Political Musings July 31, 2013: President Barack Obama meets with House and Senate Democrats at Capitol on fall battles with GOP

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama meets with House and Senate Democrats at Capitol on fall battles with GOP

By Bonnie K. Goodman

United States President Barack Obama headed to Capitol Hill today, July 31, 2013 to meet with House of Representatives and Senate Democrats to discuss his legislative agenda for the fall session. Obama has renewed his focus on the economy in…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency July 30, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Jobs for the Middle Class Unveils “Grand Bargain”

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Jobs for the Middle Class

Source: WH, 7-30-13

President Obama Speaks on Jumpstarting Job Growth

President Obama Speaks on Jumpstarting Job Growth

Amazon Chattanooga Fulfillment Center
Chattanooga, Tennessee

2:00 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Chattanooga! (Applause.) It is good to be back in Tennessee. (Applause.) It’s great to be here at Amazon. (Applause.)

I want to thank Lydia for the introduction and sharing her story. Give Lydia a big round of applause. (Applause.) So this is something here. I just finished getting a tour of just one little corner of this massive facility — size of 28 football fields. Last year, during the busiest day of the Christmas rush, customers around the world ordered more than 300 items from Amazon every second, and a lot of those traveled through this building. So this is kind of like the North Pole of the south right here. (Applause.) Got a bunch of good-looking elves here.

Before we start, I want to recognize your general manager, Mike Thomas. (Applause.) My tour guide and your vice president, Dave Clark. (Applause.) You’ve got the Mayor of Chattanooga, Andy Berke. (Applause.) And you’ve got one of the finest gentlemen I know, your Congressman, Jim Cooper. (Applause.) So thank you all for being here.

So I’ve come here today to talk a little more about something I was discussing last week, and that’s what we need to do as a country to secure a better bargain for the middle class -– a national strategy to make sure that every single person who’s willing to work hard in this country has a chance to succeed in the 21st century economy. (Applause.)

Now, you heard from Lydia, so you know — because many of you went through it — over the past four and a half years, we’ve been fighting our way back from the worst recession since the Great Depression, and it cost millions of Americans their jobs and their homes and their savings. And part of what it did is it laid bare the long-term erosion that’s been happening when it comes to middle-class security.

But because the American people are resilient, we bounced back. Together, we’ve righted the ship. We took on a broken health care system. We invested in new American technologies to reverse our addiction to foreign oil. Changed a tax code that had become tilted too much in favor of the wealthy at the expense of working families. Saved the auto industry, and thanks to GM and the UAW working together, we’re bringing jobs back here to America, including 1,800 autoworkers in Spring Hill. (Applause.) 1,800 workers in Spring Hill are on the job today where a plant was once closed.

Today, our businesses have created 7.2 million new jobs over the last 40 months. This year, we’re off to our best private-sector jobs growth since 1999. We now sell more products made in America to the rest of the world than ever before. (Applause.) We produce more renewable energy than ever. We produce more natural gas than anybody else in the world. (Applause.) Health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years. Our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years. (Applause.)

So thanks to hardworking folks like you, thanks to the grit and resilience of the American people, we’ve been able to clear away some of the rubble from the financial crisis. We’ve started to lay a new foundation for a stronger, more durable America — the kind of economic growth that’s broad-based, the foundation required to make this century another American century.

But as I said last week, and as any middle-class family will tell you, we’re not there yet. Even before the financial crisis hit, we were going through a decade where a few at the top were doing better and better, but most families were working harder and harder just to get by. And reversing that trend should be Washington’s highest priority. (Applause.) It’s my highest priority.

But so far, for most of this year, we’ve seen an endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals. And we keep on shifting our way — shifting our attention away from what we should be focused on, which is how do we strengthen the middle class and grow the economy for everybody. (Applause.) And as Washington heads towards yet another budget debate, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

And that’s why I’m visiting cities and towns like this -– to lay out my ideas for how we can build on the cornerstone of what it means to be middle class in America. A good job with good wages. A good education. (Applause.) A home to call your own. (Applause.) Affordable health care that’s there for you when you get sick. (Applause.) A secure retirement even if you’re not rich. (Applause.) More chances for folks to earn their way into the middle class as long as they’re willing to work for it. And, most importantly, the chance to pass on a better future for our kids. (Applause.)

So I’m doing a series of speeches over the next several weeks, but I came to Chattanooga today to talk about the first and most important cornerstone of middle-class security, and that’s a good job in a durable, growing industry. (Applause.)

It’s hard to get the other stuff going if you don’t have a good job. And the truth is everything I’m going to be talking about over the next several weeks really is about jobs. Because preparing our children and our workers for the global competition they’ll face, that’s about jobs. A housing finance system that makes it easier and safer to buy and build new homes, that’s about jobs in the construction industry. Health care that frees you from the fear of losing everything after you’ve worked so hard, and then having the freedom to maybe start your own business because you know you’ll be able to get health care, that’s about jobs. And, obviously, retirement benefits speak to the quality of our jobs.

And let me say this, it’s something everybody here understands: Jobs are about more than just paying the bills. Jobs are about more than just statistics. We’ve never just defined having a job as having a paycheck here in America. A job is a source of pride, is a source of dignity. It’s the way you look after your family. (Applause.) It’s proof that you’re doing the right things and meeting your responsibilities and contributing to the fabric of your community and helping to build the country. That’s what a job is all about. It’s not just about a paycheck. It’s not just about paying the bills. It’s also about knowing that what you’re doing is important, that it counts.

So we should be doing everything we can as a country to create more good jobs that pay good wages. Period. (Applause.)

Now, here’s the thing, Chattanooga, the problem is not that we don’t have ideas about how we could create even more jobs. We’ve got a lot of ideas out there. There are plenty of independent economists, plenty of business owners, people from both parties agree on some of the ingredients that we need for creating good jobs. And you’ve heard them debated again and again over these past few years. I proposed a lot of these ideas myself. Just two years ago, I announced the American Jobs Act — full of ideas that every independent economist said would create more jobs. Some were passed by Congress. But I got to admit, most of them weren’t. Sometimes there were ideas that historically had Republican support and for some reason suddenly Republicans didn’t want to support them anymore.

Putting people back to work rebuilding America’s infrastructure. Equipping our kids and our workers with the best skills. Leading the world in scientific research that helps to pave the way for new jobs in new industries. Accelerating our clean energy and natural gas revolutions. Fixing a broken immigration system so that American workers aren’t undercut, undermined because some businesses are unscrupulous and hiring folks and not paying them decent wages. (Applause.)

Independent economists say immigration reform would boost our economy by more than a trillion dollars. So we’ve got ideas out there we know can work. And if we don’t make these investments, if we don’t make these reforms, then we might as well be waving the white flag to the rest of the world, because they’re moving forward. They’re not slowing down. China, Germany, India — they’re going. And we can’t just sit by and do nothing. Doing nothing doesn’t help the middle class. (Applause.)

So today, I came here to offer a framework that might help break through some of the political logjam in Washington and try to get Congress to start moving on some of these proven ideas. But let me briefly outline some of the areas I think we need to focus on if we want to create good jobs, with good wages, in durable industries -– areas that will fuel our future growth.

Number one — jobs in American manufacturing. (Applause.) Over the past four years, for the first time since the 1990s, the number of manufacturing jobs in America hasn’t gone down, it’s actually gone up. (Applause.) So the trend lines are good; now we’ve got to build on that progress. I want to offer new incentives for manufacturers not to ship jobs overseas, but to bring them back here to America. (Applause.) I want new tax credits so communities hit hardest by plant closures can attract new investment. (Applause.)

In my State of the Union address, I asked Congress to build on a successful pilot program we’ve set up. We want to create not just 15 manufacturing innovation institutes that connect businesses and universities and federal agencies to help communities left behind by global competition to become centers of high-tech jobs. Today, I’m asking Congress to build on this bipartisan support and triple that number from 15 to 45 — these hubs — where we’re getting businesses, universities, communities all to work together to develop centers of high-tech industries all throughout the United States that allow us to be at the forefront of the next revolution of manufacturing. I want it made here in the United States of America. I don’t want that happening overseas. (Applause.)

Number two — I talked about this last week — jobs rebuilding our infrastructure. I look at this amazing facility and you guys, you don’t miss a beat. I mean, you’ve got these packages coming out. You’ve got dog food and Kindles and beard trimmers. (Laughter.) I mean, there’s all kinds of stuff around here. But once it’s packed up, it’s got to get to the customer. And how quickly and how dependably it gets to the customer depends on do we have good roads, do we have good bridges, do we have state-of-the-art airports.

We’ve got about $2 trillion of deferred maintenance here in this country. So let’s put more construction workers back on the job doing the work America needs done. (Applause.) These are vital projects that Amazon needs, businesses all across the country need, like widening Route 27 here in Chattanooga — (applause) — deepening the Jacksonville Port that I visited last week. These are projects vital to our national pride.

We’re going to be breaking ground this week at the St. Louis Arch. Congress should pass what I’ve called my “Fix-It-First” plan to put people to work immediately on our most urgent repairs, like the 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare. That will create good middle-class jobs right now. (Applause.) And we should partner with the private sector to upgrade what businesses like Amazon need most. We should have a modern air traffic control system to keep planes running on time. We should have modern power grids and pipelines to survive a storm. We should have modern schools to prepare our kids for the jobs of tomorrow. (Applause.)

Number three, we need to keep creating good jobs in energy — in wind and solar and natural gas. Those new energy sources are reducing energy costs. They’re reducing dangerous carbon pollution. They’re reducing our dependence on foreign oil. So now is not the time to gut investments in American technology. Now is the time to double down on renewable energy and biofuels and electric vehicles, and to put money into the research that will shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. (Applause.)

And let me tell you, cheaper costs of natural gas is a huge boost to our businesses here in America, so we should develop it even more. We’ve got to do it in a way that protects our air and our water for our children and future generations. But we can do that. We’ve got the technology to do it.

Number four, we’ve got to export more. We want to send American goods all around the world. (Applause.) A year ago, I signed a new trade agreement with Korea, because they were selling a lot of Hyundais here, but we weren’t selling a lot of GM cars over there. Since we signed that deal, our Big Three automakers are selling 18 percent more cars in Korea than they were. (Applause.)

So now we’ve got to help more of our businesses do the same thing. I’m asking Congress for the authority to negotiate the best trade deals possible for our workers, and combine it with robust training and assistance measures to make sure our workers have the support and the skills they need for this new global competition. And we’re going to have to sharpen our competitive edge in the global job marketplace.

Two years ago, we created something called SelectUSA. This is a coordinated effort to attract foreign companies looking to invest and create jobs here in the United States. And today I’m directing my Cabinet to expand these efforts. And this October, I’m going to bring business leaders from around the world, and I’m going to connect them to state leaders and local leaders like your mayor who are ready to prove there’s no better place to do business than right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)

Number five — let’s do more to help the more than 4 million long-term unemployed Americans that are out there. (Applause.) One of the problems is a lot of folks, they lose their jobs during this really bad recession through no fault of their own. They’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but because they’ve been out of work so long employers won’t even give their application a fair look. (Applause.)

So I’m challenging CEOs to do more to get these Americans back on their feet. And I’m going to bring together the CEOs and companies that are putting in place some of the best practices for recruiting and training and hiring workers who have been out of work for a long time, but want the chance to show that they’re ready to go back to work. (Applause.)

And at the same time, I’m calling on our businesses to do more for their workers. (Applause.) Amazon is a great example of what’s possible. What you’re doing here at Amazon with your Career Choice Program pays 95 percent of the tuition for employees who want to earn skills in fields with high demand — not just, by the way, jobs here at Amazon, but jobs anywhere — computer-aided design or nursing. I talked to Jeff Bezos yesterday, and he was so proud of the fact that he wants to see every employee at Amazon continually upgrade their skills and improve. And if they’ve got a dream they want to pursue, Amazon wants to help them pursue it. (Applause.)

That’s the kind of approach that we need from America’s businesses. Offering training programs, health care, retirement plans, paying better wages — that’s not just the right thing to do, it’s actually good for your bottom line. A recent study shows that when a company makes the list of the “100 Best Companies to Work for in America,” its share price outperforms its competitors, because the stock market and investors, they know if a company has employees that are motivated and happy, that business is more likely to succeed. (Applause.) That business is more likely to succeed.

And because nobody who works full-time in America should have to live in poverty, I’m going to keep on making the case and fighting for the fact that we need to raise our minimum wage, because right now it’s in lower terms than it was when Ronald Reagan took office. (Applause.) When folks have more money in their pockets, that’s good for Amazon; it means your customers have a little more money. They can order a little more of that protein powder. (Laughter.) I noticed a lot of folks were ordering protein power. Everybody is trying to get bulked up. (Laughter.)

So here’s — those are some of the ideas that we’re out there, we’re promoting. We’re not lacking for ideas, we’re just lacking action, especially out of Washington. (Applause.)

For most of the past two years, Washington has just taken its eye off the ball when it comes to the middle class. And I’ll tell you — look, there are a growing number of — the good news is there are a growing number of Republican senators who are trying to work with Democrats to get some stuff done. (Applause.) That’s good news.

The bad news is that rather than keep our focus on what should be our priority — which is growing our economy and creating good middle-class jobs — we’ve seen a certain faction of Republicans in Congress hurt a fragile recovery by saying that they wouldn’t pay the very bills that Congress racked up in the first place, threatening to shut down the people’s government if they can’t get rid of Obamacare. Instead of reducing our deficits with a scalpel to get rid of programs we don’t need, but keep vital investments that we do, this same group has kept in place this meat cleaver called the sequester that is just slashing all kinds of important investments in education and research and our military. All the things that are needed to make this country a magnet for good middle-class jobs, those things are being cut.

And these moves don’t just hurt our economy in the long term; they hurt our middle class right now. The independent Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cuts that are being made right now in Washington will cost our economy 750,000 jobs this year; 900,000 fewer jobs next year. And a lot of the jobs at risk are at small businesses that contract with our military or our federal agencies.

Over the past four years, another 700,000 workers at the federal, state, and local levels of government have lost their jobs. These are cops and firefighters, and about half of them are people who work in our schools. Those are real jobs. It doesn’t help a company like Amazon when a teacher or a cop or a firefighter loses their job. They don’t have money to place an order. That’s hundreds of thousands of customers who have less money to spend.

If those layoffs had not happened, if public sector employees grew like they did in the past two recessions, the unemployment rate would be 6.5 percent instead of 7.5 percent. Our economy would be much better off, and the deficit would still be going down because we’d be getting more tax revenue.

So the point is, if Washington spent as much time and energy these past two years figuring out how to grow our economy and grow our middle class as it’s spent manufacturing crises in pursuit of a cut-at-all-costs approach to deficits, we’d be much better off. We’d be much better off. (Applause.)

And it’s not like we don’t have to cut our deficits. As a share of the economy, we’ve cut our deficits by nearly half since I took office. Half. And they’re projected to go down even further, but there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. And we should do it in a way that actually helps middle-class families instead of hurts them. (Applause.)

I’ve told Republicans that if they’re serious about a balanced, long-term fiscal plan that replaces harmful budget cuts that would get serious about a long-term plan that prevents those 900,000 jobs from being lost, that helps grow the economy, that helps the middle class, I am ready to go. But we can’t lose sight of our North Star. We can’t allow an impasse over long-term fiscal challenges to distract us from what the middle class needs right now.

So here’s the bottom line: If folks in Washington really want a grand bargain, how about a grand bargain for middle-class jobs? (Applause.) How about a grand bargain for middle-class jobs?

I don’t want to go through the same old arguments where I propose an idea and the Republicans just say, no, because it’s my idea. (Applause.) So I’m going to try offering something that serious people in both parties should be able to support: a deal that simplifies the tax code for our businesses and creates good jobs with good wages for middle-class folks who work at those businesses.

Right now, everybody knows this — our tax code is so riddled with loopholes and special interest tax breaks that a lot of companies who are doing the right thing and investing in America pay 35 percent in their taxes; corporations who have got fancy accountants and stash their money overseas, they pay little or nothing in taxes. That’s not fair, and it’s not good for the economy here.

So I’m willing to simplify our tax code — closes those loopholes, ends incentives to ship jobs overseas, lowers the rate for businesses that are creating jobs right here in America, provides tax incentives for manufacturers that bring jobs home to the United States. Let’s simplify taxes for small business owners, give them incentives to invest so they can spend less time filling out complicated forms, more time expanding and hiring.

I’m willing to do all that that should help businesses and help them grow. But if we’re going to give businesses a better deal, then we’re also going to have to give workers a better deal, too. (Applause.) I want to use some of the money that we save by closing these loopholes to create more good construction jobs with infrastructure initiatives that I already talked about. We can build a broader network of high-tech manufacturing hubs that leaders from both parties can support. We can help our community colleges arm our workers with the skills that a global economy demands. All these things would benefit the middle class right now and benefit our economy in the years to come.

So, again, here’s the bottom line: I’m willing to work with Republicans on reforming our corporate tax code, as long as we use the money from transitioning to a simpler tax system for a significant investment in creating middle-class jobs. That’s the deal. (Applause.)

And I’m just going to keep on throwing ideas out there to see if something takes. (Laughter.) I’m going to lay out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot. But now it’s time for Republicans to lay out their ideas.

If they’ve got a better plan to bring back more manufacturing jobs here to Tennessee and around the country, then let them know — let me know. I want to hear them. If they’ve got a better plan to create jobs rebuilding our infrastructure or to help workers earn the high-tech skills that they need, then they should offer up these ideas.

But I’ve got to tell you, just gutting our environmental protection, that’s not a jobs plan. Gutting investments in education, that’s not a jobs plan. They keep on talking about this — an oil pipeline coming down from Canada that’s estimated to create about 50 permanent jobs — that’s not a jobs plan. Wasting the country’s time by taking something like 40 meaningless votes to repeal Obamacare is not a jobs plan. That’s not a jobs plan. (Applause.)

So let’s get serious. Look, I want to tell everybody here the truth. And you know, look, I know that the politics for Obama aren’t always great in Tennessee. I understand that. But I want everybody to just hear the honest truth. I’ve run my last campaign, so I don’t need to spin. (Applause.)

And here’s the truth — there are no gimmicks that create jobs. There are no simple tricks to grow the economy. Growing the economy, making sure that the middle class is strong is like getting in shape. You can’t just go on the muffin and doughnut diet and the latest fad and lose weight. You’ve got to work out and you’ve got to eat better. Well, the same is true for our economy. The same is true for helping the middle class.

We’ve got to have a serious, steady, long-term American strategy to reverse the long-term erosion of middle-class security and give everybody a fair shot. (Applause.) And we know what we have to do. It involves education. It involves infrastructure. It involves research. It involves good energy policy. And we just have to stay at it — more good jobs that pay decent wages, a better bargain for the middle class, an economy that grows from the middle out. That’s got to be our focus.

We can’t be getting into a whole bunch of fads and pretend like you roll back Obamacare and suddenly all these jobs are going to be created, because the middle class was struggling before I came into office. (Applause.) The middle class was losing ground before I came into office. (Applause.) Jobs were getting shipped overseas before Obamacare was in place. So we’ve got to be honest. We’ve got to be honest about the challenges we face, but also the opportunities that are out there.

And that’s what I’m going to be focused on not just for the next few months. I’m going to be focused for every one of the 1,270 days I’ve got left in my presidency on how to make sure that we’ve got more opportunity and more security for everybody who is willing to work hard in this country. That’s where I believe America needs to go. (Applause.) And we can do it if we work together, Chattanooga. Let’s get to work.

Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

END
2:32 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 27, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice

National Korean War Veterans Memorial Washington, D.C.

Source: WH, 7-27-13

10:44 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Please be seated.  Good morning.  Annyong haseyo.

Secretaries Hagel, Jewell and Shinseki; Admiral Winnefeld; General Jung; all our friends from the Republic of Korea, including the legendary General Paik Sun Yup; distinguished guests; and most of all, veterans of the Korean War and your families.  (Applause.)  To our veterans — many in your 80s, a few in your old uniforms — which still fit — (laughter) — let me just say you look outstanding.  And I would ask that all United States, Republic of Korea, and other veterans who fought  — I would ask those who can stand to please stand so that we can properly honor you here today.  (Applause.)

July 27th, 1953 — 60 years ago today.  In the village of Panmunjom, in a barren room, the generals picked up their pens and signed their names to the agreement spread before them.  That night, as the armistice took hold, the guns of war thundered no more.  Along the jagged front, men emerged from their muddy trenches.  A Marine raised his bugle and played taps.  And a soldier spoke for millions when he said, “Thank God it is over.”

In the days that followed, both sides pulled back, leaving a demilitarized zone between them.  Soldiers emptied their sandbags and tore down their bunkers.  Our POWs emerged from the camps.  Our troops boarded ships and steamed back across the ocean.  And describing the moment he passed under the Golden Gate Bridge, one of those soldiers wrote, “We suddenly knew we had survived the war, and we were home.”

Yet ask these veterans here today and many will tell you, compared to other wars, theirs was a different kind of homecoming.  Unlike the Second World War, Korea did not galvanize our country.  These veterans did not return to parades.  Unlike Vietnam, Korea did not tear at our country.  These veterans did not return to protests.  Among many Americans, tired of war, there was, it seemed, a desire to forget, to move on.  As one of these veterans recalls, “We just came home and took off our uniforms and went to work.  That was about it.”

You, our veterans of Korea, deserved better.  And down the decades, our nation has worked to right that wrong, including here, with this eternal memorial, where the measure of your sacrifice is enshrined for all time.  Because here in America, no war should ever be forgotten, and no veteran should ever be overlooked.  And after the armistice, a reporter wrote, “When men talk in some distant time with faint remembrance of the Korean War, the shining deeds will live.”  The shining deeds will live.

On this 60th anniversary, perhaps the highest tribute we can offer our veterans of Korea is to do what should have been done the day you come home.  In our hurried lives, let us pause.  Let us listen.  Let these veterans carry us back to the days of their youth, and let us be awed by their shining deeds.

Listen closely and hear the story of a generation — veterans of World War II recalled to duty.  Husbands kissing their wives goodbye yet again.  Young men — some just boys, 18, 19, 20 years old — leaving behind everyone they loved “to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.”  Let’s never forget all the daughters who left home, especially our heroic nurses who saved so many.  Our women in Korea also served with honor.  They also gave their lives.  (Applause.)

Listen, and hear how these Americans faced down their fears and did their duty.  Clutching their rifles; hearing the bugles in the distance; knowing that waves of enemy fighters would soon be upon them.  In ships offshore, climbing down the ropes into the landing craft, knowing some of them would not leave that beach.  On the tarmacs and flight decks, taking off in their Corsairs and Sabres, knowing that they might not return to this earth.

Listen, and hear of their gallantry — often outnumbered and outgunned — in some of the most brutal combat in modern history. How they held the line at the Pusan Perimeter.  How they landed at Inchon and turned the tide of the war.  How, surrounded and freezing, they battled their way out of Chosin Reservoir.  And how they fought — foxhole by foxhole, mountain after mountain, day and night — at the Punchbowl and Heartbreak Ridge, Old Baldy and Pork Chop Hill.

Listen, and hear how perhaps the only thing worse than the enemy was the weather.  The searing heat, the choking dust of summer.  The deep snow and bitter cold of winter — so cold their weapons could jam; so cold their food would turn to ice.  And surely no one endured more than our POWs in those hellish camps, where the torment was unimaginable.  Our POWs from Korea are some of the strongest men our nation has ever produced, and today we honor them all — those who never came home and those who are here today.  (Applause.)

Listen to these veterans and you’ll also hear of the resilience of the human spirit.  There was compassion — starving prisoners who shared their food.  There was love — men who charged machine guns, and reached for grenades, so their brothers might live.  There was the dark humor of war — as when someone misunderstood the code name for mortar rounds — “Tootsie Rolls” — and then shipped our troops thousands of Tootsie Rolls —  candies.

And there was hope — as told in a letter home written by a soldier in the 7th Cavalry.  Marching through the snow and ice, something caught his eye — a young lieutenant up ahead, and from the muzzle of his rifle hung a pair of tiny baby booties, “swinging silently in the wind…like tiny bells.”  They were sent by the lieutenant’s wife, pregnant with their first child, and she promised to send ribbons — blue if a boy, pink if a girl.  But as the war ground on, those soldiers were scattered.  Until one day, on a Korean road, he spotted the lieutenant again.  “Swinging gaily in the first rays of the morning sun,” the soldier wrote, were those booties, “and fluttering below them was the brightest, bluest piece of ribbon I have ever seen.”

Six decades on, these moments may seem like faint remembrances of a distant time.  But for you — our Korea veterans and your families — I know it must feel sometimes just like just yesterday.  And on days such as this, you’re back there once more.  For Korea was the fire that helped to forge you.

As we listen to the story of your service, I say let us also learn, because your lives hold lessons for us today.  Korea taught us the perils when we fail to prepare.  After the Second World War, a rapid drawdown left our troops underequipped, so that in the early days of Korea, their rockets literally bounced off enemy tanks.  Today, as we end a decade of war and reorient our forces for the future, as we make hard choices at home, our allies and adversaries must know the United States of America will maintain the strongest military the world has ever known, bar none, always.  That is what we do.  (Applause.)

Korea taught us that, as a people, we are stronger when we stand as one.  On President Truman’s orders, our troops served together in integrated units.  And the heroism of African Americans in Korea — and Latinos and Asian Americans and Native Americans — advanced the idea:  If these Americans could live and work together over there, surely we could do the same thing here at home.  (Applause.)

Change came slowly.  And we continue our long journey toward a more perfect union.  But for the great strides we have made toward the ideals of equality and opportunity, we must give thanks to our Korean War veterans who helped point the way.

Korea reminds us that when we send our troops into battle, they deserve the support and gratitude of the American people — especially when they come home.  Today, let us remember that — right now — our sons and daughters continue to risk their lives, give their lives, in Afghanistan.  And as this war ends and we welcome them home, we will make it our mission to give them the respect and the care and the opportunities that they have earned. (Applause.)

And Korea reminds us that our obligations to our fallen and their families endure long after the battle ends.  To this day, 7,910 Americans are still missing from the Korean War.  And we will not stop working until we give these families a full accounting of their loved ones.  (Applause.)  Like Sergeant First Class William Robinson — 26 years old — missing for 63 years.  This week, in Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, the Robinsons will welcome their uncle home and finally lay him to rest — with full military honors.  (Applause.)

Freedom is not free.  And in Korea, no one paid a heavier price than those who gave all — 36,574 American patriots, and, among our allies, more than one million of our South Korean friends — soldiers and civilians.  That July day, when the fighting finally ended, not far from where it began, some suggested this sacrifice had been for naught, and they summed it up with a phrase — “die for a tie.”

It took many decades for this memorial to gain its rightful place on this great Mall where we tell our American story.  It has, perhaps, taken even longer to see clearly, and understand fully, the true legacy of your service.  But here, today, we can say with confidence that war was no tie.  Korea was a victory.  When 50 million South Koreans live in freedom — a vibrant democracy, one of the world’s most dynamic economies, in stark contrast to the repression and poverty of the North — that’s a victory; that’s your legacy.  (Applause.)

When our soldiers stand firm along the DMZ; when our South Korean friends can go about their lives, knowing that the commitment of the United States to the security of the Republic of Korea will never waver — that is a victory, and that is your legacy.

When our allies across the Asia Pacific know — as we have proven in Korea for 60 straight years — that the United States will remain a force for peace and security and prosperity –that’s a victory; that’s your legacy.

And for generations to come, when history recalls how free nations banded together in a long Cold War, and how we won that war, let it be said that Korea was the first battle — where freedom held its ground and free peoples refused to yield, that, too, is your victory, your legacy.

Most of all, your legacy burns brightest right here, in a grateful nation that reveres you; in the loving families that cherish you — like that young soldier with those baby booties swinging from his rifle.  Ever since the war, the story of that soldier has been passed among our Korean War vets.  Some of you may have heard it before.  And many may have wondered what became of that soldier.  Today, six decades later, we now know — because we found him.  His was Richard Shank, from St. Louis, Missouri.  For his valor in Korea he earned the Silver Star.  Yes, Dick survived the war.  He returned home.  He held his baby boy in his arms.  He was able to be a father to his son.

But this story doesn’t end there — because like so many of you, Dick continued to serve in uniform.  His son grew into a man, got married, had children of his own.  Those children are now adults themselves, scattered across the country.  And like so many American families, they still speak with pride of their grandfather’s service in Korea.

Today, Dick Shank lives in Gainesville, Florida, and I believe he’s watching us this morning.  He’s 84 years old, recovering from a recent fall while roller skating.  (Laughter.) “Life is short,” he says, “and I just keep on living it.”  And one of the ways he keeps living it is by meeting up every year with his buddies from Korea, and recalling the time they shared together in that fight which ended 60 years ago today.

Veterans of the Korean War — in the spring of your youth you learned how short and precious life can be.  And because of you, millions of people can keep on living it, in freedom and in peace.  Your lives are an inspiration.  Your service will never be forgotten.  You have the thanks of a grateful nation.  And your shining deeds will live — now and forever.

May God bless those who gave all in Korea.  May God bless you and your families.  May God bless the alliances that helped secure our prosperity and our security.  And may God continue to bless these United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

Political Headlines July 24, 2013: House of Representatives Defeats Effort to Limit NSA Data Gathering in a Vote of 217-205

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

House Defeats Effort to Rein In N.S.A. Data Gathering

Source: NYT, 7-24-13

The 217-205 vote was far closer than expected and displayed the shifting allegiances and fierce lobbying on both sides of the issue….READ MORE

Political Headlines July 24, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Caroline Kennedy as US Ambassador to Japan

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama to Nominate Caroline Kennedy as US Ambassador to Japan

ABC/Rick Rowell

President Obama will nominate former first daughter Caroline Kennedy as U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, would be the first woman to serve in the role….READ MORE

Political Headlines July 24, 2013: President Barack Obama Starts Economic Campaign, Accuses GOP of Obstruction

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Starts Economic Campaign, Accuses GOP of Obstruction

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Seeking to force the public debate back to the economy, President Obama slammed Republicans on Wednesday for standing in the way of his efforts to boost the middle class, as he launched a campaign to highlight his second-term priorities.

“With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball.  And I am here to say this needs to stop,” the president said in a speech at Knox College, the site of his first economic address on the national stage in 2005….READ MORE

Political Headlines July 24, 2013: President Barack Obama Focuses on Economy, Vowing to Help Middle Class in Knox College Speech

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Focuses on Economy, Vowing to Help Middle Class

Source: NYT, 7-24-13

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

President Obama spoke about the economy On Wednesday at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.

President Obama tried to move past months of debate over guns, surveillance and scandal on Wednesday and reorient his administration behind a program to lift a middling economy and help middle-class Americans who are stuck with stagnant incomes and shrinking horizons….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency July 24, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Economic Policy & Agenda Speech at Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois – Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama’s Economics Speech at Knox College

Source: NYT, 7-24-13

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

President Obama spoke about the economy On Wednesday at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.

Following is the prepared text of President Obama’s speech in Galesburg, Ill., as provided by the White House.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Eight years ago, I came here to deliver the commencement address for the class of 2005. Things were a little different back then. I didn’t have any gray hair, for example. Or a motorcade. I didn’t even have a teleprompter. It was my first big speech as your newest senator, and I spent my time talking about what a changing economy was doing to the middle class – and what we, as a country, needed to do to give every American a chance to get ahead in the 21st century.

You see, I’d just spent a year traveling this state and listening to your stories – of proud Maytag workers losing their jobs when their plant moved down to Mexico; of teachers whose salaries weren’t keeping up with the rising cost of groceries; of young people who had the drive but not the money to afford a college education.

They were the stories of families who worked hard and believed in the American Dream, but felt that the odds were increasingly stacked against them. And they were right.

In the period after World War II, a growing middle class was the engine of our prosperity. Whether you owned a company, swept its floors, or worked anywhere in between, this country offered you a basic bargain – a sense that your hard work would be rewarded with fair wages and benefits, the chance to buy a home, to save for retirement, and, above all, to hand down a better life for your kids.

But over time, that engine began to stall. That bargain began to fray. Technology made some jobs obsolete. Global competition sent others overseas. It became harder for unions to fight for the middle class. Washington doled out bigger tax cuts to the rich and smaller minimum wage increases for the working poor. The link between higher productivity and people’s wages and salaries was severed – the income of the top 1% nearly quadrupled from 1979 to 2007, while the typical family’s barely budged.

Towards the end of those three decades, a housing bubble, credit cards, and a churning financial sector kept the economy artificially juiced up. But by the time I took office in 2009, the bubble had burst, costing millions of Americans their jobs, their homes, and their savings. The decades-long erosion of middle-class security was laid bare for all to see and feel.

Today, five years after the start of that Great Recession, America has fought its way back.

Together, we saved the auto industry, took on a broken health care system, and invested in new American technologies to reverse our addiction to foreign oil and double wind and solar power.

Together, we put in place tough new rules on big banks, and protections that cracked down on the worst practices of mortgage lenders and credit card companies. We changed a tax code too skewed in favor of the wealthiest at the expense of working families, locking in tax cuts for 98% of Americans, and asking those at the top to pay a little more.

Add it all up, and over the past 40 months, our businesses have created 7.2 million new jobs. This year, we are off to our strongest private-sector job growth since 1999. And because we bet on this country, foreign companies are, too. Right now, more of Honda’s cars are made in America than anywhere else. Airbus will build new planes in Alabama. Companies like Ford are replacing outsourcing with insourcing and bringing more jobs home. We sell more products made in America to the rest of the world than ever before. We now produce more natural gas than any country on Earth. We’re about to produce more of our own oil than we buy from abroad for the first time in nearly 20 years. The cost of health care is growing at its slowest rate in 50 years. And our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years.

Thanks to the grit and resilience of the American people, we’ve cleared away the rubble from the financial crisis and begun to lay a new foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth. In our personal lives, we tightened our belts, shed debt, and refocused on the things that really matter. As a country, we’ve recovered faster and gone further than most other advanced nations in the world. With new American revolutions in energy, technology, manufacturing, and health care, we are actually poised to reverse the forces that have battered the middle class for so long, and rebuild an economy where everyone who works hard can get ahead.

But I’m here today to tell you what you already know – we’re not there yet. Even though our businesses are creating new jobs and have broken record profits, nearly all the income gains of the past ten years have continued to flow to the top 1%. The average CEO has gotten a raise of nearly 40% since 2009, but the average American earns less than he or she did in 1999. And companies continue to hold back on hiring those who have been out of work for some time.

Today, more students are earning their degree, but soaring costs saddle them with unsustainable debt. Health care costs are slowing, but many working families haven’t seen the savings yet. And while the stock market rebound has helped families get back much of what they lost in their 401ks, millions of Americans still have no idea how they’ll ever be able to retire. In many ways, the trends that I spoke of here in 2005 – of a winner-take-all economy where a few do better and better, while everybody else just treads water – have been made worse by the recession.

This growing inequality isn’t just morally wrong; it’s bad economics. When middle-class families have less to spend, businesses have fewer customers. When wealth concentrates at the very top, it can inflate unstable bubbles that threaten the economy. When the rungs on the ladder of opportunity grow farther apart, it undermines the very essence of this country.

That’s why reversing these trends must be Washington’s highest priority. It’s certainly my highest priority. Unfortunately, over the past couple of years in particular, Washington hasn’t just ignored the problem; too often, it’s made things worse.

We’ve seen a sizable group of Republican lawmakers suggest they wouldn’t vote to pay the very bills that Congress rang up – a fiasco that harmed a fragile recovery in 2011, and one we can’t afford to repeat. Then, rather than reduce our deficits with a scalpel – by cutting programs we don’t need, fixing ones we do, and making government more efficient – this same group has insisted on leaving in place a meat cleaver called the sequester that has cost jobs, harmed growth, hurt our military, and gutted investments in American education and scientific and medical research that we need to make this country a magnet for good jobs.

Over the last six months, this gridlock has gotten worse. A growing number of Republican Senators are trying to get things done, like an immigration bill that economists say will boost our economy by more than a trillion dollars. But a faction of Republicans in the House won’t even give that bill a vote, and gutted a farm bill that America’s farmers and most vulnerable children depend on.

If you ask some of these Republicans about their economic agenda, or how they’d strengthen the middle class, they’ll shift the topic to “out-of-control” government spending – despite the fact that we have cut the deficit by nearly half as a share of the economy since I took office. Or they’ll talk about government assistance for the poor, despite the fact that they’ve already cut early education for vulnerable kids and insurance for people who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Or they’ll bring up Obamacare, despite the fact that our businesses have created nearly twice as many jobs in this recovery as they had at the same point in the last recovery, when there was no Obamacare.

With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball. And I am here to say this needs to stop. Short-term thinking and stale debates are not what this moment requires. Our focus must be on the basic economic issues that the matter most to you – the people we represent. And as Washington prepares to enter another budget debate, the stakes for our middle class could not be higher. The countries that are passive in the face of a global economy will lose the competition for good jobs and high living standards. That’s why America has to make the investments necessary to promote long-term growth and shared prosperity. Rebuilding our manufacturing base. Educating our workforce. Upgrading our transportation and information networks. That’s what we need to be talking about. That’s what Washington needs to be focused on.

And that’s why, over the next several weeks, in towns across this country, I will engage the American people in this debate. I will lay out my ideas for how we build on the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America, and what it takes to work your way into the middle class in America. Job security, with good wages and durable industries. A good education. A home to call your own. Affordable health care when you get sick. A secure retirement even if you’re not rich. Reducing poverty and inequality. Growing prosperity and opportunity.

Some of these ideas I’ve talked about before, and some will be new. Some will require Congress, and some I will pursue on my own. Some will benefit folks right away; some will take years to fully implement. But the key is to break through the tendency in Washington to careen from crisis to crisis. What we need isn’t a three-month plan, or even a three-year plan, but a long-term American strategy, based on steady, persistent effort, to reverse the forces that have conspired against the middle class for decades.

Of course, we’ll keep pressing on other key priorities, like reducing gun violence, rebalancing our fight against al Qaeda, combating climate change, and standing up for civil rights and women’s rights. But if we don’t have a growing, thriving middle class, we won’t have the resources or the resolve; the optimism or sense of unity that we need to solve these other issues.

In this effort, I will look to work with Republicans as well as Democrats wherever I can. I believe there are members of both parties who understand what’s at stake, and I will welcome ideas from anyone, from across the political spectrum. But I will not allow gridlock, inaction, or willful indifference to get in our way. Whatever executive authority I have to help the middle class, I’ll use it. Where I can’t act on my own, I’ll pick up the phone and call CEOs, and philanthropists, and college presidents – anybody who can help – and enlist them in our efforts. Because the choices that we, the people, make now will determine whether or not every American will have a fighting chance in the 21st century.

Let me give you a quick preview of what I’ll be fighting for and why.

The first cornerstone of a strong and growing middle class has to be an economy that generates more good jobs in durable, growing industries. Over the past four years, for the first time since the 1990s, the number of American manufacturing jobs hasn’t gone down; they’ve gone up. But we can do more. So I’ll push new initiatives to help more manufacturers bring more jobs back to America. We’ll continue to focus on strategies to create good jobs in wind, solar, and natural gas that are lowering energy costs and dangerous carbon pollution. And I’ll push to open more manufacturing innovation institutes that turn regions left behind by global competition into global centers of cutting-edge jobs. Let’s tell the world that America is open for business – including an old site right here in Galesburg, over on Monmouth Boulevard.

Tomorrow, I’ll also visit the port of Jacksonville, Florida to offer new ideas for doing what America has always done best: building things. We’ve got ports that aren’t ready for the new supertankers that will begin passing through the new Panama Canal in two years’ time. We’ve got more than 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare. Businesses depend on our transportation systems, our power grids, our communications networks – and rebuilding them creates good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced. And yet, as a share of our economy, we invest less in our infrastructure than we did two decades ago. That’s inefficient at a time when it’s as cheap as it’s been since the 1950s. It’s inexcusable at a time when so many of the workers who do this for a living sit idle. The longer we put this off, the more expensive it will be, and the less competitive we will be. The businesses of tomorrow won’t locate near old roads and outdated ports; they’ll relocate to places with high-speed internet; high-tech schools; systems that move air and auto traffic faster, not to mention get parents home to their kids faster. We can watch that happen in other countries, or we can choose to make it happen right here, in America.

In an age when jobs know no borders, companies will also seek out the country that boasts the most talented citizens, and reward them with good pay. The days when the wages for a worker with a high-school degree could keep pace with the earnings of someone who got some higher education are over. Technology and global competition aren’t going away. So we can either throw up our hands and resign ourselves to diminished living standards, or we can do what America has always done: adapt, pull together, fight back and win.

Which brings me to the second cornerstone of a strong middle class: an education that prepares our children and our workers for the global competition they’ll face.

If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs in the 21st century. If we don’t make this investment, we’ll put our kids, our workers, and our country at a competitive disadvantage for decades. So we must begin in the earliest years. That’s why I’ll keep pushing to make high-quality preschool available to every four year-old in America – not just because we know it works for our kids, but because it provides a vital support system for working parents. I’ll also take action to spur innovation in our schools that don’t require Congress. Today, for example, federal agencies are moving on my plan to connect 99% of America’s students to high-speed internet over the next five years. And we’ve begun meeting with business leaders, tech entrepreneurs, and innovative educators to identify the best ideas for redesigning our high schools so that they teach the skills required for a high-tech economy.

We’ll also keep pushing new efforts to train workers for changing jobs. Here in Galesburg, many of the workers laid off at Maytag chose to enroll in retraining programs like the ones at Carl Sandburg College. And while it didn’t pay off for everyone, many who retrained found jobs that suited them even better and paid even more. That’s why I asked Congress to start a Community College to Career initiative, so that workers can earn the skills that high-tech jobs demand without leaving their hometown. And I’m challenging CEOs from some of America’s best companies to hire more Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been laid off so long no one will give their resume an honest look.

I’m also going to use the power of my office over the next few months to highlight a topic that’s straining the budgets of just about every American family – the soaring cost of higher education.

Three years ago, I worked with Democrats to reform the student loan system so that taxpayer dollars stopped padding the pockets of big banks, and instead helped more kids afford college. I capped loan repayments at 10% of monthly income for responsible borrowers. And this week, we’re working with both parties to reverse the doubling of student loan rates that occurred a few weeks ago because of Congressional inaction.

It’s all a good start – but it isn’t enough. Families and taxpayers can’t just keep paying more and more into an undisciplined system; we’ve got to get more out of what we pay for. Some colleges are testing new approaches to shorten the path to a degree, or blending teaching with online learning to help students master material and earn credits in less time. Some states are testing new ways to fund college based not just on how many students enroll, but how well they do. This afternoon, I’ll visit the University of Central Missouri to highlight their efforts to deliver more bang for the buck. And in the coming months, I will lay out an aggressive strategy to shake up the system, tackle rising costs, and improve value for middle-class students and their families.

Now, if a good job and a good education have always been key stepping stones into the middle class, a home of your own has been the clearest expression of middle-class security. That changed during the crisis, when millions of middle-class families saw their home values plummet. Over the past four years, we’ve helped more responsible homeowners stay in their homes, and today, sales are up, prices are up, and fewer Americans see their homes underwater.

But we’re not done yet. The key now is to encourage homeownership that isn’t based on bubbles, but is instead based on a solid foundation, where buyers and lenders play by the same set of rules, rules that are clear, transparent, and fair. Already, I’ve asked Congress to pass a good, bipartisan idea – one that was championed by Mitt Romney’s economic advisor – to give every homeowner the chance to refinance their mortgage and save thousands of dollars a year. I’m also acting on my own to cut red tape for responsible families who want to get a mortgage, but the bank says no. And we’ll work with both parties to turn the page on Fannie and Freddie, and build a housing finance system that’s rock-solid for future generations.

Along with homeownership, the fourth cornerstone of what it means to be middle class in this country is a secure retirement. Unfortunately, over the past decade, too many families watched their retirement recede from their grasp. Today, a rising stock market has millions of retirement balances rising. But we still live with an upside-down system where those at the top get generous tax incentives to save, while tens of millions of hardworking Americans get none at all. As we work to reform our tax code, we should find new ways to make it easier for workers to put money away, and free middle-class families from the fear that they’ll never be able to retire. And if Congress is looking for a bipartisan place to get started, they don’t have to look far: economists show that immigration reform that makes undocumented workers pay their full share of taxes would actually shore up Social Security for years.

Fifth, I will keep focusing on health care, because middle-class families and small business owners deserve the security of knowing that neither illness nor accident should threaten the dreams you’ve worked a lifetime to build.

As we speak, we are well on our way to fully implementing the Affordable Care Act. If you’re one of the 85% of Americans who already have health insurance, you’ve got new benefits and better protections you didn’t have before, like free checkups and mammograms and discounted medicine on Medicare. If you don’t have health insurance, starting October 1st, private plans will actually compete for your business. You can comparison shop in an online marketplace, just like you would for TVs or plane tickets, and buy the one that fits your budget and is right for you. And if you’re in the up to half of all Americans who’ve been sick or have a preexisting condition, this law means that that beginning January 1st, insurance companies finally have to cover you, and at the same rates they charge everybody else.

Now, I know there are folks out there who are actively working to make this law fail. But despite a politically-motivated misinformation campaign, the states that have committed themselves to making this law work are finding that competition and choice are actually pushing costs down. Just last week, New York announced that premiums for consumers who buy their insurance in these online marketplaces will be at least 50% less than what they pay today. That’s right – folks’ premiums in the individual market will drop by 50%. For them, and for the millions of Americans who have been able to cover their sick kids for the first time, or have been able to cover their employees more cheaply, or who will be getting tax breaks to afford insurance for the first time – you will have the security of knowing that everything you’ve worked hard for is no longer one illness away from being wiped out.

Finally, as we work to strengthen these cornerstones of middle-class security, I’m going to make the case for why we need to rebuild ladders of opportunity for all those Americans still trapped in poverty. Here in America, we’ve never guaranteed success. More than some other countries, we expect people to be self-reliant, and we’ve tolerated a little more inequality for the sake of a more dynamic, more adaptable economy. But that’s always been combined with a commitment to upward mobility – the idea that no matter how poor you started, you can make it with hard work and discipline.

Unfortunately, opportunities for upward mobility in America have gotten harder to find over the past 30 years. That’s a betrayal of the American idea. And that’s why we have to do a lot more to give every American the chance to work their way into the middle class.

The best defense against all of these forces – global competition and economic polarization – is the strength of community. We need a new push to rebuild run-down neighborhoods. We need new partnerships with some of the hardest-hit towns in America to get them back on their feet. And because no one who works full-time in America should have to live in poverty, I will keep making the case that we need to raise a minimum wage that in real terms is lower than it was when Ronald Reagan took office. We are not a people who allow chance of birth to decide life’s big winners and losers; and after years in which we’ve seen how easy it can be for any of us to fall on hard times, we cannot turn our backs when bad breaks hit any of our fellow citizens.

Good jobs. A better bargain for the middle class and folks working to join it. An economy that grows from the middle-out. This is where I will focus my energies – not just over the next few months, but for the remainder of my presidency. These are the plans that I will lay out across this country. But I won’t be able to do it alone, and I’ll be calling on all of us to take up this cause.

We’ll need our businesses, the best in the world, to pressure Congress to invest in our future, and set an example by providing decent wages and salaries to their own employees. And I’ll highlight the ones that do just that – companies like Costco, which pays good wages and offers good benefits; or the Container Store, which prides itself on training its workers and on employee satisfaction – because these companies prove that this isn’t just good for their business, it’s good for America.

We’ll need Democrats to question old assumptions, be willing to redesign or get rid of programs that no longer work, and embrace changes to cherished priorities so that they work better in this new age. For if we believe that government can give the middle class a fair shot in this new century, we have an obligation to prove it.

And we’ll need Republicans in Congress to set aside short-term politics and work with me to find common ground. The fact is, there are Republicans in Congress right now who privately agree with me on many of the ideas I’ll be proposing, but worry they’ll face swift political retaliation for saying so. Others will dismiss every idea I put forward either because they’re playing to their most strident supporters, or because they have a fundamentally different vision for America – one that says inequality is both inevitable and just; one that says an unfettered free market without any restraints inevitably produces the best outcomes, regardless of the pain and uncertainty imposed on ordinary families.

In either case, I say to these members of Congress: I am laying out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot. Now it’s time for you to lay out yours. If you’re willing to work with me to strengthen American manufacturing and rebuild this country’s infrastructure, let’s go. If you have better ideas to bring down the cost of college for working families, let’s hear them. If you think you have a better plan for making sure every American has the security of quality, affordable health care, stop taking meaningless repeal votes and share your concrete ideas with the country. If you are serious about a balanced, long-term fiscal plan that replaces the mindless cuts currently in place, or tax reform that closes corporate loopholes and gives working families a better deal, I’m ready to work – but know that I will not accept deals that do not meet the test of strengthening the prospects of hard-working families.

We’ve come a long way since I first took office. As a country, we’re older and we’re wiser. And as long as Congress doesn’t manufacture another crisis – as long as we don’t shut down the government just as the economy is getting traction, or risk a U.S. default over paying bills we’ve already racked up – we can probably muddle along without taking bold action. Our economy will grow, though slower than it should; new businesses will form, and unemployment will keep ticking down. Just by virtue of our size and our natural resources and the talent of our people, America will remain a world power, and the majority of us will figure out how to get by.

But if that’s our choice – if we just stand by and do nothing in the face of immense change – understand that an essential part of our character will be lost. Our founding precept about wide-open opportunity and each generation doing better than the last will be a myth, not reality. The position of the middle class will erode further. Inequality will continue to increase, and money’s power will distort our politics even more. Social tensions will rise, as various groups fight to hold on to what they have, and the fundamental optimism that has always propelled us forward will give way to cynicism or nostalgia.

That’s not the vision I have for this country. That’s not the vision you have for this country. That is not the America we know. That’s not a vision we should settle for, or pass on to our children. I have now run my last campaign. I do not intend to wait until the next one before tackling the issues that matter. I care about one thing and one thing only, and that’s how to use every minute of the 1,276 days remaining in my term to make this country work for working Americans again. Because I believe this is where America needs to go. I believe this is where the American people want to go. It may seem hard today, but if we are willing to take a few bold steps – if Washington will just shake off its complacency and set aside the kind of slash-and-burn partisanship we’ve seen these past few years – our economy will be stronger a year from now. And five years from now. And ten years from now. More Americans will know the pride of that first paycheck; the satisfaction of flipping the sign to “Open” on their own business; the joy of etching a child’s height into the door of their brand new home.

After all, what makes us special has never been our ability to generate incredible wealth for the few, but our ability to give everyone a chance to pursue their own true measure of happiness. We haven’t just wanted success for ourselves – we’ve wanted it for our neighbors, too. That’s why we don’t call it John’s dream or Susie’s dream or Barack’s dream – we call it the American Dream. That’s what makes this country special – the idea that no matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from or who you love – you can make it if you try.

One of America’s greatest writers, Carl Sandburg, was born right here in Galesburg over a century ago. He saw the railroad bring the world to the prairie, and the prairie send its bounty to the world. He saw the advent of bustling new industries and technologies; he watched populations shift; he saw fortunes made and lost. He saw how change could be painful – how a new age could unsettle long-settled customs and ways of life. But possessed with a frontier optimism, he saw something more on the horizon. “I speak of new cities and new people,” he wrote. “…The past is a bucket of ashes…yesterday is a wind gone down, a sun dropped in the west…there is…only an ocean of tomorrows, a sky of tomorrows.”

America, we have made it through the worst of yesterday’s winds. And if we find the courage to keep moving forward; if we set our eyes on the horizon, we too will find an ocean of tomorrows, a sky of tomorrows – for America’s people, and for this great country that we love.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Political Headlines July 24, 2013: President Obama Pivots to Economy… Again

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Pivots to Economy… Again

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President Obama will once again try to refocus the public’s attention and the political debate on the economy this week, delivering what’s being billed as a major economic address in his home state of Illinois.

The White House is trying to drum up support for the speech, but it’s a tough sell, given how often the president has launched similar campaigns in recent years….READ MORE

Political Musings July 24, 2013: President Barack Obama to press economic agenda reset button in Knox College speech

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama to press economic agenda reset button in Knox College speech (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

United States President Barack Obama will begin a renewed focus on the economy and the middle class in what the White House is billing as a major policy address on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois…

Full Text Obama Presidency July 19, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Trayvon Martin Verdict

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Trayvon Martin

Source: WH, 7- 19-13

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:33 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  I wanted to come out here, first of all, to tell you that Jay is prepared for all your questions and is very much looking forward to the session.  The second thing is I want to let you know that over the next couple of weeks, there’s going to obviously be a whole range of issues — immigration, economics, et cetera — we’ll try to arrange a fuller press conference to address your questions.

The reason I actually wanted to come out today is not to take questions, but to speak to an issue that obviously has gotten a lot of attention over the course of the last week — the issue of the Trayvon Martin ruling.  I gave a preliminary statement right after the ruling on Sunday.  But watching the debate over the course of the last week, I thought it might be useful for me to expand on my thoughts a little bit.

First of all, I want to make sure that, once again, I send my thoughts and prayers, as well as Michelle’s, to the family of Trayvon Martin, and to remark on the incredible grace and dignity with which they’ve dealt with the entire situation.  I can only imagine what they’re going through, and it’s remarkable how they’ve handled it.

The second thing I want to say is to reiterate what I said on Sunday, which is there’s going to be a lot of arguments about the legal issues in the case — I’ll let all the legal analysts and talking heads address those issues.  The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner.  The prosecution and the defense made their arguments.  The juries were properly instructed that in a case such as this reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict.  And once the jury has spoken, that’s how our system works.  But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling.

You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son.  Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.  And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.

There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store.  That includes me.  There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.  That happens to me — at least before I was a senator.  There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.  That happens often.

And I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened one night in Florida.  And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.  The African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws — everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws.  And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.

Now, this isn’t to say that the African American community is naïve about the fact that African American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system; that they’re disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence.  It’s not to make excuses for that fact — although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context.  They understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.

And so the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration.  And the fact that a lot of African American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African American boys are more violent — using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.

I think the African American community is also not naïve in understanding that, statistically, somebody like Trayvon Martin was statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else.  So folks understand the challenges that exist for African American boys.  But they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it and that context is being denied. And that all contributes I think to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.

Now, the question for me at least, and I think for a lot of folks, is where do we take this?  How do we learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction?  I think it’s understandable that there have been demonstrations and vigils and protests, and some of that stuff is just going to have to work its way through, as long as it remains nonviolent.  If I see any violence, then I will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family.  But beyond protests or vigils, the question is, are there some concrete things that we might be able to do.

I know that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it’s important for people to have some clear expectations here.  Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government, the criminal code.  And law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels.

That doesn’t mean, though, that as a nation we can’t do some things that I think would be productive.  So let me just give a couple of specifics that I’m still bouncing around with my staff, so we’re not rolling out some five-point plan, but some areas where I think all of us could potentially focus.

Number one, precisely because law enforcement is often determined at the state and local level, I think it would be productive for the Justice Department, governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists.

When I was in Illinois, I passed racial profiling legislation, and it actually did just two simple things.  One, it collected data on traffic stops and the race of the person who was stopped.  But the other thing was it resourced us training police departments across the state on how to think about potential racial bias and ways to further professionalize what they were doing.

And initially, the police departments across the state were resistant, but actually they came to recognize that if it was done in a fair, straightforward way that it would allow them to do their jobs better and communities would have more confidence in them and, in turn, be more helpful in applying the law.  And obviously, law enforcement has got a very tough job.

So that’s one area where I think there are a lot of resources and best practices that could be brought to bear if state and local governments are receptive.  And I think a lot of them would be.  And let’s figure out are there ways for us to push out that kind of training.

Along the same lines, I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if it — if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case, rather than diffuse potential altercations.

I know that there’s been commentary about the fact that the “stand your ground” laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case.  On the other hand, if we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?

And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these “stand your ground” laws, I’d just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?  And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened?  And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.

Number three — and this is a long-term project — we need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African American boys.  And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about.  There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement.  And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?

I’m not naïve about the prospects of some grand, new federal program.  I’m not sure that that’s what we’re talking about here. But I do recognize that as President, I’ve got some convening power, and there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front.  And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes, and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African American men feel that they’re a full part of this society and that they’ve got pathways and avenues to succeed — I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation.  And we’re going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.

And then, finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching.  There has been talk about should we convene a conversation on race.  I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations.  They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have.  On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s the possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can?  Am I judging people as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character?  That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.

And let me just leave you with a final thought that, as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better.  Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race.  It doesn’t mean we’re in a post-racial society.  It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated.  But when I talk to Malia and Sasha, and I listen to their friends and I seem them interact, they’re better than we are — they’re better than we were — on these issues.  And that’s true in every community that I’ve visited all across the country.

And so we have to be vigilant and we have to work on these issues.  And those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our nature, as opposed to using these episodes to heighten divisions.  But we should also have confidence that kids these days, I think, have more sense than we did back then, and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did; and that along this long, difficult journey, we’re becoming a more perfect union — not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.

Thank you, guys.

END
1:52 P.M. EDT

Political Musings July 18, 2013: President Barack Obama honors Former President George H.W. Bush for Points of Light award

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama honors Former President George H.W. Bush for Points of Light award (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The 41st president of the United States George H.W. Bush returned to the White House Monday, July 15, 2013 to attend the ceremony for the 5000th Points of Light award recipients. Bush, a Republican created the award for volunteers…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency July 18, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech the Health Care Law, the Affordable Care Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Affordable Care Act

Source: WH, 7-18-13

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the Affordable Care Act's Medical Loss Ratio RefundsPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks on the Affordable Care Act’s Medical Loss Ratio Refunds, in the East Room of the White House, July 18, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

East Room

11:30 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you so much, everybody.  I want to thank Morgan for that introduction.  And I want to thank all of you for being here.  There are a couple of people that I want to make sure to especially acknowledge.

First of all, the Leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives and somebody who worked harder than just about anybody to get the Affordable Care Act into law, Nancy Pelosi.  (Applause.)

We have some outstanding members of Congress here, some mayors and elected officials who are here.  I want to give a special shout-out — I’m not going to introduce all of them because it would take too much time and I might miss somebody.  But there is one person who’s standing in front — sitting in front, who I want to acknowledge just because he has served for decades, and for decades fought to make sure that everybody had affordable, accessible coverage, and we’re so proud of him — John Dingell.  (Applause.)  Congressman from Michigan.  (Applause.)

So I want to welcome everybody to the White House.  Every day, across the country and certainly here in the White House, there are people who are working as we speak to implement the Affordable Care Act and to deliver the security of quality, affordable health care to more Americans.

The good news is that starting October 1st, new online marketplaces will allow consumers to go online and compare private health care insurance plans just like you’d compare over the Internet the best deal on flat-screen TVs, or cars or any other product that is important to your lives.  And you’re going to see competition in ways that we haven’t seen before.  Insurance companies will compete for your business.  And in states that are working hard to make sure this law delivers for their people, what we’re seeing is that consumers are getting a hint of how much money they’re potentially going to save because of this law.  In states like California, Oregon, Washington, new competition, new choices, market forces are pushing costs down.

Just yesterday, state officials in New York announced that average premiums for consumers who buy insurance in their new marketplace will be at least 50 percent lower next year than they are today.  Think about that — 50 percent lower.  (Applause.)  So for people like Morgan who are self-employed, who have to buy on the individual market, they’re suddenly going to see opportunities not just for the rebates we discussed, but also for even greater savings in their monthly premiums.

So if you already buy insurance on the individual market, meaning that you don’t get insurance through a big group plan through your employer, that could mean thousands of dollars a year that can go towards paying a mortgage, or putting a kid through college, or saving for retirement.  And what this means is that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who don’t have insurance will finally be able to afford it — because these exchanges, this big pool is going to reduce the cost, and you may qualify for health care tax credits; middle-class families will potentially qualify for these credits that will bring the cost down even more.

So this is just an example of how the Affordable Care Act is doing what it’s designed to do:  deliver more choices, better benefits, a check on rising costs, and higher quality care.  That’s what it was designed to do, and we’re already seeing those effects take place.

Now, I mention all this because yesterday, despite all the evidence that the law is working the way it was supposed to for middle-class Americans, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted — for nearly the 40th time — (laughter) — to dismantle it.  We’ve got a lot of problems in this country, and there’s a lot of work that Congress needs to do:  get a farm bill passed, get immigration reform done, make sure we’ve got a budget in place that invests in our children and our future.  And yet, instead we’re refighting these old battles.  (Laughter.)  Sometimes I just try to figure out why.  Maybe they think it’s good politics.  But part of our job here is not to always think about politics.  Part of our job here is to sometimes think about getting work done on behalf of the American people, on behalf of the middle class and those who are striving to get into the middle class.  (Applause.)

And so the progress that we’re seeing in California and Washington and Oregon and now New York, that’s progress that we want to make sure we’re seeing all across the country.  Because there are still millions of people out there who not only want to get health insurance, but many who have health insurance who deserve a better deal and deserve the kinds of savings that the Affordable Care Act will offer.

Now, if you’re one of the 85 percent of Americans who already have health insurance — could be through your employer, or through Medicare, or through Medicaid — you already have an array of new benefits in place.  You don’t have to wait until October 1st.  You’re already getting benefits even if you don’t know that it’s because of the Affordable Care Act.  You’re getting better protections.  You’re getting more value for each dollar that you spend on your health care.

And that last point — the issue of getting better value for your buck — is what I want to focus on today.

For years, too many middle-class families saw their health care costs go up and up and up, without much explanation as to why or how their money was being spent.  But today, because of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies have to spend at least 80 percent of every dollar that you pay in premiums on your health care — not on overhead, not on profits, but on you.

Now, many insurance companies are already exceeding this target, and they’re bringing down premiums and providing better value to their customers.  But those that aren’t now actually have to reimburse you.  If they’re not spending your premium dollars on your health care — at least 80 percent of it — they’ve got to give you some money back.

Last year, millions of Americans opened letters from their insurance companies — but instead of the usual dread that comes from getting a bill — (laughter) — they were pleasantly surprised with a check.  In 2012, 13 million rebates went out, in all 50 states.  Another 8.5 [million] rebates are being sent out this summer, averaging around 100 bucks each.  And for families like Morgan’s that are working hard, every dollar counts.  It makes a difference.

As she said during her introduction, she’d been buying insurance on the individual market in Maryland for years.  After she got a rebate for the first time — and I’m quoting Morgan now — she said, “It felt like someone was actually being held accountable for the dollars I was spending on health care.”  That’s one of core principles of the Affordable Care Act — holding insurance companies and providers accountable so that we all get a better deal.

Dan Hart, who’s here, from Chicago, had read these rebates were happening.  But he didn’t think anything of it until he got a check in the mail for $136.  And Dan is a father of two, and as any parent will tell you, those kids, they suck up a lot of money.  (Laughter.)  Am I right?  (Laughter.)  Absolutely.  So he used his rebate to pay some bills.

Rick Shewell and Claudia Diamond co-own a stationary store in Arlington, Virginia.  They knew about the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, but, Rick said, “I figured we’d never see the money.”  So it was a complete surprise when they got a rebate for $320 — put that money right back into their small business.

And this is happening all across the country, and it’s happening because of the Affordable Care Act.  It hasn’t been reported on a lot.  I bet if you took a poll, most folks wouldn’t know when that check comes in that this was because of Obamacare — (laughter) — that they got this extra money in their pockets.  But that’s what’s happening.

Now, even if you don’t get a rebate, even if you didn’t get a rebate there’s a good chance that these reforms are helping you as well, because one easy way to meet the goal of spending 80 percent of every dollar on care is to charge less for your care.  Now, we’ve got more work to do to get rising health care costs under control.  And some of the gains that we’ve made, some of the progress we’ve made in slowing the rise of health care costs isn’t always passed on to workers.  Sometimes companies may keep it and they are charging their employees a higher co-pay or higher deductible, or in some way shifting some costs onto some workers.

But generally speaking, what we’ve seen is that health care costs have slowed drastically in a lot of areas since we’ve passed the Affordable Care Act.  We’ve got a lot more work to do, but health care inflation is not skyrocketing the way it was.  And because of this new rule, because of the fact that it improves the value of the coverage that you purchase, last year alone, Americans saved $3.4 billion in lower premiums.  That’s $3.4 billion on top of these rebates.

So that’s just one way this law is helping middle-class families.  But it represents everything the Affordable Care Act means for folks who already have insurance:  better benefits, stronger protections, more bang for your buck — the basic notion that you ought to get what you pay for.

Now, I recognize that there are still a lot of folks — in this town, at least — who are rooting for this law to fail.  Some of them seem to think this law is about me.  It’s not.  I already have really good health care.  (Laughter.)

It’s about the dad in Maryland who, for the first time ever, saw his family’s premiums go down instead of up.  It’s about the grandma in Oregon whose free mammogram caught her breast cancer before it had a chance to spread.  It’s about the mom in Arizona who can afford heart surgery for her little girl now that the lifetime cap on her coverage has been lifted.  It’s about the folks here today who got a little bit of relief.

And I’m curious — what do opponents of this law think the folks here today should do with the money they were reimbursed?  Should they send it back to the insurance companies?  Do they think that was a bad idea to make sure that insurance companies are being held accountable?  I know that’s not what these folks think.

So the upshot is the American people deserve a fair shot.  They expect businesses to play by a fair set of rules.  And that’s why this fight is so important.  Our broken health care system threatened the hopes and the dreams of families and businesses across the country who feared that one illness or one accident could cost them everything they’d spent a lifetime building.  And step by step, we’re fixing that system.

It’s hard.  This is a big country, and the health care industry is massive and there are tons of providers.  And so as we implement, there are going to be glitches and there are going to be certain states that for political reasons are resisting implementation.  And we’re just steadily working through all that stuff.

The same was true when Medicare was started.  The same was true when Social Security got started.  There were folks who, for political reasons, resisted implementation.  But once it got set up, people started saying, this is a pretty good deal; it gives me a little more security.  It’s part of that basic bargain that if you work hard, if you’re doing the right thing, that you can get ahead in this country — and that you can provide some basic protections for your family.

And health care is at the heart of it; it’s part of it.  Affordable health care is not some privilege just for the few.  It’s a basic right that everybody should be able to enjoy.

So we’re going to keep fighting to secure that right — to make sure that every American gets the care that they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford.  That’s the America we believe in.  That’s what families deserve.  That’s what we’re going to keep on working to deliver.  We’re going to keep on working to make sure many people around this country who are already paying premiums are getting cheaper prices, that the money is being actually spent on their health care, that you’re not having to worry about the fine print, and that if you don’t have health insurance, you finally are in a position to get some at an affordable price — to give you and your family the kind of security you deserve.

That’s something that everybody should support.  That’s not something that should be subject to politics.  If the folks who have been trying to make political hay out of this thing, if they had some better ideas, I’ve already told them I’m happy to hear them.  But I haven’t heard any so far.  (Laughter.)  What I’ve heard is just the same old song and dance.  We’re just going to blow through that stuff and just keep on doing the right thing for the American people.

So thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
11:47 A.M. EDT

Political Headlines July 17, 2013: House Votes 264-161 to Delay Health Care Law’s Employer and Individual Mandates by One Year

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

House Votes to Delay Employer and Individual Mandates by One Year

Source: ABC News Radio, 7-17-13

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday evening not only to delay the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate by one year, but also to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate by one year as well.

“This is about basic fairness,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said during a news conference Wednesday. “If the president believes that the employer mandate is too much for the employer community, how about basic fairness for American families and individuals?”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency July 17, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on the Confirmation of Richard Cordray as Director for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Confirmation of Richard Cordray as Director for CFPB

Source:  WH, 7-17-13

State Dining Room

11:04 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, for decades, the middle class in this country was the engine that powered the economy, and that allowed us to all grow together.  Hard work paid off.  Responsibility was rewarded.  It was that basic bargain that made this country great — that no matter who you are or where you came from, you could make it if you put in enough blood, sweat and tears.

But over time, a winner-take-all philosophy began to take hold and it delivered huge rewards to those at the very top, but left everybody else working harder and harder just to stay afloat.  A lot of families took on more debt just to keep up.  Mortgages were sold that people really didn’t understand and, in some cases, couldn’t afford.  The financial sector was able to make huge bets with other people’s money.  And that strain of irresponsibility eventually came crashing down on all of us.

Now, I ran for President to restore that basic bargain.  I ran because I believed that our economy works best not from the top down, but from the middle out and from the bottom up, where you’ve got a rising, thriving middle class and ladders of opportunity for everybody.

So four years ago, even as we were working on restoring the economy and dealing with the immediate crisis, we also wanted to figure out how do we set new rules for the road to make sure that a few bad apples in the financial sector couldn’t break the law, or cheat consumers, or put the entire economy at risk.

And I was fortunate even when I was running for President to have some friends like Elizabeth Warren, who had already done a lot of academic work on this and had a whole series of ideas about how we might start making sure that consumers were treated better, and as a consequence, take some of the risk out of the system.  And because of those conversations and that work, and because of some terrific efforts by other members in Congress, we were able, for the time in history, to get a consumer watchdog on the job — to look out for the interests of everyday Americans.  And I am very proud to say that last night, Rich Cordray was finally confirmed — (laughter) — by the United States Senate to keep serving as America’s consumer watchdog and as the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  So we’re very pleased about that.  (Applause.)

I first nominated Rich for this position two years ago this week.  (Laughter.)  He was eminently qualified.  He had the support of Democrats and Republicans from across the country.  A majority of state attorneys general from both parties — Rich’s former colleagues — called on him to be confirmed.  And for two years, Republicans in the Senate refused to give Rich a simple yes-or-no vote — not because they didn’t think he was the right person for the job, but because they didn’t like the law that set up the consumer watchdog in the first place.

But without a director in place, the CFPB would have been severely hampered.  And the CFPB wasn’t able to give consumers the information they needed to make good, informed decisions.  Folks in the financial system who were doing the right thing didn’t have much certainty or clear rules of the road.  And the CFPB didn’t have all the tools it needed to protect consumers against mortgage brokers, or credit reporting agencies, or debt collectors who were taking advantage of ordinary Americans.

As a consequence, last year, I took steps on my own to temporarily appoint Richard so he could get to work on their behalf.  And Americans everywhere are better off because he did. And thanks to not only Rich, but his terrific team — I know many are represented here — we’ve made real strides, even despite the fact that the agency was hampered by the confirmation process.

And I would argue that part of the reason we were able to finally get Rich confirmed today is because he’s shown through his leadership and because of the very hard work that everybody at the CFPB has already done that this is making a difference in the lives of the American people — a positive difference day in, day out.  It’s hard to argue with success.

So, yesterday, Richard was officially confirmed.  I want to thank Senators from both parties, including Senator Reid, Senator McConnell, Senator McCain, for coming together to help get Rich confirmed.  And obviously, Elizabeth, who wasn’t a senator when she thought this up, but is now a senator — she was poking and prodding people for a long time — (laughter) — to help make it happen.

Senator Reid’s leadership, in particular, was obviously instrumental in getting this done, and I couldn’t be more grateful to him.

And together, we’re giving Americans a guarantee that the protections they enjoy today will still be around next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and for years to come.

While we’re on the topic of nominations, I also want to thank the Senate for agreeing to give my other nominees who’ve waited far too long the votes that they deserve.  These are all highly qualified men and women who are just ready to go to work for the American people — for students and for seniors, for veterans, for middle-class families.  Special interests, they’ll always have their lobbyists.  They’ll always have the capacity to tilt the system in their favor.  But middle-class folks deserve leaders who are going to stand up for them as well on a day-to-day basis, in the trenches.

So let me use this opportunity to remind people of what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under Rich’s leadership can do and has done already, even in some difficult circumstances.

Today, if you want to take out a mortgage or a student loan or a payday loan, or you’ve got a credit reporting agency or debt collector who’s causing you problems — maybe they’re not playing by the rules, maybe they’re taking advantage of you — you have somewhere to go.  The CFPB has already addressed more than 175,000 complaints from all across the nation, giving people an advocate who is working with them when they’re dealing with these financial institutions that may not always be thinking about consumers first.

Today, as part of the CFPB’s “Know Before You Owe” efforts, students and their parents can get a simple report with the information they need before taking out student loans.  And more than 700 colleges have joined to make this information clear and transparent.   It’s making a difference.

And by the way, if you’ve noticed that some credit card forms are becoming easier to understand than they used to be, that’s because of the work of Rich’s team and other folks across this administration have done to make sure that people understand the kinds of debts that they’re taking on through their credit cards.

Today, veterans have access to tools that they need to defend against dishonest lenders and mortgage brokers who try to prey on them when they come home from serving their country.  Today seniors are better protected from someone who sees their homes or their retirement savings as an easy target for get-rich-quick schemes.

And thanks to the hard work of folks at the CFPB, so far    6 million Americans have gotten more than $400 million in refunds from companies that engaged in unscrupulous practices.

So this is not just some abstract, theoretical exercise.  Families, many of them hard-pressed, have money in their pockets, maybe, in some cases, saved a home or were able to send their kids to college, because of the work that Rich and his team is doing right now.  And that’s money that oftentimes families didn’t have the power to recover before.

So Americans are better off because of what Rich has done as our consumer watchdog and his outstanding team is doing each and every day.  And, by the way, that’s just the tangible benefits that we know of, that $400 million in refunds.  But part of what happens is when you’ve got a watchdog, people don’t try as many things.  And everybody starts tightening up their practices because they know somebody is watching.  And so that has ripple effects throughout our economy.

So Americans everywhere are better off because of the work that these folks have done.  And now that Rich has gotten the yes-or-no vote he deserved, businesses and consumers have more certainty than they did before that this will continue.

So we’ve come a long way over the last four and a half years.  Our economy is growing.  Our businesses have created 7.2 million new jobs over the past 40 months.  We’ve locked in new safeguards to protect against another crisis, and we are making sure that we are doing everything we can to change the incentives inside the financial system and try to end tax-funded — taxpayer-funded bailouts for good.  And even though more work remains, our system is fairer and it’s more sound than it was when the crisis hit.

Of course, we’ve still got a long way to go to restore that basic bargain, to restore that sense of security that too many middle-class families still are fighting to rebuild.  But if we just keep letting people like Rich do their jobs, if we let all these incredible young people know that you’re going to keep on going for a long time, you’re building something that will last beyond our government’s service and we’ll be providing protections for generations to come — and if we keep focused on that North Star — a rising, thriving middle class, an economy where prosperity is broad-based — then I’m confident that we’re ultimately going to get to where we need to go.

So I want to thank everybody.  And I just want to give Rich a quick chance to say something.  (Applause.)

MR. CORDRAY:  Thank you.  I want to thank the President — this President, in particular, who has believed in us from the beginning.  I want to thank the Senate and the senators for the chance to persevere and be confirmed as the director of this Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  All I ever asked for, all I ever worked for was to have a chance to have an up-or-down vote on the merits, and I thank them for that.

For nearly two years, as the President indicated, we have been focused on making consumer finance markets work better for the American people.  Today’s action — the action — I was sworn in by the Vice President this morning, and the Senate confirmation — means that there will be certainty for those markets and for the industries we oversee.

For me, it also reaffirms that our central responsibility is to stand on the side of consumers and see that they’re treated fairly, just as the President described it.  It’s something that people deserve.  It’s something that they want and need.  And we’re there to try to provide it.

We will continue that essential work and each one of us — those of us here and those of us in Washington and around the country who work for this new Consumer Bureau, including most especially myself — we’re grateful for the opportunity that you’ve given us to serve our country in this important way.

Thank you.  Thank you, sir.  (Applause.)

END
11:16 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 15, 2013: President Obama and President George H.W. Bush’s Speeches at Points of Light Award Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and President George H.W. Bush at Points of Light Award Ceremony

Source: WH, 7-15-13

President Barack Obama and former President George H. W. Bush present the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award to Outreach Inc. co-founders

President Barack Obama and former President George H. W. Bush present the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award to Outreach Inc. co-founders Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton, winners of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award, in the East Room of the White House, July 15, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

East Room

1:55 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, good afternoon, everybody.  And on behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House.

Twenty-three years ago, President George H.W. Bush began a tradition.  He knew that across the country every day, Americans were finding ways to serve others and give back to their communities — often with very few resources and very little recognition.  And President Bush knew that their good works were valuable to the people they helped — but beyond that, he knew that their spirit of service was vital to our national character.  So he created an award, the Daily Point of Light Award, to recognize Americans who serve their neighbors and communities in innovative ways that inspire us all.

And for the rest of his presidency, nearly every single day, President Bush gave someone a Daily Point of Light Award.  And after he left the White House, he kept going and going and going — in between skydiving and other activities — (laughter) — he kept going, which should come as no surprise, since we’re talking about somebody who has served his country in such extraordinary ways.  And when you do a parachute jump at the age of 85, not just a parachute jump, but another parachute jump — I believe his seventh — this is somebody who’s not going to slow down any time soon.

So, today, we are extraordinarily honored to be joined by the family that helped build the Points of Light Foundation into the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service.  President Bush, Mrs. Bush, Neil Bush — we want to welcome you.  And we also want to recognize Michelle Nunn, the CEO of Points of Light.  It’s worth an applause.  (Applause.)

Now, this is not the first time President Bush and I have come together for an event like this.  Four years ago, I went down to Texas A&M University, where President Bush has his library, to help celebrate the 20th anniversary of Points of Light.  And I appreciated the warm welcome — by which I mean the extremely loud “howdy” that I received.  (Laughter.)  I was deeply impressed by how invested the students there are in community service.  But, most of all, I was moved by how much they love President Bush.

And now we’ve come together to mark another milestone.  As of this minute, 4,999 Points of Light awards have been presented to individuals and organizations across this country.  And so now I have the honor of joining President Bush in presenting number 5,000.  (Applause.)  Number 5,000.  (Applause.)

About 10 years ago, Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton were getting ready to retire.  They had been farming for years.  They had earned a break.  They planned to sail around the world.  And then their friend told them about a special place that they should visit along the way:  In a village in Tanzania, a volunteer mission was helping to renovate an HIV-AIDS clinic.  And Floyd and Kathy thought it sounded like a worthwhile detour.

When they arrived in Tanzania, the country was in the third year of a brutal drought.  People were starving and dying.  Many of them were children.  And having seen this, Kathy and Floyd simply had to do something about it.  And so their vision of a leisurely retirement was replaced by a new mission:  fighting global hunger.

Today, the nonprofit they created, Outreach, has distributed free meals to hungry children here in the United States and in more than 15 countries worldwide — to date, more than 233 million meals.  They’ve gone to see many of the kids that they met in Tanzania grow up healthy and strong.  And this work, they say, is the most rewarding thing they’ve ever done.  And I have to say, having just been to Tanzania with Michelle, we can attest to how important this kind of work is, how it changes lives.

It’s also fitting that later this week, on July 18th, people around the world will celebrate the legacy of the magnificent public servant, Nelson Mandela, by performing acts of public and community service.  And as people look for examples, Outreach provides an extraordinary demonstration of how service can lift people’s lives.

And so if the purpose of this award is to celebrate Americans who work to make our country and world a better place — not for their own advantage or for any ulterior motives, but just to serve, pure and simple — I can’t think of anyone more deserving than Kathy Hamilton and Floyd Hammer.

Now, before we actually present this award, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to honor the man who made this all possible.  He hates this, but I’m going to do it anyway.  (Laughter.)

Much has been said about President Bush’s own extraordinary life of service, but I’m not sure everybody fully appreciates how much he’s done to strengthen our country’s tradition of service.  In addition to this award, he created the first White House office dedicated to promoting volunteerism, and he championed and signed the National and Community Service Act.  By Washington standards, it was a modest law.  It involved little money; President Bush signed it with little fanfare.  But looking back, we see that it sparked a national movement.  By laying the groundwork for the Corporation for National and Community Service and AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, it gave tens of millions of Americans meaningful opportunities to serve.
And today, thanks to those programs and others like them, and thanks to the passion of leaders like President Bush and citizens who found the same passion over the years, volunteerism has gone from something some people do some of the time to something lots of people do as a regular part of their lives.

Since 1989, the number of Americans who volunteer has grown by more than 25 million.  Service is up across age groups and across regions.  It’s now a graduation requirement in many high schools and colleges.  It’s embedded in the culture of businesses large and small.  And speaking for my family, volunteering has brought joy and meaning to Michelle and me and our daughters over the years, and I know that’s the case for many of your families, too.

This national tradition may seem perfectly ordinary to many Americans, especially those who have grown up during this period.  But, in fact, it reflects tremendous progress.  And today we can say that our country is a better and a stronger force for good in the world because, more and more, we are a people that serve.  And for that, we have to thank President Bush, and his better half, Barbara, who is just as committed as her husband to service, and has dedicated her life to it as well.  (Applause.)

The presidents who followed President Bush have had the good sense to continue this work — and not just because one of them calls him Dad.  (Laughter.)  Even after leaving office, President Clinton and both President Bushes have come together to help people affected by natural disasters here at home and around the world — a reminder that service is not a Democratic or a Republican value, but it’s a core part of being an American.  And at the White House today, we’re proud to carry forward that legacy.

I created the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation to find new ways to use innovation to strengthen service.  We expanded the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships — originally created by President George W. Bush — which works closely with religious and community organizations across the country to help Americans in need.

And today I want to announce a new task force, with representatives from Cabinet agencies and other departments across the government, to take a fresh look at how we can better support national service — in particular, on some of our most important national priorities:  improving schools, recovering from disasters and mentoring our kids.  And this task force will be led by my team here at the White House, along with Wendy Spencer, who is here — the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service — who previously led the volunteer commission in Florida for Governor Jeb Bush.  So we’ve got a whole family thing working.  (Laughter.)

In times of tight budgets and some very tough problems, we know that the greatest resource we have is the limitless energy and ingenuity of our citizens.  And when we harness that energy and create more opportunities for Americans to serve, we pay tribute to the extraordinary example set by President Bush.

And just to close on a personal note, Mr. President, I am one of millions of people who have been inspired by your passion and your commitment.  You have helped so many Americans discover that they, too, have something to contribute — that they, too, have the power to make a difference.

You’ve described for us those thousand points of light — all the people and organizations spread out all across the country who are like stars brightening the lives of those around them.  But given the humility that’s defined your life, I suspect it’s harder for you to see something that’s clear to everybody else around you, and that’s how bright a light you shine — how your vision and example have illuminated the path for so many others, how your love of service has kindled a similar love in the hearts of millions here at home and around the world.  And, frankly, just the fact that you’re such a gentleman and such a good and kind person I think helps to reinforce that spirit of service.

So on behalf of us all, let me just say that we are surely a kinder and gentler nation because of you and we can’t thank you enough.  (Applause.)

So it is now my great pleasure to join President Bush and all of you in presenting this extraordinary award to an extraordinary couple who have done so much for so many people.  We are very grateful to them.  Floyd and Kathy, will you please step up and receive your award.  (Applause.)

(The award is presented.)

PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH:  My remarks are simply to say something nice about Neil, my son.  (Laughter.)  It’s not hard to do, and he’s been very active in this whole concept of volunteering, helping others.  And so it’s my privilege to introduce Neil, and first, of course, thank the President and Mrs. Obama for this wonderful hospitality.  It’s like coming home for Barbara and me with the rest of you just coming to this magnificent house and being greeted by this superb hospitality — knows no bounds.

So thank you all very much.  Now, Neil.  (Applause.)

*****

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, thank you very much, Michelle, for your outstanding work.  To all the Points of Light Award recipients, we’re proud of you, congratulations, and keep up the great work.  You inspire us and make us want to do that much more, especially when you see young people who are already making such a difference and such an impact, it gives you enormous confidence that America, for all its challenges, will always meet them because we’ve got this incredible character.

And with that, what I want to do is once again thank President and Mrs. Bush for their outstanding leadership.  We are so grateful to both of you.  I want to thank Neil for his leadership, and I want to make sure that everybody enjoys a reception.  I suspect the food may be pretty good.  (Laughter.)

So thank you very much, all of you, for being here.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
2:25 P.M. EDT

Political Musings July 15, 2013: Rick Perry announces Israel trip, will a 2016 presidential bid be next?

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Rick Perry announces Israel trip, will a 2016 presidential bid be next?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

On Thursday, July 11, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced to the Washington Times that he intends to take a trip to Israel this upcoming October. Three days earlier on Monday June 8, Perry announced he will not seek a full…READ MORE

Political Headlines July 13, 2013: Texas Senate Passes Restrictive Abortion Law

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Texas Senate Passes Restrictive Abortion Law

Source: ABC News Radio, 7-13-13

Late Friday night, the Texas Senate gave final passage to a strict new law that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, require doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and require all abortions take place in “surgical centers.”

A 19-11 vote in favor of the new abortion restrictions sends the measure to the desk of Gov. Rick Perry, who has already said that he would sign the proposal into law….READ MORE

Political Musings July 12, 2013: House passes farm spending bill without food stamps, White House promises veto

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

House passes farm spending bill without food stamps, White House promises veto

By Bonnie K. Goodman

On Thursday, July 11, 2013, the House of Representatives passed the farm spending bill, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 by a vote 216-208. The new bill however, has quickly become a contentious issue since…READ MORE

Political Headlines July 12, 2013: House Immigration Reform Bill ‘Includes a Pathway to Citizenship’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Becerra: House Immigration Reform Bill ‘Includes a Pathway to Citizenship’

Source: ABC News Radio, 7-12-13

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

A bipartisan immigration bill being drafted in the House will contain a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, one of the authors said on Friday.

Lawmakers working on the bill, known as the Gang of Seven, have refused to say when they plan to unveil it. But this is the first time one of the drafters has said the product will allow undocumented immigrants to earn full citizenship, and not just legal status….READ MORE

History Buzz July 12, 2013: History Says President Barack Obama Has Time Yet to Make Impact in Second Term

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Says Obama, in Second Term, Has Time Yet to Make Impact

Source: NYT, 7-12-13

The recent history of two-term presidencies shows that things could be a lot better. Or much worse….READ MORE

Political Headlines July 12, 2013: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Resigning

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Resigning

Source: ABC News Radio, 7-12-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano plans to step down from her cabinet position in order to become president of the University of California system.

“For more than four years I have had the privilege of serving President Obama and his Administration as the Secretary of Homeland Security,” Napolitano said in a statement on Friday. “The opportunity to work with the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, who serve on the frontlines of our nation’s efforts to protect our communities and families from harm, has been the highlight of my professional career.”….READ MORE

Political Headlines July 11, 2013: Hillary Clinton Taps Speechmaking Gold Mine

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Hillary Clinton Taps Speechmaking Gold Mine

Source: NYT, 7-11-13

The events are giving Hillary Rodham Clinton large captive crowds as she considers a run for president in 2016….READ MORE

Political Musings July 11, 2013: Former President George W. Bush enters immigration reform debate

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Former President George W. Bush enters immigration reform debate

By Bonnie K. Goodman

On Wednesday, July 10, former President George W. Bush gave a speech pushing for the passage of immigration reform at the George W. Bush Institute affiliated with his presidential library and museum and George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas…READ MORE

Political Headlines July 11, 2013: House Passes Farm Bill Without Food Stamp Provision with a Vote of 216-208

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

House Passes Farm Bill Without Food Stamp Provision

Source: ABC News Radio, 7-11-13

The House of Representatives voted Thursday along partisan lines to approve a farm bill which had been separated from a comprehensive version of the legislation that initially included hundreds of billions of dollars for food stamps.

The bill narrowly passed 216-208, with no Democrats supporting passage. Twelve Republicans also opposed the bill….READ MORE

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