All posts tagged Economy
Political Musings March 6, 2014: Selling minimum wage raise, Obama pushes Congress with governors in Connecticut
Posted by bonniekgoodman on March 5, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency March 5, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech Urging Congress to Raise the Minimum Wage with New England Governors in Connecticut
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
President Obama: It’s Time to Give America a Raise
Today, President Obama travelled to Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut to speak about the importance of raising the minimum wage….READ MORE
Remarks by the President on Opportunity For All: Making Work Pay and the Minimum Wage
Source: WH, 3-5-14
Central Connecticut State University
New Britain, Connecticut
2:20 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Connecticut! (Applause.) Go Blue Devils! (Applause.) It is good to be back in Connecticut. (Applause.) I want to thank your wonderful Governor, Dan Malloy, for that introduction. (Applause.) I want to thank your President, Jack Miller, for inviting me here today. (Applause.)
We’ve got members of your student government behind me. (Applause.) I couldn’t help but notice your Student Government Association logo, which has a gavel –- and a pitchfork, which is pretty intense. (Laughter.) And I wish some folks in Congress used the gavel more. (Laughter.) Less pitchfork. (Laughter.)
We also have some members of your non-student government. One of our finest members of our Cabinet, who just cares so much about working families and is working tirelessly every single day, Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, is here. (Applause.) We’ve got all five of Connecticut’s representatives in Congress — including CCSU alum John Larson, in the house. (Applause.) Another proud CCSU alum, Erin Stewart, your mayor, is here. (Applause.) Along with Mayor Segarra and the other mayors and legislators from all across Connecticut.
And today, we’re doing something a little different than usual. Usually, when I hit the road and talk with folks like all of you, I’ve got a governor with me. But you are special. (Applause.) So we decided one governor wasn’t enough. (Laughter.) So in addition to Governor Malloy, we’ve got Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Peter Shumlin of Vermont. (Applause.) This is like a governor supergroup. (Laughter.) It’s like the Justice League of governors. (Laughter.) I’d call them the New England Patriots, but that name is already taken. (Laughter.)
STUDENT: We love you, Mr. President!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back! I love you. (Applause.) But we can’t just spend the whole day talking about how we love each other. (Laughter.) That’s not why I came. We are here today — we’re here today because each of us cares deeply about creating new jobs and new opportunities for all Americans. And we’re at this interesting moment in our economy — our economy has been growing, our businesses have created about eight and a half million new jobs over the past four years. The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in over five years. (Applause.) Those are all things that we should be proud of.
But there are some trends out there that have been battering the middle class for a long, long time — well before this Great Recession hit. And in some ways, some of those trends have gotten worse, not better. The nature of today’s economy with technology and globalization means that there are folks at the top who are doing better than ever, but average wages have barely budged. Average incomes have not gone up. Too many Americans are working harder than ever just to keep up.
So as I said at my State of the Union address, we’ve got to reverse those trends. It is a central task for all of us to build an economy that works for everybody, not just for some. (Applause.) That’s what every one of these governors and Tom Perez believes in — that’s what we got into public service for. I hope Dan and Peter don’t mind me sharing this — while we were driving over here, they were talking about the fact that when they were growing up, both of them had dyslexia. And because of the incredible fierce love of their parents but also because there were some folks there to help them, they achieved — made these extraordinary achievements. Now, I wasn’t in the car with Deval, but Deval is a close friend of mine. He’s got a similar story — grew up on the South Side of Chicago. (Audience member cheers.) South Side! (Laughter and applause.) And came from a very modest background. But somebody gave him a chance. (Applause.) Me, Tom Perez — so many of us understand that at the heart of America, the central premise of this country is the chance to achieve your dreams if you work hard, if you take responsibility; that it doesn’t matter where you start — it’s where you finish. (Applause.)
And in America, we believe in opportunity for all. We believe that our success shouldn’t be determined by the circumstances of our birth. It’s determined by each of us. But also by a society that’s committed to everybody succeeding. So that it doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is, who you love — what matters is the strength of your work ethic; and the power of your dreams; and your willingness to take responsibility for yourself but also for the larger society. That’s what makes America the place that it is, why it continues to be a beacon, attracting people from all around the world, the idea that you can make it here if you try.
Now, there’s been a lot of news about foreign affairs around the world over the last several days, but also for the last couple years. And one of the things that you see, a trend you see — it doesn’t matter whether it’s in Central Europe or in the Middle East or Africa — individuals want a chance to make it if they try. And what makes us special is we already do that when we’re at our best. But we’ve got some work to do to match up our ideals with the reality that’s happening on the ground right now.
And the opportunity agenda that I’ve laid out is designed to help us restore that idea of opportunity for everybody for this generation, the generation of young people who are studying here and are about to enter the workforce. And it’s got four parts. Part one is something that I know the seniors here are very interested in, which is more good jobs that pay good wages. (Applause.)
We can’t be satisfied with just recovering the jobs that were lost during the recession. We’ve got to rebuild our economy so it’s creating a steady supply of good jobs today and well into the future -– jobs in high-tech manufacturing, and in energy, and in exports, and in American innovation. So that’s job number one.
Job number two is training more Americans with the skills they need to fill those good jobs, so that our workforce is prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.
Part three: guaranteeing every young person in this country access to a world-class education -– from pre-K all the way to a college education like the one you’re getting here. (Applause.)
And that’s why over the past five years, working with the outstanding congressional delegation from Connecticut, we’ve been able to make sure that grant dollars are going farther than before. We took on a student loan system that gave billions of taxpayer dollars to the big banks, and we said let’s use those to give more students directly the help they need to afford to go to college. (Applause.)
That’s why — that’s why we’re offering millions of young people the chance to cap their monthly student loan payments at 10 percent of their income. So you need to check that out. (Laughter.) Go to the website of the Department of Education and find out how you may be eligible for that.
And today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before. (Applause.) Of course — and I know your president won’t disagree with this — we’ve also got to do more to rein in the soaring cost of college and help more Americans who are trapped by student loan debt. (Applause.)
The bottom line though is whether it’s technical training, community college, or four-year university, no young person should be priced out of a higher education. Shouldn’t happen. (Applause.)
Now, there is a fourth part of this agenda. By the way, I just noticed, if you’ve got chairs, feel free to sit down. (Laughter.) I know the folks here don’t have chairs, but I don’t want you — and if you’re standing up, make sure to bend your knees so you don’t faint. (Laughter.) All right, I just wanted to check on you. (Laughter and applause.)
Now, point number four, the fourth component of this opportunity agenda is making sure that if you are working hard — if you’re working hard, then you get ahead. And that means making sure women receive equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) When women succeed, America succeeds. (Applause.) I believe that. You happy with that, Rosa? Rosa agrees with that. (Laughter.)
It means making sure that you can save and retire with dignity. It means health insurance that’s there when you’re sick and you need it most. (Applause.) And you guys are doing a great job implementing the Affordable Care Act here in Connecticut. If any of you know a young person who is uninsured, help them get covered at healthcare.gov. The website works just fine now. (Laughter.) They’ve got until March 31st to sign up, and in some cases it’s going to cost less than your cellphone bill. So check it out, healthcare.gov.
And making work pay means wages and paychecks that let you support a family. (Applause.) A wage, a paycheck that lets you support a family. (Applause.)
Now, I want to be clear about this because sometimes in our debates with our friends on the other side of the political spectrum, this may not be clear, so let me just repeat it once again, as Americans, we understand that some folks are going to earn more than others. We don’t resent success; we are thrilled with the opportunities that America affords. Somebody goes out there, starts a business, invents a new product, provides a new service, that’s what drives our economy. That’s why this free-market economy is the most dynamic on Earth. We’re thrilled with that. Everybody agrees on that. But what we also believe is that nobody who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty. (Applause.) That violates a basic sense of who we are. And that’s why it’s time to give America a raise. (Applause.) It is time to give America a raise. Now is the time. Now is the time. (Applause.)
A year ago I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, the federal minimum wage. Since that time six states have passed laws to raise theirs, including right here in Connecticut. (Applause.)
On January 1st, tens of thousands of folks across this state got a raise –- and Governor Malloy is working to lift their wages even higher. (Applause.) Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington State, other states, counties, cities across the country are working to raise their minimum wage as we speak.
The governors here today –- Governor Chafee of Rhode Island;, Governor Malloy; Governor Patrick of Massachusetts; Governor Shumlin of Vermont; and a Governor who couldn’t be here today, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire –- all are fighting to give hardworking folks in these great New England states a raise of their own. And they’ve formed a regional coalition to raise the minimum wage. If they succeed in their efforts, New England will have some of the highest minimum wages in the country. (Applause.)
And they’re not stopping there -– these four governors are here in support of raising America’s minimum wage, the federal minimum wage, to $10.10 an hour — $10.10 an hour. (Applause.)
Now, raising wages is not just a job for elected officials. In my State of the Union address, I asked more business leaders to do what they can to raise their workers’ wages -– because profitable companies like Costco have long seen higher wages as good business. It’s a smart way to boost productivity, to reduce turnover, to instill loyalty in your employees. And, by the way, they do great. Their stocks do great. They are highly profitable. It’s not bad business to do right by your workers, it’s good business. (Applause.) It’s good business. (Applause.)
Two weeks ago, the Gap decided to raise its base wages, and that’s going to boost wages for 65,000 workers in the United States. (Applause.) Last week, I read about Jaxson’s, it’s an ice cream parlor in Florida that’s been in business since 1956. They just announced they would lift workers’ wages to at least $10.10 an hour, without cutting back on hiring. (Applause.) Two weeks ago, an Atlanta small business owner named Darien Southerland wrote me to share a lesson his Granny taught him: If you treat your employees right, they’ll treat you right. (Applause.) Vice President Biden paid Darien’s business a visit just yesterday. You got to listen to your grandmother. (Laughter.) That is some wise advice.
And I agree with these business leaders as well. So what I did as President, I issued an executive order requiring federal contractors — if you’re doing business with the federal government — pay your employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour, which will be good for America’s bottom line. (Applause.)
And let me tell you who was affected. When I was signing the bill, or the executive order, we had some of the workers who were going to be affected. You’ve got folks who are cooking the meals of our troops, or washing their dishes, or cleaning their clothes. This country should pay those folks a wage you can live on. (Applause.)
So this is good for business, it is good for America. Because even though we’re bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States, creating more good jobs in education and health care and business services, there will always be airport workers, there are always going to be fast-food workers, there are always going to be hospital workers, there are going to be retail salespeople, hospitality workers — people who work their tails off every day. (Applause.) People working in nursing homes, looking after your grandparents or your parents. (Applause.) Folks who are doing all the hard jobs that make our society work every single day. They don’t have anything flashy out there. And you know what, they’re not expecting to get rich, but they do feel like if they’re putting in back-breaking work every day, then at least at the end of the month they can pay their bills. (Applause.) They deserve an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.
Working Americans have struggled through stagnant wages for too long, so my goal is — and the goal of everybody on this stage — is to help lift wages, help lift take-home pay in any way I can. And that’s why I’ve done everything I can to lift wages for hardworking federal contractors, it’s why I’ve asked business owners to raise their wages, it’s why I’m supporting elected officials at the local level, governors. What every American wants is a paycheck that lets them support their families, know a little economic security, pass down some hope and optimism to their kids. And that’s worth fighting for. (Applause.)
But I want to make one last point. If we’re going to finish the job, Congress has to get on board. (Applause.) Congress has to get on board. And this is interesting — this should not be that hard, you’d think. (Laughter.) Because nearly three in four Americans, about half of all Republicans, support raising the minimum wage. The problem is, Republicans in Congress oppose raising the minimum wage — now I don’t know if that’s just because I proposed it. (Laughter.) Maybe I should say I oppose raising the minimum wage and they’d be for it, that’s possible. (Laughter.)
But right now, there’s a bill in front of both the House and the Senate that would boost America’s minimum wage to $10.10. It’s easy to remember — $10.10 — ten dollars, ten cents an hour. Just passing this bill would help not only minimum wage workers; it would lift wages for about 200,000 people just right here in Connecticut. (Applause.) It would lift wages for about one million New Englanders. (Applause.) It would lift wages for nearly 28 million Americans across this country. (Applause.) It would immediately raise millions of people out of poverty. It would help millions more work their way out of poverty, and it doesn’t require new taxes, doesn’t require new spending, doesn’t require some new bureaucracy. And here’s one last point. It turns out — what happens if workers got a little more money in their pockets?
AUDIENCE: They spend it!
THE PRESIDENT: They spend a little more money, which means that suddenly businesses have more customers, which means they make more profits, which means they can hire more workers, which means you get a virtuous cycle –
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It’s common sense!
THE PRESIDENT: It’s common sense — that’s what I’m trying to say. (Laughter and applause.) Common sense, exactly. It’s just common sense — that’s all it is. It’s common sense. (Applause.) Common sense. It’s just common sense. (Applause.) That’s all I’m saying. (Laughter.)
Now, right now, Republicans in Congress don’t want to vote on raising the minimum wage. Some have actually said they just want to scrap the minimum wage. One of them said, “I think it’s outlived its usefulness…I’d vote to repeal the minimum wage.” One of them said it’s never worked. Some even said it only helps young people, as if that’s a bad thing. I think we should want to help young people. (Laughter and applause.) I’d like to see them try putting themselves through college on a low wage work-study job. (Applause.) But actually — or I’d like to see them supporting a family, making less than $15,000 a year.
But here’s the truth about who it would help. Most people who would get a raise if we raise the minimum wage are not teenagers on their first job — their average age is 35. A majority of lower-wage jobs are held by women. These Americans are workiong full-time, often supporting families, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with our economy’s productivity, they’d already be earning well over $10 an hour today. Instead, it’s stuck at $7.25. Every time Congress refuses to raise it, it loses value because the cost of living goes higher, minimum wage stays the same. Right now, it’s worth 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan took office. And over the last year, since I asked Congress to do something and they didn’t do it, that was an equivalent of a $200 pay cut for the average minimum wage worker, because it didn’t keep pace with inflation. That’s a month of groceries for the average minimum wage worker. That’s two months’ worth of electricity. This is not a small thing, this is a big deal. It makes a big difference in the lives of a lot of families. (Applause.)
So members of Congress have a choice to make, it is a clear choice: Raise workers’ wages, grow our economy — or let wages stagnate further, give workers what amounts to another pay cut.
Fortunately, folks in Connecticut have really good delegations, so your senators and representatives are already on board. (Applause.) They’re all on board. They’re fighting the good fight. (Applause.) But anybody who is watching at home, you deserve to know where your elected official stands. So just ask them, “Do you support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour?” If they say yes, say, “thanks.” (Laughter.) “Great job.” We need encouragement too, elected officials. (Laughter.) If they say no, you should be polite — (laughter) — but you should say, “why not?” Ask them to reconsider. Ask them to side with the majority of Americans. Instead of saying no, for once, say yes. It’s time for $10.10. It’s time to give America a raise. (Applause.)
I want to close by sharing a story of a guy named Doug Wade, who is here today. Where’s Doug? I’m going to embarrass Doug. Stand up. This is Doug, right here. (Applause.)
Doug had a chance to meet Secretary Perez in Hartford last week. Doug is the president of Wade’s Dairy down in Bridgeport. (Applause.) His great-grandfather, Frank — is that right? Frank? — started the family business in 1893 — 1893. One of the secrets to their success is that they treat their employees like part of the family. So Doug pays his own workers fairly.
But he goes a step further than that — he writes editorials, he talks to fellow business leaders, he meets with elected officials to make the case for a higher minimum wage for everybody. And keep in mind, Doug spent most of his life as a registered Republican. This is not about politics. This is about common sense. (Applause.) It’s about business sense. (Applause.) And Doug, we were talking backstage, Doug showed me a paystub because it describes his own story. When he was flipping burgers back in 1970, his employer paid him the minimum wage — but it went 25 percent farther than it does today. So Doug speaks from experience when he says that, “Things like the minimum wage raise the bar for everybody.” And he’s still got that paycheck. And it looks like the paycheck I got when I was working at Baskin-Robbins. (Laughter and applause.)
The point that Doug and his family, and his business represents is we believe in hard work, we believe in responsibility, we believe in individual initiative, but we also come together to raise the bar for everybody; to make sure our fellow citizens can pursue their own dreams as well; that they can look after their kids and lift them up. We look out for each other. That’s who we are. That is our story. (Applause.)
There are millions of Americans like Doug, and like all of you, who are tired of old political arguments, ready to raise the bar a little higher. Let’s move this country forward. Let’s move it up. Let’s go further. That’s what I’m going to do as President as long as I have the honor of serving in this office, and I need your help. Let’s go out there and give America a raise.
God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
2:50 P.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on March 5, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency March 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech Announcing his Fiscal Year 2015 Budget
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
President Obama Announces His 2015 Budget
Today, after sending his 2015 budget to Congress, President Obama visited a local elementary school to discuss what he called a “roadmap” for the agenda he laid out in his State of the Union address to restore opportunity for all Americans….READ MORE
Remarks by the President Announcing the FY2015 Budget
Source: WH, 3-4-14
Powell Elementary School
11:38 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. I’m here at Powell Elementary School, and just had a chance to see some of the outstanding students here. And I thought it was appropriate for me to say a few words about the budget that I sent to Congress this morning — because obviously the budget is not just about numbers, it’s about our values and it’s about our future, and how well we are laying the groundwork for those young children that I was with just a few moments ago to be able to succeed here in America. These kids may not be the most excited people in town on budget day, but my budget is designed with their generation and future generations in mind.
In my State of the Union address, I laid out an agenda to restore opportunity for all people — to uphold the principle that no matter who you are, no matter where you started, you can make it if you try here in America.
This opportunity agenda is built on four parts — more good jobs and good wages; making sure that we’re training workers with the skills they need to get those good jobs; guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education; and making sure that our economy is one in which hard work is rewarded.
The budget I sent Congress this morning lays out how we’ll implement this agenda in a balanced and responsible way. It’s a roadmap for creating jobs with good wages and expanding opportunity for all Americans. And at a time when our deficits have been cut in half, it allows us to meet our obligations to future generations without leaving them a mountain of debt. This budget adheres to the spending levels that both parties in both houses of Congress already agreed to. But it also builds on that progress with what we’re calling an Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative that invests in our economic priorities in a smart way that is fully paid for by making smart spending cuts and closing tax loopholes that right now only benefit the well-off and the well-connected.
I’ll give you an example. Right now, our tax system provides benefits to wealthy individuals who save, even after they’ve amassed multimillion dollar retirement accounts. By closing that loophole, we can help create jobs and grow our economy, and expand opportunity without adding a dime to the deficit.
We know that the country that wins the race for new technologies will win the race for new jobs, so this budget creates 45 high-tech manufacturing hubs where businesses and universities will partner to turn groundbreaking research into new industries and new jobs made in America.
We know — and this is part of the reason why we’re here today — that education has to start at the earliest possible ages. So this budget expands access to the kind of high-quality preschool and other early learning programs to give all of our children the same kinds of opportunities that those wonderful children that we just saw are getting right here at Powell.
We know that while not all of today’s good jobs are going to require a four-year college degree, more and more of them are going to require some form of higher education or specialized training. So this budget expands apprenticeships to connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs. And we know that future generations will continue to deal with the effects of a warming planet, so this budget proposes a smarter way to address the costs of wildfires. And it includes over $1 billion in new funding for new technologies to help communities prepare for a changing climate today, and set up incentives to build smarter and more resilient infrastructure.
We also know that the most effective and historically bipartisan ways to reduce poverty and help hardworking families pull themselves up is the earned income tax credit. Right now, it helps about half of all parents in America at some point in their lives. This budget gives millions more workers the opportunity to take advantage of the tax credit. And it pays for it by closing loopholes like the ones that let wealthy individuals classify themselves as a small business to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
This budget will also continue to put our fiscal house in order over the long-term — not by putting the burden on folks who can least afford it, but by reforming our tax code and our immigration system and building on the progress that we’ve made to reduce health care costs under the Affordable Care Act. And it puts our debt on a downward path as a share of our total economy, which independent experts have set as a critical target for fiscal responsibility.
As I said at the outset, our budget is about choices. It’s about our values. As a country, we’ve got to make a decision if we’re going to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, or if we’re going to make smart investments necessary to create jobs and grow our economy, and expand opportunity for every American. At a time when our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years, we’ve got to decide if we’re going to keep squeezing the middle class, or if we’re going to continue to reduce the deficits responsibly, while taking steps to grow and strengthen the middle class.
The American people have made clear time and again which approach they prefer. That’s the approach that my budget offers. That’s why I’m going to fight for it this year and in the years to come as President. Thank you very much, everybody.
11:52 A.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on March 4, 2014
Political Musings February 28, 2014: Emotional Obama launches My Brother’s Keeper program to help minority youth
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 28, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency February 27, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech Launching My Brother’s Keeper, His New Initiative to Help Young Men of Color
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
President Obama Launches My Brother’s Keeper, His New Initiative to Help Young Men of Color
Source: WH, 2-27-14
This afternoon, in the East Room of the White House, President Obama delivered remarks at the launch event for My Brother’s Keeper – his new initiative aimed at helping young men and boys of color facing tough odds reach their full potential. The initiative will bring together private philanthropies, businesses, governors, mayors, faith leaders, and nonprofit organizations that are committed to helping them succeed….READ MORE
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an event to highlight “My Brother’s Keeper,” an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color, in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 27, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Remarks by the President on “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative
Source: WH, 2-27-14
3:43 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Everybody, please have a seat. Well, good afternoon, everybody.
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House. And thank you, Christian, for that outstanding introduction. And thank you for cheering for the White Sox, which is the right thing to do. (Laughter.) Like your parents and your teachers, I could not be prouder of you. I could not be prouder of the other young men who are here today. But just so we’re clear — you’re only excused for one day of school. (Laughter.) And I’m assuming you’ve got your assignments with you so that you can catch up — perhaps even on the flight back. (Laughter.)
As Christian mentioned, I first met Christian about a year ago. I visited the Hyde Park Academy in Chicago, which is only about a mile from my house. And Christian was part of this program called “Becoming a Man.” It’s a program that Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced to me. And it helps young men who show a lot of potential but may have gotten in some trouble to stay on the right path.
They get help with schoolwork, but they also learn life skills like how to be a responsible citizen, and how to deal with life’s challenges, and how to manage frustrations in a constructive way, and how to set goals for themselves. And it works. One study found that, among young men who participate in the BAM program, arrests for violent crimes dropped 44 percent, and they were more likely to graduate from high school. (Applause.)
So as Christian mentioned, during my visit, they’re in a circle and I sat down in the circle, and we went around, led by their counselor, and guys talked about their lives, talked about their stories. They talked about what they were struggling with, and how they were trying to do the right thing, and how sometimes they didn’t always do the right thing. And when it was my turn, I explained to them that when I was their age I was a lot like them. I didn’t have a dad in the house. And I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short.
And I remember when I was saying this — Christian, you may remember this — after I was finished, the guy sitting next to me said, “Are you talking about you?” (Laughter.) I said, yes.
And the point was I could see myself in these young men. And the only difference is that I grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving, so when I made a mistake the consequences were not as severe. I had people who encouraged me — not just my mom and grandparents, but wonderful teachers and community leaders — and they’d push me to work hard and study hard and make the most of myself. And if I didn’t listen they said it again. And if I didn’t listen they said it a third time. And they would give me second chances, and third chances. They never gave up on me, and so I didn’t give up on myself.
I told these young men my story then, and I repeat it now because I firmly believe that every child deserves the same chances that I had. And that’s why we’re here today — to do what we can, in this year of action, to give more young Americans the support they need to make good choices, and to be resilient, and to overcome obstacles, and achieve their dreams.
This is an issue of national importance — it’s as important as any issue that I work on. It’s an issue that goes to the very heart of why I ran for President — because if America stands for anything, it stands for the idea of opportunity for everybody; the notion that no matter who you are, or where you came from, or the circumstances into which you are born, if you work hard, if you take responsibility, then you can make it in this country. (Applause.) That’s the core idea.
And that’s the idea behind everything that I’ll do this year, and for the rest of my presidency. Because at a time when the economy is growing, we’ve got to make sure that every American shares in that growth, not just a few. And that means guaranteeing every child in America has access to a world-class education. It means creating more jobs and empowering more workers with the skills they need to do those jobs. It means making sure that hard work pays off with wages you can live on and savings you can retire on and health care that you can count on. It means building more ladders of opportunity into the middle class for anybody who’s willing to work hard to climb them.
Those are national issues. They have an impact on everybody. And the problem of stagnant wages and economic insecurity and stalled mobility are issues that affect all demographic groups all across the country. My administration’s policies — from early childhood education to job training, to minimum wages — are designed to give a hand up to everybody, every child, every American willing to work hard and take responsibility for their own success. That’s the larger agenda.
But the plain fact is there are some Americans who, in the aggregate, are consistently doing worse in our society — groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions; groups who’ve seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations. And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color.
Now, to say this is not to deny the enormous strides we’ve made in closing the opportunity gaps that marred our history for so long. My presence is a testimony to that progress. Across this country, in government, in business, in our military, in communities in every state we see extraordinary examples of African American and Latino men who are standing tall and leading, and building businesses, and making our country stronger. Some of those role models who have defied the odds are with us here today — the Magic Johnsons or the Colin Powells who are doing extraordinary things — the Anthony Foxxes.
Anthony, yesterday he and I were talking about how both of us never knew our dads, and shared that sense of both how hard that had been but also how that had driven us to succeed in many ways. So there are examples of extraordinary achievement. We all know that. We don’t need to stereotype and pretend that there’s only dysfunction out there. But 50 years after Dr. King talked about his dream for America’s children, the stubborn fact is that the life chances of the average black or brown child in this country lags behind by almost every measure, and is worse for boys and young men.
If you’re African American, there’s about a one in two chance you grow up without a father in your house — one in two. If you’re Latino, you have about a one in four chance. We know that boys who grow up without a father are more likely to be poor, more likely to underperform in school.
As a black student, you are far less likely than a white student to be able to read proficiently by the time you are in 4th grade. By the time you reach high school, you’re far more likely to have been suspended or expelled. There’s a higher chance you end up in the criminal justice system, and a far higher chance that you are the victim of a violent crime. Fewer young black and Latino men participate in the labor force compared to young white men. And all of this translates into higher unemployment rates and poverty rates as adults.
And the worst part is we’ve become numb to these statistics. We’re not surprised by them. We take them as the norm. We just assume this is an inevitable part of American life, instead of the outrage that it is. (Applause.) That’s how we think about it. It’s like a cultural backdrop for us — in movies and television. We just assume, of course, it’s going to be like that. But these statistics should break our hearts. And they should compel us to act.
Michelle and I are blessed with two beautiful daughters. We don’t have a son. But I know if I had a son, on the day he was born I would have felt everything I felt with Malia and Sasha — the awe, the gratitude, the overwhelming sense of responsibility to do everything in my power to protect that amazing new life from this big world out there. And just as our daughters are growing up into wonderful, beautiful young women, I’d want my son to feel a sense of boundless possibility. And I’d want him to have independence and confidence. And I’d want him to have empathy and compassion. I’d want him to have a sense of diligence and commitment, and a respect for others and himself — the tools that he’d need to succeed.
I don’t have a son, but as parents, that’s what we should want not just for our children, but for all children. (Applause.) And I believe the continuing struggles of so many boys and young men — the fact that too many of them are falling by the wayside, dropping out, unemployed, involved in negative behavior, going to jail, being profiled — this is a moral issue for our country. It’s also an economic issue for our country.
After all, these boys are a growing segment of our population. They are our future workforce. When, generation after generation, they lag behind, our economy suffers. Our family structure suffers. Our civic life suffers. Cycles of hopelessness breed violence and mistrust. And our country is a little less than what we know it can be. So we need to change the statistics — not just for the sake of the young men and boys, but for the sake of America’s future.
That’s why, in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin verdict, with all the emotions and controversy that it sparked, I spoke about the need to bolster and reinforce our young men, and give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them. (Applause.) And I’m grateful that Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina and Tracy, are here with us today, along with Jordan Davis’s parents, Lucy and Ron.
In my State of the Union address last month, I said I’d pick up the phone and reach out to Americans willing to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds to stay on track and reach their full potential, so America can reach its full potential. And that’s what today is all about.
After months of conversation with a wide range of people, we’ve pulled together private philanthropies and businesses, mayors, state and local leaders, faith leaders, nonprofits, all who are committed to creating more pathways to success. And we’re committed to building on what works. And we call it “My Brother’s Keeper.”
Now, just to be clear — “My Brother’s Keeper” is not some big, new government program. In my State of the Union address, I outlined the work that needs to be done for broad-based economic growth and opportunity for all Americans. We have manufacturing hubs, infrastructure spending — I’ve been traveling around the country for the last several weeks talking about what we need to do to grow the economy and expand opportunity for everybody. And in the absence of some of those macroeconomic policies that create more good jobs and restore middle-class security, it’s going to be harder for everyone to make progress. And for the last four years, we’ve been working through initiatives like Promise Zones to help break down the structural barriers — from lack of transportation to substandard schools — that afflict some of this country’s most impoverished counties, and we’ll continue to promote these efforts in urban and rural counties alike.
Those are all government initiatives, government programs that we think are good for all Americans and we’re going to keep on pushing for them. But what we’re talking about here today with “My Brother’s Keeper” is a more focused effort on boys and young men of color who are having a particularly tough time. And in this effort, government cannot play the only — or even the primary — role. We can help give every child access to quality preschool and help them start learning from an early age, but we can’t replace the power of a parent who’s reading to that child. We can reform our criminal justice system to ensure that it’s not infected with bias, but nothing keeps a young man out of trouble like a father who takes an active role in his son’s life. (Applause.)
In other words, broadening the horizons for our young men and giving them the tools they need to succeed will require a sustained effort from all of us. Parents will have to parent — and turn off the television, and help with homework. (Applause.) Teachers will need to do their part to make sure our kids don’t fall behind and that we’re setting high expectations for those children and not giving up on them. Business leaders will need to create more mentorships and apprenticeships to show more young people what careers are out there. Tech leaders will need to open young eyes to fields like computer science and engineering. Faith leaders will need to help our young men develop the values and ethical framework that is the foundation for a good and productive life.
So we all have a job to do. And we can do it together — black and white, urban and rural, Democrat and Republican. So often, the issues facing boys and young men of color get caught up in long-running ideological arguments about race and class, and crime and poverty, the role of government, partisan politics. We’ve all heard those arguments before. But the urgency of the situation requires us to move past some of those old arguments and focus on getting something done and focusing on what works. It doesn’t mean the arguments are unimportant; it just means that they can’t paralyze us. And there’s enough goodwill and enough overlap and agreement that we should be able to go ahead and get some things done, without resolved everything about our history or our future.
Twenty years ago, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson started a program in the Miami public school system — feel free to stand up. (Applause.) To help young boys at risk of dropping out of school. Today, it serves thousands of students in dozens of schools.
As Mayor of New York, Mayor Bloomberg — Michael Bloomberg, who’s here today, started a “Young Men’s Initiative” for African-American and Latino boys, because he understood that in order for America to compete we need to make it easier for all our young people to do better in the classroom and find a job once they graduate.
A bipartisan group of mayors called “Cities United” has made this issue a priority in communities across the country. Senator Mike Lee — a leader of the tea party — has been working with Senator Dick Durbin — a Democrat from my home state of Illinois — to reduce disparities in our criminal justice system that have hit the African American and Latino communities especially hard.
So I want to thank everybody who’s been doing incredible work — many of the people who are here today, including members of Congress, who have been focused on this and are moving the needle in their communities and around the country.
They understand that giving every young person who’s willing to work hard a shot at opportunity should not be a partisan issue. Yes, we need to train our workers, invest in our schools, make college more affordable — and government has a role to play. And, yes, we need to encourage fathers to stick around, and remove the barriers to marriage, and talk openly about things like responsibility and faith and community. In the words of Dr. King, it is not either-or; it is both-and.
And if I can persuade Sharpton and O’Reilly to be in the same meeting — (laughter and applause) — then it means that there are people of good faith who want to get some stuff done, even if we don’t agree on everything. And that’s our focus.
While there may not be much of an appetite in Congress for sweeping new programs or major new initiatives right now, we all know we can’t wait. And so the good news is folks in the private sector who know how important boosting the achievement of young men of color is to this country — they are ready to step up.
Today, I’m pleased to announce that some of the most forward-looking foundations in America are looking to invest at least $200 million over the next five years — on top of the $150 million that they’ve already invested — to test which strategies are working for our kids and expand them in cities across the country. (Applause.)
Many of these folks have been on the front lines in this fight for a long time. What’s more, they’re joined by business leaders, corporate leaders, entrepreneurs who are stepping forward to support this effort as well. And my administration is going to do its part. So today after my remarks are done, I’m going to pen this presidential memorandum directing the federal government not to spend more money, but to do things smarter, to determine what we can do right now to improve the odds for boys and young men of color, and make sure our agencies are working more effectively with each other, with those businesses, with those philanthropies, and with local communities to implement proven solutions.
And part of what makes this initiative so promising is that we actually know what works — and we know when it works. Now, what do I mean by that? Over the years, we’ve identified key moments in the life of a boy or a young man of color that will, more often than not, determine whether he succeeds, or falls through the cracks. We know the data. We know the statistics. And if we can focus on those key moments, those life-changing points in their lives, you can have a big impact; you can boost the odds for more of our kids.
First of all, we know that during the first three years of life, a child born into a low-income family hears 30 million fewer words than a child born into a well-off family. And everybody knows babies are sponges, they just soak that up. A 30-million-word deficit is hard to make up. And if a black or Latino kid isn’t ready for kindergarten, he’s half as likely to finish middle school with strong academic and social skills. So by giving more of our kids access to high-quality early education — and by helping parents get the tools they need to help their children succeed — we can give more kids a better shot at the career they’re capable of, and the life that will make us all better off. So that’s point number one right at the beginning.
Point number two, if a child can’t read well by the time he’s in 3rd grade, he’s four times less likely to graduate from high school by age 19 than one who can. And if he happens to be poor, he’s six times less likely to graduate. So by boosting reading levels, we can help more of our kids make the grade, keep on advancing, reach that day that so many parents dream of — until it comes close and then you start tearing up — and that’s when they’re walking across the stage, holding that high school diploma.
Number three, we know that Latino kids are almost twice as likely as white kids to be suspended from school. Black kids are nearly four times as likely. And if a student has been suspended even once by the time they’re in 9th grade they are twice as likely to drop out.
That’s why my administration has been working with schools on alternatives to the so-called “zero tolerance” guidelines — not because teachers or administrators or fellow students shold have to put up with bad behavior, but because there are ways to modify bad behavior that lead to good behavior — as opposed to bad behavior out of school. We can make classrooms good places for learning for everybody without jeopardizing a child’s future. (Applause.) And by building on that work, we can keep more of our young men where they belong — in the classroom, learning, growing, gaining the skills they need to succeed.
Number four, we know that students of color are far more likely than their white classmates to find themselves in trouble with the law. If a student gets arrested, he’s almost twice as likely to drop out of school. By making sure our criminal justice system doesn’t just function as a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, we can help young men of color stay out of prison, stay out of jail. And that means then, they’re more likely to be employable, and to invest in their own families, and to pass on a legacy of love and hope.
And finally, we know young black men are twice as likely as young white men to be “disconnected” — not in school, not working. We’ve got to reconnect them. We’ve got to give more of these young men access to mentors. We’ve got to contine to encourage responsible fatherhood. We’ve got to provide more pathways to apply to college or find a job. We can keep them from falling through the cracks, and help them lay a foundation for a career and a family and a better life.
In the discussion before we came in, General Powell talked about the fact that there are going to be some kids who just don’t have a family at home that is functional, no matter how hard we try. But just an adult, any adult who’s paying attention can make a difference. Any adult who cares can make a difference.
Magic was talking about being in a school in Chicago, and rather than going to the school he brought the school to the company, All-State, that was doing the work. And suddenly, just that one conversation meant these young men saw something different. A world opened up for them. It doesn’t take that much. But it takes more than we’re doing now.
And that’s what “My Brother’s Keeper” is all about — helping more of our young people stay on track; providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future; building on what works, when it works, in those critical life-changing moments. And when I say, by the way, building on what works, it means looking at the actual evidence of what works. There are a lot of programs out there that sound good, are well-intentioned, well-inspired, but they’re not actually having an impact. We don’t have enough money or time or resources to invest in things that don’t work, so we’ve got to be pretty hard-headed about saying if something is not working, let’s stop doing it. Let’s do things that work. And we shouldn’t care whether it was a Democratic program or a Republican program, or a fait-based program or — if it works, we should support it. If it doesn’t, we shouldn’t.
And all the time recognizing that “my neighbor’s child is my child” — that each of us has an obligation to give every child the same chance this country gave so many of us.
So, in closing, let me just say this. None of this is going to be easy. This is not a one-year proposition. It’s not a two-year proposition. It’s going to take time. We’re dealing with complicated issues that run deep in our history, run deep in our society, and are entrenched in our minds. And addressing these issues will have to be a two-way bargain. Because no matter how much the community chips in, it’s ultimately going to be up to these young men and all the young men who are out there to step up and seize responsibility for their own lives. (Applause.)
And that’s why I want to close by speaking directly to the young men who are here today and all the boys and young men who are watching at home. Part of my message, part of our message in this initiative is “no excuses.” Government and private sector and philanthropy and all the faith communities — we all have a responsibility to help provide you the tools you need; we’ve got to help you knock down some of the barriers that you experience. That’s what we’re here for. But you’ve got responsibilities, too.
And I know you can meet the challenge — many of you already are — if you make the effort. It may be hard, but you will have to reject the cynicism that says the circumstances of your birth or society’s lingering injustices necessarily define you and your future. It will take courage, but you will have to tune out the naysayers who say the deck is stacked against you, you might as well just give up — or settle into the stereotype.
It’s not going to happen overnight, but you’re going to have to set goals and you’re going to have to work for those goals. Nothing will be given to you. The world is tough out there, there’s a lot of competition for jobs and college positions, and everybody has to work hard. But I know you guys can succeed. We’ve got young men up here who are starting to make those good choices because somebody stepped in and gave them a sense of how they might go about it.
And I know it can work because of men like Maurice Owens, who’s here today. I want to tell Moe’s story just real quick.
When Moe was four years old, he moved with his mom Chauvet from South Carolina to the Bronx. His mom didn’t have a lot of money, and they lived in a tough neighborhood. Crime was high. A lot of young men ended up in jail or worse. But she knew the importance of education, so she got Moe into the best elementary school that she could find. And every morning, she put him on a bus; every night, she welcomed him when he came home.
She took the initiative, she eventually found a sponsorship program that allowed Moe to attend a good high school. And while many of his friends got into trouble, some of it pretty serious, Moe just kept on getting on the bus, and kept on working hard and reaching for something better. And he had some adults in his life that were willing to give him advice and help him along the way. And he ended up going to college. And he ended up serving his country in the Air Force. And today, Moe works in the White House, just two doors down from the Oval Office, as the Special Assistant to my Chief of Staff. (Applause.) And Moe never misses a chance to tell kids who grew up just like he did that if he can make it, they can, too.
Moe and his mom are here today, so I want to thank them both for this incredible example. Stand up, Moe, and show off your mom there. (Applause.) Good job, Moe.
So Moe didn’t make excuses. His mom had high expectations. America needs more citizens like Moe. We need more young men like Christian. We will beat the odds. We need to give every child, no matter what they look like, where they live, the chance to reach their full potential. Because if we do — if we help these wonderful young men become better husbands and fathers, and well-educated, hardworking, good citizens — then not only will they contribute to the growth and prosperity of this country, but they will pass on those lessons on to their children, on to their grandchildren, will start a different cycle. And this country will be richer and stronger for it for generations to come.
So let’s get going. Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
4:17 P.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 27, 2014
Political Musings February 26, 2014: Obama and Boehner have rare and constructive White House meeting
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 26, 2014
Political Musings February 25, 2014: Obama, Governors have turbulent dinner and meeting over 2016, economy, pipeline
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 25, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency February 24, 2014: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s Remarks at National Governors’ Association White House Meeting
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the President and Vice President at NGA Meeting
Source: WH, 2-24-14
Watch the Video
State Dining Room
11:15 A.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thanks for making the Cabinet stand up for me. (Laughter.) I appreciate it.
It’s great to see you all. And I don’t know about you all, I had a great time last night and got a chance to actually do what we should be doing more of — talking without thinking about politics and figuring how we can solve problems.
You’ve observed by now the reason the President and I like doing this every year is it’s nice dealing with people who know they got to get a job done, and they get a job done. And I’ve gotten a chance to work directly with an awful lot of you in the days of the Recovery Act, and even when we were working on the gun violence; rebuilding from that super storm Sandy, which hit my state as well, and tornadoes and floods in a number of your states.
But it never ceases to amaze me how you all mobilize. You just mobilize. When crises hit your states, you mobilize and you rebuild. And you rebuild your infrastructure not to the standards that existed before, but to 21st century standards. You balance your budgets, you save neighborhoods, and you bring back jobs to your communities.
And the other thing I pick up — and I may be wrong. I’m always labeled as the White House optimist, like I’m the kid who fell off the turnip truck yesterday, but I am the youngest here — (laughter) — and new. But it always amazes me your sense of optimism. You’re the one group of folks you go to with all the problems you have that you’re optimistic. You’re optimistic about it being able to be done, getting things done. That is not always the mood up in the place where I spent a large portion of my career.
And last night I got to speak to a bunch of you, particularly about the job skills initiative the President asked me to lead, and I had a chance to speak with some of you specifically, and I’m going to ask to — I’m going to get a chance to see more of you this afternoon. But this is more than just — at least from the President’s perspective and mine — more than just a job skills initiative. It’s about literally opening the aperture to the middle class. The middle class has actually shrunk.
And we always have these debates with our economists — is the middle class $49,820 or $52,000. The middle class to me, and I think to most of you, it’s really a state of mind. It’s about being able to own your home and not have to rent it. It’s about being able to send your kid to a park where you know you can send them out, and they’ll come home safely. It’s about being able to send them to school, that if they do well in the school, they’re going to be able to get to something beyond high school if they want to do that. And you’re going to be able to pay for it. And in the meantime, you may be able to take care of your mom and dad who are in tough shape and hope that your kids never have to take care of you. That’s the middle class.
And before the Great Recession, it was already beginning to shrink. So together, we got to open — Mary, you and I have talked about this — about opening the aperture here for access to the middle class. But we’ll be speaking a lot more about that in the next several months. A couple of you invited me to come out your way, including some of my Republican friends. And I’m going to be working with all of you.
But today I just want to say thank you. Thank you for what you always do. You come to town; you come to town with answers. You come to town with suggestions. You come to town to get things done. And believe me, we need that and the American people are looking for it.
And I want to welcome you back to the White House, and introduce you now to my friend, your President, Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Please, have a seat. Thank you so much.
Welcome to the White House. I know that you’ve already been doing a lot of work, and I’m glad to be able to come here and engage in a dialogue with all of you. I want to thank Mary and John for their leadership at the NGA. I want to thank my outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden, who is very excited I think about the jobs initiative, and is going to be — the job training initiative, and I think is going to be doing a great job on that.
Michelle and I had a wonderful time hosting you guys last night, and I hope all the spouses enjoyed it. And I know Alex enjoyed it. (Laughter.) One good thing about living here is that you can make all the noise you want and nobody is going to complain. (Laughter.) And I enjoyed watching some of you with your eyes on higher office size up the drapes — (laughter) –and each other.
We don’t have a lot of time today, so I want to be very brief, go straight to Q&A and discussion. We’re at a moment when our economy is growing; our businesses have now created over 8.5 million new jobs over the past four years. But, as I’ve said several times, the trends that have battered the middle class for a couple of decades now are still there and still have to be addressed. Those at the top are doing very well. Ordinary families still feeling squeezed. Too many Americans are working harder than ever, and just barely getting by.
And reversing these trends are going to require us to work together around what I’m calling an opportunity agenda based on four things. Number one, more good jobs that pay good wages. Number two, training more Americans to be able to take the jobs that are out there right now and the jobs that are created. Number three, guaranteeing access to a world-class education for every American child all across our 50 states and our territories. And making sure that hard work pays off — with wages that you can live on, savings that you can retire on, health insurance that you can count on.
And all of this is going to take some action. So far, just in the past few weeks, I’ve acted to lift the wages of workers who work for federal contractors to pay their — make sure their employees are getting paid at least $10.10 an hour. We’ve ordered an across-the-board reform of our job training programs, much of it aligned with some of the work that Mary has done during her tenure as head of the NGA. We directed our Treasury to create a new way for Americans to start saving for retirement. We’ve been able to rally America’s business leaders to help more of the long-term unemployed find work, and to help us make sure that all of our kids have access to high-speed Internet and high-tech learning tools in the classroom.
The point is, this has to be a year of action. And I’m eager to work with Congress wherever I can. My hope is, is that despite this being an election year, that there will be occasions where both parties determine that it makes sense to actually get some things done in this town. But wherever I can work on my own to expand opportunity for more Americans, I’m going to do that. And I am absolutely convinced that the time is right to partner with the states and governors all across the country on these agendas, because I know that you guys are doing some terrific work in your own states.
There may not be much of an appetite in Congress for doing big jobs bills, but we can still grow SelectUSA. Secretary Pritzker’s team has put together a terrific formula where we’re attracting investors from all around the world to see America as an outstanding place to invest. And I mentioned this at the State of the Union: For the first time last year, what we’re seeing is, is that world investors now see America as the number-one place to do business rather than China. And it’s a sign of a lot of things converging, both on the energy front, worker productivity, our innovation, our research, ease of doing business. And a lot of that work is as a consequence of steps we’ve taken not just at the federal level, but also at the state level. So we’ve got to take advantage of that.
Secretary Pritzker has been helping a Belgian company create jobs in Stillwater, Oklahoma; helping an Austrian company create jobs in Cartersville, Georgia. So we can do more of this, and we really want to engage with you over the next several months to find ways that we can help market America and your states to businesses all around the world and bring jobs back.
Since I called on Congress to raise the minimum wage last year, six states have gone ahead and done it on their own. Last month, I asked more business leaders to raise their workers’ wages. Last week, GAP said it would lift wages for about 65,000 of its employees. Several of you are trying to boost wages for your workers. I’m going to do everything I can to support those efforts.
While Congress decides what it’s going to do on making high-quality pre-K available to more kids, there is bipartisan work being done among the folks in this room. You’ve got governors like Robert Bentley and Jack Markell, Susana Martinez, Deval Patrick — all expanding funding or dedicating funds to make that happen in their states. And we want to partner with you. This year, I’ll pull together a coalition of philanthropists, elected officials and business leaders, all of whom are excited and interested in working with you to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K that they need.
And while Congress talks about repealing the Affordable Care Act or doing this or doing that to it, places like California and Kentucky are going gangbusters and enrolling more Americans in quality, affordable health care plans. You’ve got Republican governors here — I won’t name them in front of the press, because I don’t want to get you all in trouble — who have chosen to cover more people through new options under Medicaid. And as a result, millions of people are going to get help.
States that don’t expand Medicaid are going to be leaving up to 5.4 million Americans uninsured. And that doesn’t have to happen. Work with us to get this done. We can provide a lot of flexibility. Folks like Mike Beebe in Arkansas have done some terrific work designing programs that are right for their states but also provide access to care for people who need it. And I think Kathleen Sebelius, a former governor herself, has shown herself willing to work with all of you to try to find ways to get that done.
On the West Coast, you’ve got Governors Brown, Inslee, Kitzhaber who are working together to combat the effects of climate change on their states. We’ve set up a taskforce of governors and mayors and tribal leaders to help communities prepare for what we anticipate are going to be intensifying impacts of climate change. And we’re setting up climate hubs in seven states across the country to help farmers and ranchers adapt their operations to a changing environment.
In the budget that I’ll send to Congress next week, I’m going to propose fundamentally reforming the way federal governments fund wildfire suppression and prevention to make it more stable and secure, and this is an idea that’s supported by both Democrats and Republicans.
And finally, I want to thank those of you who have worked with Michelle and Jill Biden on their Joining Forces initiative to support our military families. At your meeting here two years ago, they asked for your help to make it easier for servicemembers and their spouses to carry licenses for professions like teaching or nursing from state to state, rather than have to get a new one every time they were reassigned. At the time, only 12 states had acted to make this easier for spouses; only nine had acted to make it easier for servicemembers. Today, 42 states have passed legislation to help spouses; 45 states have made it easier for servicemembers. We’ve got a few states remaining. Let’s get it done for everybody, because it’s the right thing to do for those men and women who are working every day to make sure we stay free and secure.
The point is, even when there is little appetite in Congress to move on some of these priorities, at the state level you guys are governed by practical considerations. You want to do right by your people and you see how good policy impacts your citizens, and you see how bad policy impacts your citizens, and that means that there’s less room for posturing and politics, and more room for getting stuff done.
We want to work with you. And I’m committed to making sure that every single member of my Cabinet, every single person in the White House, every single member of my team will be responsive to you. We won’t agree on every single issue every single time, but I guarantee you that we will work as hard as we can to make sure that you succeed — because when you succeed, the people in your states succeed and America succeeds, and that’s our goal.
So thank you very much, and I look forward to having a great discussion. Thank you, everybody. (Applause.)
11:27 A.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 24, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency February 23, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the National Governors Association Dinner
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the President at the National Governors Association Dinner
Source: WH, 2-23-14
Watch the Video
State Dining Room
7:11 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening, everybody. Please have a seat. Have a seat. Well, welcome to the White House. Everybody looks fabulous. I am truly honored to be one of Michelle Obama’s guests tonight here at dinner. (Laughter.) I want to thank all the governors and their better halves for being here tonight, especially your chair, Mary Fallin, and your vice chair, John Hickenlooper. (Applause.)
Tonight, we want to make sure that all of you make yourselves at home, to which I’m sure some of you are thinking that’s been the plan all along. (Laughter.) But keep in mind what a wise man once wrote: “I am more than contented to be governor and shall not care if I never hold another office.” Of course, that was Teddy Roosevelt. (Laughter.) So I guess plans change.
I look forward to working with each of you not just in our meetings tomorrow, but throughout this year, what I hope to be a year of action. Our partnership on behalf of the American people, on issues ranging from education to health care to climate change runs deep, deeper than what usually hits the front page.
Being here tonight, I’m thinking about moments that I’ve spent with so many of you during the course of the year — with Governor Patrick in a hospital in Boston, seeing the survivors of the Boston bombing, seeing them fight through their wounds, determined to return to their families, but also realizing that a lot of lives were saved because of the preparations that federal and state and local officials had carried out beforehand; with Governor Fallin at a firehouse in Moore, thanking first responders who risked their lives to save others after a devastating tornado, but once again seeing the kind of state-federal cooperation that’s so vital in these kinds of circumstances; spending time with Governor O’Malley at the Naval Academy graduation last spring and looking out over some of our newest sailors and Marines as they join the greatest military in the world, and reminding ourselves that on national security issues, the contributions of the National Guard obviously are extraordinary and all of you work so closely with them.
So if there’s one thing in common in the moments like these, it’s that our cooperation is vital to make sure that we’re doing right by the American people. And what’s common also is the incredible resilience and the goodness and the strength of the American people that we’re so privileged to serve. And that resilience has carried us from the depths of the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes to what I am convinced can be a breakthrough year for America and the American people.
That of course will require that we collectively take action on what matters to them — jobs and opportunity. And when we’ve got a Congress that sometimes seems to have a difficult time acting, I want to make sure that I have the opportunity to partner with each of you in any way that I can to help more Americans work and study and strive, and make sure that they see their efforts and their faith in this country rewarded.
I know we’ll talk more about areas where we can work together tomorrow. So tonight, I simply would like to propose a toast to the families that support us, to the citizens that inspire us and to this exceptional country that has given us so much. Cheers.
7:16 P.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 23, 2014
Political Musings February 15, 2014: Obama revisits urging Congress to raise the minimum wage in his weekly address
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 15, 2014
Political Musings February 13, 2014: Obama signs executive order raises federal minimum wage urges Congress to follow
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 13, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency February 12, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Signing of Executive Order to Raise the Federal Contract Minimum Wage
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
The Economic Case for Raising the Minimum Wage
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the importance of raising the federal minimum wage for all workers, during an event in the in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 12, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama announced his intention to move forward using his own authority and raise the minimum wage for workers on new and replacement Federal service contracts to $10.10 an hour. As the President said, “If you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.” Today, the President will sign an Executive Order making this vision a reality….READ MORE
Remarks by the President on Signing of Executive Order
Source: WH, 2-12-14
2:18 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, welcome to the White House, everybody. I know you had to come here before you go buy some shovels and some salt. (Laughter.) It sounds like we may get a little snow. But I very much appreciate everybody being here. I want to thank, first and foremost, the workers who are with me here this afternoon. (Applause.) And I want to thank two champions for all hardworking Americans: We’ve got Secretary of Labor Tom Perez — (applause) — he’s in the house. Where is Tom? Right here. Tom is right here. (Applause.) I didn’t know where he was. And we’ve got an outstanding Congressman — who’s used to snow because he’s from Minnesota — Congressman Keith Ellison. (Applause.)
Now, it’s been just over two weeks since I delivered my State of the Union address, and I said this year would be a year of action, and I meant it. Over the past 14 days I’ve ordered an across-the-board reform of our job training programs to train folks with the skills that employers need, and then match them up with good jobs that are ready to be filled right now.
I’ve directed the Treasury to create something we’re calling “MyRA” — sort of like an IRA, but it’s MyRA. And that’s a new way for Americans to start saving for retirement. And you can start with as little as $25, $50 and start building up a little bit of a nest egg and get tax benefits for doing it so.
We’ve rallied the leaders of some of America’s biggest high-tech companies to help us make sure that all of our kids have access to high-speed Internet and up-to-date technology in their classroom so that they’re learning the skills that they need for the new economy.
We’ve brought together business leaders who are committed to hiring more unemployed Americans, particularly long-term unemployed who oftentimes are discriminated against. They’re in a Catch-22 — they haven’t had a job for a while and then the employer is not willing to look at their resume because they haven’t had a job for a while.
So the point is I’m eager to work with Congress whenever I can find opportunities to expand opportunity for more families. But wherever I can act on my own, without Congress, by using my pen to take executive actions, or picking up the phone and rallying folks around a common cause, that’s what I’m going to do. (Applause.)
And so that brings me to the issue we’re going to talk about today. After the worst economic crisis in generations, our economy has been growing for the past four years. (Applause.) And our businesses have created 8.5 million new jobs. Unemployment rate has come down. But while those at the top are doing better than ever, — corporate profits have been high, the stock market has been high — average wages have barely budged. So you’ve got too many Americans who are working harder than ever before just to get by, but they can’t seem to get ahead, can’t seem to make all the ends meet.
And that’s been true since long before the recession hit. We’ve got to reverse those trends. We’ve got to build an economy that works for everybody, not just the fortunate few. And we’ve got to restore opportunity for everybody, so that no matter who you are, no matter how you started out, no matter what you look like, no matter what your last name is, you can get ahead in America if you’re willing to work hard and take responsibility for your life. (Applause.) Right?
So the opportunity agenda I’ve laid out is going to help us do just that. Part one of this agenda is more new jobs that pay a good wage — jobs in manufacturing, and exports, and energy, and innovation. Part two: We’ve got to train the folks with the skills to fill those jobs. Part three: We’ve got to make sure every child gets a world-class education. And part four: We’ve got to make sure that the economy rewards hard work for every American.
Making hard work pay off with economic security and decent wages and benefits is what we’re about here today. It means making sure women earn equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) It means making sure workers have the chance to save for a dignified retirement. (Applause.) It means access to affordable health insurance that gives you the freedom to change jobs or be your own boss, and the peace of mind that it will be there for you when you get sick and you need it most. (Applause.)
So if you know anybody who doesn’t have health insurance right now — (laughter) — send them to healthcare.gov. The website is working. (Laughter.) Sign them up. You can get health care for less than your cellphone bill for a lot of folks.
But it also means that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, nobody who works full-time should have to live in poverty. (Applause.) Nobody. Not here in America. (Applause.)
Now, it was one year ago today — one year ago today — that I first asked Congress to raise the federal minimum wage — a federal minimum wage that in real terms is worth about 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan took office — 20 percent less, a fifth less.
So this afternoon, I’ve invited some of the folks who would see a raise if we raised that federal minimum wage. They happened to join me here at the White House. And like most workers in their situation, they’re not teenagers — they look like teenagers, some of them are very young looking. (Laughter.) But they’re not teenagers taking on their first job. They’re adults — average age is 35 years old. A majority of lower-wage jobs are held by women. Many of them have children that they’re supporting. These are Americans who work full-time, often to support a family, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with our economic productivity, they’d already be getting paid well over $10 an hour.
Instead, the minimum wage is still just $7.25. And when Congress refuses to raise it, it loses value — because there’s a little bit inflation, everything else starts costing a little bit more — even though inflation has been pretty low, it’s still costing a little bit more each year. That means each dollar isn’t going as far and they’ve got a little bit less. So over the past year, the failure of Congress to act was the equivalent of a $200 pay cut for these folks — for a typical minimum wage worker. That’s a month worth of groceries, maybe two months’ worth of electricity. It makes a big difference for a lot of families.
Now, the good news is that in the year since I first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, six states went ahead and passed laws to raise theirs. (Applause.) We appreciate that. You got more states and cities and counties that are taking steps to raise their minimum wage as we speak. And a lot of companies are doing it, too — not out of charity, but because they’ve discovered it’s good business.
Two weeks ago, I visited a Costco store in Maryland. Now, Costco is a very profitable company. Its stock has done great. It’s expanding all over the place. But their philosophy is higher wages are a smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover. If employees are happy and feel like the company is invested in them, then they’re going to do more for the company. They’re going to go above and beyond.
And when I was over at the Costco store I was meeting folks who had started off at the cash register and now were in supervisory positions, and had been there for 20 years, and you could see the kind of pride that they had in the company because the company cared about them. I even received a letter the next day from a woman who saw my visit on TV — she decided to apply for a job at Costco. (Laughter.) She said, let me apply for a job at Costco. They look like they can do a good job.
So across the country, owners of small and large businesses are recognizing that fair wages and higher profits go hand in hand; it’s good for the bottom line.
And as America’s chief executive, I agree. So while Congress decides what it’s going to do — and I hope this year, and I’m going to work this year and urge this year that they actually pass a law — today, I’m going to do what I can to help raise working Americans’ wages. (Applause.)
So today, I’m issuing an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour — (applause) — $10.10 an hour. (Applause.)
This will make a difference for folks. Right now, there’s a dishwasher at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas making $7.76 an hour — $7.76 an hour. There’s a fast-food worker at Andrews, right down the street, making $8.91 an hour. There’s a laundry worker at Camp Dodge in Iowa making $9.03 an hour. Once I sign this order, starting next year, as their contracts come up, each of them and many of their fellow coworkers are going to get a raise. And by the way, that includes folks who get paid in tips — they’ll get a raise, too. (Applause.) A tip wage has gone up even slower than the regular minimum wage.
So just as it’s good for companies across the country, this will be good for America’s bottom line — for contractors and for taxpayers. The opponents of the minimum wage have been using the same arguments for years, and time and again they’ve been proven wrong. Raising the minimum wage is good for business, and it’s good for workers, and it’s good for the economy. Put more money in these folks’ pockets, that means they got some money to go shopping, which in turn means the business has more customers — (applause) — which means they may hire more workers and make more of a profit. (Applause.)
And let’s not forget — not only is it good for the economy, it’s the right thing to do. (Applause.) There’s a simple moral principle at stake — if you take responsibility and you work as hard as these folks work, if you work full-time, you shouldn’t be living in poverty. Not in America. We believe that. (Applause.)
And this executive order will cover Americans with disabilities — (applause) — because this principle doesn’t just apply to some of us; it applies to all of us. (Applause.)
So I’m going to keep doing whatever I can to raise working Americans’ wages. And I would ask any business leader out there, any governor, any mayor, any local leader listening, do what you can to raise your employees’ wages; to work to raise the wages of citizens in your jurisdiction. They’ll support these efforts. A majority of Americans — not just Democrats, not just independents, but Republicans, too — support raising the minimum wage. (Applause.) It’s the right thing to do. So that’s something Congress should keep in mind this year.
There’s a bill right now in front of both the House and the Senate that would boost America’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour — just like I’m doing with this executive action. It’s easy to remember: 10-10 — 10-10. Let’s get that done. Raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 wouldn’t just raise wages for minimum-wage workers, its effect would lift wages for about 28 million Americans. It would lift millions of Americans out of poverty immediately. (Applause.) It would help millions more work their way out of poverty — without requiring a single dollar in new taxes or spending. (Applause.) It’s the right thing to do.
Just last month, 600 economists, including seven Nobel Prize winners, wrote the leaders of houses of Congress to remind them that the bill before Congress would have little or no negative effect on hiring, on jobs. So it’s not going to depress the economy. It will boost the economy. (Baby says, “Yes!”) Yes! (Laughter and applause.) It will give more businesses more customers with more money to spend. It will grow the economy for everybody. So — yeah! (Laughter.) He’s excited about it. (Laughter.)
So members of Congress have a pretty clear choice to make right now: Raise our workers’ wages, grow our economy — or let wages stagnate further, and give workers what amounts to another pay cut this year. Restore unemployment insurance for Americans still looking for that job — (applause) — or expose them further to hardship. (Applause.) Members of Congress, you can help people make progress in their own lives, or you can hinder that progress.
And every American deserves to know where your elected representative stands on this issue. So ask your senator; ask your representative in the House: Do you support raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour? If they say, yes, tell them “good job.” (Laughter.) They don’t hear that that often so — (laughter) — give them a pat on the back, give them a hug, let them know “way to go.” That’s the right thing to do. If they say, no — be polite, I mean, don’t just yell at them, but say, “Well, why not?” Ask them to reconsider siding with an overwhelming majority of Americans. Encourage them to say yes. Give America a raise.
So I’m about to sign this executive order. When you hear me talking about my pen and my phone to make a difference for middle-class Americans and those working to get into the middle class, this is exactly what I mean. I’m doing to do what I can. Congress should do what it needs to do. I will not give up on this fight, no matter how long it takes. America deserves a raise. (Applause.) Working families deserve to know some more economic security in their own lives. (Applause.)
We’ve got to create new jobs, strengthen the middle class, build new ladders of opportunity for folks working their way into the middle class — just like these folks are doing right here. There are millions of Americans who could just use a little bit of boost — millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of the old, stale political arguments, or tired of folks just looking out for people who can afford big lobbyists and big campaign contributions. There are folks out there who want to see us restore an economy that works for everybody, and get back to our founding vision of opportunity for all.
So I know you guys will work with me. But go out there and organize some more. Thank you, everybody. (Applause.) Let’s give Americans a raise right now. I’m going to sign this. (Applause.)
2:30 P.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 12, 2014
Political Musings January 29, 2014: Obama’s foreign policy goes from war to diplomacy in State of the Union Address
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 29, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency January 29, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Raising Minimum Wage at Costco in Lanham, MD
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the President on Minimum Wage — Lanham, MD
Source: WH, 1-29-14
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Maryland! (Applause.) It’s good to see you. I love getting outside the Beltway, even if it is just a few hundred feet away. (Laughter.)
Well, first of all, give Teressa a great big round of applause for the great job she did. (Applause.) It is good to be here with all of you. I want to acknowledge a champion for working families right here in Maryland — Governor Martin O’Malley. (Applause.) Some folks who go to bat for working people every single day: Senator Ben Cardin is here. (Applause.) Congresswoman Donna Edwards is here. (Applause.) And all of you are here. (Applause.)
Teressa’s story proves that treating workers well is not just the right thing to do — it is an investment. And Teressa’s 27 years of hard work at Costco proves that investment pays off.
I talked a little bit about this last night in my State of the Union address. Now, I only finished 12 hours ago, so these remarks will be quicker. (Laughter.) And I needed some time to pick up a snow shovel and one of those 50-pound bags of dog food for Bo and Sunny. (Applause.) I was told I’d get a big-screen TV, too, for the Super Bowl coming up — 80-inch. (Laughter.) So 60 is not enough? Got to go 80. (Laughter.)
It is funny, though — I was looking — you can buy a sofa, chocolate chip cookies and a snorkel set all in the same — (laughter and applause.) The sofa didn’t surprise me, but the snorkel set — (laughter) — that was impressive. Although I do want to ask, who’s snorkeling right now? (Laughter.) How many of those are you guys selling? You never know. (Laughter.)
But what I talked about last night was a simple but profound idea — and it’s an idea that’s at the heart of who we are as Americans: Opportunity for everybody. Giving everybody a fair chance. If they’re willing to work hard, take responsibility, give them a shot. The idea that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, what your last name is, if you work hard, you live up to your responsibilities, you can succeed; you can support a family. (Applause.) That’s what America should be about. Nobody is looking for a free lunch, but give people a chance. If they’re working hard, make sure they can support a family.
Now, we’re at a moment where businesses all across the country, businesses like Costco have created 8 million new jobs over the last four years. Our unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in more than five years. Our deficits have been cut in half. Housing is rebounding. Manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the ‘90s. We sell more of what we make here in America to other places than ever before. Business leaders are deciding that China’s not the best place to invest and create jobs — America is.
So this could be a breakthrough year for America. After five years of hard work, overcoming the worst recession in our lifetimes, we’re better-positioned for this young century than anybody else. But the question for folks in Washington is whether they’re going to help that progress or hinder that progress; whether they’re going to waste time creating new crises for people and new uncertainty — like the shutdown — or are we going to spend time creating new jobs and new opportunities.
And I know what I’m choosing to do because it’s what you do — I’m choosing this to be a year of action. (Applause.) Because too many Americans are working harder than ever just to get by, much less get ahead. The scars of the recession are real. The middle class has been taking it on the chin since before the recession. The economy has been growing for four years now, and corporate profits, stock prices have all soared. But the wages and incomes of ordinary people haven’t gone up in over a decade.
So that’s why last night, I laid out some steps that we can take, concrete, common-sense proposals to speed up economic growth, strengthen the middle class, build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.
And this opportunity agenda has four parts. Number one, we need more new jobs. Number two, we need to train more Americans with the skills that they need to fill those jobs. Number three, we should guarantee every child access to a world-class education. (Applause.) And number four, let’s make sure hard work pays off. (Applause.)
Now, some of my ideas I’ll need Congress. But America can’t just stand still if Congress isn’t doing anything. I’m not going to stand still either. Wherever I can take steps to expand opportunity for more families, I’m going to do it — with or without Congress. (Applause.) Because the defining project of our time, of our generation, is to restore opportunity for everybody.
And so I’m here at Costco today to talk about the fourth part of the opportunity agenda, and that is making hard work pay off for every single American.
Five years ago I signed my first bill into law. I didn’t have any gray hair. (Laughter.) You think it’s distinguished? Okay. (Laughter.) That’s the guy with the gray beard saying — (Laughter). So this first bill that I signed was called the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Applause.) Lilly was at my speech last night. And it’s a law to help protect a woman’s right to fair pay. But at a time when women make up about half of the workforce, but still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns -– we’ve got to finish the job and give women the tools they need to fight for equal pay. Women deserve equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) They deserve — if they’re having a baby, they shouldn’t have to sacrifice their job. A mom deserves a day off to care for a sick child or a sick parent -– and a father does, too.
As I said last night, we got to get rid of some of these workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode, belong back in the ‘50s. We’ve got to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because when women succeed, America succeeds. (Applause.)
Now, women happen to hold a majority of lower-wage jobs in America. But they’re not the only ones who are stifled when wages aren’t going up. As Americans, we understand some people are going to earn more than other people, and we don’t resent those who because they work hard, because they come up with a new idea, they achieve incredible success. We want our kids to be successful.
And it’s funny — Michelle and I sometimes talk — Michelle’s dad was a blue-collar worker; her mom was a secretary. I was raised by a single mom. We didn’t go around when we were growing up being jealous about folks who had made a lot of money — as long as if we were working hard, we could have enough.
So Americans overwhelmingly agree nobody who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty. (Applause.) And that is why I firmly believe it’s time to give America a raise. (Applause.)
A hundred years ago, Henry Ford started Ford Motor Company. Model T — you remember all that? Henry Ford realized he could sell more cars if his workers made enough money to buy the cars. He had started this — factories and mass production and all that, but then he realized, if my workers aren’t getting paid, they won’t be able to buy the cars. And then I can’t make a profit and reinvest to hire more workers. But if I pay my workers a good wage, they can buy my product, I make more cars. Ultimately, I’ll make more money, they’ve got more money in their pockets — so it’s a win-win for everybody.
And leaders today, business leaders today, some of them understand this same concept. Costco’s CEO, Craig Jelinek, he understands this. He feels the same way. He knows that Costco is going to do better, all our businesses do better when customers have more money to spend. And listen, Craig is a wonderful guy, but he’s not in this for philanthropy. He’s a businessman. He’s looking at the bottom line. But he sees that if he’s doing right by Costco’s workers, then they can buy that 80-inch TV, too. (Laughter and applause.) Right?
Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as a smart way to boost productivity and to reduce turnover. So entry-level employees here -– stock associates, cashiers –- start out at $11.50 an hour. (Applause.) Start at $11.50.
AUIDENCE MEMBER: Mr. President, we love you!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
The average hourly wage is more than $20, not including overtime or benefits. And Costco’s commitment to fairness doesn’t stop at the checkout counter; it extends down the supply chain, including to many of the farmworkers who grow the product — the produce that you sell. (Applause.)
Now, what this means is that that Costco has some of the lowest employee turnover in your industry. So you’re not constantly retraining folks because they quit. You got people like Teressa who has been here 27 years — because it’s a company that’s looking out for workers.
And I got to tell you, when I walk around, just — I had a little tour of the produce section, the bakery — you could just tell people feel good about their job and they feel good about the company, and you have a good atmosphere, and the managers and people all take pride in what you do.
Now, folks who work at Costco understand that, but there are a lot of Americans who don’t work somewhere like Costco, and they’re working for wages that don’t go as far as they once did. Today, the minimum wage — the federal minimum wage doesn’t even go as far as it did back in the 1950s. And as the cost of living goes up, the value of the minimum wage goes down over time. Just last year alone, workers earning the minimum wage basically got the equivalent of a $200 pay cut because the minimum wage stayed the same but costs of everything else are going up.
I don’t need to tell you this. You go shopping. (Laughter.) So you’re like, mm-hmm. (Laughter.) For a typical minimum-wage worker, that’s a month’s worth of groceries. It’s two months of electricity. It’s a big deal to a lot of families.
So I brought a guy here today who knows a little bit about this — Tom Perez is America’s Secretary of Labor — (applause) — works for working families every day. I stole him from Governor O’Malley. (Laughter.) He came here from Maryland. But when he was Governor O’Malley’s labor secretary here in Maryland, he helped implement the country’s first statewide living wage law. And that helped a lot of Maryland families. But there are more families in Maryland and across the country who put in long days, they’ve got hard jobs — they deserve higher wages.
In the year since I first asked Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, five states have passed laws to raise theirs. Governor O’Malley is trying to do it here in Maryland, and lift the minimum wage to $10.10. He says, “We all do better when we’re all doing better.” He’s right. Prince George’s County, Montgomery County are banding together with D.C. to raise the regional minimum wage. And I’m here to support your efforts. (Applause.) I’m here to support your efforts. And as I said last night, to every governor, mayor, state legislator out there, if you want to take the initiative to raise your minimum wage laws to help more hardworking Americans make ends meet, then I’m going to be right there at your side.
While Congress decides whether it’s going to raise the minimum wage or not, people outside Washington are not waiting for Congress. And I’m not, either. So as a chief executive, I’m going to lead by example. In the coming weeks, I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees on new contracts a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour. (Applause.) Because if you cook our troops’ meals and wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.
So there’s some steps businesses are taking on their own. There are steps that certain states and counties and cities are taking on their own. There are steps I’m going to take as President. But ultimately, Congress does have to do its part to catch up to the rest of the country on this.
And there’s a reason why a wide majority of Americans support increasing the minimum wage. Look, most Americans who are working make more than the minimum wage. So it’s interesting that the overwhelming number of Americans support raising the minimum wage. It’s not that it’s going to necessarily affect them personally right now; it’s that they know, they understand the value behind the minimum wage. If you work hard, you should be able to pay your rent, buy your groceries, look after your kids. (Applause.) If you put in a hard day’s work, you deserve decent pay for it. That’s a principle everybody understands, everybody believes.
So right now in Congress, there’s a bill that would lift the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour — 10.10 — 10.10, it’s easy. It will give more businesses more customers with more money to spend. I guarantee you, if workers have a little more money in their pocket, they’ll spend more at Costco. (Applause.) And if Costco is seeing more customers, they’ll hire some more folk. Everybody does better.
And the thing about it is raising the minimum wage doesn’t require new spending by the federal government. It doesn’t require a big bureaucratic program. It would help a lot of Americans make ends meet.
So I need everybody here and everybody who’s going to be watching, tell Congress to make this happen. Give America a raise. Making work pay means doing more to help Americans all across this country, but it also means improving the economy — because one of the things that’s been holding our economy back is wages and incomes being flat, which means consumers aren’t spending as much, which means businesses don’t have as many customers, which means they don’t hire as much and they don’t invest as much, and we don’t get that liftoff on the economy that we could.
If we want to make work pay, we also have to help Americans save for retirement — and I’m going to be flying up to Pittsburgh this afternoon to talk about that. (Applause.) Making work pay means access to health care that’s there when you get sick. And the Affordable Care Act means nobody can ever be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma or cancer. (Applause.) You can’t be charged more if you’re a woman. You can’t be charged just because your job makes your back hurt sometimes. Those days are over. (Laughter.)
More Americans are signing up for new private health insurance plans every day. Already 3 million people have signed up. So if you know somebody who isn’t covered, who doesn’t have health insurance, call them up, sit them down, help them get covered at healthcare.gov by March 31st.
So this is the opportunity agenda that I’m going to be talking about this year. I don’t know — I hope Congress will be talking about it, too. But I’m not going to wait. Because we’ve got to restore some economic security in a 21st century economy, and that means jobs that are more plentiful, skills that are more employable, savings that are more portable, health care that’s yours and can’t be canceled if you get sick.
I just focused on one piece of that opportunity agenda today — raising the minimum wage. But these are real, practical, achievable solutions that can help shift the odds back in favor of working and middle-class Americans who haven’t been seeing some of the benefits of growth that we’ve seen over the last four years.
And before I grab a 10-pound barrel of pretzels and — (laughter) — 500 golf balls — (laughter) — let me just leave you with something I heard from Costco’s founder, Jim Sinegal, who’s been a great friend of mine and somebody who I greatly admire. And Jim is rightly proud of everything he’s accomplished. “But,” he said, “here’s the thing about the Costco story. We did not build our company in a vacuum. We built it in the greatest country on Earth. We built our company in a place where anyone can make it with hard work, a little luck, and a little help from their neighbors and their country.”
That’s what Jim said — a place where anyone can make it. That’s who we are. That’s our story. If we pull together, work together, put our shoulder to the wheel, keep moving forward, that’s going to be our future as well, and the future for our kids and grandkids.
Thanks so much, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
10:34 A.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 29, 2014