this effort is all about. Toughest insurance reforms in history. A marketplace so people have choice and competition who right now don’t have it and are seeing their premiums go up 20, 30, 40, 50 percent. Reductions in the cost of health care for millions of American families, including those who have health insurance. The Business Roundtable did their own study and said that this would potentially save employers $3,000 per employee on their health care because of the measures in this legislation.
And by the way, not only does it reduce the deficit — we pay for it responsibly in ways that the other side of the aisle that talks a lot about fiscal responsibility but doesn’t seem to be able to walk the walk can’t claim when it comes to their prescription drug bill. We are actually doing it. (Applause.) This is paid for and will not add a dime to the deficit — it will reduce the deficit. (Applause.)
Now, is this bill perfect? Of course not. Will this solve every single problem in our health care system right away? No. There are all kinds of ideas that many of you have that aren’t included in this legislation. I know that there has been discussion, for example, of how we’re going to deal with regional disparities and I know that there was a meeting with Secretary Sebelius to assure that we can continue to try to make sure that we’ve got a system that gives people the best bang for their buck. (Applause.)
So this is not — there are all kinds of things that many of you would like to see that isn’t in this legislation. There are some things I’d like to see that’s not in this legislation. But is this the single most important step that we have taken on health care since Medicare? Absolutely. Is this the most important piece of domestic legislation in terms of giving a break to hardworking middle class families out there since Medicare? Absolutely. Is this a vast improvement over the status quo? Absolutely.
Now, I still know this is a tough vote, though. I know this is a tough vote. I’ve talked to many of you individually. And I have to say that if you honestly believe in your heart of hearts, in your conscience, that this is not an improvement over the status quo; if despite all the information that’s out there that says that without serious reform efforts like this one people’s premiums are going to double over the next five or 10 years, that folks are going to keep on getting letters from their insurance companies saying that their premium just went up 40 or 50 percent; if you think that somehow it’s okay that we have millions of hardworking Americans who can’t get health care and that it’s all right, it’s acceptable, in the wealthiest nation on Earth that there are children with chronic illnesses that can’t get the care that they need — if you think that the system is working for ordinary Americans rather than the insurance companies, then you should vote no on this bill. If you can honestly say that, then you shouldn’t support it. You’re here to represent your constituencies and if you think your constituencies honestly wouldn’t be helped, you shouldn’t vote for this.
But if you agree that the system is not working for ordinary families, if you’ve heard the same stories that I’ve heard everywhere, all across the country, then help us fix this system. Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid. Do it for all those people out there who are struggling.
Some of you know I get 10 letters a day that I read out of the 40,000 that we receive. Started reading some of the ones that I got this morning. “Dear President Obama, my daughter, a wonderful person, lost her job. She has no health insurance. She had a blood clot in her brain. She’s now disabled, can’t get care.” “Dear President Obama, I don’t yet qualify for Medicare. COBRA is about to run out. I am desperate, don’t know what to do.”
Do it for them. Do it for people who are really scared right now through no fault of their own, who’ve played by the rules, who’ve done all the right things, and have suddenly found out that because of an accident, because of an ailment, they’re about to lose their house; or they can’t provide the help to their kids that they need; or they’re a small business who up until now has always taken pride in providing care for their workers and it turns out that they just can’t afford to do it anymore and they’ve having to make a decision about do I keep providing health insurance for my workers or do I just drop their coverage or do I not hire some people because I simply can’t afford it — it’s all being gobbled up by the insurance companies.
Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for the Democratic Party. Do it for the American people. They’re the ones who are looking for action right now. (Applause.)
I know this is a tough vote. And I am actually confident — I’ve talked to some of you individually — that it will end up being the smart thing to do politically because I believe that good policy is good politics. (Applause.) I am convinced that when you go out there and you are standing tall and you are saying I believe that this is the right thing to do for my constituents and the right thing to do for America, that ultimately the truth will out.
I had a wonderful conversation with Betsy Markey. I don’t know if Betsy is around here. There she is right there. (Applause.) Betsy is in a tough district. The biggest newspaper is somewhat conservative, as Betsy described. They weren’t real happy with health care reform. They were opposed to it. Betsy, despite the pressure, announced that she was in favor of this bill. And lo and behold, the next day that same newspaper runs an editorial saying, you know what, we’ve considered this, we’ve looked at the legislation, and we actually are pleased that Congresswoman Markey is supporting the legislation. (Applause.)
When I see John Boccieri stand up proud with a whole bunch of his constituencies — (applause) — in as tough a district as there is and stand up with a bunch of folks from his district with preexisting conditions and saying, you know, I don’t know what is going on Washington but I know what’s going on with these families — I look at him with pride.
Now, I can’t guarantee that this is good politics. Every one of you know your districts better than I do. You talk to folks. You’re under enormous pressure. You’re getting robocalls. You’re getting e-mails that are tying up the communications system. I know the pressure you’re under. I get a few comments made about me. I don’t know if you’ve noticed. (Laughter.) I’ve been in your shoes. I know what it’s like to take a tough vote.
But what did Lincoln say? “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true.” Two generations ago, folks who were sitting in your position, they made a decision — we are going to make sure that seniors and the poor have health care coverage that they can count on. And they did the right thing.
And I’m sure at the time they were making that vote, they weren’t sure how the politics were either, any more than the people who made the decision to make sure that Social Security was in place knew how the politics would play out, or folks who passed the civil rights acts knew how the politics were going to play out. They were not bound to win, but they were bound to be true.
And now we’ve got middle class Americans, don’t have Medicare, don’t have Medicaid, watching the employer-based system fray along the edges or being caught in terrible situations. And the question is, are we going to be true to them?
Sometimes I think about how I got involved in politics. I didn’t think of myself as a potential politician when I get out of college. I went to work in neighborhoods, working with Catholic churches in poor neighborhoods in Chicago, trying to figure out how people could get a little bit of help. And I was skeptical about politics and politicians, just like a lot of Americans are skeptical about politics and politicians are right now. Because my working assumption was when push comes to shove, all too often folks in elected office, they’re looking for themselves and not looking out for the folks who put them there; that there are too many compromises; that the special interests have too much power; they just got too much clout; there’s too much big money washing around.
And I decided finally to get involved because I realized if I wasn’t willing to step up and be true to the things I believe in, then the system wouldn’t change. Every single one of you had that same kind of moment at the beginning of your careers. Maybe it was just listening to stories in your neighborhood about what was happening to people who’d been laid off of work. Maybe it was your own family experience, somebody got sick and didn’t have health care and you said something should change.
Something inspired you to get involved, and something inspired you to be a Democrat instead of running as a Republican. Because somewhere deep in your heart you said to yourself, I believe in an America in which we don’t just look out for ourselves, that we don’t just tell people you’re on your own, that we are proud of our individualism, we are proud of our liberty, but we also have a sense of neighborliness and a sense of community — (applause) — and we are willing to look out for one another and help people who are vulnerable and help people who are down on their luck and give them a pathway to success and give them a ladder into the middle class. That’s why you decided to run. (Applause.)
And now a lot of us have been here a while and everybody here has taken their lumps and their bruises. And it turns out people have had to make compromises, and you’ve been away from families for a long time and you’ve missed special events for your kids sometimes. And maybe there have been times where you asked yourself, why did I ever get involved in politics in the first place? And maybe things can’t change after all. And when you do something courageous, it turns out sometimes you may be attacked. And sometimes the very people you thought you were trying to help may be angry at you and shout at you. And you say to yourself, maybe that thing that I started with has been lost.
But you know what? Every once in a while, every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made in all those town meetings and all those constituency breakfasts and all that traveling through the district, all those people who you looked in the eye and you said, you know what, you’re right, the system is not working for you and I’m going to make it a little bit better.
And this is one of those moments. This is one of those times where you can honestly say to yourself, doggone it, this is exactly why I came here. This is why I got into politics. This is why I got into public service. This is why I’ve made those sacrifices. Because I believe so deeply in this country and I believe so deeply in this democracy and I’m willing to stand up even when it’s hard, even when it’s tough.
Every single one of you have made that promise not just to your constituents but to yourself. And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine. We have been debating health care for decades. It has now been debated for a year. It is in your hands. It is time to pass health care reform for America, and I am confident that you are going to do it tomorrow.
Thank you very much, House of Representatives. Let’s get this done. (Applause.)
President Obama Nominates Judge Leonard Stark and Amy Totenberg to the United States District Court
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama nominated Judge Leonard Stark and Amy Totenberg to the United States District Court. Judge Stark is a nominee for the District of Delaware and Totenberg is a nominee for the Northern District of Georgia.
“Leonard Stark and Amy Totenberg are distinguished candidates for the United States District Court,” President Obama said. “They have both displayed an exceptional commitment to public service and they will be thoughtful and esteemed additions to the federal bench. I am honored to nominate them today.”
Judge Leonard P. Stark: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Delaware
Judge Leonard P. Stark is a United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Delaware, a position he has held since 2007. Previously, he was an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Delaware and an associate in the Delaware office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. He began his legal career in Wilmington, Delaware, as a law clerk to the Honorable Walter K. Stapleton of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Judge Stark graduated from the University of Delaware in 1991 with three degrees: an M.A. in History, a B.S. in Economics, and a B.A. in Political Science. In 1993, he received a doctorate degree in Politics from the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. He earned his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1996.
Amy Totenberg: Nominee for the United States District Court, Northern District of Georgia
Since 2000, Amy Totenberg has been a sole practitioner and arbitrator based in Atlanta. She serves as a special master in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland and as a court monitor in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. From 1994 to 1998, Totenberg served as the first in-house general counsel for the Atlanta school system. Before that, she focused on civil litigation, primarily as a sole practitioner. She also served as a part-time Municipal Court Judge for the City of Atlanta from 1988 to 1993. Totenberg received her J.D. in 1977 from Harvard Law School, and her A.B., magna cum laude, from Harvard-Radcliffe in 1974.
Statement from the President on Financial Reform
It has now been well over a year since the near collapse of the financial sector, and yet today the same failed system that brought on this crisis remains in place. The financial crisis has resulted in more than 8 million American workers losing their jobs, trillions in household wealth being wiped out and hundreds of thousands of small businesses without the credit they need to grow. We cannot wait any longer for real financial reform that brings accountability to the financial system and makes sure that the American taxpayer is never again asked to bail out the irresponsibility of our largest banks and financial institutions.
This proposal provides a strong foundation to build a safer financial system. It creates a new consumer financial protection agency to set and enforce clear rules of the road and establishes stronger supervision for the largest financial firms under the Federal Reserve. It brings transparency and oversight to derivatives and other financial markets that were central to the crisis and separates banking from proprietary trading and hedge funds. The proposal will also provide the government with essential tools to respond in a financial crisis, so that we can wind down and liquidate a large, interconnected failing financial firm. It allows us to protect the economy and taxpayers so that we can end the belief that any firm is “Too Big to Fail”.
As the bill moves forward, I will take every opportunity to work with Chairman Dodd and his colleagues to strengthen the bill and will fight against efforts to weaken it.
American families deserve a strong, independent consumer financial protection agency that is accountable for setting and enforcing clear rules across the financial marketplace. And I will not accept attempts to undermine the independence of the consumer protection agency, or to exclude from its purview banks, credit card companies or nonbank firms such as debt collectors, credit bureaus, payday lenders or auto dealers.
I will oppose any loopholes that could harm consumers or investors, or that allow institutions to avoid oversight that is important to financial stability.
We need to ensure the ultimate bill provides strong, clear authority for setting and enforcing rules, limiting excessive risk taking in the financial system, and winding down the largest financial firms when necessary in a way that does not cause a financial panic. All derivatives must be regulated and shareholders should have a say not just on pay but also other compensation that rewards risk taking. We will stand firm against any attempt by the financial sector to avoid their responsibilities: in any future crisis the big financial companies must pay, not taxpayers.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON HEALTH CARE REFORM
Walter F. Ehrnfelt Recreation and Senior Center
1:00 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Ohio! (Applause.) It is good to be here in the Buckeye State. Congratulations on winning the Big Ten Championship. (Laughter.) I’m filling out my brackets now. (Laughter.) And it’s even better to be out of Washington for a little while.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that kid Turner looks pretty good. You guys are doing all right.
It is wonderful to be here –
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. I do. (Applause.)
Couple of people I just want to make sure I give special mention to. First of all, you already saw him, Governor Ted Strickland in the house. (Applause.) Ted is fighting every day to bring jobs and economic development to Ohio.
So is your terrific United States Senator Sherrod Brown. Love Sherrod Brown. (Applause.) Your own congressman, who is tireless on behalf of working people, Dennis Kucinich. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Vote yes!
THE PRESIDENT: Did you hear that, Dennis? Go ahead, say that again.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Vote yes!
THE PRESIDENT: A couple members of Congress are here: U.S. Representative Betty Sutton. (Applause.) U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge. (Applause.) U.S. Representative Tim Ryan. (Applause.) U.S. Representative Charlie Wilson. (Applause.)
I want to thank Mayor Tom Perciak here in Strongsville. Please, Mr. Mayor, you’re on. (Applause.) That’s a good bunch of folks we got here in Ohio, working hard. Which is why I’m glad to be back — and let’s face it, it’s nice to be out of Washington once in a while. (Laughter.)
I want to thank Connie — I want to thank Connie, who introduced me. I want to thank her and her family for being here on behalf of her sister, Natoma. I don’t know if everybody understood that Natoma is in the hospital right now, so Connie was filling in. It’s not easy to share such a personal story, when your sister who you love so much is sick. And so I appreciate Connie being willing to do so here today, and — (applause) — and I want everybody to understand that Connie and her sister are the reason that I’m here today. (Applause.)
See, Connie felt it was important that her sister’s story be told. But I want to just repeat what happened here. Last month, I got a letter from Connie’s sister, Natoma. She’s self-employed, she’s trying to make ends meet, and for years she’s done the responsible thing, just like most of you have. She bought insurance — she didn’t have a big employer who provided her insurance, so she bought her health insurance through the individual market.
And it was important for her to have insurance because 16 years ago, she was diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer. And even though she had been cancer-free for more than a decade, the insurance companies kept on jacking up her rates, year after year. So she increased her out-of-pocket expenses. She raised her deductible. She did everything she could to maintain her health insurance that would be there just in case she got sick, because she figured, I didn’t want to be — she didn’t want to be in a position where, if she did get sick, somebody else would have to pick up the tab; that she’d have to go to the emergency room; that the cost would be shifted onto folks through their higher insurance premiums or hospitals charging higher rates. So she tried to do the right thing.
And she upped her deductible last year to the minimum [sic], the highest possible deductible. But despite that, Natoma’s insurance company raised her premiums by more than 25 percent. And over the past year, she paid more than $6,000 in monthly premiums.
THE PRESIDENT: She paid more than $4,000 in out-of-pocket medical costs, for co-pays and medical care and prescriptions. So all together, this woman paid $10,000 — one year. But because she never hit her deductible, her insurance company only spent $900 on her care. So the insurance company is making — getting $10,000; paying out $900. Now, what comes in the mail at the end of last year?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: A bill!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: A rate hike!
THE PRESIDENT: It’s a letter telling Natoma that her premiums would go up again by more than 40 percent.
THE PRESIDENT: So here’s what happens. She just couldn’t afford it. She didn’t have the money. She realized that if she paid those health insurance premiums that had been jacked up by 40 percent, she couldn’t make her mortgage. And despite her desire to keep her coverage, despite her fears that she would get sick and lose the home that her parents built — she finally surrendered, she finally gave up her health insurance. She stopped paying it — she couldn’t make ends meet.
So January was her last month of being insured. Like so many responsible Americans — folks who work hard every day, who try to do the right thing — she was forced to hang her fortunes on chance. To take a chance, that’s all she could do. She hoped against hope that she would stay healthy. She feared terribly that she might not stay healthy.
That was the letter that I read to the insurance companies, including the person responsible for raising her rates. Now, I understand Natoma was pretty surprised when she found out that I had read it to these CEOs. But I thought it was important for them to understand the human dimensions of this problem. Her rates have been hiked more than 40 percent.
And this was less than two weeks ago. Unfortunately, Natoma’s worst fears were realized. And just last week, she was working on a nearby farm, walking outside — apparently, chasing after a cow — (laughter) — when she collapsed. And she was rushed to the hospital. She was very sick. She needed two blood transfusions. Doctors performed a battery of tests. And on Saturday, Natoma was diagnosed with leukemia.
Now, the reason Natoma is not here today is that she’s lying on a hospital bed, suddenly faced with this emergency — suddenly faced with the fight of her life. She expects to face more than a month of aggressive chemotherapy. She is racked with worry not only about her illness but about the costs of the tests and the treatment that she’s surely going to need to beat it.
So you want to know why I’m here, Ohio? I’m here because of Natoma. (Applause.) I’m here because of the countless others who have been forced to face the most terrifying challenges in their lives with the added burden of medical bills they can’t pay. I don’t think that’s right. (Applause.) Neither do you. That’s why we need health insurance right now. Health insurance reform right now. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!
THE PRESIDENT: I’m here because of my own mother’s story. She died of cancer, and in the last six months of her life, she was on the phone in her hospital room arguing with insurance companies instead of focusing on getting well and spending time with her family.
I’m here because of the millions who are denied coverage because of preexisting conditions or dropped from coverage when they get sick. (Applause.)
I’m here because of the small businesses who are forced to choose between health care and hiring. (Applause.)
I’m here because of the seniors unable to afford the prescriptions that they need. (Applause.)
I’m here because of the folks seeing their premiums go up 20 and 30 and 40 and 50 and 60 percent in a year. (Applause.)
Ohio, I am here because that is not the America I believe in and that’s not the America that you believe in.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: What’s your plan?
THE PRESIDENT: So when you hear people say “start over” –
THE PRESIDENT: — I want you to think about Natoma. When you hear people saying that this isn’t the “right time,” you think about what she’s going through. When you hear people talk about, well, what does this mean for the Democrats? What does this mean for the Republicans? I don’t know how the polls are doing. When you hear people more worried about the politics of it than what’s right and what’s wrong, I want you to think about Natoma and the millions of people all across this country who are looking for some help, and looking for some relief. That’s why we need health insurance reform right now. (Applause.)
Part of what makes this issue difficult is most of us do have health insurance, we still do. And so — and so we kind of feel like, well, I don’t know, it’s kind of working for me; I’m not worrying too much. But what we have to understand is that what’s happened to Natoma, there but for the grace of God go any one of us. (Applause.) Anybody here, if you lost your job right now and after the COBRA ran out –
(Audience member faints.)
THE PRESIDENT: It looks like we’ve got somebody who might’ve fainted down there, so if we’ve got a medic. No, no, no. Hold on. I’m talking about there’s somebody who might’ve fainted right down here, so if we can get a medic just back here. They’re probably okay. Just give her or him some space.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hope you have insurance. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: So let’s just think about — think about if you lost your job right now. How many people here might have had a preexisting condition that would mean it’d be very hard to get health insurance on the individual market? Think about if you wanted to change jobs. Think about if you wanted to start your own business but you suddenly had to give up your health insurance on your job. Think about what happens if a child of yours, heaven forbid, got diagnosed with something that made it hard for them to insure.
For so many people, it may not be a problem right now but it’s going to be a problem later, at any point. And even if you’ve got good health insurance, what’s happening to your premiums? What’s happening to your co-payments? What’s happening to your deductible? They’re all going up. That’s money straight out of your pocket.
So the bottom line is this: The status quo on health care is simply unsustainable. (Applause.) We can’t have — we can’t have a system that works better for the insurance companies than it does for the American people. (Applause.)
And we know what will happen if we fail to act. We know that our government will be plunged deeper into debt. We know that millions more people will lose their coverage. We know that rising costs will saddle millions more families with unaffordable expenses. And a lot of small businesses are just going to drop their coverage altogether. That’s already what’s been happening.
A study came out just yesterday — this is a nonpartisan study — it’s found that without reform, premiums could more than double for individuals and families over the next decade. Family policies could go to an average of $25,000 or more. Can you afford that?
THE PRESIDENT: You think your employer can afford that?
THE PRESIDENT: Your employer can’t sustain that. So what’s going to happen is, they’re basically — more and more of them are just going to say, you know what? You’re on your own on this.
We have debated this issue now for more than a year. Every proposal has been put on the table. Every argument has been made. I know a lot of people view this as a partisan issue, but, look, the fact is both parties have a lot of areas where we agree — it’s just politics are getting in the way of actually getting it done. (Applause.)
Somebody asked what’s our plan. Let me describe exactly what we’re doing, because we’ve ended up with a proposal that incorporates the best ideas from Democrats and Republicans, even though Republicans don’t give us any credit. (Laughter.) That’s all right.
You know, if you think about the debate around health care reform, there were some who wanted to scrap the system of private insurance and replace it with government-run care. And, look, that works in a number of places, but I did not see that being practical to help right away for people who really need it.
And on the other end of the spectrum, and this is what a lot of the Republicans are saying right now, there are those who simply believe that the answer is to unleash the insurance industry, to deregulate them further, provide them less oversight and fewer rules.
THE PRESIDENT: This is called the fox-guarding-the-henhouse approach to health insurance reform. (Laughter.) So what it would do is it would give insurance companies more leeway to raise premiums, more leeway to deny care. It would segment the market further. It would be good if you were rich and healthy. You’d save money. But if you’re an ordinary person, if you get older, if you get a little sicker, you’d be paying more.
Now, I don’t believe we should give the government or insurance companies more control over health care in America. I believe it’s time to give you, the American people, more control over your own health insurance. (Applause.)
And that’s what our proposal does. Our proposal builds on the current system where most Americans get their health insurance from their employer. So if you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. I don’t want to interfere with people’s relationships between them and their doctors.
Essentially, here’s what my proposal would change: three things about the current health care system, but three important things.
Number one, it would end the worst practices of the insurance companies. (Applause.) All right? This is like a patient’s bill of rights on steroids. (Laughter.) Within the first year of signing health care reform, thousands of uninsured Americans with preexisting conditions will be able to purchase health insurance for the first time in their lives or the first time since they got sick. (Applause.) This year, insurance companies will be banned forever from denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions. So parents can have a little bit of security. (Applause.) This year, under this legislation, insurance companies will be banned from dropping your coverage when you get sick. Those practices would end. (Applause.)
With this reform package, all new insurance plans would be required to offer free preventive care to their customers starting this year — so free check-ups to catch preventable diseases on the front end. That’s a smart thing to do. (Applause.) Starting this year, if you buy a new plan, there won’t be lifetime or restrictive annual limits on the amount of care you receive from your insurance companies, so you won’t be surprised by the fine print that says suddenly they’ve stopped paying and you now suddenly are $50,000 or $100,000 or $200,000 out of pocket. That won’t — that will not happen if this becomes law this year. (Applause.)
I see — I see some young people in the audience. (Applause.) If you’re an uninsured young adult, you will be able to stay on your parents’ policy until you’re 26 years old under this law. (Applause.)
So number one — number one is insurance reform. The second thing that this plan would change about the current system is this: For the first time, uninsured individuals, small businesses, they’d have the same kind of choice of private health insurance that members of Congress get for themselves. (Applause.) Understand if this reform becomes law, members of Congress, they’ll be getting their insurance from the same place that the uninsured get theirs, because if it’s good enough for the American people, it’s good enough for the people who send us to Washington. (Applause.)
So basically what would happen is, we’d set up a pool of people; millions of people across the country would all buy into these pools that give them more negotiating power. If you work for a big company, you’ve got a better insurance deal because you’ve got more bargaining power as a whole. We want you to have all the bargaining power that the federal employees have, that big companies have, so you’ll be able to buy in or a small business will be able to buy into this pool. And that will lower rates, it’s estimated, by up to 14 to 20 percent over what you’re currently getting. That’s money out of pocket.
And what my proposal says is if you still can’t afford the insurance in this new marketplace, then we’re going to offer you tax credits to do so. And that will add up to the largest middle-class tax cut for health care in history. That’s what we’re going to do. (Applause.)
Now, when I was talking about this at that health care summit, some of you saw it — I sat there for about seven hours; I know you guys watched the whole thing. (Laughter.) But some of these folks said, well, we just — that’s a nice idea but we just can’t afford to do that. Look, I want everybody to understand — the wealthiest among us can already buy the best insurance there is. The least well among us, the poorest among us, they get their health care through Medicaid. So it’s the middle class, it’s working people that are getting squeezed, and that’s who we have to help, and we can afford to do it. (Applause.)
Now, it is true that providing these tax credits to middle class families and small businesses, that’s going to cost some money. It’s going to cost about $100 billion per year. But most of this comes from the nearly $2.5 trillion a year that Americans already spend on health care. It’s just right now, a lot of that money is being spent badly.
So with this plan, we’re going to make sure the dollars we make — the dollars that we spend on health care are going to make insurance more affordable and more secure. And we’re going to eliminate wasteful taxpayer subsidies that currently go to insurance company. Insurance companies are making billions of dollars on subsidies from you, the taxpayer. And if we take those subsidies away, we can use them to help folks like Natoma get health insurance so she doesn’t lose her house. (Applause.)
And, yes, we will set a new fee on insurance companies because they stand to gain millions more customers who are buying insurance. There’s nothing wrong with them giving something back. But here’s the bottom line: Our proposal is paid for — which, by the way, is more than can be said for our colleagues on the other side of the aisle when they passed that big prescription drug plan that cost about as much as my health care plan and they didn’t pay for any of it and it went straight to the deficit. And now they’re up there on their high horse talking about, well, we don’t want to expand the deficit. This plan doesn’t expand the deficit. Their plan expanded the deficit. That’s why we pay for what we do. That’s the responsible thing to do. (Applause.)
Now, so let me talk about the third thing, which is my proposal would bring down the cost of health care for families, for businesses, and for the federal government. So Americans buying comparable coverage to what they have today — I already said this — would see premiums fall by 14 to 20 percent — that’s not my numbers, that’s what the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says — for Americans who get their insurance through the workplace. How many people are getting insurance through their jobs right now? Raise your hands. All right. Well, a lot of those folks, your employer it’s estimated would see premiums fall by as much as 3,000 percent [sic], which means they could give you a raise. (Applause.)
We have incorporated most of the serious ideas from across the political spectrum about how to contain the rising costs of health care. We go after waste and abuse in the system, especially in Medicare. Our cost-cutting measures would reduce most people’s premiums and bring down our deficit by up to a trillion dollars over the next two decades. Those aren’t my numbers. Those are the numbers determined by the Congressional Budget Office. They’re the referee. That’s what they say, not what I say.
Now, the opponents of reform, they’ve tried to make a lot of different arguments to stop these changes. You remember. First, they said, well, there’s a government takeover of health care. Well, that wasn’t true. Well, that wasn’t true. Then they said, well, what about death panels? Well, that turned out — that didn’t turn out to be true.
You know, the most insidious argument they’re making is the idea that somehow this would hurt Medicare. I know we’ve got some seniors here with us today — I couldn’t tell; you guys look great. (Laughter.) I wouldn’t have guessed. But want to tell you directly: This proposal adds almost a decade of solvency to Medicare. (Applause.) This proposal would close the gap in prescription drug coverage, called the doughnut hole — you know something about that — that sticks seniors with thousands of dollars in drug costs. This proposal will over time help to reduce the costs of Medicare that you pay every month. This proposal would make preventive care free so you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket for tests to keep you healthy. (Applause.)
So yes, we’re going after the waste, the fraud, the abuse in Medicare. We are eliminating some of the insurance subsidies that should be going to your care. That’s because these dollars should be spent on care for seniors, not on the care and feeding of the insurance companies through sweetheart deals. And every senior should know there is no cutting of your guaranteed Medicare benefits. Period. No “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts.” (Applause.) This proposal makes Medicare stronger, it makes the coverage better, and it makes the finances more secure. And anybody who says otherwise is either misinformed — or they’re trying to misinform you. Don’t let them hoodwink you. They’re trying to hoodwink you. (Laughter.)
So, look, Ohio, that’s the proposal. And I believe Congress owes the American people a final up or down vote. (Applause.) We need an up or down vote. It’s time to vote. And now as we get closer to the vote, there is a lot of hand-wringing going on. We hear a lot of people in Washington talking about politics, talking about what this means in November, talking about the poll numbers for Democrats and Republicans.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We need courage!
THE PRESIDENT: We need courage. (Applause.) Did you hear what somebody just said? (Applause.) That’s what we need. That’s why I came here today. We need courage. (Applause.)
We need courage. You know, in the end, this debate is about far more than politics. It comes down to what kind of country do we want to be. It’s about the millions of lives that would be touched and, in some cases, saved, by making health insurance more secure and more affordable. (Applause.) It’s about a woman who’s lying in a hospital bed who just wants to be able to pay for the care she needs. And the truth is, what’s at stake in this debate, it’s not just our ability to solve this problem; it’s about our ability to solve any problem.
I was talking to Dennis Kucinich on the way over here about this. I said, you know what? It’s been such a long time since we made government on the side of ordinary working folks — (applause) — where we did something for them that relieved some of their struggles; that made folks who work hard every day and are doing the right thing and who are looking out for the families and contributing to their communities, that just gave them a little bit of a better chance to live out their American Dream.
The American people want to know if it’s still possible for Washington to look out for these interests, for their future. So what they’re looking for is some courage. They’re waiting for us to act. They’re waiting for us to lead. They don’t want us putting our finger out to the wind. They don’t want us reading polls. They want us to look and see what is the best thing for America, and then do what’s right. (Applause.) And as long as I hold this office, I intend to provide that leadership. And I know these members of Congress are going to provide that leadership. I don’t know about the politics, but I know what’s the right thing to do. And so I’m calling on Congress to pass these reforms — and I’m going to sign them into law. I want some courage. I want us to do the right thing, Ohio. And with your help, we’re going to make it happen.
God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama to Send Updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act Blueprint To Congress on Monday
WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama to Send Updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act Blueprint To Congress on Monday
WASHINGTON – In his weekly address, President Barack Obama announced that on Monday, his administration will send to Congress the blueprint for an updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act that will overhaul No Child Left Behind. The plan will set the ambitious goal of ensuring that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and a career, and it will provide states, districts and schools with the flexibility and resources to reach that goal.
The audio and video will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 am ET, Saturday, March 13, 2010.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
March 13, 2010
Lost in the news of the week was a headline that ought to be a source of concern for every American. It said, “Many Nations Passing U.S. in Education.” Now, debates in Washington tend to be consumed with the politics of the moment: who’s up in the daily polls; whose party stands to gain in November. But what matters to you – what matters to our country – is not what happens in the next election, but what we do to lift up the next generation. And the fact is, there are few issues that speak more directly to our long term success as a nation than issues concerning the education we provide to our children.
Our prosperity in the 20th century was fueled by an education system that helped grow the middle class and unleash the talents of our people more fully and widely than at any time in our history. We built schools and focused on the teaching of math and science. We helped a generation of veterans go to college through the GI Bill. We led the globe in producing college graduates, and in turn we led in producing ground-breaking technologies and scientific discoveries that lifted living standards and set us apart as the world’s engine of innovation.
Of course, other nations recognize this, and are looking to gain an edge in the global marketplace by investing in better schools, supporting teachers, and committing to clear standards that will produce graduates with more skills. Our competitors understand that the nation that out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow. Yet, too often we have failed to make inroads in reforming and strengthening our public education system – the debate mired in worn arguments hurled across entrenched divides.
As a result, over the last few decades, we’ve lost ground. One assessment shows American fifteen year olds no longer even near the top in math and science when compared to their peers around the world. As referenced in the news report I mentioned, we’ve now fallen behind most wealthy countries in our high school graduation rates. And while we once led the world in the proportion of college graduates we produced, today we no longer do.
Not only does that risk our leadership as a nation, it consigns millions of Americans to a lesser future. For we know that the level of education a person attains is increasingly a prerequisite for success and a predictor of the income that person will earn throughout his or her life. Beyond the economic statistics is a less tangible but no less painful reality: unless we take action – unless we step up – there are countless children who will never realize their full talent and potential.
I don’t accept that future for them. And I don’t accept that future for the United States of America. That’s why we’re engaged in a historic effort to redeem and improve our public schools: to raise the expectations for our students and for ourselves, to recognize and reward excellence, to improve performance in troubled schools, and to give our kids and our country the best chance to succeed in a changing world.
Under the leadership of an outstanding Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, we launched a Race to the Top, through which states compete for funding by committing to reform and raising standards, by rewarding good teaching, by supporting the development of better assessments to measure results, and by emphasizing math and science to help prepare children for college and careers.
And on Monday, my administration will send to Congress our blueprint for an updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act to overhaul No Child Left Behind. What this plan recognizes is that while the federal government can play a leading role in encouraging the reforms and high standards we need, the impetus for that change will come from states, and from local schools and school districts. So, yes, we set a high bar – but we also provide educators the flexibility to reach it.
Under these guidelines, schools that achieve excellence or show real progress will be rewarded, and local districts will be encouraged to commit to change in schools that are clearly letting their students down. For the majority of schools that fall in between – schools that do well but could do better – we will encourage continuous improvement to help keep our young people on track for a bright future: prepared for the jobs of the 21st century. And because the most important factor in a child’s success is the person standing at the front of the classroom, we will better prepare teachers, support teachers, and encourage teachers to stay in the field. In short, we’ll treat the people who educate our sons and daughters like the professionals they are.
Through this plan we are setting an ambitious goal: all students should graduate from high school prepared for college and a career – no matter who you are or where you come from. Achieving this goal will be difficult. It will take time. And it will require the skills, talents, and dedication of many: principals, teachers, parents, students. But this effort is essential for our children and for our country. And while there will always be those cynics who claim it can’t be done, at our best, we know that America has always risen to the challenges that we’ve faced. This challenge is no different.
As a nation, we are engaged in many important endeavors: improving the economy, reforming the health care system, encouraging innovation in energy and other growth industries of the 21st century. But our success in these efforts – and our success in the future as a people – will ultimately depend on what happens long before an entrepreneur opens his doors, or a nurse walks the rounds, or a scientist steps into her laboratory. Our future is determined each and every day, when our children enter the classroom, ready to learn and brimming with promise.
It’s that promise we must help them fulfill. Thank you.
READOUT OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S MEETING WITH THE CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS
This afternoon, President Obama met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss the economy, job creation and the need to pass health care reform. President Obama acknowledged the progress that has been made on the economy while also expressing his concern for long-term unemployment. He requested that Members provide specific recommendations to the challenges concerning job creation.
After remarks by Chairwoman Lee discussing the impact of the economy in economically distressed communities and the need for additional assistance in these areas, Members presented their concerns and solutions for broadening the impact of the recovery effort.
The meeting participants agreed there are a number of things that can be done to impact unemployment immediately and in the long term including summer youth employment, job training tied to apprenticeships, a review of Recovery Act contracting to ensure access to these opportunities is fair and equitable, and an appreciation for the jobs that can be generated through weatherization programs and the passage of health care reform.
The meeting concluded with Congressman Lewis calling for a victory for the American people with the passage of health care reform.
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
National Export Initiative
March 11, 2010
Thank you, John, for that generous introduction, and congratulations to you, Fabienne and Luis for the recognition your companies deserve. Thank you to the Chairman of the Export-Import Bank, Fred Hochberg, for having me here; and for all the important work the Ex-Im Bank is doing to help American businesses sell their ideas to the world. I also want to recognize the Secretary General of the OECD, Angel Gurría, for his leadership at that institution.
Let me also acknowledge some members of my economic team who are here today – my Commerce Secretary, Gary Locke, who’s just returned from a trip to Brazil; and our United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Ron Kirk. And I want to thank them for doing a great job in the work of moving this country forward in tough times.
That’s been our most pressing priority over the first year of my administration. Guiding the American economy through its most serious crisis since the Great Depression. To do that required difficult, sometimes unpopular steps to rescue our financial system and jumpstart an economic recovery. But we took those steps. And because we did, we can stand here just over a year later, and say that we prevented another depression, we broke the back of the recession, and the economy that was shrinking a year ago is growing today.
What’s also clear is that we have a long way to go. More than eight million Americans have lost their jobs since the start of the recession. Millions more remain underemployed; including those doing part-time work or odd jobs. And middle-class families across this country have felt their economic security eroding for longer than they care to remember. That’s why we continue to do everything we can to foster private sector job creation and to restore some of that security.
But the fact is, if we want to once again approach full employment; if we want to create broad, shared, and lasting wealth for our workers and our families; if we want an America that is ready to compete on the global playing field of the 21st century – then we cannot slide back into an economy where we borrow too much and put off tough challenges. We cannot return to an economy where too much of our prosperity is based on fleeting bubbles and rampant speculation. We have to rebuild our economy on a new, stronger, more balanced foundation for the future – a foundation that will advance the American people’s prosperity at home, and support American leadership in the world.
That is precisely what we’ve begun to do. We’re catalyzing a new clean energy industry that has the potential to employ millions of workers in good jobs. We’re investing in the skills and education of our workers; and reforming our education system with a goal to once again lead the world in the proportion of college graduates by the end of this decade. We’re building a better health care system that works for our people, our businesses, and our government alike. We’re establishing clear, commonsense rules of the road for Wall Street that encourage innovation and creativity over recklessness or irresponsibility; rules that prevent firms from taking risks that threaten the entire economy.
And we are rebuilding an economy where we generate more American jobs in more American industries by producing and exporting more goods and services to other nations. In my State of the Union Address, I set a goal of doubling America’s exports over the next five years – an increase that will support two million American jobs. And I’ve come to the Export-Import Bank Conference today to discuss the initial steps we’re taking to achieve that goal.
Now, I know the issue of exports and imports; the issue of trade and globalization; have long evoked the passions of a lot of people in this country. I know there are differences of opinion between Democrats and Republicans; business and labor; about the right approach.
But I also know we’re at a moment where necessity has tempered the old debates. Those who would once support every trade agreement now see that other countries have to play fair and agreements have to be enforced. Those who once would once oppose any trade agreement now understand that there are new markets and new sectors out there we need to break into if we want our workers to get ahead.
Meanwhile, if you ask the average American what trade has offered them, they won’t say that their televisions are cheaper, or productivity is higher. They’d say they’ve seen the plant across town shut down, jobs dry up, and communities deteriorate. And you can’t blame them for feeling that way. Other countries haven’t always played by the same set of rules. America hasn’t always enforced our trade rights, or made sure that the benefits of trade are broadly shared. And we haven’t always done enough to help our workers adapt to a changing world.
There’s no question that as we compete in that global marketplace, we’ve got to look out for our workers. But to look out for our workers, we’ve got to compete in the global marketplace. Because it’s never been as important an opportunity for America.
In a time when millions of Americans are out of work, boosting our exports is a short-term imperative. Our exports support millions of American jobs. In 2008, we exported more than one trillion dollars of manufactured goods, supporting more than one in five manufacturing jobs – jobs that pay about 15 percent more than average. We led the world in services exports, which supported 2.8 million jobs. We exported nearly $100 billion in agricultural goods. And every $1 billion increase in exports supports more than 6,000 additional jobs.
It’s also critical for our long-term prosperity. Ninety-five percent of the world’s customers and the world’s fastest-growing markets are outside our borders. We need to compete for those customers. Because other nations are.
They’re investing in the skills and education of their people. They’re investing in the high-demand industries of the future. They’ve benefited from American consumers, made themselves into export-based economies, and positioned themselves for those jobs. They’re pursuing trade agreements with growing markets – agreements that would give their companies access to those markets and put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage.
If we stand on the sidelines while they go after those customers, we’ll lose out on the chance to create the good jobs our workers need right here in America. But standing on the sidelines is not what we do. We still have the most innovative economy in the world. We have the most productive workers in the world. We have the finest universities in the world. We have the most dynamic and competitive markets in the world.
And we remain the number one exporter of goods and services in the world. But we shouldn’t be satisfied with being number one. We shouldn’t assume our leadership is guaranteed. When other markets are growing, and other nations are competing, we need to get even better. We need to secure our companies a level playing field. We need to guarantee American workers a fair shake. We need to up our game.
That’s why, for the first time, the United States of America is launching a single, comprehensive strategy to promote American exports. It’s called the National Export Initiative; and it’s an ambitious effort to marshal the full resources of the United States government behind American businesses that sell their goods and services abroad.
This morning, I signed an Executive Order instructing the federal government to use every available federal resource in support of that mission. That order has created an Export Promotion Cabinet, made up of the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce and Labor, along with our U.S. Trade Representative, Small Business Administrator, the Export-Import Bank President, and other senior U.S. officials whose work impacts exports. That cabinet will convene its first meeting next month. I’ve also re-launched the President’s Export Council; the principal national advisory committee on international trade. I’ve named Jim McNerney, the President and CEO of Boeing, as its chair; and Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox, as vice chair; and I look forward to their recommendations.
Let me talk a bit about what the National Export Initiative will do. First, we’ll substantially increase access to trade financing for businesses that want to export their goods but just need a boost – especially small businesses and medium-sized businesses.
Some of the biggest factors limiting a firm’s decision to export are the high upfront cost of establishing a foothold in a new market, and the ability of the customers in that market to finance the purchase of their products.
During the financial crisis, as trade finance dried up, the Ex-Im Bank lived up to its mission, stepping in to fill the void. In fiscal year 2009, as part of a broader effort of G20 nations to mobilize trade finance worldwide, this institution authorized $21 billion in loans in support of American exports – an increase of nearly 50 percent over the previous year. I applaud Fred Hochberg’s efforts to increase that pace with the authorization of about $10 billion more in the first quarter of this year alone. And under the National Export Initiative, we’ll continue to increase the amount of trade financing Ex-Im offers, including a new $2 billion per year effort to increase support for our small and medium-sized businesses.
Another obstacle our exporters face is that the federal government just hasn’t done a good enough job advocating for them abroad. That’s why, as the second part of the National Export Initiative, the United States of America will go to bat for our businesses and our workers.
As an example, last week, I signed the Travel Promotion Act; a law that will establish active promotion and marketing efforts to encourage foreign citizens to come visit the most dynamic cities, the most entertaining destinations, and the most beautiful natural resources in the world. Well, the same principle applies for our businesses. We’ve got some of the most innovative companies in the world – and we should be advocating on their behalf to boost local economies and create jobs here.
This is an effort that I will personally lead as President. Next week, I will take my second trip to the Asia Pacific – a region that will be fundamental to America’s ability to create jobs and to thrive in the 21st century. We cannot be on the sidelines – we have to lead, and our engagement must extend to governments, business, and peoples across the Pacific. While I’m there, I plan on visiting Indonesia and Australia, two vibrant economies and democracies that will be critical partners for the United States. In both countries, I will highlight the role that American business plays there, and underscore how strong economic partnerships can create jobs on both sides of the Pacific while advancing regional – and global – prosperity. And going forward, I will be a strong and steady advocate for our workers and companies abroad.
This effort will extend throughout my Administration. Secretary Locke is issuing guidance to all senior government officials who have foreign counterparts on how they can best promote our exporters. Secretary Clinton is mobilizing a commercial diplomacy strategy, directing every one of our embassies to create a Senior Visitor Business Liaison who will manage our export advocacy efforts locally, and when our ambassadors return stateside, we’ll ask them to travel the United States to discuss export opportunities in their countries of assignment. We’re also announcing more than 40 trade and reverse trade missions are scheduled for this year. The Department of Commerce, for example, has sent a trade mission to India this week; and Secretary Vilsack is off to Japan on April 15th.
Third, we’ll unleash a battery of comprehensive and coordinated efforts to promote new markets and new opportunities for American exporters.
Many businesses want to export their products, but just don’t have the resources required to identify new markets or to set up shop overseas. That’s where we can help. We’ll bring together the Ex-Im Bank, the SBA, the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, and the Trade Development Agency to set up one-stop-shops across the country and in our 250 embassies and consulates abroad, to help American businesses gain a foothold in the fastest-growing markets with the most demand. And we’ll provide a comprehensive toolkit of services – from financing to counseling to promotion – to help potential exporters grow and expand.
We’ll create public-private partnerships to help firms break into new markets with the help of those who have been there – shipping and supply-chain companies, for example.
And we’ll increase funding for existing promotion efforts. We’ll increase funding for the International Trade Administration at the Department of Commerce, and strengthen the USDA’s ability to connect farmers with new customers overseas.
So we’re increasing financing, advocacy, and assistance for American businesses to locate, set up shop, and win in new markets. Those are the first three aims of the National Export Initiative.
The fourth focuses on making sure American companies have free and fair access to those markets. And that begins by enforcing trade agreements we already have on the books.
When I ran for President, I promised that when the United States of America puts its name to an agreement, that agreement will be as good for workers as it is for businesses, and include strong labor and environmental protections that we’ll enforce. My administration is living up to that promise. Ambassador Kirk has been doing a fantastic job as our United States Trade Representative, working to knock down barriers that unfairly keep American companies from markets we belong in, hold our trade partners to their labor and environmental obligations, and crack down on practices that blatantly harm our companies.
The United States offers some of the world’s lowest barriers to trade. That’s why we can often get more out of a trade deal – our borders are largely open. And when we give other countries the privilege of that free and fair access, we can expect it in return. That’s the spirit in which we’ll move forward. We’ll continue to work towards an ambitious and balanced Doha agreement – not just for the sake of any agreement, but for one that enhances market access for American agriculture, goods, and services. We’ll strengthen relations with key partners like South Korea, Panama, and Colombia, with the goal of moving forward with existing agreements in a way that upholds our values. And we will pursue negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership we launched last year with some of the most dynamic economies in Asia – negotiations that I believe will result in a new standard for 21st century trade agreements that aren’t just good for workers, businesses, and farmers; but consistent with our most cherished values.
What’s more, we’ll aggressively protect our intellectual property. Our single greatest asset is the innovation, ingenuity, and creativity of the American people. It’s essential to our prosperity. But it’s only a competitive advantage if our companies know that someone else can’t just steal that idea and duplicate it with cheaper inputs and labor. There’s nothing wrong with other people using our technologies – we just want to make sure that it’s licensed, and that American businesses are getting paid appropriately. And that’s why USTR is using the full arsenal of tools available to crack down on practices that blatantly harm our businesses, including negotiating proper protection, enforcing our existing agreements, and moving forward on new agreements, including a proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
We’ll also work within the G20 to continue global recovery and growth. Last year, when the G20 met to coordinate the international response to our global economic crisis, we agreed that in order for that growth to continue, we needed to rebalance our economies. For too long, America served as the consumer engine for the entire world. But we are rebalancing. We’re saving more. We all need to rebalance. Countries with external deficits need to save and export more. Countries with external surpluses need to boost consumption and domestic demand. And as I’ve said before, China moving to a more market-oriented exchange rate would make an essential contribution to that global rebalancing effort. I want to commend Secretary Geithner for his extraordinary work and tremendous leadership throughout his work with the G20, and I know he’ll keep working to encourage a rebalancing of global demand – efforts that will be good for our exports and for our job growth.
Finally, we’re working to reform our Export Control System for our strategic, high-tech industries, which will strengthen our national security. We’ll concentrate our efforts on enforcing controls on the export of our most critical technologies, making America safer while enhancing the competitiveness of key American industries. We’ve conducted a broad review of the Export Control System, and Secretary Gates will outline our reform proposal within the next couple weeks. But today, I’d like to announce two steps that we’re prepared to take.
First, we’ll streamline the process certain companies need to go through to get their products to market – products with encryption capabilities like cell phone and network storage devices. Currently, they endure a technical review that can take between 30 to 60 days – putting that company at a distinct disadvantage to foreign competitors who don’t face those delays. A new one-time online process will shorten that review time from 30 days to 30 minutes, making it quicker and easier for our businesses to compete while meeting our national security requirements.
Second, we will eliminate unnecessary obstacles for exporting products to companies with dual-national and third-country-national employees. Currently, our exporters and foreign consumers of these goods have to comply with two different, conflicting sets of standards. They’re running on two tracks, when they could be running on one. So we’re moving toward harmonizing those standards, making it easier for American and foreign companies to comply with our requirements without diminishing our security. I look forward to consulting with Congress on these reforms, as well as our broader export control reform effort.
So that’s how we’ll help double our exports, open up new markets, and level the playing field for American workers and businesses. And I have every confidence that we can and will succeed in this endeavor.
This is a difficult time for our country. And in times like these, questions have always arisen about whether or not America’s best days are behind us. There have always been naysayers and skeptics. There have always been those who waxed fatalistic, fearing that we lacked the capacity to succeed – at times even to survive – in a changing world.
But what makes America great – what makes America the envy of our competitors; what makes this a place where people come not just to invest but to start lives and businesses and families – is something that has been inexorable and enduring, especially in times of great challenge and great change. It’s that spirit of adventurousness and entrepreneurship that has for generations turned wild-eyed tinkerers into world-changing entrepreneurs; that led us to look westward and then skyward; that led to roads and railways cutting through wilderness; and ships and planes and fiber optic lines carrying American goods and services around the world. It’s the spirit that has advanced America’s leadership in the world and held aloft the American Dream for generations. And it is, ultimately, this spirit that has given us the tools and the toughness to overcome every obstacle and adapt to every circumstance – especially today.
It hasn’t always been easy. And our success is my by no means guaranteed. But if we summon a sense of national purpose equal to the seriousness of these times; if we combine our creativity, our innovation, and our eternal optimism; if we come together in common cause as we have so many times before – then we will succeed. We will define our destiny once again. And we will make this century another American century. Thank you.