Political Headlines September 7, 2014: Full Meet the Press Interview With President Obama — Video

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Full Meet the Press Interview With President Obama

Source: NBC News, 9-7-14

Obama_Meet_the_Press_9-7-14

 

Full Text Obama Presidency June 10, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks in Q&A with David Karp, CEO of Tumblr on Easing Student Loan Debt

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Q&A with David Karp, CEO of Tumblr

Source: WH, 6-10-14

State Dining Room

4:15 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Hi.

THE PRESIDENT:  You don’t have to be so formal.  (Laughter.)  Sheesh.  Come on, now.

MR. KARP:  This is unusual.  Thank you.  Thank you, everyone, and welcome to the White House.  Thank you for having us, Mr. President.  I’m David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, and it is my tremendous privilege to be here with President Obama today and joined by the Tumblr community.  Thank you for joining us, everyone.

Yesterday, the President signed an executive order intended to curb the pain of student debt.  Americans now hold more than a trillion dollars in student debt, one of the greatest expenses they’ll incur in their lifetime.  And the generation that’s just reaching college age is beginning to wonder if it’s even worth it.

One-third of Americans who have applied for an education loan this year also happen to use Tumblr, so last week we asked our audience if they had questions that they’d like to ask the President about the cost value and accessibility of higher education — turns out they had quite a few.  We’re not going to be able to get through all of them today, but the President has been kind enough to give us some time at his house to answer some of those questions.  (Laughter.)

So again, huge thank you for making yourself available today.  Anything you’d like to add before we start?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, this is a rental house.  (Laughter.)  I just want to be clear.  My lease runs out in about two and a half years.

Second of all, I want to thank David and the whole Tumblr community for participating in this.  We’re constantly looking for new ways to reach audiences that are relevant to the things we’re talking about.  And, obviously, young people disproportionately use Tumblr.  A lot of Tumblr users are impacted by student debt.  So for you to be able to give us this forum to speak directly to folks is wonderful, and I’m looking forward to a whole bunch of good questions.

MR. KARP:  Thank you.  Okay, so everybody is clear on how the questions work — so since we closed for questions at 5:00 p.m. yesterday, we brought together a team of influential Tumblr bloggers who helped us select some of the best questions.  There are — a few of them, anyway, are joining us in the audience in the State Dining Room here today.  Neither the White House nor the President have seen any of these questions in advance.

Should we get started?

THE PRESIDENT:  Let’s go.

MR. KARP:  All right.  So, first came in from Caitlin (ph).  I appreciate your willingness to work with legislators to attempt to retroactively diffuse the cost of some student’s loans by creating new repayment plans, but this seems to me like an attempt to put a band aid on a broken leg.  What are we doing to actually lower the cost of a college degree — excuse me — of college tuition so these loans will no longer be necessary?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s a great question.  Let me give people some context for what’s happened over the last 20, 30 years.

I graduated from college in ’83; graduated from law school in 1990.  And although I went to a private school, through a combination of grants, loans and working I had a fairly low level of debt that I was able to pay in one year without getting an incredibly well-paying job.  I was able to keep my debt burden pretty low.  Folks who were 10 years younger than me, they probably paid even less.  And if you went to a state school at the time, typically people would come out with almost no debt whatsoever.

Today, the average debt burden, even for young people who are going to a public university, is about $30,000.  And that gives you some sense of how much the cost has escalated for the average young person.

Now, you mentioned earlier some people are wondering, is this a good investment.  It absolutely is.  The difference between a college grad and somebody with a high school diploma is about $28,000 a year in income.  So it continues to be a very smart investment for you to go to college.  But we have to find ways to do two things.

One is we have to lower the costs on the front end.  And then, if you do have to supplement whatever you can pay with borrowing, we’ve got to make sure that that is a manageable debt.  And about 12 months ago, maybe 16 months ago, I convened college and university presidents around the country to start working with them on how we could lower debt — or lower tuition, rather.

The main reason that tuition has gone up so much is that state legislatures stopped subsidizing public universities as much as they used to, in part because they started spending money on things like prisons and other activities that I think are less productive.  And so schools then made up for the declining state support by jacking up their tuition rates.

What’s also happened is, is that the costs of things like health care that a university community with a lot of personnel has to shoulder, those costs have gone up faster than wages and incomes.  The combination of those things has made college tuition skyrocket faster than health care costs have.

There are ways we can bring down those costs, and we know that because there are some colleges who have done a very good job in keeping tuition low.  We also have to do a better job of informing students about how to keep their debt down — because, frankly, universities don’t always counsel young people well when they first come in; they say, don’t worry about it, you can pay for it — not realizing that you’re paying for it through borrowing that you’re going to end up having to shoulder once you graduate.

MR. KARP:  What does that help, what does that support look like?  So Chelsea sent in a very similar question from Portland.  So she asks:  “Colleges help students get into debt.  They don’t often help offer financial planning services before school, after they graduate.”

Do you guys have a plan to help students make sound financial decisions?  I mean, these are teenagers who are making decisions sometimes amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars that are going to follow them through their entire lives.  Hopefully, they have parents who can help them navigate those decisions.  But if they don’t, are they on their own?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we are already doing something we call Know What You Owe.  And the idea is to work with every college, university, community college out there so that when you come into school, ideally even before you accept admission from a school, you are given a sense of what your annual loans might be, what your financial package is going to translate into in terms of debt — assuming you go through a four-year degree on schedule, and what your monthly payments are likely to be afterwards.

And so just that one step alone — making sure that schools are obliged to counsel you on the front end when you come in, as opposed to just on the exit interview once you’ve already accumulated the debt — that in and of itself can make a big difference.

MR. KARP:  Understood.  We didn’t get first names for everybody.  So Haiku Moon asks — (laughter) –

THE PRESIDENT:  That might be the first name.  That’s a cool name.  (Laughter.)

MR. KARP:  “It wasn’t until after I graduated college that I realized what I wanted to do with my life.  Now I have a degree that has very little to do with that goal and a mountain of debt.  I can’t help but wonder if I wasn’t pressured to go to college and was better prepared to make that decision, and if I was better prepared to make that decision, that I might be in a better place to pursue my dreams today.  How can we change the public education system to better prepare and support young people making this huge decision?”  I mean, again, teenagers deciding what they want to do for the rest of their lives.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, one of the things that Haiku Moon is alluding to is that high school should be a time in which young people have greater exposure to actual careers as opposed to just classroom study.

And I went to a wonderful school in New York called P-TECH, went there for a visit.  What they’ve done is they have collapsed high school basically into a three-year program.  You can then extend for another two years and get an associate’s degree.  IBM is working with them so that if, in fact, they complete the curriculum that IBM helped to design, they know they’ve got a job at IBM on the back end.  And that’s just one example of what I’d like to see a lot more high schools do, which is give young people in high school more hands-on experience, more apprenticeships, more training.

If you are somebody who is interested in graphic design, I’d rather have you work at a company doing graphic design your senior year or junior year to see if you actually like it, to get a sense of the training you need.  You may not need a four-year degree.  You might only need a two-year degree.  You might be able to work while getting that degree.  All that can save you money.  So that can make a really big difference for high school kids.

At the same time, one of the things that we initiated several years back is something called income-based repayments.  And that’s something I really want to focus on, IBR for short — income-based repayments.  What we did in 2011 was to say all student loans going forward, if you have a debt and you decide you want to go into a job that — like teaching or social work, that doesn’t necessarily pay a lot, you shouldn’t be hampered from making that choice just because you’ve got such a significant debt load.  So what we said was that we will cap your repayments of your loans at 10 percent of your income above $18,000.  And by doing that, that gives people flexibility.  It doesn’t eliminate your debt.  But what it does is it makes it manageable each month so that the career that you choose may not be constrained, and we then have additional programs so that if you go into one of the helping professions — public service, law enforcement, social work, teaching — then over time that debt could actually be forgiven.

Now, the problem with it was that we passed this law in 2011; it only applied going forward.  It didn’t apply retroactively.  So yesterday what I did was sign an executive action saying that the Department of Education is going to be developing rules so that going backwards anybody can avail themselves of this income-based repayments, because I get a lot of letters from people who took out loans in 2005 or 2000 — they are also in a situation where they’re making regular payments but it’s very hard for them to make ends meet.  And we want to ideally finish what’s called the rulemaking process — nothing is easy around here — hopefully by the time — say, the end of next year, the rules will be in place, that will be the law, and then everybody and not just folks who borrowed after 2011 can take advantage of that.

But there’s not a lot of knowledge of this, and I hope that the Tumblr community helps to spread the word that this is something already available for loans that you took out after 2011 and hopefully by next year it will be available for people even if you took out your loans before 2011.

MR. KARP:  Where do we find information about it?

THE PRESIDENT:  You should go to whitehouse.gov, the White House website.  It will then link you to ED.gov, which is the Education Department website.  But whitehouse.gov I figure is easier to remember.  (Laughter.)

MR. KARP:  Can you elaborate real quick on encouraging public service?  So Josh from Oak Park sent in a really good question about this:  “The U.S. has a long history of encouraging college-age men and women to give back to their larger communities through organizations like the Peace Corps, through organizations like Teach for America.  Couldn’t we make a larger commitment to that by creating tuition loan forgiveness programs for those students who agree to work in those fields or work in those geographic areas in need of skilled employees?”  So you can imagine family practice doctors, you can imagine public defenders.

THE PRESIDENT:  I mean, right now we have some programs like this in place but they’re typically relatively small, relatively specialized.  So there are some loan-forgiveness programs for primary care physicians who are going out to rural communities or inner cities or underserved communities.  There are some programs that are available through the AmeriCorps program for people who are engaged in public service.  They are not as broad-based and widespread as I would like.  And we have tried to work with Congress — so far, unsuccessfully — to be able to get an expansion of these areas.

And let’s take health care as an example.  We know that the population is aging.  We know that we have a severe shortage of primary care physicians.  A lot of young doctors are going into specialized fields like dermatology or plastic surgery because you can make a relatively large profit, you don’t end up having a lot of liability, and that’s not really what we need more of.

And so my hope is, is that over time Congress recognizes that young people are our most precious asset.  There are some areas that we know we need people to get into the field, our best and brightest, and right now the financial burdens are precluding them from doing it.  And we could open up those fields to a huge influx of talent if we were a little smarter with it.

MR. KARP:  So you’ve touched on health care in public service and health care in general.  You talk a lot about STEM fields.  So how do we promote — this is one Orta (sp) asked:  “How can we promote growth in STEM fields without putting humanities on the back burner?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I want to say I was a humanities major.  (Laughter.)  I majored in political science and I minored in English.  And I was pretty good in math, but in high school — I actually loved math and science until I got into high school, and then I misspent those years.  (Laughter.)  And the thing about the humanities was you could kind of talk your way through classes, which you couldn’t do in math and science.  (Laughter.)

So a great liberal arts humanities education is still critically important, because in today’s global economy, one of the most important skills you have is your ability to work with people and communicate clearly and effectively.  Having said that, what is also true is that technology is going to continue to drive innovation.  And just to be a good citizen, you need some background in STEM, and we are not producing enough engineers, enough computer scientists, enough math teachers and science teachers, and enough researchers.

And so I’m putting a big emphasis on STEM in part because we have a shortage; not because I’m privileging one over the other, but because we don’t have as many people going into the STEM fields.  And it starts early.

Part of what we’re trying to do is work with public schools to take away some of the intimidation factor in math and science.  Part of what we’re trying to do is make sure that we are reaching to demographics that are very underrepresented — and, yes, I mean you, women.  Girls are still more likely to be discouraged from pursuing math, science, technology degrees.  You see that imbalance in Silicon Valley, you see it in a lot of high-tech firms.

And so we’re trying to lift up curriculums that are interesting for kids, work with schools in terms of best practices.  One of the things that we’re also discovering is that young people who have an interest in math and science, when they go to college, oftentimes they’re steered into finance because that’s been perceived as the more lucrative option.  And we’re trying to work with universities and departments of engineering, for example, to help mentor young people to understand that — if you look at the top 100 companies in the country, you’ve got a lot more engineers running companies than you do folks who have a finance background.

And so there are great opportunities.  And one of the things that every young person should be thinking about is, A, what’s their passion, what do they care about, but they should also be taking a look at where is there a demand.  And frankly, if you’ve got a science or engineering background, the likelihood of you being unemployed is very low, because there’s always going to be a need — and it doesn’t preclude you from writing a haiku at some point and figuring out some creative outlet.  But having that discipline and that skillset is still going to be invaluable.

MR. KARP:  Well, you just described it as really hard to navigate — again, a teenager making the decision between passion or an industry that’s going to have demand for them.  So great question:  “At this point, I’m stuck between majors.  I know the field I have a passion for has a limited number of jobs, all of which pay very little.  Assuming I get the job, the low income will make it difficult to pay the substantial debt I’ll most likely be in from that education.  There are other fields I know I could succeed in and receive the higher salary, but I’m afraid that one day I’ll realize I hate what I do.”

Question was, how did you decide on your career, and what advice do you have for somebody who is coming up trying to navigate that marketplace with demand or their passions?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well –

MR. KARP:  By the way, one vote for keeping kids out of finance.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Or the law, by the way, because — (laughter) — we have enough lawyers.  Although it’s a fine profession.  (Laughter.)  I can say that because I’m a lawyer.

I think everybody is different.  But I do think that, first of all, when I first got out of school I worked for a year in a job that I wasn’t interested in because I wanted to pay off my loans.

Now, I had the luxury, as I said, that my loan burden was only — was small enough that I could pay it off in a year.  But work is not always fun, and you can’t always follow your bliss right away.  And so I think that young people should be practical.  I know a lot of young people who work for five years in a field that they may not be interested, but it gives them the financial stability and the base from which then to do what they want.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The main advice I would give young people starting off, though, is ultimately you are going to do best at something you care deeply about.  And some people have probably heard this said before, but if you really enjoy what you do, then the line between work and play starts vanishing a little bit.  You still have to grind it out, but you can get into that mindset where the creativity or the effort and the sweat that you’re putting into what you do doesn’t feel like a burden, it feels like an expression of what you care about.

And so I think your career is not going to be a straight line all the time.  I think there may be times where you got to take a detour and you got to do something practical to pay the bills.  There are going to be times where you see an opportunity, and you’re making a calculated risk that I’m going to start some wacky company called Tumblr.  (Laughter.)

And how you balance the practical with your highest aspirations is something that will be different for each person.  Everybody is going to have different circumstances.

MR. KARP:  What do you say to kids right now who ask you — they see their passion, they want to build big stuff for the Internet.  They want to build the next big app or the next big social network.  What do you tell them, when they say, hey, look, David, Zuckerberg, Jobs, Gates, all these guys –

THE PRESIDENT:  Just dropped out of school.

MR. KARP:  — might not necessarily deserve to get a company up, but dropped out of school?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  I mean you wouldn’t know it looking at you, but you’re like LeBron or Durant.  (Laughter.)  I mean, you guys don’t have the same physiques — (laughter) — but there are only going to be so many Zuckerbergs or Gates who are able to short-circuit the traditional path.

If you can, more power to you.  But let me put it this way: Had you not — let’s say Tumblr had been a bust, right?  Or Facebook had just ended up being some dating site that nobody was really interested in.

MR. KARP:  We’d be in a hard place.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, but the truth is also you had the foundation where you could go back to school, right?  I mean, it wasn’t as if you were suddenly operating without a net.  I’m assuming that you would have been readmitted to whatever institution you were in.  And if not, then you would go to another school and you’d do fine.

So the issue is not whether you may not want to take a risk at some point.  The point is that for the average young person an investment in college is always going to be a smart investment.  Making sure you know what it is that you’re investing in is important.

One of the biggest areas where we see a problem is young people who are going, let’s say, to technical schools or community colleges or some of these for-profit universities, they’re promised a lot.  But they haven’t done the research to see, okay, does typically a graduate coming out of one of these schools get a job in the occupation?  Are they actually making money?  If you’re going to have $50,000 worth of debt, you better have factored in what are the employment prospects coming out.

And so I think it’s good for young people — not only good, it’s imperative for young people to be good consumers of education, and don’t just assume that there’s one way of doing things.

We tell our daughters — Malia is now — she’ll be 16 next month, and she’s going to be in the college process.  And we tell her, don’t assume that there are 10 schools that you have to go to, and if you didn’t go to those 10, that somehow things are going to be terrible.  There are a lot of schools out there.  There are a lot of options.  And you should do your research before you decide to exercise one of those options.

Having said that, the overwhelming evidence is that a college education is the surest, clearest path into the middle class for most Americans.

MR. KARP:  Is the White House right now offering any of those tools to be a good a consumer, to navigate all the choices out there?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, yes.  So if you go to whitehouse.gov, which will link you to the Department of Education, one of the things that we’re doing is to — we’re starting to develop a scorecard for colleges and universities so you have just a general sense of what’s the typical graduation rate, what’s the typical debt that you carry once you get out, what is the employment rate for graduates five years afterwards.  And over time, one of the things that we’re trying to do is develop a ranking system that is not exactly the same as the typical college-ranking systems that you see in U.S. News and World Report, for example.

Part of the problem with the traditional ranking systems of schools is that, for example, high cost is actually a bonus in the ranking system.  It indicates prestige, and so there may be some great schools that are expensive, but what you’re missing is a great school that may give you much better value, particularly in the field that you’re in.

Now, there’s some controversy, I want to confess, about — that a lot of colleges and universities say, you know, if you start ranking just based on cost and employability, et cetera, you’re missing the essence of higher education and so forth.  What we’re really trying to do is just identify here are some good bargains, here are some really bad deals.  Then there’s going to be a bunch of schools in the middle that there’s not going to be a huge amount of differentiation.  But what we are trying to do is make sure that students have enough information going into it that they don’t end up in a school that is pretty notorious for piling a lot of debt on their students but not really delivering a great education.

MR. KARP:  Back to the debt, which is top of mind for everybody here today — so Megan (ph) from Tulsa asked an interesting question:  “Of my $220,000 in student loans –

THE PRESIDENT:  Yikes.

MR. KARP:  — from college and law school” — there you go — “less than half is receiving the benefit of loan forgiveness.”  Why is there no discussion on the mounting private student loan debt?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there is a discussion.  The problem is we just end up having less leverage over that.  I mean, the truth is, is that both legislatively and administratively we have some impact on federal loans.  Private loans — if you take — if you go to a private company and you’re taking out a loan, we have the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau that is trying to regulate this area and make sure that you have full information about what you’re getting yourself into.  It’s another version of Know Before You Owe.  But it’s harder for us to restructure some of that debt.

Now, one thing that I think is really important for everybody to know here — because this is actual action you can take, as opposed to just listening to me blather on.  This week, there will be a vote in the United States Senate on a bill sponsored by Elizabeth Warren, the Senator from Massachusetts.  And what this bill would do would allow students to refinance their existing loans at today’s rates.  The reason that’s important is because rates have been low, and typically there’s going to be a pretty big spread between the rates that a lot of students — the interest rates that a lot of students have on their debt right now, versus what they could do if they refinanced, the same way that a lot of people refinance their mortgages to take advantage of historically low rates.

And so this vote is coming up.  It will come up this week.  I think everybody on Tumblr should be contacting their senators and finding out where they stand on the issue, because — and, by the way, this is something that will not add to the deficit, because the way we pay for it is we say that we’re going to eliminate some loopholes right now that allow millionaires and billionaires to pay lower rates of taxes than secretaries and teachers.  And so it would pay for itself.  It’s a good piece of legislation.  It directly affects folks in their 20s and 30s, and in some cases, their 40s and 50s and 60s.  But particularly the young people who use Tumblr, this is something that you should pay a lot of attention to.  Make sure that you are pushing your senators around this issue.

MR. KARP:  Particularly important if you know you’re facing that debt already or you are already today facing that debt.  What’s the best way, though, for people who are — again, they’re thinking about higher education, they’re in school today, and a thoughtful question.  What is the best way for students to have a voice in their own education?  So much education today, I think really — I don’t know, I mean, so many teenagers who feel like education is happening to them.  They’re going through the motions.  They know that this is what they’re supposed to do, and so they follow along.  How do we make sure kids are driving?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, at some point it’s going to be up to the young person to drive that education.  It’s not inevitable that you just fasten your seatbelt and just go on a ride for four years or two years or whatever it is.  I mean, I have to say that in my own college experience, I think the first two years I was there thinking I’m just happy to be here and I’m having fun and I’ll just sort of go through the motions.  My last two years was when I really became much more serious about what I was doing and much more intentional about what I was doing.

Too many young people see — and I’m grossly generalizing now, so excuse me — but I use myself as an example as well.  I think too many of us see college as a box to check or a place to have fun and extend adolescence, as opposed to a opportunity for each of us to figure out what is it that we’re good at, what is it that we care about, what is it that we’re willing to invest a lot of time and effort and energy into, how do we hone some skills or interests or attributes that we already have.  And as a consequence, I think young people waste a lot of time in school.

Now, again, I’m generalizing, because there are a whole bunch of folks who are working while going to school, while helping out their parents — in some cases, they’re already parents themselves.  And so everything I just said does not apply to you.  It’s interesting — one of the reasons I think I did well in law school was because I had worked for three and a half years so that by the time I got to law school I actually knew why I was studying the law, and I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of it — not to mention the fact that the idea of just going to class for three hours a day and then reading didn’t seem particularly oppressive to me, whereas young people who had come straight out of college thought, this is horrible.  Try working for a while and then you realize that this is a pretty good deal.  (Laughter.)

But I think that part of what we as adults have to do goes back to what I said about high schools.  Education is not a passive thing.  You don’t tip your head and somebody pours it into your ear.  It is an active process of you figuring out the world and your place in it.  And the earlier we can help young people — not lock them in.  Look, nobody expects that somebody who is 16 automatically knows exactly what they want to do, and people may change their minds repeatedly.  But what we can do is expose young people to enough actual work and occupations that they start getting a feel for what they would be interested in.  And I really want to work with more school districts, and I’ve asked the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to work with more school districts, and we’re actually giving grants to school districts that are thinking creatively about how high school can be used more effectively.

I don’t want a young person who knows that they want to go into the trades to just waste four years of high school and then they’ve got to go through two years of apprenticeship and classwork before they become a contractor.  I’d rather have them doing contracting while also getting some other educational exposure so that they’re getting a jump on the things that they want to do.  And they can save a lot of money in the process.

MR. KARP:  So Beth asked a question close to that point.  Instead of pushing all students into college, shouldn’t we focus on the other side — increasing the minimum wage and making it viable, livable to enter the workforce straight out of high school?  Should we be doing both?

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  Well, here is what I would say:  There are very few jobs now where you’re not going to need some advanced training.  One of the great things about being President is I get to visit companies and worksites and factories.  And if you go into the average auto company today, for example, first of all, it’s not at all what you’d imagine — it is spotless and it is quiet, and it is humming, because it is all mechanized and computerized at this point.  And even if you have a four-football-field-sized assembly line, most of the people there are working with machines and they’re working on computer keyboards.

So having some basic training in math, some familiarity with computers, some familiarity with programming and code — all that is a huge advantage if you are trying to get a job on an assembly line.  Now, if that’s true for assembly line work, that’s certainly going to be true for any other trade that you’re interested in.

We do have to do a better job of giving young people who are interested an effective vocational education.  And there are tons of opportunities out there for people — here’s an interesting statistic:  The average trade person in Wisconsin — and what I mean by that is an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter, a machine tool worker — the average age in Wisconsin is 59 years old.  Now, these jobs typically pay 25, 30 bucks an hour, potentially, with benefits.  You can make a really good living doing that, and there are a lot of folks who love doing it.  It’s really interesting work and highly skilled work.

So I don’t want somebody to find out about that when they’re 30, after they’ve already taken a bunch of classes and stuff that they ended up not using; now they’ve got a bunch of debt.  I’d rather, if they got that inclination, to figure that early and be able to go straight into something that helps them get that job.

MR. KARP:  So one question we heard a lot from our community that I wanted to make sure to mention today:  Recently — I think you’ve been following — the Department of Ed’s Office of Civil Rights and DOJ have extended Title IX protections to trans students.  What do you see as the next steps to ensure equal treatment of trans people in schools in America?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Title IX is a powerful tool.  It’s interesting — yesterday I had the University of Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball teams here.  This is only the second time that the men’s and women’s basketball teams won the national championship in the same year.  The previous year was 2004, and it was UConn again.

But what was interesting about it is that the men were kind of a surprise.  It was nice.  The women were dominant.  I mean, the UConn Husky women’s program, they rule.  And they are incredible athletes.  And talking to these young women, they’re poised and they’re beautiful, and some of them are 6’6” and they’re wearing high heels, and supremely confident and competitive.  And that’s a huge shift from even 20 years ago or 30 years ago.  The reason for that was Title IX was applied vigorously in schools, and it gave opportunities — it’s not like women suddenly became athletes.  They were athletic before.  Michelle, when I work out with her, she puts me to shame.  (Laughter.)  But it had more to do with restrictions and opportunity.

So the point I’m making is, is that Title IX is a very powerful tool.  The fact that we are applying it to transgender students means that they are going to be in a position to assert their rights if and when they see that they are being discriminated on their college campuses.  And that could manifest itself in a whole variety of ways.

MR. KARP:  Brilliant.  This one was sent in a few days ago:  “Mr. President, my name is Nick Dineen, and I attend school at the University of California-Santa Barbara.  I was the RA for the floor that George Chen lived on last year as a first-year college student.  I knew him.  Elliot Rodger killed him and five more of my fellow students.  Today, another man has shot and killed at least one person and injured three others at a private Christian school in Seattle.  What are you going to do?  What can we all do?”  And of course, another mass shooting this morning.

THE PRESIDENT:  I have to say that people often ask me how has it been being President, and what am I proudest of and what are my biggest disappointments.  And I’ve got two and a half years left.  My biggest frustration so far is the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do just unbelievable damage.

We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens.  And it happens now once a week.  And it’s a one-day story.  There’s no place else like this.  A couple of decades ago, Australia had a mass shooting similar to Columbine or Newtown.  And Australia just said, well, that’s it — we’re not seeing that again.  And basically imposed very severe, tough gun laws.  And they haven’t had a mass shooting since.

Our levels of gun violence are off the charts.  There’s no advanced, developed country on Earth that would put up with this.  Now, we have a different tradition.  We have a Second Amendment.  We have historically respected gun rights.  I respect gun rights.  But the idea that, for example, we couldn’t even get a background check bill in to make sure that if you’re going to buy a weapon you have to actually go through a fairly rigorous process so that we know who you are, so you can’t just walk up to a store and buy a semiautomatic weapon — it makes no sense.

And I don’t know if anybody saw the brief press conference from the father of the young man who had been killed at Santa Barbara.  And as a father myself, I just could not understand the pain he must be going through and just the primal scream that he gave out — why aren’t we doing something about this?

And I will tell you, I have been in Washington for a while now and most things don’t surprise me.  The fact that 20 six-year-olds were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible and this town couldn’t do anything about it was stunning to me.  And so the question then becomes what can we do about it.  The only thing that is going to change is public opinion.  If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change.  I’ve initiated over 20 executive actions to try to tighten up some of the rules in the laws, but the bottom line is, is that we don’t have enough tools right now to really make as big of a dent as we need to.

And most members of Congress — and I have to say, to some degree, this is bipartisan — are terrified of the NRA.  The combination of the NRA and gun manufacturers are very well financed and have the capacity to move votes in local elections and congressional elections.  And so if you’re running for office right now, that’s where you feel the heat.  And people on the other side may be generally favorable towards things like background checks and other commonsense rules but they’re not as motivated.  So that’s not — that doesn’t end up being the issue that a lot of you vote on.

And until that changes, until there is a fundamental shift in public opinion in which people say, enough, this is not acceptable, this is not normal, this isn’t sort of the price we should be paying for our freedom, that we can have respect for the Second Amendment and responsible gun owners and sportsmen and hunters can have the ability to possess weapons but that we are going to put some commonsense rules in place that make a dent, at least, in what’s happening — until that is not just the majority of you — because that’s already the majority of you, even the majority of gun owners believe that.  But until that’s a view that people feel passionately about and are willing to go after folks who don’t vote reflecting those values, until that happens, sadly, not that much is going to change.

The last thing I’ll say:  A lot of people will say that, well, this is a mental health problem, it’s not a gun problem.  The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people.  (Laughter.)  It’s not the only country that has psychosis.  And yet, we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than anyplace else.  Well, what’s the difference?  The difference is, is that these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses and that’s sort of par for the course.

So the country has to do some soul searching about this.  This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me.  And I am prepared to work with anybody, including responsible sportsmen and gun owners, to craft some solutions.  But right now, it’s not even possible to get even the mildest restrictions through Congress, and we should be ashamed of that.

MR. KARP:  Thank you for taking the time to answer that one.  Obviously an incredibly difficult and disappointing conversation to have.

It looks like we have time for one more question, so let’s switch over to a lighter one.  There are plenty of young people out there today who are watching your career incredibly closely.  They’re thinking about their futures, their careers, their educations that they’re going off to pursue.  Astonishment asked, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I haven’t projected out 10 years.  I’m really focused on making sure that I make every day in the next two and a half years count, because it’s an incredible privilege to be in this office.  And even when I’m frustrated with Congress or I’m frustrated with the press and how it’s reporting things and Washington generally, I also know that there’s something I can do every single day that’s helping somebody and that sometimes without a lot of fanfare we’re making it easier for a business to get a loan, and we’re making it easier for a young person to get an education, and we’re making it easier for a family to get health care, and making sure that each day I come away with something that we’ve done to make it a little easier for folks to work their way into the middle class, to stay in the middle class, to save for retirement, to finance their kids’ college educations — that’s a good day for me.

I know what I’ll do right after the next President is inaugurated.  I’ll be on a beach somewhere drinking out of a coconut.  (Laughter.)  But that probably won’t last too long.

And one of the things that Michelle and I have talked about a lot is we’re really interested in developing young people and working with them and creating more institutions to promote young leadership.  I’m so impressed when I meet young people around the country.  They’re full of passion.  They’re full of ideas.  I think they’re much wiser and smarter than I was, part of it maybe is because of Tumblr — I don’t know.  (Laughter.)

And so there’s just huge potential.  And the challenge is they’re also fed a lot of cynicism.  You guys are fed a lot of cynicism every single day about how nothing works and big institutions stink and government is broken.  And so you channel a lot of your passion and energy into various private endeavors.

But this country has always been built both through an individual initiative, but also a sense of some common purpose.  And if there’s one message I want to deliver to young people like a Tumblr audience is, don’t get cynical.  Guard against cynicism.  I mean, the truth of the matter is that for all the challenges we face, all the problems that we have, if you had to be — if you had to choose any moment to be born in human history, not knowing what your position was going to be, who you were going to be, you’d choose this time.  The world is less violent than it has ever been.  It is healthier than it has ever been.  It is more tolerant than it has ever been.  It is better fed then it’s ever been.  It is more educated than it’s ever been.

Terrible things happen around the world every single day, but the trend lines of progress are unmistakable.  And the reason is, is because each successive generation tries to learn from previous mistakes and pushes the course of history in a better direction.  And the only thing that stops that is if people start thinking that they don’t make a difference and they can’t make changes.  And that’s fed in our culture all the time.

It’s fascinating to me — I don’t consume a lot of television, but generally, the culture right now is inherently in a cynical mood in part because we went through a big trauma back in 2007, 2008 with the financial crisis, and we went through a decade of wars that were really tough.  And that’s the era in which you were born.

But look out on the horizon, and there’s a lot of opportunity out there.  And that’s what I’d like to do after the presidency, is make sure that I help young people guard against cynicism and do the remarkable things they can do.

MR. KARP:  Beautiful.  Mr. President, thank you so much for taking time to answer our questions today, really.

THE PRESIDENT:  We had a great time.

MR. KARP:  Thank you.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Appreciate it.  It was great.  Thank you.

MR. KARP:  Was that okay?  I’ve never talked to a President before.

THE PRESIDENT:  He’s a natural.  He could have gone into journalism.

MR. KARP:  I’ve never talked to a President before.  Thank you so much.  Hey, real quick, guys, before we go, I would really like to thank the President for having us over to his rental property today.  (Laughter.)  It really does mean a lot to our community to know that America’s leader is listening to us.  I hope we’ve all come away with a clear picture as to the issues that we’re facing.  Please make sure to follow WhiteHouse.tumblr.com.  And lastly, please wish — excuse me — Sasha a happy 13th birthday from us.

THE PRESIDENT:  It is Sasha’s birthday today.  (Applause.)

MR. KARP:  Now that’s she’s 13, guys — (applause) — now that she’s 13, according to our terms of service, she’s officially old enough to use Tumblr.  (Laughter.)  Let us know.

THE PRESIDENT:  So she wasn’t before then?  (Laughter.)

MR. KARP:  She wasn’t.  Sorry.  We can let this one slide.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to have to talk to somebody about that.  (Laughter.)

Thank you, guys.  Had a great time.  (Applause.)

END
5:10 P.M. EDT

Political Musings February 5, 2014: Obama vs O’Reilly part 2 sparing continued on Fox News fairness, big government

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama vs O’Reilly part 2 sparing continued on Fox News fairness, big government

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The second part of the confrontational pre-Super Bowl FOX News interview between Bill O’Reilly and President Barack Obama aired Monday evening, Feb. 3, 2014 during the regularly scheduled The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News. After…READ MORE

Political Musings February 3, 2014: Obama vs Bill O’Reilly tie in tough pre-Super Bowl interview match-up

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama vs Bill O’Reilly tie in tough pre-Super Bowl interview match-up

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The 10-minute pre-Super Bowl interview between FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly and President Barack Obama on Sunday evening, Feb. 2, 2014 during a special edition of The O’Reilly Factor was even more bruising than…READ MORE

Political Musings November 29, 2013: Post-Presidential life & legacy focus of Barbara Walters’ interview with Obamas

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Political Headlines August 7, 2013: President Obama’s Talks Housing & Mortgage Reform at Town Hall on Real Estate Site Zillow

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama ‘Would Save Some Money’ by Refinancing Chicago Home

MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama personalized the promotion of his housing agenda Wednesday, saying he would save money by refinancing his family’s home in Chicago.

“I would probably benefit from refinancing right now. I would save some money,” the president said in an online forum hosted by real estate website Zillow….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency August 7, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Town Hall Interview with Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Q and A with Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow

Source:  WH, 8-7-13

Hilton Woodland Hills
Los Angeles, California

10:01 A.M. PDT

MR. RASCOFF:  Welcome, and thank you for joining us today.  Zillow is honored to host this unprecedented event and connect homeowners, renters and prospective buyers with President Obama, who’s ready to answer your housing questions.

The housing market has come a long way in the last year and we’re all very happy to see most local markets bouncing back after the housing recession, with many homeowners free from negative equity and sellers enjoying a competitive environment.  Still there are concerns about the future.  And we’ve received thousands of questions over the last couple of days via social media.  Today we’ll pose some of these questions — your questions — to the President.

I’m honored to welcome President Barack Obama.  Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Great to see you.

MR. RASCOFF:  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.

MR. RASCOFF:  Mr. President, our first question comes from Andrew Houston in Gainesville, Florida.  Let’s watch his video.

Q    Good morning, Mr. President.  My name is Andrew Houston in Gainesville, Florida.  And I was wondering how you feel rising interest rates over the last three months are going to affect the housing recovery going forward.  I was actually fortunate enough to refinance at historically low rates earlier this year, but I am still well in excess of 30 percent negative on my mortgage, and I’m wondering how these interest rates are going to affect the future value of my home.  Thank you very much for your time.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s a great question, and obviously, particularly in states like Florida where, when the housing bubble burst, it was very painful.  A lot of people have been watching the interest rates and watching what are happening with home values.

Just a little bit of historic context.  What we saw in terms of the plunge in home prices in the midst of the great recession was something we hadn’t seen in a very long time.  And it hurt a lot of families.  Homeownership is the quintessential element of the American Dream.  It’s what all of us understand when we say we want to have some middle-class security.

And so what we did over the first three and a half, four years of my administration was throw everything that we could at helping homeowners who had seen their houses go underwater to slowly build back that equity.  With the help of the Federal Reserve, interest rates came down.  And as you said, Spencer, what we’ve seen is healing pretty much across the country when it comes to the housing market.

We’ve also seen a lot of refinancing activity, in part because we modified some administrative rules so that folks who had government guarantees could refinance even if they were underwater — and it saves people a lot of money, up to $3,000.  We’ve seen interest rates now tick up.  So far at least, though, the housing market has continued to be fairly robust.  And there’s been reporting just this week, some of the data has come in showing that you’re still seeing some good, steady growth.

But I think that all of us recognize that it is still a soft housing market, in part because it’s still a soft employment market — there are still a lot of folks who are out of work.  And the real economy is directly related to the housing market.  So what we’ve heard from the Fed Reserve Chairman is that he thinks it’s important for interest rates to remain relatively low so long as unemployment remains high.  That should continue to help the housing market.

But given that interest rates tick up a little bit as the economy improves, it is especially important for Congress to act on the proposal that we put forward which says let’s not just let a few people refinance; let’s allow everybody who is potentially eligible to go ahead and refinance.  It can end up being the equivalent of a $3,000 tax cut, basically, money in your pocket, or, alternatively, as Andrew was talking about, it gives homeowners an opportunity to start building back some of the equity in the home that they lost during the Great Recession.

MR. RASCOFF:  And you’re referring to HARP 3, which we have a lot of questions about, so we’re certainly going to discuss that.  To keep the long-term perspective, mortgage rates have ticked up about a point, but we’re still in the low fours, which, if you take the long view, is still an incredibly low rate for a mortgage.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, not to get too personal, but our home back in Chicago — not the White House, which as I said, that’s a rental — (laughter) — our home back in Chicago, my mortgage interest rate, I would probably benefit from refinancing right now.  (Laughter.)  I would save some money.  When you’re President, you have to be a little careful about these transactions, so we haven’t refinanced.  But there’s no doubt that somebody like Michelle and I, who bought our house several years ago, that if we went out to the market right now, we’d end up saving some money.

MR. RASCOFF:  Right, right.

This next question comes from Jill Fitzpatrick, from Louisiana, and she’s from a part of the country where home values have bounced 20 percent off the bottom.  Let’s watch Jill’s video.

Q    My name is Jill Fitzpatrick.  I was wondering what changes you think could be made to help second-time homeowners.  I refer specifically to young families who lost considerable equity in their first homes due to the housing bust — families faced with buying a second, larger house, now in a market like New Orleans, where I live, where prices have skyrocketed astronomically, pricing many of us out of what should have been a logical and economically feasible next move.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think the point that was made there is really important.  Most of us, when we buy our first home, we buy a starter home.  When Michelle and I bought our first home, we bought a condo, and lived in it for about 10 years before we then moved into a full-fledged standalone home.  And the reason we were able to do it was because we built up some equity, as well as got some raises and eventually were able to get the down payment together for a larger house.  It’s tougher now for folks who have lost their equity.

I can’t say that there is a magic formula in a situation that was just described, in a place like New Orleans.  On the one hand, it’s great that housing values have bounced back; on the other hand, most folks haven’t gotten all their equity back if they purchased right in 2005 or 2004, right before the bubble popped.

What we do know is that if, number one, we keep interest rates low, that will help.  Number two, that keeping the overall economy moving in the right direction means that there is a stronger market for homes and the values of the existing starter home goes up.  The good news is, is that you’ve got a lot of potential families or families that put off buying a home during the midst of the recession, and so if you look at the numbers, the amount of new family formation is going to be increasing fairly rapidly.  There’s going to be pent-up demand.  And potentially, those smaller starter homes, they’re going to increase in value as well.

And one of the things that we’ve been looking at is, finally, how can we make sure that more people whose homes are still underwater can potentially benefit from the refinancing programs that we talked about.

MR. RASCOFF:  All right.  So that’s a perfect segue to the next question, which is in fact about HARP 3.  So this question comes from Colin Robertson.  And of course, HARP is the government program which lets homeowners who are underwater on their home refinance their mortgage, as long as they’re not more than 20 percent underwater and as long as their loans are backed by Fannie and Freddie.  About 10 percent of the questions submitted today were about HARP.

So Colin writes to us.  He says:  “What’s happening with MyRefi or HARP 3?  Is there any hope of such a program?”

THE PRESIDENT:  I think there should be hope.  Keep in mind that this is a program that not only I put forward and supported and talked about during the State of the Union, but this was an idea that was strongly supported by Mitt Romney’s chief economic advisor.  So there shouldn’t be an ideological barrier to getting this done.  This should be something that Democrats and Republics can come together and get done.

Now, Congress, I think all of us recognize, has been a little broken lately.  But the good news is, is that there are Republican and Democratic senators, at least, who have been in a conversation about how do we learn the lessons of the past and start building a firmer foundation for housing going forward.  And a lot of the concerns, a lot of the questions had to do with how do we get Fannie and Freddie reformed so that they are not in a situation in which taxpayers are essentially subsidizing huge risks that they’re taking.

As part of a package, you could see Fannie and Freddie reform that protects taxpayers, puts housing on a more stable footing, but in the interim also provides some immediate relief to homeowners, giving them a chance to refinance while interest rates are still low.

So this is something that I’m going to push again once Congress gets back in September, once they’re back in session.  As part of a broader package of housing reform, let’s see if we can potentially even get this done before the end of the year.

MR. RASCOFF:  And we’re going to talk about GSE reform, which was a very hot topic among the questions that were submitted as well.

This question is from Jason Boatman, from Phoenix.  Phoenix, of course, is one of the parts of the country that was hardest hit by the recession.  It’s where you delivered a very important housing address yesterday.  Let’s see what Jason has to say.

Jason writes:  “I live in the greater Phoenix area.  My neighborhood has been hit very hard by the foreclosure crisis.  Things are finally starting to look up, but we’re certainly not back to pre-recession levels.  How is the administration planning to help homeowners in areas like Phoenix regain our footing?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there were some areas like Phoenix, like Las Vegas, parts of Florida, that had been especially hard hit.  So in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, one of the things that we did was to get a special fund allocated to those states specifically to help some of these communities.  In some cases, it meant more hands-on help and counseling for homeowners in these areas.  In some cases, it was a question of states or local communities finding ways to get some of the foreclosed properties off the market, or at least stabilized so that they weren’t depressing adjoining properties.

And we are continuing to work with the Mayor of Phoenix, the Mayor of Las Vegas, those communities that had been especially hard hit.

In some areas, one of the questions is, are there so many foreclosures and abandoned properties that it actually pays off for us to either repair them and put them on the market as rental properties, or alternatively, in certain areas of the country where these are really rundown properties, go ahead and tear them down.

The advantage of putting these on the rental market is obviously if somebody is living in them, they’re more likely to maintain them, and it creates the kind of atmosphere in the neighborhood that allows property values to go back up.  And we’ve got a lot of creative programs like that.  What we want to do is make sure that there are enough resources coming out of Congress.  And the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development I know has a number of ideas about how we can have even more of an impact in revitalizing some of those communities that have been hardest hit.

MR. RASCOFF:  It’s been great to see in some of these communities institutional investors have been buying up tens of thousands of these properties and rehabbing them and then renting them — in some cases, renting them to the existing homeowners who are underwater on their own home.

THE PRESIDENT:  That makes a lot of sense, and it’s good business sense.  Look, we know that a basic principle of the free market is if you can buy low and sell high, you’re in a pretty good spot.  These institutional investors pulling together big chunks of property, going ahead and making them rental properties, which help to cover their costs immediately, but they’re also hoping to see appreciation in the long term — that can be good business sense for them.  But just as importantly or more importantly, for those middle-class families where they saw these property values drop, having that kind of stabilization can really make a difference.

And in a place like Phoenix, we’ve actually seen 20-25 percent increases in property values.  People are feeling much more optimistic about the future than they were before.  And we’re also seeing more housing construction going up, which tells you that there’s still pent-up demand out there.  We’ve just got to make sure that we get everybody firing on all cylinders to maximize it.

MR. RASCOFF:  This next question comes from Jacob.  Jacob is among the one in three Millennials who lives with his parents because he can’t find affordable housing.  So let’s watch Jacob’s video.

Q    Good morning, President Obama.  My name is Jacob and I live in LA.  I’m a recent college graduate with a full-time job, but I still live at home with my parents.  I’m wondering, with massive student loan debt, will I ever be able to move into a house of my own?  Not even looking to buy, just looking to rent.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Jacob asks a question that a lot of young people are asking right now.  And there are two components to it.  Number one, we need more affordable, quality rental housing.  And what I said in my speech yesterday, all of us, long term, have the aspiration of a home of our own.  But in a lot of markets, renting is a great option, especially if you’re still young.  And so as we look at the various housing proposals that I’ve put forward — making sure that people can refinance, making sure that we’re reforming these GSEs — one of the components is also making sure that we’ve got more resources to construct or get on the market more affordable housing.

And that is not something that people should shy away from, deciding that at this stage in their lives — Jacob looked like a pretty young guy — that renting is probably the best option, until you know that you can actually purchase safely, soundly and make your payments.  Part of what happened during the housing bubble was that people who probably should have been renting were encouraged to go into the housing market, and they got hurt and the economy as a whole got hurt.

But he also mentioned something else, which is the fact that a lot of young people, what for their parents would have been the down payment on a home right now is going to service their student loan debt.  So I know that Zillow is focused on housing and not college education, but I will say that some of the initiatives that I’m putting forward to drive down the cost of college and the debt burdens that young people have when they get out of school can make a huge difference in the housing market over the long term, because the $30,000 or $25,000 on average that young people from state universities are coming out with in terms of debt, that’s a down payment on a house.

And so we’ve got a whole range of ideas about how we can drive tuition down, work with universities to be more efficient, help young people graduate faster so that they’re not ending up spending more money, reducing the interest rates on student loans.  All that will have an impact on the housing market.

I should add, by the way, there’s another issue that doesn’t seem like it’s related to the housing market, but actually is related, and that’s immigration reform.  We know that if we get immigration reform done, suddenly you’ve got all kinds of families coming out of the shadows, paying taxes, paying penalties, but they’re also going to be really likely to buy homes, oftentimes in some of the neighborhoods where you have the most foreclosures, the most trouble.  They add value to a community, increase property values.

And over the long term, it’s one of the reasons why it’s estimated that immigration reform would actually add a trillion dollars to the overall economy, partly because they’d be buying houses.

MR. RASCOFF:  It’s what’s so interesting about the housing industry overall is it impacts all these disparate issues from immigration to student loans to the global economy.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, part of — and the reason is, is because this is where most Americans have their wealth.

MR. RASCOFF:  It’s where our wealth is.  Yes.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  So if you’ve got trillions of dollars tied up in housing, if we get that right, then it makes a big different everywhere else.

MR. RASCOFF:  All right, so the big one, GSE reform.  This next question comes in from Steve from Bloomington, Minnesota.  And Steve writes:  “If Congress is successful” — and if you’re successful — “in scaling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac down, what model fills the gap?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we are fairly unique in the sense that most advanced developed countries don’t have such a large government presence in the housing market.  Traditionally, Fannie and Freddie were supposed to be subsidiary to the private marketplace.  And prior to the Great Recession, in fact, Fannie and Freddie’s portfolio was as a total a smaller percentage of the overall lending that was taking place in the housing market. Now it’s significantly higher, right?

And what we’ve tried to do is to make sure that we’re providing the support we need to help the housing market heal, but recognize you can’t have a situation in which the government is underwriting and guaranteeing all the mortgage lending that’s taking place around the country and big profits are being made by these quasi-private institutions, and then if things go wrong, suddenly taxpayers are on the hook.

So a couple of things that we’ve done administratively, we’ve been trying to reduce the portfolio each year by an incremental amount so –

MR. RASCOFF:  The loans owned by Fannie and Freddie.

THE PRESIDENT:  — loans owned by Fannie and Freddie — not too quickly, but allowing the market to catch up.

Our long-term goal is to say let’s have the private market get in there and provide those loans.  And what the government can do is to step in to make sure, for example, that there’s still a 30-year mortgage available; to make sure that homes that are not too upscale are available for young families, for veterans, for folks who may have some limited means, but have saved and scrapped and are ready to go out there and buy.

But, for example, we increased the maximum home value that could be financed in the midst of the recession because it helped to strengthen homes.  Now we’re starting to scale that back.  And we’re actually confident that the private market can step in, do a good job, and the government can be a backstop so that we still have affordability and 30-year mortgages, but it’s not the dominate player.

And in some ways, it’s a return to earlier models.  The way to think about it I think is that during both the housing bubble and its aftermath Fannie and Freddie just got too big, and that was anomalous — that was not sort of typical of what’s happened during the course of our history in the housing market.

So the good news is that you’ve got a bipartisan bill — Senators Warner of Virginia and Corker of Tennessee are working together.  The principles that they have announced are ones that are pretty consistent with me:  Let’s have the market get in there.  Let’s make sure you don’t have a “heads I win, tails you lose” formula for Fannie and Freddie, so that taxpayers aren’t left on the hook, but we’re still focusing on affordability; we still are focused on a 30-year mortgage.

And my expectation is, is that if a bill passes — and I think it’s the right thing to do for the economy over the long term — it’s still going to be phased in.  So the one thing we want to prevent is just at a time when the housing market is getting back on its feet that suddenly you have a big shock to the system.  This is something that would have to be phased in over a number of years and I’m confident could be done.

And, look, lenders can go in there and make some money doing it.  In fact, you could argue that part of the reason why a lot of first-time buyers or well-qualified buyers are having trouble right now is that a lot of lenders are worried that Fannie and Freddie and the government-backed loans may end up squeezing them if for some reason buyers aren’t making their payments.  And so they’re tightening up their status — and that the market might be willing to take more educated risks about the market if, in fact, you had the private sector back in there.

MR. RASCOFF:  So from Fannie and Freddie to loans not backed by Fannie and Freddie, this next question comes from Elias.  And about 30 percent of our questions actually touch on themes that Elias asks about.  Let’s watch his video.

Q    Mr. President, what help is available for homeowners who are looking to refinance, but don’t have their loan backed by Freddie or Fannie?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’ve already talked about that.  That’s the HARP 3 program.  And so this is something that can get done.

Keep in mind, by the way, this would be good for the entire economy, because some of the money would go back to building equity.  But some folks would decide they’re going to buy a new laptop for their kid who’s going off to college, or they’d end up using that to help finance a new car.  And, as a consequence, the entire economy would be more likely to pop, which in turn would help the housing market and help home values.

MR. RASCOFF:  So tell Elias to root for HARP 3.  (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, don’t just root for it.  Everybody who’s on Zillow, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t contact your congressman and say, why aren’t we doing this?  This should be a no-brainer.

MR. RASCOFF:  All right.  Our last question comes from Jennifer in North Carolina.  Jennifer writes in, she says, “I’m a high school teacher in North Carolina.  I get paid so little that I can’t afford my own apartment.  The rent here goes up every year, but I haven’t had a raise in years.  A fixed mortgage would be more consistent than rising rents, but I don’t have the job stability.”  So what advice would you give to someone like Jennifer, and how can the government help?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, the first thing I’d say is teachers need to get paid more.  And I mean that.  Look, one of the challenges that we’ve seen is, is that middle-class families — teachers, construction workers, firefighters — their wages and incomes have not gone up even if their jobs have held steady.  Some of them have lost jobs.

And one of the big challenges for our housing market is making sure that not only do we have a strong employment market, but people, if they’re working hard, they should be getting paid a decent wage.  And a lot of what I’m doing and will continue to do for the remainder of my presidency is focused on how are we improving middle-class security.  And teachers fall in that category.

Now, we already talked about the fact that renting can be a good option if we get more affordable rental housing on the market.  And there are a number of communities that have been doing creative stuff.  There are a number of properties that right now are sitting there not being rented — big chunks in certain cities.  In my hometown of Chicago, for example, we could be renovating, rehabbing and putting on the rental market thousands of units that would help to stabilize rental prices. Ideally for somebody like Jennifer, renting for a while at a affordable rate that allows you then to save a nest egg that lets you then put your down payment on a home — that’s traditionally how folks did it.

It’s nice if your parents can help you or your grandparents. But for folks like Michelle and I, who didn’t come from a fancy background — actually we lived in Michelle’s mom’s house for a couple of years.

MR. RASCOFF:  Just like Jacob.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Just like Jacob — before we were able to get the down payment together.  And that’s how we do things.

So just one closing comment, Spencer.  I think you guys have done a great job in helping to make consumers more empowered when they are buying a home, selling a home.  And it’s a wonderful service.  One of the things that we’re really proud of is the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau that we’ve put together, headed up by Richard Cordray, a former attorney general in Ohio. And the CFPB, as we call it, its entire job is how do we help consumers so they get a fair deal.

One of their key focus areas has been on home finance and mortgages.  And we can expect that we’re going to try to simplify mortgage as soon as the fall, so that you don’t have a lot of fine print, you know exactly what you’re getting.  Somebody who’s involved in a transaction can operate with some complete transparency; they can know what they might owe once they get a mortgage potentially approved.

The more knowledge consumers have, the more empowered they’re going to be and the more likely they’re going to be to live out the American Dream that I think all of us want to see not just for ourselves, but for our kids and our grandkids.

MR. RASCOFF:  And we have been big fans of what the CFPB is trying to do with mortgages and we’ve actually been working with them and giving them comments on it.  So Zillow is all about transparency of information, empowering consumers.  And so, certainly if we can make it easier for people to understand the complexities of a mortgage, then that would be great for the country.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  Well, you guys have done a great job.

MR. RASCOFF:  Thank you.  Thank you very much, Mr. President.  And a big thank-you to the thousands of Americans who submitted questions.  I hope this conversation answered a lot of them.  And Zillow is honored to have hosted this event.  Thank you.

END
10:35 A.M. PDT

Full Text Obama Presidency August 7, 2013: Jay Leno’s interview with President Barack Obama on “The Tonight Show” — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Jay Leno’s interview with President Obama (transcript, video)

Source: Politico, 8-7-13

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

4:34 P.M. PDT

Q    Welcome the President of the United States — Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

Welcome back, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  It’s good to be back.  (Applause.)

Q    Well, we’re thrilled to have you.

THE PRESIDENT:  It is good to be back.

Q    And a happy birthday.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.

Q    Happy birthday to you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Q    So how did you celebrate Sunday?  What did you do?

THE PRESIDENT:  I had a bunch of friends come over who I don’t see that often from high school and college.  And we played a little golf, and then we tried to play a little basketball.  And it was a sad state of affairs.  (Laughter.)

Q    Really?

THE PRESIDENT:  A bunch of old guys.  Where’s the Ibuprofen and all that stuff.  (Laughter.)

Q    But you’re pretty competitive.

THE PRESIDENT:  I am pretty competitive.  But the day of my birthday — we do departure photos of people who are transitioning out of the White House.  And we let them bring their families and they take a picture in the Oval Office.  And this wonderful staff person came in and had a really cute, young son.  He looked like Harry Potter, a six-year-old guy.  (Laughter.)  He came in, he had an economic report for me.  He had graphs and everything.  (Laughter.)  And, he says, “My birthday is in August, too.”  I said, “Well, how old are you going to be?”  He said, “Seven.”  He said, “How old are you?”  I said, “Fifty-two.”  He said, “Whoa.”  (Laughter.)  Whoa.  Whoa.  (Laughter.)  He looked off in the distance.  He was trying to project.  (Laughter.)

Q    Yes, you can’t even —

THE PRESIDENT:  You can’t go out that far.

Q    You can’t grasp that number, no.  (Laughter.)  Now, I’ve seen Michelle tease you about your gray hair.  You have a bit of silver in your hair.  Do you tease back?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  (Laughter and applause.)  That’s why we’re celebrating our 21st anniversary.  (Laughter.)

Q    As I’m married 33 years, I know exactly what you’re saying.  (Laughter.)  I’ve got to ask you about this.  Everyone is concerned about these embassy closings.  How significant is this threat?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s significant enough that we’re taking every precaution.  We had already done a lot to bolster embassy security around the world, but especially in the Middle East and North Africa, where the threats tend to be highest.  And whenever we see a threat stream that we think is specific enough that we can take some specific precautions within a certain timeframe, then we do so.

Now, it’s a reminder that for all the progress we’ve made — getting bin Laden, putting al Qaeda between Afghanistan and Pakistan back on its heels — that this radical, violent extremism is still out there.  And we’ve got to stay on top of it.  It’s also a reminder of how courageous our embassy personnel tend to be, because you can never have 100 percent security in some of these places.  The countries themselves sometimes are ill-equipped to provide the kind of security that you want.  Even if we reinforce it, there are still vulnerabilities.

And these diplomats, they go out there and they serve every day.  Oftentimes, they have their families with them.  They do an incredible job and sometimes don’t get enough credit.  So we’re grateful to them and we’ve got to do everything we can to protect them.  (Applause.)

Q    This global travel warning, this is for Americans all around the world?  Are we telling people don’t take that European vacation just yet?  What are we saying?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think the general rule is just show some common sense and some caution.  So there are some countries where you’re less likely to experience a terrorist attack.  There are some where there are more dangers.  And if people are paying attention, checking with the State Department or embassy, going on the website before you travel, find out what kind of precautions you should be taking, then I think it still makes sense for people to take vacations.  They just have to make sure that they’re doing so in a prudent way.

Q    What do you say to those cynics who go, oh, this is an overreaction to Benghazi — how do you respond to that?

THE PRESIDENT:  One thing I’ve tried to do as President is not over react, but make sure that as much as possible the American people understand that there are genuine risks out there.  What’s great about what we’ve seen with America over the last several years is how resilient we are.  So after the Boston bombing, for example, the next day folks were out there, they’re going to ball games.  They are making sure that we’re not reacting in a way that somehow shuts us down.

And that’s the right reaction.  Terrorists depend on the idea that we’re going to be terrorized.  And we’re going to live our lives.  And the odds of people dying in a terrorist attack obviously are still a lot lower than in a car accident, unfortunately.  But there are things that we can do to make sure that we’re keeping the pressure on these networks that would try to injure Americans.  And the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about when I go to bed is making sure that I’m doing everything I can to keep Americans safe.  (Applause.)

Q    It’s safe to say that we learned about these threats through the NSA intelligence program?  Is that a fair assessment?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, this intelligence-gathering that we do is a critical component of counterterrorism.  And obviously, with Mr. Snowden and the disclosures of classified information, this raised a lot of questions for people.  But what I said as soon as it happened I continue to believe in, which is a lot of these programs were put in place before I came in.  I had some skepticism, and I think we should have a healthy skepticism about what government is doing.  I had the programs reviewed.  We put in some additional safeguards to make sure that there’s federal court oversight as well as congressional oversight, that there is no spying on Americans.

We don’t have a domestic spying program.  What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an email address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat.  And that information is useful.  But what I’ve said before I want to make sure I repeat, and that is we should be skeptical about the potential encroachments on privacy.  None of the revelations show that government has actually abused these powers, but they’re pretty significant powers.

And I’ve been talking to Congress and civil libertarians and others about are there additional ways that we can make sure that people know nobody is listening to your phone call, but we do want to make sure that after a Boston bombing, for example, we’ve got the phone numbers of those two brothers — we want to be able to make sure did they call anybody else?  Are there networks in New York, are there networks elsewhere that we have to roll up?  And if we can make sure that there’s confidence on the part of the American people that there’s oversight, then I think we can make sure that we’re properly balancing our liberty and our security.

Q    When we come back, I want to ask you about Russia and Snowden.  I hit on something in the monologue which just seems incredible to me, and I want to get your thoughts on that.

More with the President when we come back.  (Applause.)
* * *

Q    Welcome back to our discussion with President Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

Let me ask you about this — the NSA leaker Edward Snowden.  Some call him a whistleblower.  What do you call him?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we don’t know yet exactly what he did, other than what he’s said on the Internet, and it’s important for me not to prejudge something.

Q    Got you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Hopefully, at some point he’ll go to trial and he will have a lawyer and due process, and we can make those decisions.

I can tell you that there are ways, if you think that the government is abusing a program, of coming forward.  In fact, I, through executive order, signed whistleblower protection for intelligence officers or people who are involved in the intelligence industry.  So you don’t have to break the law.  You don’t have to divulge information that could compromise American security.  You can come forward, come to the appropriate individuals and say, look, I’ve got a problem with what’s going on here, I’m not sure whether it’s being done properly.

If, in fact, the allegations are true, then he didn’t do that.  And that is a huge problem because a lot of what we do depends on terrorists networks not knowing that, in fact, we may be able to access their information.

Q    Let me add — now, he was a contracted employee.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    And it seems the government has a lot of these.  I remember when I was coming up my brother was in ROTC, and in those days, they would take college students, you go into the Army, the Army would train you.  This guy is being paid money by an outside firm, living in Hawaii, got the stripper girlfriend. All of a sudden you’re all upset with what the government is doing, and you go to another country.  I mean, in my era, Daniel Ellsberg stood in the town square and said, “I’ve got this,” got arrested, The New York Times — I mean, should we go back to not using so many — whether it’s Blackwater or any of these contract — these people who are Hessians, they get paid?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think you’re raising an important issue.  We’ve been trying to reduce the reliance on contractors. Some of the contractors do a great job, and they’re patriots and they’re trying to support our mission.  Sometimes they can do it more efficiently or effectively if they’ve got some specialized knowledge.  But one of the things that I’ve asked our team to look at is, when it comes to intelligence, should we, in fact, be farming that much stuff out.  And there are a lot of extraordinarily capable folks in our military and our government who can do this, and probably do it cheaper, and then benefit from the training that they get so that when they transfer — (applause) — they’re in a better position.

Q    Now, were you surprised that Russia granted Snowden asylum?

THE PRESIDENT:  I was disappointed because even though we don’t have an extradition treaty with them, traditionally we have tried to respect if there’s a law-breaker or an alleged law-breaker in their country, we evaluate it and we try to work with them.  They didn’t do that with us.  And in some ways it’s reflective of some underlying challenges that we’ve had with Russia lately.  A lot of what’s been going on hasn’t been major breaks in the relationship, and they still help us on supplying our troops in Afghanistan; they’re still helping us on counterterrorism work; they were helpful after the Boston bombing in that investigation.  And so there’s still a lot of business that we can do with them.

But there have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality.  And what I consistently say to them, and what I say to President Putin, is that’s the past and we’ve got to think about the future, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to cooperate more effectively than we do.

Q    And Putin seems to me like one of those old-school KGB guys.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, he headed up the KGB.  (Laughter.)

Q    Yes.  Well, that’s what I mean.  Yes, that’s what I mean.  He has that mentality.  I mean, look at this picture here. You two don’t look pretty — (laughter) — you look like me and the NBC executives.  What is going on there?  (Laughter.)  That doesn’t look like a friendly picture.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, the truth is, is that when we have meetings we can have some pretty blunt exchanges and animated exchanges.  But he’s got — that seems to be his preferred style during press conferences, is sitting back and not looking too excited.  (Laughter.)  Now, part of it is he’s not accustomed to having press conferences where you’ve got a bunch of reporters yelling questions at you.

Q    Now, the G20 summit is in St. Petersburg next —

THE PRESIDENT:  Coming up, right.

Q    Are you going to that and will you meet with Putin?

THE PRESIDENT:  I will be going to that.  I will be going to that because the G20 summit is the main forum where we talk about the economy, the world economy, with all the top economic powers in the world.  So it’s not something unique to Russia.  They’re hosting it this year, but it’s important for us, as the leading economy in the world, to make sure that we’re there — in part because creating jobs, improving our economy, building up our manufacturing base, increasing wages — all those things now depend on how we compete in this global economy.  And when you’ve got problems in Europe, or China is slowing down, that has an impact here in the United States.

And I’ve been saying for the entire tenure of my presidency that my number-one priority at all times is how do we create an economy where, if you work hard in this country, you can succeed. And there are a lot of things that we can do here in this country, but we’ve also got to pay attention to what’s going on outside it.

Q    Well, something that shocked me about Russia — and I’m surprised this is not a huge story — suddenly, homosexuality is against the law.  I mean, this seems like Germany:  Let’s round up the Jews, let’s round up the gays, let’s round up the blacks. I mean, it starts with that.  You round up people who you don’t
— I mean, why is not more of the world outraged at this?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ve been very clear that when it comes to universal rights, when it comes to people’s basic freedoms, that whether you are discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, you are violating the basic morality that I think should transcend every country.  And I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.

Now, what’s happening in Russia is not unique.  When I traveled to Africa, there were some countries that are doing a lot of good things for their people, who we’re working with and helping on development issues, but in some cases have persecuted gays and lesbians.  And it makes for some uncomfortable press conferences sometimes.  But one of the things that I think is very important for me to speak out on is making sure that people are treated fairly and justly, because that’s what we stand for. And I believe that that’s a precept that’s not unique to America, that’s something that should apply everywhere.  (Applause.)

Q    Do you think it will affect the Olympics?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work, and I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently.  They’re athletes, they’re there to compete.  And if Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam, and people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with it.  (Applause.)

Q    Good enough for me.

We’ll be right back.  We’ll talk about the economy when we come back.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.

Q    More with President Obama right after this.  (Applause.)

* * *

Q    Welcome back.  We’re talking with the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Hey, let’s talk about the economy.  Things seem to be getting better, seem to be improving.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, the economy is growing.

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  The unemployment rate has been ticking down, and housing is improving.  We’ve seen the deficit cut in half.  Health care costs are actually going up slower than they have in — any time in the last 50 years.  So there are a lot of good trends.

Q    Right.

THE PRESIDENT:  But I think what folks all across the country would tell you is we’ve got a lot more work to do.  Wages and salaries haven’t gone up.  Middle-class families are still struggling to make sure they can pay for their kids’ college education.  They’re still concerned about whether they can retire.

And what Washington should be thinking about every single day is how do we make sure we’ve got an economy where if folks work hard, they can find a good job that pays a decent wage;  they can send their kids to college; they’ve got health care they can count on; they can retire even if they don’t get rich — or even if they’re not rich; and that we’re creating these ladders of opportunities for people to get into the middle class.

    And what’s happened over the last 20 years is — actually longer than that, probably over the last 30 — is that the gap between those of us at the very top and the vast middle has been growing wider and wider.  And some of that is globalization.  Some of it is technology.  You go to a factory — you’re a car guy — if you go to an auto plant now, robots, and it’s clean as a whistle, and it doesn’t employ as many people as it used to.  So a lot of those middle-class jobs have gone away.

And what we have to do is make sure that we are investing in infrastructure, research; making sure our kids are educated properly; and an improved and more stable housing market instead of the kind of bubbles that we had before.  All those things can really make a difference.

     Q    You mentioned infrastructure.  Why is that a partisan issue?  I live in a town, the bridge is falling apart, it’s not safe.  How does that become Republican or Democrat?  How do you not just fix the bridge?  (Laughter and applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t know.  As you know, for the last three years, I’ve said, let’s work together.  Let’s find a financing mechanism and let’s go ahead and fix our bridges, fix our roads, sewer systems, our ports.  The Panama is being widened so that these big supertankers can come in.  Now, that will be finished in 2015.  If we don’t deepen our ports all along the Gulf — places like Charleston, South Carolina, or Savannah, Georgia, or Jacksonville, Florida — if we don’t do that, those ships are going to go someplace else.  And we’ll lose jobs.  Businesses won’t locate here.

So this is something that traditionally has been bipartisan. I mean, it used to be Republicans and Democrats, they love cutting those ribbons.

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  And we’ve got a bunch of construction workers who aren’t working right now.  They’ve got the skills.  They want to get on the job.  It would have a huge impact on the economy not just now, but well into the future.  So I’m just going to keep on pushing Republicans to join with us, and let’s try to do it.

Part of it is — what they’ll say is, we like infrastructure, but we don’t want to pay for it.  And one of the things I’ve been trying to get across here is, is that we don’t need a huge government, but we need government doing some basic things, and we should all agree on a sensible mechanism to go ahead and pay for it — make sure we don’t waste money, make sure we’re cutting down on permitting times and delays, but let’s go ahead and get it done.

Q    Would it be possible to do a modern WPA, almost like a America Peace Corps where kids get paid a decent wage, you give them food, and they fix up Detroit, they fix up other cities —  whatever — they fix bridges?  I mean, when you travel this country, you see these great bridges and things that were built by — and they have the plaque, the guys that built it in 1932, in 1931.

THE PRESIDENT:  And it was incredibly important for not just the economy in the ‘30s, we use it still — Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam.  It opened up opportunity for everybody.  The Interstate Highway System — think of all the businesses that got created because we put that together.

So it’s possible.  The question is do we have the political will to do it.  And my argument to Congress has been, this is just like your house.  You can put off fixing the roof.  You can put off doing the tuckpointing.  You can put off replacing the old boiler.  But sooner or later, you’re going to have to fix it, and it’s going to be more expensive the longer you put it off.  When we’ve got unemployed folks right now, we should be putting them to work, and it would be good for the entire country.  (Applause.)

Q    And let me ask you about something I’m seeing.  Is it me, or do I see kind of bromance with you and John McCain?  (Laughter.)  I remember you two had that lovers’ quarrel for a while.  And, oh, now, you’re, oh — well, you’re best friends.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know that’s how —

Q    What happened?

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s how a classic romantic comedy goes, right?  (Laughter.)  Initially you’re not getting along, and then you keep on bumping into each other.  (Laughter.)

Q    Yes, but what’s — I mean, what changed?  Who saw the light?  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  John McCain and I have a number of philosophical differences, but he is a person of integrity.  He is willing to say things regardless of the politics.  The fact that he worked hard with a group of Democratic and Republican senators on immigration reform; they passed a bill in the Senate that will make sure that folks who are here illegally have to pay back-taxes and pay a penalty and get to the back of the line, but over time have a pathway to citizenship, and make sure that we’re strengthening our borders.  He went ahead and passed that even though there are some questions in his own party.  So I think that he deserves credit for being somebody who is willing to go against the grain of his own party sometimes.  It’s probably not good for me to compliment him on television.

Q    Yes, yes.  (Laughter.)  Get a big head.

THE PRESIDENT:  But I think that he’s an example of a number of Republicans in the Senate, in the House, who want to be for something, not just be against everything.  (Applause.)  And the more that they can try to move in that direction, I think the better off we’ll be.

Q    Now, we’re going to take a break.  I want to talk about Hillary because I know you had lunch with her.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.

Q    My question — my question when we come back, who asked who to lunch.  (Laughter.)  Don’t answer.  Don’t answer.  We’ll find out more with President Obama right after this.  (Applause.)

* * *

Q    (Applause.)  We are back with the President of the United States.

You and Hillary had lunch last — who invited who to lunch? I’m curious.

THE PRESIDENT:  I invited her.

Q    Okay.

THE PRESIDENT:  And we had a great time.  She had that post-administration glow.  (Laughter.)  You know, when folks leave the White House — two weeks later, they look great.  (Laughter.)  But it was a wonderful conversation.  By the end of my first term, we had become genuinely close and I could not have more respect for her.  She was a great Secretary of State, and I’m  very, very proud of the work she did.  (Applause.)

Q    Did you notice her measuring the drapes or anything like that?  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  Keep in mind, she’s been there before.
Q    Right, that’s true.  That’s true.

THE PRESIDENT:  So she doesn’t have to measure them.

Q    So what’s the latest in health care?  What’s new?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, on October 1st, people are going to be able to sign up if they don’t have health care.  If you’ve got health care, you don’t have to do anything.  The only thing that’s happened for people who have health care right now is, is that you’ve been able to benefit from the fact that we put in place a law so that insurance companies have to spend 80 percent of your premiums on health care, and if they spend it on administrative costs and high CEO salaries, they’ve got to send you a rebate.  And that’s been affecting people.  (Applause.)

If you’ve got a kid who has just graduated, doesn’t have a job with health care, they can stay on their parent’s plan.  That’s in place right now.  Free preventive care and free contraceptive care for young women and families — all that stuff is in place now.  No lifetime limits.  (Applause.)

So a lot of consumer protections got put in place.  But on October 1st, if you don’t have health care right now, you can join what are called these marketplaces and you’ll be able to get lower-cost health care.  Here in California, it’s estimated it will be 20, 30 percent cheaper than what you’re already getting. And we’ll give you subsidies — tax credits, essentially — if you still can’t afford it.

So you can go to healthcare.gov and right now you can pre-register essentially and start figuring out is this plan right for you.

Q    Well, I was able to get health care from — the guys who worked at my shop for me are all over 50.  They never had health care.  And I was able to get it now because you can’t be turned down.  So thank you for that.

THE PRESIDENT:  You can’t be turned down because of a preexisting condition.  That’s part of what we’re going to be doing.  (Applause.)

Q    Something I thought was — I thought you spoke very eloquently about the Trayvon Martin case and I could tell you were speaking from the heart.  And tell me about that.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think all of us were troubled by what happened.  And any of us who were parents can imagine the heart ache that those parents went through.  It doesn’t mean that Trayvon was a perfect kid — none of us were.  We were talking offstage — when you’re a teenager, especially a teenage boy, you’re going to mess up, and you won’t always have the best judgment.  But what I think all of us agree to is, is that we should have a criminal justice system that’s fair, that’s just.  And what I wanted to try to explain was why this was a particularly sensitive topic for African American families, because a lot of people who have sons know the experience they had of being followed or being viewed suspiciously.

We all know that young African American men disproportionately have involvement in criminal activities and violence — for a lot of reasons, a lot of it having to do with poverty, a lot of it having to do with disruptions in their neighborhoods and their communities, and failing schools and all those things.  And that’s no excuse, but what we also believe in is, is that people — everybody — should be treated fairly and the system should work for everyone.  (Applause.)  And so what I’m trying to do is just —

Q    I agree.

THE PRESIDENT:  — make sure that we have a conversation and that we’re all asking ourselves are there some things that we can do to foster better understanding, and to make sure that we don’t have laws in place that encourage the kind of violent encounter that we saw there that resulted in tragedy.

Q    Let me ask you something — you told a group of young people that broccoli was your favorite food.  (Laughter.)  Now, lying to voters is one thing; lying to children, that’s — (laughter and applause) — well, that is —

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me say this —

Q    Can you put your right hand on a Bible and say, “Broccoli” — (laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me say this — I have broccoli a lot.  (Laughter.)  I mean, no, you can ask my staff.

Q    Really?

THE PRESIDENT:  It is one of my staples.  Me and broccoli, I don’t know, we’ve got a thing going.  (Laughter.)

Q    Really?

THE PRESIDENT:  It goes especially well with burgers and fries.

Q    Right, right.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.

Q    And did Michelle make a broccoli cake with broccoli icing?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I won’t go that far.

Q    Now, did the kids believe you or did they go, “Oh, come on.”

THE PRESIDENT:  No, they did kind of — they looked at me.  (Laughter.)  They had their little pads and pencils, and they were all, “Really?”  (Laughter.)  “More than chips?”  (Laughter.)

But to Michelle’s credit, the Let’s Move initiative that she’s been involved with that has gotten so many folks all around the country doing stuff to help kids exercise and eat right.  For the first time in a long time, we’ve started to see some modest reduction in childhood obesity.  So I think it’s making a difference.  (Applause.)

Q    Well, that’s good.  Really proud of that.

Mr. President, it’s been an honor.  I know you have to go.

THE PRESIDENT:  It was nice to see you.

Q    Thank you so much.

THE PRESIDENT:  Before we go, well, Jay, I know you’re very proud of your car collection.

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there’s one piece that’s missing.

Q    Cool.

THE PRESIDENT:  This is the Beast.

Q    The Beast!

THE PRESIDENT:  The one I drive in.  (Applause.)

Q    Oh, look at that.  My friend, Ed Wellburn, designed that car.  Will you sign the roof?

THE PRESIDENT:  I will sign the roof.

Q    Oh, cool.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, the doors are heavy, so when you’re getting in you may need a little help.  (Laughter.)

Q    I assume the real car will be at my garage after the show.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  There you go, Jay.

Q    Very good.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.

Q    Mr. President, a pleasure and an honor, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  I appreciate it.

Q    Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END                     5:16 P.M. PDT

Political Headlines June 18, 2013: President Barack Obama: Says NSA Spying Programs ‘Transparent’ in Charlie Rose Interview

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama: NSA Spying Programs ‘Transparent’

Source: ABC News Radio,6-18-13

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Video of the Interview on Charlie Rose

President Obama said in an interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose on Sunday:

“It is transparent,” Obama said in the interview, broadcast Monday night. “What I’ve asked the intelligence community to do is see how much of this we can declassify without further compromising the program, No. 1,” Obama said. “And they are in that process of doing so now so that everything that I’m describing to you today, people, the public, newspapers, etc., can look at – because, frankly, if people are making judgments just based on these slides that have been leaked, they’re not getting the complete story.”…READ MORE

Full Text Political Transcripts June 11, 2013: House Speaker John Boehner’s Interview with George Stephanopoulos on NSA Leak, Immigration Reform And More on ABC News’ Good Morning America — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Transcript: Exclusive Interview With House Speaker John Boehner on NSA Leak, Immigration Reform And More

Source: ABC News, 6-11-13

RELATED: John Boehner Talks NSA Leaks, IRS Scandal and Immigration With George Stephanopoulos

PHOTO: George Stephanopoulos interviews House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in New York, June 10, 2013.

George Stephanopoulos interviews House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in New York, June 10, 2013. (ABC News)

House Speaker John Boehner sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” to discuss the NSA leak, immigration reform, the IRS scandal and much more.

Here is the full transcript of the interview:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Speaker, thank you for doin’ this. Let’s talk first about these– revelations about the National Security Agency. Edward Snowden has come forward, said he brought the documents into the public eye. His supporters say he’s– a whistle-blowing patriot. His critics say he’s betrayed the country, broken the law. Where do you stand?

JOHN BOEHNER: He’s a traitor. The president outlined last week that these were important national security programs to help keep Americans safe, and give us tools– to fight the terrorist threat th– that we face. The president also outlined that there are appropriate safeguards in place– to make sure that– there’s– there’s no– snooping, if you will– on Americans– here at home. But– the disclosure of this information– puts Americans at risk. It shows– our adversaries what our capabilities are. And– it’s a giant violation of the law….READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines March 17, 2013: Speaker of the House John Boehner’s Interview on ABC News’ This Week with Martha Raddatz Transcript

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

John Boehner: The ‘Talk About Raising Revenue Is Over’

Source: ABC New Radio, 3-17-13

TOBY JORRIN/AFP/Getty Images

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz during an exclusive interview for This Week that talk of including revenue as part of an effort to strike a so-called “grand bargain” to address the $16 trillion debt of the United States was “over,” leaving Democrats and Republicans where they have been for months – at loggerheads….READ MORE

This Week’ Transcript: Speaker of the House John Boehner

Source: ABC News, 3-17-13

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Good to be with you, Martha.

MARTHA RADDATZ: It’s great to have you here. I call it the so-called charm offensive because you don’t seem particularly charmed. You wrote that outreach is always positive, but then you wrote you had heard it all before, saying it’s going to take more than dinner dates and phone calls from the president. So, were those dinners and meetings a good thing, or did it make no difference at all?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well, it’s always a good thing to– engage in more conversation– engage more members in the conversation that– have not been involved up to this point. But when you get down the– the– the bottom line, if the president believes that we have to have more taxes from the American people, we’re not gonna get very far.

If the president– doesn’t believe that the goal oughta be to balance the budget over the next ten years– I don’t– not sure we’re gonna get very far. And this is the whole issue. We have a spending problem here in Washington and it’s time to solve the problem.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Well, when you talk about that he has to get beyond the Democratic dogma, but the Republicans have taken a very hard line as well.

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Hard line? The president– you got $650 billion worth of tax hikes on January the 1st. When are we gonna deal with the spending problem? It’s as simple as that….READ MORE — 1 | 2 | 3 4 5 6 Next Page

Full Text Obama Presidency March 14, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Interview with Yonit Levy on Israel’s Channel 2 Excerpts — White House Interview Ahead of Israel Visit

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama: Diplomatic fix with Iran would be ‘a more lasting solution’

Source: Times of Israel, 3-14-13

Channel 2 broadcasts White House interview with the president ahead of his visit next week

President describes ‘terrific, businesslike’ relationship with ‘Bibi’

US President Barack Obama is interviewed on Channel 2 News, Thursday, March 14 (photo credit: image capture Channel 2)

US President Barack Obama is interviewed on Channel 2 News, Thursday, March 14 (photo credit: image capture Channel 2)

Ahead of his first visit to Israel as president next Wednesday, Barack Obama was interviewed Wednesday by Israel’s Channel 2. The interview at the White House, with news anchor Yonit Levy, was screened on Thursday.

20:47

As president, you can’t just interact with people informally

“You can’t just slip out and interact with people without having a bunch of guys with machine-guns” hanging out with you….

Ventures Levy: There must be some compensations?

Obama: Well, there’s “a nice plane.”

20:40

Jonathan Pollard committed a very serious crime

“I recognize the emotions involved in this… My first obligation is to observe the law.”…

20:37

Coming to ‘listen’ on the Palestinian issue…

20:33

‘Terrific, businesslike’ relationship with ‘Bibi’

Levy pushes on the Obama-Netanyahu relationship.

“The bottom line is that Israel’s security is going to be at the forefront.” It’s not a factor of who’s president or prime minister.

“Any time you read something where the president allegedly said something in as private meting, I think you should … take that with a pinch of salt.”…

20:30

Israel has right ‘to be secure as a homeland of the Jewish people’

Levy asks about some Israelis’ negative perceptions of him.

“Some of this is politics… There are conservative views both here in the United States and Israel that may not jive with mine.”… “I’ve run my last election…”

“The fundamental right of Israel to be secure as a homeland of the Jewish people, and its connection to the land.”

“Resolving the Palestinian issue is good” for Israel’s security. If it can be resolved, he stresses….

20:26

On Iran, my cabinet is prepared for a whole range of contingencies

“My cabinet is prepared for a whole range of contingencies.” Kerry and Hagel “share my fundamental view” on a nuclear Iran as a threat to US interest….

20:23

I’ve been crystal clear on Iran

“We think it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon but obviously we don’t want to cut it too close.”…

20:20

It’s a chance to connect with the Israeli people

What took you so long to come?

Well, we’ve had some crises in the United States…. It’s a chance to connect with the Israeli people. The bonds.. are so strong. Shared values. Shared families… Unshakeable commitment… and a shared vision… I’m really looking forward to it.

20:18

The Obama interview in full

20:15

‘I’d love to sit at a cafe and just hang out’

“I’d love to sit at a cafe and just hang out. Sometimes I have this fantasy that I can put on a disguise and wear a fake mustache” and wander into Tel Aviv, go to a university and speak to some students, “in a setting that wasn’t so formal.”…

20:06

Obama: It would take Iran over a year to build the bomb

We think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon but obviously we don’t want to cut it too close. So when I am consulting with Bibi… my message to him will be the same as before: If we can resolve it diplomatically, that’s a more lasting solution.

When I say that all options are on the table, all options are on the table….

19:59

Obama: No plan to release Pollard

Obama: We think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon.

And: I have no plans for releasing Jonathan Pollard immediately….

19:58

Plenty of hype ahead of the broadcast

19:51

Channel 2 set to broadcast its Obama interview

Full Text Political Headlines March 13, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Interview with George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America Excerpts

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama: Gap Between Parties ‘Too Wide’ for Grand Bargain on Budget

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-13-13

ABC News

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, President Obama spoke on a range of high-profile issues, including his outlook for the on-going budget negotiations, whether the Chinese government is behind the recent spate of cyber attacks against U.S. companies, North Korea’s nuclear threats, same-sex marriage, and the conclave to select the next pope….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 3, 2013: Mitt Romney in First Interview Since Election Says it ‘Kills’ Him Not to Be in Washington

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

In First Interview, Romney Says it ‘Kills’ Him Not to Be in Washington

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-3-13

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A reflective Mitt Romney Sunday blamed his loss in the presidential election last November to his inability to connect with minorities, and the former Republican nominee admitted to Fox News’ Chris Wallace that it still “kills him” not to be in Washington….READ MORE

Political Headlines February 3, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Pre-Super Bowl Interview with CBS News: Talks Football, Gender Issues, Taxes

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Talks Football, Gender Issues, Taxes Before Super Bowl

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-4-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

As the nation geared up for the Super Bowl XLVII matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, President Obama said he stood by his recent comments that as a parent he’d hesitate allowing his children to play football and that he viewed the contact sport differently in light of recent heightened national awareness of its health dangers.

In a pre-Super Bowl interview with CBS’ Scott Pelley, the president reiterated what he’d told the New Republic.

“It is a great sport, I am huge fan, but there is no doubt some of the concerns that we have learned about when it comes to concussions have to give parents pause,” he said.  “And as I said before.  I feel differently about the NFL, these are  grown men, they are well compensated, they know the risks that are involved.  But as we start thinking about the pipeline, Pop Warner, high school, college, I want to make sure we are doing everything we can to make the sport safer.”…READ MORE

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