OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
- September 7, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on September 7, 2014
Source: WH, 9-6-14
WASHINGTON, DC —In this week’s address, the Vice President discusses our continued economic recovery, with 10 million private sector jobs created over the past 54 months. Yet even with this good news, too many Americans are still not seeing the effects of our recovery. As the Vice President explains, there’s more that can be done to continue to bolster our economy and ensure that middle class families benefit from the growth they helped create, including closing tax loopholes, expanding education opportunities, and raising the minimum wage.
Remarks of Vice President Joe Biden
The White House
September 6, 2014
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Joe Biden, I’m filling in for President Obama, while he addresses the NATO summit in Wales.
When the President and I took office in January of 2009, this nation was in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the great depression. Our economy had plummeted at a rate of 8% in a single quarter – part of the fastest economic decline any time in the last half century. Millions of families were falling underwater on their homes and threatened with foreclosure. The iconic American automobile industry was under siege.
But yesterday’s jobs report was another reminder of how far we’ve come. We’ve had 54 straight months of job creation. And that’s the longest streak of uninterrupted job growth in the United States’ history.
We’ve gone from losing 9 million jobs during the financial crisis to creating 10 million jobs. We’ve reduced the unemployment rate from 10% in October of 2009 to 6.1% today. And for the first time since the 1990s, American manufacturing is steadily adding jobs – over 700,000 since 2010. And surveys of both American and foreign business leaders confirm that America once again is viewed as the best place in the world to build and invest.
That’s all good news. But an awful lot of middle class Americans are still not feeling the effects of this recovery. Since the year 2000, Gross Domestic Product – our GDP – has risen by 25%. And productivity in America is up by 30%. But middle class wages during that same time period have gone up by only fourteen cents.
Folks, it’s long past time to cut the middle class back into the deal, so they can benefit from the economic growth they helped create. Folks, there used to be a bargain in this country supported by Democrats and Republicans, business and labor. The bargain was simple. If an employee contributed to the growth and profitability of the company, they got to share in the profits and the benefits as well. That’s what built the middle class. It’s time to restore the bargain, to deal the middle class back in. Because, folks, when the middle class does well, everybody does well – the wealthy get wealthier and the poor have a way up.
You know, the middle class is not a number. It’s a value set. It means being able to own your home; raise your children in a safe neighborhood; send them to a good school where if they do well they can qualify to go to college and if they get accepted you’d be able to find a way to be able to send them to college. And in the meantime, if your parents need help, being able to take care of them, and hope to put aside enough money so that your children will not have to take care of you.
That’s the American dream. That’s what this country was built on. And that’s what we’re determined to restore.
In order to do that, it’s time to have a fair tax structure, one that values paychecks as much as unearned income and inherited wealth, to take some of the burden off of the middle class. It’s time to close tax loopholes so we can reduce the deficit, and invest in rebuilding America – our bridges, our ports, our highways, rails, providing good jobs.
With corporate profits at near record highs, we should encourage corporations to invest more in research and development and the salaries of their employees. It’s time for us to invest in educational opportunity to guarantee that we have the most highly skilled workforce in the world, for 6 out of every 10 jobs in the near term is going to require some education beyond high school. Folks, it’s long past due to increase the minimum wage that will lift millions of hardworking families out of poverty and in the process produce a ripple effect that boosts wages for the middle class and spurs economic growth for the United States of America. Economists acknowledge that if we do these and other things, wages will go up and we’ll increase the Gross Domestic Product of the United States.
My fellow Americans, we know how to do this. We’ve done it before. It’s the way we used to do business and we can do it that way again. All the middle class in this country want is a chance. No guarantee, just a chance.
Americans want to work. And when given a fair shot, the American worker has never, ever, ever, let his country down. Folks, it’s never a good bet to bet against the American people.
Thanks for listening.
May God bless you, and may God protect our troops.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on September 6, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on September 4, 2014
Source: WH, 7-22-14
12:18 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone. It’s great to be here. (Applause.) Please, thank you very much. Thank you, distinguished members of Congress and members of labor and business, and the community. Today, as the President signs the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, we’re using this occasion also to present to the President a roadmap he asked — requested in the State of the Union message, how to keep and maintain the highest-skilled workforce in the world. And this is a perfect build-on as to what the bipartisan consensus that Congress recently reached.
I had the best partners in preparing this report that I could ask for — Tom Perez at Labor, Penny Pritzker at Commerce and Arne Duncan at the Department of Education. I talked to governors, mayors, industry leaders, presidents of community colleges and colleges, and unions, and a lot of members of Congress, many of whom are here. And I have to acknowledge at the out front — at the outset, my wife, Jill, has been an incredible advocate for community colleges and the role they play in training the workforce.
But most importantly, I spoke with an awful lot of Americans who are — as all of you have, particularly members of Congress, who were hit exceedingly hard by the Great Recession, but are doing everything they possibly can to find a job — willing to learn new skills in order to have a decent, middle-class job. One thing I hope that’s been put to rest — and I know we all share this view — Americans want to work. They want to work. They’re willing to do anything that they need to do to get a good and decent job.
And they show us that our single greatest resource is not — and it’s not hyperbole — remains the American people. They’re the most highly-skilled workers in the world and the most capable people in the world. And they’re in the best position to learn the new skills of the 21st century that the workforce requires. There’s that phrase — all has changed, changed utterly. Well, all has changed. It’s a different world in which people are competing in order to get the kind of jobs they need, whether it’s in advanced manufacturing or clean energy or information technology or health care — all areas that are booming, all areas where America is back.
So the core question that we set out to answer — and I’m sure my colleagues did as well — was how do you connect? How do you connect these workers who desperately want a job, who will do all they need to do to qualify, how do you connect them with jobs? How do Americans know what skills employers need? It sounds like a silly question, but how do they know? And how do they get these skills once they know what skills are needed for the job? And where, where do they go to get those jobs?
This report is designed to help answer those extremely practical questions. It includes 50 actions that the federal government and our outside partners are taking now to help fill this skills gap. There is this new strategy that we think will lead directly to more middle-class jobs. These actions are going to help promote partnerships between educational institutions and workforce institutions. They’re going to increase apprenticeships, which will allow folks to learn — and earn while they learn. And it will empower job seekers and employers with better data on what jobs are available and what skills are needed to fill those jobs.
Let me tell you a story why all this matters. And I’ve been all over the country and invited by many of you into your districts and states in order to look at programs you have that are similar to what we’re proposing today. But I was recently — and I could talk about many of them, but I was recently in Detroit just last week. And I met with an incredible group of women at a local community college. Now, all of these women came from hardscrabble neighborhoods in Detroit. They happened to be all women, it was coincidence, but they all made it through high school. They ranged in age I’m guessing somewhere from 25 to their mid-50s. But they all got a high school education, and they were absolutely determined to do more to be able to provide for themselves and their family.
Through word of mouth, Tom, they heard about a coding boot camp, computer coding — a coding boot camp. And it’s called [Step] IT Up America. And it was a partnership between Wayne County Community College and a company called UST Global. Now, it’s an intensive, four-month — just four months, but intensive eight-hour day — I think it’s almost the whole day — don’t hold me to the exact number of hours, but intensive training program where these women happen to be, as I said, there were about a dozen and a half women learn IT skills needed to fill jobs at UST Global.
UST Global represents a lot of other IT companies as well. Knowing vacancies exist — they estimate over a thousand vacancies just in the greater Detroit area. And upon completion of this program, UST Global hires the students, and the lowest starting job is at $45,000 a year and the highest is $70,000 a year. These are coders, computer programmers. But there’s a key point: UST Global doesn’t train these women out of some altruistic sense of charity. They do it because it’s a very, very smart business decision.
There’s an overwhelming need for more computer coders -— as does not just UST Global, but the entire industry. By 2020, our research shows there will be 1.4 million new IT jobs all across this country. And the pay is in the $70,000 range.
I was so proud of these women. As I said, my wife teaches in a community college. Her average class age of people in her class is 28 to 30 years old. Just think of yourself, what courage it takes. You’re out of high school. You’re graduated. You’ve been bumping along in a job trying to make it. You’ve been out, two, five, 10, 15 years. And someone says, there’s this opportunity to take this program to learn Java, to learn a new language, to learn how to operate a computer in a way that you can code it. It takes a lot of courage to step up.
It takes a willingness to be ready to fail. These women were remarkable, but not just these women. They write code, so they look — they weren’t out there. They were — they knew someone who had gotten a job because of the program, and they thought they could do it. So they learned an entire new language, and they displayed an initiative that was remarkable to see. They showed up. They worked hard because they want a good-paying job. They want to make a decent living. They want to take care of themselves and their families.
Folks, that’s what — as I know all of my colleagues believe — that’s what this is all about. It’s not just information technology. Manufacturing — 100,000 high-tech manufacturing jobs available today in the United States because the employers cannot find workers with the right skills. That number of highly skilled manufacturing jobs is going to grow to 875,000 by 2020.
And, folks, I was recently up in Michigan. And Dow Kokam has a plant there that’s — they couldn’t find anybody with photovoltaic technology, didn’t know how to run the machines. So the community college and the business, they roll the machines right into the community college because of the help you all have provided in Congress, the funding. And it’s like an assembly line. These are good-paying jobs.
And in energy: 26 percent more jobs for petroleum engineers, average salary 130,000 bucks a year; 25 percent more jobs for solar panel installers, $38,000 a year; 20 percent more jobs needed — more electricians are needed, earning $50,000 a year -— all now and in the near term. These are real jobs. These are real jobs.
Health care: There are 20 percent more jobs -— or 526,000 more that are needed in the health care industry -— registered nurses, jobs that pay 65,000 bucks a year. There’s training programs in all of your states and districts, where you go out there, and while you’re a practical nurse, you can still be working and be essentially apprentice, while you are learning how to become — and taking courses to be a registered nurse.
Physician assistants — badly needed as the call for health care increases. What’s the number, Tom, 130,000 a year roughly? These are jobs all within the grasp of the American people if we give them the shot, if we show them the way, let them know how they can possibly pay for it while they are raising a family, and they’ll do the rest.
To maintain our place in the world we need to keep the world’s most skilled workforce right here in America, and to give a whole lot more hardworking Americans a chance at a good, middle-class job they can raise a family on.
But we also know the actions in this report are only a beginning, and as is the legislation. The fact of the matter is that so many people over the last two decades have fallen out of the middle class, and so many in the upcoming generation need to find a path back. Well, there is a path back if we all do our jobs — from industry, to education, to union leaders, to governors, to Congress, to the federal government.
And the mission is very simple. It goes back to the central economic vision that has guided most of us — I can speak for the President and I — from the first day we got here.
The mission is to widen the aperture to be able to get into the middle class by expanding opportunity. No guarantees, just expanding opportunity to American men and women who represent the backbone of the most dynamic, thriving economy in the world. That’s a fact. We are the most dynamic, thriving economy in the world.
But in order to thrive, their education and training has to be as just as dynamic and adaptable as our economy is. So, folks, America is back. We’re better positioned today than we ever have been. According to A.T. Kearney, we are the most attractive place in the world for foreign investments by a long shot, of every other country in the world. Since this survey has been kept, the gap between number one and number two is wider than it ever has been. Manufacturing is back, folks. They’re coming home. Instead of hearing — my kids, instead of hearing about outsourcing, what are you hearing now? You’re hearing about insourcing. Companies are coming back.
We’re in the midst of — we take no direct credit for it — we’re in the midst of an energy boom. North America will be the epicenter of energy in the 21st century — the United States of America, Mexico, and Canada. We remain the leader in innovation. We have the greatest research universities in the world. We have the most adaptive financing systems in the world, to go out and take chances on new startups. And American workers are the most productive in the world. They want to work.
But to seize this moment, we need to keep the world’s most skilled workforce here in America. And I think today in this bipartisan group — we’re ready. The American people are ready. And I know the man I’m about to introduce is ready. He wakes up every morning trying to figure out how do we give ordinary Americans an opportunity. This is just about opportunity, man. Simple opportunity — how do we give them — because they — an opportunity because they are so exceptional.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I think everyone in this room shares that goal — providing for opportunity. And the man I’m about to introduce, that’s all he talks about, it seems to me when he talks to me.
Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Everybody, please be seated. Thank you. Well, welcome to the White House, everybody. And I want to thank Joe for the generous introduction, but more importantly, for everything he does, day in, day out, on behalf of American workers. And I want to thank the members of Congress who are here from both parties who led the effort to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act.
When President Clinton signed the original Workforce Investment Act back in 1998, he said it was, “a big step forward in making sure that every adult can keep on learning for a lifetime.” And he was right — the law became a pillar of American job training programs. It’s helped millions of Americans earn the skills they need to find a new job or get a better-paying job.
But even back then, even in 1998, our economy was changing. The notion that a high school education could get you a good job and that you’d keep that job until retirement wasn’t a reality for the majority of people. Advances in technology made some jobs obsolete. Global competition sent other jobs overseas. And then, as we were coming into office, the Great Recession pulled the rug out from under millions of hardworking families.
Now, the good news is, today, nearly six years after the financial crisis, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months. Manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. The unemployment rate is at its lowest point since September of 2008 -– by the way, the fastest one-year drop in nearly 30 years. There are now more job openings than at any time since 2007, pre-recession. For the first time in a decade, as Joe mentioned, business leaders around the world have declared that the number-one place to do business, the number-one place to invest isn’t China, it’s the United States of America.
So thanks to the hard work of the American people and some decent policies, our economy has recovered faster and it has gone farther than most other advanced nations. As Joe said, we are well-positioned. We’ve got the best cards. So we have the opportunity right now to extend the lead we already have -– to encourage more companies to join the trend and bring jobs home; to make sure that the gains aren’t just for folks at the very top, but that the economy works for every single American. If you’re working hard, you should be able to get a job, that job should pay well, and you should be able to move forward, look after your family.
Opportunity for all. And that means that even as we’re creating new jobs in this new economy, we have to make sure that every American has the skills to fill those jobs. And keep in mind, not every job that’s a good job out there needs a four-year degree, but the ones that don’t need a college degree generally need some sort of specialized training.
Last month, I met just a wonderful young woman named Rebekah in Minnesota. A few years ago, she was waiting tables. Her husband lost his job, he was a carpenter doing construction work. He had to figure out how to scramble and get a new job that paid less. She chose to take out student loans, she enrolled in a community college, she retrained for a new career. Today, not only has her husband been able to get back into construction but she loves her job as an accountant — started a whole new career. And the question then is how do we give more workers that chance to adapt, to revamp, retool, so that they can move forward in this new economy.
In 2011, I called on Congress to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, update it for the 21st century. And I want to thank every single lawmaker who is here — lawmakers from both parties — who answered that call. It took some compromising, but, you know what, it turns out compromise sometimes is okay. Folks in Congress got past their differences and they got a bill to my desk. So this is not a win for Democrats or Republicans. It is a win for American workers. It’s a win for the middle class. And it’s a win for everybody who is fighting to earn their way into the middle class.
So the bill I’m about to sign will give communities more certainty to invest in job-training programs for the long run. It will help us bring those programs into the 21st century by building on what we know works based on evidence, based on tracking what actually delivers on behalf of folks who enroll in these programs -– more partnerships with employers, more tools to measure performance, more flexibilities for states and cities to innovate and to run their workforce programs in ways that are best suited for their particular demographic and their particular industries. And as we approach the 24th anniversary of the ADA, this bill takes new steps to support Americans with disabilities who want to live and work independently. So there’s a lot of good stuff in here.
Of course, as Joe said, there is still more that we can do. And that’s why we’ve rallied employers to give long-term unemployed a fair shot. It’s why we’re using $600 million in federal grants to encourage companies to offer apprenticeships and work directly with community colleges. It’s why, in my State of Union address this year, I asked Joe to lead an across-the-board review of America’s training programs to make sure that they have one mission: Train Americans with the skills employers actually need, then match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.
So today, I’m directing my Cabinet — even as we’re signing the bill — to implement some of Joe’s recommendations. First, we’re going to use the funds and programs we already have in a smarter way. Federal agencies will award grants that move away from what our Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, who has been working very hard on this, what he calls a “train and pray” approach, and I’ll bet a lot of you who have dealt with folks who are unemployed know what that means. They enroll, they get trained for something, they’re not even sure whether the job is out there, and if the job isn’t out there, all they’re doing is saddling themselves with debt, oftentimes putting themselves in a worse position. What we want to do is make sure where you train your workers first based on what employers are telling you they’re hiring for. Help business design the training programs so that we’re creating a pipeline into jobs that are actually out there.
Number two, training programs that use federal money will be required to make public how many of its graduates find jobs and how much they earn. And that means workers, as they’re shopping around for what’s available, they’ll know in advance if they can expect a good return on their investment. Every job seeker should have all the tools they need to take their career into their own hands, and we’re going to help make sure they can do that.
And finally, we’re going to keep investing in new strategies and innovations that help keep pace with a rapidly changing economy — from testing new, faster ways of teaching skills like coding and cybersecurity and welding, to giving at-risk youth the chance to learn on the job, we will keep making sure that Americans have the chance to build their careers throughout a lifetime of hard work.
So the bill I’m signing today and the actions I’m taking today will connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs. Of course, there is so much more that we can still do. And I’m looking forward to engaging all the members of Congress and all the businesses and not-for-profits who worked on this issue. I’m really interested in engaging them, see what else we can get going.
I’ll give you a couple of examples. Our high school graduation rate is the highest on record. More young people are earning their college degrees than ever before. But we still have work to do to make college more affordable and lift the burden of student loan debt. I acted to give nearly five million Americans the opportunity to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income — particularly important for those who were choosing careers that aren’t as lucrative. But Congress could help millions more, and I’d like to work with you on that.
Minimum wage. This week marks five years since the last increase in the minimum wage. More and more states and business owners are raising their workers’ wages. I did the same thing for federal contractors. I’d like to work with Congress to see if we can do the same for about 28 million Americans — give Americans a raise right now.
Fair pay. Let’s make sure the next generation of women are getting a fair deal. Let’s make sure the next generation of good manufacturing jobs are made in America. Let’s make it easier, not harder, for companies to bring those jobs back home. Tomorrow, senators will get to vote on the Bring Jobs Home Act. Instead of rewarding companies for shipping jobs overseas or rewarding companies that are moving profits offshore, let’s create jobs right here in America and let’s encourage those companies.
So let’s build on what both parties have already done on many of these issues. Let’s see if we can come together and, while we’re at it, let’s fix an immigration system that is currently broken in a way that strengthens our borders and that we know will be good for business, we know will increase our GDP, we know will drive down our deficit.
So I want to thank all the Democrats and Republicans here today for getting this bill done. This is a big piece of work. You can see, it’s a big bill. (Laughter.) But I’m also inviting you back. Let’s do this more often. It’s so much fun. (Laughter and applause.) Let’s pass more bills to help create more good jobs, strengthen the middle class. Look at everybody — everybody is smiling, everybody feels good. (Laughter.) We could be doing this all the time. (Laughter.)
Our work can make a real difference in the lives of real Americans. That’s why we’re here. We’ll have more job satisfaction. (Laughter.) The American people, our customers, they’ll feel better about the product we produce.
And back in 1998, when President Clinton signed the original Workforce Investment Act into law, he was introduced by a man named Jim Antosy from Reading, Pennsylvania. And Jim spoke about how he had been laid off in 1995 at age 49, two kids, no college degree. With the help of job training programs, he earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science, found a new job in his field.
Today, Jim and his wife, Barb, still live in Reading. Over the past 16 years, he’s been steadily employed as a programmer, working his way up from contractor to full-time employee. In just a few months, Jim now is planning to retire after a lifetime of hard work. A job training program made a difference in his life. And one thing he’s thinking about doing in his retirement is teaching computer science at the local community college, so he can help a new generation of Americans earn skills that lead directly to a job, just like he had the opportunity to do.
Well, I ran for President because I believe even in a changing economy, even in a changing world, stories like Jim aren’t just possible, they should be the norm. Joe believes the same thing. Many of you believe the same thing. I believe America is — I don’t just believe, I know America is full of men and women who work very hard and live up to their responsibilities, and all they want in return is to see their hard work pay off, that responsibility rewarded.
They’re not greedy. They’re not looking for the moon. They just want to be able to know that if they work hard, they can find a job, they can look after their families, they can retire with dignity, they’re not going to go bankrupt when they get sick, maybe take a vacation once in a while — nothing fancy. That’s what they’re looking for, because they know that ultimately what’s important is family and community and relationships. And that’s possible. That’s what America is supposed to be about. That’s what I’m fighting for every single day as President.
This bill will help move us along that path. We need to do it more. Let’s get together, work together, restore opportunity for every single American. So with that, I’d like to invite up some of the outstanding folks who are sitting in the audience who helped make this happen. And I’m going to sign this bill with all those pens.
Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)
12:48 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 22, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on May 27, 2014
Source: WH, 5-16-14
12:12 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Let me say something to these folks real quick so we can eat our burgers in peace. And excuse me, my voice is a little hoarse — I had a cold at the beginning of the week. In addition to coming to Shake Shack — which has great burgers and pays its employees over 10 bucks an hour, so we’re very proud of them and the great work that they’re doing — we’ve been talking a lot all across the country about the importance of raising the minimum wage. These four individuals just completed a project here in D.C. –- an infrastructure project that put a lot of folks to work, it is going to make the economy move better, traffic move better. And as you know, earlier this week, both Joe and I highlighted the fact that we’re fast-tracking projects all across the country.
One of the things that we could do right now to put more Americans back to work is to fund our transportation more effectively and more consistently. And if Congress does not act, then by the end of this summer, we could have hundreds of thousands of projects like this all across the country stop. And people whose livelihoods depend on those projects sent home. And businesses that need improved infrastructure suffering under downgraded infrastructure.
So it is a no-brainer for Congress to do what it’s supposed to do: Pass transportation funding. We can do it without adding to the deficit simply by getting rid of some corporate tax loopholes that aren’t creating jobs and are basically giveaways to folks who don’t need them. And when people — when you ask Americans from all walks of life all across the country what’s their number one priority, it’s improving the economy and putting people back to work. And one of the best ways we can do it is to do something about the roads, the bridges, the ports, the airports, the sewer lines all across the country that need repair.
We know we’re going to have to do it. This is like deferred maintenance on your house. If you’ve got to do some tuck-pointing to fix the roof or fix the boiler, there’s no point in putting it off. Now is the time to do it, and we’ve got outstanding contractors and workers ready to work. So I hope Congress gets working, and I’m prepared to work with anybody on a bipartisan basis to get it done.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Mr. President, for 40 years it’s been a bipartisan notion.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: For 40 years. This is the first time — I’ve been hanging around and it’s like, oh, infrastructure.
THE PRESIDENT: This shouldn’t be Democrat or Republican. This is American. We’ve got to rebuild America. And these are folks who are doing it.
So thank you very much, everybody. Enjoy your burgers if you guys are buying them.
12:14 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on May 16, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on May 14, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on April 19, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on April 5, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on March 16, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 25, 2014
Source: WH, 2-24-14
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
Source: WH, 2-23-14
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
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 14, 2014
This morning, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and the First Lady welcomed French President François Hollande to the White House – the first state visit by a French president in nearly 20 years….READ MORE
Source: WH, 2-11-14
9:25 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Bonjour! That’s the extent of my French. (Laughter.) Few places in the world warm the heart like Paris in the spring. This morning, we’re going to do our best with Washington in the winter. (Laughter.)
France is America’s oldest ally, and in recent years we’ve deepened our alliance. And today, on behalf of the American people and Michelle and myself, it is a great honor to welcome my friend President Hollande and his delegation for their first state visit to the United States — in fact, the first state visit by a French President in nearly 20 years. (Applause.)
Yesterday at Monticello we reflected on the values that we share — the ideals at the heart of our alliance. Here, under the red, white and blue — and the blue, white and red — we declare our devotion once more to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” — to “liberté, egalité, and fraternité.” (Laughter and applause.)
For more than two centuries, we’ve not only proclaimed our ideals, our citizens have bled to preserve them, from a field in Yorktown to the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan. And today, we are honored to be joined by two extraordinary men who were there those historic days 70 years ago. I ask them to stand, proud veterans of D-Day who are here in attendance today. (Applause.)
So it’s no exaggeration that we stand here because of each other. We owe our freedom to each other. Of course, we Americans also thank our French friends for so much else — this capital city, designed by L’Enfant; our Statue of Liberty, a gift from France; and something many Americans are especially grateful for, New Orleans and the French Quarter. (Laughter.)
Mr. President, like generations before us, we now have the task not simply to preserve our enduring alliance, but to make it new for our time. No one nation can meet today’s challenges alone or seize its opportunities. More nations must step up and meet the responsibilities of leadership, and that is what the United States and France are doing together.
To our French friends, I say let’s do even more together, for the security that our citizens deserve, for the prosperity that they seek, and for the dignity of people around the world who seek what we declared two centuries ago — those “unalienable rights,” those “sacred rights of man.”
President Hollande, members of the French delegation, we are honored to have you here as one of our strongest allies and closest friends. Welcome to the United States. Bienvenue, mes amis. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT HOLLANDE: Mr. President, dear Barack, dear Michelle, ladies and gentlemen: It’s cold in Washington. (Laughter.) You’re right. But it’s a beautiful day, a great day for our American friends. And I will speak in French because I am obliged to do that for my country.
(As Interpreted.) We are received here, my delegation and myself, as friends. And I am particularly touched by this reception by the President of the United States. We are always united by a common history, from Yorktown to the beaches of Normandy. As you said so rightly, each of our countries knows what it owes to the other — its freedom.
Yesterday, we were in Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s residence — a great American statesman, once ambassador to France — who remains one of the most beautiful symbols of the ties that unite us. This afternoon, at the Arlington Cemetery, I shall award the Legion d’Honneur, the highest French distinction, to the American Unknown Soldier. And I shall present American veterans who fought in the Second World War with an award and I’d like to pay tribute to these men. (Applause.)
Thus doing, I wish to demonstrate the fact that France will never forget the spirit of sacrifice shown by these American soldiers, nameless heroes who left their homes to liberate my country and Europe. We shall pay tribute to them during the celebrations that will take place in France to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landing. And I hope, Barack, that you will join me on the 6th of June, 2014, 70 years after D-Day landing.
Our two countries hold universal values, values that inspired Eleanor Roosevelt and René Cassin to write together the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We stand together to fight terrorism. Today still, France and the United States stand side by side to make these values prevail. We stand together with the United States to address the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons; together to solve the crises faced by the Middle East; together to support Africa’s development; and together to fight global warming and climate change. (Applause.)
Today, we stand united and we have built a model of friendship –- a friendship that is the best recipe for a better world, a world such as the one that was dreamt by Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette. It is not just about friendship; it is about an alliance that will enable us to make this world a better place, a safer place, a more humane place.
Mr. President, I am proud to stand here. You are this great man of the United States of America and you represent the United States of America, a country where everything is possible for who wants it; a country devoted to freedom and equality. Long live the United States. Long live France. Long live the Franco-American friendship. (Applause.) Thank you.
9:39 A.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 11, 2014