Full Text Obama Presidency October 30, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Health Care Law, on the Affordable Care Act at Faneuil Hall, Boston

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and Governor Deval Patrick on the Affordable Care Act

Source: WH, 10-30-13

 

U.S. President Barack Obama

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on healthcare at Faneuil Hall in Boston on Oct. 30, 2013.

Faneuil Hall
Boston, Massachusetts

3:50 P.M. EDT

GOVERNOR PATRICK:  How are you?  Good afternoon, everybody.  (Applause.)  How’s Red Sox Nation this afternoon?  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, fellow citizens, I have the high honor of introducing to you the President of the United States.  (Applause.)  But, of course, you folks already know him.  (Laughter.)  So as the President is standing just offstage, I want to take my time here at the podium — (laughter) — to introduce all of you to him.

In this storied hall today, Mr. President, are the architects and advocates for health care reform in Massachusetts. (Applause.)  This gathering right here is the broad coalition — providers, payers, patients, consumers, policymakers, academics, business and labor, from both political parties, or no party at all — who came together to invent health care reform in Massachusetts and then, importantly, stuck together to refine it as we moved forward.  (Applause.)

You are the leaders who, when we learned a hard lesson or hit a wall, stuck with it and with each other because of the shared value that health care is a public good and that every citizen deserves access to quality, affordable care.  (Applause.)

Quality, affordable care accessible to all improves lives, and in many cases, saves lives.  It gives peace of mind and economic security to working families.  It increases productivity for large and small employers alike.  It creates jobs and contributes to the strength of the Massachusetts economy.  It is a powerful statement of who we are as a commonwealth.  (Applause.)

And by every reasonable measure, it has been a success for us here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  (Applause.)  How do we know?  Virtually, every resident in the commonwealth is insured today.  (Applause.)  More private companies offer insurance to their employees than ever before.  Over 90 percent of our residents have a primary care physician.  Preventive care is up and health disparities are down.  (Applause.)  Most important of all, on a whole range of measures, we are healthier both physically and mentally.

Over all these years, expansion itself has added only about 1 percent of state spending to our budget.  And thanks to the collective, continued hard work of this coalition, premiums are finally easing up.  Premium base rates were increasing over 16 percent just a few years ago.  Today, increases average less than 2 percent.  (Applause.)

And thanks to the President, America can look forward to the successes that Massachusetts has experienced these last seven years.  (Applause.)

The truth is policy only matters when and where it touches people.  I know this policy matters because I’ve met people all across the commonwealth, in every walk of life, whose lives have been improved or saved because of the care our reforms made possible.  A couple of them are here today.

Laura Ferreira — where are you, Laura?  There you are.  Owns her own hair salon and is responsible for providing health insurance to her family of five, including her son, Mason, who’s right here with her.  Mason has a rare genetic condition.  Laura is able to afford his medicine because they found coverage through our Connecter, our version of the ACA marketplace.  This policy matters.  (Applause.)

David Gilloran works as a waiter.  Where are you David?  There you are.  Thank you for being here.  Soon after getting coverage through the Connector, David was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  His treatment was covered, and he is back to his old life and swimming for exercise.  God bless you, David.  (Applause.)

Brian Thurber left his law firm job to become an entrepreneur in Massachusetts.  Brian, where are you?  There he is.  Because he was able to access quality insurance directly through the Connector, he is chasing his entrepreneurial dreams and on his way to becoming a creator of jobs for others without  — being exposed to a health emergency along the way.  Keep going.  Good luck to you.  (Applause.)

Hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts people don’t fear going bankrupt from medical bills, or being thrown off their insurance if they get really sick, or being declared ineligible for insurance because they were seriously ill sometime in the past.

If policy matters where it touches people, Mr. President, this policy matters a lot.  Health care reform is working for the people of Massachusetts, and it will work for the people of America.  (Applause.)

My Republican predecessor signed the legislation to expand health care reform in Massachusetts right here in this room, on this very stage.  His chief legislative partner was the Democratic state senator, Robert Travaglini, who was here then and is here today.  Where are you, Trav?  Thank you.  (Applause.)

So was our beloved Ted Kennedy.  So were many of the members of the coalition who are here again today.  And they have worked right alongside my team and me these last seven years to refine and improve the means while staying true to the ends.  I am proud of what we and they have accomplished, and I think they’re proud, too, and ought to be.  (Applause.)

But our launch seven years ago was not flawless.  (Laughter.)  We asked an IT staffer who has been at our Connector since the beginning what the start of implementing reform was like.  And this is what he said, and I’m quoting:  “We didn’t have a complicated eligibility process back then, but we did have outages caused by traffic peaks.  We experienced some issues with data mapping of plan detail that carriers called us on.  Our provider searches were not good, and the website was a constant work in progress over the first few years.  But other than that, it was smooth.”  (Laughter.)

Any of this sound familiar, Mr. President?

So we started out with a website that needed work.  We had a lot of people with a lot of reasonable questions and not a good enough way to get them the answers.  But people were patient, we had good leadership, and that same coalition stuck with it and with us to work through the fixes, tech surge and all.  Why?  Why?  Because health reform in Massachusetts, like the Affordable Care Act, is not a website.  It’s a values statement.  (Applause.)  It’s about insuring people against a medical catastrophe.  It’s about being our brothers’ and our sisters’ keeper by helping others help themselves.

The website glitches are inconvenient and annoying.  They must be fixed and I am confident they will be.  But I hope you know, Mr. President, that the same folks who pretend to be outraged about the website not working didn’t want the ACA to work in the first place.  (Applause.)  The urgency of fixing what’s not working is, as we all know, about the American people who need simple, reliable and convenient access to information about coverage — not about silencing critics who will never be silenced.

You and the Congress looked to Massachusetts, Mr. President, as a model for how to insure working people, and through that, how to help them lead better, more productive lives.  As you turn to the vital work of making that federal IT system work, we also want to be a model for how to keep your eye on the prize, and how, working together, you put people first.  (Applause.)  The people here, all in this coalition, totally get that.

So, Mr. President, welcome to the capital of Red Sox Nation. (Applause.)  And welcome, also, to the future of affordable, accessible health care for everybody.  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Boston!  (Applause.)  It’s good to be back in Boston.  (Applause.)  It’s good to be back in Boston because one of America’s best governors introduced me — Deval Patrick.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

It’s good to see Congressman Bill Keating here.  Give Bill a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  I want to praise somebody who’s not here — I just left him — but he wears his heart on his sleeve.  He loves this city so much, and it shows in what he’s been doing for years now — one of America’s best mayors, Tom Menino.  (Applause.)

And it’s good to see all of you.  I was just at the airport — Deval was kind enough to meet me, along with Mayor Menino.  And Mayor Menino went back to city hall to work so he could wrap up in time for the first pitch.  I understand that.  (Laughter.) I am well aware that a presidential visit is not the biggest thing going on today in Boston.  (Laughter and applause.)  I understand that.  I tried to grow a beard, but Michelle, she wasn’t having it.  (Laughter.)

I am also old enough to remember a time when the Red Sox were not in the World Series three times in 10 years.  (Laughter.)  But I know the chance to win one at home for the first time since 1918 is a pretty special thing.  (Applause.)  So I promise we will be done here in time — (laughter) — for everybody to head over to Fenway and maybe see Big Papi blast another homer.  (Applause.)

And maybe the other Sox will do better next year.  (Laughter.)  You can hope.  You can dream.  (Laughter.)

The reason I’m here, though, is because this is the hall where, seven years ago, Democrats and Republicans came together to make health reform a reality for the people of Massachusetts. It’s where then-Governor Mitt Romney, Democratic legislators, Senator Ted Kennedy, many of the folks who are here today joined forces to connect the progressive vision of health care for all with some ideas about markets and competition that had long been championed by conservatives.

And as Deval just said, it worked.  (Applause.)  It worked. Health reform —

PROTESTORS:  Mr. President — don’t punish me.  For our generation, stop the pipeline!  Mr. President —

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  We’re talking about health care today, but we will —

PROTESTORS:  Mr. President —

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no, it’s okay.  That is the wrong rally.  (Laughter and applause.)  We had the climate change rally back in the summer.  (Laughter.)  This is the health care rally. (Applause.)

So health care reform in this state was a success.  That doesn’t mean it was perfect right away.  There were early problems to solve.  There were changes that had to be made.  Anybody here who was involved in it can tell you that.  As Deval just said, enrollment was extremely slow.  Within a month, only about a hundred people had signed up — a hundred.  But then 2,000 had signed up, and then a few more thousand after that.  And by the end of the year, 36,000 people had signed up.

And the community all came together.  You even had the Red Sox help enlist people to get them covered.  And pretty soon, the number of young uninsured people had plummeted.  When recession struck, the financial security of health care sheltered families from deeper hardship.  And today, there is nearly universal coverage in Massachusetts, and the vast majority of its citizens are happy with their coverage.  (Applause.)

And by the way, all the parade of horribles, the worst predictions about health care reform in Massachusetts never came true.  They’re the same arguments that you’re hearing now.  Businesses didn’t stop covering workers; the share of employers who offered insurance increased.  People didn’t get left behind; racial disparities decreased.  Care didn’t become unaffordable; costs tracked what was happening in other places that wasn’t covering everybody.

Now, Mitt Romney and I ran a long and spirited campaign against one another, but I’ve always believed that when he was governor here in Massachusetts, he did the right thing on health care.  And then Deval did the right thing by picking up the torch and working to make the law work even better.  And it’s because you guys had a proven model that we built the Affordable Care Act on this template of proven, bipartisan success.  Your law was the model for the nation’s law.  (Applause.)

So let’s look at what’s happened.  Today, the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to abide by some of the strongest consumer protections this country has ever known — a true Patient’s Bill of Rights.  (Applause.)  No more discriminating against kids with preexisting conditions.  (Applause.)  No more dropping your policy when you get sick and need it most.  (Applause.)  No more lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits.  (Applause.)  Most plans now have to cover free preventive care like mammograms and birth control.  (Applause.)  Young people can stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26.  All of this is in place right now.  It is working right now.  (Applause.)

Now, the last element of this began on October 1st.  It’s when the Affordable Care Act created a new marketplace for quality, private insurance plans for the 15 percent or so of Americans who don’t have health care, and for the 5 percent of Americans who have to buy it on their own and they’re not part of a group, which means they don’t get as good a deal.

And this new marketplace was built on the Massachusetts model.  It allows these Americans who have been locked out to get a better deal from insurers — they’re pooling their purchasing power as one big group.  And insurers want their business, which means they give them a better deal, and they compete for that business.  And as a result, insurers in the marketplace, they can’t use your medical history to charge you more.  If you’ve been sick, you finally have the same chance to buy quality, affordable health care as everybody else.

A lot of people will qualify for new tax credits under this law that will bring down costs even further, so that if you lose your job, or you start a new business, or you’re self-employed, or you’re a young person trying several jobs until you find that one that sticks, you’re going to be able to be insured — insurance that goes with you and gives you freedom to pursue whatever you want, without fear that accident or illness will derail your dreams.

Now, this marketplace is open now.  Insurance companies are competing for that business.  The deal is good; the prices are low.  But, let’s face it, we’ve had a problem.  The website hasn’t worked the way it’s supposed to over these last couple of weeks.  And as a consequence, a lot of people haven’t had a chance to see just how good the prices for quality health insurance through these marketplaces really are.

Now, ultimately, this website, healthcare.gov, will be the easiest way to shop for and buy these new plans, because you can see all these plans right next to each other and compare prices and see what kind of coverage it provides.  But, look, there’s no denying it, right now, the website is too slow, too many people have gotten stuck.  And I am not happy about it.  And neither are a lot of Americans who need health care, and they’re trying to figure out how they can sign up as quickly as possible.  So there’s no excuse for it.  And I take full responsibility for making sure it gets fixed ASAP.  We are working overtime to improve it every day.  (Applause.)  Every day.

And more people are successfully buying these new plans online than they were a couple of weeks ago, and I expect more people will be able to buy conveniently online every single day as we move forward.  We’re going to get these problems resolved.

Now, in the meantime, you can still apply for coverage over the phone, or by mail, or in person, because those plans are waiting and you’re still able to get the kind of affordable, reliable health insurance that’s been out of reach for too many people for too long.

So I am old enough to remember when there was not such a thing as a website.  (Laughter.)  I know that’s shocking to people.  (Laughter.)  But the point is I’m confident these marketplaces will work, because Massachusetts has shown that the model works and we know what’s being offered by these insurers.  (Applause.)  We know it’s going to work.

And so far, choice and competition in the new national marketplaces have helped keep costs lower than even we projected. In fact, nearly half of all single, uninsured 18-to-34-year-olds may be able to buy insurance for 50 bucks a month or less.  Less than your cellphone bill, less than your cable bill.  (Applause.) And one study shows that nearly 6 in 10 uninsured Americans may find coverage for 100 bucks a month or less, even if they’re older than 34.

And, frankly, if every governor was working as hard as Deval, or Governor O’Malley in Maryland, or Governor Cuomo in New York, to make this law work for their citizens, as opposed to thinking politically, about 8 in 10 Americans would be getting health insurance for less than 100 bucks a month.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, it’s not just in Massachusetts.  Look at Kentucky.  Governor Steve Beshear, who’s a Democrat, is like a man possessed with helping more people get covered.  He thinks it’s the right thing to do.  Keep in mind I did not win in Kentucky.  (Laughter.)  But there are a lot of uninsured people in Kentucky, and they’re signing up.

Oregon has covered 10 percent of its uninsured citizens already because of the Affordable Care Act.  Ten percent of the uninsured have already gotten coverage.  (Applause.)

Arkansas — I didn’t win that state either — (laughter) — has covered almost 14 percent of its uninsured already.  (Applause.)  That’s already happened.

And you’ve got some Republican governors, like Governor Kasich of Ohio, who’ve put politics aside and they’re expanding Medicaid through this law to cover millions of people.

Now, unfortunately, there are others that are so locked in to the politics of this thing that they won’t lift a finger to help their own people, and that’s leaving millions of Americans uninsured unnecessarily.  That’s a shame.  Because if they put as much energy into making this law work as they do in attacking the law, Americans would be better off.  (Applause.)  Americans would be better off.

So that’s the Affordable Care Act:  Better protections for Americans with insurance; a new marketplace for Americans without insurance; new tax credits to help folks afford it; more choice, more competition; real health care security not just for the uninsured or underinsured, but for all of us — because we pay more in premiums and taxes when Americans without good insurance visit the emergency room.  (Applause.)  We get taxed.

And since we all benefit, there are parts of this law that also require everybody to contribute, that require everybody to take some measure of responsibility.  So, to help pay for the law, the wealthiest Americans –- families who make more than $250,000 a year –- they’ve got to pay a little bit more.  The most expensive employer health insurance plans no longer qualify for unlimited tax breaks.  Some folks aren’t happy about that, but it’s the right thing to do.

Just like in Massachusetts, most people who can afford health insurance have to take responsibility to buy health insurance, or pay a penalty.  And employers with more than 50 employees are required to either provide health insurance to their workers or pay a penalty — again, because they shouldn’t just dump off those costs onto the rest of us.  Everybody has got some responsibilities.

Now, it is also true that some Americans who have health insurance plans that they bought on their own through the old individual market are getting notices from their insurance companies suggesting that somehow, because of the Affordable Care Act, they may be losing their existing health insurance plan.  This has been the latest flurry in the news.  Because there’s been a lot of confusion and misinformation about this, I want to explain just what’s going on.

One of the things health reform was designed to do was to help not only the uninsured, but also the underinsured.  And there are a number of Americans –- fewer than 5 percent of Americans -– who’ve got cut-rate plans that don’t offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident.  Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad-apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received, or use minor preexisting conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy.  So a lot of people thought they were buying coverage, and it turned out not to be so good.

Before the Affordable Care Act, the worst of these plans routinely dropped thousands of Americans every single year.  And on average, premiums for folks who stayed in their plans for more than a year shot up about 15 percent a year.  This wasn’t just bad for those folks who had these policies, it was bad for all of us — because, again, when tragedy strikes and folks can’t pay their medical bills, everybody else picks up the tab.

Now, if you had one of these substandard plans before the Affordable Care Act became law and you really liked that plan, you’re able to keep it.  That’s what I said when I was running for office.  That was part of the promise we made.  But ever since the law was passed, if insurers decided to downgrade or cancel these substandard plans, what we said under the law is you’ve got to replace them with quality, comprehensive coverage  — because that, too, was a central premise of the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning.

And today, that promise means that every plan in the marketplace covers a core set of minimum benefits, like maternity care, and preventive care, and mental health care, and prescription drug benefits, and hospitalization.  And they can’t use allergies or pregnancy or a sports injury or the fact that you’re a woman to charge you more.  They can’t do that anymore.  (Applause.)  They can’t do that anymore.

If you couldn’t afford coverage because your child had asthma, well, he’s now covered.  If you’re one of the 45 million Americans with a mental illness, you’re now covered.  If you’re a young couple expecting a baby, you’re covered.  You’re safer.  The system is more secure for you and it’s more secure for everybody.

So if you’re getting one of these letters, just shop around in the new marketplace.  That’s what it’s for.  Because of the tax credits we’re offering, and the competition —

PROTESTOR:  Mr. President, ban the Keystone Pipeline!  For our generation, you need to do this!

THE PRESIDENT:  Because of the tax credits that we’re offering and the competition between insurers, most people are going to be able to get better, comprehensive health care plans for the same price or even cheaper than projected.  You’re going to get a better deal.

Now, there’s a fraction of Americans with higher incomes who will pay more on the front end for better insurance with better benefits and protections like the Patient’s Bill of Rights.  And that will actually save them from financial ruin if they get sick.  But nobody is losing their right to health care coverage. And no insurance company will ever be able to deny you coverage, or drop you as a customer altogether.  Those days are over.  And that’s the truth.  (Applause.)  That is the truth.

So for people without health insurance, they’re finally going to be able to get it.  For the vast majority of people who have health insurance that works, you can keep it.  For the fewer than 5 percent of Americans who buy insurance on your own, you will be getting a better deal.

So anyone peddling the notion that insurers are cancelling people’s plan without mentioning that almost all the insurers are encouraging people to join better plans with the same carrier, and stronger benefits and stronger protections, while others will be able to get better plans with new carriers through the marketplace, and that many will get new help to pay for these better plans and make them actually cheaper — if you leave that stuff out, you’re being grossly misleading, to say the least.  (Applause.)

But, frankly, look, you saw this in Massachusetts — this is one of the challenges of health care form.  Health care is complicated and it’s very personal, and it’s easy to scare folks. And it’s no surprise that some of the same folks trying to scare people now are the same folks who’ve been trying to sink the Affordable Care Act from the beginning.  (Applause.)  And frankly, I don’t understand it.  Providing people with health care, that should be a no-brainer.  (Applause.)  Giving people a chance to get health care should be a no-brainer.  (Applause.)

And I’ve said before, if folks had actually good ideas, better ideas than what’s happening in Massachusetts or what we’ve proposed for providing people with health insurance, I’d be happy to listen.  But that’s not what’s happening.  And anyone defending the remnants of the old, broken system as if it was working for people, anybody who thinks we shouldn’t finish the job of making the health care system work for everybody -– especially when these folks offer no plan for the uninsured or the underinsured, or folks who lose their insurance each year — those folks should have to explain themselves.  (Applause.)

Because I don’t think we should go back to discriminating against kids with preexisting conditions.  (Applause.)  I don’t think we should go back to dropping coverage for people when they get sick, or because they make a mistake on their application.  (Applause.)  I don’t think we should go back to the daily cruelties and indignities and constant insecurity of a broken health care system.  And I’m confident most Americans agree with me.  (Applause.)

So, yes, this is hard, because the health care system is a big system, and it’s complicated.  And if it was hard doing it just in one state, it’s harder to do it in all 50 states — especially when the governors of a bunch of states and half of the Congress aren’t trying to help.  Yes, it’s hard.  But it’s worth it.  (Applause.)  It is the right thing to do, and we’re going to keep moving forward.  (Applause.)  We are going to keep working to improve the law, just like you did here in Massachusetts.  (Applause.)

We are just going to keep on working at it.  We’re going to grind it out, just like you did here in Massachusetts — and, by the way, just like we did when the prescription drug program for seniors known as Medicare Part D was passed by a Republican President a decade ago.  That health care law had some early challenges as well.  There were even problems with the website.  (Laughter.)  And Democrats weren’t happy with a lot of the aspects of the law because, in part, it added hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit, it wasn’t paid for — unlike the Affordable Care Act, which will actually help lower the deficit.  (Applause.)

But, you know what, once it was the law, everybody pitched in to try to make it work.  Democrats weren’t about to punish millions of seniors just to try to make a point or settle a score.  So Democrats worked with Republicans to make it work.  And I’m proud of Democrats for having done that.  It was the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  Because now, about 90 percent of seniors like what they have.  They’ve gotten a better deal.

Both parties working together to get the job done –- that’s what we need in Washington right now.  (Applause.)  That’s what we need in Washington right now.

You know, if Republicans in Congress were as eager to help Americans get covered as some Republican governors have shown themselves to be, we’d make a lot of progress.  I’m not asking them to agree with me on everything, but if they’d work with us like Mitt Romney did, working with Democrats in Massachusetts, or like Ted Kennedy often did with Republicans in Congress, including on the prescription drug bill, we’d be a lot further along.  (Applause.)

So the point is, we may have political disagreements — we do, deep ones.  In some cases, we’ve got fundamentally different visions about where we should take the country.  But the people who elect us to serve, they shouldn’t pay the price for those disagreements.  Most Americans don’t see things through a political lens or an ideological lens.  This debate has never been about right or left.  It’s been about the helplessness that a parent feels when she can’t cover a sick child, or the impossible choices a small business faces between covering his employees or keeping his doors open.

I want to give you just — I want to close with an example. A person named Alan Schaeffer, from Prattsburgh, New York, and he’s got a story to tell about sacrifice, about giving up his own health care to save the woman he loves.  So Alan wrote to me last week, and he told me his story.

Four years ago, his wife, Jan, who happens to be a nurse, was struck with cancer, and she had to stop working.  And then halfway through her chemo, her employer dropped coverage for both of them.  And Alan is self-employed; he’s got an antique business.  So he had to make sure his wife had coverage, obviously, in the middle of cancer treatments, so he went without insurance.

Now, the great news is, today, Jan is cancer-free.  She’s on Medicare, but Alan’s been uninsured ever since.  Until last week — (applause) — when he sat down at a computer and — I’m sure after multiple tries — (laughter) — signed up for a new plan under the Affordable Care Act, coverage that can never be taken away if he gets sick.  (Applause.)

So I just want to read you what he said in this letter.  He says, “I’ve got to tell you I’ve never been so happy to pay a bill in my entire life.”  (Laughter.)  “When you don’t have insurance at my age, [it can] really feel like a time bomb waiting to go off.  The sense of relief from knowing I can live out my days longer and healthier, that’s just a tremendous weight off my shoulders.”

So two days later, Alan goes over to his buddy Bill’s house. He sits Bill down, and his wife, Diana, at their computer.  And after several tries — (laughter) — Alan helped lift that weight from their shoulders by helping them to sign up for a new plan also.  And compared to their current plan, it costs less than half as much and covers more.

See, that’s why we committed ourselves to this cause — for Alan, and Jan; for Bill, Diana.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Annie.

THE PRESIDENT:  For Annie.  For anyone who wrote letters, and shared stories, and knocked on doors because they believed what could happen here in Massachusetts could happen all across the country.  (Applause.)  And for them, and for you, we are going to see this through.  (Applause.)  We’re going to see this through.  (Applause.)  We are going to see this through.  (Applause.)

This hall is home to some of the earliest debates over the nature of our government, the appropriate size, the appropriate role of government.  And those debates continue today, and that’s healthy.  They’re debates about the role of the individual and society, and our rugged individualism, and our sense of self-reliance, our devotion to the kind of freedoms whose first shot rang out not far from here.  But they are also debates tempered by a recognition that we’re all in this together, and that when hardship strikes — and it could strike any of us at any moment  — we’re there for one another; and that as a country, we can accomplish great things that we can’t accomplish alone.  (Applause.)  We believe that.  We believe that.  (Applause.)

And those sentiments are expressed in a painting right here in this very hall:  “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable.”  That’s the value statement Deval was talking about.  That’s what health care reform is about.  That’s what America is about.  We are in this together, and we are going to see it through.  (Applause.)

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

Advertisements

Political Musings October 29, 2013: Obama, GOP weekly addresses focus on HealthCare.gov sign up glitches

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama, GOP weekly addresses focus on HealthCare.gov sign up glitches (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama sought to reassure Americans in his weekly address released Saturday morning, Oct. 26, 2013 about his new health care law, the Affordable Care Act. This past week the insurance exchange website HealthCare.gov referred to as the…

READ MORE

Political Musings October 29, 2013: House committee conducts hearing into health care website problems

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

House committee conducts hearing into health care website problems

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The House Energy and Commerce Committee started on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 holding hearings related to the problems with the HealthCare.gov website. The contractors responsible for developing the site testified on the first day of hearings, and denied…READ MORE

Political Musings October 29, 2013: HealthCare.gov website problems leads to bipartisan calls for Obamacare delays

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

HealthCare.gov website problems leads to bipartisan calls for Obamacare delays

By Bonnie K. Goodman

This past week the insurance exchange website HealthCare.gov referred to as the Marketplace has been in the spotlight over major glitches; the website is part of the rollout of President Barack Obama’s new health care law, the…READ MORE

Political Musings October 28, 2013: President Obama continues selling health care law as rollout problems persist

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama continues selling health care law as rollout problems persist (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama has been fervently trying to sell his health care law, the Affordable Care Act this past week, as problems continued to persist with the law’s Marketplace, HealthCare.gov. The President gave his first address reassuring…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 28, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at FBI Director James Comey’s Installation Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and FBI Director James Comey

Source: WH, 10-28-13

President Barack Obama and FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce, center, applaud FBI Director James Comey, left, during his installation ceremony at the J. Edgar Hoover BuildingPresident Barack Obama and FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce, center, applaud FBI Director James Comey, left, during his installation ceremony at the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C., Oct. 28, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

12:34 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you, FBI.  (Applause.) Thank you so much.  Please, everybody, be seated — those of you who have seats.  (Laughter.)
Well, good afternoon, everybody.  I am so proud to be here and to stand once again with so many dedicated men and women of the FBI.  You are the best of the best.  Day in and day out, you work tirelessly to confront the most dangerous threats our nation faces.  You serve with courage; you serve with integrity.  You protect Americans at home and abroad.  You lock up criminals.  You secure the homeland against the threat of terrorism.  Without a lot of fanfare, without seeking the spotlight, you do your jobs, all the while upholding our most cherished values and the rule of law.
Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity:  That’s your motto.  And today, we’re here to welcome a remarkable new leader for this remarkable institution, one who lives those principles out every single day:  Mr. Jim Comey.
Before I get to Jim, I want to thank all the predecessors who are here today.  We are grateful for your service.  I have to give a special shout-out to Bob Mueller, who served longer than he was supposed to, but he was such an extraordinary leader through some of the most difficult times that we’ve had in national security.  And I consider him a friend and I’m so grateful for him and Ann being here today.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)
Now, Jim has dedicated his life to defending our laws — to making sure that all Americans can trust our justice system to protect their rights and their well-being.  He’s the grandson of a beat cop.  He’s the prosecutor who helped bring down the Gambinos.  He’s the relentless attorney who fought to stem the bloody tide of gun violence, rub out white-collar crime, deliver justice to terrorists.  It’s just about impossible to find a matter of justice he has not tackled, and it’s hard to imagine somebody who is not more uniquely qualified to lead a bureau that covers all of it — traditional threats like violent and organized crime to the constantly changing threats like terrorism and cyber-security.  So he’s got the resume.
But, of course, Jim is also a famously cool character — the calmest in the room during a crisis.  Here’s what a fellow former prosecutor said about him.  He said, “You know that Rudyard Kipling line — ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs’– that’s Jim.”
There’s also a story from the time during his prosecution of the Gambino crime family.  One of the defendants was an alleged hit man named Lorenzo.  And during the trial, Jim won an award from the New York City Bar Association.  When the court convened the next morning, everybody was buzzing about it, and suddenly, a note was passed down from the defendant’s table, across the aisle to the prosecutor’s table.  It was handed to Jim, and it read:  “Dear Jim, congratulations on your award.  No one deserves it more than you.  You’re a true professional.  Sincerely, Lorenzo.”  (Laughter.)
“Sincerely, Lorenzo.”  Now, we don’t know how sincere he was.  (Laughter.)  We don’t know whether this was a veiled threat, or a plea for leniency, or an honest compliment.  But I think it is fair to say that Jim has won the respect of folks across the spectrum — including Lorenzo.  (Laughter.)
He’s the perfect leader for an organization whose walls are graced by the words of a legendary former director:  “The most effective weapon against crime is cooperation.”  Jim has worked with many of the more than 35,000 men and women of the FBI over the course of his long and distinguished career.  And it’s his admiration and respect for all of you, individually, his recognition of the hard work that you do every day — sometimes under extraordinarily difficult circumstances — not just the folks out in the field, but also folks working the back rooms, doing the hard work, out of sight — his recognition that your mission is important is what compelled him to answer the call to serve his country again.
The FBI joins forces with our intelligence, our military, and homeland security professionals to break up all manner of threats — from taking down drug rings to stopping those who prey on children, to breaking up al Qaeda cells to disrupting their activities, thwarting their plots.  And your mission keeps expanding because the nature of the threats are always changing.
Unfortunately, the resources allotted to that mission has been reduced by sequestration.  I’ll keep fighting for those resources because our country asks and expects a lot from you, and we should make sure you’ve got the resources you need to do the job.  Especially when many of your colleagues put their lives on the line on a daily basis, all to serve and protect our fellow citizens — the least we can do is make sure you’ve got the resources for it and that your operations are not disrupted because of politics in this town.  (Applause.)
Now the good news is things like courage, leadership, judgment, and compassion — those resources are, potentially, at least, inexhaustible.  That’s why it’s critical that we seek out the best people to serve — folks who have earned the public trust; who have excellent judgment, even in the most difficult circumstances; those who possess not just a keen knowledge of the law, but also a moral compass that they — and we — can always count on.
And that’s who we’ve got in Jim Comey.  I’ll tell you I interviewed a number of extraordinary candidates for this job, all with sterling credentials.  But what gave me confidence that this was the right man for the job wasn’t his degrees and it wasn’t his resume; it was in talking to him and seeing his amazing family, a sense that this somebody who knows what’s right and what’s wrong, and is willing to act on that basis every single day.  And that’s why I’m so grateful that he’s signed up to serve again.
I will spare you yet another joke about how today, no one stands taller.  (Laughter.)  I simply want to thank Jim for accepting this role.  I want to thank Patrice and the five remarkable children that they’ve got — because jobs like this are a team effort, as you well know.
And I want to thank most all the men and women of the FBI.  I’m proud of your work.  I’m grateful for your service.  I’m absolutely confident that this agency will continue to flourish with Jim at the helm.  And if he gets lost in the building, I want you guys to help him out.  (Laughter.)  Because I guarantee you that he’s going to have your back, make sure you’ve got his back as well.
Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.)
MR. JOYCE:  And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to introduce the seventh Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation — James B. Comey.  (Applause.)
MR. COMEY:  Thank you, Sean.  Thank you, Mr. President.  Thank you so much for gracing us with your presence, for honoring us, and for speaking so eloquently about the mission of the FBI and its great people.
Thank you also to my friends and family who are gathered here today.  My entire life is literally represented in this crowd, and it is a pretty picture.  These are the people that I have known and loved literally my entire life and from whom I have learned so much.
I’m especially grateful that my dad and my sister and my brothers could be here today.  I wish so much that Mom could be here to enjoy this amazing day.  I can still hear ringing in my entire teenage years her voice as she snapped open the shades every single morning and said, “Rise and shine and show the world what you’re made of.”  I found it less inspiring at the time — (laughter) — but it made us who we are.  And I’ll never forget that.
And to my five troops and my amazing bride, who talked me into being interviewed for this job — of course, with the caveat that she’d be okay because the President would never pick me.  (Laughter.)  I got to tell you, this is your last chance to talk to him about it.  (Laughter.)
Mr. President, I am so grateful for this honor and this opportunity to serve with the men and women of the FBI.  They are standing all around this great courtyard, and standing on duty all around this country and around this world at this moment.  I know already that this is the best job I have ever had and will ever have.
That’s because I have a front row seat to watch the work of a remarkable group of people who serve this country, folks from all walks of life who joined the FBI for the same reason — they were teachers and soldiers, and police officers and scholars, and software engineers, and people from all walks of life who wanted to do good for a living.  They wanted jobs with moral content, and so they joined this great organization.
I thought about them as I stood in this courtyard just a week ago and showed a visiting foreign leader the statue that overlooks this ceremony.  It’s an artist’s depiction of the words from our shield that the President mentioned:  Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity. And as I thought about that statue and those words and this ceremony, I thought I would take just a couple of minutes and tell you what those words mean and why I think they belong on our shield.
First, fidelity.  The dictionary defines fidelity as a strict and continuing faithfulness to an obligation, trust, or duty.  To my mind, that word on our shield reminds us that the FBI must abide two obligations at the same time.  First, the FBI must be independent of all political forces or interests in this country.  In a real sense, it must stand apart from other institutions in American life.  But, second, at the same time, it must be part of the United States Department of Justice, and constrained by the rule of law and the checks and balances built into our brilliant design by our nation’s founders.
There is a tension reflected in those two aspects of fidelity, those two values that I see in that word, and I think that tension is reflected in the 10-year term that I’ve just begun.  The term is 10 years to ensure independence.  But it is a fixed term of years to ensure that power does not become concentrated in one person and unconstrained.  The need for reflection and restraint of power is what led Louis Freeh to order that all new agent classes visit the Holocaust Museum here in Washington so they could see and feel and hear in a palpable way the consequences of abuse of power on a massive almost unimaginable scale.  Bob Mueller continued that practice.  And I will again, when we have agents graduating from Quantico.
The balance reflected in my term is also a product of lessons hard learned from the history of this great institution.  Our first half-century or so was a time of great progress and achievement for this country, and for the Bureau.  But it also saw abuse and overreach — most famously with respect to Martin Luther King and others, who were viewed as internal security threats.
As I think about the unique balance represented by fidelity to independence on the one hand, and the rule of law on the other, I think it also makes sense for me to offer those in training a reminder closer to our own history.  I’m going to direct that all new agents and analysts also visit the Martin Luther King Memorial here in Washington.  I think it will serve as a different kind of lesson — (applause) — one more personal to the Bureau, of the dangers in becoming untethered to oversight and accountability.
 That word fidelity belongs on our shield.
 Next, bravery.  We have perpetrated a myth in our society that being brave means not being afraid, but that’s wrong.  Mark Twain once said that bravery “is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”  If you’ve ever talked to a special agent that you know well and you ask he or she about a dangerous encounter they were involved in, they’ll almost always give you the same answer, “yeah, I did it, but I was scared to heck the whole time.”  But that’s the essence of bravery.
Only a crazy person wouldn’t fear approaching a car with tinted windows during a late-night car stop, or pounding up a flight of stairs to execute a search warrant, or fast-roping from a helicopter down into hostile fire.  Real agents, like real people, feel that fear in the pit of their stomachs.  But you know the difference between them and most folks?  They do it anyway, and they volunteer to do that for a living.
What makes the bravery of the men and women of the FBI so special is that they know exactly what they’re in for.  They spend weeks and weeks in an academy learning just how hard and dangerous this work is.  Then they raise their right hands and take an oath, and do that work anyway.  They have seen the Wall of Honor — that I hope so much my friends and guests and family will get to see inside this building — with pictures and links to the lives of those who gave the last full measure of devotion for their country as FBI employees.
Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman said this:  “I would define true courage to be a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger and a mental willingness to endure it.”
I called a special agent a few weeks ago after he had been shot during an arrest.  I knew before I called him that he had already been injured severely twice in his Bureau career, once in a terrorist bombing and once in a helicopter crash.  Yet when I got him on the phone, I got the strong sense he couldn’t wait to get me off the phone.  He was embarrassed by my call.  “Mr. Director, it was a through and through wound.  No big deal.”  He was more worried about his Bureau car, which he had left at the scene of the shooting.  (Laughter.)  He felt okay, though, because his wife — also a special agent — was going to go get the car, so everything was fine.  (Laughter.)
The men and women of this organization understand perfectly the danger they’re in every day and choose to endure it because they believe in this mission.  That’s why bravery belongs on our shield.
And, finally, integrity.  Integrity is derived from the Latin word “integer,” meaning whole.  A person of integrity is complete, undivided.  Sincerity, decency, trustworthy are synonyms of integrity.  It’s on our shield because it is the quality that makes possible all the good that we do.  Because everything we do requires that we be believed, whether that’s promising a source that we will protect her, telling a jury what we saw or heard, or telling a congressional oversight committee or the American people what we are doing with our power and our authorities.  We must be believed.
Without integrity, all is lost.  We cannot do the good that all of these amazing people signed up to do.  The FBI’s reputation for integrity is a gift given to every new employee by those who went before.  But it is a gift that must be protected and earned every single day.  We protect that gift by making mistakes and admitting them, by making promises and keeping them, and by realizing that nothing — no case, no source, no fear of embarrassment — is worth jeopardizing the gift of integrity.  Integrity must be on the FBI shield.
So, you see, those three words — Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity — capture the essence of the FBI and its people.  And they also explain why I am here.  I wanted to be here to work alongside those people, to represent them, to help them accomplish their mission, and to just be their colleague.
It is an honor and a challenge beyond description.  I will do my absolute best to be worthy of it.  Thank you very much. (Applause.)
 END
12:55 P.M.

Full Text Obama Presidency October 25, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Education, Investing in America’s Future, in Brooklyn

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Investing in America’s Future

Source: WH, 10-25-13

President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan talk with students while visiting a classroom at the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH)

President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan talk with students while visiting a classroom at the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in Brooklyn, NY, Oct. 25, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) 

Pathways in Technology Early College High School
Brooklyn, New York

3:55 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Brooklyn!  (Applause.)  How you doing?

AUDIENCE:  Good!

THE PRESIDENT:  It is good to be back in Brooklyn.  Good to be in New York City.  And it is good to see some friends who stick up for students and teachers and education every day.  We’ve got your Governor — Andrew Cuomo is in the house.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  We’ve got your Senator, Chuck Schumer.  (Applause.)  Outstanding Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.  (Applause.)  We’ve got — your outstanding congressional delegation is here.  Give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  We’ve got your public advocate and my friend — Bill DeBlasio is here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got the outstanding leader of one of America’s iconic companies, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty.  (Applause.)  And I want to give a special shout-out to a man who’s been an extraordinary mayor for this city; he’s been a leader throughout the country for the past 12 years — Mr. Michael Bloomberg is here.  (Applause.)

And I want to thank your principal here at P-TECH, Rashid Davis, who I am pretty confident is the coolest-looking principal in America.  (Laughter and applause.)  I mean, there just are not that many principals with dreadlocks and yellow kicks.  (Applause.)  There aren’t that many of them.  I mean, there may be some, but there aren’t that many.  (Laughter.)

And I had a wonderful time visiting with one of your teachers, Ms. Seifullah — Seifullah?  Ms. Seifullah.  She was outstanding.  She welcomed me into her classroom.  She showed me around.  I want to thank all of you for letting me spend some time here.  In return, you got out of class a little early on Friday, which I know always gets a little applause — although, in this school maybe not, because you guys are enjoying learning so much.  That’s worth applauding — that you’re enjoying learning so much.  (Applause.)

Now, part of the reason I’m glad to be here is because I used to live in Brooklyn, and I actually landed Marine One in Prospect Park — I used to live across the street from Prospect Park.  (Applause.)  But mainly I’m here because I wanted to come here ever since I talked about you in my State of the Union address this year — because what’s going on here at P-TECH is outstanding, and I’m excited to see it for myself.

I know Brooklyn in general is blowing up right now.  When I was living here, Brooklyn was cool, but not this cool.  (Laughter.)  Barclays Center hadn’t been built yet.  I know the Nets just picked up Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett offseason, which is a lesson to all the young people — old people can still play.  (Laughter.)  We’ve still got some gas in the tank.

But this whole borough is where generations of hopeful, striving immigrants came in search of opportunity — a chance to build better lives for themselves and for their kids.  And that’s been true for decades.  And I’m here today to talk about what we need to do, as a country, to build the same kind of opportunity for your generation, for the next generation, and for your kids, and for future immigrants.

This country should be doing everything in our power to give more kids the chance to go to schools just like this one.  We should be doing everything we can to put college within the reach of more young people.  We should be doing everything we can to keep your streets safe and protect you from gun violence.  We should be doing everything we can to keep families from falling into poverty, and build more ladders of opportunity to help people who are willing to work hard climb out of poverty.  We should be doing everything we can to welcome new generations of hopeful, striving immigrants.

I want us to do everything we can to give every single young person the same kind of opportunity that this country gave me and gave Chuck, and gave Governor Cuomo and gave Mayor Bloomberg and gave your principal.  That’s what I’m focused on.

Yes, by the way, if you have chairs, go ahead and sit down.  (Laughter.)  If you don’t have chairs, then don’t sit down because you’ll fall.  (Laughter.)  I didn’t realize everybody had chairs there.  I would have told you to sit down earlier.  (Laughter.)

So that’s what we can achieve together.  It’s possible.  We know we can do it.  P-TECH is proof of what can be accomplished, but we’ve got to have the courage to do it.  The American people work hard, and they try to do right, day in and day out.  And that resilience and that toughness helped to turn our economy around after one of the hardest periods that we’ve ever faced as a country.  But what we also need is some political courage in Washington.  We don’t always see that.

Right now we need to all pull together.  We need to work together to grow the economy, not shrink it; to create good jobs, not eliminate jobs.  We’ve got to finish building a new foundation for shared and lasting prosperity so that everybody who works hard, everybody who studies hard at a school like this one, or schools all across the country have a chance to get ahead.  That’s what we need to do.  That’s what I’m focused on.

And that all begins with the education that we give young people.  Because all of you are growing up in changing times, especially for the economy.  The world you’re growing up in is different than the one that previous generations here in Brooklyn knew and all across the country knew.

In the old days, a young person, they might have just followed their parents’ footsteps and gotten a job in their parents’ line of work, keep that job for 30, 40 years.  If you were willing to work hard, you didn’t necessarily need a great education.  If you’d just gone to high school, you might get a job at a factory, or in the garment district.  You might be able to just get a job that allowed you to earn your wages, keep pace with people who had a chance to go to college.  But those days are over, and those days are not coming back.

We live in a 21st century global economy.  And in a global economy, jobs can go anywhere.  Companies, they’re looking for the best-educated people, wherever they live, and they’ll reward them with good jobs and good pay.  And if you don’t have a well- educated workforce, you’re going to be left behind.  If you don’t have a good education, then it is going to be hard for you to find a job that pays a living wage.

And, by the way, other countries know this.  In previous generations, America’s standing economically was so much higher than everybody else’s that we didn’t have a lot of competition.  Now you’ve got billions of people from Beijing to Bangalore to Moscow, all of whom are competing with you directly.  And they’re — those countries are working every day to out-educate and out-compete us.

And every year brings more research showing them pulling ahead, especially in some of the subject matter that this school specializes in — math and science and technology.  So we’ve got a choice to make.  We can just kind of shrug our shoulders and settle for something less, or we can do what America has always done, which is adapt.  We pull together, we up our game, we hustle, we fight back, we work hard, and we win.

We have to educate our young people — every single person here, but also all the young people all across Brooklyn, all across New York City, all across New York State and all across this country — so that you’re ready for this global economy.  And schools like P-TECH will help us do that.

Here at P-TECH, you’ve got folks from IBM, City Tech, City University of New York, City Department of Education — everybody is pulling together to make sure a high school education puts young people on a path to a good job.  So you guys have opportunities here that you don’t find in most high schools yet.  You can take college-level courses in math and science.  You can work with mentors from IBM, so you’re learning specific skills that you know leads to a good job.  And most important, you’ll graduate with a high school diploma and an Associate’s Degree in computer systems or electromechanical engineering.  And that means you’ll be in demand.  Companies will want to hire you.  IBM has even said that P-TECH graduates will be first in line when you apply for jobs once you graduate.

And at a moment when the cost of higher education keeps going up — and Arne and I are working hard to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to reduce the burden of student loans on young people — here’s how much two years of college will cost P-TECH students and their families:  Zero.  Nothing.  Nothing.  (Applause.)  I noticed some of the parents were the first to clap.  They’re like, “Yeah.”  (Laughter.)  They like that.

But that’s a huge burden.  I mean, that’s thousands of dollars that you’re saving, and that means when you start working, you’re going to have that much less of a burden in terms of debt, which means you can afford to buy a house sooner, you can afford to start your business sooner.  Radcliffe was saying how he’s thinking about starting his own business.  And that kind of attitude is a lot easier when you’re not burdened with a lot of student loans.

So this is a ticket into the middle class, and it’s available to everybody who’s willing to work for it.  And that’s the way it should be.  That’s what public education is supposed to do.  And the great thing is that what started small is now growing.  So Governor Cuomo, he’s opening up P-TECH model schools in districts throughout the state — throughout the state.  (Applause.)  So all those schools together, they’re going to prepare more than 6,000 high school students for good, high-skilled jobs.

Back in my hometown of Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is opening up schools like this one.  He’s opening up a school, for example, called Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy.  And — you got a little Chicago person here.  Yes, there you go.  (Laughter.)  Across the country, companies like Verizon, and Microsoft, and ConEd, and Cisco, they saw what IBM was doing, and they said, well, this is a good idea; we can do this, too.  So they’re working with educators and states to replicate what you’re already doing here.  And you guys should feel good about that.  You’re starting something all across the country.  (Applause.)

So as a country, we should all want what all of you are receiving right now, the same chance for a great education.  Here’s what I think we should do as a country to make sure they’ve got the same opportunities you do.  First of all, we’ve got to give every child an earlier start at success by making high-quality pre-school available to every 4-year-old in America.  (Applause.)

We should give every student access to the world’s information.  When I went into the classroom today, young people were working off computers, and the problem is a lot of places, even if they’ve got computers, they’re not hooked up to wireless.  So what we’re doing is having the federal agencies moving forward on a plan to connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed Internet within five years.  We’re already moving on that front.  (Applause.)

We need to bring down the cost of college and give more young people the chance to go to college.  (Applause.)  So a couple of months ago, I put forward an ambitious new plan to do that, to reduce the cost of college.

We need to redesign more of our high schools so that they teach young people the skills required for a high-tech economy.  So I’ve been meeting with business leaders and innovative educators to spread the best ideas.

And I also want to congratulate Governor Cuomo and all of you in New York for having the courage to raise your standards for teaching and learning to make sure that more students graduate from high school ready for college and a career.  It’s not easy, but it’s the right thing to do.  It’s going to prepare more young people for today’s economy.  We should stay at it.  (Applause.)

And here’s one more thing we should do, and that is just — remember, none of this works unless we’ve got outstanding teachers, which means we’ve got to — (applause) — we’ve got to make sure that we’re funding education so that teachers have the support that they need so that they can support their own families, so that they’re not having to dig into their pockets for school supplies.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got to show them the respect, and provide pathways of excellence for teachers so that they’re treated like the professionals that they are.  It is a hard job, and we’ve got to make sure we’re investing in them.  (Applause.)

Now, some of these ideas I’ve laid out before; some of them I’m just going ahead and doing on my own.  Some of them do require Congress to do something.  (Applause.)  And one way we can start is by Congress passing a budget that reflects our need to invest in our young people.  (Applause.)  I know that budgets aren’t the most interesting topic for a Friday afternoon, even at a school where young people like math.  And, by the way, I just sat in on a lesson called “real-world math,” which got me thinking whether it’s too late to send Congress here — (laughter) — for a remedial course.

But a budget is important, because what a budget does is it sets our priorities.  It tells us what we think is important, what our priorities are.  And the stakes for our middle class could not be higher.  If we don’t set the right priorities now, then many of you will be put at a competitive disadvantage compared to other countries.

If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs.  (Applause.)  So we’ve got to invest.

So we need a budget that is responsible, that is fiscally prudent, but a budget that cuts what we don’t need, closes wasteful tax loopholes that don’t create jobs, freeing up resources to invest in the things that actually do help us grow — things like education and scientific research, and infrastructure, roads, bridges, airports.  This should not be an ideological exercise, we should use some common sense.

What’s going to help us grow; what’s going to create jobs; what is going to expand our middle class; what’s going to give more opportunity to young people — those are the things we should be putting money into.  (Applause.)  That’s what we need to do.

And we’ve got enough resources to do it if we stop spending on things that don’t work and don’t make sense, or if we make sure that people aren’t wiggling out of their taxes through these corporate loopholes that only a few people at the very top can take advantage of.  If we just do everything in a fair, common-sense way, we’ve got the resources to be fiscally responsible and invest in our future.

And this obsession with cutting just for the sake of cutting hasn’t helped our economy grow, it’s held it back.  It won’t help us build a better society for your generation.  And, by the way, it’s important to remember, for those who are following the news, our deficits are getting smaller.  They’ve been cut in half since I took office.  (Applause.)  So that gives us room to fix longer-term debt problems without sticking it to your generation.  We don’t have to choose between growth and fiscal responsibility; we’ve got to do both.  And the question can’t just be how much more we can cut, it’s got to be how many more schools like P-TECH we can create.  That should be our priority.  (Applause.)

And after the manufactured crisis that Congress — actually, a small group in the House of Representatives just put us through, shutting down the government and threatening to potentially default on our debt, I don’t want to hear the same old stuff about how America can’t afford to invest in the things that have always made us strong.  Don’t tell me we can afford to shut down the government, which cost our economy billions of dollars, but we can’t afford to invest in our education system.  Because there’s nothing more important than this.  (Applause.)

In fact, what I’d like to do is have every member of Congress — maybe Chuck can arrange and the congressional delegation can arrange some tours for some of their colleagues.  Come here.  Come to Brooklyn.  Meet some of these young people.  (Applause.)  They ought to meet some of the young people here.  (Applause.)

Meet somebody like Leslieanne John, the young woman who sang the national anthem this afternoon.  (Applause.)  Leslieanne is in the 11th grade, she’s already taken eight college classes, which is about as many as I took when I was in college.  (Laughter.)  She knows she has a great opportunity here, she’s working hard to make the most of it.  Eventually, she plans to become a lawyer.

And Leslieanne is clear-eyed about the challenges that the students here face.  She put it in a way that a lot of people can relate to — she said, “We see a whole bunch of craziness going on in the streets of Crown Heights sometimes.”  That’s what she said.  But she also said that being here at P-TECH taught her something important:  “There’s more for us than just the streets.”  (Applause.)  And she said that, “At the end of the day, we’ve got to make something of ourselves.”  And that’s important — that’s important.

It’s not just what the government or adults can do for you; it’s also what you can do for yourselves.  And that sense of responsibility, that sense that you set the bar high for yourself, that’s what America is all about — that’s been the history of New York:  People working hard but also working together to make sure that everybody has got a fair shot; to make sure you don’t have to be born wealthy, you don’t have to be born famous; that if you’ve got some drive and some energy, then you can go to a school that teaches you what you need to know.  You can go to college even if you don’t have a lot of money.  You can start your own business even if you didn’t inherit a business.

Making something of ourselves, that’s what we do in this country.  That’s a message worth sending to Washington.  No more games, no more gridlock, no more gutting the things that help America grow, and give people the tools to make something of themselves.  That’s what this is about.  That’s what P-TECH represents, that’s what Brooklyn represents.

And as long as I have the privilege to be your President, I’m going to keep fighting to make sure that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, this country will always be the place where you can make it if you try.

So thank you, Brooklyn.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
4:20 P.M. EDT

Political Musings October 24, 2013: President Obama renews push for immigration reform bill

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama renews push for immigration reform bill (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

After a disastrous week over the his health care law exchange website, President Barack Obama decided to turn his attention to immigration reform in a White House speech delivered in the East Room on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. The President…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 24, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Immigration Reform

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Immigration Reform

Source: WH, 10-24-13

President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, delivers remarks on immigrationPresident Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, delivers remarks on immigration, in the East Room of the White House, Oct. 24, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

East Room

10:47 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Please have a seat, everybody.  Good morning, and welcome to the White House.  Today I’m here with leaders from business, from labor, from faith communities who are united around one goal — finishing the job of fixing a broken immigration system.

This is not just an idea whose time has come; this is an idea whose time has been around for years now.  Leaders like all of you have worked together with Republicans and Democrats in this town in good faith for years to try to get this done.  And this is the moment when we should be able to finally get the job done.

Now, it’s no secret that the American people haven’t seen much out of Washington that they like these days.  The shutdown and the threat of the first default in more than 200 years inflicted real pain on our businesses and on families across the country.  And it was a completely unnecessary, self-inflicted wound with real costs to real people, and it can never happen again.

Even with the shutdown over, and the threat of default eliminated, Democrats and Republicans still have some really big disagreements — there are some just fundamentally different views about how we should move forward on certain issues.  On the other hand, as I said the day after the shutdown ended, that’s no reason that we shouldn’t be able to work together on the things that we do agree on.

We should be able to work together on a responsible budget that invests in the things that we need to grow our economy and create jobs even while we maintain fiscal discipline.  We should be able to pass a farm bill that helps rural communities grow and protects vulnerable Americans in hard times.

And we should pass immigration reform.  (Applause.)  We should pass immigration reform.  It’s good for our economy.  It’s good for our national security.  It’s good for our people.  And we should do it this year.

Everybody knows that our current immigration system is broken.  Across the political spectrum, people understand that.  We’ve known it for years.  It’s not smart to invite some of the brightest minds from around the world to study here and then not let them start businesses here — we send them back to their home countries to start businesses and create jobs and invent new products someplace else.

It’s not fair to businesses and middle-class families who play by the rules when we allow companies that are trying to undercut the rules work in the shadow economy, to hire folks at lower wages or no benefits, no overtime, so that somehow they get a competitive edge from breaking the rules.  That doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t make sense to have 11 million people who are in this country illegally without any incentive or any way for them to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, meet their responsibilities and permit their families then to move ahead.  It’s not smart.  It’s not fair.  It doesn’t make sense.  We have kicked this particular can down the road for too long.

Now, the good news is, this year the Senate has already passed an immigration reform bill by a wide, bipartisan majority that addressed all of these issues.  It’s a bill that would continue to strengthen our borders.  It would level the playing field by holding unscrupulous employers accountable if they knowingly hire undocumented workers.

It would modernize our legal immigration system, so that even as we train American workers for the jobs of the future, we’re also attracting highly-skilled entrepreneurs from beyond our borders to join with us to create jobs here in the United States.

It would make sure that everybody plays by the same rules by providing a pathway to earned citizenship for those who are here illegally — one that includes passing a background check, learning English, paying taxes, paying a penalty, getting in line behind everyone who is trying to come here the right way.

So it had all the component parts.  It didn’t have everything that I wanted; it didn’t have everything that anybody wanted; but it addressed the core challenges of how we create a immigration system that is fair, that’s just, that is true to our traditions as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.  And that’s passed the Senate by a bipartisan majority.  (Applause.)

So here’s what we also know — that the bill would grow the economy and shrink our deficits.  Independent economists have shown that if the Senate bill became law, over the next two decades our economy would grow by $1.4 trillion more than it would if we don’t pass the law.  It would reduce our deficits by nearly a trillion dollars.

So this isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.  Securing our borders; modernizing our legal immigration system; providing a pathway to earned, legalized citizenship; growing our economy; strengthening our middle class; reducing our deficits — that’s what common-sense immigration reform will do.

Now, obviously, just because something is smart and fair, and good for the economy and fiscally responsible and supported by business and labor — (laughter) — and the evangelical community and many Democrats and many Republicans, that does not mean that it will actually get done.  (Laughter.)  This is Washington, after all.

So everything tends to be viewed through a political prism and everybody has been looking at the politics of this.  And I know that there are some folks in this town who are primed to think, “Well, if Obama is for it, then I’m against it.”  But I’d remind everybody that my Republican predecessor was also for it when he proposed reforms like this almost a decade ago, and I joined with 23 Senate Republicans back then to support that reform.  I’d remind you that this reform won more than a dozen Republican votes in the Senate in June.

I’m not running for office again.  I just believe this is the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  I just believe this is the right thing to do.  And I also believe that good policy is good politics in this instance.  And if folks are really that consumed with the politics of fixing our broken immigration system, they should take a closer look at the polls because the American people support this.  It’s not something they reject — they support it.  Everybody wins here if we work together to get this done.  In fact, if there’s a good reason not to pass this common-sense reform, I haven’t heard it.

So anyone still standing in the way of this bipartisan reform should at least have to explain why.  A clear majority of the American people think it’s the right thing to do.

Now, how do we move forward?  Democratic leaders have introduced a bill in the House that is similar to the bipartisan Senate bill.  So now it’s up to Republicans in the House to decide whether reform becomes a reality or not.

I do know — and this is good news — that many of them agree that we need to fix our broken immigration system across these areas that we’ve just discussed.  And what I’ve said to them, and I’ll repeat today, is if House Republicans have new and different, additional ideas for how we should move forward, then we want to hear them.  I’ll be listening.  I know that Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, those who voted for immigration reform already, are eager to hear those additional ideas.  But what we can’t do is just sweep the problem under the rug one more time, leave it for somebody else to solve sometime in the future.

Rather than create problems, let’s prove to the American people that Washington can actually solve some problems.  This reform comes as close to anything we’ve got to a law that will benefit everybody now and far into the future.  So let’s see if we can get this done.  And let’s see if we can get it done this year.  (Applause.)

We’ve got the time to do it.  Republicans in the House, including the Speaker, have said we should act.  So let’s not wait.  It doesn’t get easier to just put it off.  Let’s do it now.  Let’s not delay.  Let’s get this done, and let’s do it in a bipartisan fashion.

To those of you who are here today, I want to just say one last thing and that is — thank you.  I want to thank you for your persistence.  I want to thank you for your activism.  I want to thank you for your passion and your heart when it comes to this issue.  And I want to tell you, you’ve got to keep it up.  Keep putting the pressure on all of us to get this done.  There are going to be moments — and there are always moments like this in big efforts at reform — where you meet resistance, and the press will declare something dead, it’s not going to happen, but that can be overcome.

And I have to say, Joe, as I look out at this room, these don’t look like people who are easily deterred.  (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  I don’t think so.

THE PRESIDENT:  They don’t look like folks who are going to give up.  (Applause.)  You look fired up to make the next push.  And whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, I want you to keep working, and I’m going to be right next to you, to make sure we get immigration reform done.  It is time.  Let’s go get it done.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
10:59 A.M. EDT

Political Musings October 22, 2013: Obama, GOP approval ratings plummet in new polls, result of shutdown fallout

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama, GOP approval ratings plummet in new polls, result of shutdown fallout

By Bonnie K. Goodman

 

Three new polls released on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 indicate that President Barack Obama, the House Republicans and Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH have not escaped the American public’s blame as a result of the…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 21, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on HealthCare.gov Problems and the Affordable Care Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Affordable Care Act

Source:  WH, 10-21-13

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the Affordable Care ActPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks on the Affordable Care Act during a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House, Oct. 21, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Rose Garden

11:33 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Everybody, have a seat.

MS. BAKER:  Hello.  My name is Janice Baker.  I have the privilege to say that I’m the first person in the state of Delaware to enroll for health insurance through the new marketplace.  (Applause.)  Like many consumers out there, it took me a number of frustrating attempts before I could apply for and select my plan.  I kept trying because I needed access to the new health care options.

I had applied to three private insurance companies only to be rejected due to preexisting health conditions.  I am too young for Medicare, but I’m too old not to have some health issues.  I was able to find a policy I am thrilled with, saving $150 a month, and much lower deductibles than my previous policy that I held through my small business.

I’m here today to encourage other people like me who needs access to quality, affordable insurance, and to tell them to have patience with such a new system.  Without this ability to get this insurance, I know that a single hospital stay could have bankrupted me and my business.

Thank you all.  And I am now honored to introduce the President of the United States.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Great job.

MS. BAKER:  Thank you.  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Well, thank you, Janice.  And thanks to everybody here for coming on this beautiful day.  Welcome to the White House.

About three weeks ago, as the federal government shut down, the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplaces opened for business across the country.  Well, we’ve now gotten the government back open for the American people, and today I want to talk about how we’re going to get the marketplaces running at full steam, as well.  And I’m joined today by folks who have either benefited from the Affordable Care Act already, or who are helping their fellow citizens learn about what this law means for them and how they can get covered.

Of course, you’ve probably heard that HealthCare.gov –- the new website where people can apply for health insurance, and browse and buy affordable plans in most states –- hasn’t worked as smoothly as it was supposed to work.  And the number of people who have visited the site has been overwhelming, which has aggravated some of these underlying problems.

Despite all that, thousands of people are signing up and saving money as we speak.  Many Americans with a preexisting condition, like Janice, are discovering that they can finally get health insurance like everybody else.

So today, I want to speak to every American who’s looking to get affordable health insurance.  I want you to know what’s available to you and why it may be a good deal for you.  And for those who’ve had some problems with the website, I want to tell you what we’re doing to make it work better and how you can sign up to get covered in other ways.

But before I do that, let me remind everybody that the Affordable Care Act is not just a website.  It’s much more.  For the vast majority of Americans — for 85 percent of Americans who already have health insurance through your employer or Medicare or Medicaid -– you don’t need to sign up for coverage through a website at all.  You’ve already got coverage.  What the Affordable Care Act does for you is to provide you with new benefits and protections that have been in place for some time.  You may not know it, but you’re already benefiting from these provisions in the law.

For example, because of the Affordable Care Act, young people like Jasmine Jennings, and Jessica Ugalde, and Ezra Salop, all of whom are here today, they’ve been able to stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26.  Millions of other young people are currently benefiting from that part of the law.  (Applause.)  Another part of the Affordable Care Act is providing seniors with deeper discounts on their prescription medicine.  Billions of dollars have been saved by seniors already.  That’s part of the law.  It’s already in place.  It’s happening right now.

Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, preventive care like mammograms and birth control are free through your employers.  That’s part of this law.  (Applause.)  So there are a wide range of consumer protections and benefits that you already have if you’ve got health insurance.  You may not have noticed them, but you’ve got them, and they’re not going anywhere.  And they’re not dependent on a website.

Here’s another thing that the Affordable Care Act does.  In states where governors and legislatures have wisely allowed it, the Affordable Care Act provides the opportunity for many Americans to get covered under Medicaid for the first time.  So in Oregon, for example, that’s helped cut the number of uninsured people by 10 percent just in the last three weeks.  Think about that.  That’s 56,000 more Americans who now have health care.  (Applause.)  That doesn’t depend on a website.

Now, if you’re one of the 15 percent of Americans who don’t have health insurance — either because you can’t afford it or because your employer doesn’t offer it, or because you’re a small businessperson and you have to go out on the individual market and buy it on your own and it’s just too expensive — October 1st was an important date.  That’s when we opened the new marketplaces where people without health insurance, or who can’t afford health insurance, or who aren’t part of a group plan, can finally start getting affordable coverage.

And the idea is simple.  By enrolling in what we’re calling these marketplaces, you become part of a big group plan — as if you were working for a big employer — a statewide group plan that spreads risk between sick people and healthy people, between young and old, and then bargains on your behalf for the best deal on health care.  What we’ve done is essentially create a competition where there wasn’t competition before.  We created these big group plans, and now insurers are really interested in getting your business.  And so insurers have created new health care plans with more choices to be made available through these marketplaces.

And as a result of this choice and this competition, prices have come down.  When you add the new tax credits that many people are eligible for through the law, then the prices come down even further.  So one study shows that through new options created by the Affordable Care Act, nearly 6 in 10 uninsured Americans will find that they can get covered for less than $100 a month.  Think about that.  (Applause.)

Through the marketplaces, you can get health insurance for what may be the equivalent of your cell phone bill or your cable bill, and that’s a good deal.

So the fact is the product of the Affordable Care Act for people without health insurance is quality health insurance that’s affordable.  And that product is working.  It’s really good.  And it turns out there’s a massive demand for it.  So far, the national website, HealthCare.gov, has been visited nearly 20 million times.  Twenty million times.  (Applause.)  And there’s great demand at the state level as well, because there are a bunch of states that are running their own marketplaces.

We know that nearly one-third of the people applying in Connecticut and Maryland, for example, are under 35 years old.  They understand that they can get a good deal at low costs, have the security of health care, and this is not just for old folks like me — that everybody needs good quality health insurance.  And all told, more than half a million consumers across the country have successfully submitted applications through federal and state marketplaces.  And many of those applications aren’t just for individuals, it’s for their entire families.  So even more people are already looking to potentially take advantage of the high quality, affordable insurance that is provided through the Affordable Care Act.

So let me just recap here.  The product is good.  The health insurance that’s being provided is good.  It’s high quality and it’s affordable.  People can save money, significant money, by getting insurance that’s being provided through these marketplaces.  And we know that the demand is there.  People are rushing to see what’s available.  And those who have already had a chance to enroll are thrilled with the result.  Every day, people who were stuck with sky-high premiums because of preexisting conditions are getting affordable insurance for the first time, or finding, like Janice did, that they’re saving a lot of money.  Every day, women are finally buying coverage that doesn’t charge them higher premiums than men for the same care.  (Applause.)  Every day, people are discovering that new health insurance plans have to cover maternity care, mental health care, free preventive care.

So you just heard Janice’s story — she owns her own small business.  She recently became the first woman to enroll in coverage through Delaware’s exchange.  And it’s true, it took her a few tries, but it was worth it after being turned down for insurance three times due to minor preexisting conditions.  So now she’ll be covered, she’ll save 150 bucks a month, and she won’t have to worry that one illness or accident will cost her her business that she’s worked so hard to build.

And Janice is not alone.  I recently received a letter from a woman named Jessica Sanford in Washington State.  And here’s what she wrote:  “I am a single mom, no child support, self-employed, and I haven’t had insurance for 15 years because it’s too expensive.  My son has ADHD and requires regular doctor visits and his meds alone cost $250 per month.  I have had an ongoing tendinitis problem due to my line of work that I haven’t had treated.  Now, finally, we get to have coverage because of the ACA for $169 per month.  I was crying the other day when I signed up.  So much stress lifted.”

Now, that is not untypical for a lot of folks like Jessica who have been struggling without health insurance.  That’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about.  The point is, the essence of the law — the health insurance that’s available to people — is working just fine.  In some cases, actually, it’s exceeding expectations — the prices are lower than we expected, the choice is greater than we expected.

But the problem has been that the website that’s supposed to make it easy to apply for and purchase the insurance is not working the way it should for everybody.  And there’s no sugarcoating it.  The website has been too slow, people have been getting stuck during the application process.  And I think it’s fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that than I am — precisely because the product is good, I want the cash registers to work.  I want the checkout lines to be smooth.  So I want people to be able to get this great product.  And there’s no excuse for the problems, and these problems are getting fixed.

But while we’re working out the kinks in the system, I want everybody to understand the nature of the problem.  First of all, even with all the problems at HealthCare.gov, the website is still working for a lot of people — just not as quick or efficient or consistent as we want.  And although many of these folks have found that they had to wait longer than they wanted, once they complete the process they’re very happy with the deal that’s available to them, just like Janice’s.

Second, I want everybody to remember that we’re only three weeks into a six-month open enrollment period, when you can buy these new plans.  (Applause.)  Keep in mind the insurance doesn’t start until January 1st; that’s the earliest that the insurance can kick in.  No one who decides to purchase a plan has to pay their first premium until December 15th.  And unlike the day after Thanksgiving sales for the latest Playstation or flat-screen TVs, the insurance plans don’t run out.  They’re not going to sell out.  They’ll be available through the marketplace — (applause) — throughout the open enrollment period.  The prices that insurers have set will not change.  So everybody who wants insurance through the marketplace will get insurance, period.  (Applause.)  Everybody who wants insurance through the marketplace will get insurance.

Third, we are doing everything we can possibly do to get the websites working better, faster, sooner.  We’ve got people working overtime, 24/7, to boost capacity and address the problems.  Experts from some of America’s top private-sector tech companies who, by the way, have seen things like this happen before, they want it to work.  They’re reaching out.  They’re offering to send help.  We’ve had some of the best IT talent in the entire country join the team.  And we’re well into a “tech surge” to fix the problem.  And we are confident that we will get all the problems fixed.

Number four — while the website will ultimately be the easiest way to buy insurance through the marketplace, it isn’t the only way.  And I want to emphasize this.  Even as we redouble our efforts to get the site working as well as it’s supposed to, we’re also redoubling our efforts to make sure you can still buy the same quality, affordable insurance plans available on the marketplace the old-fashioned way — offline, either over the phone or in person.

And, by the way, there are a lot of people who want to take advantage of this who are more comfortable working on the phone anyway or in person.  So let me go through the specifics as to how you can do that if you’re having problems with the website or you just prefer dealing with a person.

Yesterday, we updated the website’s home page to offer more information about the other avenues to enroll in affordable health care until the online option works for everybody.  So you’ll find information about how to talk to a specialist who can help you apply over the phone or to receive a downloadable application you can fill out yourself and mail in.

We’ve also added more staff to the call centers where you can apply for insurance over the phone.  Those are already — they’ve been working.  But a lot of people have decided first to go to the website.  But keep in mind, these call centers are already up and running.  And you can get your questions answered by real people, 24 hours a day, in 150 different languages.  The phone number for these call centers is 1-800-318-2596.  I want to repeat that — 1-800-318-2596.  Wait times have averaged less than one minute so far on the call centers, although I admit that the wait times probably might go up a little bit now that I’ve read the number out loud on national television.  (Laughter.)

But the point is the call centers are available.  You can talk to somebody directly and they can walk you through the application process.  And I guarantee you, if one thing is worth the wait, it’s the safety and security of health care that you can afford, or the amount of money that you can save by buying health insurance through the marketplaces.  (Applause.)

Once you get on the phone with a trained representative, it usually takes about 25 minutes for an individual to apply for coverage, about 45 minutes for a family.  Once you apply for coverage, you will be contacted by email or postal mail about your coverage status.

But you don’t have to just go through the phone.  You can also apply in person with the help of local navigators -– these are people specially trained to help you sign up for health care, and they exist all across the country, or you can go to community health centers and hospitals.  Just visit LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov to find out where in your area you can get help and apply for insurance in person.

And finally, if you’ve already tried to apply through the website and you’ve been stuck somewhere along the way, do not worry.  In the coming weeks, we will contact you directly, personally, with a concrete recommendation for how you can complete your application, shop for coverage, pick a plan that meets your needs, and get covered once and for all.

So here’s the bottom line.  The product, the health insurance is good.  The prices are good.  It is a good deal.  People don’t just want it; they’re showing up to buy it.  Nobody is madder than me about the fact that the website isn’t working as well as it should, which means it’s going to get fixed.  (Laughter and applause.)

And in the meantime, you can bypass the website and apply by phone or in person.  So don’t let problems with the website deter you from signing up, or signing your family up, or showing your friends how to sign up, because it is worth it.  It will save you money.  If you don’t have health insurance, if you’ve got a preexisting condition, it will save you money and it will give you the security that your family needs.

In fact, even with the website issues, we’ve actually made the overall process of buying insurance through the marketplace a lot smoother and easier than the old way of buying insurance on your own.  Part of the challenge here is that a lot of people may not remember what it’s like to buy insurance the traditional way.

The way we’ve set it up, there are no more absurdly long application forms.  There’s no medical history questionnaire that goes on for pages and pages.  There’s no more getting denied because you’ve had a preexisting condition.  Instead of contacting a bunch of different insurers one at a time, which is what Janice and a lot of people who are shopping on the individual market for health insurance had to do, there’s one single place you can go shop and compare plans that have to compete for your business.  There’s one single phone number you can call for help.  And once the kinks in the website have been ironed out, it will be an even smoother and even easier.  But in the meantime, we will help you sign up — because consumers want to buy this product and insurance companies want to sell it to you.

Now, let me close by addressing some of the politics that have swirled around the Affordable Care Act.  I recognize that the Republican Party has made blocking the Affordable Care Act its signature policy idea.  Sometimes it seems to be the one thing that unifies the party these days.  (Laughter.)  In fact, they were willing to shut down the government and potentially harm the global economy to try to get it repealed.  And I’m sure that given the problems with the website so far, they’re going to be looking to go after it even harder.  And let’s admit it — with the website not working as well as it needs to work, that makes a lot of supporters nervous because they know how it’s been subject to so much attack, the Affordable Care Act generally.

But I just want to remind everybody, we did not wage this long and contentious battle just around a website.  That’s not what this was about.  (Applause.)  We waged this battle to make sure that millions of Americans in the wealthiest nation on Earth finally have the same chance to get the same security of affordable quality health care as anybody else.  That’s what this is about.  (Applause.)  And the Affordable Care Act has done that.

People can now get good insurance.  People with preexisting conditions can now afford insurance.  And if the launch of this website proves anything, it’s that people across the country don’t just need that security, they want that security.  They want it.  (Applause.)  And in the meantime — I’ve said many times — I’m willing to work with anyone on any idea to make this law perform even better.  But it’s time for folks to stop rooting for its failure, because hardworking, middle-class families are rooting for its success.  (Applause.)  And if the product is good, they’re willing to be patient.

I got a letter last week from a self-employed man named John Mier in Leetsdale, Pennsylvania.  He used the new marketplace to get himself and his wife covered and save a lot of money.  And here’s what he said, because it pretty much sums up my message today:  “Yes, the website really stank for the first week.”  (Laughter.)  “But instead of paying $1,600 per month for a group insurance plan, we have a plan that will only cost us $692 a month –- a savings of $900 per month.”  (Applause.)  John said that while he saw — when he saw what they’d be paying, he turned to his wife and told her, “We might just pull through.  We can afford this.”  And John eventually predicted that “the website will work like a champ.”

So John, he was frustrated by the website, but he’s feeling a little less frustrated once he found out that he was saving 900 bucks a month on his health insurance.  (Applause.)  And John is right, the website is going to get fixed and the law works.  That’s why we fought so hard to pass this law — to save folks like John money; to give people who don’t have health insurance the chance to get it for the first time; to lift from the American people the crushing burden of unaffordable health care; to free families from the pervasive fear that one illness — (on-stage participant becomes ill) — there you go, you are ok.  I’m right here.  I got you.  (Laughter.)  No, no — you’re okay.  This happens when I talk too long.  (Laughter.)  You’ll be okay.  Here, why don’t you go.  (Applause.)

Good catch, by the way, whoever was here.  (Laughter.)

But that’s always our goal, to free families from the pervasive fear that one illness or one injury might cost you everything that you dedicated a lifetime to build.  Our goal has always been to declare that in this country the security of health care is not a privilege for a fortunate few.  It’s a right for all to enjoy.  (Applause.)  That’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about.  That’s its promise.  And I intend to deliver on that promise.

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.)

END

12:00 P.M. EDT

Political Musings October 20, 2013: President Obama looks forward with agenda, GOP criticizes Obamacare in weekly addresses

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama looks forward with agenda, GOP criticizes Obamacare in weekly addresses (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

 

Both President Barack Obama and the GOP looked past the government shutdown to upcoming battles in their respective weekly addresses released Saturday morning, Oct. 19, 2013. President Obama continued and reiterated the agenda he laid out…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 18, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Nomination of Jeh Johnson to be Secretary of Homeland Security

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Nomination of Jeh Johnson to be Secretary of Homeland Security

Source: WH, 10-18-13

President Obama Nominates Jeh Johnson

President Obama Nominates Jeh Johnson

Rose Garden

2:06 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Please have a seat.  As President, my most solemn responsibility is the safety and security of the American people.  And we’ve got an outstanding team here of folks who work every single day to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to fulfill that responsibility.  And that means that our entire government — our law enforcement and homeland security professionals, our troops, our diplomats, our intelligence personnel — are all working together.  It means working with state and local partners to disrupt terrorist attacks, to make our borders more secure, respond to natural disasters, and make our immigration system more effective and fair.

Addressing any one of these challenges is a tall order.  Addressing all of them at once is a monumental task.  But that’s what the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security do every day.  And today I’m proud to announce my choice to lead them — an outstanding public servant who I’ve known and trusted for years — Mr. Jeh Johnson.

We are, of course, enormously grateful to Secretary Janet Napolitano.  Janet couldn’t be here today — she’s already made her move to her new position in sunny California, overseeing the higher education system in that great state.  And I know that she’s going to do an outstanding job there with the incredible young people that are in our largest state.  But we all deeply appreciate the terrific job that she did over the last four-and-a-half years.  I want to thank Rand Beers for his service and for stepping in as Acting Secretary after Janet left.

Thanks in no small part to Janet’s leadership, her team, we’ve done more to protect our homeland against those who wish to do us harm.  We’ve strengthened our borders.  We’ve taken steps to make sure our immigration system better reflects our values.  We’ve helped thousands of Americans recover from hurricanes and tornados, floods and wildfires.  And we’ve worked to clean up a massive oil spill in the Gulf as well as address a flu pandemic.

In Jeh Johnson, we have the right person to continue this important work.  From the moment I took office, Jeh was an absolutely critical member of my national security team, and he demonstrated again and again the qualities that will make him a strong Secretary of Homeland Security.

Jeh has a deep understanding of the threats and challenges facing the United States.  As the Pentagon’s top lawyer, he helped design and implement many of the policies that have kept our country safe, including our success in dismantling the core of al Qaeda and in the FATA.

When I directed my national security team to be more open and transparent about how our policies work and how we make decisions, especially when it comes to preventing terrorist attacks, Jeh was one of the leaders who spoke eloquently about how we meet today’s threats in a way that are consistent with our values, including the rule of law.

Jeh also knows that meeting these threats demands cooperation and coordination across our government.  He’s been there in the Situation Room at the table in moments of decision, working with leaders from a host of agencies to make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction.  And he’s respected across our government as a team player, somebody who knows how to get folks who don’t always agree to work towards a common goal.

Jeh has experience leading large complex organizations.  As a member of the Pentagon’s senior management team, first under Bob Gates and then under Leon Panetta, he helped oversee the work of more than 3 million military and civilian personnel across the country and around the world.  And I think it’s fair to say that both former secretaries Gates and Panetta will attest to the incredible professionalism that Jeh brings to the job, and the bipartisan approach that, appropriately, he takes when it comes to national security.

He’s also earned a reputation as a cool and calm leader.  Jeh appreciates that any organization’s greatest asset is its people, and at the Pentagon he guided the report explaining why allowing our men and women in uniform to serve their country openly would not weaken our military.  Congress ended up using that report that Jeh helped to craft to justify repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  And America and our military are stronger because we did, in part because of Jeh’s determined leadership.  I know he will bring that same commitment to our hardworking folks at DHS.

And finally, Jeh believes, in a deep and personal way, that keeping America safe requires us also upholding the values and civil liberties that make America great.  Jeh tells the story of his uncle who was a member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.  And he and his fellow airmen served with honor, even when their country didn’t treat them with the dignity and the respect that they deserved.  And it was a lesson that Jeh never forgot.  “We must adopt legal positions that comport with common sense,” Jeh says, “consistent with who we are as Americans.”  Jeh is a pretty good lawyer, so he knows what that means.

And Jeh understands that this country is worth protecting –- not because of what we build or what we own, but because of who we are.  And that’s what sets us apart.  That’s why, as a nation, we have to keep adapting to changing threats, whether natural or man-made.  We have to stay ready when disaster strikes and help Americans recover in the aftermath.  We’ve got to fix our broken immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders, and modernizes legal immigration, and makes sure everybody is playing by the same rules.

And I’m confident that I could not make a better choice in Jeh, somebody who I’m confident is going to be moving not just the agency forward, but helping to move the country forward.

So, Jeh, thank you so much for agreeing to take on this very difficult and extraordinary mission.  You’ve got a great team over at DHS, and I know that they’re looking forward to having you over there.  I urge the Senate to confirm Jeh as soon as possible.  And I thank you, as well as your family, to agreeing to serve.  Your wife, Susan, and your daughter, Natalie, couldn’t be here because they’re visiting Jeh Jr. out at Occidental College, which, by the way, I went to for two years when I was young.  It’s a fine college.  I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to say hi to him.  But your son chose well.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to invite Jeh Johnson to say a few words, hopefully our next Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.  (Applause.)

MR. JOHNSON:  Thank you very much, Mr. President.

As you noted, my wife and two kids are not here because it’s parents’ weekend at Occidental, and thanks to the cost of a non-refundable airline ticket — (laughter) — they could not be in two places at once.  They wish they could be here.

Thank you for the tremendous honor of this nomination and the trust you have placed in me to carry out this large and important responsibility as Secretary of Homeland Security.  I was not looking for this opportunity — I had left government at the end of last year and was settling back into private life and private law practice.  But when I received the call, I could not refuse it.

I am a New Yorker, and I was present in Manhattan on 9/11, which happens to be my birthday, when that bright and beautiful day was — a day something like this — was shattered by the largest terrorist attack on our homeland in history.  I wandered the streets of New York that day and wondered and asked, what can I do?  Since then, I have tried to devote myself to answering that question.  I love this country.  I care about the safety of our people.  I believe in public service.  And I remain loyal to you, Mr. President.

If confirmed by the Senate, I promise all of my energy, focus, and ability toward the task of safeguarding our nation’s national and homeland security.

Thank you again, sir.  (Applause.)

END

2:14 P.M. EDT

Political Musings October 18, 2013: President Obama delivers post-shutdown speech blaming GOP, laying out agenda

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama delivers post-shutdown speech blaming GOP, laying out agenda (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama speaking from the White House’s state dining room on Thursday morning, Oct. 17, 2013 delivered his first remarks after signing the bill reopening the government from a 16-day partial shutdown and raised the debt…

Continue

Full Text Obama Presidency October 17, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Reopening of the Government after Shutdown, Lays Out Year-End Agenda

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Reopening of the Government

Source: WH, 10-17-13

President Obama Speaks on Reopening the Government

President Obama Speaks on Reopening the Government

State Dining Room

11:00 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Please have a seat.

Well, last night, I signed legislation to reopen our government and pay America’s bills.  Because Democrats and responsible Republicans came together, the first government shutdown in 17 years is now over.  The first default in more than 200 years will not happen.  These twin threats to our economy have now been lifted.  And I want to thank those Democrats and Republicans for getting together and ultimately getting this job done.

Now, there’s been a lot of discussion lately of the politics of this shutdown.  But let’s be clear:  There are no winners here.  These last few weeks have inflicted completely unnecessary damage on our economy.  We don’t know yet the full scope of the damage, but every analyst out there believes it slowed our growth.

We know that families have gone without paychecks or services they depend on.  We know that potential homebuyers have gotten fewer mortgages, and small business loans have been put on hold.  We know that consumers have cut back on spending, and that half of all CEOs say that the shutdown and the threat of shutdown set back their plans to hire over the next six months.  We know that just the threat of default — of America not paying all the bills that we owe on time — increased our borrowing costs, which adds to our deficit.

And, of course, we know that the American people’s frustration with what goes on in this town has never been higher. That’s not a surprise that the American people are completely fed up with Washington.  At a moment when our economic recovery demands more jobs, more momentum, we’ve got yet another self-inflicted crisis that set our economy back.  And for what?

There was no economic rationale for all of this.  Over the past four years, our economy has been growing, our businesses have been creating jobs, and our deficits have been cut in half. We hear some members who pushed for the shutdown say they were doing it to save the American economy — but nothing has done more to undermine our economy these past three years than the kind of tactics that create these manufactured crises.

And you don’t have to take my word for it.  The agency that put America’s credit rating on watch the other day explicitly cited all of this, saying that our economy “remains more dynamic and resilient” than other advanced economies, and that the only thing putting us at risk is — and I’m quoting here — “repeated brinksmanship.”  That’s what the credit rating agency said.  That wasn’t a political statement; that was an analysis of what’s hurting our economy by people whose job it is to analyze these things.

That also happens to be the view of our diplomats who’ve been hearing from their counterparts internationally.  Some of the same folks who pushed for the shutdown and threatened default claim their actions were needed to get America back on the right track, to make sure we’re strong.  But probably nothing has done more damage to America’s credibility in the world, our standing with other countries, than the spectacle that we’ve seen these past several weeks.  It’s encouraged our enemies.  It’s emboldened our competitors.  And it’s depressed our friends who look to us for steady leadership.

Now, the good news is we’ll bounce back from this.  We always do.  America is the bedrock of the global economy for a reason.  We are the indispensable nation that the rest of the world looks to as the safest and most reliable place to invest — something that’s made it easier for generations of Americans to invest in their own futures.  We have earned that responsibility over more than two centuries because of the dynamism of our economy and our entrepreneurs, the productivity of our workers, but also because we keep our word and we meet our obligations.  That’s what full faith and credit means — you can count on us.
And today, I want our people and our businesses and the rest of the world to know that the full faith and credit of the United States remains unquestioned.

But to all my friends in Congress, understand that how business is done in this town has to change.  Because we’ve all got a lot of work to do on behalf of the American people — and that includes the hard work of regaining their trust.  Our system of self-government doesn’t function without it.  And now that the government is reopened, and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists and the bloggers and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do, and that’s grow this economy; create good jobs; strengthen the middle class; educate our kids; lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul.  That’s why we’re here.  That should be our focus.

Now, that won’t be easy.  We all know that we have divided government right now.  There’s a lot of noise out there, and the pressure from the extremes affect how a lot of members of Congress see the day-to-day work that’s supposed to be done here. And let’s face it, the American people don’t see every issue the same way.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t make progress.  And when we disagree, we don’t have to suggest that the other side doesn’t love this country or believe in free enterprise, or all the other rhetoric that seems to get worse every single year.  If we disagree on something, we can move on and focus on the things we agree on, and get some stuff done.

Let me be specific about three places where I believe we can make progress right now.  First, in the coming days and weeks, we should sit down and pursue a balanced approach to a responsible budget, a budget that grows our economy faster and shrinks our long-term deficits further.

At the beginning of this year, that’s what both Democrats and Republicans committed to doing.  The Senate passed a budget; House passed a budget; they were supposed to come together and negotiate.  And had one side not decided to pursue a strategy of brinksmanship, each side could have gotten together and figured out, how do we shape a budget that provides certainty to businesses and people who rely on government, provides certainty to investors in our economy, and we’d be growing faster right now.

Now, the good news is the legislation I signed yesterday now requires Congress to do exactly that — what it could have been doing all along.

And we shouldn’t approach this process of creating a budget as an ideological exercise — just cutting for the sake of cutting.  The issue is not growth versus fiscal responsibility — we need both.  We need a budget that deals with the issues that most Americans are focused on:  creating more good jobs that pay better wages.

And remember, the deficit is getting smaller, not bigger.  It’s going down faster than it has in the last 50 years. The challenges we have right now are not short-term deficits; it’s the long-term obligations that we have around things like Medicare and Social Security.  We want to make sure those are there for future generations.

So the key now is a budget that cuts out the things that we don’t need, closes corporate tax loopholes that don’t help create jobs, and frees up resources for the things that do help us grow — like education and infrastructure and research.  And these things historically have not been partisan.  And this shouldn’t be as difficult as it’s been in past years because we already spend less than we did a few years ago.  Our deficits are half of what they were a few years ago.  The debt problems we have now are long term, and we can address them without shortchanging our kids, or shortchanging our grandkids, or weakening the security that current generations have earned from their hard work.

So that’s number one.  Number two, we should finish fixing the job of — let me say that again.  Number two, we should finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system.

There’s already a broad coalition across America that’s behind this effort of comprehensive immigration reform — from business leaders to faith leaders to law enforcement.  In fact, the Senate has already passed a bill with strong bipartisan support that would make the biggest commitment to border security in our history; would modernize our legal immigration system; make sure everyone plays by the same rules, makes sure that folks who came here illegally have to pay a fine, pay back taxes, meet their responsibilities.  That bill has already passed the Senate. And economists estimate that if that bill becomes law, our economy would be 5 percent larger two decades from now.  That’s $1.4 trillion in new economic growth.

The majority of Americans think this is the right thing to do.  And it’s sitting there waiting for the House to pass it.  Now, if the House has ideas on how to improve the Senate bill, let’s hear them.  Let’s start the negotiations.  But let’s not leave this problem to keep festering for another year, or two years, or three years.  This can and should get done by the end of this year.

Number three, we should pass a farm bill, one that American farmers and ranchers can depend on; one that protects vulnerable children and adults in times of need; one that gives rural communities opportunities to grow and the long-term certainty that they deserve.

Again, the Senate has already passed a solid bipartisan bill.  It’s got support from Democrats and Republicans.  It’s sitting in the House waiting for passage.  If House Republicans have ideas that they think would improve the farm bill, let’s see them.  Let’s negotiate.  What are we waiting for?  Let’s get this done.

So, passing a budget; immigration reform; farm bill.  Those are three specific things that would make a huge difference in our economy right now.  And we could get them done by the end of the year if our focus is on what’s good for the American people. And that’s just the big stuff.  There are all kinds of other things that we could be doing that don’t get as much attention.

I understand we will not suddenly agree on everything now that the cloud of crisis has passed.  Democrats and Republicans are far apart on a lot of issues.  And I recognize there are folks on the other side who think that my policies are misguided — that’s putting it mildly.  That’s okay.  That’s democracy.  That’s how it works.  We can debate those differences vigorously, passionately, in good faith, through the normal democratic process.

And sometimes, we’ll be just too far apart to forge an agreement.  But that should not hold back our efforts in areas where we do agree.  We shouldn’t fail to act on areas that we do agree or could agree just because we don’t think it’s good politics; just because the extremes in our party don’t like the word “compromise.”

I will look for willing partners wherever I can to get important work done.  And there’s no good reason why we can’t govern responsibly, despite our differences, without lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis.  In fact, one of the things that I hope all of us have learned these past few weeks is that it turns out smart, effective government is important.  It matters.  I think the American people during this shutdown had a chance to get some idea of all the things, large and small, that government does that make a difference in people’s lives.

We hear all the time about how government is the problem.  Well, it turns out we rely on it in a whole lot of ways.  Not only does it keep us strong through our military and our law enforcement, it plays a vital role in caring for our seniors and our veterans, educating our kids, making sure our workers are trained for the jobs that are being created, arming our businesses with the best science and technology so they can compete with companies from other countries.  It plays a key role in keeping our food and our toys and our workplaces safe.  It helps folks rebuild after a storm.  It conserves our natural resources.  It finances startups.  It helps to sell our products overseas.  It provides security to our diplomats abroad.

So let’s work together to make government work better, instead of treating it like an enemy or purposely making it work worse.  That’s not what the founders of this nation envisioned when they gave us the gift of self-government.  You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president, then argue for your position.  Go out there and win an election.  Push to change it. But don’t break it.  Don’t break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building.  That’s not being faithful to what this country is about.

And that brings me to one last point.  I’ve got a simple message for all the dedicated and patriotic federal workers who’ve either worked without pay or been forced off the job without pay these past few weeks, including most of my own staff: Thank you.  Thanks for your service.  Welcome back.  What you do is important.  It matters.

You defend our country overseas.  You deliver benefits to our troops who’ve earned them when they come home.  You guard our borders.  You protect our civil rights.  You help businesses grow and gain footholds in overseas markets.  You protect the air we breathe and the water our children drink.  And you push the boundaries of science and space, and you guide hundreds of thousands of people each day through the glories of this country. Thank you.  What you do is important.  And don’t let anybody else tell you different.  Especially the young people who come to this city to serve — believe that it matters.  Well, you know what, you’re right.  It does.

And those of us who have the privilege to serve this country have an obligation to do our job as best we can.  We come from different parties, but we are Americans first.  And that’s why disagreement cannot mean dysfunction.  It can’t degenerate into hatred.  The American people’s hopes and dreams are what matters, not ours.  Our obligations are to them.  Our regard for them compels us all, Democrats and Republicans, to cooperate, and compromise, and act in the best interests of our nation –- one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Thanks very much.

END
11:20 A.M. EDT

Political Musings October 17, 2013: Shutdown over: Obama signs, House, Senate pass budget and debt ceiling bill

HISTORY MUSINGS

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

Shutdown over: Obama signs, House, Senate pass budget and debt ceiling bill (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The 16-day partial government shutdown is over after both the Senate and House of Representatives passed a short term spending bill and raised the debt ceiling limit late Wednesday evening, Oct. 16, 2013, President Barack Obama promptly signed the…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 16, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Statement on a Deal to End the Government Shutdown

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President of the United States

Source: WH, 10-16-13

President Obama Delivers a Statement

President Obama Delivers a Statement

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

8:28 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.  Tonight, the Republicans and Democrats in Congress have come together around an agreement that will reopen our government and remove the threat of default from our economy.

The Senate has now voted to approve this agreement, and Democrats and Republicans in the House still have an important vote to take, but I want to thank the leaders of both parties for getting us to this point.  Once this agreement arrives on my desk, I will sign it immediately.  We’ll begin reopening our government immediately, and we can begin to lift this cloud of uncertainty and unease from our businesses and from the American people.

I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow.  And I’ve got some thoughts about how we can move forward in the remainder of the year and stay focused on the job at hand, because there is a lot of work ahead of us, including our need to earn back the trust of the American people that has been lost over the last few weeks.  And we can begin to do that by addressing the real issues that they care about.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again:  I am willing to work with anybody, I am eager to work with anybody — Democrat or Republican, House or Senate members — on any idea that will grow our economy, create new jobs, strengthen the middle class, and get our fiscal house in order for the long term.  I’ve never believed that Democrats have a monopoly on good ideas.  And despite the differences over the issue of shutting down our government, I’m convinced that Democrats and Republicans can work together to make progress for America.

In fact, there are things that we know will help strengthen our economy that we could get done before this year is out.  We still need to pass a law to fix our broken immigration system.  We still need to pass a farm bill.  And with the shutdown behind us and budget committees forming, we now have an opportunity to focus on a sensible budget that is responsible, that is fair, and that helps hardworking people all across this country.

And we could get all these things done even this year if everybody comes together in a spirit of how are we going to move this country forward and put the last three weeks behind us.  That’s what I believe the American people are looking for — not a focus on politics, not a focus on elections, but a focus on the concrete steps that can improve their lives.  That’s going to be my focus.  I’m looking forward to Congress doing the same.

But, once again, I want to thank the leadership for coming together and getting this done.  Hopefully, next time, it won’t be in the 11th hour.  One of the things that I said throughout this process is we’ve got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis.  And my hope and expectation is everybody has learned that there is no reason why we can’t work on the issues at hand, why we can’t disagree between the parties while still being agreeable, and make sure that we’re not inflicting harm on the American people when we do have disagreements.

So hopefully that’s a lesson that will be internalized, not just by me but also by Democrats and Republicans, not only the leaders but also the rank and file.

Thanks very much, everybody.

Q    Mr. President, isn’t this going to happen all over again in a few months?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  (Laughter.)

END
8:31 P.M. EDT

Political Musings October 16, 2013: Senate again responsible for deals ending shutdown and raising the debt ceiling

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Senate again responsible for deals ending shutdown and raising the debt ceiling

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The Senate is again responsible for passing bills to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling before the deadline, after the House GOP on Tuesday evening, Oct. 15, 2013 failed another attempt to secure a plan ending the…READ MORE

Political Musings October 16, 2013: House GOP fails again to agree on deal to end shutdown, raise debt ceiling

HISTORY MUSINGS

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

House GOP fails again to agree on deal to end shutdown, raise debt ceiling

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Republican leadership in the House of Representatives tried again on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 to create short-term bills to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling limit, to avert any further crisis, which failed to lead even…READ MORE

Political Musings October 14, 2013: Senate at impasse over shutdown and debt deals with US sitting on the brink

HISTORY MUSINGS

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

Senate at impasse over shutdown and debt deals with US sitting on the brink

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Nearly two days after commencing negotiations, and two weeks after the start of the government shutdown at the end of Sunday, October 13, 2013, the Senate Democrats and Republicans are at an impasse in agreeing on a deal that would…READ MORE

Political Musings October 14, 2013: Senate at impasse over shutdown and debt deals with US sitting on the brink

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Senate at impasse over shutdown and debt deals with US sitting on the brink

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Nearly two days after commencing negotiations, and two weeks after the start of the government shutdown at the end of Sunday, October 13, 2013, the Senate Democrats and Republicans are at an impasse in agreeing on a deal that would…READ MORE

Political Musings October 13, 2013: Obama, GOP focus on ending government shutdown, debt deal in weekly addresses

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama, GOP focus on ending government shutdown, debt deal in weekly addresses (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

For the second week in a row both President Barack Obama and the Republican Party devoted their weekly addresses released on Saturday morning, Oct. 12, 2013 to the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis. The addresses were delivered over…READ MORE

Political Musings October 11, 2013: President Obama refuses GOP proposed debt ceiling deal after White House meeting

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Political Musings October 9, 2013: President Obama caving in? Boehner gets White House meeting over government shutdown

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama caving in? Boehner gets White House meeting over government shutdown

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, R-OH may be getting the negotiations he has been requesting all through the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis. First on Wednesday morning Oct. 9, 2013 Boehner met with House Minority…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 9, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Nominating Dr. Janet Yellen as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Nominating Dr. Janet Yellen as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Source: WH, 10-9-13 

State Dining Room

3:16 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  Over the past five years, America has fought its way back from the worst recession since the Great Depression.  We passed historic reforms to prevent another crisis and to protect consumers.  Over the past three and half years, our businesses have created 7.5 million new jobs.  Our housing market is rebounding.  Manufacturing is growing.  The auto industry has come roaring back.  And since I took office, we’ve cut the deficit in half.

I think everybody understands we’ve still got a lot of work to do to rebuild the middle class, but we’ve made progress.  And we shouldn’t do anything to threaten that progress — for these hard-won gains have made a difference to millions of Americans.  And, in part, we can thank the extraordinary grit and resilience of the American people; in part, we can thank the dynamism of our businesses.  But a lot of it also has to do with the choices we’ve made as a nation to create more jobs and more growth.  And one of the most important contributors to this whole process has been the Federal Reserve, under the strong leadership of Ben Bernanke.

For nearly eight years, Ben has led the Fed through some of the most daunting economic challenges of our lifetime.  For some time now he’s made it clear that he intends to finish his service as chairman at the end of his term, which is this January.  So, today I just want to take a minute to pay tribute to Ben for his extraordinary service.  But I also want to announce my choice for the next chair of the Federal Reserve, one of the nation’s foremost economists and policymakers — current Vice Chairman Janet Yellen.

After I became President, I was proud to nominate Ben for a second term.  And while the Fed is, and must always be, independent, I want you to know, Ben, I’m personally very grateful to you for being such a strong partner in helping America recover from recession.

Perhaps it’s no surprise — as the son of a pharmacist and a school teacher — that Ben Bernanke is the epitome of calm.  And against the volatility of global markets, he’s been a voice of wisdom and a steady hand.  At the same time, when faced with a potential global economic meltdown, he has displayed tremendous courage and creativity.  He took bold action that was needed to avert another Depression — helping us stop the free fall, stabilize financial markets, shore up our banks, get credit flowing again.

And all this has made a profound difference in the lives of millions of Americans.  A lot of people aren’t necessarily sure what the chairman of the Federal Reserve does, but thanks to this man to the left of me, more families are able to afford their own home; more small businesses are able to get loans to expand and hire workers; more folks can pay their mortgages and their car loans.  It’s meant more growth and more jobs.

And I’d add that with his commitment to greater transparency and clarity, he’s also allowed us to better understand the work of the Fed.  Ben has led a new era of “Fedspeak” and been a little more clear about how the system works.  And that is good for our democracy.

And I have to tell you, as I travel around the world, the job of the Fed chair is not just our top monetary policymaker.  The world looks to the American Fed chair for leadership and guidance.  And the degree to which Ben is admired and respected, and the degree to which central bankers all across the world look to him for sound advice and smart policymaking is remarkable.  He has truly been a stabilizing force not just for our country, but for the entire world.  And I could not be more grateful for his extraordinary service.

And so, Ben, to you and your wife Anna, and your children Joel and Alyssa, I want to thank you for your outstanding service.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

Now, as I’ve said, the decision on who will succeed Ben is one of the most important economic decisions that I’ll make as President — one of the most important appointments that any President can make — because the chair of the Fed is one of the most important policymakers in the world, and the next chair will help guide our economy after I’ve left office.

I’ve considered a lot of factors.  Foremost among them is an understanding of the Fed’s dual mandate — sound monetary policy to make sure that we keep inflation in check, but also increasing employment and creating jobs, which remains our most important economic challenge right now.

And I’ve found these qualities in Janet Yellen.  She’s a proven leader and she’s tough — not just because she’s from Brooklyn.  (Laughter.)  Janet is exceptionally well-qualified for this role.  She’s served in leadership positions at the Fed for more than a decade.  As Vice Chair for the past three years, she’s been exemplary and a driving force of policies to help boost our economic recovery.

Janet is renowned for her good judgment.  She sounded the alarm early about the housing bubble, about excesses in the financial sector, and about the risks of a major recession.  She doesn’t have a crystal ball, but what she does have is a keen understanding about how markets and the economy work — not just in theory but also in the real world.  And she calls it like she sees it.

Janet also knows how to build consensus.  She listens to competing views and brings people together around a common goal. And as one of her admirers says, “She’s the kind of person who makes everybody around her better.”  Not surprisingly, she is held in high esteem by colleagues across the country and around the world who look to the United States, as I said, and the Fed for leadership.

Janet is committed to both sides of the Fed’s dual mandate, and she understands the necessity of a stable financial system where we move ahead with the reforms that we’ve begun — to protect consumers, to ensure that no institution is too big to fail, and to make sure that taxpayers are never again left holding the bag because of the mistakes of the reckless few.

And at the same time, she’s committed to increasing employment, and she understands the human costs when Americans can’t find a job.  She has said before, “These are not just statistics to me.  The toll is simply terrible on the mental and physical health of workers, on their marriages, on their children.”  So Janet understands this.  And America’s workers and their families will have a champion in Janet Yellen.

So, Janet, I thank you for taking on this new assignment.  And given the urgent economic challenges facing our nation, I urge the Senate to confirm Janet without delay.  I am absolutely confident that she will be an exceptional chair of the Federal Reserve.  I should add that she’ll be the first woman to lead the Fed in its 100-year history.  And I know a lot of Americans — men and women — thank you for not only your example and your excellence, but also being a role model for a lot of folks out there.

It’s been said that Janet found love at the Federal Reserve — literally.  (Laughter.)  This is where she met her husband George, a celebrated economist in his own right.  And their son Robert is an economist as well.  So you can imagine the conversations around the dinner table might be a little different than ours.  (Laughter.)  In fact, I’ve been told their idea of a great family vacation is the beach — with a suitcase full of economics books.  (Laughter.)  But this is a family affair.  We thank George and Robert for their support as Janet begins this journey.

Again, I want to thank Ben Bernanke for the outstanding work that he’s done, and obviously he will continue to help keep our economy moving forward during the remainder of his tenure here.  So we’ll probably have occasion for additional good-byes.  And I know that Janet is very much counting on him to give some good advice as she moves into the chairman spot.

But with this, I’d like to give Janet a chance to say a few words.  (Applause.)

DR. YELLEN:  Thank you, Mr. President.  I’m honored and humbled by the faith that you’ve placed in me.  If confirmed by the Senate, I pledge to do my upmost to keep that trust and meet the great responsibilities that Congress has entrusted to the Federal Reserve — to promote maximum employment, stable prices, and a strong and stable financial system.

I’d also like to thank my spouse, George, and my son, Robert.  I couldn’t imagine taking on this new challenge without their love and support.

The past six years have been tumultuous for the economy and challenging for many Americans.  While I think we all agree, Mr. President, that more needs to be done to strengthen the recovery, particularly for those hardest hit by the Great Recession, we have made progress.  The economy is stronger and the financial system sounder.

As you said, Mr. President, considerable credit for that goes to Chairman Bernanke, for his wise, courageous and skillful leadership.  It has been my privilege to serve with him and learn from him.

While we have made progress, we have farther to go.  The mandate of the Federal Reserve is to serve all the American people, and too many Americans still can’t find a job and worry how they’ll pay their bills and provide for their families.  The Federal Reserve can help if it does its job effectively.  We can help ensure that everyone has the opportunity to work hard and build a better life.  We can ensure that inflation remains in check and doesn’t undermine the benefits of a growing economy.
We can, and must, safeguard the financial system.

The Fed has powerful tools to influence the economy and the financial system.  But I believe its greatest strength rests in its capacity to approach important decisions with expertise and objectivity, to vigorously debate diverse views and then to unite behind its response.

The Fed’s effectiveness depends on the commitment, ingenuity and integrity of the Fed staff and my fellow policymakers.  They serve America with great dedication.

Mr. President, thank you for giving me this opportunity to continue serving the Federal Reserve and carrying out its important work on behalf of the American people.  (Applause.)

END                3:29 P.M. EDT

%d bloggers like this: