Full Text December 8, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech / Statement at Press Briefing Discussing Senate Filibuster on Richard Cordray Confirmation & Congresses Refusal to Pass the Payroll Tax Cut Extension

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Discusses Richard Cordray and the Payroll Tax Cut

Source: WH, 12-8-11

This morning, Senate Republicans blocked the confirmation of Richard Cordray.

Shortly after, President Obama walked into the briefing room here at the White House to address that vote — and the refusal of Congress to extend the payroll tax cut.

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (190MB) | mp3 (18MB)

The President spoke first about his nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:

Consumers across the country understand that part of the reason we got into the financial mess that we did was because regulators were not doing their jobs.  People were not paying attention to what was happening in the housing market; people weren’t paying attention to who was being taken advantage of.  There were folks who were making a lot of money taking advantage of American consumers.

This individual’s job is to make sure that individual consumers are protected — everybody from seniors to young people who are looking for student loans, to members of our Armed Services who are probably more vulnerable than just about anybody when it comes to unscrupulous financial practices.

There is no reason why Mr. Cordray should not be nominated, and should not be confirmed by the Senate, and should not be doing his job right away in order to carry out his mandate and his mission.

President Obama promised to explore all options and take nothing “off the table” with respect to ensuring that the CFPB is able to fulfill its mission of protecting consumers.

He also insisted that lawmakers stay at work in Washington until they’ve reached an agreement to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance:

This is for 160 million people who, in 23 days, are going to see their taxes go up if Congress doesn’t act. This is for 5 million individuals who are out there looking for a job and can’t find a job right now in a tough economy who could end up not being able to pay their bills or keep their house if Congress doesn’t act.

“Rather than trying to figure out what they can extract politically from me, what they need to do is focus on what’s good for the economy, what’s good for jobs, and what’s good for the American people.” President Obama said.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Statement by the President

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

11:40 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  A couple of days ago I said that we are in a make-or-break moment when it comes to America’s middle class.  We either have a country where everybody fends for themselves, or we create a country where everybody does their fair share, everybody has got a fair chance, and we ensure that there’s fair play out there.

Now, to ensure fair play, one of the things that I talked about was the importance of making sure we implement financial reform, Wall Street reform that was passed last year.  And a key component of that was making sure that we have a consumer watchdog in place who can police what mortgage brokers and payday lenders and other non-bank financial entities are able to do when it comes to consumers.

This is a big deal.  About one-in-five people use these kinds of mechanisms to finance everything from buying a house to cashing their checks.  And we passed a law last year that said we need this consumer watchdog in place to make sure that people aren’t taken advantage of.

Now, we have nominated somebody — Richard Cordray, former attorney general and treasurer of Ohio — who everybody says is highly qualified.  The majority of attorney generals, Republican and Democrat, from across the country have said this is somebody who can do the job with integrity, who has a tradition of being a bipartisan individual who looks out for the public interest, and is ready to go.  And he actually helped set up the Consumer Finance Protection Board.

This morning, Senate Republicans blocked his nomination, refusing to let the Senate even go forward with an up or down vote on Mr. Cordray.  This makes absolutely no sense.

Consumers across the country understand that part of the reason we got into the financial mess that we did was because regulators were not doing their jobs.  People were not paying attention to what was happening in the housing market; people weren’t paying attention to who was being taken advantage of.  There were folks who were making a lot of money taking advantage of American consumers.

This individual’s job is to make sure that individual consumers are protected — everybody from seniors to young people who are looking for student loans, to members of our Armed Services who are probably more vulnerable than just about anybody when it comes to unscrupulous financial practices.

There is no reason why Mr. Cordray should not be nominated, and should not be confirmed by the Senate, and should not be doing his job right away in order to carry out his mandate and his mission.

So I just want to send a message to the Senate:  We are not giving up on this.  We’re going to keep on going at it.  We are not going to allow politics as usual on Capitol Hill to stand in the way of American consumers being protected by unscrupulous financial operators.  And we’re going to keep on pushing on this issue.

Now, the second thing I want to make clear about is that, with respect to the payroll tax — you guys have all seen our countdown clock behind us.  This is about doing — making sure that everybody is doing their fair share and that the middle class does not see their taxes go up by $1,000 in 23 days.

And we’ve heard recently some intimations from the Senate Majority Leader and from the Speaker of the House — or the Senate Minority Leader and the Speaker of the House that they think we should do a payroll tax, but the question is what price will they extract from the President in order to get it done.

And I just want to make clear:  This is not about me.  They shouldn’t extend the payroll tax cut for me.  They shouldn’t extend unemployment insurance for me.  This is for 160 million people who, in 23 days, are going to see their taxes go up if Congress doesn’t act.  This is for 5 million individuals who are out there looking for a job and can’t find a job right now in a tough economy who could end up not being able to pay their bills or keep their house if Congress doesn’t act.

So rather than trying to figure out what can they extract politically from me in order to get this thing done, what they need to do is be focused on what’s good for the economy, what’s good for jobs and what’s good for the American people.

And I made very clear I do not expect Congress to go home unless the payroll tax cut is extended and unless unemployment insurance is extended.  It would be wrong for families, but it would also be wrong for the economy as a whole.

With that, I’m going to take a couple of questions.  Ben.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  It’s a very busy time.  If I may, I’d like to ask you about two other important issues in the news.  Republican candidates have taken aim at your approach to foreign policy, particularly the Middle East and Israel, and accused you of appeasement.  I wanted to get your reaction to that.  And also, I’m wondering if you personally intervened in any way in halting the sale of the “morning after” pill to those under 17, and whether you think politics trumps science in this case.

THE PRESIDENT:  Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22-out-of-30 top al Qaeda leaders who’ve been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement.  Or whoever is left out there, ask them about that.

With respect to the Plan B, I did not get involved in the process.  This was a decision that was made by Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of HHS.

I will say this, as the father of two daughters.  I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.  And as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old go into a drugstore, should be able — alongside bubble gum or batteries — be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect.  And I think most parents would probably feel the same way.

So the expectation here is — I think it’s very important to understand that, for women, for those over 17, this continues to be something that you can go in and purchase from a drugstore.  It has been deemed safe by the FDA.  Nobody is challenging that. When it comes to 12-year-olds or 13-year-olds, the question is can we have confidence that they would potentially use Plan B properly.  And her judgment was that there was not enough evidence that this potentially could be used improperly in a way that had adverse health effects on those young people.

Q    Do you fully support the decision?

THE PRESIDENT:  I do.

Q    Mr. President, is a recess appointment for Richard Cordray on the table, number one.  And number two, the Italian Prime Minister, the new Prime Minister indicated today he may be coming to the White House next month.  Do you think he and other European leaders are stepping up in the way you’ve urged them to, to sort of clear up the debt crisis?

THE PRESIDENT:  I will not take any options off the table when it comes to getting Richard Cordray in as director of the Consumer Finance Protection Board.  And I want to repeat what I said earlier:  This is a law that was passed by Congress that I signed into law that is designed solely to protect American consumers.

I don’t think there’s any consumer out there — I don’t think there’s any American out there — who thinks that the reason we got into the big financial mess that we did was because of too much regulation of Wall Street or the financial services industry.  I take it back.  I’m sure there are some folks in the financial service industry who make that argument, although I’m not sure that they make it with a straight face.

So let’s just take a very specific example:  All the families out there who have now lost their home, after having paid their mortgage over and over again, because they were told that they could afford this home; they didn’t understand all the documentation that was involved — this was peddled deliberately to them, even though a mortgage broker might have known that there was no way that they could keep up with these payments — and now they’re out on the street because nobody was making sure that there’s fair play and fair dealing in the mortgage industry on it.  Now, why wouldn’t we want to have somebody just to make sure that people are being treated fairly?  Especially when not only is that family affected, but our whole economy is affected.

This is part of what I was talking about a couple of days ago.  We have a Congress right now, Republicans in Congress right now, who seem to have entirely forgotten how we got into this mess.  And part of the reason was because we did not empower our regulators to make sure that they were ensuring fair play.  That’s what the Consumer Finance Protection Board is designed to do.

We had Holly Petraeus, wife of General Petraeus, who’s been working to make sure that our Armed Services personnel aren’t taken advantage of.  They get transferred to a base, and next thing they know they’re taking out loans that they think are a good deal, but it turns out that they’re paying 100-150-200 percent interest rates.  Why wouldn’t we want somebody in place to make sure that doesn’t happen?  It doesn’t make any sense.

So the bottom line is — you asked about the recess appointment — we’re going to look at all our options.  My hope and expectation is, is that the Republicans who blocked this nomination come to their senses.  And I know that some of them have made an argument, well, we just want to sort of make some modifications in the law.  Well, they’re free to introduce a bill and get that passed.

But part of what’s happened over on Capitol Hill — not just on this issue, but on every issue — is they will hold up nominations, well-qualified judges aren’t getting a vote — I’ve got assistant secretaries to the Treasury who get held up for no reason, just because they’re trying to see if they can use that to reverse some sort of law that’s already been passed.  And that’s part of what gets the American people so frustrated — because they don’t feel like this thing is on the level.

Q    The European crisis, do you have any sense –

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, on the European debt crisis — I am obviously very concerned about what’s happening in Europe.  I’ve expressed those concerns repeatedly to President Sarkozy, Chancellor Merkel, all the key leaders involved.  I think they now recognize the urgency of doing something serious and bold.  The question is whether they can muster the political will to get it done.

Look, Europe is wealthy enough that there’s no reason why they can’t solve this problem.  It’s not as if we’re talking about some impoverished country that doesn’t have any resources, and is being buffeted by the world markets, and they need to come hat in hand and get help.  This is Europe, with some of the wealthiest countries on Earth; collectively one of the largest markets on Earth, if not the largest.  And so if they muster the political will, they have the capacity to settle markets down, make sure that they are acting responsibly, and that governments like Italy are able to finance their debt.

And I think that Chancellor Merkel has made some progress with other European leaders in trying to move towards a fiscal compact where everybody is playing by the same rules and nobody is acting irresponsibly.  I think that’s all for the good, but there’s a short-term crisis that has to be resolved to make sure that markets have confidence that Europe stands behind the euro.

And we’re going to do everything we can to push them in a good direction on this, because it has a huge impact on what happens here in the United States.  They are our largest trading partner, and we’re seeing some positive signs in our economy, but if we see Europe tank, that obviously could have a big impact on our ability to generate the jobs that we need here in the United States.

I’m going to answer one last question.  Kristen — Kristen Welker.

Q    Mr. President, thank you.  You just called on Congress not to leave until they resolve this issue over the payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance benefits.  Can you say definitively that you will postpone your own vacation until these two matters are resolved?

And also, on Iran, we’ve heard some sharper language from members of your administration about Iran recently.  Are you intentionally trying to ramp up the pressure on Iran?  And given that you stated that no options are off the table, should we take that to mean that you are considering some other options?

THE PRESIDENT:  No options off the table means I’m considering all options.

Q    Can you tell us specifically what those options might be?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  But what I can say with respect to Iran, I think it’s very important to remember, particularly given some of the political noise out there, that this administration has systematically imposed the toughest sanctions on Iraq — on Iran ever.

When we came into office, the world was divided, Iran was unified and moving aggressively on its own agenda.  Today, Iran is isolated, and the world is unified in applying the toughest sanctions that Iran has ever experienced.  And it’s having an impact inside of Iran.  And that’s as a consequence of the extraordinary work that’s been done by our national security team.

Now, Iran understands that they have a choice:  They can break that isolation by acting responsibly and foreswearing the development of nuclear weapons, which would still allow them to pursue peaceful nuclear power, like every other country that’s a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, or they can continue to operate in a fashion that isolates them from the entire world.  And if they are pursuing nuclear weapons, then I have said very clearly, that is contrary to the national security interests of the United States; it’s contrary to the national security interests of our allies, including Israel; and we are going to work with the world community to prevent that.

With respect to my vacation, I would not ask anybody to do something I’m not willing to do myself.  So I know some of you might have been looking forward to a little sun and sand — (laughter) — but the bottom line is, is that we are going to stay here as long as it takes to make sure that the American people’s taxes don’t go up on January 1st, and to make sure that folks who desperately need unemployment insurance get that help. And there’s absolutely no excuse for us not getting it done.

Keep in mind, on the payroll tax cut, this is something that Democrats and Republicans agreed to last year with little fanfare, and it was good for the economy.  And independent economists estimate that for us to not extend it right now — to not extend payroll tax cut, not extend unemployment insurance — would have a significant, adverse impact on our economy, right at a time when we’re supposed to be growing the economy.

So when I hear the Speaker or the Senate Republican leader wanting to dicker, wanting to see what can they extract from us in order to get this done, my response to them is, just do the right thing:  Focus on the American people, focus on the economy right now.

I know the suggestion right now is, is that somehow, well, this Keystone issue will create jobs.  That’s being determined by the State Department right now, and there is a process.  But here’s what I know:  However many jobs might be generated by a Keystone pipeline, they’re going to be a lot fewer than the jobs that are created by extending the payroll tax cut and extending unemployment insurance.

Get it done.  And if not, maybe we’ll have a white Christmas here in Washington.   And I look forward to spending a lot of time with you guys — (laughter) — between now and the New Year.

All right.  Thank you, guys.

END
12:00 P.M. EST

Political Buzz December 6, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Populist Speech on the Middle Class & the Economy at Osawatomie High School, Kansas Channels President Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Barack Obama and Teddy Roosevelt are pictured. | AP Photos

President Obama is conjuring the legacy of a president who took on Wall Street. | AP Photos

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT OBAMA’S POPULIST SPEECH ON THE MIDDLE CLASS & ECONOMY AT OSAWATOMIE HIGH SCHOOL, KANSAS CHANNELS THEODORE ROOSEVELT’S NEW NATIONALISM

“It’s not a view that we should somehow turn back technology or put up walls around America. It’s not a view that says we should punish profit or success or pretend that government knows how to fix all society’s problems. It’s a view that says in America, we are greater together — when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share.” — President Barack Obama

“I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules. Those aren’t Democratic or Republican values; 1 percent values or 99 percent values. They’re American values, and we have to reclaim them.” — President Barack Obama

Obama sees ‘make or break’ time for middle class: President Barack Obama delivered a sweeping indictment of economic inequality in the US on Tuesday as he summoned the memory of President Theodore Roosevelt and pledged to fight for fairness at a “make or break moment for the middle class…. – WaPo, 12-6-11

 

  • Obama pledges to fight for middle class: President Barack Obama took aim at Republicans and delivered a sweeping indictment of economic inequality in the US on Tuesday as he pledged to fight for fairness for the middle class. Only a month before Republican voters … – AP, 12-6-11
  • Obama compares current economy to Great Depression: President Barack Obama said Tuesday that economic inequality in America is at “a level we haven’t seen since the Great Depression” and “hurts us all.” “When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that … – CNN, 12-6-11
  • Obama hits Republicans in starkly populist speech: President Barack Obama turned up the heat on his Republican foes on Tuesday as he portrayed himself as a champion of the middle class and laid out in the starkest terms yet the populist themes of his 2012 … – Reuters, 12-6-11
  • Barack Obama channels Teddy Roosevelt: Barack Obama spent the first three years of his presidency invoking Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.
    Just over a hundred years after the Bull Moose delivered his “New Nationalism” speech in Osawatomie, Kan., Obama touted his own square deal there on Tuesday. The president described a “make or break moment for the middle class,” calling for broader consumer protections and for the Senate to confirm his nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau…. – Politico, 12-6-11
  • Obama channels Roosevelt’s ‘New Nationalism':
    • President Obama calls for shared national investment in growth and opportunity
    • Obama goes to the same place where Roosevelt made a famous 1910 speech
    • The major theme is making the good of the country the top priority
    • Democrats and Republicans are divided over how to pay for the payroll tax measure

    More than a century after Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “New Nationalism” speech, President Barack Obama sounded similar themes Tuesday in the same town in the Republican heartland of Kansas, delivering a populist speech that called for extending the payroll tax cut set to expire at the end of the year.
    Obama described stark differences between a Republican ideology he described as leaving people to fend for themselves and his vision of government helping provide equal opportunity for all Americans regardless of where they begin in life…. – CNN, 12-6-11

  • In Kansas, Obama says middle class faces ‘make or break moment': With a nod to Theodore Roosevelt, President Obama positioned himself as the champion of the middle class while blasting the “you’re-on-your-own economics” of the modern Republican Party, a message likely to form … – LAT, 12-6-11
  • Obama: This is ‘make or break moment’ for middle class: Calling it “the defining issue of our time,” President Obama said today that the United States faces “a make or break moment for the middle class,” and for all Americans who are fighting to get there. … – USA Today, 12-6-11
  • Obama tells banks, businesses to help middle class: President Barack Obama on Tuesday laid out his economic philosophy, saying that banks, businesses and government must help the middle class get back on its feet. “This is the defining issue of our … MarketWatch, 12-6-11
  • Obama’s day: Channeling Teddy Roosevelt in Kansas: Good morning from The Oval. This day in 1923 saw the first radio broadcast of a presidential speech as Calvin Coolidge addressed a joint session of Congress. Today, President Obama seeks to emulate predecessor Theodore Roosevelt…. – USA Today, 12-6-11
  • Obama channels Teddy Roosevelt in populist re-election speech: US President Barack Obama speaks about the economy and a payroll tax cut compromise during a visit to Osawatomie High School in Kansas December 6, 2011. More than a 100 years ago, President Teddy Roosevelt delivered a speech in Osawatomie in which he … – National Post, 12-6-11
  • President Obama channels Teddy Roosevelt in calling for a ‘fair chance’ for Americans: President Obama carried his GOP-bashing populist message to the heartland Tuesday, embracing Theodore Roosevelt as a Republican who rose above partisan orthodoxy to create a “fair chance” for all Americans, … – NY Daily News, 12-6-11
  • President Obama makes economic speech at the site of famous Theodore Roosevelt Address: President Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech at 1:55 pm ET Tuesday in Osawatomie, Kan. where his advisers say he will attempt to frame a conversation about the “economic future in this country.” Osawatomie is the town where … – WaPo, 12-6-11
  • Gov. Brownback will not attend Obama speech in Osawatomie: Instead, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and his family will attend the event, which is expected to draw as many as 20000 visitors to the Kansas town of 4447 residents. “It is always an honor to have the president in Kansas,” Brownback said in a statement. … – Kansas City Business Journal, 12-6-11

Full Text December 6, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Populist Speech on the Middle Class & the Economy at Osawatomie High School, Kansas Channels President Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism — Transcript

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

From a Kansas town called Osawatomie, President Obama makes an argument about laying a new foundation for broad-based prosperity in America.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks in Osawatomie, Kansas
President Barack Obama delivers remarks in Osawatomie, Kansas, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 12/6/11

 

President Obama: “In America, We Are Greater Together”

Source: WH, 12-6-11

More than a century after Teddy Roosevelt outlined a vision for a “New Nationalism” in a Kansas town called Osawatomie, President Obama visited the same community to talk about what he called a make-or-break moment of the middle class.

He described how the world has undergone an economic transformation unlike any other in our collective history — and how that change has upended our expectations of social mobility in this country. Where professionals ranging from factory workers to travel agents to accountants once enjoyed the promise of a good job and steady income in exchange for their hard work, today they and a range of people like them must compete with new technology and individuals from around the world.

The President told the 1,200 people gathered in Osawatomie that there are two ways to respond to these challenges.

Some in Washington, he said, argue that we should let the markets take care of everything — rolling back regulation and slashing taxes:

Now, it’s a simple theory. And we have to admit, it’s one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That’s in America’s DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker.  But here’s the problem:  It doesn’t work. It has never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression.  It’s not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the ‘50s and ‘60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade.

Thankfully, President Obama said, we can choose a different path:

[T]here’s another view about how we build a strong middle class in this country — a view that’s truer to our history, a vision that’s been embraced in the past by people of both parties for more than 200 years.

It’s not a view that we should somehow turn back technology or put up walls around America. It’s not a view that says we should punish profit or success or pretend that government knows how to fix all of society’s problems. It is a view that says in America we are greater together — when everyone engages in fair play and everybody gets a fair shot and everybody does their fair share.

Read the entire speech here.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

 

Remarks by the President on the Economy in Osawatomie, Kansas

Osawatomie High School
Osawatomie, Kansas

12:59 P.M. CST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Please, please have a seat. Thank you so much. Thank you. Good afternoon, everybody.

AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I want to start by thanking a few folks who’ve joined us today. We’ve got the mayor of Osawatomie, Phil Dudley is here. (Applause.) We have your superintendent Gary French in the house. (Applause.) And we have the principal of Osawatomie High, Doug Chisam. (Applause.) And I have brought your former governor, who is doing now an outstanding job as Secretary of Health and Human Services — Kathleen Sebelius is in the house. (Applause.) We love Kathleen.

Well, it is great to be back in the state of Tex — (laughter) — state of Kansas. I was giving Bill Self a hard time, he was here a while back. As many of you know, I have roots here. (Applause.) I’m sure you’re all familiar with the Obamas of Osawatomie. (Laughter.) Actually, I like to say that I got my name from my father, but I got my accent — and my values — from my mother. (Applause.) She was born in Wichita. (Applause.) Her mother grew up in Augusta. Her father was from El Dorado. So my Kansas roots run deep.

My grandparents served during World War II. He was a soldier in Patton’s Army; she was a worker on a bomber assembly line. And together, they shared the optimism of a nation that triumphed over the Great Depression and over fascism. They believed in an America where hard work paid off, and responsibility was rewarded, and anyone could make it if they tried — no matter who you were, no matter where you came from, no matter how you started out. (Applause.)

And these values gave rise to the largest middle class and the strongest economy that the world has ever known. It was here in America that the most productive workers, the most innovative companies turned out the best products on Earth. And you know what? Every American shared in that pride and in that success — from those in the executive suites to those in middle management to those on the factory floor. (Applause.) So you could have some confidence that if you gave it your all, you’d take enough home to raise your family and send your kids to school and have your health care covered, put a little away for retirement.

Today, we’re still home to the world’s most productive workers. We’re still home to the world’s most innovative companies. But for most Americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded. Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and their investments — wealthier than ever before. But everybody else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t — and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.

Now, for many years, credit cards and home equity loans papered over this harsh reality. But in 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We all know the story by now: Mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford them, or even sometimes understand them. Banks and investors allowed to keep packaging the risk and selling it off. Huge bets — and huge bonuses — made with other people’s money on the line. Regulators who were supposed to warn us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way or didn’t have the authority to look at all.

It was wrong. It combined the breathtaking greed of a few with irresponsibility all across the system. And it plunged our economy and the world into a crisis from which we’re still fighting to recover. It claimed the jobs and the homes and the basic security of millions of people — innocent, hardworking Americans who had met their responsibilities but were still left holding the bag.

And ever since, there’s been a raging debate over the best way to restore growth and prosperity, restore balance, restore fairness. Throughout the country, it’s sparked protests and political movements — from the tea party to the people who’ve been occupying the streets of New York and other cities. It’s left Washington in a near-constant state of gridlock. It’s been the topic of heated and sometimes colorful discussion among the men and women running for president. (Laughter.)

But, Osawatomie, this is not just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. Because what’s at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement.

Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for way too many years. And their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.

I am here to say they are wrong. (Applause.) I’m here in Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we’re greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules. (Applause.) These aren’t Democratic values or Republican values. These aren’t 1 percent values or 99 percent values. They’re American values. And we have to reclaim them. (Applause.)

You see, this isn’t the first time America has faced this choice. At the turn of the last century, when a nation of farmers was transitioning to become the world’s industrial giant, we had to decide: Would we settle for a country where most of the new railroads and factories were being controlled by a few giant monopolies that kept prices high and wages low? Would we allow our citizens and even our children to work ungodly hours in conditions that were unsafe and unsanitary? Would we restrict education to the privileged few? Because there were people who thought massive inequality and exploitation of people was just the price you pay for progress.

Theodore Roosevelt disagreed. He was the Republican son of a wealthy family. He praised what the titans of industry had done to create jobs and grow the economy. He believed then what we know is true today, that the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history. It’s led to a prosperity and a standard of living unmatched by the rest of the world.

But Roosevelt also knew that the free market has never been a free license to take whatever you can from whomever you can. (Applause.) He understood the free market only works when there are rules of the road that ensure competition is fair and open and honest. And so he busted up monopolies, forcing those companies to compete for consumers with better services and better prices. And today, they still must. He fought to make sure businesses couldn’t profit by exploiting children or selling food or medicine that wasn’t safe. And today, they still can’t.

And in 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came here to Osawatomie and he laid out his vision for what he called a New Nationalism. “Our country,” he said, “…means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy…of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him.” (Applause.)

Now, for this, Roosevelt was called a radical. He was called a socialist — (laughter) — even a communist. But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight-hour work day and a minimum wage for women — (applause) — insurance for the unemployed and for the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax. (Applause.)

Today, over 100 years later, our economy has gone through another transformation. Over the last few decades, huge advances in technology have allowed businesses to do more with less, and it’s made it easier for them to set up shop and hire workers anywhere they want in the world. And many of you know firsthand the painful disruptions this has caused for a lot of Americans.

Factories where people thought they would retire suddenly picked up and went overseas, where workers were cheaper. Steel mills that needed 100 — or 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100 employees, so layoffs too often became permanent, not just a temporary part of the business cycle. And these changes didn’t just affect blue-collar workers. If you were a bank teller or a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession replaced by ATMs and the Internet.

Today, even higher-skilled jobs, like accountants and middle management can be outsourced to countries like China or India. And if you’re somebody whose job can be done cheaper by a computer or someone in another country, you don’t have a lot of leverage with your employer when it comes to asking for better wages or better benefits, especially since fewer Americans today are part of a union.

Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let’s respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes — especially for the wealthy — our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, then jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else. And, they argue, even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, well, that’s the price of liberty.

Now, it’s a simple theory. And we have to admit, it’s one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That’s in America’s DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. (Laughter.) But here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked. (Applause.) It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the ‘50s and ‘60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade. (Applause.) I mean, understand, it’s not as if we haven’t tried this theory.

Remember in those years, in 2001 and 2003, Congress passed two of the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history. And what did it get us? The slowest job growth in half a century. Massive deficits that have made it much harder to pay for the investments that built this country and provided the basic security that helped millions of Americans reach and stay in the middle class — things like education and infrastructure, science and technology, Medicare and Social Security.

Remember that in those same years, thanks to some of the same folks who are now running Congress, we had weak regulation, we had little oversight, and what did it get us? Insurance companies that jacked up people’s premiums with impunity and denied care to patients who were sick, mortgage lenders that tricked families into buying homes they couldn’t afford, a financial sector where irresponsibility and lack of basic oversight nearly destroyed our entire economy.

We simply cannot return to this brand of “you’re on your own” economics if we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country. (Applause.) We know that it doesn’t result in a strong economy. It results in an economy that invests too little in its people and in its future. We know it doesn’t result in a prosperity that trickles down. It results in a prosperity that’s enjoyed by fewer and fewer of our citizens.

Look at the statistics. In the last few decades, the average income of the top 1 percent has gone up by more than 250 percent to $1.2 million per year. I’m not talking about millionaires, people who have a million dollars. I’m saying people who make a million dollars every single year. For the top one hundredth of 1 percent, the average income is now $27 million per year. The typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her worker now earns 110 times more. And yet, over the last decade the incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by about 6 percent.

Now, this kind of inequality — a level that we haven’t seen since the Great Depression — hurts us all. When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, when people are slipping out of the middle class, it drags down the entire economy from top to bottom. America was built on the idea of broad-based prosperity, of strong consumers all across the country. That’s why a CEO like Henry Ford made it his mission to pay his workers enough so that they could buy the cars he made. It’s also why a recent study showed that countries with less inequality tend to have stronger and steadier economic growth over the long run.

Inequality also distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and it runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. (Applause.) It leaves everyone else rightly suspicious that the system in Washington is rigged against them, that our elected representatives aren’t looking out for the interests of most Americans.

But there’s an even more fundamental issue at stake. This kind of gaping inequality gives lie to the promise that’s at the very heart of America: that this is a place where you can make it if you try. We tell people — we tell our kids — that in this country, even if you’re born with nothing, work hard and you can get into the middle class. We tell them that your children will have a chance to do even better than you do. That’s why immigrants from around the world historically have flocked to our shores.

And yet, over the last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the middle class has shrunk. You know, a few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult. By 1980, that chance had fallen to around 40 percent. And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a one-in-three chance of making it to the middle class — 33 percent.

It’s heartbreaking enough that there are millions of working families in this country who are now forced to take their children to food banks for a decent meal. But the idea that those children might not have a chance to climb out of that situation and back into the middle class, no matter how hard they work? That’s inexcusable. It is wrong. (Applause.) It flies in the face of everything that we stand for. (Applause.)

Now, fortunately, that’s not a future that we have to accept, because there’s another view about how we build a strong middle class in this country — a view that’s truer to our history, a vision that’s been embraced in the past by people of both parties for more than 200 years.

It’s not a view that we should somehow turn back technology or put up walls around America. It’s not a view that says we should punish profit or success or pretend that government knows how to fix all of society’s problems. It is a view that says in America we are greater together — when everyone engages in fair play and everybody gets a fair shot and everybody does their fair share. (Applause.)

So what does that mean for restoring middle-class security in today’s economy? Well, it starts by making sure that everyone in America gets a fair shot at success. The truth is we’ll never be able to compete with other countries when it comes to who’s best at letting their businesses pay the lowest wages, who’s best at busting unions, who’s best at letting companies pollute as much as they want. That’s a race to the bottom that we can’t win, and we shouldn’t want to win that race. (Applause.) Those countries don’t have a strong middle class. They don’t have our standard of living.

The race we want to win, the race we can win is a race to the top — the race for good jobs that pay well and offer middle-class security. Businesses will create those jobs in countries with the highest-skilled, highest-educated workers, the most advanced transportation and communication, the strongest commitment to research and technology.

The world is shifting to an innovation economy and nobody does innovation better than America. Nobody does it better. (Applause.) No one has better colleges. Nobody has better universities. Nobody has a greater diversity of talent and ingenuity. No one’s workers or entrepreneurs are more driven or more daring. The things that have always been our strengths match up perfectly with the demands of the moment.

But we need to meet the moment. We’ve got to up our game. We need to remember that we can only do that together. It starts by making education a national mission — a national mission. (Applause.) Government and businesses, parents and citizens. In this economy, a higher education is the surest route to the middle class. The unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average. And their incomes are twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma. Which means we shouldn’t be laying off good teachers right now — we should be hiring them. (Applause.) We shouldn’t be expecting less of our schools –- we should be demanding more. (Applause.) We shouldn’t be making it harder to afford college — we should be a country where everyone has a chance to go and doesn’t rack up $100,000 of debt just because they went. (Applause.)

In today’s innovation economy, we also need a world-class commitment to science and research, the next generation of high-tech manufacturing. Our factories and our workers shouldn’t be idle. We should be giving people the chance to get new skills and training at community colleges so they can learn how to make wind turbines and semiconductors and high-powered batteries. And by the way, if we don’t have an economy that’s built on bubbles and financial speculation, our best and brightest won’t all gravitate towards careers in banking and finance. (Applause.) Because if we want an economy that’s built to last, we need more of those young people in science and engineering. (Applause.) This country should not be known for bad debt and phony profits. We should be known for creating and selling products all around the world that are stamped with three proud words: Made in America. (Applause.)

Today, manufacturers and other companies are setting up shop in the places with the best infrastructure to ship their products, move their workers, communicate with the rest of the world. And that’s why the over 1 million construction workers who lost their jobs when the housing market collapsed, they shouldn’t be sitting at home with nothing to do. They should be rebuilding our roads and our bridges, laying down faster railroads and broadband, modernizing our schools — (applause) — all the things other countries are already doing to attract good jobs and businesses to their shores.

Yes, business, and not government, will always be the primary generator of good jobs with incomes that lift people into the middle class and keep them there. But as a nation, we’ve always come together, through our government, to help create the conditions where both workers and businesses can succeed. (Applause.) And historically, that hasn’t been a partisan idea. Franklin Roosevelt worked with Democrats and Republicans to give veterans of World War II — including my grandfather, Stanley Dunham — the chance to go to college on the G.I. Bill. It was a Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower, a proud son of Kansas — (applause) — who started the Interstate Highway System, and doubled down on science and research to stay ahead of the Soviets.

Of course, those productive investments cost money. They’re not free. And so we’ve also paid for these investments by asking everybody to do their fair share. Look, if we had unlimited resources, no one would ever have to pay any taxes and we would never have to cut any spending. But we don’t have unlimited resources. And so we have to set priorities. If we want a strong middle class, then our tax code must reflect our values. We have to make choices.

Today that choice is very clear. To reduce our deficit, I’ve already signed nearly $1 trillion of spending cuts into law and I’ve proposed trillions more, including reforms that would lower the cost of Medicare and Medicaid. (Applause.)

But in order to structurally close the deficit, get our fiscal house in order, we have to decide what our priorities are. Now, most immediately, short term, we need to extend a payroll tax cut that’s set to expire at the end of this month. (Applause.) If we don’t do that, 160 million Americans, including most of the people here, will see their taxes go up by an average of $1,000 starting in January and it would badly weaken our recovery. That’s the short term.

In the long term, we have to rethink our tax system more fundamentally. We have to ask ourselves: Do we want to make the investments we need in things like education and research and high-tech manufacturing — all those things that helped make us an economic superpower? Or do we want to keep in place the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in our country? Because we can’t afford to do both. That is not politics. That’s just math. (Laughter and applause.)

Now, so far, most of my Republican friends in Washington have refused under any circumstance to ask the wealthiest Americans to go to the same tax rate they were paying when Bill Clinton was president. So let’s just do a trip down memory lane here.

Keep in mind, when President Clinton first proposed these tax increases, folks in Congress predicted they would kill jobs and lead to another recession. Instead, our economy created nearly 23 million jobs and we eliminated the deficit. (Applause.) Today, the wealthiest Americans are paying the lowest taxes in over half a century. This isn’t like in the early ‘50s, when the top tax rate was over 90 percent. This isn’t even like the early ‘80s, when the top tax rate was about 70 percent. Under President Clinton, the top rate was only about 39 percent. Today, thanks to loopholes and shelters, a quarter of all millionaires now pay lower tax rates than millions of you, millions of middle-class families. Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1 percent. One percent.

That is the height of unfairness. It is wrong. (Applause.) It’s wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker, maybe earns $50,000 a year, should pay a higher tax rate than somebody raking in $50 million. (Applause.) It’s wrong for Warren Buffett’s secretary to pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. (Applause.) And by the way, Warren Buffett agrees with me. (Laughter.) So do most Americans — Democrats, independents and Republicans. And I know that many of our wealthiest citizens would agree to contribute a little more if it meant reducing the deficit and strengthening the economy that made their success possible.

This isn’t about class warfare. This is about the nation’s welfare. It’s about making choices that benefit not just the people who’ve done fantastically well over the last few decades, but that benefits the middle class, and those fighting to get into the middle class, and the economy as a whole.

Finally, a strong middle class can only exist in an economy where everyone plays by the same rules, from Wall Street to Main Street. (Applause.) As infuriating as it was for all of us, we rescued our major banks from collapse, not only because a full-blown financial meltdown would have sent us into a second Depression, but because we need a strong, healthy financial sector in this country.

But part of the deal was that we wouldn’t go back to business as usual. And that’s why last year we put in place new rules of the road that refocus the financial sector on what should be their core purpose: getting capital to the entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and financing millions of families who want to buy a home or send their kids to college.

Now, we’re not all the way there yet, and the banks are fighting us every inch of the way. But already, some of these reforms are being implemented.

If you’re a big bank or risky financial institution, you now have to write out a “living will” that details exactly how you’ll pay the bills if you fail, so that taxpayers are never again on the hook for Wall Street’s mistakes. (Applause.) There are also limits on the size of banks and new abilities for regulators to dismantle a firm that is going under. The new law bans banks from making risky bets with their customers’ deposits, and it takes away big bonuses and paydays from failed CEOs, while giving shareholders a say on executive salaries.

This is the law that we passed. We are in the process of implementing it now. All of this is being put in place as we speak. Now, unless you’re a financial institution whose business model is built on breaking the law, cheating consumers and making risky bets that could damage the entire economy, you should have nothing to fear from these new rules.

Some of you may know, my grandmother worked as a banker for most of her life — worked her way up, started as a secretary, ended up being a vice president of a bank. And I know from her, and I know from all the people that I’ve come in contact with, that the vast majority of bankers and financial service professionals, they want to do right by their customers. They want to have rules in place that don’t put them at a disadvantage for doing the right thing. And yet, Republicans in Congress are fighting as hard as they can to make sure that these rules aren’t enforced.

I’ll give you a specific example. For the first time in history, the reforms that we passed put in place a consumer watchdog who is charged with protecting everyday Americans from being taken advantage of by mortgage lenders or payday lenders or debt collectors. And the man we nominated for the post, Richard Cordray, is a former attorney general of Ohio who has the support of most attorney generals, both Democrat and Republican, throughout the country. Nobody claims he’s not qualified.

But the Republicans in the Senate refuse to confirm him for the job; they refuse to let him do his job. Why? Does anybody here think that the problem that led to our financial crisis was too much oversight of mortgage lenders or debt collectors?

AUDIENCE: No!

THE PRESIDENT: Of course not. Every day we go without a consumer watchdog is another day when a student, or a senior citizen, or a member of our Armed Forces — because they are very vulnerable to some of this stuff — could be tricked into a loan that they can’t afford — something that happens all the time. And the fact is that financial institutions have plenty of lobbyists looking out for their interests. Consumers deserve to have someone whose job it is to look out for them. (Applause.) And I intend to make sure they do. (Applause.) And I want you to hear me, Kansas: I will veto any effort to delay or defund or dismantle the new rules that we put in place. (Applause.)

We shouldn’t be weakening oversight and accountability. We should be strengthening oversight and accountability. I’ll give you another example. Too often, we’ve seen Wall Street firms violating major anti-fraud laws because the penalties are too weak and there’s no price for being a repeat offender. No more. I’ll be calling for legislation that makes those penalties count so that firms don’t see punishment for breaking the law as just the price of doing business. (Applause.)

The fact is this crisis has left a huge deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. And major banks that were rescued by the taxpayers have an obligation to go the extra mile in helping to close that deficit of trust. At minimum, they should be remedying past mortgage abuses that led to the financial crisis. They should be working to keep responsible homeowners in their home. We’re going to keep pushing them to provide more time for unemployed homeowners to look for work without having to worry about immediately losing their house.

The big banks should increase access to refinancing opportunities to borrowers who haven’t yet benefited from historically low interest rates. And the big banks should recognize that precisely because these steps are in the interest of middle-class families and the broader economy, it will also be in the banks’ own long-term financial interest. What will be good for consumers over the long term will be good for the banks. (Applause.)

Investing in things like education that give everybody a chance to succeed. A tax code that makes sure everybody pays their fair share. And laws that make sure everybody follows the rules. That’s what will transform our economy. That’s what will grow our middle class again. In the end, rebuilding this economy based on fair play, a fair shot, and a fair share will require all of us to see that we have a stake in each other’s success. And it will require all of us to take some responsibility.

It will require parents to get more involved in their children’s education. It will require students to study harder. (Applause.) It will require some workers to start studying all over again. It will require greater responsibility from homeowners not to take out mortgages they can’t afford. They need to remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

It will require those of us in public service to make government more efficient and more effective, more consumer-friendly, more responsive to people’s needs. That’s why we’re cutting programs that we don’t need to pay for those we do. (Applause.) That’s why we’ve made hundreds of regulatory reforms that will save businesses billions of dollars. That’s why we’re not just throwing money at education, we’re challenging schools to come up with the most innovative reforms and the best results.

And it will require American business leaders to understand that their obligations don’t just end with their shareholders. Andy Grove, the legendary former CEO of Intel, put it best. He said, “There is another obligation I feel personally, given that everything I’ve achieved in my career, and a lot of what Intel has achieved…were made possible by a climate of democracy, an economic climate and investment climate provided by the United States.”

This broader obligation can take many forms. At a time when the cost of hiring workers in China is rising rapidly, it should mean more CEOs deciding that it’s time to bring jobs back to the United States — (applause) — not just because it’s good for business, but because it’s good for the country that made their business and their personal success possible. (Applause.)

I think about the Big Three auto companies who, during recent negotiations, agreed to create more jobs and cars here in America, and then decided to give bonuses not just to their executives, but to all their employees, so that everyone was invested in the company’s success. (Applause.)

I think about a company based in Warroad, Minnesota. It’s called Marvin Windows and Doors. During the recession, Marvin’s competitors closed dozens of plants, let hundreds of workers go. But Marvin’s did not lay off a single one of their 4,000 or so employees — not one. In fact, they’ve only laid off workers once in over a hundred years. Mr. Marvin’s grandfather even kept his eight employees during the Great Depression.

Now, at Marvin’s when times get tough, the workers agree to give up some perks and some pay, and so do the owners. As one owner said, “You can’t grow if you’re cutting your lifeblood — and that’s the skills and experience your workforce delivers.” (Applause.) For the CEO of Marvin’s, it’s about the community. He said, “These are people we went to school with. We go to church with them. We see them in the same restaurants. Indeed, a lot of us have married local girls and boys. We could be anywhere, but we are in Warroad.”

That’s how America was built. That’s why we’re the greatest nation on Earth. That’s what our greatest companies understand. Our success has never just been about survival of the fittest. It’s about building a nation where we’re all better off. We pull together. We pitch in. We do our part. We believe that hard work will pay off, that responsibility will be rewarded, and that our children will inherit a nation where those values live on. (Applause.)

And it is that belief that rallied thousands of Americans to Osawatomie — (applause) — maybe even some of your ancestors — on a rain-soaked day more than a century ago. By train, by wagon, on buggy, bicycle, on foot, they came to hear the vision of a man who loved this country and was determined to perfect it.

“We are all Americans,” Teddy Roosevelt told them that day. “Our common interests are as broad as the continent.” In the final years of his life, Roosevelt took that same message all across this country, from tiny Osawatomie to the heart of New York City, believing that no matter where he went, no matter who he was talking to, everybody would benefit from a country in which everyone gets a fair chance. (Applause.)

And well into our third century as a nation, we have grown and we’ve changed in many ways since Roosevelt’s time. The world is faster and the playing field is larger and the challenges are more complex. But what hasn’t changed — what can never change — are the values that got us this far. We still have a stake in each other’s success. We still believe that this should be a place where you can make it if you try. And we still believe, in the words of the man who called for a New Nationalism all those years ago, “The fundamental rule of our national life,” he said, “the rule which underlies all others — is that, on the whole, and in the long run, we shall go up or down together.” And I believe America is on the way up. (Applause.)

Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

END

Full Text December 5, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Statement Urging Congress to Pass the Payroll Tax Cut Extension & Expansion

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Urges Congress to Extend and Expand the Payroll Tax cut

Source: WH, 12-5-11
20111205 POTUS podium

President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the Press in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Dec. 05, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Just after 2:00 PM ET, President Obama stopped by the White House press briefing room to talk about the fight to extend the payroll tax cut.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said — not just for the economy, but for American workers and their families:

Although the unemployment rate went down last month, our recovery is still fragile, and the situation in Europe has added to that uncertainty. And that’s why the majority of economists believe it’s important to extend the payroll tax cut. And those same economists would lower their growth estimates for our economy if it doesn’t happen.

Not only is extending the payroll tax cut important for the economy as a whole, it’s obviously important for individual families.  It’s important insurance for them against the unexpected.  It will help families pay their bills.  It will spur spending.  It will spur hiring.

On Thursday, the Senate voted on extending the tax cut, but Republicans blocked the proposal. The President, however, said we’re starting to see evidence that lawmakers might be ready to put politics aside and do the right thing for the middle class:

Now, the good news is I think the American people’s voices are starting to get through in this town.  I know that last week Speaker Boehner said this tax cut helps the economy because it allows every working American to keep more of their money.  I know that over the weekend Senate Republican leaders said we shouldn’t raise taxes on working people going into next year.

Congress has 26 days to find a solution to this impasse.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Statement by the President

Source: WH, 12-5-11

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:10 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.

My number-one priority right now is doing everything that I can, every single day, to create jobs faster and to provide more security for middle-class families and those trying to get into the middle class.  And at this moment, that means making sure that nearly 160 million hardworking Americans don’t see an increase in their taxes on January 1st.

A year ago at this time, both parties came together to cut payroll taxes for the typical American family by about $1,000.  But as soon as this year ends, so does that tax cut.  If Congress fails to renew this tax cut before then, that same family will see a tax hike of about $1,000 a year.  There aren’t many folks either in the middle class or those trying to get into the middle class who can afford to give up $1,000 — not right now.  And that’s why Congress must act.

Although the unemployment rate went down last month, our recovery is still fragile, and the situation in Europe has added to that uncertainty.  And that’s why the majority of economists believe it’s important to extend the payroll tax cut.  And those same economists would lower their growth estimates for our economy if it doesn’t happen.

Not only is extending the payroll tax cut important for the economy as a whole, it’s obviously important for individual families.  It’s important insurance for them against the unexpected.  It will help families pay their bills.  It will spur spending.  It will spur hiring.  And it’s the right thing to do.

And that’s why in my jobs bill I proposed not only extending the tax cut but expanding it to give a typical working family a tax cut of $1,500 next year.  And it was paid for by asking a little more from millionaires and billionaires — a few hundred thousand people paying a little bit more could have not only extended the existing payroll tax cut but expanded it.

Last week, virtually every Senate Republican voted against that tax cut.  Now, I know many Republicans have sworn an oath never to raise taxes as long as they live.  How could it be that the only time there’s a catch is when it comes to raising taxes on middle-class families?  How can you fight tooth and nail to protect high-end tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, and yet barely lift a finger to prevent taxes going up for 160 million Americans who really need the help?  It doesn’t make sense.

Now, the good news is I think the American people’s voices are starting to get through in this town.  I know that last week Speaker Boehner said this tax cut helps the economy because it allows every working American to keep more of their money.  I know that over the weekend Senate Republican leaders said we shouldn’t raise taxes on working people going into next year.

I couldn’t agree more.  And I hope that the rest of their Republican colleagues come around and join Democrats to pass these tax cuts and put money back into the pockets of working Americans.

Now, some Republicans who have pushed back against the idea of extending this payroll tax cut have said that we’ve got to pay for these tax cuts.  And I’d just point out that they haven’t always felt that way.  Over the last decade, they didn’t feel the need to pay for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans — which is one of the reasons that we face such large deficits.  Indeed, when the Republicans took over the House at the beginning of this year, they explicitly changed the rules to say that tax cuts don’t have to be paid for.  So forgive me a little bit of confusion when I hear folks insisting on tax cuts being paid for.

Having said that, we all recognize that we’ve got to make progress on the deficit, and I’m willing to work with Republicans to extend the payroll tax cut in a responsible way.  What I’m not willing to do is to pay for the extension in a way that actually hurts the economy.

As Americans are well aware, this summer I signed into law nearly $1 trillion in spending cuts, with another trillion dollars in cuts in the pipeline.  And it would be irresponsible to now make additional deep cuts in areas like education or innovation or our basic safety net that are critical to the economy in order to pay for an extension of the payroll tax cut. We’re not going to do that.  Nor are we going to undo the budget agreement that I signed just a few short months ago.

Finally, with millions of Americans still looking for work, it would be a terrible mistake for Congress to go home for the holidays without extending unemployment insurance.  If that happens, then in January they’ll be leaving 1.3 million Americans out in the cold.  For a lot of families, this emergency insurance is the last line of defense between hardship and catastrophe.  Taking that money out of the economy now would do extraordinary harm to the economy.

And if you believe that government shouldn’t take money out of people’s pockets, I hope members of Congress realize that it’s even worse when you take it out of the pockets of people who are unemployed and out there pounding the pavement looking for work.

We are going through what is still an extraordinary time in this country and in this economy.  And I get letters every single day, and I talk to people who say to me:  This unemployment insurance is what allowed me to keep my house before I was able to find another job.  This is what allowed me to still put gas in the tank to take my kids to school.

We cannot play games with unemployment insurance when we still have an unemployment rate that is way too high.  I’ve put forward a whole range of ideas for reform of the unemployment insurance system, and I’m happy to work with Republicans on those issues.  But right now, the most important thing is making sure that that gets extended as well.

This isn’t just something that I want.  This isn’t just a political fight.  Independent economists, some of whom have in the past worked for Republicans, agree that if we don’t extend the payroll tax cut and we don’t extend unemployment insurance, it will hurt our economy.  The economy won’t grow as fast and we won’t see hiring improve as quickly.  It will take money out of the pockets of Americans just at a time when they need it.  It will harm businesses that depend on the spending just at the time when the economy is trying to get some traction in this recovery. It will hurt all of us.  And it will be a self-inflicted wound.

So my message to Congress is this:  Keep your word to the American people and don’t raise taxes on them right now.  Now is not the time to slam on the brakes; now is the time to step on the gas.  Now is the time to keep growing the economy, to keep creating jobs, to keep giving working Americans the boost that they need.  Now is the time to make a real difference in the lives of the people who sent us here.  So let’s get to work.

Thank you very much.

END
2:17 P.M. EST

Full Text December 3 2011: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Urges Congress to Pass Payroll Tax Cut Extension

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama calls on Congress to extend and expand the payroll tax cut — to protect middle class families and ensure that the economy continues to grow.

President Obama tapes the Weekly Address
President Obama tapes the Weekly Address, White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 12/2/1

Weekly Address: Extending and Expanding the Payroll Tax Cut

Source: WH, 12-3-11

President Obama calls on Congress to extend and expand the payroll tax cut — to protect middle class families and ensure that the economy continues to grow.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Extending and Expanding the Payroll Tax Cut

In this week’s address, President Obama told the American people that although the United States has created private sector jobs for the past 21 months in a row, that is not enough for struggling Americans. We must continue growing the economy by passing the payroll tax cut, which will give the middle class a tax cut of $1,500 and provide small businesses more money to hire workers by cutting their payroll taxes in half. The President urges all Americans to tell Congress not to raise taxes during the holidays and act in the best interests of middle class families and pass the tax cuts now.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 3, 2011

This week, we learned that our economy added another 140,000 private sector jobs in November. Despite some strong headwinds this year, America’s economy has now created private sector jobs for the past 21 months in a row – almost three million new jobs in all, more than half a million of them in the past four months alone.

We need to keep this growth going and strengthen it. That’s why we’ve been fighting to pass a series of jobs bills through Congress – bills that independent economists say will create more jobs and grow the economy even faster. Because now is the time to step on the gas, not slam on the brakes.

Unfortunately, too many Republicans in Congress don’t seem to share that same sense of urgency. Over the last few months, they’ve said “no” to most of these jobs bills. “No” to putting teachers and firefighters back to work. “No” to putting construction workers back on the job. And this week, they actually said “no” to cutting taxes for middle-class families.

You see, last year, both parties came together to cut payroll taxes for the typical middle-class family by about $1,000. But that tax cut is set to expire at the end of this month. If that happens, that same family will see its taxes go up by $1,000. We can’t let that happen. In fact, I think we should cut taxes on working families and small business owners even more.

And we’re going to keep pushing Congress to make this happen. They shouldn’t go home for the holidays until they get this done. And if you agree with me, I could use your help.

We’ve set up a simple tax cut calculator on WhiteHouse.gov so that you can see exactly what the stakes are for your family. Try it out. Then let your members of Congress know where you stand.

Tell them not to vote to raise taxes on working Americans during the holidays. Tell them to put country before party. Put money back in the pockets of working Americans. Pass these tax cuts.

We’re all in this together. The more Americans succeed, the more America succeeds. And if we remember that and do what it takes to keep this economy growing and opportunity rising, then I’m confident that we’ll come out of this stronger than before.

Full Text December 1, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Statement Calls Senate Vote Against the Payroll Tax Cut “Unacceptable”

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Senate Vote Against the Payroll Tax Cut: “Unacceptable”

Source: WH, 12-1-11

Just now, Republicans in the Senate rejected an extension of the payroll tax cut that is set to expire at the end of the month. In a statement, President Obama called that vote “unacceptable” — and urged Congress to stop playing politics:

Tonight, Senate Republicans chose to raise taxes on nearly 160 million hardworking Americans because they refused to ask a few hundred thousand millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share. They voted against a bill that would have not only extended the $1,000 tax cut for a typical family, but expanded that tax cut to put an extra $1,500 in their pockets next year, and given nearly six million small business owners new incentives to expand and hire. That is unacceptable. It makes absolutely no sense to raise taxes on the middle class at a time when so many are still trying to get back on their feet.

Now is not the time to put the economy and the security of the middle class at risk. Now is the time to rebuild an economy where hard work and responsibility pay off, and everybody has a chance to succeed. Now is the time to put country before party and work together on behalf of the American people. And I will continue to urge Congress to stop playing politics with the security of millions of American families and small business owners and get this done.

Full Text November 30, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the American Jobs Act at Scranton High School in Scranton, PA — Urges Congress to Extend Payroll Tax

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama at Scranton High

Source: WH, 11-30-11
20111130 POTUS in Scranton

President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the American Jobs Act at Scranton High School in Scranton, Pa., Nov. 30, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

If Congress doesn’t extend the payroll tax cut, 6.7 million people in Pennsylvania will see their taxes go up.

That’s the message that President Obama took to Scranton this afternoon. He told a crowd assembled in the town’s high school auditorium that if Congress fails to extend the tax cut through 2012, it would deliver a “massive blow” to the nation’s economy:

[If] Congress doesn’t act to extend this tax cut — then most of you, the typical middle-class family, is going to see your taxes go up by $1,000 at the worst possible time. A young lady just said she can’t afford that. It would be tough for you.

The Senate is set to vote on extending these tax cuts as early as this week, and the President told people in Scranton to send their lawmakers a message:

[To] everybody who is here, everybody who is watching, send your Senate a message — send your senators a message. Tell them, “Don’t be a Grinch.” … Don’t vote to raise taxes on working Americans during the holidays.  Make sure to renew unemployment insurance during the holidays.  Stop saying “no” to steps that would make our economy stronger. Put our country before party. Put money back into the pockets of working Americans. Do your job. Pass this bill.

Read the full remarks here.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President on the American Jobs Act

Scranton High School
Scranton, Pennsylvania

2:37 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Scranton!  Thank you.  (Applause.)  It is good to be back in Scranton.  Go, Knights!  (Applause.)  It is good to be here.  Thank you, Principal Schaeffer, for letting us hold this little assembly here at the high school.  (Laughter.)  The principal was bragging about both the basketball team and the football team.  I understand they’re — (applause) — right up there?  All right.

Thank you, Donna, for the wonderful invitation.  We had a chance to visit in the Festas’ living room, and just a wonderful family, and their kids are doing great.  So I’m really, really proud to be with all of you.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Can you come to my house?  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  What did she say?  You want — next time, your house.  (Laughter.)  All right?  (Applause.)

Now, I will say, Donna put out some really good cookies.  So — (laughter) — I’m just saying.  (Laughter.)  All right.

Now, I also want to bring greetings from somebody you guys know pretty well -– a guy named Joe Biden.  (Applause.)  Joe is in Iraq as we speak, and he’s visiting with our brave men and women in uniform, thanking them for their service.  (Applause.)  And part of the reason he’s going now is because, pretty soon, we’ll all get a chance to say thank you.  This holiday season is going to be a season of homecomings, because by the end of December, all of our troops are going to be out of Iraq.  They’re going to be back home.  (Applause.)

Now, I mention Joe, first of all, because he loves Scranton.  (Applause.)  He was born here in Scranton.  He spent his early years here in Scranton.  This town helped make him who he is.  This is a town where he and so many of you grew up with a faith in an America where hard work matters.  Where responsibility matters.  Where if you stay true to those things, you can get ahead.  Where no matter who you are, no matter what you look like -– whether you own a factory or you work on the factory floor –- America is a place where you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

That’s why Joe and I ran for this office.  You are why we spent so much time in this state a few years ago.  Because even then, those ideas -– the idea that’s at the very heart of the American Dream –- felt like it was slipping away for a lot of people.  It was wonderful visiting with Patrick and Donna, and we were talking about the fact that Patrick has been — Patrick Festa has been teaching in the school system for 25 years now; Donna has been a graphic artist.  But they’re still worried about if the washer/dryer goes out, or if they have to do a car repair.  Things are tight.  And they’re pretty lucky that they’ve got a good job, steady jobs.  For a lot of folks, it’s a lot tougher.

And we’ve gone through a difficult decade for middle-class Americans.  More good jobs in manufacturing left our shores over the last decade.  More of our prosperity was built on risky financial deals and homes that a lot of folks couldn’t afford.  And a lot of you watched your incomes fall or your wages flatline.  Meanwhile, the costs of everything from college to health care were all going up.  And then, after all that, the financial crisis hit because of the irresponsibility of some on Wall Street.  (Applause.)  And that made things a whole lot tougher.

Today, we all know folks who’ve spent months looking for work.  We all know families making deep sacrifices just to get by.  We all know young people who have gone to college, they’ve taken on a bunch of debt.  Now they’re finding that the opportunity that they worked so hard to find is getting harder and harder to come by.  So there’s a sense of deep frustration among people who’ve done the right thing, but don’t see that hard work and that responsibility pay off.  And that’s not the way things are supposed to be, not here in America.

But here today with all of you, I’m thinking about something that is probably Joe’s favorite expression.  And some of you know Joe’s story.  He went through some tough times when he was a kid.  And his father used to tell him, Champ, when you get knocked down, you get up.  You get up.
And Scranton, we’ve taken some punches these last few years.  But there’s one thing I know about people here in Scranton, people in Pennsylvania, and people all across America:  We are tougher than the times.  We are America.  We get back up.  We fight back.  We move forward.  (Applause.)  We don’t give up.  We get back up.  (Applause.)

And even though our economic problems weren’t caused overnight and so they’re not going to be solved overnight — even though it’s going to take a few more years to meet all the  challenges that were decades in the making — we’re fighting to make things right again.  We’re fighting to make sure that if you are working hard and you are carrying out your responsibilities and you’re looking out for your family, that you can live a good, solid, middle-class life.  That is what America is all about.  And we are going to be fighting for that every day, every week, every month and every year that we’re in office.  (Applause.)

We want an America where hard work is valued and responsibility is rewarded.  We’re fighting to rebuild an economy that restores security for the middle class and renews opportunity for folks that are trying to get into the middle class.  We’re fighting to build an economy that’s not based on outsourcing and tax loopholes and risky financial schemes, but one that’s built to last — one where we invest in things like education and small businesses — (applause) — an economy that’s built on manufacturing and building things again and selling them all around the world.  (Applause.)

And we’re going to keep fighting to make our economy stronger and put our friends and neighbors back to work, to give our young people opportunities greater than the opportunities that we had.  (Applause.)  That’s what we’ve been doing for the last three years.

But two months ago, I sent a particular piece of legislation to Congress called the American Jobs Act.  (Applause.)  This is a jobs bill that will put more Americans to work, put more money back in the pockets of working families. It’s contains ideas that historically have been supported by Democrats and Republicans.  It’s paid for by asking our wealthiest citizens to pay their fair share.  (Applause.)  And independent economists said that it would create up to 2 million jobs, and grow the economy by as much as 2 percent.  And that’s what we need right now.

Now, here’s the problem — there is a problem.  Folks in Washington don’t seem to be getting the message.  When this jobs bill came to a vote, Republicans in the Senate got together and they blocked it.  They refused to even debate it.  Even though polls showed that two-thirds of Americans of all political stripes supported the ideas in this bill, not one single Republican stepped up to say, this is the right thing to do.

AUDIENCE:  Booo!

THE PRESIDENT:  Not one.  But here’s the good news, Scranton.  Just like you don’t quit, I don’t quit.  (Applause.)  I don’t quit.  So I said, look, I’m going to do everything that I can do without Congress to get things done.  (Applause.)

So let’s just take a look over the past several weeks.  We said, we can’t wait.  We just went ahead and started taking some steps on our own to give working Americans a leg up in a tough economy.  For homeowners, I announced a new policy that will help families refinance their mortgages and save thousands of dollars.  (Applause.)  For all the young people out here — (applause) — we reformed our student loan process to make it easier for more students to pay off their debts earlier.  (Applause.)  For our veterans out here — and I see some veterans in the crowd — (applause) — we ordered several new initiatives to help our returning heroes find new jobs and get trained for those jobs.  (Applause.)  Because you shouldn’t have to fight for a job when you come home after fighting for America — you shouldn’t have to do that.  (Applause.)

And in fact, last week I was able to sign into law two new tax breaks for businesses that hire veterans, because nobody out here who is a veteran should — we have to make sure that they are getting the help that they need.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you, Mr. President!

THE PRESIDENT:  And by the way, I think we’re starting to get, maybe, to the Republicans a little bit, because they actually voted for this veterans bill.  I was glad to see that.  (Applause.)  I was glad that Democrats and Republicans got together with this bipartisan legislation.

Now, there’s a lot more to do, though, if we’re going to get every American back to work who wants to work, and to rebuild an economy that works for every American, which is why we’re going to give Congress another chance to do the right thing with the American Job Act.  We’re going to give them another chance to help working families like yours.  (Applause.)

Last year, both parties came together to cut payroll taxes for the typical household by $1,000.  Now, that’s been showing up in your paychecks each week.  You may not be aware of it, because times are tight.  But you actually got a tax cut of $1,000 this year.  Now, I know you hear a lot of folks on cable TV claiming that I’m this big tax-and-spend liberal.  Next time you hear that, you just remind the people who are saying it that since I’ve taken office, I’ve cut your taxes.  (Applause.)

Your taxes today — the average middle-class family, your taxes today are lower than when I took office, just remember that.  (Applause.)  We have cut taxes for small businesses not once, not twice, but 17 times.  The average family’s tax burden is among the lowest it’s been in the last 60 years.

So the problem is not that we’ve been raising taxes.  We’ve actually been trying to give families a break during these tough times.  But here’s the thing:  That payroll tax cut that we passed in December of last year, it’s set to expire at the end of this year, one month from now.  If that happens — if Congress doesn’t act to extend this tax cut — then most of you, the typical middle-class family, is going to see your taxes go up by $1,000 at the worst possible time.  A young lady just said she can’t afford that.  It would be tough for you.  It would also be a massive blow for the economy, because we’re not fully out of the recession yet.  Don’t take my word for it; this is what every independent economist says.  We can’t let this tax cut lapse right now.

And that’s why my jobs bill — part of the American Jobs Act was to extend this tax cut for another year.  In fact, it does one better.  It says, let’s expand that tax cut.  Instead of a $1,000 tax cut next year, the typical working family under my plan would get a tax cut of $1,500.  (Applause.)  Instead of it coming out of your paycheck, it would be going into your pocket.  Now, that’s money that you can spend on a small business right here in Scranton.  If you’re a small business owner, my jobs bill will cut your payroll taxes in half.  So if you’ve got 50 employees making $50,000 each, you’d get a tax cut of nearly $80,000.  That’s money that you can then use to hire some more workers and get this economy moving again.  That’s a good thing.  (Applause.)

Now, this really should not be controversial.  A lot of Republicans have agreed with this tax cut in the past.  The Republican leader in the Senate said it would — I’m quoting here — it would “put a lot of money back in the hands of business and in the hands of individuals.”  That’s what he said.  Another Republican leader said it would help small business owners create jobs and help their employees spend more money, creating even more jobs.  One Republican even called it a “conservative approach to help put our economy back on track.”  So what’s the problem?

The bad news is some of those same Republicans voted “no” on my jobs bill and those tax cuts.  I don’t know whether it’s just because I proposed it.  I don’t know.  They said “no” to cutting taxes for small business owners and working families.  One of them said just two years ago that this kind of tax cut would boost job creation, and now that I’m proposing it, he said we should let it expire.  I mean, what happened?

Republicans say they’re the party of tax cuts.  That’s what they say.  A lot of them have sworn an oath to never raise taxes on anybody as long as they live.  That doesn’t square with their vote against these tax cuts.  I mean, how is it that they can break their oath when it comes to raising your taxes, but not break their oath when it comes to raising taxes for wealthy people?  That doesn’t make any sense.  (Applause.)  I mean, I hope that they don’t want to just score political points.  I hope that they want to help the economy.

This cannot be about who wins and loses in Washington.  This is about delivering a win for the American people.  That’s what this is about.  (Applause.)  You know, $1,500 — that’s not a Band-Aid for middle-class families, that’s a big deal.  How many people here could use an extra $1,500?  (Applause.)  Yes, I thought so.

So I’ll tell you what, Scranton.  They may have voted “no” on these tax cuts once.  But I’m already filled with the Christmas spirit.  There’s kind of some chill in the air.  I saw some Christmas decorations at the Festas.  So I’m in a Christmas spirit.  I want to give them another chance.  I want to give them a chance to redeem themselves.  We’re going to give them another chance.

So as early as Friday, this Friday, in a couple of days, we’re going to give them a chance to take a simple vote on these tax cuts.  If they vote “no,” then the typical family’s taxes will go up by $1,000 next year.  If they vote “yes,” then the typical family will have an extra $1,500 in their pocket.  (Applause.)  So let’s just be clear:  If they vote “no,” your taxes go up; vote “yes,” you get a tax cut.  Which way do you think Congress should vote?  They should vote “yes,” it’s pretty simple.

Now, if you want to see what this vote will mean for your bottom line, we have this spiffy new tax calculator on our Internet site, WhiteHouse.gov.  So you can go on there and you can punch in your numbers and figure out what it would mean to your family.  But this is real money that would go into the economy at a time it needs it.

Now, I really do think your voices are already getting
through, because some of the folks in Congress are starting to say, well, maybe we’re open to this thing.  Maybe we’ll be open to these tax cuts.  And that’s good news.  But I want to make sure that we do this responsibly.  So what I’ve said is, to pay for this tax cut, we need to ask wealthy Americans to pay their fair share.  (Applause.)

We’re asking — what we’ve said is let’s ask the folks who’ve seen their incomes rise fastest, who’ve gotten bigger tax breaks under Bush, let’s ask them to help out a little bit, because they made it better through the recession than most of us.  Let’s ask them to contribute a little bit more to get the economy going again.

And I just want to point out I’ve done pretty well over these last few years.  So I’ve said, let me pay a little bit more.  I promise you, I can afford it.  (Laughter.)  I really can.  We’re asking people like me to sacrifice just a little bit so that you guys have a little bit of a leg up.

And by the way, let me say this:  When you talk to most folks who are making a million dollars a year, they are willing to do more if they’re asked.  Warren Buffett is a good example.  They’re willing to do more if they’re asked.  (Applause.)

Now, I mean, I don’t want to exaggerate.  It’s not like they’re volunteering.  (Laughter.)  But if they’re asked, if they feel like it’s going to help middle-class families, help grow the economy, help to reduce the deficit, they’re willing to help.  I can’t tell you how many well-to-do folks I meet who say, look, America gave me a chance to succeed.  Somewhere along the line, somebody gave me a good education.  Somewhere along the line, somebody gave me a college scholarship.  Somewhere along the line, somebody built the information and transportation networks that have helped my business grow.  Somewhere along the line, somebody gave me a shot.  And so now it’s my turn to do the next generation that same good thing.  I’ve got to give something back to them as well.  (Applause.)

Because, Scranton, this is something everybody in this audience understands.  When you think about the history of Scranton and the immigrants who came here and worked hard, each successive generation doing a little bit better — you guys know that what America is about is that we’re all in this together; that each of us has to do our own individual part, but we also have to be looking out for one another.

And that’s the very simple choice that’s facing Congress right now:  Are you going to cut taxes for the middle class and those who are trying to get into the middle class?  Or are you going to protect massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, many of whom don’t even want those tax breaks?  Are you going to ask a few hundred thousand people who have done very, very well to do their fair share?  Or are you going to raise taxes for hundreds of millions of people across the country — 160 million Americans?  Are you willing to fight as hard for middle-class families as you do for those who are most fortunate?  What’s it going to be?

That’s the choice in front of Congress.  And I hope members of Congress think hard about this, because their actions lately don’t reflect who we are as a people.  What does it say about our priorities when we’d rather protect a few really well-to-do people than fight for the jobs of teachers and firefighters?  (Applause.)  What does it say when we — about our values when we’d rather fight for corporate tax breaks than put construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our schools?  (Applause.)  What does it say about us if we’re willing to cut taxes for the people who don’t need them, and raise them on folks who do need a tax break?

We are better than that.  America is better than that.  We celebrate individual achievement, we expect everybody to work hard, but we don’t believe in every person for themselves; we believe that out of many, we come together as one.  (Applause.)  We’re a people who reach for our own success, but we also reach back for the people — to bring somebody up.  Reach back to help others earn their own success as well.  (Applause.)  And we believe that if the folks at the bottom and the folks in the middle succeed, then American succeeds, and the folks at the top succeed as well.  (Applause.)

The decisions we make today are going to determine whether or not our kids grow up in a country where those values still thrive.  And Scranton, I don’t know about you, but I want our kids to grow up — I want Malia and Sasha and all your kids, I want them to come into a country that is built on those big, generous values — (applause) — an America that reflects the values that we inherited from our parents and our grandparents.

So if you agree with me, I need you to tell Congress where your priorities lie.  Members of Congress, they work for you.  Scranton, you’ve got a great senator in Senator Casey.  I love Senator Casey.  (Applause.)

So I want you to know, Casey is already on the program.  (Applause.)  But to everybody who is here, everybody who is watching, send your Senate a message — send your senators a message.  Tell them, “Don’t be a Grinch.”  (Laughter.)  “Don’t be a Grinch.”  Don’t vote to raise taxes on working Americans during the holidays.  Make sure to renew unemployment insurance during the holidays.  (Applause.)  Stop saying “no” to steps that would make our economy stronger.  Put our country before party.  Put money back into the pockets of working Americans.  Do your job.  Pass this bill.  (Applause.)

Scranton, the American people are with us on this.  It is time for folks to stop running around spending all their time talking about what’s wrong with America.  Spend some time, roll up your sleeves, and help us rebuild America.  That’s what we need to do.  (Applause.)

There is nothing wrong with this country that we can’t fix.  We’re Americans, and our story has never been about things coming easy to us.  That’s not what Scranton has been about.  That’s not what Pennsylvania, that’s not what America is about.  It’s been about rising to the moment, and meeting the moment when things are hard.  It’s about doing what’s right.

So let’s do what’s right.  Let’s prove that the best days of America are still ahead of us.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
3:03 P.M. EST

Full Text November 22, 2011: President Barack Obama’s New Hampshire Speech on the American Jobs Act at Manchester Central High School, Manchester, NH

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Talks Taxes

Source: WH, 11-22-11
20111122 POTUS NH Podium

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the American Jobs Act at Manchester Central High School, Manchester, New Hampshire, Nov. 22, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In 40 days, our taxes will go up — unless Congress steps in to change that. And speaking from New Hampshire today, President Obama talked about that situation:

[Last] year, both parties came together to cut payroll taxes for the typical household by $1,000 this year. That’s been showing up in your paychecks each week. You may not know it, but it’s been showing up because of the action that we took. Which reminds me, by the way, the next time you hear one of these folks from the other side coming in talking about raising your taxes, you just remind them that ever since I’ve gotten into office, I’ve lowered your taxes, haven’t raised them. That’s worth reminding them. But this payroll tax is set to expire at the end of next month. End of next month, end of the year, this tax cut ends. And if we allow that to happen -– if Congress refuses to act -– then middle-class families are going to get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time. For the average family, your taxes will go up $1,000 if Congress does not act by the end of the month.

Now, we can’t let that happen. Not right now. It would be bad for the economy. It would be bad for employment.

The American Jobs Act, the President said, actually does one better. It expands expands the tax cut for individuals and cuts payroll taxes for small business owners:

Instead of a $1,000-a-year tax cut next year, the average working family would get a tax cut of more than $1,500. And that’s $1,500 that would have been taken out of your paycheck, would instead be going into your pocket. And that means you’d be spending in small businesses, and that would increase their business, which means they would potentially hire more people.

The American Jobs Act would also cut payroll taxes in half for small business owners.  Say you have 50 employees making $50,000 apiece. You’d get a tax cut of nearly $80,000. That is real money that you can use to hire new workers or buy new equipment.

When Congress takes up this issue after the holiday, the President said, lawmakers have a choice:

Do you want to cut taxes for the middle class and those who are trying to get into the middle class?  Or do you want to protect massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, many of whom want to actually help?  Do you want to help working families get back on solid ground and grow this economy for all of us?  Or do you really want to vote to raise taxes on nearly 160 million Americans during the holidays?  When push comes to shove, are you willing to fight as hard for working families as you are for the wealthiest Americans?  What’s it going to be?  That’s the choice.

Read the full remarks here.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President on the American Jobs Act

Manchester Central High School
Manchester, New Hampshire

12:20 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, New Hampshire!  (Applause.)  It is good to be back.  Hello, Little Green!  (Applause.)  It is good to be back in New Hampshire, although I have to say that I feel a little winter coming on around here.  (Laughter.)  This is what happens when you fly north.

It is wonderful to be here.  I had a chance to see backstage Principal Mailhot, and he reminded me of what I said to him four years ago almost to the day that I was here.  It was snowing that day; we were — surprising enough, there was a snowstorm in New Hampshire.  (Laughter.)  And we ended up having to leave a little bit early.  And we weren’t able to do everything that we wanted, talking to some of the students.  And we were worried that folks were going to be disappointed, and I promised him that I would be back.  I just want to point out, we’re keeping our promise — we are back.  (Applause.)  We are back.

In addition to Principal Mailhot, I want to acknowledge the Superintendent, Tom Brennan, who is here with his lovely wife Wendy.  Please give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

Happy Thanksgiving a little bit early, everybody.  To the — I understand we got the senior class here at Central High.  (Applause.)

STUDENTS:  Seniors!  Seniors!  Seniors!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  You guys are pretty excited about being seniors, aren’t you?  (Applause.)  I want to thank also somebody who is doing outstanding work each and every day, was doing it up here as a wonderful governor, is now one of your most outstanding senators in the country — Jeanne Shaheen is in the house.  (Applause.)

So before I came to school today, I had coffee –

(Audience interruption.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s okay.  All right, okay, guys.

STUDENTS:  Obama!  Obama!  Obama!

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, it’s okay.  That’s all right.  Listen, I’m going to be talking about a whole range of things today, and I appreciate you guys making your point.  Let me go ahead and make mine, all right?  And I’ll listen to you, you listen to me.  All right?

Now, what I was saying was, I was having some coffee with some of your neighbors.  And one of them was the Corkerys.  You may know, as Mr. Corkery just said, that he’s a math teacher here at Central High.  And even though a visit from me tends to disrupt things a little bit — (laughter) — he did want me to remind all his students you still have homework to do.  (Laughter.)

But as Chris said, he’s also a colonel, recently retired after 26 years in the military; tours of duty in Iraq, in Kuwait, in Haiti.  And I couldn’t thank him enough for his service, because obviously we know our service members, our veterans, they’re the ones who keep us safe, they’re the ones who are preserving our freedom — at enormous sacrifice to themselves and their families.  (Applause.)  And in fact, this holiday season is going to be a season of homecomings for folks all across America, because by the end of next month, all of our troops will be out of Iraq.  (Applause.)

Now, over coffee, we were joined by Chris’s wife of 16 years, Kathy, who owns part of a local business.  And they’ve got two sons; they’re trying to save for their sons’ college education.  And like millions of families all across the country, they’re doing the best that they can in some tough times.

And families like the Corkerys, families like yours, young people like the ones here today, including the ones who were just chanting at me, you’re the reason I ran for office in the first place.  (Applause.)  Because it’s folks like you who are why I spent so much time up here in the dead of winter four years ago.  Because even then, we were going through a difficult decade for the middle class — more good jobs in manufacturing that was leaving our shores.  More of our prosperity was built on risky financial deals and homes that weren’t properly financed.  And families watched their incomes fall, and wages flatline, and the cost of everything from college to health care kept on going up.  And then the financial crisis hit in the closing weeks of the campaign — and that made things even tougher.

Today, many Americans have spent months looking for work, and others are doing the best they can to get by.  There are a lot of folks out there who are giving nights up — nights out, they just can’t do that anymore because they’ve got to save on gas or make the mortgage.  There are families who are putting off retirement to make sure their kids can go to college.  And then there are young people who have gone to college, gotten a whole bunch of debt, and find themselves unable to find opportunity.

So a lot of the folks who have been down in New York and all across the country, in the Occupy movement, there is a profound sense of frustration — (applause) — there is a profound sense of frustration about the fact that the essence of the American Dream — which is if you work hard, if you stick to it, that you can make it — feels like that’s slipping away.  And it’s not the way things are supposed to be.  Not here.  Not in America.  (Applause.)

This is a place where your hard work and your responsibility is supposed to pay off.  It’s supposed to be a big, compassionate country where everybody who works hard should have a chance to get ahead -– not just the person who owns the factory, but the men and women who work on the factory floor.  (Applause.)

This is a place that’s always prospered most when we stay fundamental — we stay true to a fundamental idea -– the idea that we’re all in this together.

That’s what we’re fighting for.  That’s what is at stake right now.

So we’ve been weathering some hard years.  We’ve been taking some tough punches.  But one thing I know about folks in Manchester and folks in New Hampshire and folks all across the country is we’re tough.  We’re fighting back.  We are moving forward.  And we are going to get this right so that every single American has opportunity in this country.  (Applause.)  We are not going to have an America in which only a sliver of folks have opportunity.  We’re going to have an America where everybody has opportunity.  And that’s going to take some time, because our economic problems weren’t caused overnight and they won’t be solved overnight.

It’s going to take time to rebuild an economy where hard work is valued and responsibility is rewarded.  It’s going to take time to rebuild an economy that restores security for the middle class and renews opportunity for folks trying to reach the middle class.  It’s going to take time to rebuild an economy that’s not based on outsourcing or tax loopholes or risky financial deals, but one that is built to last, where we invest in education and small business and manufacturing and making things that the rest of the world is willing to buy.  (Applause.)

And we’re going to get it done.  We’re going to get there.  And right now, we’ve got to do everything we can to put our friends and neighbors back to work and help families like the Corkerys get ahead and give the economy the jolt that it needs.

And that’s why two months ago I sent Congress the American Jobs Act.  It’s a jobs bill that will put more Americans to work, put more money back into the pockets of working Americans.  It’s full of the kinds of ideas that in the past have been supported by Democrats and Republicans.  And it’s paid for by asking our wealthiest citizens to pay their fair share.  (Applause.)  Independent economists said it would create nearly 2 million jobs, grow the economy by an extra 2 percent.  That’s not my opinion, that’s not my team’s opinion; that’s the opinion of folks who evaluate these things for a living.  But you know what?  Some folks in Washington don’t seem to get the message that people care right now about putting folks back to work and giving young people opportunity.

So when this bill came up for a vote, Republicans in the Senate got together and blocked it.  They refused to even debate it.  A hundred percent of Republicans opposed it, even though almost two-thirds of Americans supported the ideas in this bill -– Democrats, Republicans and independents alike.  Not one Republican in Washington was willing to say it was the right thing to do.  Not one.

Now, what we’ve done is we’ve refused to quit.  So I said I will do everything in my power to act on behalf of the American people –- with or without Congress.  (Applause.)  So over the past several weeks, we’ve taken steps on our own to give working Americans a leg up in a tough economy.

We announced — on our own — a new policy that will help families refinance their mortgages and save thousands of dollars.  A lot of the young people who are in New York and around the country, they’re worrying about student loans.  On our own, without Congress, we reformed the student loan process to make it easier for more young people to pay off their debt.  (Applause.)  By the way, that was building on top of legislation we passed a year ago that said instead of sending $60 billion to banks to manage the student loan program, let’s give it directly to students so that millions more young people can afford a college education.  (Applause.)

We enacted several new initiatives to help our returning veterans find new jobs and get trained for those jobs.  (Applause.)  The kind of outstanding young men and women that Chris was talking about, who come home — I was up in Minnesota, met a young man who had been an emergency medic Iraq, saving lives under the most severe circumstances.  He came home and he was having to take nursing classes all over again, even though for the last two years he had been saving lives in the field.  Didn’t get any credit for it.  So we’re starting to make changes to say if you’re qualified to save a life on the battlefield, you can save a life in an ambulance.  (Applause.)

And yesterday, I signed into law two new tax breaks for businesses that hire America’s vets –- because nobody who fights for America overseas should have to fight for a job when they come home.  (Applause.)  Now, I proposed these tax breaks back in September as part of my jobs bill, and thanks to folks like Jeanne Shaheen — and some Republicans — we actually got this part of the bill passed.  We finally got them to say “yes” to taking action that will create jobs and boost this economy.

But there is a lot more that we’ve got to do if we’re going to get folks back to work and rebuild an economy that works for everybody.  And next week, Congress is going to have another chance to do the right thing.  Congress is going to have another chance to say “yes” to helping working families like the Corkerys.

You see, last year, both parties came together to cut payroll taxes for the typical household by $1,000 this year.  That’s been showing up in your paychecks each week.  You may not know it, but it’s been showing up because of the action that we took.  Which reminds me, by the way, the next time you hear one of these folks from the other side coming in talking about raising your taxes, you just remind them that ever since I’ve gotten into office, I’ve lowered your taxes, haven’t raised them.  That’s worth reminding them.  (Applause.)  But this payroll tax is set to expire at the end of next month.  End of next month, end of the year, this tax cut ends.  And if we allow that to happen -– if Congress refuses to act -– then middle-class families are going to get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time.  For the average family, your taxes will go up $1,000 if Congress does not act by the end of the month.

Now, we can’t let that happen.  Not right now.  It would be bad for the economy.  It would be bad for employment.  That’s why my jobs bill extends that tax cut.  In fact, it does it one better -– it expands the tax cut.  Instead of a $1,000-a-year tax cut next year, the average working family would get a tax cut of more than $1,500.  (Applause.)  And that’s $1,500 that would have been taken out of your paycheck, would instead be going into your pocket.  And that means you’d be spending in small businesses, and that would increase their business, which means they would potentially hire more people.

The American Jobs Act would also cut payroll taxes in half for small business owners.  Say you have 50 employees making $50,000 apiece.  You’d get a tax cut of nearly $80,000.  That is real money that you can use to hire new workers or buy new equipment.

Now, the Republicans in the Senate voted “no” on my jobs bill and those tax cuts.  But in the spirit of Thanksgiving — (laughter) — we are going to give them another chance.  (Laughter and applause.)  Absolutely.  Next week, they’re going to get to take a simple vote.

If they vote “no” again, the typical family’s taxes will go up $1,000 next year.  If they vote “yes,” the typical working family will get a $1,500 tax cut.  All right?  So I just wanted to be clear for everybody:  “No” –- your taxes go up.  “Yes” -– you get a tax cut.  Which way do you think Congress should vote?

AUDIENCE:  Yes!

THE PRESIDENT:  Pretty simple.  And we set up a straightforward tax calculator on whitehouse.gov — that’s our website — so you can see what each vote would mean for your bottom line.

Now, I know Republicans like to talk about we’re the party of tax cuts.  A lot of them have sworn an oath — we’re never going to raise taxes on anybody for as long as we live –- even though they have already voted against these middle-class tax cuts once.  But the question they’ll have to answer when they get back from Thanksgiving is this:  Are they really willing to break their oath to never raise taxes, and raise taxes on the middle class just to play politics?

I sure hope not.  This isn’t about who wins or loses in Washington.  This is about delivering a win for the American people.  (Applause.)  Now, a $1,500 tax cut for middle-class families — that isn’t a Band-Aid.  That is a big deal for people.  How many business owners could stand to see their customers taking $1,000 less next year?   That’s $1,000 less that they can spend at a small business.

Now, how many of you could use an extra $1,000?  (Applause.)  An extra $1,500 in your pocket?  It makes a big difference for families here in New Hampshire and all across America.  And keep in mind, we’re going to do it responsibly — because unlike several tax cuts that were instituted over the past several years, we’re going to make sure that it doesn’t add to our deficit.  We’re asking the wealthiest Americans -– the folks who got the biggest tax cuts over the past decade, the folks who made it through the recession better than most, folks who have seen their incomes go up much more quickly than anybody else over the last three decades, exponentially -– we’re asking them to contribute a little bit more to get our economy working for everybody.  (Applause.)  We’re asking people like me to pay our fair share so middle-class families can get a tax cut.  And I believe that most Americans are willing to do their part.

The truth of the matter is, I can’t tell you how many well-to-do Americans that I meet say to me, look, I want to do more because I know that the only reason I’m doing well is because somewhere along the line, somebody gave me a good education; somewhere along the line, somebody gave me a college scholarship; somewhere along the line, somebody gave me a chance.  And I want to do the same thing for the young people who are coming up now.  (Applause.)  That is what America is all about.  (Applause.)

So Congress has a very simple choice next week:  Do you want to cut taxes for the middle class and those who are trying to get into the middle class?  Or do you want to protect massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, many of whom want to actually help?  Do you want to help working families get back on solid ground and grow this economy for all of us?  Or do you really want to vote to raise taxes on nearly 160 million Americans during the holidays?  When push comes to shove, are you willing to fight as hard for working families as you are for the wealthiest Americans?  What’s it going to be?  That’s the choice.

As I look around this room and I see these young people, but I also see their parents, I’m thinking, folks in Manchester, you guys work hard.  You play by the rules.  You’re meeting your responsibilities.  (Applause.)  And if you’re working hard and you’re meeting your responsibilities, at the very least you should expect Congress to do the same.  They should be doing everything in their power to make our economy stronger, not weaker.  They should be doing everything they can to protect the middle class from tax hikes — not hike your taxes.

And this is where you can help.  Now, your members of Congress, they work for you.  You’ve got an outstanding senator here.  She’s already on the program.  (Applause.)  But to everyone who’s here or watching at home or online — if your members of Congress aren’t delivering, you’ve got to send them a message.  Make sure they’re listening.

Tell them, “Don’t be a Grinch.”  (Laughter.)  Don’t vote to raise taxes on working Americans during the holidays.  Put the country before party.  Put money back in the pockets of working families.  Do your job.  Pass our jobs bill.

The American people are with us on this.  And it’s time for the folks who are running around spending all their time talking about what’s wrong with America to spend some time rolling up their sleeves to help us rebuild America and rebuild our middle class and give young people opportunity.  (Applause.)  There is nothing wrong with this country that we can’t fix.

I was just traveling in Asia over the last week, and let me tell you, this is the fastest-growing region in the world.  But what was amazing was how everybody still looked to America.  They did a poll in Asia.  They said, what do you think about America compared to China?  Eight out of nine countries in Asia, they said, America is the country that we look to.

They understand that this experiment in democracy — this belief that everybody can make it if they try; this belief in a broad middle class that lifts everybody up, not just some — they know that that idea of America is more powerful than anything else.

But we’ve got to have folks in Washington who have that same belief; that same sense that when this economy is going well it’s going well because it’s going well for everybody, and when it goes well for everybody, it’s good for folks at the top as well as folks at the bottom.  And it’s certainly good for folks in the middle. (Applause.)

So those values that built this country, those values that all of you represent, that’s what we’re fighting for.  That’s what the American Jobs Act is all about, that’s what the debates in Washington are all about.  And we’ve got to constantly remind ourselves of who we are and what we believe in.

We are Americans.  And our story has never been about doing things easy.  It’s been about rising to the moment when the moment is hard.  It’s about doing what’s right.  It’s about making sure that everybody has a chance, not just a few.

So let’s do the right thing.  Let’s meet the moment.  Let’s prove once again that the best days of the United States of America are still ahead of us.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
12:46 P.M. EST

White House Recap November 12-18, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Embarks on 9 Day Asia Pacific Tour to Hawaii, Australia & Indonesia

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: NOVEMBER 12-18, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up: Strengthening Relationships Abroad

Source: WH, 11-18-11
President Barack Obama Delivers Remarks

President Barack Obama delivers remarks honoring 60 years of the U.S. and Australian Alliance to a crowd of some 2000 soldiers and guests at the Royal Army Air Force Base in Darwin, Australia, Nov.17, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President in the Pacific: President Obama embarked on a nine day Asia Pacific tour  focused on strengthening economic ties and renewing strategic relationships in the region. From November 11th  through November 19th, the President visited Hawaii, Australia, and Indonesia. While on the road, he spoke at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperationmet with Australian Prime Minister, addressed Australian Parliament, spoke with Australian troops and U.S. Marines, and attended the East Asia Summit.

Cleaner Air: The Obama Administration announced a joint proposal to save American families money at the pump, reduce our country’s dependence on oil, and boost domestic manufacturing. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the next steps toward setting stronger fuel economy and greenhouse gas pollution standards for model year 2017-2025 passenger cars and light-duty trucks.

Cancer Awareness: President Obama congratulated those who participated in American Cancer Society’s 36th annual  Great American Smokeout, a challenge to smokers to kick their tobacco habit.  An estimated 443,000 people in the United States die each year due to cigarettes and tobacco use is still considered one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.  President Obama–a former smoker himself–and his Administration continue to make progress in reducing the number of Americans who smoke.

Carrier Classic: Over Veterans Day weekend, President Obama and the First Lady attended the first-ever Carrier Classic aboard the USS Carl Vinson where they watched University of North Carolina men’s basketball team defeat Michigan State. The game had more than 8,000 people in the stands – most of whom were servicemembers.

Full Text November 12, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Honors America’s Military Veterans on Veterans Day

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama speaks from the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego during Veterans Day and calls on all Americans to rededicate themselves to serving our brave men and women in uniform as well as they have served us.

President Obama tapes the Weekly Address
President Obama tapes the Weekly Address, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 11/11/11

Weekly Address: Honoring Our Veterans for Their Service and Sacrifice

Source: WH, 11-12-11

President Obama speaks from the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego during Veterans Day and calls on all Americans to rededicate themselves to serving our brave men and women in uniform as well as they have served us.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Honoring our Veterans for their Service and Sacrifice

In this week’s address, President Obama spoke from the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego during Veterans Day, and he called on all Americans to rededicate themselves to serving our brave men and women in uniform as well as they have served us.  Today, there are more than 850,000 veterans unemployed, which is why the President issued a challenge to private companies to hire or train more than 100,000 post-9/11 veterans or their spouses by 2013, and he was pleased to see the Senate pass proposals in his American Jobs Act on Thursday to give businesses tax credits for hiring veterans.  President Obama told veterans that just as they have fought for us, he will continue to fight for jobs and opportunities for them, and that the United States will always honor their service and sacrifice.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
San Diego, California
Saturday, November 12, 2011

I’m speaking to you from the bridge of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in San Diego.  This is one of the biggest ships in the Navy, and on Friday it was home to one of the most unique college basketball games I’ve ever seen.  It also gave members of our military and our veterans a chance to unwind a little bit, and on this Veterans Day, I want to take this opportunity to thank all our men and women in uniform for their service and their sacrifice.

But this day isn’t just about thanking our veterans.  It’s about rededicating ourselves to serving our veterans as well as they’ve served us.  And right now, that’s more important than ever.

Last month, I announced that, as promised, we will end the war in Iraq by the end of the year.  Many of our military families will be welcoming loved ones home for the holidays.  At the same time, we’ve begun to wind down the war in Afghanistan.  And in the next five years, over a million servicemembers will transition back into civilian life – joining the 3 million who have already done so over the last decade.

These are men and women who have served with distinction in some of the most dangerous places on the planet.  But for many of them, the challenges don’t end when they take off the uniform.  Today, more than 850,000 veterans remain unemployed.  And too many are struggling to find a job worthy of their talents and experience.

That’s not right.  We ask these men and women to leave their families and their jobs and risk their lives to fight for our country.  The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they get home.

To give our veterans the opportunities they’ve earned, I’ve directed the federal government to lead by example – and already, we’ve hired 120,000 veterans.  We’ve also challenged private companies to hire or train 100,000 post-9/11 veterans or their spouses by the end of 2013.  So far, many patriotic companies have answered the call, hiring more than 16,000 Americans.  And yesterday, thanks to the hard work of Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden, companies announced their commitment to train or hire 125,000 more over the next two years.

But we need to do more.  That’s why, as part of the American Jobs Act, I called on Congress to pass a Returning Heroes Tax Credit, which would give businesses a tax break for each unemployed veteran they hire; and a Wounded Warriors Tax Credit, which would give businesses a tax break for hiring an unemployed veteran with a disability related to their service in uniform.

These proposals will go a long way towards putting our veterans back to work.  And on Thursday, I was pleased to see the Senate put partisanship aside and come together to pass these tax credits.  After all, standing up for our veterans isn’t a Democratic responsibility or a Republican responsibility – it’s an American responsibility.  It’s one that all of us have an obligation to meet.  And the House should pass this bill as soon as possible so I can sign it into law.

As Commander-in-Chief, I want every veteran to know that America will always honor your service and your sacrifice – not just today, but every day.  And just as you fought for us, we’re going to keep fighting for you – for more jobs, for more security, for the opportunity to keep your families strong and America competitive in the 21st century.

So to all our veterans – thank you for your service.  God bless you.  And may God bless the United States of America.

White House Recap November 5-11, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Honors America’s Military Veterans on Veterans Day & Introduces Initiatives Creating Jobs for Veterans

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: NOVEMBER 5-11, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up: Fighting for Our Veterans

This week, the President attends the G-20 Summit in France, announces actions to put veterans back to work, orders reforms of Head Start Programs, and signs an executive order that continues cuts in government waste.

West Wing Week

Source: WH, 11-11-11

Jobs for Veterans: President Obama on Monday announced the launch of a suite of new tools designed to help our veterans transition more easily into the workforce. The Veterans Job Bank, which will help put veterans in contact with companies that appreciate their skills and are eager to hire them, has more than 550,000 job postings from military-friendly employers and is continuing to grow. On Thursday, the First Lady joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to announce new private sector commitments to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014. Later that day the Senate approved the Wounded Warrior and Returning Heroes tax credits, provisions of the American Jobs Act which will offer businesses a $9,600 tax credit for hiring disabled veterans and create additional incentives for employers who hire veterans who have spent four weeks or more out of work.

Honoring our Veterans: Friday morning President Obama honored the millions of Americans who have served in our nation’s military by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. In his speech, the President highlighted the end to the war in Iraq and called for all Americans to support our veterans. “So on this Veterans Day, let us commit ourselves to keep making sure that our veterans receive the care and benefits that they have earned; the opportunity they defend and deserve; and above all, let us welcome them home as what they are — an integral, essential part of our American family.”

Head Start: President Obama announced historic reforms to the Head Start program that will require all Head Start grantees that fail to meet a new set of rigorous quality benchmarks to compete for continued federal funding. These changes are designed to ensure that all children in Head Start are attending top-notch programs that will help them reach their full potential.

Saving You Money: President Obama signed an Executive Order telling Federal agencies to cut their spending on travel, printing, and IT by 20 percent, which will save billions of dollars. This initiative is only one part of the administration-wide Campaign to Cut Waste, headed by Vice President Joe Biden that promises to eliminate government waste, save taxpayer dollars and make government work more efficiently.

Full Text November 4, 2011: Vice President Joe Biden Gives Weekly Address at University of Pittburgh — October Job Numbers Demonstrate that Congress Should Pass the American Jobs Act

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Speaking from the University of Pittsburgh, Vice President Biden argues that this month’s jobs numbers demonstrate that Congress should pass the American Jobs Act to strengthen our economy and create jobs right away.

Vice President Joe Biden tapes the Weekly Address
Vice President Joe Biden tapes the Weekly Address, White House Photo, David Lienemann, 11/4/11

Weekly Address: We Have to Increase the Pace

Source: WH, 11-5-11

Speaking from the University of Pittsburgh, Vice President Biden argues that this month’s jobs numbers demonstrate that Congress should pass the American Jobs Act to strengthen our economy and create jobs right away.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

WEEKLY ADDRESS: “We Have to Increase the Pace”

WASHINGTON—In this week’s address, Vice President Biden noted that this month’s jobs numbers demonstrated that Congress should pass the American Jobs Act to strengthen our economy and create jobs right away.  Republicans in Congress have voted against components of the bill to put teachers and firefighters back to work and they have unanimously opposed a bill to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create jobs for 400,000 construction workers, even though these are the kinds of programs they have supported in the past.  The President is acting without Congress through executive actions to help our veterans find jobs, save families thousands of dollars by refinancing their mortgages, and reducing the cost of student loans, but that is not enough.  Democrats and Republicans must come together to pass the American Jobs Act to strengthen the economy, because the American people can’t wait any longer for Congress to act.

Remarks of Vice President Joe Biden
Weekly Address
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hi, this is Joe Biden.  I’m speaking to you from the University of Pittsburgh, where I just spoke to students here about what we’ve done to help ease the burden on them when it comes to the rising cost of tuition and the accumulating student debt and what we’re going to do to help create jobs when they graduate.

Today we found out we’ve had the 20th month in a row where we’ve increased private sector jobs — 104,000 this month, 104,000 private sector jobs.  And as all you know, that’s not nearly enough.  We have to increase the pace.  We have to act now to do everything in our power to keep this economy moving and to grow jobs.

President Obama is on his way back from France where he just met with the leaders of the 20 largest economies in the world, where he urged our European friends to step up and stabilize their own economies because if they fail, it will affect the whole world.

Too many Americans are still struggling.  Too many college students here at the University of Pittsburgh and elsewhere are worrying about the rising cost of their tuition, and the increasing accumulation of debt.  And too many of their parents are in stagnant jobs or out of work, wondering if they’re going to be able to send their child back to college next semester.

My dad used to have a saying.  He said, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck.  It’s about dignity.  It’s about respect.

And too many Americans have been stripped of their dignity through no fault of their own.  So we can’t wait to help them.  The President and I believe we have to act now.  That’s why we’ve introduced the jobs bill which independent validators said would create 2 million new jobs.

Although 51 senators voted for that jobs bill, our Republican colleagues in the Senate used a procedural requirement that requires it to have 60 votes, so it failed.

And since then we’ve taken every important piece of the jobs bill and demanded that we have a separate vote.  But our Republican colleagues in the Senate have voted unanimously to vote down each and every part so far:  to restore 400,000 jobs for teachers, police officers, firefighters, putting them back in classrooms, on the streets and in the fire houses.

And then on Thursday, they unanimously voted down the second part of our program:  to rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges, which would have created more than 400,000 good-paying jobs.

These are all programs that the Republicans in the past have supported, but once again, every Republican voted no — blocking the majority will to put these folks back to work.

I think the assumption is that they’re voting no because of the way we would pay for these jobs, and we do pay for them.  We think everybody should pay their fair share, so that’s why we put a small surtax on the first dollar after a person has already made $1 million.  That seems fair to us, and it pays for the bill.  It’s a small price to pay to put hundreds of thousands of people back to work.

So, look, we can’t wait.  We can’t wait for the Congress to start acting responsibly, and that’s why the President has used his executive power to announce that hundreds of thousands of people will be able to refinance their homes from 6 percent interest rates to 4 percent, saving them an average of $2,000 a year.  That’s why the President announced that beginning next year, no student will have to pay back more than 10 percent of their discretionary income toward their student debt.  He also announced new regulations regarding prescription drugs to prevent price gouging.  And there’s more to come.

If the Republican Congress won’t join us, we’re going to continue to act on our own to make the changes that we can to bring relief to middle-class families and those aspiring to get in the middle class.

Look, it’s simple:  We refuse to take no for an answer.  We know these steps taken alone are not going to solve all of our problems, but they will make a difference in the lives of millions of American families struggling to hold on.  And you know and I know if the Republicans would just let the Congress do its job, let it step up and meet its responsibilities, we could do so much more, and we could do it immediately.

That’s why the President and I need your help to tell your Republican congressmen and senators to step up.  Tell them to stop worrying about their jobs and start worrying about yours because we’re all in this together, and together is the way we’re going to bring America back even stronger than it was before.

Thank you.

White House Recap October 29-November 4, 2011: Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Continues Urging Congress to Pass the American Jobs Act, Signs Executive Orders & Celebrates Halloween & Diwali

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: OCTOBER 29-NOVEMBER 4, 2011

This week the President continued to urge Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, celebrated Diwali, hosted Halloween, spoke at the Italian American Heritage Gala, signed two Executive Orders, and welcomed NASA Astronauts.

West Wing Week

West Wing Week: 11/04/11 or “Let’s Get Moving”

Source: WH, 11-4-11

This week, the President urged Congress to pass the infrastructure component of the American Jobs Act and continued to take executive action to strengthen the economy and put folks back to work. The President also celebrated Diwali and hosted Halloween, spoke at the Italian American Heritage Gala, signed two Executive Orders, welcomed NASA Astronauts in the Oval Office, and interviewed with local news stations from across the country.

Full Text November 4, 2011: President Barack Obama at the G20 in France — Press Conferences Transcripts

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Progress at the G-20

Source: WH, 11-4-11
20111104 POTUS G20 Press Conference

President Barack Obama answers a question at his press conference at the G20 Summit in Cannes, France, Nov. 4, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

When world leaders gathered this week in France, they acknowledged that the global economy was facing significant challenges that put recovery from the recession at risk.

The debt crisis in Europe has put stress on the continent’s banking system, and countries like Greece and Italy are struggling to restore fiscal order.

In our country, the economy hasn’t rebounded how anyone had hoped. We’re adding jobs, but not at anywhere near the pace we need, and too many remain out of work.

And in emerging economies, the rate of growth seems to be slowing as continued financial instability in the rest of the world begins to drag these countries down, as well.

To counter these threats, the G20 leaders in France pledged to coordinate actions and policies to reinvigorate the global economy.

And the focus of that coordination? Jobs.

“There’s no excuse for inaction,” President Obama said in a press conference earlier today. “That’s true globally and it’s certainly true back home right now.”

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (229MB) | mp3 (22MB)

While European governments were vowing to do everything necessary to ensure the stability of the euro, the United States made a pledge of its own in the G20 action plan:

The US commits to the timely implementation of a package of near-term measures to sustain the recovery, through public investments, tax reforms, and targeted jobs measures, consistent with a credible plan for medium-term fiscal consolidation.

Press Conference by President Obama After G20 Summit

Press Center
Claude Debussy Theater
Cannes, France

3:40 P.M. CET

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I want to begin by thanking my friend, President Sarkozy, for his leadership and his hospitality.  And I want to thank the people of Cannes for this extraordinary setting.

Over the past two years, those of us in the G20 have worked together to rescue the global economy, to avert another depression, and to put us on the path to recovery.  But we came to Cannes with no illusions.  The recovery has been fragile.  And since our last meeting in Seoul we’ve experienced a number of new shocks — disruptions in oil supplies, the tragic tsunami in Japan, and the financial crisis in Europe.

As a result, advanced economies, including the United States are growing and creating jobs, but not nearly fast enough.  Emerging economies have started to slow.  Global demand is weakening.  Around the world, hundreds of millions of people are unemployed, or underemployed.  Put simply, the world faces challenges that put our economic recovery at risk.

So the central question coming into Cannes was this:  Could the world’s largest economies confront this challenge squarely — understanding that these problems will not be solved overnight, could we make progress?  After two days of very substantive discussions I can say that we’ve come together and made important progress to put our economic recoveries on a firmer footing.

With respect to Europe, we came to Cannes to discuss with our European friends how they will move forward and build upon the plan they agreed to last week to resolve this crisis.  Events in Greece over the past 24 hours have underscored the importance of implementing the plan, fully and as quickly as possible.

Having heard from our European partners over the past two days, I am confidence that Europe has the capacity to meet this challenge.  I know it isn’t easy, but what is absolutely critical, and what the world looks for in moments such as this, is action.

That’s how we confronted our financial crisis in the United States — having our banks submit to stress tests that were rigorous, increasing capital buffers, and passing the strongest financial reforms since the Great Depression.  None of that was easy, and it certainly wasn’t always popular.  But we did what was necessary to address the crisis, put ourselves on a stronger footing, and help rescue the global economy.

And that’s the challenge that Europe now faces.  Make no mistake, there’s more hard work ahead and more difficult choices to make.  But our European partners have laid a foundation on which to build, and it has all the elements needed for success:  a credible firewall to prevent the crisis from spreading, strengthening European banks, charting a sustainable path for Greece, and confronting the structural issues that are at the heart of the current crisis.

And here in Cannes we’ve moved the ball forward.  Europe remains on track to implement a sustainable path for Greece.  Italy has agreed to a monitoring program with the IMF — in fact, invited it.  Tools have been identified that will better enable the world to support European action.  And European finance ministers will carry this work forward next week.

All of us have an enormous interest in Europe’s success, and all of us will be affected if Europe is not growing — and that certainly includes the United States, which counts Europe as our largest trading partner.  If Europe isn’t growing, it’s harder for us to do what we need to do for the American people:  creating jobs, lifting up the middle class, and putting our fiscal house in order.  And that’s why I’ve made it clear that the United States will continue to do our part to support our European partners as they work to resolve this crisis.

More broadly, we agreed to stay focused on jobs and growth with an action plan in which each nation does its part.  In the United States, we recognize, as the world’s largest economy, the most important thing we can do for global growth is to get our own economy growing faster.  Back home, we’re fighting for the American Jobs Act, which will put people back to work, even as we meet our responsibilities to reduce our deficit in the coming years.

We also made progress here in Cannes on our rebalancing agenda.  In an important step forward, countries with large surpluses and export-oriented countries agreed to take additional steps to support growth and boost demand in their own countries. In addition, we welcome China’s determination to increase the flexibility of the RMB.  This is something we’ve been calling for for some time, and it will be a critical step in boosting growth.

Finally, we also made progress across a range of challenges to our shared prosperity.  Following our reforms in the United States, the G20 adopted an unprecedented set of high-level financial reforms to prevent a crisis in the future.  We agreed to keep phasing out fossil fuel subsidies — perhaps the single-most important step we can take in the near term to fight climate change and create clean-energy economies.

And even as our countries work to save lives from the drought and terrible famine in the Horn of Africa, we agreed on the need to mobilize new resources to support the development that lifts nations out of poverty.

So, again, I want to thank President Sarkozy and our French hosts for a productive summit.  I want to thank my fellow leaders for their partnership and for the progress we’ve made to create the jobs and prosperity that our people deserve.

So with that, let me take a few questions.  I’ll start with Jim Kuhnhenn of AP.

Q    New jobless numbers today back in the States.  You’re on a pace to face the voters with the highest unemployment rate of any postwar President.  And doesn’t that make you significantly vulnerable to a Republican who might run on a message of change?  And if I may add, given that you have just witnessed the difficulties of averting economic problems beyond your control, what state do you think the economy will be in when you face reelection next year?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Jim, I have to tell you the least of my concerns at the moment is the politics of a year from now.  I’m worried about putting people back to work right now, because those folks are hurting and the U.S. economy is underperforming. And so everything that we’re doing here in the — here at the G20 mirrors our efforts back home — that is, how do we boost growth; how do we shrink our deficits in a way that doesn’t slow the recovery right now; how do we make sure that our workers are getting the skills and the training they need to compete in a global economy.  And not only does the American Jobs Act answer some of the needs for jobs now, but it will also lay the foundation for future growth through investments in infrastructure, for example.

So my hope is, is that the folks back home, including those in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, when they look at today’s job numbers — which were positive but indicate once again that the economy is growing way too slow — that they think twice before they vote “no” again on the only proposal out there right now that independent economists say would actually make a dent in unemployment right now.  There’s no excuse for inaction.  That’s true globally; it’s certainly true back home as well.  And I’m going to keep on pushing it regardless of what the politics are.

Chuck Todd.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Clearly, there was some sort of dispute between you and the European leaders about how to fund this bailout.  And you, in your remarks, emphasized the fact that TARP was done with U.S. funds, that there wasn’t any international involvement here.  Are you confident now that the European leaders are going to own this firewall or bailout fund themselves, not looking for handouts from other countries, and that they will do what they have to do?

And the second part of my question is, how hard was it to convince these folks to do stimulus measures when your own stimulus measure — you’ve mentioned it twice now — is not going anywhere right now on Capitol Hill?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, we didn’t have a long conversation about stimulus measures, so that was maybe two or three G20s ago.  We had a discussion about what steps could be taken to continue to spur economic growth.  And that may not always involve government spending.  For example, the rebalancing agenda that I talked about is one way in which we can make a big difference in spurring on global demand.  It requires some adjustments, some changes in behavior on the part of countries.  But it doesn’t necessarily involve classic fiscal stimulus.

It wasn’t a dispute with the Europeans.  I think the Europeans agree with us that it is important to send a clear signal that the European project is alive and well, and that they are committed to the euro, and that they are committed to resolving this crisis.  And I think if you talk to European leaders, they are the first ones to say that that begins with European leaders arriving at a common course of action.

So essentially, what we’ve seen is all the elements for dealing with the crisis put in place, and we think those are the right elements.  The first is having a solution to the specific problem of Greece.  And although the actions of Papandreou and the referendum issue over the last couple of days I think got a lot of people nervous, the truth is, is that the general approach — which involved a voluntary reduction on the part of those who hold the Greeks’ debt, reducing the obligations of the Greek government — Greece continuing with reforms and structural change, that’s the right recipe.  It just has to be carried out. And I was encouraged by the fact that despite all the turmoil in Greece, even the opposition leader in Greece indicated that it’s important to move forward on the proposal.

The second component is recapitalization of Europe’s banks. And they have identified that need and they are resourcing that need.  And that I think is going to be critical to further instill confidence in the markets.

And the third part of it is creating this firewall, essentially sending a signal to the markets that Europe is going to stand behind the euro.  And all the details, the structure, how it operates, are still being worked out among the European leaders.  What we were able to do was to give them some ideas, some options in terms of how they would put that together.

And what we’ve said is — and I’m speaking now for the whole of the G20 — what we’ve said is the international community is going to stand ready to assist and make sure that the overall global economy is cushioned by the gyrations in the market and the shocks that arise as Europe is working these issues through. And so they’re going to have a strong partner in us.  But European leaders understand that ultimately what the markets are looking for is a strong signal from Europe that they’re standing behind the euro.

Q    So you’re discouraging them from looking for money — outside money?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  No, what we were saying is that — and this is reflected in the communiqué — that, for example, creating additional tools for the IMF is an important component of providing markets overall confidence in global growth and stability, but that is a supplement to the work that is being done here in Europe.

And based on my conversations with President Sarkozy, Chancellor Merkel, and all the other European leaders, I believe they have that strong commitment to the euro and the European project.

David Muir.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’m curious what you would say to Americans back home who’ve watched their 401(k)s recover largely when the bailout seemed a certainty, and then this week with the brand new political tumult in Greece, watched themselves lose essentially what they had gained back.  You mentioned you’re confident in the bailout plan.  Are you confident this will actually happen, and if so, that it will work?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, if you’re talking about the movements of the U.S. stock market, the stock market was down when I first took office and the first few months I was in office about 3,000 points lower than it is now.  So nothing has happened in the last two weeks that would suggest that somehow people’s 401(k)s have been affected the way you describe.

Am I confident that this will work?  I think that there’s more work to do.  I think there are going to be some ups and downs along the way.  But I am confident that the key players in Europe — the European political leadership — understands how much of a stake they have in making sure that this crisis is resolved, that the eurozone remains intact, and I think that they are going to do what’s necessary in order to make that happen.

Now, let’s recognize how difficult this is.  I have sympathy for my European counterparts.  We saw how difficult it was for us to save the financial system back in the United States.  It did not do wonders for anybody’s political standing, because people’s general attitude is, you know what, if the financial sector is behaving recklessly or not making good decisions, other folks shouldn’t have to suffer for it.

You layer on top of that the fact that you’re negotiating with multiple parliaments, a European parliament, a European Commission — I mean, there are just a lot of institutions here in Europe.  And I think several  — I’m not sure whether it was Sarkozy or Merkel or Barroso or somebody, they joked with me that I’d gotten a crash course in European politics over the last several days.  And there are a lot of meetings here in Europe as well.  So trying to coordinate all those different interests is laborious, it’s time consuming, but I think they’re going to get there.

What is also positive is — if there’s a silver lining in this whole process, it’s the fact that I think European leaders recognize that there are some structural reforms, institutional modifications they need to make if Europe and the eurozone is to be as effective as they want it to be.

I think that what this has exposed is that if you have a single currency but you haven’t worked out all the institutional coordination and relationships between countries on the fiscal side, on the monetary side, that that creates additional vulnerabilities.  And there’s a commitment on the part of European leaders, I think, to examine those issues.  But those are long term.  In the short term, what they’ve got to do is just make sure that they’re sending a signal to the markets that they stand behind the euro.

And if that message is sent, then I think this crisis is averted, because some of this crisis is psychological.  Italy is a big country with a enormous industrial base, great wealth, great assets, and has had substantial debt for quite some time — it’s just the market is feeling skittish right now.  And that’s why I think Prime Minister Berlusconi’s invitation to the IMF to certify that the reform plan that they put in place is one that they will, in fact, follow is an example of the steady, confidence-building measures that need to take place in order for us to get back on track.

Norah O’Donnell.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  The world leaders here have stressed growth — the importance of growth.  And yet growth back at home has been anemic, the new jobs report today showing just 88,000 jobs added.  The Republicans in Congress have made it clear that they’re going to block your jobs bill because they believe the tax hikes in it hurt small businesses.  At what point do you feel that you declare stalemate to try and reach common ground?  And do you feel like you have been an effective leader when it comes to the economy?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, wherever Republicans indicate an interest in doing things that would actually grow the economy, I’m right there with them.  So they’ve said that passing trade bills with South Korea and Panama and Colombia would help spur growth — those got done, with significant bipartisan support.  They’ve suggested that we need to reform our patent laws — that’s something that was part of my long-term program for economic growth; we’ve got that done.  What I’ve said is all those things are nice and they’re important, but if we want to grow the economy right now then we have to think bigger; we’ve got to do something bolder and more significant.

So we put forward the American Jobs Act, which contains ideas that are historically supported by Democrats and Republicans — like rebuilding our infrastructure, our roads and our bridges; putting teachers back in the classroom; providing tax credits to small businesses.

You say, Norah, that the reason they haven’t voted for them is because they don’t want to tax small business.  Well, actually, that’s not — if that’s their rationale then it doesn’t fly, because the bill that they voted down yesterday — a component of the American jobs bill — essentially said we can create hundreds of thousands of jobs, rebuilding our infrastructure, making America more competitive, and the entire program will be paid for by a tax not on millionaires but people making a million dollars a year or more, which in the United States is about — a little over 300,000 people.

Now, there aren’t a lot of small businesses across the country that are making that kind of money.  In fact, less than 3 percent of small businesses make more than $250,000 a year.  So what they’ve said is, we prefer to protect 300,000 people rather than put hundreds of thousands of people back to work and benefit 300 million Americans who are hurting because of low growth.

So we’re going to keep on pushing.  Now, there are steps that we can take absent congressional action.  And the refinancing proposal that we put forward in Las Vegas is an example of that — helping students with student loans.  We’re going to keep on rolling out administrative steps that we can take that strengthen the economy.  But if we’re going to do something big to jumpstart the economy at a time when it’s stabilized but unemployment is way too high, Congress is going to need to act.

And in terms of my track record on the economy — well, here’s just a simple way of thinking about it:  When I came into office, the U.S. economy had contracted by 9 percent — the largest contraction since the Great Depression.  Little over a year later, the economy was growing by 4 percent, and it’s been growing ever since.

Now, is that good enough?  Absolutely not.  We’ve got to do more.  And as soon as I get some signal from Congress that they’re willing to take their responsibilities seriously, I think we can do more.  But that’s going to require them to break out of the rigid ideological positions that they’ve been taking.  And the same is true, by the way, when it comes to deficit reduction.

We can solve all our problems.  We can grow our economy now, put people back to work, reduce our deficit.  And you get surprising consensus from economists about how to do it, from both the left and the right.  It’s just a matter of setting politics aside.  And we’re constantly remembering that the election is one year away.  If we do that, there’s no reason why can’t solve these problems.

All right?  Thank you, everybody.

END
4:04 P.M. CET

President Obama at the G20

Source: WH, 11-3-11
20111103 President Obama at the G20

President Barack Obama is greeted by French President Nicholas Sarkozy for the start of the G20 Summit in Cannes, France, Nov. 3, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Today, President Obama is in France for a meeting of the G20 — a gathering of 20 nations that represent the world’s most important industrialized economies. In addition to working sessions with the full assembly of leaders, the President also held bilateral talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In his conversation with President Sarkozy, he discussed the focus of this week’s talks:

I think it’s no surprise that we spent most of our conversation focused on strengthening the global economic recovery so that we are creating jobs for our people and stabilizing the financial markets around the world. The most important aspect of our task over the next two days is to resolve the financial crisis here in Europe. President Sarkozy has shown extraordinary leadership on this issue. I agree with him that the EU has made some important steps towards a comprehensive solution, and that would not have happened without Nicolas’s leadership. But here at the G20 we’re going to have to flesh out more of the details about how the plan will be fully and decisively implemented.

The President elaborated on that theme in his conversation with Chancellor Merkel:

This is going to be a very busy two days. Central to our discussions at the G20 is how do we achieve greater global growth and put people back to work. That means we’re going to have to resolve the situation here in Europe. And without Angela’s leadership we would not have already made the progress that we’ve seen at the EU meeting on October 27th.

 

Remarks by President Obama and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France in a Joint Statement

Convention Center
Cannes, France

10:38 A.M. CET

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it is wonderful to be back in France. And I want to thank my excellent friend and colleague, Nicolas Sarkozy, for his hospitality. He and I obviously have worked together on a wide range of issues since I’ve been President, and I always welcome his frank and honest assessment of the situations here.

It’s also nice to be back visiting in France — the last time I was in the south of France — or the first time, rather, was as a college student, and I’ve never forgotten the extraordinary hospitality of the French people and the extraordinary views that are available here.

This morning, President Sarkozy and I reaffirmed our strong and enduring ties, and I’ve said on many occasions that France is not only our oldest ally, but also one of our closest, and I consider Nicolas to be an outstanding and trusted partner on the world stage.

I think it’s no surprise that we spent most of our conversation focused on strengthening the global economic recovery so that we are creating jobs for our people and stabilizing the financial markets around the world. The most important aspect of our task over the next two days is to resolve the financial crisis here in Europe. President Sarkozy has shown extraordinary leadership on this issue. I agree with him that the EU has made some important steps towards a comprehensive solution, and that would not have happened without Nicolas’s leadership. But here at the G20 we’re going to have to flesh out more of the details about how the plan will be fully and decisively implemented.

And we also discussed the situation in Greece and how we can work to help resolve that situation as well. And the United States will continue to be a partner with the Europeans to resolve these challenges.

We had the opportunity to also talk about a range of security issues. One in particular that I want to mention is the continuing threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. The IAEA is scheduled to release a report on Iran’s nuclear program next week and President Sarkozy and I agreed on the need to maintain the unprecedented international pressure on Iran to meet its obligations.

And finally, I’m looking forward to joining Nicolas and service members from both of our countries tomorrow to celebrate the alliance between our two countries, which spans more than 200 years — from Yorktown to Libya.

And finally, I want to make mention that this is our first meeting since the arrival of the newest Sarkozy, and so I want to congratulate Nicolas and Carla on the birth of Giulia. And I informed Nicolas on the way in that I am confident that Giulia inherited her mother’s looks rather than her father’s — (laughter) — which I think is an excellent thing. And so now we share one of the greatest challenges and blessings of life, and that is being fathers to our daughters.

So again, Nicolas, thank you for your friendship. Thank you for our partnership. And thank you for your gracious hospitality.

PRESIDENT SARKOZY: (As interpreted.) Well, you see Barack Obama’s tremendous influence. For four years now, he’s been explaining to me that to be a father to daughters is a fantastic experience — he who has two daughters. So I have listened to him. As a matter of fact, I followed his example.

I must tell you that we had a heavy agenda because there is no lack of subjects for our concern. We need the leadership of Barack Obama. We need the solidarity and the support of the United States of America. We need joint common analysis as to the way we can put the world back on the path of growth and stability.

Together, President Obama and myself are trying to build the unity of the G20. And I wish to pay tribute to the United States for understanding about all the issues we’ll be discussing over the next 48 hours, and in particular, the issue of the Greek crisis — the difficulty that the euro is facing, the need to be hand-in-glove with the United States on the language of the final communiqué.

Again, I want to thank President Obama for his understanding on all matters, including that of a levy or a tax on financial transactions, where I think we found common ground, at least common analysis, mainly that the world of finance must contribute to solving the crisis that we are all facing today.

I also want to say how delighted I am that President Obama has agreed to stay a few hours after the end of the summit in order to participate in ceremonies to pay tribute to American and French troops who have fought together so many times throughout the course of our joint histories. And I’m delighted to have the opportunity to join President Obama in a television interview, because he is much loved and much liked here in France.

So we have a very heavy agenda ahead of us, and we’ll have many opportunities to see you again and explain to you what decisions we’ve been led to take.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much.

END
10:53 A.M. CET

 

Remarks by President Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany Before Bilateral Meeting

Intercontinental Carlton Cannes Hotel
Cannes, France

11:05 A.M. CET

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It’s wonderful to be back together with my good friend, Angela Merkel. I think that the last time we were in Washington, D.C. together we presented her with the Medal of Freedom, and that indicated the high esteem that not only I, but the United States, hold her and her leadership.

This is going to be a very busy two days. Central to our discussions at the G20 is how do we achieve greater global growth and put people back to work. That means we’re going to have to resolve the situation here in Europe. And without Angela’s leadership we would not have already made the progress that we’ve seen at the EU meeting on October 27th.

We are now, having seen some progress, looking forward to working together to figure out how we can implement this in an effective way to make sure that not only is the eurozone stable, but the world financial system is stable as well. And hopefully during our bilateral meeting we’ll also have the ability to discuss a wide range of other issues, including security issues that are so important to both our countries.

But I just want to say, once again, how much I enjoy working with Angela. She exhibits the kind of practical common sense that I think has made her a leader not only in Germany but around the world.

So thank you very much.

Hold on, hold on, hold on — translation. (Laughter.) All the Americans reporters speak German, but just in case. (Laughter.)

CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As interpreted.) Thank you very much, and let me say that I’m delighted that we have the opportunity for this meeting here. And mainly, the G20 will afford us an opportunity, during these two days of meeting, not only to talk about European matters but also about global matters that matter to both of us and that are of common interest.

And let me say, again, that I very fondly remember the evening in the White House and the award.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you, everybody.

END
11:08 A.M. CET

White House Recap October 21-28, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Created Executive Action to Grow the Economy & Create Jobs — Ended the War in Iraq & Urged Congress to Pass the American Jobs Act

White House Recap October 21-28, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Created Exceutive Action to Grow the Economy & Create Jobs — Ended the War in Iraq & Urged Congress to Pass the American Jobs Act

 

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: OCTOBER 21-28, 2011

This week, the President kept his promise and announced the end of the war in Iraq, headed west to urge Congress to pass the American Jobs Act while announcing new executive actions that will help middle class families.

West Wing Week

Weekly Wrap Up: “We Can’t Wait”

Source: WH, 10-28-11
Helping Homeowners After Republicans in the Senate blocked the jobs bill yet again, President Obama hit the road with a new message,“We Can’t Wait.” The President decided to take executive action to create jobs and put money back in the pockets of Americans. While in Las Vegas, the President announced steps to make it easier for homeowners to refinance their mortgages, helping responsible borrowers with little or no equity in their homes take advantage of today’s low mortgage rates.

Modifying Student Loans On a snowy day in Colorado, President Obama announced a new effort that will help borrowers better manage their student loan debt. He said he will move forward with A “Pay As You Earn” program that will reduce monthly payments for more than 1.6 million people. Starting in 2014, borrowers will be able to reduce their monthly student loan payments from 15 percent to 10 percent of their discretionary income.

Hiring Veterans The Obama Administration challenged each of the 8,000 Community Health Centers around the country to hire one veteran, effectively opening up 8,000 jobs to our unemployed veterans. These health centers, which provide primary care services in typically underserved areas, are a major piece of President Obama’s historic health care reform law.

We The People On Wednesday, President Obama’s top education advisors issued the first response to a petition created through the online petition site, We The People. The response addressed the petition “Taking Action to Reduce the Burden of Student Loan Debt”. The Administration recognized the high cost of education and moved forward to reduce monthly loan payments formore than1.6 million people. The online tool that allows Americans to voice their opinions to the government has had around755,000 people use the platform to create or sign more than 12,400 petitions.

Tonight Show The President flew to L.A. to appear on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The two talked about Libya, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and reality television — including a show on C-SPAN called ‘Congress.’

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